When Taryn Rose sold her shoe brand in 2008, she didn’t expect to return to the industry full time. But since 2018, the orthopedic surgeon-turned-shoe designer has been working with architect and engineer Enrico Cuini on his eponymous direct-to-consumer line of ultra-luxe, ultra-high heels.
Their towering made-in-Italy shoes — which exceed 100mm in height — are built with a high-tech comfort system called ALIA (active lift in alignment).
“I knew that it was a game changer, that this is going to be the paradigm shift in comfort in the shoe industry,” said Rose. “ALIA decreases the pressure on the ball of your foot because it dissipates the pressure over much greater surface area. And it also realigns your posture and increases stability. So it feels like wearing a wedge, even if you are in a 120mm stiletto.”
Though demand for dress shoes overall fell during the pandemic, Rose said Enrico Cuino grew by 50% in 2020 and is on track for similar gains this year. The reason, according to Rose, is need: “The industry has been neglecting women who don’t fit into the standard shoe last.” By contrast, her new brand offers eight different fits per size, to account for all aspects of foot shape. “And we own our factory [in Le Marche], so there’s no problems with minimums.”
That level of customization doesn’t come cheap: Retail prices for the most popular Enrico Cuini heels hover around $1,000.
Prior to the pandemic, the brand relied on events to build its consumer base, but in the past year it found success offering virtual fittings. However, Rose aims to hit the road again in September and October, making stops in New York, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Orlando and Miami.
And she’s excited to reconnect with customers, because, while celebrities like Carrie Underwood, Tyra Banks and Priyanka Chopra have worn the heels, Rose said, “It’s our devoted customers that we really go all out for on customer service.”
Here, Rose offers some tips on how get your feet in shape to wear heels again.
Outlook for heels post-pandemic:
“I feel like there’s going to be a great surge in demand to get dressed up, but women are going to be shocked when they put their high heels back on after being in sneakers and slippers for a year and a half.”
Why wearing heels hurts now:
“You need to be conditioned to wear heels. Your muscles have to be strong. And pumps have to be worn tighter, so you need to be accustomed to that snug fit.”
How the pandemic changed our feet:
“After a prolonged period of wearing unstructured shoes, the soft tissues, ligaments and tendons start to stretch. You have a spread of the foot. So you might not fit back into your heels.”
Best exercises to get ready for heels:
“I recommend strengthening your calves and intrinsic muscles with one-legged [yoga] poses, like tree poses, or doing chair poses on your tiptoes. A lot of balancing.”
Gateway shoes for women:
“Many women might want to start out with some wedges to get used to going back into a higher heel height.”