Why you should care
Because blisters and sore feet have plagued us all.
Lavina Bonar’s eureka moment happened a couple of years ago when she faced a dilemma many job seekers can relate to: scrambling to find an outfit for a last-minute interview. She found a suit but couldn’t grab shoes that matched her size. And since she couldn’t walk into the interview with a pair that was too roomy — she might lose a shoe or fall over, after all — she settled for a pair that was one size too small. In the end, Bonar got the job — and a whole bunch of blisters.
Which is how she got inspired to create Sizers, a toe cushion that allows you to adjust the fit of loose shoes. It’s one of several new foot cushions and liners on the market these days designed to help women ease into their heels a little more comfortably. A twist on old-school Dr. Scholl’s (he died decades ago, but his company is still around), they’re aimed squarely at the fashion-forward. Want to avoid sores from those strappy heels? Fit into those custom wedding shoes? Keep your Jimmy Choos smelling fresh? If so, Sizers — which sell for £3.99, or just under $7 — could be the product for you.
But how well do they work? Well, even the fanciest toe cushion — these included — won’t make Louboutins feel like a pair of Nikes. “Just because you’re wearing these doesn’t mean you can suddenly wear high heels three hours longer,” warns Jacqueline Sutera, a New York City-based doctor of podiatric medicine and surgery. And they’re definitely not a fix for conditions such as hammertoes, bone spurs or bunions — in fact, they could make those conditions worse, notes Sutera.
Based in London, Sizers are especially useful for those who have to size up to accommodate wide or slightly different-sized feet, says Bonar, who notes they’re also popular with bridesmaids. They’ve even landed on the red carpet: One of her customers is celebrity stylist Jessica Paster.
Of course, there are plenty of other offerings out there as well. Several brands, including Hue and Profoot, make toe cushions designed to keep shoes from rubbing against your feet. At $4 to $10 a pair, they’re quite affordable. They also keep your soles clean, and they’re washable. Speaking of which: For extra protection against funky feet, New York City-based Chu Shu New York makes an antimicrobial insert called Silver Linings, powered by silver-based particles. (A pack of five pairs sells for $16.)
All these are simple enough — yet long overdue — fixes for agony of the feet. And as with just about everything these days, toe cushions are poised to get the high-tech treatment: think custom, 3-D printed treatment. That’s what Jenna Witzleben, a senior at Cornell, is now working on. Under the guidance of Hod Lipson, whose 3-D printing research has been featured on PBS and in The New York Times, she’s developed a prototype for ballet shoes. Ballerinas are the perfect test subjects; after all, they make a living staying on their toes.