Comfort Profile: Earth Shoes

The retro brand is making a comeback.

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Earth Shoes is back in orbit.

While the brand’s quirky inclined-sole shoes and health and wellness message resonated strongly with the hippie generation when it launched in the U.S. in the early 1970s, its popularity waned over the next decade due to its too-narrow yoga focus and limited style options. Today, however, as the wellness movement gains ground, Earth — whose trademark negative-heel technology and name were acquired by industry veteran Michel Maynard in 1999 and relaunched two years later — is being embraced by a new generation of consumers.

The Waltham, Mass.-based brand’s sales have doubled each year in the past five years, according to VP of marketing Dave Aznavorian. Although, as a result of the economic downturn, that progress has been tempered: It only grew 22 percent in 2008. But nevertheless, Aznavorian said, sales are still rising and could see a 10 percent increase by year’s end.

However, Earth is facing some stiff competition, as newcomers — including MBT and FitFlop — and existing comfort brands have jumped into the category with their own take on wellness footwear.

But while there are more players, Earth VP of sales Scott Morin said he believes the competition ultimately benefits consumers. “There are more choices, a bigger selection of technologies, so [consumers can determine] what works best for them,” he said.

Each brand offers its own individual point of view, added Aznavorian. “Earth has a unique perspective on body health and wellness,” he said, referring to the brand’s proprietary sole design, which aims to redistribute weight, strengthen muscles and burn calories.

To validate these claims, Earth has conducted extensive clinical research over the years. One study was by Illinois’ Benedictine University’s Exercise Physiology department, while another more recent study, by biomechanist Katy Santiago, focused on the effects of wearing inclined-sole footwear as part of a health-based walking program.

Retailers that carry Earth — the brand is sold in 800 independents as well as Dillard’s and Nordstrom — say the line’s technology makes it a strong addition to their wellness offerings and helps them bring customers performance features that fit their individual comfort and fitness needs.

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