We all known the saying, “keep your heels, head and standards high”. Their perennial appeal is aptly captured by Christian Louboutin, “they transform your body language and attitude. They lift you up physically and emotionally.” It doesn’t hurt that it also happens to put your posterior on a pedestal. But we can’t deny that this powerful plinth comes with some painful baggage. In fact, they can cause a multitude of health risks that can result in permanent damage in your feet and other parts of your body. It’s a farce to think high heels will ever be given up. However, could the solution lie in design improvement? It’s a question Associate Professor at Tokyo’s Chuo University Research and Development Organization, Yasuyuki Yamada, tried to answer with the YaCHAIKA.
You know that tapping sound your shoe makes every time you take a step? It’s an audible proclamation of the impact each step directly has on your body. Yamada noticed that conventional heels aren’t designed with shock absorbers. Using real-time 3-dimensional motion capture, he was able to show that this caused pauses within walking patterns that leads to fatigue, increases the risk of falling, incorrect leg posture and ultimately results in pain. This gave him the idea of combining the fashion of high heels with the comfort you’d experience in a pair of tennis shoes.
His solution was to replace the rigid bars in the heel with curved leaf springs and rubber sheets. These elements have high shock absorption capabilities that reduce the impact cause by stepping on the heel. Thus while at rest the heel may be 10m high but in motion the heel only contracts and expands to approximately 3cm. This reduces the strain usually placed on the ankle, foot and toes whilst walking in heels and helps the wearer assume a more natural posture.https://www.instagram.com/p/BCRvKmjOLt-/?taken-by=yachaika_
Design wise, Yamada decided to keep the general shape of the shoe similar to heels you can already find in the market. The only difference is the experience and material that goes into making this creation a reality. The spring like heel not only creates a lighter silhouette but also adds an air of sophistication and grace. Speaking of the heel, its shape was actually inspired by the shape of a seagull as spreads its wings to fly. CHAIKA is Russian for seagull and Yamada named it after the call sign used by the first female astronaut to go to space, Valentina Tereshkova, in honour of her great contribution to science.
While Yamada is still tweaking the design to make the shoe lighter, it’s already receiving recognition. Out of 700 works in 20 countries around the world, it did considerably well in the Dyson Engineering Award 2015 which is hosted by James Dyson Award. The spring-like shoes came in second in the domestic screening and was top ten in international selection. Yamada then branched into two collaborations. Firstly, he collaborated with Seibu-Sogo, a Japanese retail company promotes product development in cooperation with companies, designers, and creators with unique technologies and ideas, to develop a limited edition YaCHAIKA collection. He then worked with designer Kunihiko Morinaga to make two short boots with a sandstorm pattern. This was to reflect the NOISE theme of the ANREALAGE autumn / winter collection 2016/2017 which was held in Paris.
Yamada understands that high heels aren’t just a social item or a fashion necessity. Many careers, especially in the service industry, require working women to spend extended periods of time in high heels. And as such, women are exposed to health and safety risks, not to mention limited in social activities as well. So the YaCHAIKA sets out to disprove the notion that beauty has to be painful. Using design and collaborating with other professional fields, such as mechanics, we can create solutions to modern day problems. Anyway, isn’t it time that we had heels that looked fashion forward but were so comfortable that they allowed us to walk without strain?