By Sally Voth - firstname.lastname@example.org
The name says Solely Comfort Footwear, but that doesn't mean fashion has to be missing.
Shari and Dana Kowasic opened the high-end, be-kind-to-your-feet store last fall in the Creekside Station Shopping Center in Kernstown.
Mrs. Kowasic said their primary focus was "fashion-forward footwear, but healthy footwear."
Rather than the "old-lady" orthotic shoes of the past, Solely Comfort offers a variety of flats, sandals, flip-flops, wedges, slides, heels, clogs, athletic shoes and more in a variety of colors and styles.
"We can make your feet look pretty, but also less harmful, too," she said.
Most of the shoes Solely Comfort carries are designed to support the arch of the foot. Orthotics and footbeds to place inside shoes are also sold.
The boutique has a digital foot scanner that gauges arch depth, shoe size and pressure points, Mrs. Kowasic said.
"The computer makes recommendations on the types of orthotic that would be most appropriate for you," she said.
Among the brands the store carries are Jambu, Birkenstock, Ecco, Born, Mephisto, Naot, Aetrex, Taos, Sanita, New Balance, Soft Spots and El Naturalista.
There's a reason women's shoes vastly outnumber men's.
"It's because women like their choices," Mrs. Kowasic said. "Men, it doesn't matter as much. I'm just very proud of the selection we have. We have so many styles. We have a tremendous collection."
More men might be interested in the store in the adjacent shopfront, Battlefield Boots, which the couple just opened a few months ago. It carries work, duty, western and sport boots and shoes.
Kowasic had owned Bull Run Boots in Manassas before moving to Arizona, where he sold various boots and comfort shoes similar to what Solely Comfort sells.
"My forte is this side," he said. "Guys cannot pick stylish shoes for a lady."
Kowasic also had owned a shoe store in Warrenton that was started by his late wife's grandfather, but has since sold it to his son, a fifth-generation cobbler.
Mrs. Kowasic had been working as a registered nurse at Winchester Medical Center before joining her husband in business.
Besides over-the-counter orthotics, the Kowasics can do molds for customization and they can also modify shoes. For instance, they can stretch shoes, including in areas where bunions protrude, can build up the sole of a shoe, can adjust shoes following the amputation of toes, or adjust a shoe to accommodate a brace.
"[We see] lots of customers with plantar fasciitis," Kowasic said. "There's really no arch support [in shoes today]. A lot of them are going barefoot."
They also sell diabetic-certified footwear, as well as specialized insoles and socks for diabetics.
"If you take care of your feet and provide the proper foundation, it translates up the body," Mrs. Kowasic said. "Just makes you feel so much better from your feet up."
Proper alignment and good arch support are beneficial to your ankles, knees, hips and back, she said, and Solely Comfort works closely with physical therapy offices and podiatrists.
Coffee and tea are offered to patrons, the walls are painted in soothing earth tones, classical music wafts through the space and a mural on the back wall features Raphael's cherubs. The Kowasics try to keep the comfortable shoe and the boot stores distinct, with differing decor, and country music playing in the latter store.
Solely Comfort plans to have a trunk show this fall, featuring sneak previews of the Naots line. Customers can then order them at a discounted price, Mrs. Kowasic said.
Her husband credits her for the store's inspiration.
"This was her brainchild," he said. "She came up with a name a year before we even opened up."
The store is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m .to 7 p.m. Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
For more information, visit solelycomfort.com. The store is also on Facebook.