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Brockport inventor develops specialized footwear

by Kari Ashworth - News Editor
Tue, Oct 8th 2019 01:00 pm
Jill Glidden-VerWeire began creating Zip Around Footwear (ZAFS) after her husband suffered a stroke. The shoes are meant to help those who have trouble putting on normal shoes. These ZAFS (above) were modified for a young boy and are youth size 10.
Jill Glidden-VerWeire began creating Zip Around Footwear (ZAFS) after her husband suffered a stroke. The shoes are meant to help those who have trouble putting on normal shoes. These ZAFS (above) were modified for a young boy and are youth size 10.

Jill Glidden-VerWeire has always been a problem solver. When her dog was paralyzed, she made a wheelchair for her to get around. When one of her customer’s husband had a cast on his foot, she created a custom pair of pants that utilized Velcro. When her husband had a stroke and could not control his feet or toes, she created Zip Around Footwear (ZAFS) so her husband could put on shoes without being in too much pain.

“My husband had a stroke and when he would put his foot into a shoe his toes would roll, because he can’t control his feet or his toes,” Glidden-VerWeire said. “So it’s like putting a wet washcloth in and trying to keep its form, it’s not going to happen. And it was quite painful.”

ZAFS is a regular shoe Glidden-VerWeire cuts open and installs a zipper that allows the top of the shoe to lift up. Someone with special needs or foot problems can simply place their foot into the shoe, zip it up and not worry about laces or their foot rolling.

Glidden-VerWeire attempted to buy a pair of boots for her husband, but none worked well for him. She ended up going to Walmart to buy a pair of boots and a zipper, experimenting with cutting and opening up a shoe. 

“I’ve never cut a shoe before,” Glidden-VerWeire said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen; I didn’t know if it was going to split apart, so I cut it and then it opened and it worked just fine. So then I tried it on him and it works so good because you can set the foot in there flat and then zip it and it’s much more comfortable for the person that has foot problems.”

Glidden-VerWeire’s sister Judy Glidden-Sylvester remembers the first pair of ZAFS that was created. Both sisters and Glidden-VerWeire’s daughter hang out on Monday nights, and about two years ago, Glidden-VerWeire was developing the prototype for ZAFS. 

“She was putting together a boot for Mike and when I got over there, she had it cut and the zipper was pinned in there,” Glidden-Sylvester said. “And we were trying to figure out how to fill it without getting ourselves all cut up with the pin, so we took a run up to — I think it was Runnings — and we grabbed a rivet gun, and we started poking holes through the leather and the zipper and we started putting the rivets through the boot. Then she tried another pair and I tried to sew with my hand again, of course that was useless. Then she bought a cobbler sewing machine with a hand crank that she started using to put the zippers into the shoes.”

The business expanded when Glidden-VerWeire asked other people in her life for a pair of their shoes. One of her employees, Trisha, has a son with cerebral palsy, and the shoes helped him. Glidden-VerWeire’s neighbor, Lori Ann Burnett, has a son, Stephen, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after being hit by a car. 

“Stephen has an AFO [ankle-foot orthosis] that he wears on his right foot, it’s bulky and hard, we would squish our fingers trying to shove the foot with the AFO on into his shoes,” Burnett said. “With the zipper, we just place his AFO foot into the shoe and zip, easy peasy.”

Glidden-Sylvester has also benefited from the invention. After Glidden-Sylvester’s bunion surgery, Glidden-VerWeire transformed a pair of her sister’s sneakers into ZAFS to make it easier for her to get her swollen foot into a shoe. 

“Then, as the swelling had gone down and I needed something a little bit more attractive to wear to work than a pair of sneakers, she did a pair of clogs for me, which is one of my favorite pairs of shoes,” Glidden-Sylvester said. “So she put zippers in my clogs so I could unzip the shoes, step my foot in it and zip it up instead of trying to whittle my toes down into a clog.”

Glidden-VerWeire was careful not to post about her invention on social media until she began the process of patenting it. Since then, she has created ZAFS for a multitude of people outside of her family and friends.

Glidden-VerWeire also owns a hair salon, Jill’s Boutique Salon, on Main Street in Brockport, New York. She said it is a challenge running both businesses, but she makes it work and hopes to expand ZAFS in the near future. Her sister would also be open to helping her expand it with her experience in accounting.

If you or someone you know could benefit from Zip Around Footwear, you can visit ziparoundfootwear.com for more information.

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Taken by Vinny Croce:
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