Ahhhh, science finds a cure for stilettos

Marketplace Staff May 11, 2007

Ahhhh, science finds a cure for stilettos

Marketplace Staff May 11, 2007


SCOTT JAGOW: Ladies, I don’t know how ya do it: Wear high heels. It hurts just looking at those things. Well, there’s a company in New Hampshire that believes it has the answer to your aching, aching feet. Our reporter Pat Loeb went in search of women who might enjoy something like this.

WOMAN ON THE STREET 1: 15, 20 minutes after I’m wearing heels, my feet will start to hurt.

WOMAN ON THE STREET 2: They make your feet burn. The bottom of your feet burn.

WOMAN ON THE STREET 3: Well my toes start to cling together and you gotta walk so carefully. What would I do for comfortable high heels?

PAT LOEB: What wouldn’t we women do for comfortable high heels?

That’s why Brian Hughes suddenly finds himself so popular — more popular than when he created rocket engines or laid the first transatlantic fiber optic cable.

It wasn’t until he casually mentioned one day at lunch that he was considering investing in a company that would make high heels comfortable that his business interests aroused real passion.

BRIAN HUGHES: This woman leans over, grabs me by the lapel and says, “I need these shoes.”

The company is called Insolia.

It’s actually the brainchild of a podiatrist, Dr. Howard Dananberg. Hughes says it was Dananberg who figured out that everything women were doing to make their high heels bearable was wrong.

HUGHES: People have been sticking in various kinds of forefoot pads hoping that this would relieve the pain. The real insight of Dr. Dananberg was realizing that while the pain is at the ball of the foot, the solution is at the heel.

Insolia is a small piece of sculpted plastic that goes in the back of the shoe and redistributes the weight on your foot, to keep it from sliding forward. That’s what makes high heels painful.

Hughes drew on his MIT background to figure out the design and materials that allow Dananberg’s insight to be packaged and sold to consumers. He says, for an engineer, it was an irresistible problem.

HUGHES: OK high heels have been around for 400 years and no one’s solved this problem and if we solve it, there will be a lot of happy women as a result.

I asked Marketplace’s Michelle Philippe to try it out. She has a pair of shoes that are so painful, she had to get her boyfriend to wheel her home in a shopping cart one night.

MICHELLE PHILIPPE: I put them in my pink stilettos this weekend.

LOEB: And how did it work?

PHILIPPE: Well my feet still hurt a little bit but I could have walked home. I wouldn’t need to be pushed home in a shopping cart this time.

I’ve seen these shoes — that’s a ringing endorsement.

I’m Pat Loeb for Marketplace.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.