Designing a shoe for Greyhounds.
We were adopted by Hunny the Greyhound in 2018. When she came to us, she presented with a mild limp that came and went. We thought she had a sore shoulder at first, so we massaged her – which she loved – but didn’t fix her limping.
After the first of many vet visits with tests and courses of anti-inflammatory drugs a diagnosis was made. She had corns.
This news brought on many days and nights of researching “greyhounds with corns” and we were staggered with how nasty and prolific they are. We did what every person with this news does, we joined Facebook forums on greyhounds, greyhound foot care; even greyhounds with corns.
There are many conflicting theories as to why greyhounds get corns and why they are the only breed to get them. We have posted a blog by British veterinarian Dr Mike Guilliard who is well versed the subject.
People recommended booties for their greyhounds and we were naturally curious. We bought and tried many sets from Ebay, Etsy and local pet stores when we could find them. They worked to varying degrees, but the fit was dreadful. They twisted around, fell off and generally flapped about. Watching Hunny trying to walk in what were effectively flat mittens was laughable. It was like trying to walk out of the sea wearing swim fins.
Walking in swim fins.
But what was clear was Hunny was able to walk pain-free if her feet were padded.
Out first test on that theory was to cover our tiled floor where she lived with yoga matts, which was an instant success.
Then, after a dinner with too much inspirational wine, we thought “why not glue bits of yoga mats to the soles of her flappy mittens?” The first HunnyBoot prototype was born and worked brilliantly.
However they looked ridiculous.
Where it all started – the first HunnyBoot prototype
Some of our research into dog shoes and booties revealed there was no end of fashionable shoes made for dogs, but they were all for little fluffy dogs and the wrong shape compared to Hunny’s elongated and narrow hoof. We thought this was extremely unfair. Greyhounds are beautiful creatures, so elegant in their stride – why can’t they have beautiful fitted shoes like the little fluffy dogs have?
We knew that if this was going to happen, we had to do it ourselves.
We or rather, I became obsessed with dog feet, but not in a weird way. I continually compared other breeds with Hunny’s feet; traced them, photographed them on the street and parks and always had a positive response to my request of “do you mind if I trace around your German Shepherd's foot?”
We ended up with over fifty individual tracings of the weight-bearing feet of greyhounds, front and back. This gave us a form and shape factor that is the opposite of non-sighthound breeds– a greyhounds foot is wide at the back and narrow at the front in every single instance we traced. ‘Regular’ dogs are the other way around. Greyhounds along with other members of the sighthound family have elongated, or 'hare' feet like rabbits. More importantly, not a single greyhound we traced or captured measurements from had front and back feet the same size. We thought this would be an issue in making shoes.
A greyhound's hare foot with a boxer's knuckles.
We designed a survey looking for width and length dimensions specifically of greyhounds, cross-referenced against a greyhounds weight and sex. We had over 200 responses from a number of our friendly Facebook greyhound groups.
We had the shape and we had the size data. Now we needed a driving inspiration.
Our inspiration came from human sports. Every sport has a shoe designed fit for purpose. We focussed on tennis and running and our moment came when we realised we were dreaming of making "training shoes for greyhound athletes".
The sole had to have grip, but not excessive as a greyhound may stumble and trip with “sticky” soles like a tennis shoe. it had to have texture for stability on smooth and wet surfaces.
The body of the shoe had to be lined and comfy like a sock, but with breathable mesh. It had to fit well and hug the heel, but with a little room in the toe – all the qualities of a good running shoe.
It had to be easy to put on, with a zipper running all the way to the toenail. The zipper needed to be shielded so as to not catch a greyhounds delicate toe skin or hair. It had to fasten firmly around the wrist with a velcro strap, but low enough not to irritate or interfere with a greyhound's dew claw.
With all those requirements met, finally these sports shoes for greyhounds had to look fabulous.
They had to be available in a range of colours to suit the fashionistas as well as the less flamboyant, easily able to be sized and most important; able be ordered in different front and back sizes.
It’s been a long journey and we set ourselves some solid design challenges, but we met them.
Welcome to our world of Hunnyboots.