Made in Central Virginia: OESH Shoes

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February 9, 2012

A shoe revolution is jumping off in Charlottesville. Inside a small, nondescript building off Preston Avenue, a husband and wife duo are recreating the idea of comfortable footwear for women.

“For all the hoo-ha on the athletic industry, there is very little, to some degree zero, substantial peer-reviewed medical research that’s behind footwear construction,” said Bob Kusyk, CEO of OESH Shoes. “OESH has changed all that, and it has changed right here in Charlottesville.”

OESH (pronounced oh-shhh) Shoes started with Dr. D. Casey Kerrigan, a Harvard Medical School graduate, who after years of research on gait and the effects of footwear, realized women’s shoes aren’t made right.

“The idea of controlling the foot or putting cushion in there, I was finding I was leading to more problems,” she explained. “It’s not about trying to correct things, but it’s about following these natural forces. I was measuring all of those forces, and I found we had to create a way that provides compliance but follows these forces.”

Dr. Kerrigan left her job as chair of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Virginia to make OESH. She created 3-D gait and motion laboratories at Harvard, the Harvard Motion Analysis Lab, and at UVa, the Speed Clinic.

Her aha moment led to something that was new and unique to the footwear industry, a carbon fiber cantilever that sits in the sole of each shoe.

There was no machine to make her design come to life, so Dr. Kerrigan built one. She and her husband cut the carbon fiber using a water jet and assemble the shoes, all in their factory off Preston Ave.

“We’re making our shoe less expensively in Charlottesville than if we outsourced it to Asia. We make the most efficient product in the best way here in America, and we think that has tremendous room to grow,” Kusyk said.

OESH opened its doors a little more than a year ago, and already has a bevy of local customers.

“I like them because they address my knee and lower back problems, my bunion and my hammertoe. It’s really the most comfortable shoe I’ve ever put on,” said Content Hagen.

But that comfort comes at a price. OESH currently offers two types of shoes, the Classic and the Lizard. The former sells for $195 and the latter for $190. Kerrigan and Kusyk are also in the process of designing a sandal.

The OESH factory on Dale Avenue is open to customers and tours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. To check out their website, click here.

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