podoactive was born in 2004, although it is the legacy of the previous work of its founder and CEO, Victor Alfaro. This experience gave rise to the idea for this company. “I had a small podiatry practice in Huesca for 10 years. It served me as a test lab and to realize that there is a lot of room for improvement. In this century where everything is quantified and there isn’t an industry that doesn’t measure its parts with a laser, it didn’t make sense for our industry to continue doing a significant part of the process by hand,” he explains.

The right moment to make the leap came when his brother Javier was getting his degree in podiatry. “We wanted to change focus, from a foot care company to a biotechnology company. This meant that we had to stop making a living out of the easy way since the query was working fine, and it started making things quite complicated for us. We started having engineers and physicists on the payroll and took a completely different approach,” says Alfaro. And it’s going very well. It has already treated more than 260,000 patients, including a thousand top athletes.

[pullquote align=’center’]State of the art[/pullquote]

To start a business with these characteristics, it is not enough just to want it, but also to have a base to face modernization. Technological development was one of the strongholds of the company.

actual scan. A fundamental milestone was the development of a patent that revolutionized the method of obtaining the footprint. Traditionally, it was customary to capture the foot shape from plaster casts, although there were consultations where it was scanned with a laser, but poorly.

“With the scanners of the time, you had to step on a glass and a laser reader walked past. It was like crushing your nose in glass and scanning it. We have patented a system where a stretched latex membrane is regulated, the foot is supported on this membrane, creating a true 3D of the foot,” explains Alfaro.

The company has made significant investments to protect this patent worldwide, but it has been worth it. “We’re still the only ones in the world who do it that way. If we work with 1,000 top athletes today, an important part is due to this patent,” he specifies. The patent was registered in 2008, so it is still valid for 14 years.

robotic manufacturing. Podoactiva was clear from the start that a robotic process had to be assumed. He scrapped additive manufacturing through thermoforming and 3D printing and opted for robotic machining, which forms the template from a block of material. “We use a polypropylene-carbon alloy made exclusively for us in Germany. The result is better than what is possible today with additive manufacturing or 3D printing,” he concludes.

Commitment to R&D&I. “We invest almost 100% of profits in R+D+I. And we even devote funding lines exclusively to research projects. Last year we spent around 400,000 euros, more than 11% of turnover,” says the director. In most cases, these are investigations in cooperation with other bodies. For example, it has worked on joint projects with the Aragon Engineering Research Institute (i3A) – scanning and manufacturing personalized insoles -, the Valencia Biomechanics Institute (IBV) – development of children’s shoes – and the Aragonese Footwear Cluster (CLAC) – template system-, the University of Zaragoza and University of San Jorge. And it participates in multilateral works such as the Cloudsme projects (development of cloud technologies for process improvement) or Eurostars (manufacturing improvement). Around 100 researchers work indirectly for Podoactiva.

Those who have put themselves in their hands

Simultaneously with the development of its technology, the company approached the commercial expansion of the business. In 2004 he took over the management of the podiatry and biomechanics department of the Quirón Clinic in Zaragoza, the first step in consolidating a network of 105 points, between his own centers or within clinics throughout Spain.

own centers. The Walqa plant is the nerve center of the company. It not only handles the design and manufacture of the insoles, but also includes biomechanics rooms, rooms for three-dimensional acquisition of sports gestures, various sports flooring – basketball, athletics, football, golf, paddle tennis – and 3D scanners. In addition, it has its own points in Huesca and Madrid and has just opened another in Barcelona, ​​​​the largest practice in Spain, where it has the same study facilities as the central one. This place represents a new concept for the company. “It’s called Podoactiva Elite Sport Center and it will be the highest offer of our clinics. They are centers equipped with more technology and space, well thought out for the sport,” Alfaro specifies. In 2006, a mobile unit was also introduced, equipped with a podiatry consultation with all the necessary instruments. Around 150 cities in Huesca are served from Monday to Friday. And on weekends, it is used in sporting events such as marathons, etc.

cooperation clinics. The company is responsible for the podiatry service of several clinics belonging to the Quirón, Nisa and Viamed groups, as well as other independent clinics, with a large presence throughout almost the entire national territory. “I’m very pro-alliance. They help a lot in growing. You have the space and we have the knowledge and technology. It’s a win-win relationship for everyone, including the patients. Podoactiva retains control over the management and staff of these entities. And clinics can offer their customers another service.

elite athletes. The company provides its services to more than 1,000 top athletes. This job accounts for about 15% of their income, but other benefits are more important. On the one hand, you can test your products under the toughest conditions and gain insights that you can then pass on to other customers. On the other hand, it gives him media exposure and a prestige that attracts new customers. “A top athlete who has tried our products is an impressive showcase. Just by posting a tweet, it reaches hundreds of thousands or millions of people. We also try to form alliances with sports federations that allow us to reach a very specific and important audience for us,” he notes.

From Ronaldo to the rest of mortals

Five years ago, Víctor Alfaro made an appointment with Dr. José María Villalón, the chief medical officer of Atlético de Madrid. He went to sports town, explained what they were doing and brought in a player to test their assists. The test convinced everyone and Podoactiva is the biomechanics supplier for the Madrid team. The same thing happened a year later with Real Madrid – the Spanish soccer team, the Spanish Golf and Athletics Federation…

Many teams and athletes have their services: Zaragoza, Bilbao, Liverpool, CSKA Moscow, Valencia Basket, CAI Zaragoza, Jesús Ángel García Bragado, Nicolás Almagro, etc. Podoactiva’s main business is in the rest of the mere mortals, i.e. amateur athletes, children and seniors . For daily life, it offers podiatry services (pedicure, geriatric podiatry…) and biomechanical gait studies.