High heels are uncomfortable but stylish. Flat shoes are more comfortable but less dressy. So Haley Pavone, a 23-year-old entrepreneur, created Pashion Footwear, a line of shoes that quickly convert from one to the other. They're available for purchase beginning this week.

A couple of years ago, Pavone was out dancing when she had an all-too-common experience: She had just removed her own high heels and was dancing barefoot in a crowd when a woman next to her stepped on her foot with a stiletto heel. The stiletto actually impaled her foot, she says.

Pavone already knew, as most women do, that high heels, though a desired and sometimes required fashion accessory, are both uncomfortable and bad for your health. As a junior in California Polytechnic State University's business program with a concentration in entrepreneurship, Pavone set out to solve this conundrum by creating shoes that could easily convert from stylish high heels to still-stylish-but-decidedly-more-comfortable flats.

Pashion's patented design involves a heel that can easily be removed or locked in place with a twist, along with what the company calls a "stelo"--a support that runs the length of the sole to keep the shoe rigid when it's high-heeled, and that is removed along with the heel, allowing the flat shoe to bend as the wearer walks. The shoes were designed with a team of shoe designers who'd worked at companies like Nike, Ariat, and Keen. The shoes are available in a few different styles and colors on the Pashion website and at some Hudson Bay stores. 

$1.7 million seed fund

To create the Pashion shoe, Pavone teamed up with an industrial designer and mechanical engineer, won several pitch competitions, and got into Cal Poly's HotHouse incubator program. With a patent and 3-D-printed prototype in hand, Pavone launched a Kickstarter campaign, but then withdrew it and instead invited people to preorder the first 200 pairs directly from the company website. Before it pulled the plug on the campaign, Pashion had raised about $38,000 of its Kickstarter goal of $100,000. Fortunately, Pavone also successfully pitched investors and raised $1.7 million in a seed round. That was enough to bring her first two styles to market in black now, with more styles and colors planned for the fall. The shoes are priced at $165, and come with a drawstring bag for holding the heels and stelos or flat heel caps when not in use.

I've argued on this website that smart women, especially those who want to be able to walk from place to place and also to run in case they encounter danger, should give up their high heels altogether and that now is the time to do it. A newly empowered movement against gender bias and fashion trends that seem to favor flats for now have combined to create an opportunity for women who want to stop wearing high heels altogether to do so. At the same times, the Philippines and the Canadian province British Columbia have made it illegal for employers to require that women wear high heels, and a court in the U.K. has ruled that a company that dismissed a female receptionist for not wearing heels acted illegally. So I, personally, would love to see more women dressed for work or for an elegant evening out wearing flats.

That said, I recognize that many women like wearing heels at least some of the time because they like the way they look, and have managed to avoid or overcome any discomfort. If that describes you, and especially if you care about the health of your feet, then Pashion shoes could be a really good idea.