Sizing them up

Alicia Robinson

Poorly fitting shoes can ruin a whole day.

In an effort to avert the agony of wrong-sized shoes and make it

easier to be shod online or through a catalog, Costa Mesa-based

FormaLogix is combining digital cameras, computers and people's feet.

FormaLogix founder Andrew Hanscom noticed over the years that

different styles and brands of shoes fit differently, a dilemma he

now illustrates with an array of shoes laid out on his desk. A

Converse sneaker is a size 10 1/2 ; several of the shoes are size 12;

and a Nike is a size 13.

"All of those shoes fit my feet, and therein lies the problem,"

Hanscom said.

His company developed technology that precisely measures a

person's foot and uses a computer to show how various shoes would fit

it.

"We actually take a three-dimensional image of your foot," Hanscom

said. "We turn it into a digital form and we match that with a

three-dimensional image of the inside of the shoe."

It just takes a few seconds. You take off your shoes, step onto a

Plexiglas-floored kiosk, position your feet, and in moments they've

been digitally photographed about 150 times. That information has

also been combined into a picture of your foot soles with length and

width measurements to a tenth of a millimeter.

The results are displayed on the kiosk's touch-screen computer,

and they can be surprising. Many people find their feet are not quite

the same size, Hanscom said. Shoe shoppers can then display the

styles they like on the screen and see what size would best fit their

feet.

It takes most of the "try" out of trying on shoes, and it works

well for children rarely sure of their shoe size, said Brent

McKendry, FormaLogix vice president of product management.

"People will walk into a store and try on five different pairs of

shoes before they get it right," McKendry said. "That's not an ideal

experience for the customer."

Hanscom's shoe-fitting kiosk is being test-marketed in the Foot

Locker at South Coast Plaza and one of the chain's New York stores,

and the company is talking with the U.S. military about using it to

fit boots. But Hanscom thought farther ahead than in-store uses for

the device.

The kiosks for retail stores save the data on every customer's

feet and download it into a database that FormaLogix maintains. It

can then be accessed from any kiosk or online, so people buying from

the Internet can tell how a shoe will fit without trying it on.

After almost a year in business, FormaLogix is poised to take off,

with more kiosks expected to hit Foot Locker stores later this year.

The company has 14 employees, most of whom deal with the technology

side of the product. For now, construction of the kiosks is

outsourced to a manufacturer in Irvine.

Since the South Coast Plaza kiosk was installed at the beginning

of July, more than 4,200 scans have been recorded.

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