SALT LAKE CITY — While everyone knows shoes are worn on your feet, that feat is seldom accomplished without using a little manual dexterity. A Utah County company has developed technology to make putting shoes on a foot-only effort.
Located in Alpine, KIZIK footwear was founded by Michael Pratt, the former founder and CEO of popular golf bag and backpack maker Ogio International. The footwear startup is paving the way for the future of the shoe industry by introducing a new category of shoes that you can slip on without using your hands — kind of an “automatic” sneaker.
The days of lacing shoes may be numbered.
"It's not something that was invented overnight," said Kizik President Pat Hogan. "Lots of materials were studied, tins, titanium, nickel, graphites. We came up with the perfect ingredient of an aerospace titanium that is super strong, very resilient, works in hot and cold (conditions) and has over 40,000 flexes — about four years of (constant) wear."
Dubbed "Foot Activated Shoe Technology," or F.A.S.T., the slip-on system creates a nearly custom fit with virtually invisible high-tech materials, he said. No complicated sensors, batteries or motors, he added, and no laces, buckles, snaps or straps required either.
The hands-free technology makes the process of taking the shoes on and off much easier, Hogan said.
"You take them off whenever you want, on airplanes, for (airport security), it's unbelievable how much this changes your life," he said. Launched for retail sale just three weeks ago, the high-tech shoes offer casual comfort for everyday use at work or just walking around, he said.
"These are regular shoes that you can get a custom fit and get your feet in and out of (conveniently)," Hogan said. Typical slip-on shoes are designed for ease of use, not necessarily exceptional fit, he noted. The difference with the F.A.S.T. design is the ability to customize the fit along with having stability and comfort during wear, he added.
"These shoes really fit your foot," Hogan said. "You can have a full regular shoe without lacing it, (but) with the same feeling and the same fit as a lace shoe."
The major engineering scheme is in the patented flexing heel design that is spring-loaded like a mousetrap to rebound after downward pressure, he explained. That design element is what makes the shoe hands-free, he said.
Made from full-grain Italian leather, the shoe retails for $180 to $190 and can be worn casually or in professional environments, said Jason Lee, Kizik operations director.
"We looked at the growing trends and you're seeing a lot less of three-piece suits and formal footwear," he said. "Now they're wearing really fashionable sneakers."
Hogan described Kizik footwear as "luxury sneakers."
"You can dress them up or dress them down," he said. "They go with many (outfits) casual or dress."
Though new to the retail market, Kizik brand is available in 17 locations in several states nationwide. For now, the brand has men's styles available, with women's and children's styles coming next year, Hogan said. Additional footwear styles are planned for 2019 as well, he noted.3 comments on this story
Lee queried why in this century are people still tying their shoes with laces and "bunny ears?" This new technology is meant to provide added convenience to people's lives, he said.
Hogan mentioned how not long ago, an auto manufacturer started making SUVs with sensors that automatically opened rear hatches, then it became the industry standard. He likened that phenomenon to Kizik's new hands-free design feature.
"We have something you don't realize you need until you have it," Hogan said. "But when you have it, it changes your life."