Monday, March 07, 2005

Sandia helps Z-Coil add spring to its step

Sandia NewsLetter
February 6, 2004
Page 12

“The first pair of shoes that I put together was crude,” says Al Gallegos, “but I knew I was headed in the right direction. They felt better when I ran in them. ”Gallegos, founder and chairman of the board of Z-Coil Footwear in Albuquerque, is the man with the vision, the inventor of the shoe with a visible spring under the heel. In the mid-1980s Gallegos was running an average of seven miles per day. As a result, he developed all the normal injuries associated with running: heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, knee prob-lems, and back pain.

He realized that his injuries were caused by the impact of hitting the ground while running. “Think about it,” Gallegos says. “When you run, your knees, ankles, and back absorb about four times your body weight.” He believed that by putting a “shock absorber” in the heel of his shoe, he could reduce the impact and therefore the pain.

He figured a coil would provide some form of energy return, which would allow him to run faster and farther. He tried various types of springs before finding the one that worked best, a three-inch-wide conical coil steel spring that when totally compressed was about a quarter of an inch high. He had the local butcher cut the soles of his shoes so the springs could be glued in.

Over the years he began to think seriously of manufacturing shoes. He realized that if the spring shoes helped him and a few friends, maybe they would help a lot of people. “It is not natural for a scuba diver to breathe underwater,” Gallegos says. “But if you furnish him with the proper equipment, he can. Perhaps it was more common sense than vision that made me think that I could help people.”

In FY01 a New Mexico Small Business Assistance (NMSBA) project was established between Sandia and Z-Coil. Under the NMSBA program, Sandia can provide up to $5,000 in technical assistance to urban-based small businesses. Sandia performed mechanical stress tests on the shoes to determine force vs. displacement in the heel and toe box — force vs. displacement of three different springs; and determine stresses at various locations within the arch support.

Sandia made a prototype of a safety toe for the shoe. “Sandia was very prompt, very pleasant, and they knew what they were doing,” Gallegos says.

Z-Coil reported record sales of $6.3 million for 2003. This represents a 139.5 percent increase over the previous year’s sales. Al is very pleased.

To become a Z-Coil dealer, attendance at a five-day workshop is mandatory. He says his son, 36-year old Andres, CEO and president, runs the company. “I could not have gotten anyone better than my son,” Gallegos says. “During the hard years, I mortgaged some of my own personal property and Andres questioned my doing it. I just responded, ‘if we lose everything, I will go work for Wal-Mart.’ ”Gallegos, an Espanola native, is a simple, deeply religious family man. His office has an old desk, a book case, and several samples of his shoes. In a corner of his office is his workshop. In it are all the tools needed by a cobbler.

He says he does not know where he comes up with his ideas. “I was married for 20 years to a special woman,” Gallegos says. “Her name was Marcella. She has been gone for 20 years, but sometimes I think that the ideas come from her. Since she is not here, this is her way of helping me. Who knows? Maybe together, we can make this a better world.”

For more information on the inception of Z-Coil Shoes go to

1 comment:

JOlmsted said...

Our records indicate that the effort with Z-Coil in 2001 was
approx. 58 hours of one engineer's time plus another 25 hours split up
among four other people, so an equivalent of just over two weeks
"person time."

The goal, as stated in the report, was to help characterize spring
behavior so Z-Coil could make better material selections. Our testing did not address safety issues.

However, we did fabricate a safety toe for one of Z-Coil's boot models, as described in the report.

I hope this plus the Sandia report (pdf) answers your questions fully.

Sandia Labs