Around Town With The OESH Townie 3D Printed Shoes: Review
We often do hands-on tech reviews, but this one is foot-on: I took the new 3D printed Townie shoes from OESH on a walk.
OESH Shoes is an interesting business based in Virginia. They say they make shoes “for women, by women” — and indeed the founder, Dr. Casey Kerrigan, is a woman with quite a knack for understanding the particular needs of women’s footwear. (Note they do also offer select men’s styles!)
Dr. Kerrigan founded OESH in 2011, following more than 20 years of gait research including work at her alma mater Harvard Medical School, where she founded one of the US’ first 3D gait and motion labs. A 1998 discovery linking high heels and knee osteoarthritis has had her name in the headlines for decades at the forefront of running, walking, and footwear research. In 2009, she also published findings on the link between traditionally designed running shoes and increased knee joint torques. In short: this is a woman, now leading a company, who understands the biomechanics of footwear.
So let’s talk shoes.
OESH — which is “ pronounced like the sound in ‘ocean’…a one syllable long o sound with a silent e” and came about from reordering the letters in “shoe” — is dedicated to creating the best footwear possible. That’s in terms of comfort, health, and style.
And 3D printing is part of it, unsurprisingly as you’re reading about them here.
Last year, I had the opportunity to check out a pair of OESH’s sandals — the Artemis, which sport a 3D printed sole and fabric adjustable straps. We’re not here to talk about these today, but I will give them a shoutout: they’ve held up for a full year and are an absolute staple in my warm-weather wardrobe, doing quite well on hikes in the park and day-to-day wear.
OESH’s latest creation is the Townie shoe, which is now available via Indiegogo campaign.
They describe the flats:
“The Townie flat accurately captures human movement research and the shape of a woman's foot in a beautiful, functional flat. It's the 21st century dress shoe you've been waiting for, 3D printed to create otherwise impossible features you'll be sure to love…
“Encapsulated within the Townie are over 2,000 stacked honeycomb spring units that are 3D printed into the sole with our patent pending 3D print process. This unique sole structure, that cannot be made with any other manufacturing method, gives you a healthy spring in your step like you've never before experienced.”
Married with the honeycomb 3D printed soles are a (CNC-) knit upper that, for this high-tech shoe, is attached in a low-tech fashion: by hand. They explain:
“Footwear manufacturing is typically done overseas predominantly by factory workers who are exposed to toxic chemicals and heavy VOC emissions, especially as the footwear upper is attached to the sole. The unique patent pending sole design of the Townie bypasses the need for these toxic processes and allows that the upper parts of the shoe can be attached with hand crochet.
Looking at this crochet attachment step as a way to help empower women with this skill who cannot easily work outside the home, we're excited to partner with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) of Charlottesville, an organization that does extraordinary work for our community:”
The entire manufacturing process is, then, local.
So how are the Townies?
In a word, they’re great.
In a few more words, they’re reliable flats that deliver on every promise OESH has for them. They’re attractive, comfortable, well-made, and versatile.
My Townie shoes came in exactly one month ago today — I wanted to have a lot of time to wear them around town before making any calls on how they are as real-world shoes.
They arrived in simple packaging, with a nice bag rather than a standard shoebox. Shipping was quite quick, and that’s not just because these shoes were provided for this review; a glance at comments on the Indiegogo campaign shows that others received their orders in short order as well. That’s just how OESH operates.
Unlike some other 3D printed shoe companies, OESH works with standard sizing, so I simply supplied my shoe size and color preference.
The toe box was a tiny bit snug on these for me, but I’m chalking that one up to also being 7-8 months pregnant during the time of my walkabouts, so they did indeed seem true to (normal) size. My toes did feel a smidge boxed in after a few hours of wear, but that’s very likely due to swollen feet rather than anything to do with the shoes; I mention only out of full disclosure.
That said, too, the toe box of CNC-knit fabric is super stretchy and really comfortable. It’s definitely good quality, and has the durability proper footwear needs to be worn outdoors. The stretch adds a definite comfort factor.
A look at the tops and bottoms of the Townie, and a close look at the heel cup [Images: Fabbaloo]
The unique heel grips the foot firmly in place; they’ve never fallen off, nor have I stepped out of them accidentally. These are qualities you want in a good flat. Easy to put on, easy to take off, and they stay put for the duration of wear.
Wearing the shoes around town was a generally good experience. I live a pretty low-key life (especially since OESH caught me after I’d finished my travel season), so it was a lot of grocery store, social visits, parks, festivals, and general lady-about-town local wear.
First wear, then later on wearing the Townies to a local Celtic Festival [Images: Fabbaloo]
Two observations from wearing them to a doctor’s appointment:
First, they did squeak pretty audibly while walking down the tile floors. It had rained the day before, so I had stepped in a small puddle on my way in. I’ve heard this sound before from other 3D printed shoes, and it’s — distinctive.
Second, a nurse I’ve never seen before was very complimentary of the shoes as we went through vitals. Often, my real-life friends and family know when I’m testing out some 3D printed fashion item and react accordingly; it’s a bit more honest when feedback comes unsolicited from people who don’t know me or my line of work. So some third-party verification that yes, these are good-looking shoes that appeal to real-world women.
One of the biggest negatives I’ve had with the shoes was while driving. The heel cup isn’t very supportive when the foot is at the incline needed to work the gas and brake pedals. It squished down a bit, so I had to more consciously hold my foot upright than in other footwear. This did not impact my driving, nor ability to switch between pedals in rush hour traffic, so it’s not a huge negative, just one worth mentioning.
The fabric is also showing some strange discoloration after a month of wear. It looks almost oxidized, and I’m not sure why; I didn’t go anywhere out of the ordinary for my day-to-day life, and haven’t seen this on any other shoes. It did become less visible after a quick scrub with just a wet paper towel, so again, not a significant issue.
All in all, the best thing I can say about the Townie shoes is that they performed exactly as I’d have hoped: they’re shoes.
I wore them all around for the better part of the month, giving them plenty of time to show what they were made of. They’re comfortable, fit well, wear well, and look good.
The shoes have three more weeks on Indiegogo.
As of the end of September, the campaign had surpassed its $25,000 funding goal.
The first round of orders have already been fulfilled; in round two, the Townies are available at $109 (a 35% discount from their eventual full MSRP of $170), and will ship this month. That ship date was moved up from December as earlier this week the team updated that they are in fact running ahead of schedule with round two — rather unlike many crowdfunding campaigns we’ve seen.
OESH has done it again in working to bring together advanced technologies to make walking a better experience.