The days of anything that looks good on the feet and does not snap into two are finally over in India. This summer, the hip-and-happening are putting their best foot forward, thanks to new technology and increased awareness about health.
The new brands of footwear in the market flaunt special effects and aids like breathing technology, built-in heel and footbed support system and shock absorption points and lightweight soles.
Experts put the spurt in technological innovations in footwear to acknowledgement of international brands by Indian consumers.
"Several factors are influencing trends in the Indian footwear segment, one of the fastest-growing consumer goods sectors, in the country. A rough estimate by major footwear manufacturers says business in quality national brands is growing at 20 percent every year," I D Musafir, managing director of M&B Footwear, a leading national footwear manufacturer.
Musafir's company Geox Shoes has launched a range of formal footwear for summer with breathing technology.
According to him, the soles of these shoes contain a special micro-porous membrane that absorbs and expels sweat. It is resistant to water. Sweat in the form of water vapour passes through the membrane and exits through the perforated soles. The gradual elimination of humidity from the shoe recreates a microclimate for healthy feet.
The smart range of men's shoes is priced between Rs 2,985 and Rs 7,985 while the price of women's footwear begins from Rs 2,985 and goes up to Rs 5,285. The company sells its shoes in 70 countries.
The company also manufactures casual canvas summer shoes, under the brand name 'Cult ID Canvas' with a flip down tongue and a built-in support system.
"The middle-class now has more money to spend on quality and designer footwear, the number of working women who need to wear comfortable, durable and yet trendy shoes to work has risen in cities across the country and the youth is more brand conscious than before," said Musafir.
Shoes, say lifestyle pundits, are second only to clothes in terms of importance and the styles are mostly Western.
Narendra Tiwari, a 40-year-old businessman who owns a firm in Greater Noida, boasts of an impressive collection of sports shoes and has just added a new pair to his wardrobe - a V-Lite multiterra sandal.
It is called "Grey Core Gold", a cross between sports shoes and inter-locking toggles with free ends for air circulation.
"I use it on days when I do not have important appointments. It's a bit casual," he says. Tiwari forked out Rs 2,699 for the shoes that he says can take on rough terrain and wet trails with tractions.
It is equipped with lightweight leathers and synthetic "uppers" and has several shock absorption points at the heel and the forefront. The jolts and the impacts of walking on uneven surface are cushioned by the lightweight mid-soles and outsole, he explains pointing to the aids.
The footwear industry this summer is operating on the troika of technology-aided high performance, quality and comfort. Shoe manufacturers say footwear has now become a lifestyle accessory more than the traditional shield for the feet that can be purchased from any shoe-shop across the street.
"Customers are looking for performance, longevity, relevance and the user-friendliness of the products. Style is little low on the list of priorities," Hemant Sachdeva, managing director of Chogori India, which is marketing V-Lite.He will introduce three new footwear brands in a couple of months in the country.
Bata India, one of the oldest and the biggest footwear companies in India, has launched two new brands of shoes that the company spokesperson describes as durable, flexible, easy on the feet and sophisticated. 'Flexible' for women, priced at Rs.1,999, is a new comfort shoe that offers lightness and speed while walking.
A new footwear line for men, 'Westminster', is a range of handcrafted shoes fitted with specialised sandwich soles to create an acupressure effect.
"There has been a shift in the pattern of spending on consumer accessories. People are willing to shell out more money on footwear, nearly Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000 on an average. It has fuelled the demand for long-term value for money," says Sachdeva.