My brother and I are the first in my family to be college graduates. My dad had a retail shoe store on Long Island and his big thing was that he wanted us to have an education and not to go into the shoe business.

I went to NYU and was a music major. Growing up in New York, music was a very strong part of my childhood. I was classically trained in clarinet and piano and I was going to follow that path, but I realized I was a good musician, but not a great musician.

I was fighting in my mind between my right and left brains. I loved creativity but I really craved academics. I realized music was not going to be the thing unless I ended up teaching music, which didn’t really interest me. I was afraid I was getting a degree in something I couldn’t see myself doing for the rest of my life.

I ended up visiting my older brother who was in podiatry school while I was going through this soul-searching. And it came to me — I could see myself becoming a foot doctor.

I’m a very strong visual learner and when I can see myself doing things, it ends up being right. I remember seeing people play tennis and thinking, I could see myself doing this. To this day, I play tennis because of it.

I spend a lot of time being introspective. I have a lot of self-awareness. But it was tough when I was younger — having to tell my parents I’d changed my mind — I’m not going to do what you paid for me to study.

Because they valued education, when I said I wanted to go to school to become a foot doctor, they supported that. And it’s been a very rewarding journey for me. 

Dr. Joan Oloff is a podiatrist-turned-shoe designer. After years of treating women whose feet were damaged by wearing high heel shoes, she created a high fashion luxury shoe that accommodates the structure and function of the human foot, while still maintaining delicate and beautiful lines.