Learning UX from a Pair of Shoes

This is not a paid endorsement. It’s a journey that I’ve been through. A surprisingly good journey as a customer who bought a pair of shoes. With this pair, I also learned a great deal about good design and user experience.

Meet Skechers GOWalk for men & women. I believe they’re the most comfortable shoes of all the shoe pairs I’ve purchased in my lifetime. If there’s really a good way the metaphor “best bang for your bucks” could relate to, it would be this.
I’ve had a great deal of experience with shoes. Being an avid walker in some points in my life, I have always considered a good pair of shoes a good investment.

By “good”, I always looked at the durability and look.

Although, honestly, in my first forays into shoe shopping, I’ve always looked for the “look” first. Would it look good on me? I didn’t like thick soles. I didn’t like mocassins. I didn’t like slip-ons. I wanted to look cool. I wanted that cool, expensive brand.

But then, many brands failed me. Either they were uncomfortable in the long run, because of rigid design, stiff soles or irritating materials; or they simply have quickly gone out of fashion, or after localising their local design work, the “good design” has simply been gone. Replaced by awkward, tacky and mainstream designs that are out there everywhere. Even the more expensive brands like Campers didn’t impress me in the long run. They were making my heels painful to wear after hours of use. For a more “polished” look, I also have some slip-on or tied leather shoes. But again, these formal shoes are never for longer use. They’re either expensive or good-looking, but never comfortable in the long run.

One more thing: laces. I used to think laces were cool, until I had a baby. More often, you don’t really have time (or want to) tie your shoe laces. It’s not a difficult thing, but something I’d rather not do, especially when I’m in a rush. In the morning, when I am about to go to work, I’d rather spend a little more time with the baby than doing shoe laces. In other people’s homes, I don’t want to find a place to sit just to tie and untie my shoe laces. It’s becoming a cumbersome chore.

So, I’m in the look out for a good pair of shoes that are comfortable for longer use and more intensive walk or run, don’t have any laces, a relatively good material and a relatively good-looking shape. Design-wise, it should not be focusing on fancy, but rather on function and timelessness.

Skechers GOWalk is a wonderful invention that solves most of these problems.

Skechers GOWalk is a casual shoe product that is made of “a lightweight FitKnit mesh”, “memory foam padded heel” and “high rebound cushioning for comfort and durability”. That’s what they write here.

What those mean and how they make me feel are actually hard to describe in details.

In essence, a combination of those really fit my feet and habit well. It feels like walking on a soft, slightly bouncy mat everytime, without losing your momentum or speed. After fivehours standing or walking, you don’t feel any pain at all, unlike the other shoes which have a flatter sole design, where your heel almost instantly interacts with the floor or surface.

The best thing about it is it’s a slip-on, with flexible entry, which means you can just get your feets inside both easily without having to fix or tuck the back of the shoes. One or two slips and you’re off. No fuss.

If you feel like liberating your feet for a while at work, feel free to do so easily. Slip on anytime swiftly if somebody fetches you for a meeting. Take it off easily again if you’re in a meeting room that requires you to free your feets.

Because it’s not a sandal, you can wear it for client meetings, no problem.

It’s this flexibility and “non-intrusive-ness” that appeals to me over a long run.

So far, it’s the best one-size-fits-most shoes that I’ve purchased in my lifetime. Design-wise, it might not impress the very discerning designers or hipsters, but they do have more options if you wish.

My wife actually bought a pair first before me, and I was not convinced the first time. A doctor that we went to for my wife also wore one and he said it will be the only pair of shoes he’ll ever wear and buy. A guy on the plane asked my wife where to buy one of hers because he thought it looked very comfortable. A best friend also wears one.

I think it’s how good design should be: invisibly good. Something that removes a barrier to your life, not add to it. Something that don’t necessarily be noisy in advertising or growth-hacking, but just enough so that it gets noticed. More importantly, it inspires other people to use it, and love it.