Wardrobe: Sure Footing

When Michael Toschi worked for Reebok in the early 1990s, he helped create progressive sneaker technology such as built-in air pumps and a trampoline heel system that balanced and cushioned the foot as one walked. Later, as cofounder of the Ariat equestrian boot brand, Toschi designed for the boots’ arches a fork-shaped carbon-fiber shank that is lighter and more resilient than metal, yet still retains the gently curved shape of the sole.

In 1998, the California shoemaker debuted his own collection of men’s dress and casual footwear, which incorporated many of the fit and comfort innovations he had conceived during his 25 years in the sneaker and boot businesses. Toschi’s latest development, CarbonLite Ionet Suspension (CIS), is essentially a chunky, curved rubber sole with a hollow center. Unlike the flat sole that most makers of comfort shoes use, CIS features solid rubber interior columns and hollow suspension pillars that move with and cushion the foot’s bones and ligaments. “This is the first foot support system not based on foam,” says Toschi, who also replaced the standard flat interior footbed liner with a piece of sculpted carbon fiber to distribute body weight more evenly and reduce fatigue. Toschi compares walking on the foam system to standing on a pillow. “It may feel soft, but you’re always balancing on an unstable surface,” he says. Most Toschi designs also include a lasting board, an extra layer sandwiched between the sole and the footbed liner, which is filled with charcoal to wick away perspiration and reduce odor.

Toschi’s footwear sometimes may appear more cumbersome and less refined than other Italian-made men’s lace-ups and loafers, but producing fashionable footwear is not his primary objective. “I call my shoes performance luxury [footwear] because luxury is no longer enough,” he says. “They also have to feel good.”

Recently, Toschi applied his novel design concepts to clothing. His Zero leather jacket, for example, includes a ventilation system that pumps air through the armhole and out the back to provide insulation while preventing perspiration, and his new Moto jacket has shoulder and elbow armor that is removable, allowing for an easy conversion from motorcycle jacket to fashion piece. Each belt in Toschi’s new collection has a concealed perforated strip of thermoplastic urethane that connects the leather strap to the buckle. When you sit, the strip, and thus the belt, expands slightly.

“There’s a lot of thought behind the performance aspects of all my products,” says Toschi, who is about to launch his first collection of dress shoes featuring leather, rather than rubber, soles. The new collection, he says, will retain the “puritanical technical philosophy of the brand” by incorporating carbon-fiber footbeds. While he acknowledges they will not have the same traction and water repellency as his rubber-soled shoes, he adds, “A guy can’t really go to an elegant event like a wedding and dance in rubber-soled shoes.”

Michael Toschi, 877.686.7244, www.toschi.com

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