In February, Oofos, the leader in recovery footwear, hired Steve Gallo as president.

Gallo had most recently served as general manager of the sports license division at Adidas Group for nearly three years. Prior to that role, he spent time as SVP of sales for Adidas North America and senior product marketing director at Reebok. Here, Gallo discusses what’s behind Oofos’ explosive growth, the brand’s fanatical fans and the still-emerging recovering footwear opportunity.

You’ve been five months on the job. What are some of the obvious, and less obvious, reasons Oofos has been so successful in quickly getting established? The first obvious reason that comes to mind is that consumers are embracing and understanding the concept of recovery more than ever, as companies from multiple industries continue to highlight the category (i.e. chocolate milk positioning itself as a recovery drink), recovery apparel, mattress companies (importance of sleep as a recovery success factor), massage/foam rolling, etc. Secondly is how great the consumer feels when they place our product on their feet and experience our OOfoam technology; it’s a transformation; we call it “feeling the OO!”

In regards to some less obvious reasons, I was amazed at how many loyal customers we have. There’s an incredible passion and affinity for the product. Some of these customers have purchased up to 10 pairs for themselves. Additionally, we create incremental sales for our retail partners. We are not competing with a running, training or hiking shoe. We’ve positioned ourselves as the product you wear when you are not working out. Our footwear helps you recover faster from whatever activity you participate in.

What’s the biggest misconceptions people seem to have about Oofos? First, that we’re “just another sandal brand.” We make more than just sandals. Our first product happened to be a sandal because it was the best value proposition to get our technology on as many consumers’ feet as possible without making price a barrier. Once everyone fell in love with the technology, we’ve been able to expand and give them the additional styles that they’re looking for. Another misconception is the lack of awareness and understanding of our proprietary technology: OOfoam. There is no other technology like it in the industry. It absorbs 37 percent more impact than traditional athletic footwear. We also have scientific data showing that walking in Oofos reduces stress on the body.

Recovery footwear is a fairly new category. In what ways is that a positive for Oofos, and in what ways does that present a challenge? We pioneered the recovery footwear category after identifying a consumer need for this type of footwear. We spent 2.5 years developing OOfoam and found that it was unprecedented in what it could do for the body in recovery. The positive in this is that we are the leader in the category and are experiencing strong consumer reaction in how great our footwear makes people feel. The continuous challenge is omnipresent consumer awareness. How do we get more people to experience our product and technology? We’re still small and resources are fairly limited, but we’re extremely pleased with our progress so far.

The recovery footwear category has attracted everyone from makers of sandals, insoles and running footwear brands to other niche start-ups. Why has Oofos maintained its spot as the leader, and how do you see the competitive landscape playing out? Oofos has positioned itself as the pioneer of this category primarily due to our game-changing technology: OOfoam. We’re more than just a comfortable shoe. Our technology is what sets us apart from traditional footwear and provides benefits to the body, which is backed by scientific data. We see the recovery footwear category growing with more players coming into this space. It makes us proud to have pioneered and validated this category as we see larger brands realizing that they can enter this arena. We didn’t just create a shoe to fit into this category; we’re staying true to our core. What separates us and will continue to separate us is our technology.

Can you give us a brief update on product? For instance, how is the launch of enclosed footwear going? It’s going exceptionally well. For years, there was an incredible amount of demand for a closed-toe shoe from Oofos. We listened to our passionate consumers and delivered on what they were asking for, the OOmg (which is now available in men’s, as well). We will soon introduce a recovery boot for colder weather, and we continue to look for incremental opportunities in the recovery footwear category.

At the store level, are most stores putting Oofos on the shoe wall or near the other recovery products (massage rollers, insoles, etc.)? What do you find works best? It varies. Where we’ve seen the most success has been in retail stores that locate our product in juxtaposition to the footwear wall. This allows the sales associate easy access to Oofos product, and thus, an easier incremental sale. They just have to get the consumer to try it on and they’re sold. However, many locations are also highlighting the shoes on a display in their recovery product area.  The initial reads have been good; however, we are always experimenting with new ideas.

Is Oofos mainly attracting runners these days? Early on, we launched the brand focusing on the running community because we felt that this group best understood the idea of recovery and impact-absorption technology. The concept is now spreading to include fitness enthusiasts, athletes, people with plantar fasciitis, other foot concerns, etc.

Is there a mass opportunity down the road for recovery footwear and for Oofos? We certainly believe there is! Everybody that does any kind of fitness activity can benefit from taking pressure off their body when they are not working out, in order to recover faster. Although many people wear Oofos before and after their fitness activities, the reality is that people are wearing them all the time, including as a lifestyle option because they reduce stress on your body anytime, anywhere you wear them.

Oofos just launched its first global brand campaign, but seems to have been largely driven by word-of-mouth with the aid of social media. What’s been the key to getting the word out, and is that strategy being tweaked as the brand gets more exposure? The key to getting the word out is amplification of our amazing testimonials; we call it “spreading the OO!”  Our review platform, Trust Pilot, constantly reminds us that our scores are off the charts! We utilize our social media platforms as the medium for engaging with both existing and new consumers. We are very pleased with the initial results of our first global brand campaign. Our primary goal has been to reach more consumers that can benefit from our products and technology. In addition to what you’ve seen on social media, we have a lot of exposure on new digital mediums (i.e. Hulu). Thus far, 93 percent of the people that the campaign has engaged are consumers who have not heard of Oofos before.

Photo courtesy Oofos