Houston neuroscientist-turned-startup founder takes steps toward more comfortable shoes
Two and a half years ago, Houston native Steffie Tomson ordered $2,000 worth of shoes and cut them all in half with a bandsaw just to see what was inside.
Tomson, a neuroscientist by trade and founder and CEO of footwear startup Getaway Sticks, came up with an idea for a different kind of shoe – one that’s been redesigned to prioritize women’s comfort.
“I thought, ‘why can’t we start with a sneaker material and then build a heel around it?'” she told InnovationMap. “I started slicing everyone’s shoes and now I’m more convinced than ever that our shoe is different.”
Tomson was inspired to design the inaugural shoe for Getaway Sticks after her own struggle with heels, walking the bustling Texas Medical Center from building to building for meetings. As a mother of two and a problem solver, she knew there had to be a better mousetrap.
“No other shoe offers this kind of foam with the height we give it,” she says of the wedge-style shoe, which features a wide toe box, soft suede material and limited height for joint stability and health.
The comfortable wedge is available in several colors. Photo via getawaysticks.com
With her scientific training, she would think of the “cognitive cycles” that are spent managing schedules and matching the corresponding shoes.
“’This shoe goes with this outfit, but does this shoe bring me back from that meeting in the parking lot? Does it go with the pants?’ It’s just an infinite decision tree on how to align your wardrobe with shoes – when all I ever wanted was a capsule collection of shoes that would work for me all the time” , she says.
Typically, the fashion industry builds shoes in a very traditional way, she says, and because of this, Tomson encountered a lot of resistance from manufacturers to get the right materials for her prototype.
“I think there’s a lot of money being spent trying to get women to buy shoes,” Tomson says. “These may or may not be comfortable. There just isn’t enough of an effort to get women to buy shoes that were truly made for us with us in mind.
Getaway Sticks went through the gBETA accelerator last spring, which helped launch the company and connect Tomson to the local innovation ecosystem.
“There aren’t a lot of people making shoes in Houston, but there’s a lot of support for great ideas and new ideas here,” she says. I am happy to have been made aware of them and to have been invited to these groups.
Now past its first pre-seed phase and gearing up for its first round of seed funding in 2023, Getaway Sticks is eyeing its next shoe launch in the coming months – the ballet flat.
“I think as women we can relate to the fact that we all have a really nice pair of heels and they’re definitely not going to be comfortable,” she says. “And we might have a really comfy pair of heels, but they’re not always the cutest things in our wardrobe. We always have to turn around and decide. I just felt like we needed something. something to make our lives easier.