Having designed shoes for Nike, Adidas and Under Armour, Bala Footwear co-founder Caprice Neely saw an opportunity to bring a female-first design to an oft-ignored market: nurses.
“In the athletic footwear industry, nearly every shoe is made for a man’s foot, then shrunk to fit a woman’s foot,” Neely said in a statement. “But there are more differences other than size that affect the fit of a shoe. Given the vast majority of nurses are female, we are not only putting the nurse first, we are putting her first.”
Neely’s instinct appears to have been well-founded. After a $1 million September pre-sale for its Bala Twelves, the company has sold out just days after opening its direct-to-consumer site. The Portland-based startup plans to restock with inventory arriving within the next several weeks.
To design the Twelves, Bala teamed up with Nurselifern Inc., a nurse media company, early on in the development process. By last summer, the startup said, it was ready to carry out clinical trials, and a diverse group of 50 nurses from across the country was hand-selected to wear sample Twelves to work.
“It was crucial we tested our hypothesis and design with real nurses working real shifts,” Neely added. “The nurses who participated in the clinical trials logged over 600 shifts and provided extensive feedback we incorporated into the final product.”
The Twelves’ dual compound insole offers breathable underfoot cushioning that controls odor and promotes micro-circulation, Bala said. The upper, made from anti-syphoning woven textile material, is both fluid resistant and easy to clean, it added. Drawing inspiration from high-performance court footwear, the shoe’s rubber outsole has been designed specifically for hospital floors—wet or dry.
Bala quoted a Utah trauma ICU nurse who it said wrote to the startup after her first shift wearing the Twelves. “I’ve spent thousands of dollars on chiropractors to help keep my spine functional,” Cierra England said. “After my first shift in them, my back is actually functional and pain free without the help of any medications—it’s psyching me out!”