If there’s a surefire way for a startup to earn the ire of Twitter, it’s to claim “disruption” while simultaneously making a process more complicated and/or expensive than it was before.
Silicon Valley sneaker company Atoms seems to have hit the trifecta before even emerging from beta testing, scoring a writeup on TechCrunch calling its flagship product, which launches this summer, “the minimalist startup shoes you’ll actually want to wear.” The sneakers themselves are fairly innocuous, if more expensive than most. The simple unisex laceups come in three colorways — white, black, and black with a white sole — and cost $179, almost twice the price of Allbirds’ hugely popular wool sneakers.
Founded by Pakistani husband-and-wife duo Waqas and Sidra Ali, Atoms also takes a novel approach to sizing, offering quarter sizes and sending customers three pairs to try at home (plus socks) to find the right fit. This addresses a problem that’s hardly insignificant in the footwear world: A study by the U.K.’s College of Podiatry found that nearly half of women and more than a third of men bought shoes that didn’t fit properly, and the majority of adults have different-sized feet.
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If the story had stuck with that simple value proposition, rather than veering into how the founders are “modernizing the footwear experience” with such ideas as “to make shoes better, you need to know why people wear shoes” the company might have been spared such headlines as “Silicon Valley Invents Shoes”. (Not to mention concern from food industry pros over its vision of creating “a sneaker a head chef could wear all night in the kitchen without hurting” that doesn’t appear to be slip-proof, waterproof or washable.)
Still, those invited to test the shoes — almost exclusively tech-industry types, according to the brand’s Twitter feed — give them rave reviews (including many favorable comparisons to Allbirds), so jargon aside, it’s likely worth watching this space.