“Being Friendly means helping others. That we listen to our customers’ needs and are accommodating, that we’re helping people become more independent and active,” explains Friendly Shoes founder and President Joseph DiFrancisco. “Anyone should feel welcome in our shoes.”
After 10 years as an occupational therapist and seeing his patients suffer in inferior shoes, DiFrancisco joined up with Edwin Lee and Ryan Garcia to build a business around his new adaptive footwear design. Since then, it has changed the lives of countless individuals, allowing them a freedom many take for granted: putting on their shoes. A shoe that helps seniors and the disabled regain, maintain, and expand their independence.
Oh, and it looks good, too. While the accessories market has previously offered two very different options (medical v. fashion), Joseph, Edwin, and Ryan have found a safe, simple, comfortable, and stylish way to fuse the two.
any other shoe
The team explains that the biggest challenge to creating an adaptive shoe is the multitude of physical and neurological conditions to address and they’re all different. Joseph used his 10 years of experience as an occupational therapist to design a solution that helps a majority of them
“We created our tech to accommodate not only putting the shoe on, but also the activity they’re engaging in,” says Joseph. But as he explains it, “Making a product is one thing. Making a business is another. And these guys have made it happen.”
Edwin, VP of Research & Development, says they’ve delved into the adaptive community, aka “the hidden market” as they ramped up R&D. “We want people to feel comfortable, and ‘comfort’ has two meanings here: physical but also social—that you can wear our shoes out in social settings without stigma.”
After taking time to research sustainable manufacturing and labor practices--they landed in Brazil--the three launched the brand online in July of 2019 with a physical pop-up before securing permanent retail space in San Diego. They’ve been pleasantly surprised with a larger customer base than originally anticipated.
“When I designed this shoe, I made it with individuals with disability in mind, but I’ve been surprised how well we’ve done for ability,” says Joseph. “When we first opened our pop-up shop, a girl in her 20s came in, liked the ease and the look and bought a pair. We all looked at each other, completely shocked. We call it ‘the shoe for all abilities.’ It’s just easier. People like things easier.”
The three spend a lot of time working together and alongside their customers, most of whom they know on a first name basis, working together and alongside their customers, most of whom they know on a first-name basis. “This shoe was created by the people,” says Joseph. “We rely on their feedback to constantly get better.”
“There are infinite brands and footwear options out there, but we solve more footwear challenges than any other shoe,” says Ryan. “We are determined to create something so unique that we don’t have competitors. By focusing on helping others, that’s how we stand out from the noise.”
Breathe Easy Inner Lining
Friction-reducing material for breathability and callus formation
Fashionable pull tab that enables adaptability for everyone
Beveled design to optimize heel strike during walking and prevent slips
CSCB Gold Level Sustainable Leather
Hand-crafted, durable top grain leather with Friendly consideration of the manufacturers and the environment
Anti-Slip Rubber Outsole
Outsole blended for the perfect Friendly balance of comfort and traction
Cloud Cushion Midsole
Proprietary EVA midsole to optimize balance during walking and daily tasks