Archive for October, 2008

10 512 shoes…

World's longest chain of shoes

World

National Geographic Kids set the Gusiness World Record for the world’s longest chain of shoes back in July this year, which I think was a great idea. They collected 10 512 shoes and laid them out heel-to-toe in the National Geographic Society courtyard; the chain reached about 3.2 km. The takkies in the pic belonged to actress Cameron Diaz, so the initiative attracted a fair share of attention.

Setting the record was just the beginning, it seems. In an effort to spread the word about recycling and to help reduce the amount of junk in landfills and floating around Manattan, the shoes were shipped to Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program and recycled into basketball courts, and other play surfaces. Once the advertisement was up on good old Facebook (“Have you ever wanted to break a world record but didn’t know where to start (or how to jump on a pogo stick for 23 miles?”) boxes of shoes poured in from National Geographic readers, families, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, schools, and members of the US women’s national soccer team.

Eight-year-old Peter Wajda of Mount Laurel, New Jersey, organised a “shoe drive” and collected some 509 shoes used to set the record, which is quite something. However, a part of me wishes they had given the shoes away to people who really needed them, not crushed them up for more privileged people to play on, but I guess it was an evironmental drive, not a poverty issue after all…

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Megaheels: the price of a silhouette

I’m hearing things like 5-, 6- and even 7-inch heels; platforms that cost $1,500 (R14,242); shoes from designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Marni, Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin; and (I admit, with a small smirk on my face) models falling off the catwalk and sobbing backstage because their heels are too, uhm… punishing.

What’s going on? It appears that high heels have turned into megaheels a’ la science fiction, and they come in an array of shapes, including spiky stilletos, sloping wedges, tapered cones and thick wooden posts. Ladies who can afford it – and let’s face it – those who are buying these shoes can, are injecting cosmectic fillers such as Restylane to plump up the balls of their feet so that they can actually walk.

“These are the highest heels that I’ve ever seen sold on a commercial level,” says Roseanne Morrison, a fashion director for Doneger Group, a retail consultant for more than 200 stores. And it seems that they are selling. At Bergdorf Goodman, senior VP Edwin Burstell says they represent “a large piece of the business this fall.” Sigh.

I’m five-foot eleven, and every time I wear heels higher than two inches I feel distinctly… noticeable. And yet, women who wear these megaheels feel that it improves their posture, and that the welfare of their feet is a small price to pay for a better outline. According to a study conducted by NPD Group Inc, women’s shoes with heels 3 inches or higher represented 25 percent of all women’s fashion footwear sold at shoes retail chains for 12 months ended in August 2008. This, compared with 21 percent in 2006. At the same time, moderate heels, between 1,5 inches and 2,7/8 inches, saw their market share fall from 34 percent to 26 percent in 2006.

So it looks like the ladies are getting artificially taller, but at what price? Bunions, back problems and herniated discs. Oh, but they’ll have sexy silhouettes, so it’s okay.

The Stiletto was first designed by Salvatore Ferragamo in the 50s for Marilyn Monroe.

The Stiletto was first designed by Salvatore Ferragamo in the 50s for Marilyn Monroe.

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Croc shock

I don’t own a pair of Crocs. I don’t particularly like them, at least not the traditional holey kind, but there ballet slippers are quite cute (I fancy a bright pink or lavender pair) and their Mary Janes are pretty funky (especially in red). But I do know a lot of people who own Crocs and who love them, in fact I know people who wear nothing else. Crocs took the world by storm when they were first released in 2002. Entire nations fell in love with the awkward, clunky looking shoes. Not since the sneaker has the world fallen for footwear in such a whole-hearted and unconditional way. Well, almost the whole world.

Crocs have their detractors. There are those who call them “unnecessarily ugly”, there are those who question their suitability for work and school environments, and there are those who consider them a death trap for feet, especially when one adds an escalator or two.

For the last couple of years, Crocs have been plagued by high-profile escalator accidents involving children and their shoes. Children’s Croc clad feet have become stuck down the sides of escalators, as well as in the (frightening) toothed exit step. In some cases toes have been lost, in others bones have been broken and in still others victims have needed only stitches and a lollipop to stop the tears.

Throughout it all, Croc’s manufacturers have denied that their shoes are any more dangerous or vulnerable to escalator mishaps than other shoes. A claim that has found support from a number of escalator safety experts, shoes experts and doctors. Apparently any soft-soled, pliable shoes are dangerous when worn on escalators, even fashionable sandals and ordinary flip-flops. Even an untied sneaker can lead to tender toes being gobbled by hungry escalator mechanisms.

Despite this vindication, and the fact that Crocs have only been involved in a small percentage of the total number of escalator accidents over recent years, Crocs Inc. has decided to tackle the problem head on. Over the course of the next year, the company intends to launch a number of safety awareness initiatives. The first phase will involve adding safety tags to all Crocs shoes that will provide the public with a number of escalator safety tips, including:

· Always stand in the centre of the step

· Face forwards and keep your hand on the rail

· Don’t touch the sides of the escalator below the handrail

· Avoid the sides of the steps

· Supervise children at all times

It’s expected that the safety awareness initiatives will be fully implemented by spring 2009.

But escalator safety isn’t the only hurdle that Crocs have had to face, and subsequently overcome. In 2007 they had to face losing their market in the health industry. It seems that while doctors and nurses loved the comfortable, easy to clean Crocs, hospital administrators were far less adoring. Some of the issues that they had with the shoes included the fact that aesthetically they didn’t conform to traditional nursing shoes, the holes made medical staff vulnerable to falling scalpels and needles and infection from patients’ dripping bodily fluids. In addition, there was a concern that the rubber soles created a great deal of static electricity that could cause equipment to malfunction should it suddenly discharge.

In response, Crocs Inc. announced that they would be happy to work with the medical industry to make their shoes more suited to hospital environments. They indicated that their Endeavor model is fully enclosed and that the Professional model is closed at the top with ribbed ventilation ports at the sides to channel liquids away from the feet. They also designed two new models: the Specialist with a covered heel, improved solid construction and no holes or vents, and a second model that does have vents. According to Crocs Inc., the shoes were designed to meet the requirements laid out by the health care industry, but that they retained the non-slip, anti-microbial and odour resistant properties of the original models.

President and CEO of Crocs Inc., Ron Snyder, says that consumer safety is of paramount concern to all at Crocs. And considering that Crocs have put their money where their mouth is, I don’t think that he is pandering to the masses.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I hear a pair of lavender ballet slippers calling my name.

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WiFi By Your Toes

So you’re walking to work, or perhaps you have a mobile job – journalist, interior designer or waitress? – and you’d just like to check up on something online: your mail, news, order forms, contact details, delivery status. Well now you can do so, through your shoes.

Stefan Dukaczewski, a designer working for MSTRPLN collaborated with Ubiq Boutique to develop a line of takkies called a “A Step in the Right Direction” (ASRD). Building wireless into Nike Dunk sneakers, Dukaczewski combined advanced footwear with wearable comfort and style, so that the Nike shoes can detect WiFi hot-spots and display the results via three LEDs, while allowing complete mobility and sheer charisma.

The shoes have a lace-saver – which is flap that covers and protects the laces – a la shoes of the 80s. Under the flap of the left shoe is a wireless Internet detection unit, which scans for WiFi signals in a 50 metre radius. The unit starts scanning when pressure is applied to the pressure sensitive insole – in other words, when your feet are in the shoes. Three LEDs indicating the signal’s strength, and can be found on the shoe’s flap. The LEDs blink when no WiFi is detected, and glow when it is.

Another tech shoe that the blog, The Future of Things, covered, is the Xplorer GPS Smart shoe, which acts as a GPS navigator, tracking the wearer’s location and providing the history of his or her whereabouts – creepy! Also, the vibrating shoe, which uses electricty to make your feet shudder (for what purpose?). Lastly The Future of Things wrote about a new device that Nike developed to help athletes keep a healthier and more ordered exercise schedule – entitled “Nike + Sportband”. The band is worn on one’s wrist during running, jumping, or any other physical activity, and basically it analyses information during the working either in real-time or later, on the athlete’s PC.

A pair of ASRDs. Photo credit: The Future of things

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