PopSole Puts Best Foot Forward

Pitt Duo Launches Innovative Shoe Insert to Help People With Foot Pain


Beth and Jeff Gusenoff are a podiatrist and a plastic surgeon by trade, but entrepreneurs at heart.

Over the past five years they have been developing a supportive pressure-reducing shoe insert crafted initially for their patients recovering from procedures that transfer fat to the bottom of the foot for various foot conditions. Now they have formally launched their company, PopSole, hired a contract manufacturer in Western Pennsylvania and are pounding the pavement to find distribution partners.

With support from the Pitt innovation ecosystem they conducted clinical studies, developed a prototype and created a go-to-market plan. Along the way they have received funding support from the Center for Medical Innovation and received a $25,000 award in the Pitt Innovation Challenge sponsored by the Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute.

They also received innovation commercialization training through the Innovation Institute’s Pitt Ventures programming, and support from the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence, a sister operating unit of the Innovation Institute in the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, that helped the Gusenoffs locate a company to develop a prototype.

“It really has been a supportive environment at Pitt for academic entrepreneurs like ourselves to take an idea from the clinic and move it toward a commercial reality,” Beth Gusenoff said.

Beth and Jeff Gusenoff with their new product, the PopSole.
The PopSole device is made in Western Pennsylvania.
The PopSole is being sold on the company's website while the Gusenoffs cultivate distribution partners.
4 Users place a sticker on the compartment corresponding to their foot pain, then pop those compartments with a pin to create a pressure-relieving zone.

The PopSole™ device is composed of several air-filled compartments that can be popped with a pin corresponding to areas of the foot where the user is having pain, creating a pressure-relieving zone at that spot when the user stands and walks.

The Gusenoffs initially worked with a company to locate an overseas manufacturer for the PopSole, but they determined that this route could not guarantee the quality they wanted for the product.

What they didn’t expect was to be able to find the ideal supplier right in their backyard, but that’s exactly what happened when they were connected to Pittsburgh Plastics Manufacturing in Butler, PA. One of the company’s primary product lines happens to be shoe insoles and other foot care products.

“We feel good that we can deliver a high-quality American made product,” Jeff Gusenoff said.

“Jeff & Beth have been great partners to work with throughout the entire process of bringing their PopSole product to market.  The product was designed with the best interests of the customer in mind, and they have always kept that as their focus,” said Casey Carr, Pittsburgh Plastics vice president. 

Carr added, “They have been very involved from the prototyping stage to the final packaging.  The resulting Popsole product looks and feels amazing and is completely unique from anything else on the market.”

With production lined up, the Gusenoffs are now working to get more customer feedback on the product as they approach potential distributors for the PopSole. In the meantime, they will be demonstrating the product at local shoe stores and Beth Gusenoff will be promoting it through her professional network of podiatrists.

They are also generating ideas for line extensions for specific shoe gear.

“We don’t intend to be a single-product company,” Jeff Gusenoff said.

The couple came to Pittsburgh in 2012, when they were recruited to Pitt to pursue their pioneering work on fat grafting for foot conditions such as fat pad atrophy and plantar fasciitis.

Their penchant for problem solving would soon go far beyond their research. In addition to the PopSole, the Gusenoffs  created another company based on solving a medical problem that he encountered as a plastic surgeon: the preparation of fat for reinjection during the fat grafting process used in reconstructive and cosmetic surgeries.

Their device eliminates the need to remove fat from a syringe once it has been extracted to receive further processing prior to reinjection into a different area of the body. The Push2Spin device saves more than an hour of time for fat grafting procedures. A separate company has been created for that product.

“The key to being a successful entrepreneur is hustling and learning from your mistakes,” Beth Gusenoff said. “It has been a tremendous learning experience so far and we are determined to succeed.”

Tony Torres, Innovation Institute entrepreneur in residence, said the Gusenoffs are emblematic of Pitt faculty who are determined to see their innovations have an impact in the real world.

“What makes Jeff and Beth unique is that they complement each other so well as innovators, both in regards to their research into foot disorders, and as entrepreneurs bringing solutions for patients to the market,” Torres said. “I get the feeling we haven’t seen the last innovation to come from them.”


If you are a Pitt faculty, student or staff with an innovation emerging from Pitt research and are interested in exploring its commercial potential, consider participating in a National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (NSF I-Corps short course. These month-long courses allow you to explore the commercial potential of your innovation by interviewing potential customers and industry stakeholders to identify the problem(s) your innovation can best solve.