We take the process of putting on shoes for granted.
A few times a day, we engage in a series of tying, untying, writhing, grunting and stomping as we wrestle shoes onto our feet, making for an inelegant experience at best.
Enter Kizik, the upstart shoe brand that is rejecting this state of putting on shoes in favor of a slip-on paradigm.
Claiming to be the “easiest shoes you’ll ever put on,” the Consumer Electronics Show Innovation award-winning company creates lines of shoes that range from standard white leather sneakers to more unique designs with a techy vibe. The versatility of their designs means there’s something for everyone interested in the slip-on tech.
The underlying technology beneath the tongue comes from the aptly-named parent company, HandsFree Labs. The company, backed by Nike, holds and licenses various patented designs that enable compressing the back of a shoe to accommodate an entering foot. The temporary deformity is then intended to pop back into place.
Aside from a lineup that uses an “external cage” mechanism, the hands-free functionality is entirely concealed. In other words, the shoes blend in with any other pair of shoes — indeed, HandsFree Labs claims that the tech can be incorporated into “virtually any shoe.”
When browsing Kizik’s lines of shoes, I was looking for something that would match the smart casual aesthetic recommended for my internship this summer. I’ve yet to grasp what this means — but I settled for an inoffensive pair of plain black canvas shoes that wouldn’t distract from more dressy attire. The shoes are part of Kizik’s latest Irvine line, which just dropped last month.
When I tried on the shoes for the first time, they felt amply comfortable with a snug fit. But really, there was just one thought on my mind as I proceeded to repeatedly slip my feet in and out of the shoes.
Is this a gimmick?
Admittedly, as someone who regularly slips on shoes that aren’t meant to be slipped on, these shoes didn’t feel groundbreaking. Nevertheless, Kizik successfully alleviates the guilt of irreversibly damaging perfectly good shoes with an indolent shortcut.
Upon paying closer attention to the experience, it’s pretty amazing how smooth the whole process is. It’s easy to forget these shoes don’t look like they are meant to be slipped on.
As others reviewing the shoes have noted, there’s an accessibility component to this as well. While many people might favor these shoes simply out of ease, others with age or disability concerns could benefit greatly from the slip-on technology.
The thoughtless, nearly frictionless process is emblematic of great design. Technology is at its best when you forget it’s there. To quote Jony Ive of Apple design fame, “There is beauty when something works and it works intuitively.” Kizik shoes work so intuitively, it’s hard to imagine going back.