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Applied Research Impact Case 6

Enhancing the Comfort of High-heeled Footwear

Ms Elita Lam, Department of Fashion and Image Design, Hong Kong Design Institute & HK Institute of Vocational Education (Lee Wai Lee)


High-heeled shoes are fashionable items preferred by many women, despite the fact that poor fitting may lead to numerous foot problems and deformities. Walking in high-heeled shoes is associated with changes in body movements and this has adverse effects on the muscular and skeletal systems. Previous reports have indicated that the wearing of high-heeled shoes alters joint functions and increases pressure in the forefoot, hence causing back pain and postural changes to the wearer. To relieve pain, the shoe wearer tends to alter motions (compensatory motion) and this in turn leads to lower back pain.



Pain area indicated by subjects


Even though research has been carried out on the evaluation of foot dimensions and the design of high-heeled shoes, there is no attempt to integrate the study of foot motion (foot biomechanics) and material technologies into footwear design. In 2013, Ms Elita Lam, while teaching in THEi, formed a team with Dr Jim Luk, Dr Kit Lun Yick, Dr Zerance Ng, Mr Ameber Leung, and Ms Hoi Tung Lai to develop a novel flexible cushioning and supporting system for high-heeled shoes.


Design of smart inserts for high heeled shoes


To achieve the best result of shock absorption, the project team applied Magnetorheological fluid (MRF), a kind of fluid combining iron powder and silicone, in the production of shoe inserts. MRF is commonly used in mechanical engineering or automotive brake systems. However, when the fluid is embedded into shoe inserts and functions together with magnetic particles, it forms a flexible cushioning system, thus reducing the pressure created in high-heeled gait. The new design can minimize shock to the human body, improve stability, and enhance comfort in walking. Wear trials had been carried out to examine the degree of comfort and stability of the footwear prototypes for optimizing the design.



Project showcased in InnoTech Expo 2018


The innovative design won a gold medal in the 46th International Exhibition of Inventions held in Geneva, Switzerland.  After that, the project “Innovative Foot Biomechanics for Enhancing Design and Comfort of Ladies’ High-heeled Footwear Design” was granted an US Patent (Patent No.: US 10,264,850 B2) on 23 April 2019, under the title of “Flexible Cushioning Device for Shoes and Methods of Producing the Same”. This project serves as a practical case study to prove the effectiveness of multidisciplinary project collaboration and can inspire faculty staff and students to adopt cross-disciplinary approach in learning and teaching.



A Gold Medal was received from the 46th International Exhibition of Inventions, Geneva