It's time for 7 Questions with Brenda Stowe, longtime Rochesterite, snorkeling aficionado, and inventor of the FlexiSizer. (And, yes, I cheated and asked her 8 questions.)
Tell me about the FlexiSizer?
It's a 4-dimensional shoe insert that creates flexible sizing, and is a replacement for standard shoe inserts, like heel pads or foot pads. It wraps the foot with a soft, thin layer of cushion and is customizable on all four sides, solving several shoe problems with one product.
Where did you get the idea?
I was having issues with some of my shoes fitting. Everyone's feet are different, but manufacturers create shoes with generic widths and sizes, so shoes rarely fit perfectly. They're too long, or too wide. So my solution was fitting the foot to the shoe.
How does the FlexiSizer work?
It wraps around the foot. You can use the whole thing, which wraps around the sides, heel and forefront of your foot, or you can cut off the part you don't need and use it in another shoe. So, for example, I had purchased a pair of dress shoes that were too wide and slightly long for me. It was a "great sale" thing where you love the shoe and even though it doesn't fit perfectly, you're going to buy it anyway. So, for this pair, I have one side of the prototype coming up to fix the width problem, and to eliminate sliding and rubbing. And the other side, I made flat.
Had you ever invented anything before?
No — and this one's still patent pending, so I don't if it's a true invention yet! But we filed the patent, so we're officially able to trademark it.
How did you know how to do this?
My husband, Gary, has struggled with his feet and ankles for many years. He was eventually in so much pain that he couldn't walk. He tried many solutions and went through four different surgeries. After his last surgery, he was recovering from an infection he'd gotten from walking on a beach, and was buying all kinds of products to help him get back into normal shoes. He came up with this idea for an orthotic that suspended his foot, and it worked. He created two prototypes, and was referred to Limb Lab to see if they could build them. This led to us creating an LLC with Limb Lab called FootPact, and now these prototypes are turned into inventions: FootPak and MorthOtic. Gary's idea worked so well that I showed him my box of foot insoles and pads — I think I'd tried every brand on the market — and said, "Can you design something for me?" He said, "I think YOU should design something!" So that's what I did.
What's the "next step" for your product?
We're starting the process of talking to manufacturers. Ideally, we'll find a company that would take it into an over-the-counter product.
What's one thing you've learned from the COVID-19 pandemic?
To appreciate my family. You realize you don't have much time with them. My mom is going to be 95 in a few days, and not being able to see her puts things in perspective.
What might I be surprised to learn about you?
I'm a Midwesterner, but I love parasailing and snorkeling. I'm terrified of heights, but you put a parasail parachute on my back and I'm just in heaven. I think my greatest love is snorkeling. I once saw an octopus. I once counted 50 huge rainbow-colored parrotfish. It's literally another world, the ocean floor.
Jennifer Koski is associate editor at Rochester Magazine. Her column appears Tuesdays. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.