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The Australian brands bringing ergonomic footwear to fashion

IMAGE VIA @merrypeople/INSTAGRAM

WORDS BY EMILY HOLGATE

“People are becoming less willing to just accept that they have to wear uncomfortable shoes every day.”

 

As with many of my fellow zillennials, I’ve found myself moving further away from the carefree fashion choices of my early 20s, and entering a more responsible, mid-20s-appropriate fashion era. This includes a few changes, namely making more ethical shopping choices and choosing items that are comfortable.

While I would once squeeze my boobs into a tube top half my size, or endure a night of pretending my feet aren’t in agonising pain from the super cute shoes I just spent $200 on, I’ve decided that life is just far too short to feel confined in the name of fashion.


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But as someone with long, narrow feet, it can be difficult to find shoes that support my foot shape. Along with shopping more consciously from ethical brands, I’ve recently only invested in shoes that are durable, comfortable and ergonomic – particularly as my fashion choices also come with me to the office now.

With this in mind, I researched the best, Australian-made brands with a robust offering of ergonomic footwear. Here’s what I found, with help from some experts.

Rollie Nation

Australian designer and Rollie Nation founder Vince Lebon launched his brand in 2012, with a core ethos of providing comfortable, lightweight footwear that not only can be worn every day but looks good too. He was inspired by his flight attendant wife, Kat (nicknamed Rollie), as he wanted to create the perfect shoe for her to travel around the world in. 

“Footwear, unlike clothing, is extremely functional,” Vince tells me. “You have so much weight on the shoes in harsh conditions and what type of floors and grounds you’re working on… shoes that are functional, durable and ergonomic play a major role.”

Vince says he wanted his line to be comfortable without compromising on style. The range features both men’s and women’s sneakers, flats, boots and sandals, using EVA midsoles for that ultimate, cushy and flexible feel. There’s also the NitroBounce sneakers, offering extra bounce and comfort for everyday wear.

When I ask Vince if he thinks ergonomic footwear styles are becoming more commonplace in the fashion industry, he says that ten years ago there were only three choices when it came to shoes: sports performance, fashionable shoes and comfortable shoes – no in between. “I think (now) it’s really driven from the sneaker market, and people are deciding they’re not going to wear normal shoes unless they’re comfortable,” he says.

“But an ergonomic design is extremely technical – lots of brands are out there saying they’re comfortable, but it’s easy to just slap that on like with ‘sustainable’ clothing. I’m a shoemaker at heart. I design the patterns and run everything past myself, and that’s the level of detail you need to go to to make true ergonomic footwear,” he says. 

Bared

Founded by podiatrist Anna Baird 13 years ago, Bared has since amassed a cult-like following across the nation. The women’s line comprises a wide range of flats, sandals, sneakers, heels, boots and even (super fluffy) slippers, while the men’s offering includes dress shoes, sneakers, boots, loafers, boat shoes and more. 

The key difference with Bared, compared to other shoes on the market, is its ‘biochemical footbed’ which provides a comfortable, arched shape and a cupped heel for extra support. Bared was also recommended to me by Perth-based podiatrist and founder of footcare label SynxBody, Rachael Ferguson, who says that “ergonomic footwear is vital in supporting the joints and reducing stress through the body by providing support and cushioning in the right places”.

Rachael adds that over time, this reduces foot conditions and stress on other joints in the body. With more brands like Bared constantly improving their designs, she says that she is seeing improved posture, and less stress through the spine and other joints due to “better distribution and shock absorption throughout the body”.

Frankie4

Another label recommended by Rachael, Frankie4 offers a range of comfortable footwear for women. If you’re looking for the perfect boot for work (or play), the brand has on offer a range of knee-high boots, ankle boots and more, made with genuine leather in a range of classic colours. And of course, there are also plenty of other shoes to choose from, including sneakers, flats, slides, sandals and even socks. 

Frankie4 uses its signature Sole Hero footbed, designed by podiatrists to contour, cradle and cup your feet. Rachael says that ergonomic designs like these are growing in popularity, as after many years of women wearing high heels and suffering from uncomfortable feet, they now have a choice.

Better yet, she says there’s a new understanding that these styles don’t “need to be unfashionable and that is the key part that has driven this popular trend. People are becoming less willing to just accept that they have to wear uncomfortable shoes every day to work and out on the town.”

Merry People

A final and no less honourable mention is Merry People’s range of cute but comfortable gumboots. Founded in Melbourne in 2014, the collection now includes a vast array of ergonomic boots and clogs in plenty of both fun and traditional colours, each made with waterproof, quality natural rubber. All of Merry People’s gumboots are made with 4mm neoprene for comfort and warmth on those muddy winter days.

The brand recently launched a collaboration with much-loved New Zealand designer Karen Walker as well, so is clearly setting its sites on customers who are interested in footwear that’s both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

The soles are built with arch support and there’s the option of removing the innersoles for those with orthotics. Rachael tells me that she’s noticing more podiatrists and health professionals using their skills and knowledge to create designs that offer “premium support, while also making people feel amazing in their shoes”.

“We are also seeing that ergonomic[ally] designed footwear generally lasts longer than other footwear, meaning people may pay a higher price for their ergonomic shoes initially, but they will purchase fewer pairs of shoes over time,” she tells me. Honestly, there’s nothing better than comfortable and sustainable fashion. 

For advice on how to choose footwear that won’t hurt your feet, head here.

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