Comforting the sole


  • Metro Biz
  • Friday, 13 Feb 2015

Stylish comfort: Solace shoes are not only kind on the feet but are also fashionable.

Sandeep Saili knows you need not sacrifice fashion sense for comfort and functionality. A trained physiotherapist-turned-entrepreneur, he found the perfect solution to this when he designed and created Solace shoes.

Creating “the most comfortable shoes” for men had been Sandeep’s dream for the last 20 years, and it came true in June last year with Solace shoes.

His shoe venture happened after his previous business ran into trouble. Sandeep decided to sell off his shares to his partner and left to pursue his shoemaker dream.

“The timing was right when I launched Solace shoes, a brand that offers men’s leather shoes with medial arch support and anti-pronation technology. Solace men leather shoes have scientifically-tested insole for comfort, wellness and health,” says the managing director of Sailli Viroha Pte Ltd (Singapore) and Sailli Viroha (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd.

Sandeep knew he had hit on the right formula when customers started leaving their old shoes at his store and walked away in Solace shoes with pride and comfort.

“I am extremely happy when I see my customers walk away with Solace and leave their old shoes behind. I have collected all these worn-out shoes, repaired them and gave them away to charity,” says Sandeep, who has donated more than 50 pairs left behind by his customers to the flood victims in Manik Urai, Kelantan recently.

His repeat customers would come back with friends or give their reviews, saying they had never experienced comfortable formal shoes like Solace before. The reasonable price tags, which start from RM350 onwards, made his shoes an even more attractive offering.

“We also allow our customers to feel the different types of leather. There are two types – the softer calf leather and cow leather. We also measure the width of the foot and suggest appropriate models according to the shape of the foot,” says Sandeep who lectures on cardio-respiratory physiotherapy on a part-time basis at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).

Struck: If the human foot is arched, then why are shoes made flat inside? Sandeep Saili wondered as he turned his hands to making comfortable shoes.
Struck: If the human foot is arched, then why are shoes made flat inside? Sandeep Saili wondered as he turned his hands to making comfortable shoes.

Solace shoes are made of carefully selected raw material, look stylish and provide the comforts of orthopaedic shoes. And the best part is that it’s halal because the inside skin of the shoe is also made of cow leather.

“I was inspired to create the insole of Solace shoes after a thought struck me: if human feet have arches, then why are the shoes made flat inside? In the past we lived in rural areas and walked on uneven grounds.

“During that time, foot arches were very useful for gripping uneven surfaces. Now in urban living, we walk on flat surfaces, and shoes with flat and hard insole create excessive pressure on heel and forefoot,” he says.

According to Sandeep, there are two categories of shoes available in the market: elegant formal shoes with minimal arch support and comfort shoes in limited styles.

Growing: Solace, which started its first store at Lot 10 Shopping Centre, also has a retail outlet at Robinson’s in Gardens Mid Valley and in Singapore.
Growing: Solace, which started its first store at Lot 10 Shopping Centre, also has a retail outlet at Robinson’s in Gardens Mid Valley and in Singapore.

“Most people go to the doctor or podiatrist when they have foot issues. So, why not wear Solace to prevent discomfort? Solace combines comfort with elegance, and is made with superior quality, handpicked calf leather.

“The human foot is a very important structure as it bears the entire weight of the body. The comfort of formal shoes is very important because we wear them at least 10 hours a day,” he stresses.

A team of researchers and medical professionals came together to create the insole for Solace shoes, with the aim of providing comfort and reducing stress on the heels, knees and back muscles. The insole is scientifically tested in a highly specialised gait laboratory in University of Malaya.

“It took us 18 months of intensive research on material, of searching for manufacturers and doing scientific tests to create Solace shoes with ideal insole. We converted hard mould used by podiatrist to firm the gentle insole. We chose Polyurethane material (PU) for insole and padded it with Poron, a high-performance cushion material,” says the India-born Sandeep, who studied basic physiotherapy in India and later pursued a Master’s degree in physiotherapy.

Since Solace shoes have medial arch support for distributing body weight to the entire surface of the foot, it reduces pressure on heel and forefoot. This allows the peak pressure contact and average force of the foot (at the mid-stance stage) to be lower compared to normal shoes.

Take your pick: Some of the formal Solace shoes created and designed by Sandeep Saili.
Take your pick: Some of the formal Solace shoes created and designed by Sandeep Saili.

“The insole, or sock liner, provides arch support and some cushioning. The mid-sole is where the bulk of cushioning takes place, while the outsole is the part that strikes the ground, providing traction and durability.

The shoes also have anti-pronation technology, which helps in reducing stress on the knees and back muscles. It also correctly aligns the body.

The insole’s air-breathe mechanism keeps the internal environment of the shoe cool and comfortable,” says Sandeep, who injected almost RM500,000 into the business.

He plans to spend more on overseas expansion and a new range of women’s shoes and insoles.

Solace, which started its first branch at Lot 10 Shopping Centre, also has a retail outlet in Robinson’s in Gardens Mid Valley and Singapore. They have also started exporting the shoes to India and the Philippines, and are now ambitiously eyeing the Australian, European and US markets.

“If you manage your business well, it can grow as much as you want it to. Solace believes in innovation, exceptional quality and customer service, which remains as pillars of our business,” says the 47-year-old, who shuttles between KL and Singapore to work on the business.

Although Solace is still in the infancy stage, Sandeep has plans to make Solace a brand known all over the world.

Solace customers are growing as more and more customers get wind of the shoes’ quality. Health professionals, chefs and a few corporate bodies have already endorsed the shoes for their staff.

Material comfort: A Solace sales assistant showing off the different types of calf and cow leather used in making the shoes.
Material comfort: A Solace sales assistant showing off the different types of calf and cow leather used in making the shoes.

“It’s very important to wear the right shoes because a poorly constructed sole with little arch support increases plantar fasciitis, a condition that causes feet to get swollen and inflamed. So, healthcare professionals need to pick the best shoe for their work environment,” says Sandeep.

“Initially, I thought the men’s market would be more lucrative. Then I realised that they buy only two or three pairs a year, while women buy at least 10 pairs in a year. (As such) We have decided to launch our first range of formal ladies’ shoes with similar qualities.

“Women also tend to suffer more foot problems than men. Seven out of 10 patients who suffer from foot problems are women. Since there’s a huge demand from women for comfortable shoes, we are trying to expedite this soon,” says Sandeep, who used to sell physiotherapy and rehabilitation products.

He says Solace customers at his Lot 10 store get extra attention.

“We offer coffee or tea while they shop in comfort with soft music playing in the background. I try to make my customers happy. After all, this is my last lap career, before I literally hang up my boots and retire in 10 years,” says Sandeep.

Solace shoes are also available online.


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