These Easy-To-Wear Shoes With Zips Are Made For Those With Special Needs & Disabilities

Changing lives, one step at a time.

Cover image via ZIPZAP (Provided to SAYS)

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Do you ever stop to think about the simple act of putting on shoes?

For many of us, it's as easy as 1-2-3, but for some, it's a challenging task.

That's where ZIPZAP comes into play, and they're on a mission to make life easier for Malaysians.

Meet the dynamic duo behind ZIPZAP — Valerie Yentl Tan, 30, and Joanna Hutt, 35, who are both passionate physiotherapists at The Energy Source.

The idea sprouted in late 2020 when Hutt stumbled upon BILLY Footwear. What's so special about these shoes? They've got a zipper that makes putting them on a breeze.

Valerie Yentl Tan (left) and Joanna Hutt, the founders of ZIPZAP.

Image via ZIPZAP (Provided to SAYS)

Hutt realised that this ingenious feature could make a world of difference for her dad, who uses a wheelchair. But that's not all — these shoes have also been highly beneficial for kids with special needs and disabilities.

Tan shared with SAYS that many of their clients struggle to find suitable shoes to wear. Some have even resorted to getting custom-made orthotic inserts, but they find it challenging to utilise them effectively, limiting their opportunities to practise walking. 

The shoes from BILLY Footwear are designed with a zip that goes along the outside and around the toe, allowing them to slip on and off with ease

And they can even be worn by kids and adults who wear orthotics or foot braces.

ZIPZAP offers a selection of styles and models tailored to those with orthotics, movement disabilities, motor delays, and more.

Wearing BILLY Footwear comes with a host of other benefits, like better foot health, increased joint stability, improved biomechanics, and enhanced muscle tone.

Plus, the shoes are made with a "universal design", making them suitable for anyone, regardless of age.

ZIPZAP also offers Surestep orthotics, a patented, dynamic bracing system that helps late walkers and those who have never walked before take their very first steps

These orthotics provide stability to children with flat feet or low muscle tone, allowing them to walk, run, and jump.

"Unlike Surestep Orthotics, custom-made orthotics are of different shapes and sizes. They can also be incredibly thick," Tan explained. So, finding a shoe that is the right length, width, and style an be challenging. Fortunately, with Surestep, Tan shared that they have not had any issues so far.

Both BILLY Footwear and Surestep Orthotics originate from the US, and ZIPZAP imports them to Malaysia, making it more convenient for Malaysians to purchase the products.

The greatest reward for Tan and Hutt is witnessing children, from toddlers to kids, standing independently or taking their first steps

"We have had a number of parents bringing their children to us saying that they can't walk. Using Surestep, these children have achieved these milestones and more," Tan revealed.

"Another adult came to us to purchase shoes and broke down in tears. She always had to buy her shoes four times bigger than her feet to accommodate her orthotics, which made it incredibly difficult and dangerous to walk. 

"With the BILLY footwear, she felt much more stable and supported. She was able to achieve foot clearance and walk with a better gait pattern."

Tan hopes that ZIPZAP will be able to cater to more people in need, especially those from lower income families who cannot afford it

During the peak of the pandemic, the team organised a fundraiser and provided numerous pairs of shoes to B40 families in need who couldn't afford them.

"We hope to do more fundraising efforts in the future to be able to provide shoes to B40 families who can't afford them.

"We have seen BILLY footwear transform lives and boost confidence and self-esteem. You may think it is a small thing to don your own shoes, or something a lot of us take for granted, but for some, it allows independence and can change their life!" she added.

You can find out more about ZIPZAP here.

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