Shoes for the minority

Does Nike have shoes for the minorty? Will it ever have? Ok, I shouldn’t just use Nike, but across the popular shoe companies.

I was shopping for basketball shoes. I have no style in preference, so the main issue if comfort and budget. I went to 2 stores, but left disappointed.

My feet aren’t “normal”. It’s flatter than most people’s feet, so buying shoes for me takes quite a bit of luck. I used to have a pair of Gen 9 Air Jordans. It was worn to the point of disintegration. So when they released the retro version, I didn’t think twice before ordering one.

Some years ago, my mom saw the Pippen “AIR” and thought I’d love it, so she bought it as a gift. Sure I loved its looks and proportion, but it hurt my feet so bad that I just had to resell it ( no refund at that time).

Back to the story. I went to the 2 stores and somehow Nike dominated the basketball section. About 9/10 were Nike, 0.5 Reebok and 0.5 Addidas. I picked the styles I don’t mind that fit my budget. All were rejected as I put them on. Then I went to the more expensive ones, same thing.

So I have to ask you shoe designers, other than performance and style, how often do you actually think abt how the feet feel? How can you justify making consumers pay $50~$150++ for a pair of shoes and then spend another $15 for another pair of inner sole? What exactly is it that you are asking the consumers to pay for? The brand? The look? What else?

Yes I am pissed at this point, because I feel neglected as a consumer.

Yo, remember sometime ago when this forum just started I asked a question on what exactly is the role of a shoe designer? While you didn’t get what I was asking about, I didn’t get my answer either. I guess this is it. The question should be “What’s your involvement in the ergonomics of a shoe design”, and how do you determine what’s the best.

For now, I see shoe designers very close to car design. The main difference being one is a sculpter and the other is a graphics/fashion designer.

Maybe I am posting in the wrong forum, but there isn’t an engineering or ergonomics section here.

While you decide if you wish to respond to this thread, my suggestion is, sell shoes without the inner sole and leave the ergonomic solution to us consumers, then we can all happily buy your designs and have some DIY advantures.

And since when can’t I get a pair of sandals for under $10? Do I have to go to flee market for those?

not a footwear designer but i myself have an affection (or affliction depening how you look at it) for shoes

some shoes, especially the basketball shoes do require a couple of break-in wearing before they “conform” to the shape of your foot so it could be a result of that…

shoes are built around lasts, and these last are for the most part general to accomodate general foot types you can imagine the amount of variation of foot types in one size (like a mens 11) let alone a whole size range (6.5 to 13) and placing an insert that addresses one problem like pronation would cause problems for those who do not have that condition it would throw you all out of wack…

to answer your question, most of the larger footwear companies i would think have weighed the pros & cons of this issue and i would think they would come to the conclusion that in most cases it is easier for the consumer to buy an insole insert than to actually make a shoe for a small segment of consumers–most foot doctors (pediatrists?) would tell you an insert that addresses your specific condition would be a better solution than the insert that comes with most shoes

(note: adidas, nike, new balance, puma, etc. do have running shoes that supposedly address issues like yours, also there is a shoe store that you can go to where you take your shoes off and stand on a machine that tells you what type of shoe would be best for your foot type)

Gee, I went shoe shopping today, also…freaking frustrating. I have a completely different set of problems: very high arch ( I’ve been actually thinking it’s a mild pes cavus),Haglund’s deformity, huge toes, and narrow heels. Most of the summer casual shoes, especially the ballet flats that are flooding every store right now are torture devices for my feet. While separate insole inserts work quite well for winter/fall/spring shoes, I’m not sure what can be done for the summer ones.
Flip-flops aren’t exactly sexy or professional. There’re certain designs that fit my feet quite well and I find them appealing, unfortunately, they’re not in vogue right now… damn fashion.
I have nothing constructive to add, I needed to rant because one of the last shoe shopping trips left me in tears.

Insoles are a huge part of the design in terms of ergonomics that the shoe company is responsible of. It’s like telling me to replace the handle of a brand new powerdrill that is supposed to be ergonomic. Can you justify that?

Yes of course I know shoes need break in, but you will know when it’s impossible when you have feet like mine. It’s just plain painful to wear, let alone stand on it. Just imagine having a piece of wood against the arch area with the force of your body weight.

Store? I’d love to find out about that one. I bet the result is “Oops, none on the current list!”

And that new customizing thing of nike is just another attempt to put its name on the headlines. To me it doesn’t solve any substantial problem at all. Talking about market needs… it’s desire, the root of all evil.

Why am I more pissed at nike? Probably because they are everywhere and that makes me feel like I don’t get to try other options as much as I want.
Furthermore, I have no problem with New Balance running shoes. Too bad they have only 2 styles right now and I don’t see them in the stores I went to.

i see what you are saying but i do not think there is an insole that exists that will give ALL wearers the proper amount of support. the comparison of a handle and an insole is not a fair one you can make an ergonomic handle for people with arthritis and it would not be detrimental for someone without that condition to use that handle

as i said before addressing one foot condition would lead to problems for those with noraml or other types of conditions…you have to remenber that most people do not have these issues with footwear

i am not saying that this totally absolve large footwear companies from addressing these things i am sure there is some soltion out there that at this point has yet to be discovered. a problem as i see it is often people wear the wrong type of shoes for their feet and/or the wrong use

i was talking with a friend about this the other day, this friend was saying how the quality of basketball shoes has declined in wearability with longer break-in times mai\king them uncomfortable to wear off-the court. most modern basketball shoes are made FOR BASKETBALL and most the times the people who buy them never see any court time with the hence they take much longer to break-in

as i see it people need to be educated about the importance of having the right footwear because it affects how you walk, stand, etc. that is why i think it would be the best solution to buy insoles rather than depend on the ones that come “stock” in the shoes

every person’s foot is unique. most companies design products for the average foot, which is an obvious design direction considering the scale of sales.

Someone with a special need will have to customize their product with an insole. While you wouldn’t customize a new ergonomic drill, the hand is also the most adaptable part of the human body, and you are not really drilling for 12 hours straight, like you might be walking around.

Shoes are built around lasts. A last is an abstract footform that determines the shape of the shoe but also the fit of the shoe. Currrent lasts are evolved from antique shoe making practices that have more to with craft than ergonomics. A pointy shoe has a pointy last, a square toe shoe, a square last. The craziest distortion of actual human feet occurs in women’s fashion shoes. The lasts don’t even really look like feet.

At nike we have a lab with testers and ergonomicists, I know Adidas uses several well known facilities for the same reasons. So why don’t the major companies remake our lasts based on real feet???

…well, we allready have. The Nike Footscape (google it) was designed around an anotomically based last, but it didn’t sell. Consumers told us it wasn’t sleek or fast looking (it was foot looking). We’ve integrated ergonomics as much as posible into sleeker lasts. Nike Free is also built around an anatomically correct last. It is flatter and wider. This time out though the last was also made to look good.

I know you think of footwear as fashion/graphic excersise, but don’t push your predjudice off on the rest of us. I find consumer product much easier to design than footwear. I did answer your questions to the best of my abilities, but you don’t seem to want to hear my answers.

…Also, selling shoes without insoles would be like selling cars without wheels. You might customize them, but a lot of people don’t see the need to.

…And, sandals for under $10? What the heck are the factory workers going to live on? The closest you are going to get is like $8-9 flip flops at Target, Old Navey, or Wallmart. They are also made with materials that have PVC’s (cheaper) that are made in toxic conditions and horrible factories. Most major manufacturers (New Ballance excluded unfortunately) would never use these materials, thaey are actually illegal to manufacture in the US I believe. If you are going to use real materials, and pay the factory correctly to maintain a clean and safe environment and pay their workers, you also have to charge for it.

I’m a bit dissapointed in you comments considering we hashed this out ad naussium like 6 months ago.



I’m sorry you have a problem with the most popular footwear on the planet; you aren’t alone. beleive me, If I had a nickel for every body who complained to me about their Nikes, I have about $10,476.85.

Truth is Nike has over 100 different lasts, all are built for performance. 90% of performance shoes have high arches and run narrow with narrow toe boxes. high arches support the natural shock absorption that saves fatigue on your knees; and the narrow toe box secures your foot and provides for a more neutral gait which enhances your performance. You really should not be hanging around in high performance hoops shoes; they are too heavy, too hot and inflexible for daily stand around use. But on the court, to a six foot six power forward, they are manna from heaven. Look at it like this: you shouldn’t buy an Arcura NSX for commuting on the BQE from Brooklyn to Manhatten in rush hour.

Thats the spell people have fallen under from the 300 lb gorrilas in shoe aisle. It is all about the shoes. 99% of shoe wearers will tell you that their favorite shoe is their favorite because of how it looks rather than how if feels on their foot.

I always point comfortmongers to NB or Aiscs. fashionistas to Puma or Nike. Nike does make awesome shoes, has better than average corporate responsibility and truly respects innovation. But if you don’t use them as designed you probably will have fit issues. Now you ask: with all those testing labs why do they have fit issues? Because all those testing labs are geared toward enhancing performance. They seem to neglect the all day performance of just walking or standing around in favor of the pursuit of the fastest 400 or what ever their latest icon will be competing in.

Footwear is not about the end user’s comfort its about what the end user whishes to become by wearing the footwear. All of my years in footwear I have heard: “its for the guy who wants to be like ________. They may not wear it on the court but they want people to think they do.” (and I heard it the most at Nike…). Its about outward perception often to the detriment of comfort and foot condition.

Look at the above picture. would you wear that shoe? ok in Japan they went nuts over it for about six months (which is pretty long in the Harajuku time continuum) but still … its ugly. shapeless, formless, shite colors and materials…but its is very comfortable. its not the shoe deisgner who built an ugly shoe, its the customer who has been trained by the designer and their company and their local culture to think that its an ugly shoe.

I know we all can get very idealistic about what and for whom we design but ultimatly we are at the mercy of the consumer culture that dictates taste, fashion and trends. What truly dictates a true shoes success is pairage–how many you sold not how comfortable it is.

BTW I DO recommend sandals for your wide, flat feet.*** your feet breathe, flex propery and it is the closest thing to walking bare foot. (seriously, do you think feet were designed for shoes? see Nike Free–arch is a little high and toe box is a little tight but not bad.)
But I don’t recommend even trying to run in Sandals. Get good pair of running shoes at a running specialty store where they will care less for brand and more for your running comfort.

***If you would like to know there are non Target-less than $10 sandals that have no PVC in them are made by non exploited workers; and they will often feel better on your flat wide feet than any pair of nikes.

Thanks for your reply, everyone.

First I would like to clarify that I am the type of person who buy things based on needs, rarely on desire.

I went to shop for a pair of basketball shoes because I now get some time to play in the summer. It’s almost impossible to find time in school, if any, will be after mid night, which isn’t a good idea in downtown detroit. Also, I don’t wear basketball shoes for daily walking, it’s just too heavy. In fact I refuse to go to the court with my running shoes because I have injured my ankles many times not wearing the right shoes.

The other day people from the studio had a game after work. I joined in and I wore the flattest shoes I’ve got because I wanted to prevent ankle injury due to high CG of the sole. Well, I got muscle cramp on my leg eventually. Yeah I am far from being fit.

I don’t care much for style as much as fit, that’s why I didn’t go for the best looking one. I was looking for simple design and most importantly, it has to protect my feet not hurt them.

As for sandals, I rear it indoor primarly and sometimes to nearby stores, therefore it’s not for trail or any outdoor activity, and that’s why I don’t need a $29.99 pair. The current one that I have is more than 5 years old with straps worn to their limit. It was S$7, which converts to about US$5. It’s good and was enough for what I use it for.

Well, I guess I am disappointed that things didn’t turn out to be as idealistic as I would have expected. Shoes is something that we wear on our feet as many of you have mentioned. Naturally, ergonomics is the first to come to mind. Yes it’s for performance. Yes it’s designed around big name stars, but who are the shoes really for? Those atheletes with almost perfect bodies?

It’s like does Ferrari design their cars for Michael Schumacher or rich people who can afford them? What are those different driving modes switches on the cars for? Hell the 456 even offered automatic transmission!

I guess what I am trying to say is most of what I see on the shelves only answered the less important part of user experience. I believe that while getting the consumer to buy the product is a step forward, getting them to rely on the product is the more challenging and satisfying aspect of industrial design.

I don’t believe that I can’t find a pair of basketball shoes that fits my feet, but it’s going to take a lot of luck. As for now, I will just shoot around the hoop carefully.

thanks for the detailed responses yo & relativ, very informative…

I guess what I am trying to say is most of what I see on the shelves only answered the less important part of user experience. I believe that while getting the consumer to buy the product is a step forward, getting them to rely on the product is the more challenging and satisfying aspect of industrial design.

mcow if read relativ’s response you will see this IS (from my understanding)exactly what is being done, these shoes are engineered for maximum performance, what is more challenging and satisfying than putting together a product that help althletes of all kinds perform in them all in an attractive package…

so i am not really sure where you see consumers getting the short end of the stick

I guess you are right. Those shoes are designed for professional atheletes and not for occasional users like me with abnormal feet.

Performance is hugely dependent on ergonomics. I can’t walk if my feet hurt, let alone play. I really need to purchase a flatter innersole for myself. It’s too bad but I just have to face it. But as a consumer, I have to say that when I get satisfaction, I will probably think it was the innersole that I bought and not so much the shoes… if you know what I mean.

I started this discussion from a consumer’s point of view. Some of you may think that I am jumping to the conclusion, but that’s what consumers do. It always start with “I” because I can only speak for my own experience with the products, and I am trying to let you guys know what I think. If you treat my opinions as another hostle designer’s, then… well, I have nothing more to say.

From the details both Yo and Relativ gave, I have a much better understanding on how shoes are designed, especially with lasts and so on. I think I can come to a conclusion with those info. It’s pretty clear now, so thanks for your time and patience.

This poses as a challenge for myself. I may end up doing a shoe design for my final thesis project, but the focus will not be a market driven one.

After my first post I try not to provoke anyone. So if my efforts failed, I appologise.

Damn it’s so hot I can’t sleep. Bloody weather.

Damn it’s so hot I can’t sleep. Bloody weather.

it has been hotter than a mofo here in chicagoland the past week or so and we do not have ac, it almost has been better to stay up than attempt to sleep…

I guess you are right. Those shoes are designed for professional atheletes and not for occasional users like me with abnormal feet.

shoes are designed for all levels of athletes from shaquille o’neal to the weekend warriors to the occansional recreational athlete, it is just that you may have to do a little more searching than the average consumer because you have “abnormal feet”

there actually many people who are flat-footed and do not know it (the us army used not accept people with flat-feet because it deemed that it could become an issue, i believe it causes fatigue—not sure if this is still the policy)

you are right performance being based on ergonomics and if one’s shoes are out of wack it is hard to perform to maximum ability, i always believed shoes were a sum of its parts, outsole, cushioning, stability, comfort, and support so for me it has always been about finding a combination of those things that will help me perform best, i see it like buying a car—the factory specs of which are to meet general specification after purchase i can modify it so i can get the car to suit me personally, put performance springs, racing seats, swap out the engine for a better one. it does not mean the car was not designed well.

The Athlete’s Foot is the store that has the machine that “reads” the pressure points on feet to tell what shoe would be best for a specific foot, very cool though i am not sure if they have b-ball shoes in the system but i am sure the employees could point people in the right direction

This poses as a challenge for myself. I may end up doing a shoe design for my final thesis project, but the focus will not be a market driven one

sounds like a cool way to gain a more complete understanding & you get something to put in your folio i you wish-win-win.

Sounds good, let me know if you need anything, the guy that sits next to me is a CCS grad, so I’m sure he would be into helping out as well…


You don’t have abnormal feet. At least you have two flat feet. Me on the other hand, I have collapsed arch from a childhood injury making my left foot 3/4 size larger than my right foot. Thats abnormal.

I responded to your question because its the exact reason that I burnt out of footwear. That and since no two feet are alike (even your own) no shoe can be or will be everything to everybody; a “new” design works for one person and won’t work for another.

I spent a few seasons designing “comfort” and “corrective” shoes to enable people who have "abnormal " foot problems run normally and run better. The shoes worked and looked pretty good. But when sales and marketing got a hold of them we were instructed to quietly “put the project on hold” because they were afraid it would ruin the brand by releasing perceived medical products and not performance products.

Orthotics are not a bad word and are worth every penny that you spend on them. They will last longer than your shoes and you will feel their benfit immeditely.

Footwear designers design and engineer the most complicated and interactive product. Think about it: you need it daily; you wear it and it is designed for something that has no real constant between users aside from reflective symmetry. We resent the tag that we are just fashion designers and don’t give a shite about function when thats all we really care about. (fashion deisgn is EASY; making the fashionable work and be comfortable; thats hard)

I highly recommend doing a comfort footwear project. But the focus has to be a market driven one. You have to convince people to wear it; therefore you cannot ignore the market forces that determine the style and look. By integrating with fashion your ergonomics will help determine and shape the styling; communicating the use, creating desire and fulfilling a need.

that would be a freakin great project.

QUESTION #1: do you actively play basketball and plan to buy basketball sneakers for the purpose of playing basketball?

If no, then change your view on what you want to buy, especially if you are going to be THAT CRITICAL about which sneaker… while planning to just wear it walking to and fro your cube to the bathroom at work.


welcome to the real world…perfection does not exsist and if you think that a company as big as nike is going to make a pair of shoes that fits you and only you perfectly, then you’re dreaming…actually wait they probably would but you’d have to pay them more then playing basketball is worth!

i don’t think there’s any point in bitching about nike or any other footwear company, because all the products we find on the market are not going to be perfect for at least 0,0001% of the world’s population. face it products are made to sell whether for the design, comfort or price.

i’m a footwear designer / linebuilder and i can assure you that when i make prototypes and samples each one of the shoes is tried on by me (along with the fitting model)…i don’t have a perfect size 37 but i know when a shoe is comfortable. and one of my first questions to the fitting model is “does it hurt anywhere?”

please don’t take it for granted that designers just sit there and sketch whatever first comes to their mind.

mcow you might want to check this link out, it answers many of the q’s you had, it breaks footwear down into its major components:

Bookmarked, thanks!

nice find