We Test Drove A Pair of ‘Sneaker Pumps’ For The Day

They're comfortable. Really, really comfortable.

“Comfortable heels” is one of those phrases more useful as an illustration of the dictionary definition for oxymoron than an actual description of anything on Earth. No matter how many times an impossibly chic woman proclaims her 4-inch stiletto spikes to be “so comfortable!,” it is always a lie. Any time I’ve worn a pair of heels above 3 inches for longer than 2 hours, I’m left  re-enacting my own private version of Edvard Munch’s The Scream (1893). Until…now?

Enter Dr. Liza Egbogah, a “manual osteopath to the stars” whose clientele at her boutique downtown Toronto clinic includes Liv Schreiber, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Jamie Foxx. Egbogah has invented a high heel that purports to be so comfortable she’s dubbed it the ‘sneaker pump.’ In practice for the past 11 years, Egbogah has treated clients who arrive with a litany of high-heel related injuries — yes, you read that right — from bunions to plantar fasciitis to strained ACL muscles and decided to use her clinical knowledge to develop a line of shoes that won’t destroy your body for the sake of looking sexy. (Even a 2-inch heel puts 23% more strain on the ACL muscles than a flat, she says.)

Photography Courtesy of Dr. Liza Egbogah

Unlike a regular high heel, a Dr. Liza heel contains an orthotic insole identical to the ones she custom makes for clients. (Which can run for upwards of $600, by the way.) The shoe design incorporates a “deep heel cup” to help correct overpronation, the medical term for flat feet. There’s a shock-absorbing EVA sole which removes some of the stress endured by the ball of the foot during walking. Plus, Egbogah employed 3-D gait scan technology,  a diagnostic tool that uses an infrared camera to detect where pressure occurs most on the foot, to create a unique ‘rocker sole’ that ensures weight is distributed evenly throughout the feet.

Egbogah invented the shoes for the kind of women she tends to treat at her high-powered clinic  in Toronto’s Financial District. “My patients are all fashion forward women. Whether they work at a bank or are an actress, they don’t want to wear ugly orthopaedic shoes,” she says. Unable to find fashion-forward shoes she could recommend to her clients, she decided to create some herself. Egbogah used her client base of thousands to test out prototypes, and the shoes now count Kate Winslet, Edie Falco of The Sopranos fame and singer Brandy amongst their fans.

As an avowed wearer of flats, ‘sneaker pumps’ are such a bold proposition that I decided I wanted to test a pair out for myself. I walk to and from work every day, so a solid pair of shoes is crucial. Plus, I prefer to wear one pair of shoes all day rather than commute in sneakers and change into a dreaded pair of ‘desk shoes’ at work, which is quite a tall order. Could Dr. Liza’s shoes possibly accomplish everything I require?

Photography Courtesy of Dr. Liza Egbogah

Shortly, a pair of subdued yet attractive black ankle booties arrives at my desk. They have a slight platform, a sleek almond toe and a slightly curved 2-inch heel that resembles a beak. They’re cute and seeing as I’m as a black ankle boot fanatic, definitely something I’d wear. Unfortunately they’re wider than expected, so I have to add in a pair of insoles to ensure my heels don’t slip when I walk.

In the morning, I throw on the shoes before heading to work and my first few steps are tentative. The rocker soles make me feet a bit like a gangly baby deer, unsteady on my feet. But much like a gangly baby deer, I eventually find my footing and gallop to work at my usual furious pace.

By the time I’ve walked (raced?) the 2 km to work, I barely feel much different from when I first put them on. Throughout the day, I felt a slight pressure on my toes (nothing out of the ordinary for a new pair of leather shoes) but no pain whatsoever related to the heels. That said, at only 2 inches, they aren’t heels, exactly. In fact, with the platform, they feel quite a bit like wearing a rather wobbly flat shoes that somehow keep me cantilevered off the ground, like a pair of delicate chopines worn by a 16th century courtesan.

But do they feel like wearing sneakers? Well, also, no. They lack the satisfying squish of a foam sneaker sole, and I’m not jonesing to run a 5k in them, but I wouldn’t hesitate to sprint in order to catch a bus either.

About a week after testing out the heels, I have a friend over who tries on the shoes and exclaims, “They feel so weird!” referring to the slightly precarious rocker soles that feel a bit like having a pair of rocking chair strapped to your feet until you get used to them.

Towards the end of the day wearing the shoes, when I arrive from work I feel none of the achiness that occurs  after walking upwards of an hour in a single pair of shoes. And not only am I miraculously not in pain, my feet don’t even have that tired feeling that tends to come from wearing shoes in general.

Perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, Dr. Liza sure knows what she’s talking about.