The Electric Commentary

Friday, August 20, 2004

Taking steps to end torture.

I've been either dating or married to my wife for over 7 years now, and consequently, I know better than most the horrors of walking for long distances next to a woman who has chosen to wear "cute shoes" which were obviously developed during the Spanish Inquisition as a means of converting the unstylish to the true faith. (Note: I am also convinced that this is also the reason orthopedic shoes seem to be a mandatory part of the modern nun's uniform.)

Someone is finally doing something about it:

The lengths to which companies will go to research, create and test their shoes is both admirable and absurd. The improvements in high heels have been incremental, the technology ever-changing and bragging rights quickly claimed. Two enterprising companies -- one on the East Coast and the other on the West -- are indicative of the newest high-heel cobblers currently thumping their chests.

Oh! shoes, based in Portland, Ore., is trying to solve the high-heel conundrum by slowing the speed at which force is absorbed by the body. By dissipating the impact, the body is protected from the equivalent of a sucker punch.

Insolia, in New Hampshire, focuses on geometry. Its designs decrease the angle at which the foot rests in the shoe, essentially trying to make a three-inch heel feel like a one-inch version.

The two companies have rolled out podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons to testify to the comfort of their wares. They have incorporated technology gleaned from military footwear, ski boots and hiking shoes. They have sent their pumps out for biomechanical testing in order to measure stability, cushioning and the rate of impact absorption. One male product developer has even clomped around his neighborhood in a pair of size 11 heels to get a firsthand understanding of what it means to walk in a pair of two-inch sling-backs.

(Hat tip, Virginia Postrel)

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