A baffling realization that piqued Geoffrey Gray’s interest in grad school stuck with him unwittingly during the years that followed.
Women walking into the retail store where he worked near Simmons College in Boston were complaining about how uncomfortable high-heel shoes were, even before trying them on.
And then they bought them anyway.
If women would choose to wear shoes that hurt their feet, “you probably really would love something that makes your feet feel good,” Gray said.
After spending 10 years as a physical-therapy physician in Santa Barbara, Gray decided to combine an interest in science research and footwear to start his own biomechanical research company called Heeluxe.
Gray created his first marketable heel insert in April 2010, and has since been approached by several athletic brands — New Balance, Teva and Deckers — to research, design and test footwear to find the most ideal impacts on the body.
On Thursday he will celebrate the grand opening of his new Luxe Lab with friends and invited guests at 737 S. Kellogg Ave. in Goleta.
Sitting in the lab decked out with tester equipment last week, Gray was quick to say he uses all the insoles and footwear he has helped design — except the high heels.
“I’ve heard numerous complaints,” he said, smiling. “I’ve always been interested in footwear.”
Heeluxe moved into its new space a couple of months ago after testing for nearly two years in P3 in Santa Barbara.
The new location allows test runners to build a stride to get in the “groove” by the time their foot hits the force plate at ground level or at an incline for about a quarter of a second, Gray said.
His right-hand man and only employee is Rob LaRue, a UCSB senior who started working with Gray as an intern more than a year ago after hearing him speak at his school and Gray’s undergraduate alma mater.
LaRue, president of UCSB’s Entrepreneurs Association, said he has been grateful to learn and work in a subject area that somewhat combines his neuroscience and business studies.
“It’s been a really cool opportunity for me to connect business with science,” he said. “He found this research area where good work wasn’t being done.”
In addition to working with footwear companies that people already know and trust, Gray said he is dedicating time to create footwear health-information videos via a YouTube channel, which can be viewed by clicking here.
Heeluxe is in the process of designing a soccer cleat, and Gray hopes men’s dress shoes will be the next of many future innovations.