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One-fourth of all people have flat feet, and Spearfish podiatrist Dr. Lorri Riley has invented a product she says can provide them with prescription-quality orthotic support at the price of an over-the-counter product.

Riley and her product won second place last week in a statewide entrepreneurship contest, the Governor’s Giant Vision Award. She will put her prize money of $5,000 toward marketing her J1 Insoles, which are already available in Rapid City at The Runner’s Shop, in Spearfish at Walgreens and Sole Perfection, and in Belle Fourche at Lynn’s Dakotamart.

Riley said she developed the insoles after feeling frustrated that she wasn’t really helping her patients when she wrote them prescriptions for orthotics knowing they couldn’t afford the $300 to $800 the shoe inserts normally cost.

With fewer insurance companies covering the cost of orthotics, Riley looked to develop a product that would support the typical flat foot but could be sold over the counter.

She designed an insert that corrects for flat feet at three points: the heel, arch and forefoot, and had models made at a Spearfish manufacturing firm.

The interest in the insoles took Riley by surprise. In the first two years, she has sold almost 1,000 pairs of the $35 insoles, mostly through demonstrations at area home shows. Interest is picking up. In March alone, she sold 150 pairs.

“The sky’s the limit,” Riley said, with millions of people suffering from pain and injury caused by flat feet. Word of mouth is her most valuable marketing tool, she said. “Hopefully, people will say, ‘This really works.’”

Riley said customers include a woman who expected she would need knee surgery until the orthotics corrected her posture, and a teen athlete who was going to have to stop running until he used the insoles.

“A lot of doctors just tell people with flat feet, there’s nothing they can do,” Riley said.

The product comes in a wide range of sizes, including children’s sizes.

She heard about the Governor’s Giant Vision Award through the Spearfish Chamber of Commerce and created a business plan for the competition.

Based on her application and a 10-minute pitch, she took second place in the April 10 contest and said it was a great way to get feedback from other businesspeople.

Riley is also a finalist for a statewide Dakota Rising fellowship, which focuses less on the product and more on developing her skills as an entrepreneur and job creator.

Not only is the product a natural extension of her work as a podiatrist, Riley said it’s an extension of her Christian faith. It’s not obvious from the packaging and not used as a marketing tool, but J1 Insoles is a name that came from “Jesus First in Souls.”

Riley said one inspiration for her pursuit of the business venture was Hebrews 12:13: “Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled but rather healed.”

Like her faith, she said, feet are the foundation for healthy living.

“Your feet are your foundation,” Riley said. If they don’t have the proper support, “It just throws everything else off.”

Her long-range plans call for creating actual shoes that support feet in the same way the insoles do.

Riley has flat feet and is frustrated that she can’t wear sandals and slippers like most people can. She envisions dress shoes, sandals, slippers and runners’ shoes all with built-in support.

“We have a big vision, and we’ll see where it takes us,” Riley said. “We’re just starting out.”

Contact Barbara Soderlin at 394-8417 or barbara.soderlin@rapidcityjournal.com.

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