How NBA star Damian Lillard turned a foot injury into a sneaker business

Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers dribbles against the New York Knicks at the Moda Center on March 14, 2023 in Portland, Oregon.

Alika Jenner | Getty Images Sports

While playing college basketball at Weber State University, Damian Lillard broke his right foot as a junior, which kept him out of all games in the 2010-11 season except nine.

It was just one of multiple foot injuries and issues like plantar fasciitis that Lillard, now an NBA All-Star point guard for the Portland Trailblazers, dealt with during his playing career. Compounding issues with his flat feet, Lillard said the injuries resulted from the lack of support he received from the standard insoles found in basketball sneakers.

This led Lillard, aided by a business proposition from his agent Nate Jones, to launch Move, a brand of performance shoe insoles, something he believes can not only help professional athletes like himself and those aspiring to reach that level, but anyone who finds themselves on their feet often.

“I think a lot of people could really benefit from some extra foot health care,” Lillard told CNBC’s Dominic Chu during CNBC’s virtual Small Business Playbook event on Thursday. “We can’t do anything without healthy feet as athletes.”

The company, which has an investor group that includes fellow NBA star Chris Paul, launched in December 2021 and sells insoles starting at $39.99 that have a carbon-like composite base, a system double foam to help absorb shock and added torsion support for improved heel and midfoot stability. It made more than $100,000 in first-month sales through the direct-to-consumer channel and was forecasting $1 million in sales for 2022, CNBC previously reported.

Lillard said that while focusing on foot health is essential for NBA players – many of whom wear custom insoles or other products to help relieve stress on their feet given the amount of play , practices and workouts that take place every week – it is also important for young athletes whether or not they reach their goal of playing at the professional level.

“You can prolong your career just by taking care of your feet, but think of how many young athletes suffer from injuries, and it doesn’t even get to the point where they continue to play or continue to be successful. [basketball] career to make money,” he said. “It’s more important right now because of how active they are, how much time we spend training and playing games…you see more and more injuries, especially to the feet.”

While sneaker insoles make up a small portion of the more than $150 billion global sneaker market, it’s a crowded space filled with custom products sold by podiatrists and foot care products sold at big-box retailers from companies like Dr. Scholl’s, which is owned by private equity firm Yellow Wood Partners and Superfeet, owned by private equity firm Westward Partners. A high percentage of sneaker wearers also use the standard insole that comes with their shoes.

But Lillard believes that as more and more people understand why it’s important to pay attention to the health of your feet, Move will not only find its way into more NBA locker rooms, but also into the shoes of other workers.

“There’s something to be said for people working and standing all day, there’s a lot of data on the value of using insoles and keeping them comfortable all day,” he said. said, adding that Move has since added “All Day” insoles to reach that audience.

Lillard’s status as one of the NBA’s top scorers has helped shine the spotlight on Move insoles, but he believes the company’s long-term success will come from “talking about herself”.

“The product should speak for itself and the people who put the insoles in their shoes,” he said. “That’s the real competitive advantage.”


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