Charlottesville shoe company continues to step forward
Physician and researcher Casey Kerrigan gave up the lab to make shoes designed to reduce stress on the knees.
Kerrigan co-founded Charlottesville-based OESH Shoes with her husband, Bob Kusyk, in 2009. Since then the company has garnered 5,000 repeat customers and two National Science Foundation (NSF) grants totaling $725,000.
Kerrigan and OESH also have been named finalists in the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council’s annual awards in the categories of “Entrepreneur of the Year” and “Innovator of the Year,” respectively. The winners were announced May 24 after this issue went to press.
The NSF grants have allowed OESH to continue developing a 3-D printing process to make soles for its footwear. The latest grant for $500,000 will be distributed to the company through August 2019. OESH received funds from a previous $225,000 grant over the past two years.
“We’re really hopeful that with the 3-D printing that we can make a lot of shoes,” says Kerrigan, who is OESH’s chairman. Kusyk is the company’s president and CEO.
Kerrigan also hopes the NSF funding will allow the company to use a 3-D printer to make its close-toed shoes. It currently only uses the printer to produce its sandals.
OESH plans to release two new shoe styles this year, including one in which both the sole and a part of the upper shoe will be made from 3D printers.
As a physician, Kerrigan spent years researching the effects of footwear on the body, first at Harvard Medical School and later at the University of Virginia.
“It was great, but I felt like I wasn’t making a difference in the world. I really needed to make these shoes,” she says.
In her research, Kerrigan found that shoes with heels increase stress on the joints. OESH shoes are flat, which Kerrigan says can help reduce knee pain and osteoarthritis. OESH shoes also are designed to even out pressure over the ball of the foot.
OESH initially made shoes for women but added two styles of sandals for men last year. The company won’t reveal sales figures but says it has been profitable since it began selling shoes in 2011.
OESH’s main factory is in Charlottesville. Some of its soles are produced in a factory in Waynesboro, while other materials come from overseas.