Lately I’ve been shoe shopping and have been amazed at developments in shoe technology. By “shoe technology” I don’t mean the technology of manufacturing shoes, I mean the technology of putting the shoe on your foot. There are several companies doing their best to make it easier to put on shoes and adjust them for comfort.
Pandere Shoes was started because one of its founders had a disease that caused her feet to swell occasionally requiring different shoe sizes at different times. Problems like this and the fact that millions of people simply can’t fit into regular shoes inspired a team of three ladies to design and market both men’s and women’s shoes that can be adjusted to one of three different widths. Pandere shoes have a built-in capacity to adjust width at the toe box, the ankle, and mid-shoe. Bungee laces hold the adjustments in place.
A company called Kizik addresses the problem of difficult slip-on shoes with “The world’s best hands-free shoes.” The back of these shoes are hinged in a way that lets the heel piece drop backwards giving the foot more space to wriggle in. It also prevents that awkward situation where part of the shoe bends inward and, unless you use a finger to straighten it out, you are walking with a bit of the shoe tucked in.
Another company that strives for the hands-free ideal is Zeba. Their shoes have the same drop-heel feature but when you first look at them, you see that they have laces that tie (Kizik uses bungee laces) and you think, “Well, that’s not hands free.” The company’s response is that you only have to tie the laces the first time you put them on. You knot them tightly and leave them tied thereafter while slipping them on and off.
Zerotie is a company that addresses the needs of people with disabilities, and its approach to lacing is clever. Their shoes come with bungee laces that loosen and tighten by a roller on the shoe’s heel. You slip your foot into the shoe and then drag the heel across the floor engaging the roller that tightens the laces. When it’s time to take them off, you use a foot to press on a release mechanism on the back of the heel and the laces loosen allowing you to slip your foot out.
Both Puma and Adidas have made computerized shoes for serious runners. In 2008, Adidas produced what was called “the world’s first intelligent shoe.” The computer, which was contained in a little box on the back of the shoe, sensed the cushioning level of every step to determine whether it is too hard or soft and makes an adjustment to the shoe bed to provide the right level of comfort.
Nike has been in the business of innovating shoe technology for several years. Its FitAdapt technology now allows the user to adjust the fit of their shoe through Siri or an Apple Watch. You can speak into your iPhone and tell it you need a shoe loosened or tightened and the shoe will comply.
Not included here are all the variations on shoes for kids. I especially admire the shoes that have built-in roller skates. Nowadays they run around with flashing lights on their shoes or a knob that you turn to tighten the laces.