ROCKPORT STEPPING INTO NEW HIGH HEELS;MIRABEL LINE USES REFLEXOLOGY IN HOLISTIC PITCH TO BUYERS

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Rockport Co., synonymous with casual and comfortable footwear, will do something this fall it hasn't done in years-introduce a women's high heel.

It also will go where it has never gone before: using reflexology as a hook in the marketing message.

THE NEW MIRABEL

Called the Mirabel, the shoe has a seal of approval from the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society and claims to be the only high heel with that distinction.

Linda Lewi, VP-brand marketing for Rockport, estimated the marketing budget at $2 million for fall alone. Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, will handle.

A subsidiary of Reebok International, Rockport will use a holistic pitch for the Mirabel, along with the rest of its spring 1997 line. The marketer regularly offers foot massages and reflexology treatments in its retail stores.

"Foot comfort is connected to total mind and body health," said Ms. Lewi. "We have a new comfort attitude."

Easy Spirit, now a division of Nine West Group, introduced comfortable heels to women with their "looks like a pump, feels like a sneaker" campaign almost nine years ago. But the company never ventured into reflexology and has no immediate plans to do so, said VP-Marketing Randy Scott.

Reflexology is a form of alternative medicine based on the theory that massaging certain areas of the hands or feet can relieve pain in other parts of the body.

REEBOK'S ENTRY

Rockport isn't the only shoe marketer using a reflexology message. Reebok's print ad for its Roadwalker DMX depicts a small cartoonlike illustration of a foot representing a reflexology chart.

Sideout Sport introduced its Reflexaa sandal about a year ago and has the exclusive rights to a patented insole featuring nodules that are supposed to hit specific pressure points on the feet.

"We have made no claims based on what this sandal can do for you; kind of like taking an aspirin-sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't," said Carol Lovely, Sideout's chief financial officer.

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