About Us


“We create special featured footwear for consumers that have special ambulatory needs which are not addresses by footwear which is available from the retail community”.

Specialty Footwear International (SFI) was founded on the ideas stated in our mission statement, and we have stayed loyal to that mission throughout our existence.

At SFI, we recognized that there are certain markets that remain dramatically underserved as it relates to footwear that is suitable for the work individuals in these markets do. We do not compete in the retail market and it is not our intention to attempt to compete in the “low price” marketplace. By staying above this fray, we can focus solely on creating footwear programs for people that need special features in the footwear that they buy. SFI is the foremost designer of “specialty” shoes in the country. We do not make or sell shoes which you would find in the normal retail channels. Our products are designed specifically for use in markets where the regular “off the shelf” brands and styles are just not good enough.

Al Melillo, the President and CEO of our company, was the director of sales and marketing for a Fortune 500 company for 18 years and worked about 10 trade shows a year. From there he started his own manufacturers sales agency, in the automotive aftermarket and worked 8 to 10 national shows and 10 to 15 local and regional trade shows each year. Melillo constantly suffered foot and back pain, caused by the long hard hours of standing in place as an exhibitor and walking many miles each day as an attendee at each trade show. After 37 years of dealing with these issues, solving the foot pain issue became an obsession for Melillo.

When Melillo sold his company (2000) he decided to take advantage of a connection with some relatives in Italy who had been in the footwear business for three generations. He wanted to see if it would be possible to create shoes for trade show exhibitors, and others who were on their feet for most of their work day, that could actually eliminate the traditional foot pain. To give them the needed background, Melillo brought some of the Italians over to the USA and had them work a couple of trade shows with him and also studied some other occupations such as the mechanic and teaching professions. They found out first hand about the foot pain generated by regularly being on your feet all day and had a good idea of what could be done to build a shoe that could truly eliminate foot pain.

Once the Italians worked the trade shows, they knew what it would take to eliminate foot pain, but even armed with first hand information, it took three years to find the components needed to create a shoe that could do the job. The shoes would require four important design features, which would have the ability to truly eliminate foot pain:


The 1st step was to be able to create an outsole that had the ability to eliminate a high percentage of the “heel strike”, (this is the contact between the heel of the foot and the floor which creates most of the foot discomfort), from every step and still allow perfect balance when standing in place. After a lot of trial and error, we came up with an outsole that can eliminate over 90% of the heel strike between the heel of the foot and the actual floor. This outsole is so unique that it has been patented by SFI. We call it the “virtual floor”.


The 2nd step was the need for a special pocket to house the foot inside of the shoe. The objective here was to create a pocket that could conform to the exact dimensions of any foot after a short amount of time. To form this pocket they created a special duplex of leathers that have the ability to actually “form fit” to the foot after about an hour of wear and create a pocket much like a cocoon. This allows the foot to rest in an ultra soft pocket of the finest leather, which is the exact size and shape of the outer dimensions of the foot. This has become the “comfort pocket”.


The 3rd component that was a must was the need to find an insert that could tie the first two features together. We now have exclusive rights to our version of this insert, which we call the “body posture insert.” This insert makes it possible for the wearer to stand all day on heavy carpet without losing balance, but an unwanted result of standing on heavy carpet is that it usually produces back pain. This insert also tends to help the wearer to stand more upright, which causes the feet and legs to endure less stress, resulting in less pressure on the back.

CUSTOM CLOSURE COMPONENT (in lace up designs only)

In order to ensure that the perfect fit could be maintained even when the feet swell and contract, a very special closure system was created. This closure system allows there to be a small amount of “stretch” in each of the other components and also creates a closure system that brings all of the components together from the sole upward which allows the frontal opening to be laced with all of the pressure of the components forced back to the base of the shoe. This custom closure can be adjusted by the wearer for those times when the feet may swell or contract a half size or more. In addition, the custom closure system can self adjust to small changes in the feet. Every component of the custom closure system is unique in design and some of the materials used to create this component are proprietary.

These four components come together to make the most comfortable dress shoe ever designed.

The retail footwear industry deals in style and fashion. Comfort is really not in their vocabulary. They do not intentionally try to make uncomfortable shoes, but comfort is not at the top of the list. Style and fashion is what sells footwear. Our shoes on the other hand must eliminate foot and back discomfort first, then and only then did we make them look good.

Our shoes, for both men and women, are good looking and look especially great with business casual and formal business attire. This is especially important for those who favor running shoes for comfort at trade shows, but need to balance comfort with professionalism. Business to business trade shows are still where professionals meet with other professionals and the exhibitors and attendees needed to look professional in their business casual attire.

SFI soon realized that more people could benefit from our shoes than just those who work at trade shows. Those people include, but are not limited to:

  • Auto Mechanics and Technicians
  • Medical Professionals – doctors, dentists, vets, nurses, hospital workers
  • Retail Sale People – anyone working in the retail market place
  • Salon Professionals – Beauticians, barbers, salon workers, cosmetologists
  • Restaurant Waite/Staff – waters, waitresses, buss people
  • Security and Police Groups – law enforcement and security personnel
  • Flight Attendants – all flight attendants, all airlines
  • Bank Tellers
  • Floor traders
  • Business men and women who are on their feet all day every day
  • Teachers and professors
  • And many other occupations

In short, any consumer that makes their living standing or walking on their feet for the majority of their workday would benefit from wearing the dress shoes and work shoes from Specialty Footwear International.

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