Tuesday, April 26, 2005

VISTA MAGAZINE MIXING BUSINESS (2001) Spring suspension Orthotic Shoes for Pain Relief

History Z-Coil Shoes- Spring suspension Orthotic Shoes for Pain Relief

Alvaro Gallegos is up and running before the sun rises in Santa Fe. He is a dynamo who raised eight children single-handedly after his wife died, a former fighter pilot, a businessman who has owned restaurants and department stores, dabbling in real estate along the way.

Now at 65, he is an inventor whose unusual Z-Coil Recoil running shoes are found on the feet of New Mexico's governor, marathon runners and people with bad backs and knees.

One look at his bright yellow, electric blue, orange and white shoes will probably make you laugh, or at least chuckle. Heavy-duty metal springs sit where the heel should be, giving the impression one is riding on shock absorbers. In fact, that is exactly the idea. The Recoil shoe is meant to lessen the impact every time a runner's foot slams into the ground with the force of three to three-and-a -half times his or her body weight. That pounding and its effect on the heels, knees and back were what got Gallegos thinking. Always an athletic type, he took up running just as he was about to turn 40. Pleasure soon turned into competitiveness.

But after 20 years of nearly daily six-mile runs, his body began to talk back, sometimes in a nasty tone. "I thought to myself, "There should be a shoe around somewhere to kill all that impact" I thought, "Wouldn't it be neat if I had a spring in my shoe that would propel me forward and once I got up to speed I could just keep going and going."

But it was a brother's challenge that really got him going. As his brothers bragged about their Nikes and Reeboks, Gallegos shot back that he could make a better shoe. "My brother said, "if you're so smart, why don't you do it?" Every time I ran I could hear his voice."

Finding someone to make the special springs took almost a year. Then he spent $1,000 for 300 springs, betting he could come up with a workable shoe. The neighborhood butcher was his first spring manufacturer, Gallegos quips. He used band and crosscut saws to slice through running -shoes soles so the springs could be attached. Soon
Gallegos had his own band saw, cutting soles and inserting springs to create by hand more that 100 pairs of prototypes.

Now he has a Korean manufacturer who also distributes the shoes throughout Southeast Asia. His advertising is primarily by word of mouth and the stare of strangers."

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