FORMER Leeds man Michael Stead is saving damsels in distress after producing the world's first machine-vended shoes to soothe stiletto-wearers' soles while they're out on the town.
The 39-year-old chartered engineer who specialises in aerospace and medical products is now nicknamed Michael Shoomaker by his mates. He sells his fold-up ballerina-style pumps in former cigarette vending machines in nightclubs across the country and sold out of all 100 pairs at the recent launch of afterheels at Oceana, Leeds.
He was inspired to create the innovative footwear after seeing girl friends injured because they'd walked barefoot rather than remain in high heel hell – or who ended up bed-ridden with blisters after wearing feet-numbing heels for too long.
Michael, originally from Morley, said: "There's been a fantastic response – one girl proposed to me in Leeds, she was so impressed."
He added: "The main thing is that I'm protecting girls' feet.
"I had to carry a girl into A&E once with her foot gashed open and I don't like to see girls in distress."
He realised an alternative "emergency" pair would have spared her tears but looking at the small clutch bags carried by most girls, he realised spare shoes would need to be tiny.
Michael set about designing disposable shoes that can be squeezedinto a box the size of a pack of 20 cigarettes, knowing vending machines in pubs and clubs were facing a drop in sales because of the smoking ban.
And he realised selling them from a machine was ideal as most girls would buy them while they were clubbing, rather than beforehand, for immediate relief when their feet started to sting. He interviewed hundreds of women to find out what they wanted from a shoe they could slip on when their glamorous pair started to hurt.
No one wanted to pay through the nose for standby shoes, so he had to make them compact, comfy, with protection against stones and glass, all for under 5.
They even come with a handy duffle bag to put the uncomfortable shoes in and are made entirely in England from sustainable, natural, biodegradable and recyclable materials.
His Shoomaker ballerina pumps, afterheels, went on sale in May with a first order of 3,000 pairs.
They are now available from clubs nationwide, as well as from www.afterheels.com and eBay.
He has a worldwide patent pending and Michael is hoping that eventually his creations could be saving women's feet around the globe.