With Christmas parties and party dresses, of course, come party shoes. And with party shoes comes ... pain. Who hasn’t spent an evening in strappy stilettos or towering booties, only to limp their way home come midnight, a Cinderella whose feet have turned into giant, ungainly pumpkins? It’s the traditional price women pay for glamour.
Or it was. Sensing an opportunity, a number of entrepreneurs has come to the pedi-rescue. Two years ago, Michael Stead, a British former aerospace engineer, launched Afterheels, a line of flexible ballet shoes that fold up into an 8.8cm x 5.8cm x 2.6cm pouch, small enough to be tucked in an evening bag. A mere £5, and sold in vending machines in UK clubs and globally via the label’s website, the shoes have a stretchy, waterproof outer layer made from sustainable materials and a soft, protective, recyclable insole. The company predicts sales next year of 250,000.
“We call them emergency shoes,” says Stead, who was inspired when, during a Milan shopping trip, a friend insisted on wearing her heels throughout and ended up with blisters. “She couldn’t get out of bed the next day and that spoiled her weekend,’’ he says. “It was like a Thomas Edison thing. I couldn’t believe no one had thought of this before.’’
As it turns out, a few other people have. Karen Taylor, a 45-year-old former business and marketing expert based in Canada, launched Foldasole last year with the slogan, “Finding relief for your feet couldn’t be easier”. Selling online in Canada and the US, Foldasoles come in black and bronze waterproof faux leather and fold inside a case, which turns into a tote for your heels (C$24.99, or about US$24.40).
Then there’s Rollasole, founded in 2008 by Matt Horan, from the UK. Sold online, in clubs, high-street shops and soon Vegas casinos, these £7 soft “roll-up pumps” have appeared on the Hollywood red carpet: “Last year, Ashley Greene wore them to the Golden Globes,” says Horan. “This year, we are also hoping to be at the Oscars.”
UK-based Mark Quaradeghini is one of the four founders of Butterfly Twists, launched last year and available in 30 countries. The 27-year-old entrepreneur has already sold 100,000 pairs of satin and faux leather pumps, marked by their patented concertina-style sole, which folds up to reduce the shoe to a small triangular shape.
“It is all about practical fashion,” he says. “People have such busy lifestyles that they also want to be comfortable. There is no reason you can’t have that.” Even at midnight, when your prince has arrived.