Meet Dr Kim Lilley, FitFlop’s In-House Biomechanist
You may already own a pair of FitFlop sneakers, sandals or boots, or you may have 25+ pairs in your closet. It’s not uncommon to collect them, once you’ve tried your first pair. There’s a joy to walking on our technology – an unparalleled comfort, because every new midsole we make undergoes extensive gait and comfort testing under the remit of Dr Kim Lilley, who leads the Ergonomics Research & Department Team at FitFlop.
For us, world-class comfort is table-stakes. We don’t just make the most supportive sandals, or walking shoes with great arch support, or the best dog-walking Wellington Boots, we make them gorgeous. At FitFlop we believe your feet shouldn’t have to suffer to be beautiful.
We get a lot of questions from our customers, from “Do FitFlop Sneakers/Trainers/Sandals Have Good Arch Support?’ to “Why did my podiatrist recommend FitFlop Sandals”, and ‘what are the best FitFlop shoes for flat feet’? so we sat down with Dr Kim (as she’s affectionately known around our offices) to get the 411.
Dr Kim, how important is footwear to a person’s overall wellbeing?
Your shoes are incredibly important to your overall wellbeing. In fact, it always surprises me that people underestimate the importance of how their feet feel and move. Your whole body is a system of pulleys and levers, and everything starts from the moment you feel touch the floor in the morning – each step you take every day is a combination of movements from your feet, that connect all the way up to the movement of your spine and head. If you end up with a neck or a back ache at the end of a long day, this can be a direct consequence of wearing poorly designed shoes. If your hips or knees are aching, it can be because your feet are in the wrong position in your shoes, and aren’t properly aligning your joints when you walk. When you wear shoes that have been engineered with your whole body in mind, you shouldn’t even notice they are on, and you hopefully won’t feel any peripheral aches or pains.
What makes FitFlop footwear better?
The really unique thing about FitFlop footwear is that serious alignment science goes into ALL of our products. We don’t reserve scientific ergonomic engineering only for sports performance shoes – we believe that life is a sport, and the shoes you have on every day should be just as supportive as your athletic shoes. We engineer every shoe we make with the end goal of achieving maximum comfort and minimum ergonomic friction for the wearer. It’s just as important for us to deliver that in a pair of wellingtons or ballerinas as a pair of well-loved comfy house slippers. After all, most people spend more time in casual shoes than performance sneakers, so we believe our technology has to be top-notch. We’re very proud that a lot of our shoes have been awarded the American Podiatric Medical Association’s seal of approval.
Which FitFlop technology are you most proud of developing?
That’s like trying to choose between children – almost impossible. The iQushion flip-flop was a really great achievement. We took quite a basic product -the classic flip flop – something ubiquitously worn, but pretty terrible for your body, and engineered the world’s most comfortable flip flop. It was a really big challenge to keep the slimline silhouette but create slip-on sandals that had really good arch support and heel cushioning. Once you try a pair on, you’ll never go back.
Recently, we’ve also engineered a massive upgrade on the typical rain boot by creating the WonderWelly. We took what is normally quite a functional, and uncomfortable rubber boot and re-imagined it, defying the normal manufacturing rules. We were called ‘crazy’, we were laughed at, and at times, we were really frustrated, but we pushed through, found solutions to the problems we encountered, and can confidently say now that FitFlop makes the world’s most comfortable and supportive Welly. I’m a dog-lover, and like thousands of others, have to be out walking rain or shine, and am personally thrilled with the comfort level we’ve achieved with these.
And what made you take on comfort footwear’s biggest enemy… the ballet pump
That was a really regular customer request, but the classic ballet pump was really terrible for the feet. Most of them are too flat with no support, and very narrow, which restricts the natural movement of the feet. We worked for a very long time to really hide as much technology into our ballerina as possible, while working hand in hand with design to ensure we didn’t lose the necessary (and beloved) sleek ballerina aesthetic. I think we’ve ended up with a miracle product – a supportive ballerina that celebrates the natural motions of the foot. (One customer told us that she loved her so much, she wore them for 5 days around Glastonbury. We’re hoping that the next time she goes, she’ll opt for something she can hose the mud off after!
So, Dr Kim, we’ve all been at home for a while now and our footwear habits may have changed a little during that time. You obviously get to test out every style, but which pair of FitFlop shoes are your default?
I’m a massive Rally fan. Over the years I’ve collected an array of classic white leather sneakers from a variety of brands – call it research – but none come close to our Anatomicush-powered Rally. This was the first “sneaker” technology we created, and 6 years in, it’s as addictive as it was on the first wear. Customers will often send feedback saying ours are the sneakers with the best arch support, or that we make the best sneakers for walking, but there’s a ‘magic formula’ that went into engineering the technology that powers our Rally, and I’d tell you more about it, but it’s a well-guarded FitFlop secret.
What kind of shoe should we all avoid?
Before we created our Allegro, I would have said avoid the ballerina. But in general, it’s important to mix up the footwear you wear. Like with exercising, cross training, to ensure all of your body is being worked, is always best! Your feet need all different kinds of stimulation to stay in balance to support your whole body – which means you should even walk around barefoot once in a while -just not for too long on man-made hard surfaces, because the human body isn’t built for that!
How important is posture to our footwear?
It’s the other way around -how important are your shoes to your posture? And the answer is very! Your shoes can completely change your posture, and as such choosing engineered products is essential!
What’s your favourite foot fact?
When I first started studying the world of footwear science and biomechanics, I was really surprised to understand that there are 26 bones, 30 joints, and 100 muscles and tendons in each foot. That is a lot of movement coordination to get right when we start engineering shoes! You get just a few angles wrong, and it can really have a negative effect on the person wearing them!