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Feeling good while  looking good

IS it better to look good than to feel good? A shoe brand makes a case for having it both ways.

On Oct. 20, Vionic held a foot-pampering day at a BGC spa and made the ladies present pick a pair of Vionic shoes. The pairs come built in with orthotic supports, which are claimed to prevent future foot pain. This is based on a peer-reviewed clinical study partially funded by Vionic on people experiencing moderate, non-traumatic heel pain.

“Vionic contoured sandals were shown to be comparable in effectiveness to Vionic Insoles (Orthotics),” says the brand’s website. A number of Vionic products carry the American Podiatric Medical Association Seal of Acceptance.

The brand was founded in 1979 by the late Sydney podiatrist Phillip Vasyli. In 2018, footwear company Caleres acquired the company. Caleres owns Famous Footwear, Naturalizer, and Dr. Scholl’s, among others.

In the Philippines, Vionic is distributed by Easy Street Footwear Corp. The company also distributes Hush Puppies, Sebago, KSwiss, Palladium, and G.H. Bass.

“No other footwear offers orthotic support plus the style. It’s either you have good orthotic support, but the shoes don’t look good [or vice versa],” said Easy Street Footwear President Gifford Chu in an interview with BusinessWorld.

The shoes come with a heel cup, an arch support, and cushioning. “The designer explained that they have to build the shoe from the ground up,” he said.

Why is offering style and comfort so important? Mr. Chu thought hard. “It’s a philosophical question. Why do people want to look good? It used to be taken for granted that if you wear something that’s medical, it looks like it came from a clinic or a hospital. There’s an unmet need. People who want the support and the comfort also want to look good,” he said.

“We’d assume the grandmas would be happy wearing frumpy comfortable shoes. That’s not the case. As our market ages… the way we dress also gets mature. Old people now are more stylish than they were [in the past].”

Mr. Chu says that they distribute their shoes through 15 stores and kiosks and plan to open four more next year. These are dotted around the city, but also from north to south in the country, from Baguio to Davao. Asked about this optimism, he said about his customers, “They come back. They don’t return it,” he said, joking that they even offer a 30-day return policy, but no one seemed to take it. “The proof of the pudding is in the eating. They come back; they buy a second pair.”

His brother, Easy Street Footwear Managing Director Gilson Chu, does not offer medical claims, though citing the study by Vionic says, “It alleviates heel pain. That’s the only claim we can make.”

Gifford Chu, however, told us that at that very moment, he was wearing Vionic orthotic inserts in his shoes. “I know that I’m going to stand for more than an hour, so I’m wearing Vionic now,” he said.

“Right now, I feel better than if I wore my soft sneakers.” — JL Garcia

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