Insolia technology is put to a little test

Was it like walking in flats or was it just less painful?

October 19, 2004|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

I wear heels just about every day. Most co-workers wouldn't know that, however, because I tend to walk around the office in my stocking feet, since wearing heels all day can be pretty painful.

So I jumped at the chance to test shoes with the Insolia technology, an invention that only recently has hit U.S. stores, such as Nordstrom and Bloomingdale's.

The creators of Insolia say they have found a way -- without padding or inserts -- to make wearing high heels feel like wearing flats.

The technology is relatively inexpensive, said Michael Backler, the president of HBN Shoes, which markets the technology -- though he declined to say how inexpensive. Some retailers don't even increase the price of shoes that feature Insolia.

Best of all, the company promised, the shoes wouldn't look orthopedic.

I was skeptical, but the shoes, when they arrived in the mail, were actually stylish: Amalfi brand, black, faux reptile, with snazzy cut-outs along one side. They were $140, with a trendy pointy toe and no stubby pilgrim heel, which I had mistakenly predicted. The heel was a solid 2 inches and appropriately skinny.

"It's plenty sexy," said Howard Dananberg, Insolia's creator. "But it doesn't hurt you."

According to the company, the technology tips the wearer's weight back onto her heels, instead of sending it sliding onto the balls of the feet, as most high heels do. If that's true, I should be able to walk normally, without the usual foot-slapping, forward-sliding and toe-gripping that make walking on a constant decline possible.

For two days one week, I walked in the shoes, testing out the company's theory. One evening, I walked to dinner with friends, uphill. Another time, I wore the shoes the entire day, from home to work, from the office to Quizno's and back, and all around the newsroom. I gave them a good run.

Here's the good news: I didn't feel like I was sliding. Nor did I feel the constant need to grip my shoes with my toes. I honestly can't say I felt like I was wearing flats, but while hiking around town, I never focused on the fact that I was WALKING IN HEELS, the way I do with other pairs of shoes. It seems to me that what the technology does is make the heel feel shorter than it really is, rather than nonexistent.

And I tested out a few low-cost insoles on the market, too, just to compare. Although Airplus for Her, and Dr. Scholl's Massaging Gel Cushions did soften the blows to the balls of my feet much better than Pedifix's Gel Ball-of-Foot Cushions, I felt that the Insolia technology worked better. With inserts, you feel like you're leaning forward.

But here's the bad news: The style of shoe the publicist sent -- with those wonderful snazzy cut-outs -- was killer! The edges of the cut-outs rubbed against my baby toes, incessantly. So while my heels felt fine, my poor toes were tortured.

The company says that it doesn't design the style of shoes that carry the patented invention. In fact, that's the beauty of Insolia, Dananberg and Backler said. The technology is "exclusive of style," so just about any heeled shoe can carry it.

But if they expect to sell a million and a half Insolia-blessed shoes this year, as Dananberg predicts, I'd say they should do more to test out the style of the shoes that will carry the Insolia label, to be sure that cute but painful design elements aren't undermining their company's comfort claim.

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