By Carolyne Zinko
If humans have been wearing shoes for at least 40,000 years, and modern styles for the past century, does a new line of women’s high heels really require space-age engineering to make them more fit for the foot?
Silicon Valley native Dolly Singh thinks so.
The former employee of Elon Musk’s Space X is aiming to send shock waves through the $40 billion-a-year shoe industry with her line of Thesis Couture stilettos. The high-performance heels have been created by a team of designers, engineers, doctors — and a rocket scientist and astronaut, no less — and promise to be more comfortable than other high heels on the market.
Singh was motivated by walking the shiny white floors of Space X in Los Angeles in heels for five years and realizing she had two choices: “I could wear uglier shoes, or wear pretty shoes and wind up with ugly deformed feet.”
The shoes, which initially will feature a 4-inch heel, are three years in the making. They’ve been built around an entirely new foot mold — or last, in footwear industry parlance — rather than designed around existing lasts used in mass manufacturing.
“In most cases, people take the existing architecture — the shank, the sole as it is — and they’ll try to add some cushion,” Singh said during a recent San Francisco visit. “They’ll add air pockets, they’ll do this or that. And those are all evolutionary, small improvements, whereas what we wanted to do was a revolutionary improvement.”
Armed with the new last, her team has used structural engineering principles to redistribute the load on the ball and toes of the feet, and space age plastics and rubber for the shoe’s frame and heel. Combined, the advances will offer better shock absorption and arch support. Most other high heeled shoes, in contrast, contain metal rods for strength.
The load on the ball of the foot is reduced from 80 percent to 50 percent, and the shoe’s platform reduces shock by 50 percent, Singh said. Arch support is hidden inside the frame, and the heel is cleverly designed to be larger, to provide stability, without appearing visually clunky.
“From a physics standpoint, high heels as they’re designed today are not at all thoughtful,” Singh said. “High heels are probably the only product you can find where there’s $40 billion a year of commerce, and where for almost a century no innovation has taken place. That’s insane.”
The line is scheduled to launch in March, with a debut style produced in a limited edition of 1,500 pairs, each pair numbered and signed, in much the same way Musk launched his Tesla Model S series.
The debut edition will be priced at $925, with daytime looks to follow at $350 a pair, evening looks at $600 or so, and red carpet styles at about $1,000 a pair.
In January, Thesis Couture will conduct trunk shows with a prototype in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco at which customers can try on the shoes and place orders for the debut collection. Trunk show dates have not been finalized.
The name Thesis Couture, by the way, derives from her belief that her thesis about the new shoe design is a defensible theory. Take that, Stone Age foot wraps.