At first glance they seem more sensible than skyscraping stilettos but doctors have linked the lack of support in ballet flats to a number of overuse injuries, among them heel pain and plantar fasciitis as well as muscle and tendon strain throughout the leg. This spring, Teaneck, NJ-based Aetrex is stepping up to the plate and adding flats infused with comfort to its lineup of wellness footwear.
“It’s traditionally a category of shoes that doesn’t offer anything by way of health and comfort–it’s a very bare bones construction,” says Executive Vice President Matt Schwartz. “The challenge was to make a shoe that offered a healthy choice to the female consumer.”
Similar to the brand’s other styles, the streamlined silhouette is built on the company’s Lynco orthotic footbed for support, balance and alignment, while slow-release memory foam allows it to conform to the wearer’s foot and an anti-microbial lining combats fungus. The comfy shoes are available in five colors and wholesale for $99. “When consumers see this shoe sitting out on the table, they will pick it up because it looks good and when they put it on they will feel the difference,” Schwartz predicts. Apart from the comfort aspect, he believes the other key differentiate is the flat’s construction. “Take where the shoe bends, for example: The shoe should bend where the foot bends, which is the widest part of the foot,” he explains. “The way the toe box is constructed doesn’t squeeze your toes together. The way we construct the rear foot versus the forefoot–all of these features make this shoe better for the consumer.”
Based on early indications, Schwartz says Aetrex is on pace to exceed last year’s bookings overall, amd he believes it’s the company’s potent combination of comfort and style that continues to drive sell-through year after year. “I see a lot of brands at all different price points trying to incorporate comfort into fashionable footwear, or doing it from the other direction, and I think that trend will continue,” he says. “In our case, what we really believe in is you can make shoes that are better or worse for you. It’s not just about comfort. It’s about creating shoes in the key women’s categories that look great and feel great and make the body function better.”