A newly unboxed, Kansas City-laced premium shoe company offers a single promise: to make often-uncomfortable men’s dress shoes healthy to wear — without stomping out fashion.
“I grew up wearing Converse and Vans and socks and lacing really tight every day,” recalled Joey Ahearn, a physical therapy assistant, as well as founder and CEO of Free Form Shoes.
His eventual discovery of Vivobarefoot-brand shoes and their mission to help customers reclaim the natural form and function of the foot changed that — especially when it came to how he treated patients, he added.
“I kept seeing [the same thing] over and over,” he recalled, noting he observed muscle and joint issues, which could be easily traced back to a lack of proper footwear.
“[The problem with modern shoes is] the shape, essentially, and the features that sometimes create comfort, but can damage other areas of the body unbeknownst to the wearer,” Ahearn explained. “We have all mostly grown up in shoes that were always restrictive to the anatomy.”
The impact of such a reality: such ailments as bunions, blood flow restrictions, numbness and compressed nerve endings.
As Ahearn became more of a fan of the Vivobarefoot products and the principles of going barefoot, he started incorporating them into his routine for treating patients — and while the payoff was evident, he said, the shoes and their style presented a new problem.
“They really bring a lot to the table to enhance well being. But when it came to formal events I was never going to wear them,” he said, referencing the unique appearance of the shoes and their minimalist aesthetic.
“I like to look good — and if that means a little cramping or soreness for [an] event, so be it.”
But such an admission also offered Ahearn revelation, he said.
“There was a niche in the market and I figured there were probably enough people, like me, that want a healthy shoe, but still want to look stylish.”
And with that, Free Form was up and walking, Ahearn continued.
“My favorite shoe ever is still the Berluti Gaspard in cognac. … I think it’s the most tasteful derby [style shoe] I have ever laid eyes on. But I started thinking, ‘How come there are all these barefoot casual and sport brands, but nobody is doing a barefoot [dress] shoe?’”
Skilled in leatherwork — having made bags, belts, and other goods in his spare time — Ahearn figured there was no reason he couldn’t make the shoe line a reality.
He took to Google to find a manufacturer, eventually partnering with a man in Spain who’s helped develop early iterations of the Free Form shoes, now nearing their third version.
The shoes feature such “quality of life features” as wool lining and stretch laces and are designed to be easy to slip on, Ahearn said.
Sales are expected to launch in 2022 with the company set to offer styles from Oxford Wingtips to Chelsea Boots — each of which brings function and freedom to the world of dress shoes.
Click here to learn more about Free Form or to stay up to date on the launch of sales.
“It’s been really nice being able to learn and do different things every day, even though the learning curve itself can be frustrating at times,” he said of his foray into entrepreneurship and manufacturing.
“It’s also rewarding. You’re gaining knowledge, you’re gaining insight into something you didn’t know before and it allows you room to grow.”
The opportunity to create a product that’s as healthy for customers as it is stylish has been a bonus, he added.
“I think people need to remember that the whole body works together. From the top of the head down to the bottom of your feet — and improving one area will affect other areas. I want to encourage people to take more ownership of their body.”