One way or another, Joan Oloff , MD, has always been in the foot business.
It started before she was even born when her grandfather emigrated from Russia and, in 1920, opened a shoe store in Brooklyn, NY. Her dad grew up in an apartment above the store and she has vivid memories of visiting the store as a young child.
Determined that his daughter would not work in the shoe business, Dr. Oloff’s dad sent her to college where she earned a degree in music therapy. While Dr. Oloff was pleased, it didn’t feel right. She knew she needed something different. Something more. Something to do with feet.
With a renewed sense of purpose and related goals, Dr. Oloff went on to medical school and became a foot surgeon. But her adventures with feet didn’t stop there.
“When I was a child, I remember visiting my dad’s store and seeing women try on high heels,” said Dr. Oloff. “I remember thinking that they looked incredibly uncomfortable. As a teenager, my dad would ask me, ‘Why don’t you wear heels?’ I would say, ‘Because they hurt!’ As a podiatrist, I was treating 50-year-old women who would come in apologizing for how their feet were deformed because of their footwear. Then I’d meet with younger women and lecture them that they should give up their high heel shoes or they’d have foot problems. They’d nod at me, then go out the next day wearing heels. I realized that I wasn’t going to change behavior, so what I needed to do was build a better mousetrap – create a healthier shoe.’”
With that, Dr. Oloff launched herself into the world of high fashion footwear, studying how women’s high heel shoes are designed and manufactured.
“Shoes are one of the few fashion items that also have function,” said Dr. Oloff. “I found that people have ignored the functional side of footwear. To me, it’s like building a beautiful house without talking to a structural engineer about the foundation. If the foundation isn’t done properly, the house will crumble, no matter how beautiful it is.”
She also learned a few things about the ideas and attitudes of footwear designers.
“Designers openly admit they design women’s shoes for men and that pain is normal and an accepted part of foot fashion. To me, it’s the last bastion of abusing women in a civilized society!”
Armed with a lifetime of knowledge about shoe sales, medical knowledge of the foot and newfound perspective on foot fashion design, Dr. Oloff got started on designing a healthier high heel without sacrificing fashion. Her focus was on reducing the stress that high heels put on the foot’s ball joint and limiting the amount of flexibility to reduce the occurrence of joint hyperextension – all while maintaining fashionably attractive designs.
“I’m going after the designer world, the pretty shoe if you will, and changing how shoes are constructed, putting functionality in it, in a way that nobody has really done before.”
Today, Dr. Oloff balances her time between careers as a foot surgeon and fashion designer. Her footwear collection is taking off, with high end stores across the country carrying her collection and a robust online retail website at joanoloffshoes.com.
A philanthropist by nature, Dr. Oloff participated in our sold out Fashion Fights Arthritis show, October 5, in San Francisco, CA. The event featured clothing designs by critically acclaimed designer, Karen Caldwell, and shoes from Dr. Oloff’s collection. More than $330,000 was raised in support of the Foundation’s research, programs and services. Check out these great photos from the event!
In addition to her participation in Fashion Fights Arthritis, through the end of November, Dr. Oloff will donate to the Foundation 10 percent of all sales from her website, JoanOloffShoes.com, when customers use the promotion code FightArthritis. As a special bonus, all purchasers will receive a 10 percent credit.
“I want women to know that they don’t have to compromise,” said Dr. Oloff. “You can have it all. You don’t have to sacrifice your body. You can look good and you can feel good. Fashion and function can live in harmony.”