Our idea for an adjustable high heel shoe came from the initial brainstorming days of the studio as we were thinking of common problems that come about from everyday shoes. We thought about high heel shoes and how they are commonly worn, but also very uncomfortable. Forty-two percent of women say they would wear them even if they are “extremely uncomfortable.” That being said, after a long night of dancing or walking around the city ones feet get very tired, and heels can often cause severe foot fractures. We decided to create a shoe that can be used as both a flat and a heel without compromising on fashion.
We started out designing a heel that would compress while walking. This compression would happen using springs in the heel. After lots of discussion, we decided we would make the heel adjustable rather than compressible. Eventually we decided on a heel that locks in many positions. The user can walk around with flat sneaker-like shoes on. When the user gets to their final destination, the user can adjust the heel to a desired height, allowing them to have the heel they want without the incredible discomfort.
Our first idea (a compressible heel) incorporated a spring allowing the user to have a more comfortable walking experience. We tested a few iterations of this but it was very unreliable. We also tried to create a wedge heel with springs in it. After prototyping a basic rectangular design with one piece that would be adjustable, we found that adjustable levels would create a more functional product.
We did a walking study to measure where the front of the foot bends when one walks. This study showed us where to split the shoe, complimenting the natural bend of the foot. From this study, we created our various iterations of the adjustable heel.
Iteration 1: Adjustable heel with slots on top and channels on the bottom:
The first iteration of our adjustable high heel was comprised of a bottom layer with a track on it and the top layer with square slots. The heel mechanism slid on the bottom track and locked into the square slots. To adjust the heel, one would need to lift the top layer with the square slots, slide the heel mechanism on the track, and lock it in place by placing it in one of the square slots. After putting pressure on the heel, we realized that this iteration was not very stable. We also discovered that adjusting the height of the heel was not easy, and would be a pain for any user.
Iteration 2: Adjustable heel with two channels
The second iteration of our adjustable heel was comprised of two layers, both of which had channels. There was an adjustable heel apparatus that would slide easily on the channels. While this idea was more easily adjustable, there was no stable way to lock the heel in the various locations.
Iteration 3: Wedge shoe with 2 heights
After exploring various innovative shoes, we stumbled upon many wedge-type shoes. We had the idea of a channel, and from that we decided that creating an adjustable wedge would be more practical, and more aesthetically pleasing than a pump-style heel. The adjustable wedge is made up of a channel, with ellipses screwed together, creating the heel. This wedge shoe had two heights; the set wedge height, and a flat. The flat would be achieved by folding the heel into the bottom of the shoe. This channel was large so that the heel and the screw portion of the heel would fit in the bottom of the shoe, allowing a flat to be created. This model is created out of wood. Unfortunately, it was difficult to lock the heel in place to make it a stable and secure wedge.
Iteration 4: The Final Iteration
Our final iteration is a new and improved version of the wedge heel. We switched to 3D printing for the final iteration. This allowed us to design channels for the heel to slide on, a layer to lock the heel in place, and a layer for strap channels. Additionally, 3D printing this shoe allowed us to create a slight heel in the model so that the transition from a flat to a wedge would be more comfortable and sturdier. Finally, we create indents in the adjustable channel so that the wedge can vary heights, bringing back the multi-stage adjustability of our first and second iteration.