Would you rather: suffer frequent, excruciating foot pain, or never wear cute shoes again?
It’s not just a hypothetical. It’s a decision that so frequently brings patients to tears that Australian podiatrists Caroline and Alan McCullouch dropped their practice to start a shoe company in 2011. The Australian brand, Frankie4, makes its U.S. debut on Capitol Hill January 15 selling women’s footwear designed with both comfort and fashion in mind, "rather than shoes that do nothing for us and are designed by men," says Seattleite and global CEO Cathy Barnett.
Is it depressing that that’s innovative? Yes. Do we want to get our aching feet in a pair of those shoes? Immediately.
Staff at Frankie4 are trained to address clinical foot issues like plantar fasciitis, arthritis, and bunions (pro tip: their site lets you search reviews by specific concerns) with custom fittings driven by the brand's "sole saver" inserts. Fittings can take up to an hour for those with serious and complex foot pain, who will be delighted to know that the Pine Street shop has a couple of its very own parking spots. Dogs are welcome, too.
Nothing about these shoes screams “orthopedics!”: Sleek black boots come with a two-inch block heel, tennis shoes stray far from the dad sneakers trend. Even strappy heels make an appearance (though these aren’t eligible for custom inserts).
But comfortable footwear certainly isn’t limited to people with acute problems. Frankie4 shoes have become sort of a nurse’s uniform in Australia over the past decade: "My feet wanted to marry the shoes," Brisbane-based RN and fashion blogger Alice Bingham writes. They’re useful for anyone who’s frequently on their feet: hairstylists, teachers, servers.
Or anyone who loves heels but spends all day dreaming about kicking them off. "I kind of forget they're on my feet," Barnett says, "which is something that I've never experienced before." That’s something worth daydreaming about.