Wellness

Feeling Good

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Wellness is defined as the state of being in good health. It is complete physical, mental, and social well-being. For shoe brands, wellness starts in the feet. Brands in this space offer a variety of styles focusing on components including foot alignment, cushioning and proper sizing for both everyday living and active endeavors. As the term “wellness” and the importance of “health & wellness” continues to evolve in the mainstream beyond footwear, we decided to check in with some experts to get an understanding of where the category is right now — dissecting the wellness trend from several angles; with viewpoints of brands, retailers and health professionals.


Mephisto Ludvina

This trendy sneaker includes Soft-Air technology for fatigue free walking, along with Air-Relax technology for added arch support. Its lacing system allows a quick and pressure-free closure by adapting to the anatomy of the foot. MSRP $339.

Alegria Classic

Alegria’s Footbed System, made of soft polyurethane, memory foam, and cork, molds to the foot, delivering enhanced arch support. The Classic Bottom provides just enough of a rocking motion to prevent a constant flexing of the foot to minimize foot fatigue. MSRP $129.95.

mōshn by KLOGS Rhythm

Dynamic Motion Technology provides stability in the heel and an enhanced toe spring that naturally moves the wearer forward. A removeable TRUComfort insole has a deep heel cup for added stability, enhanced arch for support and cushion. It also has a PURGrip tread that is slip-resistant. MSRP $150.

Vionic Trent

Podiatrist-designed Vio-Motion footbed technology delivers three-zone comfort including heel stability, forefront cushioning and arch support in the men’s Trent. The leather and neoprene upper makes this pair suitable for everyday endeavors. MSRP $149.95.


Wellness for Retailers

What does wellness mean to you?

“Proper sizing. The majority of new customers need to be educated on the proper sizing and use of footwear (i.e. wearing old shoes to garden is not the best choice when it comes to overall wellness). Our staff thinks beyond the initial pair to the customer’s life overall.”
– Certified Orthotist and Pedorthist, Dan Sherwood, president, Foot Performance Center in Rochester, NY

“My wife Laurie and I are both Board Certified Pedorthists. We determine a goal for every client. We examine their feet and perform a gait analysis, assess pathologies and discuss wellness goals (maybe walking more and with stability). A goal could be finding a comfortable walking sandal or involve a client who needs a custom orthotic.”
– Thomas Peterson, Certified Pedorthist, owner, Foot Savvy in Greenwood Village, CO

“The meaning of wellness changes based on a person’s age. For a millennial, does it feel good? They look at it from an eco-standpoint too. For a baby boomer, how is it good for me and how can I still do the activities that I want to do? I say that our store is the wellness section. If it’s not comfortable, we don’t buy it.”
– Jeff Seidman, Certified Pedorthist, founder, Ahh Comfort Shoes in Arlington Heights, IL

How does your store market wellness?

“We have small displays across the sales floor that are categorized by issues (i.e. plantar fasciitis, house shoes, compression socks). We believe the way to get positive results is to have your fitting and sizing done by one of our fitting specialists. Medical professionals refer their patients to us.”
– Dan Sherwood, Foot Performance Center

“We don’t have a wellness section, but everything we do focuses on the wellness of the client. For example, we may notice corns or calluses and the client may see it as ‘normal.’ For us, that is an indication that something is wrong. Through shoe and gait analysis, we can address those issues.”
– Thomas Peterson, Foot Savvy

“On our website, we have lots of focus on wellness and finding solutions to problems. We have a step by step guide on how to prepare for coming to the shoe store. The issue with many brands is that they don’t focus enough attention on the people who actually need their products most. You don’t see a lot of ads with 60 year olds — I think brands are losing a lot of money here.”
– Jeff Seidman, Ahh Comfort Shoes


Dansko Kane

This clog is a lightweight, backless option for everyday wear with excellent shock absorption and a removable footbed incorporating a supportive Dansko Natural Arch Technology. It is the first Dansko clog to be crafted with over 50% carbon negative “I’m Green” bio-based EVA, made from sugarcane. MSRP $80.

MBT Huracan 3000

This running shoe also works as a walking/everyday shoe. The Huracan 3000 incorporates a M.I.D.S (Masai Impact Distribution System) sole which absorbs impact and dissipates shock to reduce stress on the body while enhancing balance and stability. MSRP $179.95.

Telic Boise Bliss

Combining lightweight Novalon material with an orthotic-grade footbed and slight rocker-sole bottom for shock absorption, the Boise Bliss has orthotic-grade arch support and an energizing rebound. Bonus: It is machine washable. MSRP $69.


Wellness for Brands

What does wellness mean to your brand?

“Wellness speaks to overall foot health. The majority of our shoes carry the APMA seal of acceptance. Wellness for one person may include walking, yoga or walking to and from yoga. Wearing supportive, comfortable footwear can make the difference between a good and bad day.”
Kitty Bolinger, EVP of sales, Dansko

“Feet are the foundation of the entire body. Most consumers overlook how important it is to have good shoes, as the objective isn’t always foot health, but rather style. The technology behind Xelero is meant to help people through recovery, which can affect the rest of the body and mind.”
– Dan Werremeyer, CEO, Xelero

“For people who are constantly on the move, alignment is crucial to their overall wellness and comfort. As one of our local Chiropractors, Dr Kristopher Feldmann, DC, notes, ‘When one has optimal alignment, the muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints throughout the spine are able to function as they were designed. When disfunction occurs because of misalignment or poor ergonomics, everything has to work harder.’ Mōshn features our Dynamic Motion Technology which has stability in the heel and an enhanced toe spring to naturally move you forward, making it easy to move through the day.”
– Matt Dieckhaus, VP, sales and marketing, Latitudes Inc.
 

“Footwear plays a part in your muscle activity, blood flow, posture and level of movement throughout the day. With our busy schedules, healthy activity can get squeezed out. When wearing MBT shoes, whether standing or walking, you are on the move due to the shoe’s patented construction.”
– Sarah Sanders, US director of ecommerce and operations, MBT

“Living an active and healthy lifestyle provides benefits that range from decreased risk of disease to feeling mentally stronger and reducing anxiety. Wellness includes self-care. If your body isn’t in alignment, how could your mind be? When the customer is excited to put their shoes on in the morning it starts their day off on the right foot.”
Amy Egelja, VP of footwear design, Aetrex

“Since wellness means practicing healthy habits on a regular basis, this regimen should include a pair of performance-driven footwear designed to help alleviate existing foot issues, while avoiding new ones. There are over 200,000 nerve endings in each of our feet!”
– Julie Trafford, director of marketing, Alegria

“Foot health is largely taken for granted until there is a problem. When someone is in constant debilitating pain, the mind and spirit suffer greatly as well. If you feel great, you can perform great.”
Aaron Azzarito, president, Telic

“Our message is ‘wellness from the ground up.’ It used to be that someone only turned to supportive shoes after pain from a common injury or foot ailment got worse, affecting their entire life. When feet stop moving, other things deteriorate too. Our shoes promote holistic wellness — both literally and figuratively — in overall quality of life.”
Angela S. Caltagirone, SVP and GM, Vionic

“To me, wellness refers to the overall health benefit to the wearer. Does the footwear help remedy an issue? Does it have a benefit to the user with breathability and allergies from certain components of footwear? Holistic to me means ‘natural,’ in that footwear fits a need and supports the body through balance, alignment.”
Rusty Hall, president, Mephisto

“Topo was founded on a core mission: help people move better for the rest of their lives. We believe movement is at the center of wellness, which transcends beyond physical fitness into mental health and, for many, even a spiritual connection to nature and others around them. That is why we create products that embrace the body’s natural biomechanics and avoid gimmicky design features; we simply want people to feel empowered to move freely and without injury so that traveling the path of wellness can be an ongoing lifestyle.”
Michael O’Brien, marketing director, Topo Athletic

“The goal is to have a balance of footwear that serves specific wellness functions. There is performance footwear built for exercise, which returns energy, rebounds quickly and propels you forward; However, just as your body needs rest to rebuild after exercise, post-workout/recovery footwear should function to enhance recovery between workouts by reducing stress and impact on the body — also allowing it to rebuild.”
– Steve Gallo, president, Oofos

How is your brand marketing wellness to consumers?

“User generated content is one of our most powerful marketing tools. It’s the ultimate testimonial when someone wears your product all day and takes the time to share it with the world. In-store signage highlights our technologies. We also offer a product training module to sales associates seasonally.”
Tiss Dahan, VP of marketing, Dansko

“We spend a lot of time educating healthcare professionals. Our social media includes blogs, as well as articles around foot health and how that correlates to the body. Xelero enhances the natural gait cycle, providing more efficient motion and less stress on the foot, knee, hips and lower back.”
Dan Werremeyer, CEO, Xelero

“Our messages encapsulate so much more than the performance features of our shoes. It’s about comfort, value and longevity so that you don’t even think about what’s on your feet or the injury that used to nag you. Instead, it’s about being able to enjoy that view at the pinnacle of a hike, or training for that race you’ve had on your resolution list for years, or relaxing with friends in shoes that massage your hard-working feet on your recovery days. We also promote wellness as balance — staying in tune with your body’s signals and treading lightly in respect to the earth and the spirit of conservation.”
Michael O’Brien, marketing director, Topo Athletic

“Our product itself is how we promote wellness. Our reputation for long lasting comfort extends from our KLOGS Footwear brand.  With mōshn, long term comfort will remain our top priority. When someone spends long periods of time on hard floors and surfaces, they need a product that has the support and cushioning that lasts day in and day out. That is what they will get with mōshn.”
Matt Dieckhaus, VP, sales and marketing, Latitudes Inc.

“Since everyone has been working from home more, the need for digital assets has increased and plays a larger role. We are always evolving to find the best way to communicate about our comfort shoes, through product videos on social to email blasts, to our website or in-store signage.”
Julie Trafford, director of marketing, Alegria

“In addition to marketing messaging, our Vionic Innovation Lab [headed up by health professionals ] provides wellness information via blog posts, videos, live virtual events and social media outreach. It’s headed up by health professionals like podiatrist Dr. Jacqueline Sutera; Dr. Brian Hoke, a doctor of physical therapy; Dr. Trevor Prior, a podiatric surgeon; and Juliet Kaska, a fitness and wellness expert.”
Angela S. Caltagirone, SVP and GM, Vionic

“The ergonomic Mobils by Mephisto line is on the market through partner retailers as well as through our Mephisto Concept stores. We just launched our ‘home’ collection in the eco-responsible ‘Nature is Future’ range, featuring natural cork and latex contoured footbeds, natural suede leather linings and non-slip outdoor outsoles.”
Rusty Hall, president, Mephisto

“The goal is to have a balance of footwear that serves specific wellness functions. There is performance footwear built for exercise, which returns energy, rebounds quickly and propels you forward; However, just as your body needs rest to rebuild after exercise, post-workout/recovery footwear should function to enhance recovery between workouts by reducing stress and impact on the body — also allowing it to rebuild.”
– Steve Gallo, president, Oofos

“In addition to social media, we’ve been implementing Digital Orthotic Stations in malls in New Jersey and Illinois. Stations provide a quick, free 3D scan of feet and also can also guide customers through the voice-activated learning center with information on foot health, foot conditions and Aetrex orthotics. We’ve also started exploring wellness promotion in a younger demographic by providing orthotics to college sports teams.”
– Amy Egelja, VP of footwear design, Aetrex

Xelero Steadfast

Xelero’s latest motion control shoe incorporates new X2 technology, which is a dynamic metatarsal roll bar designed to reduce forefoot movement and pressure while providing torsional support under the foot. MSRP $199.99.

Aetrex Carly

The Carly combines three Aetrex Healthy Ingredients — orthotic footbed for support and alignment, material technologies to relieve pressure/promote comfort and anti-microbial technology. This lightweight, machine washable shoe also has a removable insole with a Cobra pressure relief system. MSRP $119.95.

Topo Athletic Rekovr 2

This slip-on recovery shoe is designed to deliver relief and comfort with every step. Made to be worn without socks, the repeated ridges of the Ortholite 3D Wave Sense footbed lightly stimulate and massage the nerves along the bottom of the foot. An antimicrobial blended wool upper resists odor and provides a warm, comfortable fit. MSRP $115.

Health Professionals Weigh In

How does wearing the correct shoes correlate with a person’s overall well-being?

“Wearing the correct shoes allows you to walk comfortably and safely. This helps to prevent injury and allows you to be more consistent with regular daily activities and also with exercise. Regular activity and exercise has been shown to help with overall health (including both physical and mental). Wearing shoes that are old/worn out, too thin, flat, unsupportive or inappropriate for your activity, foot and body type are very common reasons why patients develop foot pain and injury.  Once the foot is injured or painful, walking becomes difficult and sometimes even impossible. This can over time lead to weight gain, increased sugar/cholesterol levels and feelings of frustration and even depression.”
Podiatrist Dr. Jacqueline Sutera

"I think about what the footwear is making possible for me. The right hiking boot will allow me to hike all day comfortably, taking in nature and allowing me to be present in those moments. A comfortable trainer is swaddling my foot while I eek out the marathon at the end of an Ironman. If I don’t have to spend time worried about foot pain or calluses or blisters, I can move my attention to getting one step closer to the finish line."
Tracy LaPorte, National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach


The Evolution of Wellness

Like many other things, the wellness category has changed during the pandemic. “We are hearing from retailers that their athletic and outdoor categories continue to grow exponentially,” says Kitty Bolinger, EVP of sales, Dansko. “We continued to see steady demand for our outdoor product, specifically the Paisley, throughout 2020. In 2021, we introduced a highly technical walking shoe that exceeded our expectations.”  For many retailers, the past year was challenging as many consumers were reluctant to visit stores. But retailer Thomas Peterson, owner of  Foot Savvy in Colorado, says, “Our clients now have a more heightened sense of overall health and appreciation of taking better care of their bodies, especially their feet.” Angela S. Caltagirone, SVP and GM, Vionic, agrees: “People discovered they really benefit from having something supportive under foot while working remotely and being at home all the time; an environment where they maybe never wore shoes before.”


Health & Wellness in the Mainstream

Health and wellness are two terms that have risen to the forefront over the past year as people have sought some balance during the pandemic. Beyond the footwear world, what is health and wellness and what do the terms mean to the average consumer? We spoke to Tracy LaPorte, a National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach based in Alexandria, VA, to get some insight.

LaPorte is a holistic coach, working with clients on the focus areas they choose – which may include healthy eating, movement, sleep, relaxation, social connection, work, spirituality, lifelong learning and joy.

How would she define the term wellness? “It’s a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. Often a person thinks about what they eat and how they move their body and stop there. I take a holistic approach to wellness by working with clients to assess nine different facets of their lives. Once we identify the client’s wellness vision, values and focus areas, we start to work together on the stepping stones to get there. I believe that everyone is a whole and complete human working towards our best selves, and should be honored as such.”

Are the people making the products paid fairly? Does the company support social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion?

When it comes retailers and brands that “sell” wellness, LaPorte says, “When I think about retailers, I ask myself a few questions. Are they good stewards of the environment? Are the people making the products paid fairly? Does the company support social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion? Those are the types of brands that understand that to be well, we must address societal issues that affect social determinants of health.”

She adds, “I would be happy to spend more money on footwear if I knew that the brand or retailer was actively working to ensure the gear landed in the hands of folks who cannot afford the products to move their bodies how they choose. If the right footwear to do activity x, y, z is one of the barriers to entry, how is the brand or retailer actively working to remove those barriers so that activities are more accessible? That is a critical piece of wellness, removing those barriers to support the health of all.”

When it comes to marketing, she notes: “I think the term wellness can often be overused. I am looking at brands to see what their values are. Are their catalogs filled with people of all races, genders, shapes and sizes? Something like that would indicate that the brand understands that a one-sized fits all approach doesn’t work.” — Cara Griffin

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