By NANAKO MATSUZAWA/ Staff Writer
February 5, 2023 at 08:00 JST
Knitted pumps are picking up an avid following among women with their exceptional functionality and design.
Donning the footwear for an entire day does not cause pain. However, the light, washable shoes still boast a formal ambience.
“These shoes are for every woman,” said Chizue Kinoshita, 44, the pumps’ designer. “We will be closely catering to women’s feet, whose conditions can change even over a single day.”
The unique footwear was developed by Onward Kashiyama Co. under the Steppi by Unfilo line. The firm spent two years developing a specially treated knit, a wooden model and an outsole.
Steppi sales started in the spring of 2022, with 3,000 pairs purchased within the first three months.
Kinoshita suggested the item’s concept four years ago.
“I saw so much potential in knit pumps following leather shoes and ballet slippers,” said Kinoshita.
Taking full advantage of the traits of knitted wear, the shoes are both friendly to the feet and the environment.
One Steppi shoe weighs only 120 grams, or about the equivalent of two eggs. The flexibly woven footwear can fit every type of foot as well.
Recycled polyester threads are used for the outer part, with reprocessed material used for the outsole and insole. The pumps’ upper section outside the soles are free from a lining material or firm core.
“All environmentally sustainable factors available at hand were poured into this shoe,” Kinoshita said. “I want to create the pumps exclusively from recycled ingredients in the future.”
Steppi shoes can also be washed in a washing machine.
Chiori Matsumoto, 36, the manager of the Onward Crosset Store, which is noted for its variety of fashionable articles within the LaLaport Tokyo-Bay mall, said Steppi is achieving popularity among women from their 30s to 40s.
“A good response is coming from people who have bunions and those who tend to get foot blisters,” said Matsumoto. “There are many repeat buyers.”
Some mothers have reportedly purchased Steppi to wear as their indoor shoes for when they visit their children’s schools. The pumps have also been bought for such occasions as the “Shichi-go-san” traditional rite of passage for children aged 3, 5 and 7 or other ceremonial events.
A one-month trial by the reporter showed wearing Steppi shoes all day did not produce pain even if the feet were swollen by the evening. No deformations were found after the shoes were washed either.
Steppi is Finnish for “tap dance.” Kinoshita thought up the name.
“The label perfectly represents the light and happy sense of the product,” she said. “I would be thrilled if users find themselves always going to those shoes without even thinking about it.”
With prices starting from 9,990 yen ($76), Steppi shoes range in size from 22 centimeters to 25 cm. An even wider range of versions, including loafers, slip-on sneakers and ballet shoes, have become available to offer consumers more design choices.
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