It’s come to be regarded as a social problem that women are often forced to wear high-heeled shoes in the workplace and elsewhere, but Japanese retailers and manufacturers are striving to provide heels that don’t hurt to wear.
The Isetan Shinjuku department store in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, has launched a new service that uses a database to select shoes that suit each customer. The service was started on Aug. 28 as part of a complete overhaul of its ladies’ shoe area.
The database includes various information about the sizes of about 1,000 kinds of high heels sold by eight brands in Japan and overseas. Customers have their feet scanned with a 3D measuring machine, and a database search is then conducted to offer recommendations about shoes that may be a good match.
Shoe sizes are usually indicated by a combination of numbers and letters like “23.5E.” But a staffer at the department store said these are only meant to roughly display shoe sizes, and that each shoe has a “real size” that directly relates to the wearer’s comfort and design and is a secret of each manufacturer.
Shoes of the same indicated size and brand can have different real sizes if their designs are different. So it isn’t easy to find a pair of shoes that fits just right.
For the database, the store was given size information by different manufacturers with whom the store entered nondisclosure agreements.
The Isetan department store is also promoting its “pattern order” service in which customers can choose shoes to be made from a selection of designs and colors. The cost ranges from ¥20,000 (S$27,484) to ¥30,000.
“You don’t always feel pain in high heels if you choose ones that fit your feet. I want people to know about this and wear pumps more often,” said shoe counselor Yurino Oizumi.
“Lady worker” functional pumps sold by Asics Trading Co. have been popular for on-the-job wear. Based in Kobe, Asics Trading is a group company of a major sporting goods manufacturer Asics Corp.
Lady workers were originally developed for job-hunting students who had rarely worn pumps before. The opening into which the wearer inserts her foot is smaller, so the feet don’t easily slip out, and they have a 3D insole lifted up in the arch to support the foot, and a loosened toe section.
Three widths are available. In addition to black, there is a wide variety of colors for both work and personal wear.
The shoe store chain KiBERA has also been gaining popularity, as it is said to provide heels that are easy to wear. Based in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, KiBERA is a pioneer of pattern order, operating 10 stores in department stores and other locations across the country.
The company also attaches importance to style, using 3D measuring machines to scan the shape of customers’ feet and offering various colors and materials to choose from. It has kept prices low, with the most affordable shoes costing ¥9,900, excluding tax.
KiBERA shoes are made with the unique method of molding the heel and sole together. Even if wearers put their weight on the heel, the heel and sole will not be twisted, which enables people to walk stably. The 3D-shaped insole is made of low-resistance material, which reduces the stress on the feet.
According to the company, its 7-centimeter heel pumps are selling well. Some customers wear 5-centimeter shoes for work and 9 centimeters for fashion. There are also customers who try higher-heeled pumps, saying they can wear them more comfortably, KiBERA said.