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Dancing in Heels: A Chat with Anyi Lu

Looking at her resume, you get the impression there’s nothing Anyi Lu can’t do. She was a chemical engineer, a competitive ballroom dancer, and now as footwear designer, Lu is taking the happenstance influences of her life and channeling them into her own namesake brand of women’s heels. She doesn’t troll out her background for show either – go to her website and you’ll see women dancing in her heels. Comfort and technology are central to the development of Lu’s shoes. For her upcoming Fall collection, Lu deftly blends the elegant lines of a ballet pointe with ’70s-era chunky heels.

Vamp recently spoke with the designer about the technology behind her shoes, and how a changing luxury market might be opening new opportunities for comfort in heels.

VAMP: What makes Anyi Lu shoes so comfortable?
Due to my background as a chemical engineer in my past career and as a former competitive ballroom dancer, technology and construction are extremely important to me. While we are seeing more and more shoe companies incorporating technology into their shoes, it was really the foundation of how I started Anyi Lu more than 10 years ago. Poron, developed by NASA for shock absorption, can be found in the insoles of every pair of Anyi Lu shoes, ensuring even pressure distribution and all day comfort and stability. This memory foam creates a customized, total contact fit that increases shock absorption to comfort joints and soft tissues.

Although construction and technology vary slightly from style to style, all can boast this core comfort technology, and most styles also include an injection-molded rubber traction pad that is prevents slipping and adds to the longevity of the shoe. Aside from Poron, I source various high performance materials to make her shoes lighter, cushier, and longer-lasting, including: Vibram, originally designed for mountaineering and now used for specialized sporting footwear; XL Extralight, a resilient sole material used for shock absorption in the automotive and marine industries; and, for our wedge heels, Micro, a material injected with countless bubbles for reduced weight and increased give. These materials, along with the craftsmanship and design of the shoes themselves, all combine for a beautiful and comfortable shoe.

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I also incorporate sacchetto construction into select styles. Italian for “little bag,” this is a rare old-world shoemaking art practiced by only a few factories in Italy. It requires the painstaking technique of hand-stitching the lining and the insole together and then sewing the whole piece to the upper before shaping on a last for days. Much like the process of wearing two socks while hiking to avoid blisters, the inner sock molds to the foot and moves independently from the outer shoe leather allowing for an unparalleled fit. Sacchetto construction offers unmatched flexibility and a supportive fit that cradles the foot in comfort.

VAMP: What do women who wear heels every day look for in terms of comfort?
I believe that women have the right to shoes that function as beautifully as they are fashioned. There is a widespread and unfortunately accepted cultural belief that heels are a stylish albeit painful necessity. Without succumbing to the misguided notion that every woman should pack a pair of flats in her purse when wearing heels, we prioritize both fit and aesthetics. Heels are high and thin, and toe boxes are shallow and narrow, resulting in squeezed metatarsals, bunions, and foot pain. Anyi Lu designs boast stable and well-balanced heels, hidden elastics, proper arch support, and carefully positioned uppers that securely hold feet in place — all features engineered to prevent the chronic foot problems too frequently induced by shoes that prioritize aesthetics over well-being.

VAMP: Do you think the luxury consumer has become more concerned with comfort?
Comfort has become more of a focal point for consumers. While heels will never go out of style, we’ve seen a shift in heel heights: trend forecasts are showing lower heels and more flats, but comfort has been and always will be our number one priority, but not in a way that sacrifices style. It’s not incredibly difficult to make a shoe comfortable, but to make one comfortable and beautiful is another matter entirely. By using advanced technology and high quality materials, we are able to deliver comfort stylishly, delivering both prestige and style for the women who wear our shoes. We balance the need to look good and be comfortable so they don’t have to.

VAMP: Why do you think luxury brands as a whole have not made much effort in terms of comfort? Is this something you’re working to change?
This harkens back to the earlier notion that heels are, by definition, uncomfortable, and any heel is judged as “least painful” or “most tolerable.” Luxury brands have been able to take this notion and run with it, designing heel after heel that is nice to look at, but not necessarily nice to wear. We’re working to change that by fusing fashion and comfort by way of technology and my extensive background in engineering. Heels are an investment and an indispensable portion of any woman’s wardrobe, and comfort should not impact style, nor the other way around.

VAMP: Do you think the influence of athleisure footwear in the luxury market has opened up a space for luxury comfort in heels?
Brands are now realizing that comfort can and should play a role in how they dress themselves, and obviously people are quick to follow suit when being “on trend” aligns with feeling great. Styles that used to be considered “comfort shoes” are now showing up in trend reports and on the feet of the fashion industry leaders, and we can only assume this will continue to take hold. The issue is in designing shoes that are both comfortable and beautiful – no easy feat, but one that we think Anyi Lu brand has managed.

VAMP: Tell us a bit about what’s new for fall.
This season, we brought together two singular trends to transform our everyday styles into the most envious fall shoes that you’ll want to wear all year long. We took inspiration from the classic ballet pointe shoe’s elegant lines and combined it with the ’70s era chunky heel we all know and love to lend a fresh take to the latest collection. Designed to smoothly transition every fashionista’s wardrobe into fall, the latest collection from Anyi Lu gives new meaning to cool weather dressing. The color palette embodies the rich fall colors and incorporates metallics, patterns, and perforated leather to play up basic styles to harken to the best classic styles through the ages. Each shoe is handmade in Italy from the finest materials, with a keen attention to detail. Customers can expect the same comfortable synonymous with the Anyi Lu brand, in a new array of interesting looks designed with generations past in mind.