Podcast: AliTalks with Michelle Rocha, National Retail Marketing Mgr. and Product Specialist at Bauerfeind USA
Podcast: AliTalks with Michelle Rocha, National Retail Marketing Mgr. and Product Specialist at Bauerfeind USA
December 6, 2019
Daniel Litwin: Welcome to AliTalks, where we sit down with thought leaders to bring you medical products solutions that are leading industry trends, driving best practices, and delivering efficiencies for health care professionals everywhere.
Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of AliTalks by AliMed. I'm your host, Daniel Litwin, the voice of B2B. On today's episode, we're dispelling some myths on what makes for a quality shoe insert, or cushion, to be more specific. It's becoming more evident through research and quality marketing that foot inserts aren't just for comfortable feet. They can really help alleviate knee and back pain and create that core of support for your whole body. We're going to be breaking down what makes for quality foot relief by getting a deep look at Bauerfeind’s Visco line and specifically their ViscoSpot. So I'd like to welcome [Michelle Rocha 00:00:00:57]. She's the National Retail Marketing Manager and a Product Specialist at Bauerfeind. Michelle, welcome to the podcast. How are you doing?
Michelle Rocha: Great. Thank you so very much Daniel for the introduction, and hello to all of our listeners. We are very excited to educate you all on our Bauerfeind new and improved Visco line and especially our ViscoSpot.
Daniel Litwin: Yeah, it's going to be a great conversation. I'm really, really interested in breaking down this specific science behind some of the production of your products and also just contextualize that for the whole industry. So, Michelle, to start off the podcast, I think it's important that we clarify what we're talking about today. The ViscoSpot is not an orthotic. Though Bauerfeind does produce orthotics, there's a major difference between orthotics and general cushions, or foot inserts. There are a lot of differences which people in the industry obviously understand, but the end user, the consumer may not understand those differences colloquially. On a surface level, what differentiates and separates something like a ViscoSpot cushion versus an orthotic?
Michelle Rocha: Exactly, Daniel. That's a very big differentiation that we definitely want to address. The main difference we really want to focus on is the orthotic is more individually tailored to the person. For instance, somebody's orthotic with high arches is going to be a very different version than somebody that has low arches.
But where a cushion is different is we're really talking about, instead of talking about alignment, and instead of talking about gait, those things that affect orthotics, the cushions, really what we want to focus on, is what they're doing is for shock absorption. So really anybody can benefit from wearing a cushion. The cushions mold to the foot. There's no rigid or hard component like you'd find in orthotic in our cushions. So really you can wear them in any shoes, you can wear them in walking shoes, you can wear them in running shoes, you can wear them in work boots. They're very interchangeable, and they really will help. You can wear them every day, and it can help the everyday person feel better, feel more comfortable, and get the benefits from the shock absorptions.
Daniel Litwin: I feel like cushions really, for a lack of better term, have become mainstream to the common consumer at this point. For example, I mean, I wear more prescribed orthotics actually because I've got some flat feet. I need those arches. But even just casually, people in my family, friends I know, I mean, they just wear cushions in their shoes, and it has become a natural part of their day-to-day. It's a natural part of my day-to-day. I think that's telling for how people perceive their feet and foot health, and how that maybe applies to their general wholistic health.
So I wanted to get your perspective on, what do you think has brought the cushion, the foot cushion, into the national conversation like this? And what kind of an impact do you think it's having on, A, not only global wholistic health for the individual; but also, B, the industry in general, the people that are working in a day-to-day like yourself?
Michelle Rocha: Those are two great observations. As you know, people can go online now and just diagnose themselves a lot of the time. "What's hurting? How do I alleviate this pain?" So it has become a much larger conversation, and not ones that we just have with our doc, but also, as you mentioned, the everyday person. Really, what we want to address is that the indications for this product is anybody that is having heel pain, anybody that has heel spurs, anybody that maybe will have plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendons, also any bone spurs, these can help alleviate some of that pain.
But we have pain not only in our feet, but we stand on our feet, so they take a lot of the load. Daniel, if you're standing on a concrete floor all day, or if you're standing on a nice padded surface with area rugs on, we all know that you feel better at the end of the day if you're on a nice padded surface versus a hard concrete ground. Just imagine that's what we're trying to do inside your shoe. We're trying to give you that cushion-feeling effect so that your joints don't take so much of that load.
So when we talk about shock absorption, what we're really talking about is not just the foot but the entire body. If we're walking, if we're running, every time we take that step, our heels are hitting that surface. The harder the surface, the harder the load we take. By cushioning that, it helps distribute some of that shock absorption. So not only are you going to feel the alleviation of pain in the heel area, but that regulates up the whole entire body, to your ankles, to your knees, to your lower lumbar spine, all the way up to your neck.
By starting with the very foot and giving that little bit of cushioning and sock absorption, it really can concentrate up the whole entire body and help alleviate not just foot pain, but pain in other areas that you might not even know were caused by the bottom of the foot. So that's one of the really cool things about these inserts is they have multiuse, and they are multifunction. They don't just solve one problem, but they can solve multiple issues if you're experiencing them.
That's something the patients have really found, and it's really made it a more global conversation as well. It's not just talking about the foot, and the heel, and the bone spurs. It's talking about, how do we take care of our whole entire body? And we found it can come right from underneath our feet. So that's why these products have really great benefits for every single person that puts them in their shoes.
Daniel Litwin: Has that more educated end user, has that positively impacted the doctors that are prescribing said cushions or even orthotics? Has that dynamic assisted the health care community in better treating some of these foot issues and wholistic health issues?
Michelle Rocha: Absolutely. We even have a study that we can discuss a little bit later on in the podcast as well. But it is, not only are we seeing it from an everyday person, and the docs are seeing and hearing it, but we have a study that supports that this is actually true. People experience less and less pain by cushioning the bottom of their foot. Throughout these studies, and scientific evidence, and knowledge has really shown that, A, the cushioning gives support and stability to the bottom of the foot, but it's helping the whole entire body.
So it's actually through these studies that we're finding out, it's bringing more awareness to the marketplace that it is very important to cushion and to help alleviate some of that shock absorption that people receive when they're on their feet on a daily basis. The awareness of that to the marketplace is very significant because the more that we can also help prevent the injuries, and prevent future pain, and suffering, that's where we want to try. Once we get injured, the affects are already there. But if we can help prevent some of those effects and wholistically, as well as medically, kind of help prevent some future issues of happening, that's one of our main goals as well. So that's where these products in addition can really help.
Daniel Litwin: Now, for the common consumer, there is a lot out there. Obviously, people in the industry know what makes a quality foot insert, what makes for a quality cushion, and how to tell those differences. But I think for the end user, it can be often a little difficult to decide, "Oh, I'm going to go with X over Y, or Z over all three." What would you say makes for a quality cushion? And what are some ways that you try to communicate that which is so clear to the people within the industry to that end user?
Michelle Rocha: There's a lot of different things that make a quality in a cushion. The different levels of densities that the cushions have to provide an offer for the relief is very, very important. Also, you want to look who it's made by, where it's made from, and the material it's made out of. Having that high quality level of material really can make the difference between a great insert for cushioning versus one that's not really giving you any benefits.
Daniel Litwin: All right, let's jump into the actual Visco line of products. I know y'all sent over some ViscoSpots, and our director of publications actually put the inserts in his shoes. He's been wearing them for the last several days. It's obviously not a scientific conclusion, but he's had some trouble with heel pain, and the inserts have soothed a lot of that pain in his feet. So, clearly, they do the trick. But I know that there's more beyond just my anecdotal story here. The Visco line is extremely diverse. We're focusing on the ViscoSpot specifically, but I want to just lay out that Bauerfeind has so many different kinds of products, and each solves different ailments and has a different end goal. So just from a general perspective, what are some of the different types of cushions you produce? And how do they each achieve those different end goals?
Michelle Rocha: Yeah, great. No, so not only do we make our heel cup, which is the ViscoSpot that we've been referring to a lot, but we also make our ViscoPeds. We have a ViscoPed, and we have a ViscoPed S. These go throughout the whole entirety of your foot, so they're giving you that shock absorption and also helps pressure distribution throughout the whole entire foot. The difference between our ViscoPed and our ViscoPed S is our regular ViscoPed has a metatarsal pad. That's just giving additional support and stability to that transverse arch while they're wearing it.
Both of our ViscoPeds do have a dual-density. That means they have two different levels of density. Right underneath the heel, it's going to be a little softer density, so that's going to give a little bit more of that cushioning effect where we have a little thicker density thoughout. That's just going to help give a little bit more of that support and stability. And then, you're correct. We also have our ViscoSpots. Somebody that does not want something that goes throughout the whole entirety of their foot, and they just really want that heel support and stability, that's where you're going to turn to our ViscoSpot.
Daniel Litwin: Now, something that comes to mind when you're differentiating between that kind of custom molded orthotic and a generally off-the-shelf cushion is, how do you keep something generic enough to be off-the-shelf but, at the same time, flexible enough to match or mold to the issues or the pain of each individual person? How do Bauerfeind's Visco products try to achieve that? And what are some of the ways you've approached that gap, I guess?
Michelle Rocha: The reason that they can and how it doesn't have to be so specific to the person is they are not a hard product. There's no hard core to this, so they're very soft. If you put them in your hand, you can squeeze them, and you can feel. They kind of mold to your heel, and they mold to your foot. It's nothing that you had to put in an exact shoe and have your foot mold to it. It's vice versa.
You place them in your shoe, and then as soon as you put your foot or your heel inside that shoe, it will mold around to the form of whatever your foot or your heel is. Because it is a soft density, and it is a soft component. There's no rigid compart to it, which is also how it gives us the comfortability factor.
Daniel Litwin: Yeah. We've kind of been talking about the material a bit. I want to dig in there a little more specifically. I know the product itself is made of a unique material that you don't really see in other foot inserts and other cushions. Give us some details on the product specs and the science behind them, as well as what motivated those product decisions for that Visco line and ViscoSpot.
Michelle Rocha: All of our products in our Visco line are made with our viscoelastic inserts. This is a medical grade density. We're actually a German company. I mean, we were started back in the '20s, and we really have the medical heritage and the medical know-how to make these. It's not very easy to add multiple densities when you're making an insert. As you can imagine, you have to add them all in to form one insert but also have a uniform feeling. If it's not uniform feeling, and you feel the different density levels, it can be a little bit unpleasant.
If you're a little sensitive in the bottom of your heel or your foot, and you feel that, it's not a very nice feeling to feel a bunch of different densities while you're walking. So the very most important thing that Bauerfeind did was we realized that we wanted it to make a uniform feeling, but yet we still needed those density levels to help with that shock absorption, to help with those more sensitive areas where you're getting that pain. For instance, if you have a heel spur, you're getting it right underneath that heel. We actually, in our ViscoSpot, we launched a new one a few years ago, and we made it a three density. We call it our tri-density. It has three different cushioning zones.
We have the middle zone, which is our white zone. It's exceptionally soft. It gently takes the pressure off the painful areas, and it's giving targeted relief to that heel. You can see that little zone. I know you have it there with you, Daniel, so you can follow along. Those who are listening, you can go ahead, and you can see these pictures of what we're speaking about online at the AliMed site. And then, we move to another zone called the blue zone. This is a somewhat firmer and anatomically shaped zone. This is also really great for relief of the plantar fascia attachment, and it prevents extra tendinitis that's happening, and it's allowing for the inflammation to subside more quickly.
So that's what that zone's for. It's a little bit of a more denser area than the white zone. And then, we get to the final zone, which is our gray zone. This gray zone is what is in the core of the ViscoSpot. This zone enables the three zones to interlock in a wave-shaped tech pattern. So the gray zone is the most dense area. It's right behind the hindfoot, and it gives necessary support to the heel-to-toe movement. That's why it's just got a little bit of a thicker density is because we really want to keep all that in alignment within the touching of the heel to the foot movement as we walk, as we run, doing our everyday activities. So those are really the technology that goes into this, which is far, far superior than anything else that is out there currently in the market.
Daniel Litwin: I mean, yeah, the science behind that is so layered, so complex, literally and figuratively. When you stack it up to some of your competitors, what are the key differences in how Bauerfeind approaches its Visco line versus how some other people in the space approach their foot inserts and their cushions?
Michelle Rocha: That's a great question. A lot of the current competitors that are out there, and we used to have it as well, is they just have a dual-density. So you just have two different densities. The problem with that is, as I mentioned earlier, if you can feel the difference between those densities... A lot of them look like a circle, for instance, that might have a clear portion and then just a circle in the middle. Those transition zones then don't exist, and you feel that.
Obviously, comfortability is the goal here. If it's not comfortable, the consumers are not going to want to wear it. We're all here and making these cushions to help alleviate pain and to live a most comfortable life as possible. So ours has a power-wave technology. This really differentiates us between any of the competitors that are out there. If you look at ours, Daniel, you'll see there's a little wave going in between the little zones versus just one quick circle.
So think when you're transitioning through the zones, that wave is working as a transition area in this wave pattern that's creating a smooth transition that cannot be felt against the foot. It's really enabling that interlock in between the wave sections that give it that feature.
Daniel Litwin: Love it.
Michelle Rocha: Yeah, and Bauerfeind's really the one who was the innovator since the beginning, creating the first dual-density silicone. Now we have gone and improved it, and we've made the tri-density zone. So it's nothing but more improvements and technology that goes into our products year after year.
Daniel Litwin: From a production standpoint, what have been some of the challenges maybe in trying to get the Visco line to scale? Because since you're dealing with so many different densities, I'm sure that comes with a literal and a figurative cost. So yeah, what has been the production flow, I guess, to get these Visco lines to market? And what have been some of the major challenges?
Michelle Rocha: Right. Well, to make tri-density heel cushion it takes a lot of technology, and innovation, and engineering to do so. Because, as you know, anytime you're adding a bunch of different densities into a cushion, it's not very easy to do as you can't just glue them in. You really have to inject the different densities into the insoles, so it does take a lot of research and development.
That's why when they first came out, this was an unknown thing. People were not able at the beginning, or even thought at the beginning when cushions were being made, to make multiple densities because it was just looked at as, "Let's just make one fits all." But as we learned through time and time, and research, and develop had happened, that what's really benefiting people the most was to have these dual-densities and then to tri-density areas.
Daniel Litwin: What are some the primary ways that you try to educate people on the benefits of these products? Obviously, getting them to understand the full capabilities, but then also just educating them on the fact that they exist, kind of impact that they can have on their lives. How do you go about doing that kind of, not only end user customer education, but then sometimes the even more nuanced intra-industry education? Getting other people and other companies, other distributors, for example, to take advantage of what you're producing.
Michelle Rocha: Absolutely. Well, Daniel, not only doing this podcast with you helps us get the word out, so-
Daniel Litwin: That's for sure.
Michelle Rocha: ... we're very grateful for that. We want to educate people in the importance of cushioning and having that support and stability. As we spoke a little bit earlier, the market does get flooded with a lot of stuff that sometimes people don't know what to listen to or know what to believe. So we've really partnered up with great people, like AliMed, with working professionals, people that have a great background that really can understand and know the benefits and the features, that can give this information to their patients and really show and know the difference.
Our goal is to educate people. Through educating them and getting the word out there through really what is the importance of a good insole, specifically the ViscoSpot cushion heel, that's how we're really trying to reach the end consumer, as well as give information to the doctors. We have studies that back us up. We have a lot of information online. So the more and more people know, the more people are educated, we think the better choices they'll make.
Daniel Litwin: And going beyond just the education. I mean, we've talked a lot about the product. We've talked about what makes it special. It is just kind of conversation. Let's get into some of the stats, some of the numbers, some of the actual results. Because I think that's where both from a number sense and also from a contextual more narrative sense we can get a sense for how the Visco line and ViscoSpot actually affect people that use them. So how effective have these products been in reducing pain for end users? I know that you all have a really impressive study, or multiple studies, to back up the science in your Visco products.
Michelle Rocha: Yes, we do. Thank you for mentioning those. You guys can all find those online, as well on the website. One of our studies, this is very interesting to me, and I think will be very interesting to our listeners here, is there was a study. One of our studies were done. It was on the Foot Function Index, and analogging the pain scale taken before and after treatment showed that there were significantly more patients improved with their heel pain through wearing over-the-courter othosis, or our Visco heel.
95% of patients found relief after 14 days of wearing that. So that's a great, great study. This study was also, it was done by foot and ankle docs. These guys really looked in what goes into alleviation of the pain. It was 236 heel pain sufferers that went through this study. So it was a really intensive study, and the Bauerfeind product insert really rated that their conditions improved significantly.
Daniel Litwin: Michelle, could you also share some success stories for people that have used Visco products? Because I think what makes the Visco product so unique is that... Obviously, every person is different. They have different manners in which they walk, or run, or exercise, or sports. And the Visco line that Bauerfeind produces obviously is adaptable to all those different use cases. So what are some of the ways that people are using the ViscoSpot? And how is it affecting them? Feel free to dig deep. Give us some fun stories, these are always great to hear.
Michelle Rocha: Yes, I was hoping you would ask this question because I've really great successful stories from professional athletes that have used them and have really helped reduce their pains to the everyday person that is just hurting, and they're just looking for pain relief. Out here in California, as you know, it's sunny quite a lot, so people are outside running. There's not many rain days that you can use the excuse to stay inside.
So it's an owner of a local running store actually here in Santa Monica, California, was experiencing, just from overuse and just from constant running, a significant plantar fasciitis pain, as well as getting some heel spurs and Achilles tendon issues. After trying our products... He was a little skeptical saying, "Oh, how can this really help? How does it really do shock absorption? My knees hurt as well." And I said, "Why don't you just try them? It won't hurt. Put them in your shoes, wear them for two, three weeks, and then let's follow up. If you don't like them, we can just take them out of your shoe and throw them away."
Of course, he goes and tries them. I get a call maybe a week later, not even three weeks later to have them really tried out. He said, "Michelle, these are wonderful. Not only am I alleviating my plantar fascia pain... " Because how it does that, Daniel, look, I can explain real quick, is it's lifting up that ankle. So it's helping give a little relief to those plantar fascia where they are experiencing that pain. That's a great counter also benefit from wearing shock absorptions.
But then, we also have really fun stories all the way to professional athletes. This viscoelastic insert that is in our ViscoSpots and our ViscoPed, it's all this medical grade density, it is the same material that we also put into our orthopedic braces. So, for instance, our knee braces and our shoulder braces, they all have viscoelastic components to them that are integrated in the brace. That is the exact same material that are in these insoles.
It really just shows that the material is really, really what makes the difference between us versus a lot of the other people that are out there. The NBA teams really are a big fan of our products. We like to always thank them for their support. But just for everybody to know, it's great for the runner who just wants to run. It fits in running shoes. It fits in work shoes. It's really universal in where you can use it. For instance, if you want to wear it during the day in your work boot, and then at night, you want to go for a run, you can interchange them between shoes.
You don't have to get versus when we were talking about orthotics or other things like that. A lot of times, you have to switch them out as the shoes all differ. These ones, once again, they kind of mold to your foot. You can interchange them out throughout all your different shoes that you have in your closet. So that's also a great benefit.
But really, really the neat thing about these products is it works all the way from the high, high level athletes to the everyday person that just wants to go for a walk or that just wants to wear them throughout their day.
Daniel Litwin: We've got a good look at what makes the Visco line so diverse, what makes it useful, how people are finding use in it in their day-to-day or in their professional lives. But obviously, the Visco journey isn't done. There is a future to look forward to. I want to just pick your brain a little bit on that. For some context, how has this product evolved over the years into the solution that it is today? And then, based on that evolution, how do you see Visco continuing to carry that torch for the future of quality foot cushions?
Michelle Rocha: That's a great question. Really, Bauerfeind is on the forefront of this innovation for the cushions. I mean, it's going to continue to grow, continue to evolve as we're learning more and more every day with the studies that go on, through different activities people are doing today versus what we did 50 years ago.
We only can imagine what people are going to be doing 20 years from now, or 30 years from now, or 50 years from now. So we want to always make sure we're addressing and coming to the forefront of the patients' needs, of what people are needing, and improving with them as we go. We're an evolving company. There is constantly, to our whole entire brand and our whole entire line of Bauerfeind, continual improvements, continual innovation. It's not a company or a product that they come up with one thing, and they say, "This is it. This is always going to be it. We don't need to research anymore. We don't need to do any more studies because this is it."
Things are always evolving, and we follow that. We follow the trends, and we follow and listen to what's happening not only in the medical world, and what the docs are finding out, but also listening from the consumers, from the patients. So that's a really important thing as you look into the future of cushions. I'm sure you're going to see more and more tri-density ones come out.
I'm sure you're going to see a bunch of different cushions becoming more in the forefront and more in the consumers' eyes, which then also needs to be to the company and hold us accountable that we are making the best product for the consumer every single time and every single year. That we're coming out with the best. Bauerfeind really does stand by that, and I'm proud to work for them. They are a great company and really make the best quality products that exists right now on the retail market.
Daniel Litwin: I love it. Michelle, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast and giving us your thoughts on what makes a quality foot cushion, how Bauerfeind is really setting that standard. We might just need to get you back on in the future for some more fun stories.
Michelle Rocha: Well, thank you. I've very much appreciated the time that we've had. Thank you to all the viewers for chiming in and listening. Daniel, thank you for hosting this wonderful podcast. We look forward to any questions or anything in a hopefully a future podcast with you.
Daniel Litwin: Thank you again.
Michelle Rocha: Thank you, Daniel.
Daniel Litwin: Thank you, everyone, for listening to this episode of AliTalks by AliMed. If you like what you heard and want to listen to previous episodes, you can head to alimed.com/blog. You can also find our podcast on Apple podcasts and Spotify. Make sure you leave a rating and a comment wherever you're listening to your podcast content. I'm your host, Daniel Litwin, the voice of B2B. Until next time.