TECH TALK FROM THE INNOVATION TEAM
Ever wonder how Orthaheel Technology was developed? Or, how it was so discretely developed into our new ballet flats? We interviewed our Medical Director, Terry Mitchell, and our Technical Designer, Tony Hendrix, with some questions about just that.
Q: We’re here in the Innovation Lab at Vionic Headquarters, what sort of innovating do you do in this hi-tech environment?
A: Terry: (Points to the tabletop machinery on the lab counter.) Currently, the laser scanner is used for developing new contours and checking pre-production footbeds to be sure the contour is 100% accurate. In other words, it’s used for quality control, making sure the contour fits within the new shoe design as it’s supposed to and still provides the support you expect.
Tony: It’s vital for reverse engineering – working backwards from a finished product to see how we can improve it, or to see how we can add a favorite contour to a new footbed.
Terry: The lab is also an area for developing materials and checking their quality. They modify, develop or cut contours before it goes back to the factory. It can get dusty in here with all the craftsmanship!
Q: What is the benefit of using an insert for the Fall/Winter collection, as opposed to using a molded footbed?
A: Terry: It gives us flexibility to test the orthotic to make sure it’s giving ultimate comfort, instead of creating a whole new shoe design. In the ballet flats – we adapted the Relief contour. We made it smaller, and because flats are notoriously a deconstructed style with minimal material, was a challenge to get the support of our standard orthotic into the silhouette. We went through extensive wear testing to make sure it worked – and that’s a great example of how we can use an insert to adapt a great fit and support to new styles. And the better we can use similar contours throughout, the more easily our fans can trust the fit and feel in our products.
Q: What have been some of the biggest challenges in developing new products?
A: Terry: It’s an on-going challenge to maintain the integrity of the biomechanics in varying shoe styles, in particularly, the high heel. From that perspective, we have to be mindful of the changes of the biomechanics of the foot as it’s placed in different positions.”
Q: Why does it seem like there’s a little bit of a heel in our Vionic ballet flats?
A: Terry: When you have a hard, flat surface, your foot is able to over-pronate more. When you raise the heel just a bit, you reduce the ability of the foot to over-pronate. That’s the primary driver for having a heel to toe drop in all of our shoes. And because the ballet flats are classically very unstructured, a firm heel counter provides greater stability and assists in enhancing the function of the orthotic.
Q: If people aren’t currently suffering from heel pain, is there any benefit to them proactively wearing this technology as a preventative measure?
A: Terry: Pain is a great motivator for our customers, because our product can provide immediate and affordable relief. But, it’s good to be aware of the environment we walk in, which is unnatural. The pain you feel today is an accumulation of the millions of steps you’ve taken before, on unnatural surfaces.
Q: What makes Vionic with Orthaheel Technology different than other comfort shoes?
A: Terry: Orthaheel Technology is based on universally accepted biomechanical principles. We support the foot as nature intended. Our orthotics put under your foot the ground your foot wants to see – contoured and supportive – not hard and flat. Basically, Orthaheel Technology gives you back your footprint.
Tony: We put a lot of resources into innovation so we can constantly improve our product. We’re really close to our customers and their comfort is always at the top of our minds.
Q: Can you give any hints about new products on the horizon?
A: Tony: I can’t go into full detail, but yes, we are developing some new innovative products. Because fans love our walking shoes so much, we’re working on a new walking shoe program.
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