While the mainstream sneaker market obsesses over the next drop and co-branded collaboration, a Silicon Valley startup is taking a stab at making the quintessential everyday kick, and in the process, rethinking how shoes are sized.
Founded by husband and wife duo Waqas and Sidra Ali, Atoms focuses on back-to-basic lace-up sneakers with an emphasis on comfort and fit, but perhaps most importantly, it’s diving down into quarter sizes.
More than 70 percent of people have at least a quarter-size difference between one foot and the next, and more than 7 percent have a half-size discrepancy, a discovery Waqas shared in an interview with TechCrunch. By addressing this sizing issue, they found they could relieve a lot discomfort.
Empowered by this knowledge, the company joined the Y Combinator startup accelerator in 2015. The company received $560,000 in seed funding from LinkedIn’s ex-head of growth Aatif Awan and Shrug Capital.
The brand’s first $179 shoe went viral during beta-testing and has a 4,000-plus waitlist for its official launch in July.
To make quarter size shoe manufacturing scalable, the brand offers just one unisex model in three colors—black, white and black/white—eliminating the need for multiple patterns, seasonal fabrics and trims. Customers are sent three sizes to try on and can select a different size for each foot. For example, a man with a size 10 shoe will receive a 9 3/4, a 10 and a 10 1/4.
Atoms shoes are tricked out with other hidden features designed for ease and comfort. Laces are elasticized so the wearer can tie them once and slip on and off thereafter. The lining is infused with copper, which eliminates bacteria, absorbs smell and regulates temperature, and the knit upper is light, durable and flexible.
“There’s no way to hack shoes,” Waqas told TechCrunch. “You just have to make a good shoe.”