The $40B Shoe Industry Is Evolving Thanks To These Fashion Tech Startups

Our foot drama might finally be over if these startups have anything to do with it!

Many women go weak at the knees at the sight of a beautiful pair of heels, but did you know, according to ShopSmart, that statistically, women own 17 pairs of shoes, yet only wear 2-4 pairs on a regular basis because of comfort issues?

Women own 17 pairs of shoes, yet only wear 2-4 pairs on a regular basis. Time for smart shoes?

This is mainly because every woman loves her heels and I am no exception. I have a complicated love/hate relationship with my heels which is rarely understood by the man in my life or my long-suffering feet. So imagine my excitement when I came across six fantastic fashion tech startups showing the tech space what is currently missing in the current field of traditional wearables.

TINKER: The Interactive Massage Shoe

Tinker, an Interactive smart massage shoe, is designed with technology that is seamlessly integrated into the shoe to provide a customised massage experience controlled via a smartphone providing comfort and aiding wellbeing.

Fashion Tech
Smart shoes technology? What about these customised massage experience, smartphone controlled shoes?

As one of the first 23 projects funded through the WEAR Sustain first Open Call for spring 2017, Tinker’s sensor fashion tech allows the user to measure feedback and customise different massage sensations. Founded by Thushara Sabreen, the product was created with the end user in mind to provide the benefit of comfort elating wearers health for preventative health care.

ROTHY: The Sustainable Shoe

Making use of our waste, Rothy has come up with a brilliant way of making waste-free shoes using ground-up bottles. The amazing part is that the San Francisco-based startup shoe knitting process only takes six minutes.

Smart Shoes
Rothy’s shoes are machine washable but only available in the US

Founded by Roth Martin and Stephen Haythornthwaite, Rothy shoes dramatically reduce the materials used during construction. This was something that the designers, who worked on Rothy did way before Nike came out with their Flyknit shoes. At close inspection, the difference between the two is that Nike’s shoes are knitted in two-dimensions, Rothy’s are “knit to shape” in three dimensions and come out of the machine fully formed.

On the production of the sustainable shoe Martin, shared, “You have a tremendous amount of scrap waste that’s going into landfills. Our process allows us to knit three-dimensional parts that use the exact amount of material that they need to use to create the part. So, like an inkjet printer, it draws just the amount of ink that it needs to complete that task, and then it repeats the task as needed.”

SOLELY ORIGINAL: The Custom-Made Shoes

Solely Original was introduced to me by CFE. The London based startup is a made-to-measure online business developed to provide a shoe shopping experience without having to leave the comfort of your home. By using our innovative 3D Fitting Sock and foot scanner, they can create custom-made shoes that fit your foot perfectly. Using the website’s design engine, an image of your design is only a click of fingers away. All you have to do is select the shoe and heel style, the materials and the colours.

Fashion Tech
Select your shoe style and automatically get taken to the Solely Original Designer

Started out of frustration by Iris Anson, a fashion-conscious city professional, Solely Original is built on not compromising on comfort. “Having researched footwear production, I have come to realise how unhealthy and flawed the current industry is. I decided to leave my career behind and to find a solution for women like me,” said Iris. Adding, “I created Solely Original to afford every woman the luxury of comfortable and stylish shoes, fitted to their measurements.”

RUNWAY HEELS: The Transforming Shoes

Runway Heels believes that women can have it all. Foundered Melody Avecilla and Miguel Rodriguez, they have come up with a retractable high heel that can instantly transform the shoe from heels into comfortable flats with the touch of a button. Started two years ago, Runway Heel’s product has the potential to offer women much-needed relief from painful foot problems and potential medical issues long associated with high heels, adding a new perspective to the meaning of the words smart shoes.

Fashion Tech
Fashionable Comfort: Runway Heels Launches Industry’s First Retractable High Heels, Instantly Turning Stilettos Into Comfortable Flats at the Push of a Button (PRNewsfoto/Runway Heels)

Featuring Swedish-designed steel-grade mechanism, the shoes allow wearers to convert their high heels to flats quickly or back again. Available in a full range of sizes and contemporary styles, the USP is Runway Heel’s antimicrobial memory foam technology which provides additional comfort with temperature and pressure sensitivity, open-celled construction, conformability and resilience, and protection from the growth of microorganisms and transmission of harmful microbes.

TRUE GAULT: The 3D Measuring Smart Shoes

True Gault averts shoppers from an endless search for sizes and from settling for pinching, scraping, squeezing, limping and sacrificing style for comfort. Founded by Self-proclaimed ‘geek in high heels, Sandra Gault, True Gault has created its own proprietary patent-pending fit formula by pioneering 3D measuring that captures the biomechanics and measurements of each person’s foot.

Fashion Tech
“We follow the biomechanics of the person’s foot,” -Sandra Gault

On making customizable high heels accessible to everyone Gault remarked, “I was baffled by the notion that women everywhere simply accept that looking great in high heels means discomfort. With our technology and market model, we’re reinventing the bespoke experience. Each pair of shoes is one-of-a-kind, just like the shopper herself.”

THESIS COUTURE: The Structurally Engineered Shoe

Ms Dolly Singh, a 30 something glamazon, is the founder of Thesis Couture. Driven to create the perfect stiletto for women Singh recruited aerospace engineer Hans Koenigsmann and surgeon a specialist in the reconstruction of feet/ankles Andy Goldberg.

Fashion Tech
High Tech heels, not your typical types of wearable technology

Three years in the making, what attracts us to this scientific wonder of a heel is the fact that Thesis stilettos brag handmade-in-Italy 4-inch heels, but when you put them on they feel like you are walking in 3-inch wedges. So far they have released 1000 pairs of limited edition Thesis Olympus One priced $925 (US) and planned to launch their Capsule One fashion tech collection this winter 2017.

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Founding editor-in-chief & WearableTechStylist of, Muchaneta has worked in the fashion industry for over 14 years. She is currently one of the leading influencers speaking and writing about the merger of fashion with technology and wearable technology and a regular contributor to digital news sites like Wareable.