Dr Casey Kerrigan’s life revolves around shoes. This physician-turned-researcher has now made it her life’s mission to design, develop, and manufacture shoes that address a woman’s unique foot shape. Her shoes are meant for people who need more spacious forefoot and narrow heel designs.
Dr Kerrigan’s published biomechanical research, first at Harvard Medical School and then at the University of Virginia, supported the need for a different shoe design with a uniquely flat elastic spring sole that reduces impact on the joints in the body compared to traditional footwear with cushioned, contoured soles.
The Harvard M.D. and physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist, says, “It was my published research on the negative effects of certain attributes of footwear on the joints that inspired me to start OESH. I was a tenured professor and department chair with many published research papers at the University of Virginia but those papers were not making a difference in the world. I realised to make a difference, I would have to leave academic medicine to make better shoes.”
Being a mom of three daughters — ages 14, 19 and 21 — Dr Kerrigan, while at Harvard, discovered that high-heeled shoes increase joint torques that are associated with the development and progression of knee osteo-arthritis, a debilitating medical condition twice as common in women than in men, causing more physical disability than any other disease in the elderly.
“Because the design and material of the sole I wanted to make based on my research did not yet exist, I had to develop it first. I worked with a number of engineers whom I had collaborated with while I was at the University of Virginia and I retained my position there as an adjunct professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering,” says Dr Kerrigan, who spent over one million U.S. dollars before officially starting the business.
Since inception, through their website (www.OESHshoes.com), OESH sold shoes all over the world, including India. Talking about the challenges, the 56-year-old says, “Researching and developing a sole material that had never been used before was the biggest challenge. I overcame that by experimenting with many different materials over the course of a few years in my own R&D factory.”
Although many entrepreneurs try to separate work and family life, Kerrigan says, in her household, business talk is never off the table. “My husband Bob, is the CEO, and OESH is our fourth child. I love my work so much that it feels like ‘life’ not ‘work’. I’m constantly testing new footwear design and this helps motivate me to get out and run every single day.”