Hereditary factors and childbirth are the main causes of bunions, a condition affecting 10 million people, primarily women, in the UK. Dread of the savage pain caused by ill-fitting shoes and the confidence-killing, dowdy designs of medically correct ones have turned many into Cinderellas, wasting money on the unwearable, sitting out festivities or facing misery when obliged to be on their feet for hours. A bunion sufferer herself Kay’s mission was to free women from this fate. Already running an established luxury brand Lisa Kay Shoes that stood her and husband Roger in good stead over the five years it took to develop sister label Sole Bliss which has thrived despite difficult trading conditions.
“No other leading UK footwear brand is producing fashionable products in a way that accommodates imperfections and alleviates the discomfort those imperfections may cause,” says Kay.
Now a favourite of females in all walks of life, famous tootsies spotted sporting the brand include Dame Helen Mirren and the Duchess of Cornwall.
The core of its success is the patent-pending technology, Kay explains.
“We saw an under-catered for market and noticed our most comfortable shoes have always sold well indicating what really counts with customers.
“Our technology comprises three distinct underfoot layers of memory foam for shock absorbency, contouring round the foot and cushioning it entirely.”
An interior, breathable stretch panel called the Bunion Bed accommodates bunions and wide feet, while also stopping the pressure resulting from toe gripping, a common reaction among sufferers who try to find comfort by buying bigger sizes.
There is also device to counter the inward rolling of the foot, another factor exacerbating bunions.
Produced in Spain, the products are distributed from the UK to more than 40 countries.
“Each pair passes through a minimum of 50 hands during production. Our process requires huge attention to detail,” says Kay.
Changing social attitudes too are favouring Sole Bliss which employs a team of 14.
The heightened awareness about comfort among all ages is a recent one – witness the popularity of trainers among all ages – and people are more open too about body problems
Sole Bliss’s self-funded dedicated US website emphasises that comfort-plus aspect and customers will be served from the UK initially via FedEx.
The group treasures its only physical shop in north London. “It’s a good showcase and destination now in its own right,” says Kay who nonetheless sees further expansion coming from online.
The brand operates on a weekly deliveries model with a continuous unveiling of new styles so stock remains cross-seasonal.
“We have a strong supplier chain,” adds Kay, “but are ensuring initial deliveries stay well ahead of the current January 31 Brexit day.”
And toes are sure to keep twinkling in 2020 with more new heels, boots, wedges and flats in the pipeline.
“The look is more embellished,” says Kay, “and for any woman to enjoy.”