Samantha Dong is here to prove that shoes can be your allies too. A hiking injury made her realize that most of the heels available out there were not designed with comfort in mind. In fact, wearing them hurt. She decided that wearing heels shouldn’t be a painful experience and set out to create ALLY Shoes, “an innovative fashion brand for women by women” that creates beautiful, fashionable, and pain-free heels
What is ALLY Shoes?
ALI C. VERÁSTEGUI – Tell us about yourself and the road to creating Ally Shoes.
SAMANTHA DONG – A former management consultant, I always wore heels to work. Then I hurt my feet hiking and couldn’t wear heels without pain. That’s when it clicked – heels shouldn’t hurt. I made it my mission to find the best in the business to create pain-free heels for women. ALLY Shoes’ founding leadership team includes Podiatric Surgeon, Dr. Roxanne Clarke, and acclaimed shoe designer, Sarah Jaramillo. Our diverse backgrounds and varying professional experiences inspired the overall concept of our unique pain-free heels and shoe design. We each bring our expertise to the table and together we created a heel that can be a woman’s ally.
ACV – Ally Shoes has an inspiringly diverse founding team, tell us about how this alliance came to be.
SD – ALLY Shoes’ founding leadership and innovation team includes three, powerhouse women from three different continents. African American Podiatric Surgeon, Dr. Roxanne Clarke, South American Shoe Designer, Sarah Jaramillo, and myself, Founder and CEO, from Shanghai, China. Our diverse backgrounds and varying professional experiences inspired the overall concept of pain-free heels and shoe design.
Shoes can be your allies too
ACV – Can you tell us more about the science behind your one-of-a-kind Ally Shoes? Is there a specific consumer in mind?
SD – Professional women wear heels for a variety of reasons: style, confidence, or simply because it’s part of the corporate dress code. However, as research shows, foot pain has been a known issue that women have to endure for a long time. 71% of women suffer from heel pain, 88% wear sizes that don’t fit them, and 42% of women’s heels are worn once or less.
Our team re-engineered women’s dress shoes with:
1Patented Product (Utility Patent US Patent No. 11311075)
We’re the first to construct the entire upper part of a pump using stretch leather without losing the structured shape of the shoe. Our three-point insole support features a weight-balancing toe grip, elevated arch support, and deep heel cup. This ergonomic design by a podiatric surgeon re-balances weight distribution without making the shoe bulky, making a three-inch stiletto stable and supportive that feels like a sneaker. We implemented similar insole technology into our flats collection by adjusting pressure point support.
2Inclusive Sizing and Flexible Supply Chain
ALLY is trying to get the customer as close to custom fitted as possible while maintaining affordability. We optimize fit by offering half sizes ranging from US 4 to 12 and 4 different widths, powered by a quick-response (2-week) supply chain with no volume minimum. Hence, there is no need for excess inventory.
3Data- Driven Smart Fit
ALLY’s proprietary online fit-finder has an algorithm designed by Dr. Clarke, seeded with data from over 8,000 women. Our online fit finder allows customers to answer 10 simple questions and get their size right.
Red Shoes Allies
ACV – ALLY Shoes and Red Shoe Movement seem to be a match made in heaven, how was this partnership born?
SD – We were really excited when we heard from Mariela from the Red Shoe Movement. As a brand built on women empowerment, we instantly bonded over our shared passion and love for red shoes. The rest was history.
Register Now for the October 28 RSM Signature Event in NYC to increase your chances to get a pair of red Ally Shoes in your size! Because we truly believe shoes can be your allies too!
ACV – You work closely with your clients to ensure a perfect fit, are there any especially memorable moments and designs you can share?
SD – Fit has always been essential in ensuring maximum comfort, which is why we offer size 4-12 in half sizes and four different toe-box width.
We used to be very offline-heavy when it comes to fit. That said, COVID-19 also effectively shut down half of our distribution channels including offline trunk shows, pop-ups, fitting room, and boutique store partners. With no clarity on how and when those channels will recover, we launched a new “at-home trial box” that allows customers to try different sizes before buying, aiming to re-create our fitting room experience in the comfort of their homes. We are also adapting our product line by developing high quality footwear more suitable for walking outside, including lower kitten heels, block heels, and flats with arch support.
Making mistakes and staying resilient
ACV – Is there anything you know now that you wish you had known when you started working on ALLY Shoes?
SD – I wish I knew that developing an innovative product is just half the battle. If I were to start again, I would have honed in on branding and growth strategies in parallel with product development.
ACV – Any words of wisdom for young entrepreneurs?
SD – Run fast but pivot often. As entrepreneurs, we are often pressured with limited time, resources, and growing competition. As a result, it’s essential to be able to act quickly. However, we are also tackling brand new problems and often building something that has never been done before. Inherently, we will have to test directions with imperfect information and make mistakes. When things get hard, true resilience requires optimism based on clear analysis and openness to change, followed by rapid executions.
ACV – What are some other women-led businesses you’d recommend we keep an eye on?
SD – I’ve been a loyal customer of Rent the Runway (a platform to rent or buy designer items) for ten years now. I love how they allow me to have some fresh new looks every month in an economical and sustainable way.