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Luxury Shoe Designer Pivots to Footwear for Frontline Nurses

Rob Gregg, founder of the luxury footwear brand Rob McAllan, came up with the idea for his latest venture, Gales, in the early days of the pandemic.

Grateful after hospital staff nursed a family member sick with Covid-19 back to health, Gregg looked for a way to give back. Right away, he said, he began donating $200 from every pair Rob McAllan sold to a nurse group producing PPE. A meeting with the nurse-turned-entrepreneur Rebecca Love inspired him to do something more.

Love, president of the Society of Nurse Scientists, Innovators, Entrepreneurs & Leaders and a principal at the digital health company OptimizeRx, told him the top issue in infection control in hospitals wasn’t gloves or facemasks, but shoes that transport whatever fluids they come in contact with from room to room. Shocked, Gregg, who at the same time had seen demand for his luxury Rob McAllan brand drop, shifted his full-time focus to the nurse footwear market. By May of last year, the initial sketches for what would become Gales were drawn.

Little more than a year later, the brand—named after one of history’s most famous nurses, Florence Nightingale—has begun pre-sales for its first model, with shipments expected to begin in August.

To develop its Frontline Nurse Shoes, Gales consulted with a community of healthcare professionals from across 89 medical facilities. As it surveyed these nurses, Gregg said he discovered “a complete lack of protective, stylish, comfortable, functional and affordable footwear options for healthcare.” More specifically, he said he found strong demand for long-term cushioning, better arch and ankle support, slip resistance, slip-on functionality, machine washable insoles and antimicrobial protection.

Gales will begin delivering its Frontline Nurse Shoes in August

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The niche nurse footwear market has drawn considerable interest recently. Clove began selling sneakers marketed directly to nurses in late 2019. After a $1 million pre-sale in September, Bala Footwear sold out its debut shoe within days of opening its direct-to-consumer site in January.

Gregg believes Gales’ shoes are different. In an effort to remove all unnecessary crevices and materials that might typically attract dirt and fluids, the brand’s shoes completely do away with laces. The simple design means the shoes can be wiped down in just three seconds, he said. The lace-free design, he added, means nurses will not have to worry about shoelaces dragging on the floor.

Gales’ Frontline Nurse Shoes also feature removable and machine-washable OrthoLite insoles, slip-resistant technology, a waterproof design and an antimicrobial barrier. According to Gregg, they are made with partially recycled materials and are produced using clean energy manufacturing facilities. The shoes come in four colorways and cost $89.95 a pair—about $40 cheaper than Bala and Clove.

Gregg said there is “lots in store for the brand,” including new colorways, “special add-ons” and sporty and trendy styles.