Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Biomechanics, Bespoke and Barkan Desert Boots

Welcome back fellow shoe fans! We've had a fantastic week with a great start to the Barkan Desert Boot campaign - we're 63% funded - so thank you for sharing and pledging and to our social media champions who have been giving the brand a big shout out at Grey Fox, The New Collections, Chic Geek, Last Style of Defense, Noodlefish, Cockpit Arts, The Tweed Pig and London Craft Week.

We've still got a way to go so please share if you haven't already. Every share helps to open up the campaign to a new audience and wider network of potential backers...and they get the chance to enjoy some fantastic early bird rewards from shoehorns, socks, shoelaces and shoebags to all eight boots and some bespoke options too. 

But life hasn't only been about Kickstarter. 

We were honoured to join the judging panel at De Montfort University in Leicester for the second year students Biomechanics and Bespoke orthopeadic Awards. The award is supported by the Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers with whom we've shared many a convivial glass and dinner over the years. 

The judging also tied in nicely with Leicester City's (aka the Foxes) fantastic football success winning the Champion's League, so everyone was in a great mood. (It's a long story if you don't know it, but in a nutshell it was a case of David triumphing over Goliath). 

Anyway, back to awards of a shoe-design nature. 

The standard of work was very high, but what I found most impressive and reassuring was to see these students - tomorrow's shoemakers, designers and physiotherapists - thinking not just about design, but the foot, mobility and the whole body and of the commerciality of their designs who would buy them and why. Just as it should be.

The judges feeding back to the finalists and congratulating them on their work

For the Biomechanics Award, each student had been tasked with identifying their own biomechanical problems and designing a pair of shoes to address them. Each of them was passionate about a particular sport, some more competitively than others, which ranged from high impact netball and kickboxing to table tennis and free running. 

Biomechanics finalists Agi, Joanna, Rachel and Georgia

Talks covered Lordosis - curvature of the lower spine; Kyphosis - curvature of the upper spine; Hallux Valgus - bunions, inflamed and protruding big toe joint and where the big toe deviates into the path of the toes; Hallux Rigidus - where the big toe joint is static or has limited movement; Pes Cavus - an over-high instep; Supination -  the foot rolls through from the heel along the foot's outside edge; Hammer Toes - where the first and/or second metatarsal joint of usually the first and or second toes are raised (like the hammer in a piano). 

So all-in-all a tough design brief to create a suitable solution to address one or all the problems. 

DMU's Biomechanist Tim King and the joint winning students Joanna and Georgia
The students had really done their homework and the presentations and support material really demonstrated just how much they had learnt and included some impressive development work and beautiful illustrations. It made an already difficult choice even more difficult, so difficult in fact that the panel unanimously chose two winners and two runners up!

The bespoke work was an equally tough choice. 

Bill Bird (third from left) with Pattenmakers Bespoke Orthopaedic Design Award finalists:
Tabasam, Georgia, Kathryn, Daniel, Yoon Li and Rachel.
For the Bespoke Orthopaedic Design Award the students were given a last which they had to examine and then create a customer whose problems the last represented and which for whom they would design for. Again the challenges were diverse from a ballet dancer with hypermobility to a stunt man who had damaged his ankles in a fall.

The Pattenmakers Bespoke Orthopaedic Award finalists with their designs
A highlight for me was Tabasam's ultra-wearable, super-cool skater style boot for his stunt man (third from left). But after a brief discussion the award went to Daniel Maguire for his ballet dancer's casual shoe. He created a great-looking shoe and impressed us with his enthusiasm, knowledge, use of materials and techniques (he obviously loved making) and ability to present on the fly (the PowerPoint failed)!

An altogether inspiring experience. Until next week happy shoemaking.