As consumers demand more comfort, podiatrists are writing their own prescriptions for footwear.
In their quest to bring a new level of comfort to consumers, footwear brands are seeking some medical advice. Modern Vintage, Dana Davis and Grasshoppers have each turned to a podiatrist to help them enhance their collections with feel-good features and benefits.
While the podiatrists concentrated on the technology side, they worked together with the designers to strike the right balance between fashion and fit.
The results of their collaborations are heels and wedges updated with extra cushioning and balance, and sneakers that offer maximum support to women.
Here is each brand's prescription for comfort.
Stiletto Rx by Modern Vintage, New York
Doctor on call: Suzanne Levine, New York
Launch: Fall '08
Target customer: Fashion-conscious women of all ages
Retail range: $225 to $495
Distribution: Nordstrom, Shopbop.com, Intermix
Aesthetics: Vintage-inspired designs with a modern vibe, ranging from 2-inch walking heels to sexy 4-inch stilettos. Classic looks from the 1920s through 1980s have been culled by a team of designers, line builders, artists and fashion historians, who scour libraries and vintage shops for inspiration.
Technology: Stiletto Rx builds a long-lasting proprietary cushioning material into the insole and midsole that allows for the redistribution of weight on the bottom of the foot to alleviate pain and burning. To maximize the effect, cushioning is positioned in strategic areas, depending on the style. Typically, a 4-inch pointy-toe pump will require more cushioning at the ball of the foot compared with a 3-inch pump where the pressure is not as great.
Levine's clients' top foot problems: Metatarsalgia, pain and inflammation in the bottom of the foot. "As women age, they gain fat everywhere, but they lose it on the bottom of their feet," Levine said. "This fat is what provides padding."
Worst footwear mistakes among women: Wearing high-heel shoes or ballet slippers particularly styles that are too flat or don't provide sufficient cushioning, Levine said.
Dana Davis, Beverly Hills, Calif.
Doctor on call: Bob Baravarian, Los Angeles
Launch: Spring '09
Target customer: Contemporary women, age 30 and up
Retail range: $315 to $585
Distribution: Amazon.com, Catherine Jane in San Francisco, La Scarpa at The Bellagio in Las Vegas
Aesthetics: Styles ranging from daytime wedges to strappy 3-inch sandals, all detailed in a mix of patents, pearlized kidskin, cashmere suede and matte metallics. Colors are saturated yet soft, focusing on new neutrals that include tangerine, turquoise and lavender.
Technology: A patent-pending, triple-density orthotic helps stabilize the unnatural wobble of the foot. The bottom layer, made of high-density EVA, supports heel, arch and ball-of-foot balance, while the middle layer, made of a medium-density EVA, provides cushioning for moderate support. The top layer of memory polyurethane cushions the entire orthotic.
Baravarian's clients' top foot problems: Metatarsalgia, which can be caused by wearing both heels and flat shoes. "The majority of metatarsal problems occur when the impact load or foot mechanics affect the distribution of weight, causing an overload on a certain area of the foot," Baravarian said. "Uneven weight distribution through the wearing of poorly designed or manufactured shoes is common, exacerbated by the lack of structural support and strategic cushioning."
Worst footwear mistakes among women: "Soft-soled shoes. Leather uppers can be soft, but soles need stability to decrease stress on the foot. Diffused cushioning in the shoe, often offered as a comfort feature, actually puts more stress on the foot. What's important is strategic cushioning in areas of high pressure."
Stretch Tech by Grasshoppers, Lexington, Mass.
Doctor on call: Frank Santopietro, Brookline, Mass.
Launch: Spring '09
Target customer: Baby boomers
Retail price: $65
Distribution: DSW, Gottschalks, Peebles
Aesthetics: Lightweight, athletic-inspired casuals in lace-up and slip-on styles, available in N to WW widths in sizes 5 to 11.
Technology: Grasshoppers combined its existing PureFit comfort system, featuring a Gel-Flex midsole designed to relieve impact pressure, with a removable molded memory foam footbed that provides enhanced cushioning. Uppers are designed with adjustable features, including lacing systems and elastic to hold the foot in place for maximum support. Inside, seams are placed to eliminate foot irritation. Layered on top of the PureFit system are biomechanically designed lasts that enhance the foot's natural range of motion to reduce fatigue and injuries. The polyurethane wedge outsoles help promote stability and correct pronation.
Santopietro's clients' top foot problems: "Heel pain and bruising, arch and ball-of-foot pain, bunions, hammertoes, Achilles tendonitis and other lower-leg tendon problems," Santopietro said. "There are also back issues, such as lower-back pain, aggravated by poor shoes but more commonly related to biomechanical issues."
Worst footwear mistakes among women: "Going barefoot, followed by wearing a low-heel shoe. Wearing a backless shoe can also cause problems because one has to grip with their toes to keep the shoe on. A moderate heel is useful to facilitate the body's natural tendency to fall forward in gait. Many women will try to get the necessary width in the forefoot by buying a longer shoe, resulting in the shoe falling off at the heel. A shoe that's too stiff in the forefoot causes pain from jamming. A loose or stretch fabric system is more beneficial, although the shoe must maintain a snug fit around the ankle or opening."
Schneider-Levy, Barbara. "Medical School." Footwear News 65.5 (2009): 74. General OneFile. Web. 2 Nov. 2009.
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