Caprice Neely has been designing performance footwear for the leading brands in the world for the past 25 years. As a CoFounder at BALA she has focused her experience on nursing. I had the opportunity to sit down with Caprice for our weekly “3 On” interview series to talk about her experience getting to know nurses before building this company and what the design process was like.
If there are any more questions you'd love to ask Caprice - or you would like to share with her what you'd like to see in a pair of nursing shoes you can write her anytime at Caprice.Neely@WeAreBALA.com.
Zach Smith, RN-BSN
Head of Nursing
What made designing a shoe for nurses an interesting project for you?
I personally hadn't had a ton of interaction with nurses until 2017, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
What a wild and scary ride that was and through it all, it was the nurses I saw on a daily basis that made all the difference. They helped ground me and brought some light into my world.
Even back then, I remember asking them what they thought about their shoes. This was well before the idea of making shoes for nurses had even crossed my mind. I just always like asking people what they think of their shoes...it's a shoe geek thing. That was when I started learning that there really wasn't a perfect solution.
What makes designing a performance shoe for her first different than what nurses are wearing today?
I had spent many years with other brands growing increasingly frustrated by the fact that they all use male feet as the base for making running shoes.
We have loads of scientific information about the differences between the female foot and the male foot, but women's dress & casual shoes are never made using a male foot form. So why should we have to accept women's athletic shoes being made this way?
I was determined to reverse this trend and start a shoe brand using data from female feet for ultimate fit for her. One day last fall, I was introduced to one of Bala's other founders, John, who was exploring the idea of shoes for nurses. I remember thinking...oh wow, this would be perfect!
You once said that you thought it was almost impossible to design a shoe that met all of a nurse’s needs. What was the breakthrough?
It wasn’t a breakthrough per se. It was really the process of reaching out to numerous nurses & experts in footwear during the design phase
Asking tons of questions about biomechanics, materials, offering suggestions to our manufacturing partners & listening to everyone’s ideas. We got the first samples made & only 50% of problems had been solved. So, we kept pushing and with each round of samples another 10-20% was solved.
I do remember one point where we thought we might not be able to get the fluid resistant material for the upper part of the shoe to work. The factory was saying it wasn’t possible, our developers were thinking the same thing & we all started to doubt it could happen. It was well past midnight one night & I just couldn’t let it go.
So, I contacted the textile supplier directly & asked if they had any ideas for what we were trying to achieve. By the way, this probably ticked off our developers, but I couldn't resist. The textile supplier then contacted our development partners & worked with the factory to try one more thing. Guess what...it ended up working! That was definitely a moment of joy & relief!