Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Big brand shoes get a run for their money

Big brand shoes get a run for their money

Z-CoiL breaking new ground with its pain-free footwear

By Dan Thanh Dang
Sun Staff
Copyright © 2004, The Baltimore Sun
July 31, 2004

If Al Gallegos has his way, every man, woman and child will one day walk with a spring in their steps and a satisfied smile on their faces.

The spring will come attached to the heel of a strange, space age-looking shoe Gallegos wants to sell you. And the smile, well, that will come once you put on the shoe, says the 73-year-old inventor of the Z-CoiL line of pain-relief footwear.

Z-CoiLs first hit the shelves four years ago in New Mexico, and since then, the shoes have become something of a cult item. They're sold only through authorized dealers and are targeted toward people with painful leg, foot and back problems. About 350,000 pairs of the shoes have been sold to date, a relative drop in the footwear market.

So worry not, Reebok and Nike. At least for now.

But at last count, there were 227 Z-CoiL dealers in 39 states, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Canada, and the company's goal is to open 1,000 stores. The shoes have been featured in major publications, studied by two research laboratories and recommended by the Arthritis Foundation's magazine.

"It's a dream come true after such a long time and so much work," says Gallegos, who flew in from Albuquerque this week to attend the grand opening of the Coil Heaven store in Laurel today. "We knew our product was good, but we didn't think people would cotton to it the way that they have. When I visit these stores, people hug me up and tell me what a huge difference my shoes have made in their lives. I'm constantly surprised when I'm traveling around and I see people wearing them.

"I just want to get a shoe on the next person and make them feel good," says Gallegos, a distance runner who claims to sprint a 5 1/2 -minute mile in his Z-CoiLs.

Gallegos, ever the dreamer, is also working with Sandia labs to develop a Z-CoiL that can harvest the energy from the spring action to heat your boots, run lights or maybe even power a cell phone as you hike up the side of a mountain.

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