A start-up footwear maker is trying to steal the hearts of Manolo-loving New York fashionistas with a high-tech high heel that can be converted into a comfortable flat at the press of a button.
Runway Heels has infused the new pumps with technology designed by Silicon Valley engineers, which allows the heels to retract into the shoe in a few seconds whenever the wearer wants to go from business to pleasure.
“As a commuter, working mom and a former flight attendant I saw the need for a more versatile shoe,” said company owner Melody Avecilla.
The Los Angeles entrepreneur said she got the idea when she was pregnant and would come home from work with aching feet.
“Initially, I went to master shoe craftsmen and I got resistance . . . It’s hard for them to think outside the box,” she said. “So I went to engineers who knew nothing about shoes.”
Runway Heels will cost between $199 and $249 a pair.
Other companies have offered similar heel-to-flats shoes — but they don’t convert with just the press of a button.
Camileon Heels’ convertible shoes, which sell for between $300 and $375, rely on the wearer manually pushing in and pulling out the heel.
Paris-based Tanya Heath sells fashionable heels with up to six-inch heights that convert into flats — but the heels are detachable and need to be stowed and carried once removed. The shoes cost $300 a pair — plus $38 to $58 per heel set, depending on height.
Brandy Hammock, who sells Tanya shoes in her Florence, Ala., store Creative Jewelers, says the heels are “extremely popular” even with the hefty price tag.
Fashion experts say the $40 billion high-heel industry is ripe for change, and point to issues associated with pumps and stilettos, such as bunions, sciatica, knee and back pain.
“There is a lot of design work being done around convertible heels,” said Candace Corlett, president of retail consultancy WSL.
“It’s an acknowledgment that five-inch stilettos were not made for walking but for posing and strutting.”