Innovation in the shoe business

Vibram FiveFingersCheck out my new shoes! This funky footwear is known as Vibram FiveFingers, and they promote better biomechanics. In other words, you walk better, more naturally, like you did when you were running around barefoot as a child.

It’s a great example of a long-time proven technology being applied in a radical new way. Vibram rubber, which has been around over 70 years, is the gold standard for soles of trekking shoes, as it provides protection, grip, and durability.

Now they’ve come up with their own line of shoes, developed with the latest biomechanical research in mind. That research is showing that all those cushy shoes we’ve been wearing to ease foot pain may actually be making our problems worse. Vibram realized their lightweight rubber was perfect for a new type of shoe, one that recreates the experience of being barefoot while providing a necessary but light-weight layer of protection.

Want to read the science behind all this? Check out New York Magazine, who says we walk wrong. This is a great article, very well researched.

My personal observations? These shoes may look weird but they sure are comfortable. I am proud to be wearing a radically new design in footwear, and I can already tell it’s changing the way I walk. If the biomechanical research is right, it’s likely to cure my year-long bout of plantar fasciitis. That won’t happen overnight but I’ll report back with my results.

All this has got me thinking – how can I parallel this level of innovation in my own business? What technology can I apply in an entirely new way?

By the way, if you live in St. Louis, be sure to check out our neighbor, Ghisallo Sports, so you can try on these awesome shoes!

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Google’s approach to innovation

Google tshirtGoogle has a highly innovative company culture, one I try to model in my own business. One way they encourage innovation is by allowing employees to pursue pet projects on company time. Many terrific Google services, like the toolbar and desktop search, were created in this way; check out up and coming innovations at

The reason I bring this up? Don’t be afraid to let your staff try new ideas. They have a different perspective than you, which means they’ll bring up ideas you might otherwise miss. Some will work, some will fail – but your willingness to innovate will set you apart from your competitors.