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Original Foot Alignment Socks creator interview by Katy Bowman

Posted by Jim Leuty on

Our founder, Eva Nemcik, created the Original Foot Alignment socks based on the yoga practice of spreading your toes with your fingers. She felt that if this simple practice could help relieve the pain she was experiencing from her physical activities, then a sock that could give this experience and be worn for longer periods of time would also be beneficial.

Recently Eva was invited to be interviewed by Katy Bowman, an internationally recognized biomechanist, author, and science communicator. Katy has both the skill and passion for reintroducing movement into people’s everyday lives. She has eight bestselling books, an award-winning podcast and holds classes both in person and online. 

If you would like to hear the entire podcast from Katy, it can be heard on Katy's website Nutriutritiousmovement.com

To see the complete line of The Original Foot Alignment Socks, they can be found here.

 

Transcript of podcast 

KATY: Ok, if you've been listening you know I've been doing a series of short interviews with a maker of products I've been recommending for years. These are products that get you moving in some way. I'm curious about people and the ways they work in the world. And I'm also inspired by them. Especially those who see a problem and get to work with their hands and minds tinkering to try to fix it with a physical object. So we're almost at the end of this series.

But today we get to meet Eva Nemcik. She's a chemist who came to the United States in 1971 from Checkslov with her husband and her two children. She worked for GE lighting division for 26 years, and she played a lot of tennis. And then she had some foot trouble. And out of that Happy Feet Alignment Socks were born. Hello Eva. Welcome to Move Your DNA.

EVA: Hello Katy!

KATY: I think that's a great story. Can you tell us a little bit more about how your company got started? How does a chemist who works for General Electric end up developing foot alignment socks?

EVA:  Well it was really out of necessity. Because as you said, I am an avid tennis player and when I retired I had lots of time on my hands, so I was doing lots of physical activities. And my feet didn't like it that much. So I tried to do some home remedies from the catalog. They were all helpful, but they really were kind of user-unfriendly. And me being an on-hand person so I said, "I can probably do something better."  And I made myself a pair cut out from the regular socks, the top, and sewn by hand. And I made a couple of prototypes and gave it to my friends who suffered the same with the feet. But the idea actually came from my yoga teacher. She said, put your fingers between your toes and wiggle it and holding it is good for your feet and so I thought, if it's a minute or two it's helpful. You can't really sit longer than that twisted like a pretzel holding your toes.

KATY: Yeah.

EVA: So I thought, well probably longer exposure is better. And that's what actually came to my mind to create these dividers. And I sewed it to the socks.

KATY: I didn't know that. That's great. So you had kind of an efficiency personality type of going, "Ok, if I need to do this to get better I need to be able to do it for more than my time in class."  Ok, so making something to solve a problem for yourself and then mass producing something to take to market, what made you want to do that step?

EVA: Well because I made several pairs and everybody just loved them. I said, "Well, maybe just maybe, we can make a business out of it."  So, I was looking for a manufacturer. Of course in the United States, nobody even wanted to touch it because they like the idea but it wasn't a mass production at that time. An old lady has a good idea. That doesn't mean that you can put it into a big production. But fortunately I found the small company in China, later on, they went out of business as lots of small companies do, and they made a sample, and I liked them. And I asked them, I said, "What is the smallest amount that you can make me?"  They said well a unit is 1,000. 

KATY: Did you have that many friends?

EVA:  I said, my gosh, 1,000 pairs?  What am I going to with 1000 pairs? Well, they sent it out in writing, and I find out it was 1000 dozen.

KATY: 1000 dozen pairs? 12,000 pairs?

EVA: Yes. That was the minimum.

KATY: Pfffft!

EVA:  So we took a second mortgage on a house...

KATY: Wow!

EVA: ... and I said, "Let's try it!". We got it, and three months later we were out of inventory.


KATY: Wow!  Where did you sell them at first?

EVA: Well, the catalog, Dr. Leonard picked it up. And then actually Dr. Leonard got us into SkyMall.

KATY: Good old SkyMall.

EVA:  And that made us kind of world widespread. Yeah.

KATY: For those of you who haven't read SkyMall, it's a catalog that's almost all in airplanes, right?

EVA: Yeah.

KATY: I just imagine all those trapped readers, because that's when I read SkyMall - "this is what I'm going to read." People will achy feet. I mean, a lot of people have achy feet anyway and really, your socks are such a simple solution. I mean they are a solution that a lot of people are completely blown away: "How simple. Why didn't I think of this?" type of stuff.

EVA: Practical. Very practical.

KATY: Yeah. You just put them on while you're doing other stuff. Which everyone who listens to this show knows I'm a big fan of getting movement while you're busy doing other things because many people don't have time to sit there and spread their toes and only spread their toes for a long period of time.  So here's my question: I've recommended your socks for years. You've been selling your socks for years. At what point did you add to the label, or has it always been on there, the idea of if you're going to start wearing alignment socks ... and I just want to take a second to explain to everyone listening what alignment socks are.  These are socks that basically don't cover the toes. Instead when you put them on your toes go through the socks so that you've got this kind of finger-sized bit of material between each toe which pushes your toes away from each other, which spreads the toes. Kind of like the exercise that I have people do a lot - it's the opposite if you wear tight shoes or shoes with small toe boxes that push your toes together, it's basically like a sock that does the opposite to what your too narrow shoes might be doing to your feet.  So I've recommended them for years and when people put them on for the first time they can only wear them for a small amount of time before, you know, if you've sat with your fingers between your toes for 20 minutes, that's a lot of exercise. It's a lot of exercise for a tiny muscle that has spent a lifetime not getting that much movement. So at what point did you add the, it's not a warning, but kind of a user note saying, you use these little bits at a time until you're able to tolerate them for longer. Was that always from the beginning or was that based on user feedback?

EVA: I think it was from the very beginning because I find that on myself that I couldn't take it too long. Or when I relaxed, and I had them on for a half an hour, took them off, it felt good. But when I tried to use it overnight, I just had to jump up and rip them off in the middle of the night because they were really uncomfortable for a longer period of time.

KATY:  Yeah.

EVA: So I think that they were from the very beginning.

KATY: Can you sleep with them throughout a night now?

EVA: Oh yeah. Yes.

KATY: So I go through periods of just being really diligent about wearing my socks and then, you know, then I get diligent about doing other things. But I started putting them back on in the summer time when I was doing a lot of movement. I like them because they just keep my feet mobile which, in the end, really helps my knees and hips deal with a lot of exercise. Especially when I'm done with winter time when I've been in shoes. I kind of use them more as I'm transitioning more to summer feet, right? Where I'm usually barefoot more often. So they're part of my training program. But I still am not an all the way through the night person. If I put them on, I don't wake up and rip them off my feet. I take them off in my sleep at some point.  I don't know when that is, but I've never been able to make it all the way through. So that's going to be my goal.

EVA: Yeah. Try not to pull them all the way down to the bottom of your toes.

KATY: Oh right!  I always wear them all the way down.

EVA: Yeah. You know, Katy, we came out together, I think, with this slogan that high heeled antidote.

KATY: High heel hangover antidote.

EVA: Yes. I can not emphasize enough for people who are wearing high heels at work, and then they come home with achy feet. Please, wear those socks. Because later on, you will pay for those pretty shoes.

KATY: Well, we're getting to the holiday season. This is gonna come out - this will air in November. And a lot of people who maybe don't wear high heels all that often, I mean there are certainly people who wear high heels every day for work or preference. But for those who put on heels for the dress up part of the year. Right? We've got holidays and New Year's Eve and probably dancing and going out, if you're not used to wearing them, here is my high heel hangover antidote. It's My Happy Feet socks - and those toes spreaders. You put them on all around the time when you're around the house and not wearing your high heels. When you wake up the next morning with achy feet before you go out put a water bottle in your freezer so the next morning you can take it out and roll your foot on it. So instead of rolling your foot on a ball, you can roll it on a contained ice cube that's also round so you can kind of stretch, and then do the calf stretch. If you do those three things, you can get your feet through the perils of the holiday shoe, if you will.

EVA: That's a news for me, the ice bottle. That's a good idea!

KATY: It's a good one because it's basically round, so it massages your foot, but it's cold. So if you also have the inflammation, you can deal with the cold and the circulation or the mobility at the same time. You can do all those three things stacked, but you need to put your bottle in the freezer before you go out. Because you're gonna not want to wait for it in the morning. So if you've just got a couple of those going in the freezer throughout the holiday season you feet will thank you.

EVA: Yes.

KATY: Ok. Do you have the best story? Do you have people submit, not testimonials but how much they love your socks and what they did?

EVA: I have one wonderful one. The lady wrote me that "I have two pairs and I go to bed. I put one pair in my hands and the other pair on my feet." And I just kind of wonder why she's putting them on her hands.  Well, in the course of the month, I developed neuropathy in my hands.

KATY: Oh!

EVA: And I tried those socks, and I can't believe myself how much difference do they make in the morning.

KATY:  You're blowing my mind right now. You're just saying that My Happy Feet can also be My Happy Hands!

EVA: That's right.

KATY: It's blowing my mind because I teach all of these hand stretching exercises.  If everyone puts their hands in the computer position right? They're close together. Wow. I can hear all of the My Happy Feet users now just realizing that the medicine that they've been putting on their feet in the form of socks can also be used on their hands.

EVA: Yeah. And ...

KATY: Woah!

EVA: From a lady who uses these socks.

KATY: I know. That's the beauty of it. Is that innovation. People are so innovative. You create a thing, and now someone else is going to create a thing. That's amazing. I was very sorry to hear that your husband passed away in 2016. So you've been experiencing some life changes at the end of last year you sold My Happy Feet, but you're still involved. So what's next for the company?

EVA:  Well, it's surprisingly... I was approached with several podiatrists to do baby socks.

KATY: Mm-hmm.

EVA: Because a lot of babies are born with some deformities in their feet.

KATY: Mm-hmm.

EVA: And they are putting them into casts, which is overdone. It's a little bit more than they really need but they don't have anything else to start with. So I started doing baby socks. It's a little bit challenging because baby feet are growing very fast.

KATY: Yeah.

EVA: And plus, they are not going to be able to, I won't be able to order 12,000 pairs.

KATY: Yeah, yeah.

EVA: Of one size of baby socks. So it's kind of challenging, but I am on my ... a pretty good cooperation with the manufacturer so we came out with some solution how we can kind of make it stretchy that they could use it longer.  But it's, again, what size the dividers? How big? How fat?

KATY: Yeah.

EVA: So it has to be kind of tested out more thoroughly than just put it on the market and have the users decided whether they are comfortable with the size of the dividers or not.

KATY: Yeah, my mechanical brain is working just to think of how everyone could scale the material between the toes. How could that be scalable and adjustable?

EVA: Yeah. That's what I am wrestling with.

KATY: Well, once I'm thinking about it I won't be able to stop thinking about it.  In my mind, I can think of air. You know what I mean? Like Nike Airs - the fact that you can pump them up to the extent that you want, but you can also remove the air to make them scalable. And also how to make them more, I don't know what the word is, durationable, is not the right English word. But how someone could use the same pair even though the foot was growing by being able to add or remove mass. Ok, well I'll think about it, and I will let you know if I come up with anything!

EVA: Oh. That sounds good. Sometimes the idea is wonderful. The execution is more challenging.

KATY: Oh yeah.

EVA: But it's probably doable. Yeah. Thank you, Katy!

KATY: Well, anything else you want to tell our listeners?

EVA: Well, keep wearing those socks because if you have any problem with your feet, you don't have to run for professional help. Because sometimes it's not something which needs more than just a little help.

KATY: Yeah. I think that in many cases what's ailing so many people's feet is a lack of movement of the feet themselves, right?  So just always start by changing up your movement a little bit. Or a lot.

EVA: Yeah. Well, I live what you preach. Move Your DNA! And I am exercising three times a week, and in my age, it is sometimes challenging. But that makes me going. Because I keep moving.

KATY:  Well, are your feet happy?

EVA: Oh very much so.

KATY: Well that's all that matters!  Eva Nemcik is the founder of My Happy Feet Alignment Socks. You can find out more about them at My-HappyFeet.com

EVA: Well thank you very much. And keep writing those wonderful books. I enjoy them.

KATY: Oh, thank you.  

 


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