When marketing manager Alice Chen decided to leave the business world to launch high-end comfort dress shoes, her goal was to make heels bearable for the businesswoman.
The foundation of Alice Alan is a removable orthotic designed by market leader Northwest Podiatric Laboratory in Blaine, Wash., and made specifically for high heels. “I have flat feet and chronic heel pain and always had custom orthotics,” said Chen. But the inserts, she noted, never fit comfortably into her dress shoes.
To solve the problem, Chen created tailored looks on a 2-inch heel and a 3-inch heel with hidden 1/2-inch platform. Inside is Northwest’s orthotic featuring the company’s proprietary credit card-thin Superglass composite that allows for enhanced flexibility and stability. For added comfort and durability, there’s a layer of Poron and long-wearing vinyl top cover.
Consumers also can replace the existing orthotic with a custom version produced by Northwest. Podiatrists simply take a cast or 3-D image of the foot and forward the information to the lab, where another orthotic is crafted to precisely fit the wearer and the shoe. A fee for the custom items is charged separately by doctors.
Chen now operates a workshop in Queens, N.Y., where three South American master shoemakers create the line. And though the shoes are not yet available at retail, they can be ordered online at Alicealan.com or at the New York showroom, for $395. Going forward, Chen plans to increase distribution by targeting comfort stores.
With no formal footwear training, Chen took courses in shoemaking and pattern making at the Jewish Community Center in New York.
An inability to find a fashionable comfort shoe suitable for corporate America sparked the concept. “It’s for 30-plus professional, urban, affluent women who want to look and feel good,” said Chen. “It’s their go-to shoe.”
Laurie Pauker, owner of a candy business in New York, spends lots of time on her feet and has become one of Chen’s followers. “I love to wear heels when I go out for a meal, but my husband likes to stroll after dinner,” said Pauker. “The shoes in Alice’s line bridge the gap between comfort and style.”