Girls rejoice! Salvation has arrived in the form of biodegradable ballet flats dispensed from venue vending machines as an antidote to the agony of wearing heels on a Big Night Out. As we breathe a collective sigh of relief, we ask “Why did no one think of this before?”

Our thanks go to Michael Stead, British inventor, who came up with the idea after a friend's holiday was ruined following a heel-related misadventure. After conducting careful consultation with podiatrists and hundreds of traumatized women, he concluded that what was needed was a post-heel flat shoe that would look great, be comfortable, provide sufficient protection from broken glass or other sharps, fit in a handbag, and cost very little.

Adding his own conscientious desire for the product to biodegrade, and with the help of some aerospace and military scientists, Michael created Afterheels – a small shoe with a natural material waterproof outer layer that biodegrades in the same time as an oak leaf, and a soft, protective flock-lined insole made from locally sourced and manufactured recyclable #5 polypropylene.

They even come with a mini duffel bag made from a low density polyethylene (LDPE) for you to carry your heels home in, and Afterheels aims to start a returns scheme for people in those areas that cannot recycle plastic #5. The company is also looking into a greener alternative to the LDPE.

Michael Stead, known as Michael Shoomaker to his friends, uses old cigarette vending machines to deploy the ballet flats in a box the same size as a cigarette carton. You can buy Afterheels direct, or from machines ready installed in UK nightclubs in Birmingham, Cambridge, Leeds, Nottingham and Sheffield for the modest sum of £5 (US$8).

Michael, we salute you.