CK: Do you see other shoe companies adopting some version of this technology as time goes on? Have you talked any other brands about some kind of partnership?
Katz: Right now, no we have not. We’ve talked to at least one other company that was mutual. But no, in general they have not been reaching out to us. The technology is certainly patented and can be used in other types of footwear.
CK: Your shoes are on the higher end of the price spectrum for basketball footwear (Ektio recently dropped the price for both of their models from $200 to $150 a pair). What would you say to people balking at Ektio’s price tag?
Katz: First of all, we were selling a lot of shoes at $200 a pair, but we wanted to bring the shoe to more people so we lowered the price to $150. If you bought a normal pair of basketball shoes and some braces, you would be spending more than that, and it wouldn’t work as well. Tape is very expensive. If you look at tape over the course of a season, tape is very expensive. Then you ask yourself: How much does the visit to the emergency room cost? How much do the X-rays cost? How much does your physical therapy cost for the next 2-3 weeks? How much does it cost to be out of work because your ankle is sprained (in lost income)? So basically, we’re at the higher end of a basketball shoe but we’re not at the highest end, and we think it’s a value proposition. I think it’s a good investment to have ankle protection as well as a great basketball shoe.
CK: Any plans to apply your technology to other sports as well?
Katz: Definitely. Ankle sprain make up about 25% of all orthopedic injuries. In basketball, it makes up about 42% of all injuries. It’s so common, but it’s close to 100% preventable. People even sprain their ankles just walking everyday. So we see this technology being used in a number of ways.
CK: Nike has been marketing the Kobe Bryant footwear line as a low-top shoe that’s touted to be just as safe for your ankle as a mid-top or a high-top shoe, but with maximum mobility and freedom of movement. Do you have any comments on that shoe?
Katz: There was an article written in the New York Times — May 18th, I believe — and they talked about people going to the low-top shoe. This is just marketing and this is just spin. The reason they went to a low-top shoe is that all these NBA guys that were wearing their shoe and other shoes that were high-tops, and guess what was happening? They were spraining their ankles. And they were spraining them whether they wore mid-tops or high-tops, braces or no braces, tape or no tape. They were still spraining their ankles. So they scratched their heads they said, ‘Huh, I guess high tops aren’t working too well. Since they don’t really protect the ankle maybe we should just go to a low-top and give people maximum mobility.’ They feel like, ‘If we’re not going to protect their ankle, we might as well give them the lightest, least-restrictive shoe we can give them.’ That was the rationale. You know, years ago when I was a kid they’d tell us, ‘Wear high tops, it’s gonna protect your ankle.’ Well, that’s a bunch of bologna. It doesn’t work. And Nike realized it doesn’t work. It’s completely a marketing ploy. To say it’s equally safe — no, it’s really equally unsafe. You’re not more safe with one or the other.
CK: Another reason some people are pitching against high-top shoes with a thicker midsole is that it elevates the center of gravity much like an SUV automobile versus a lower to the ground car, potentially making it easier for the shoe to roll. Any thoughts on that?
Katz: I just think it’s marketing. They have Kobe Bryant wearing the shoe, and that carries a lot of weight. But any shoe can roll. The midsole-outsole is always harder than the upper. As long as your have a harder bottom than upper you have that ability to roll. It doesn’t matter whether your midsole is 1 in. thick, 1 ¼ in., 1 ½ in.; it still has the ability to roll. And just look at it this year; Kobe Bryant rolled his ankle a number of times. If they make claims that that shoe is gonna protect people’s ankles, that’s false advertising. And there’s no way they would do that. They didn’t build that shoe to enhance ankle safety. They’re trying to give people more mobility. And that it does — but completely at the expense of ankle safety. Anyone who wears that shoe is gonna want a brace and tape, and they’re gonna be more likely to sprain their ankle than if they’re wearing our shoe because of the difference of the physiology and how the shoe interacts with the foot and the environment. So, I think it’s a style and next year they’ll come out with a different kind of style.
The most common thing I get when I talk to either investors or interviewers who are looking at the shoe is they go, ‘Oh my god, it’s so simple, why didn’t I think of that?’ Because it’s so simple. And it really is simple. Everybody can understand it. It’s not one of those far-out technologies that no one can grasp. They take one look at it and it makes so much sense.
You can actually stand up, whatever shoe you’re wearing right now, and when you stand up turn out your ankle as far as you can and roll it up your shoe, you can almost touch the outside of your ankle to the ground. And that just shows you how the stresses will move up to the side once that shoe rolls under. So the whole key is to stop the shoe from rolling. If you stop the shoe from rolling the ankle sprains go away.
CK: What are your future plans for the brand? Are you sticking with the two models you have now or are you rolling out something new for Fall 2011?
Katz: We’re gonna have another model come out next year and we’re gonna continue with different designs. We’re gonna keep improving the technology and keeping tweaking the shoe to make it better and better and better. And we’re coming out with different designs just because people want to see new designs, but the new designs will not have any adverse effect on the technology and every model will be designed with ankle safety as a primary concern.
CK: With sneaker companies across the board trending towards lighter footwear, do you have any plans to come out with a lighter Ektio shoe?
Katz: Most people, when they hold our shoe, go, ‘Wow, this shoe looks heavier than it is.’ Our goal is not to be [the adidas adiZero Crazy Light that weighs 9.8 ounces.] Our goal is to be a light shoe, but very strong and very stable. So we want to make it as light as possible without inhibiting its ability to provide support. I haven’t had anybody wear the shoe yet and say, ‘It’s too heavy, I can’t wear this shoe.’ In fact, we always get the comment, ‘I can’t believe how light this shoe is, it’s so light.’ We’re gonna continue to try to make the shoe lighter but that is not the primary goal.
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