What’s the Point?

From the very beginning of Unshoes, we’ve had a strong sense of purpose (most companies call it a mission statement). It drives everything we do. While it is very important to us, I’ve realized that we have never actually articulated and shared it publicly. Part of the reason is that like everything else we’re working on, the little details are continuously evolving to meet the demands of the changing world and the “climate” that surrounds us. So with that in mind, here it is, this is why we do everything we do:

The purpose of Unshoes is to allow the feet to function as designed with as little intervention as possible.

The purpose of Unshoes is to allow the feet to function as designed with as little intervention as possible.

As a business, our mission or purpose entails the following:

• Provide footwear that allows the feet to function as designed with as little intervention as possible

• Provide footwear that is simple, and easy to use and adjust

• Provide footwear that is aesthetically pleasing, stylish, and works well for both sexes

• Provide durable products with a long life, that can be used for a variety of activities

• Meticulously reduce waste, increase efficiency, and utilize human creativity to allow us to keep production local and provide domestic jobs

• Create business growth to provide better products and resources for customers and employees

• Increase, in some small way, the economic value of our country, state, and community

• Do everything we can to reduce negative environmental impacts on the environment

• Encourage positive change in the world by encouraging people to move, and think outside of any “norms” that are limiting (or outside the box)

Some of you may read these and see areas where we have failed or fallen short. This isn’t meant to be a list of accomplishments, but a set of goals in which we are working towards. We do make mistakes and we realize that but we are constantly working toward improvement!

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Introducing the Uinta!

UPDATE: The Uinta is now available. Check it out on our website!

They say that there is a little truth in every joke. In our case, there was a lot of truth. It all started out as a joke between us in Unshoes workshop. The idea to create a new model like the Pah Tempe but with a loop for the toe has been knocked around here for years. I first started thinking about it about 3 years ago but didn’t do anything about it until I hacked into one of my sandals and put in a toe loop. It was OK… The problem was getting it so that the loop could be adjusted. I also wanted it to be optional. While discussing it, we started joking about what we would call it since it was essentially a combination of the Wokova design and the Pah Tempe design. We got some entertaining combinations such as the Pahkova and the Wotempe. Although everyone was joking, our production manager took it more seriously. He stopped what he was doing and made a crazy looking sandal that zig zagged over the foot like the Pah Tempe and had a main toe strap just like the Wokova that wrapped around the back of the foot. It was interesting but didn’t exactly do what he wanted. When he took his lunch break inspiration struck. He said, “I was just sitting there eating my sandwich and it all came to me!” He came back and made a very cool looking sandal that was much closer to what I envisioned in the first place. It was made with the narrower webbing that we use on our Wokova Feather sandals. The design was fairly simple and included a toe loop and straps that wrap around the back of the foot much like our Wokova/Feather models.

Nick Atkin, our Production Manager, and mastermind behind the Uinta design enjoys one of his many tests of the sandal in Zion National Park, UT.

Nick Atkin, our Production Manager, and mastermind behind the Uinta design enjoys one of his many tests of the sandal in Zion National Park, UT.

It was an instant hit! Everyone that saw it wanted a pair. However, there were a few technical challenges associated with the design. When I first designed the Pah Tempe model I had a similar challenge. I originally wanted the straps to wrap around the foot like the Wokova but found that the foot would “drift” forward or backward. The Uinta didn’t do it to the same degree but if we took it up a steep hill, your foot would just come right out the back of the sandal. We needed a fixed heel strap. We experimented with making it closer to the Pah Tempe but it got rather complicated quickly and became more difficult to adjust and get on/off. It took a lot of testing and prototypes but we eventually found that if we just used a heel strap from our Sleek model and actually wrapped the narrower webbing through it so that it goes around the back of the foot but also keeps the foot from drifting back, it all worked.Unshoes Uinta

Because of the toe loop, the Uinta is an incredibly stable sandal making it good for rough terrain and water sports. Despite the rugged nature, it is also a very nice looking sandal that works well for both men and women. The trade off is that it is a little more difficult to get on/off. Because of that, it will be offered with a quick release buckle that can be adjusted and then quickly snapped on and off. Here is a quick overview of the pros and cons of this model.

• Stable & Rugged
• Stylish
• Toe strap is optional so sandals can be worn with socks if needed
• Versatile
• Simple to adjust
• Lightweight/Packable

• Doesn’t slip on/off as easily as our other models
• Holds rocks and debris between foot and sole more than our other models
• Toe loop could be uncomfortable for some people

One of the big tests we ran was a backpacking trip in the High Uinta mountain range in northern Utah including a summit to Kings Peak at 13,528 ft. The Uinta mountain range is named for the Uinta tribe of Americans native to this area and fits in with our tradition of naming our sandals after Native people and places. Also, we felt that the rugged and stable design of the sandal fit the wild nature of the mountain range.

Kings Peak, Uinta mountain range

The namesake of the Uinta is the High Uinta Mountains in Northern Utah.

The Uinta will be available to purchase on our website by June 21st. The price is not yet finalized.

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What I learned about kids sandals from slacklining

See the guy on the far right? Yeah, he didn't make it...

See the guy on the far right? Yeah, he didn’t make it…

When minimal footwear first became a “thing”, many people were upset by the fact that minimal shoes cost more than standard shoes. They assumed that since there was actually less shoe, the cost should be less as well. However, we can tell you from experience that the cost is not so much in the materials as it is in the labor of putting the shoes together. We have found that the thinner the sole, the more difficult and complex the shoe is to build. Also, shoe factories were set up to make shoes a certain way and when minimal footwear companies threw in something totally different, it changes the whole process and costs more money to produce. Although we make all our own sandals in house, the same holds true for us. Making minimal shoes is difficult! We tell people that it is much like walking on a tight rope, (or slackline). If you shift only a little bit one way or the other then a mistake is made. it is easy to overcompensate. Shoes with thicker soles have a lower margin for error and also less waste.

Unfortunately, this principle holds true for kids sandals. The smaller the sandal, the more difficult and costly it is for us to make them. Despite this, we have continued to offer kids sandals at a lower price. We are parents. We get it. It is hard to find good minimal shoes/sandals for our children and you don’t want to pay $100 for something that they’ll grow out of, wear down, or loose in a few months to a year. We want parents to have the opportunity to get sandals for their kids but at the same time, we would cringe every time we saw a kids order. They took a lot of time out of our normal process, they were very difficult to make, and they cost us about twice as much money as we were selling them for. That just isn’t a sustainable business model!!!

Lastly, we were lacking in standardized systems and organization for the kids models. We always had this idea to improve the designs and process but we were always so busy just trying to get them done and out the door that we never had a chance to do it. This was not only taking away from the quality of the kids shoes but from the overall business. Everything was suffering because of it.

Another lesson I learned on a slackline is that if you loose control, it’s better to jump off and land on your feet so you can try again rather than falling out of control and getting injured. It was a difficult decision, but we decided that it would be better to temporarily put the kids line on hold, take the time we need to revamp the kids designs, standardize the production, and develop better systems for making sandals for children. While working on the new designs we have the following goals:

1. Keep them minimal  to allow for natural movement and development
2. Make them easier for parents and children to get on and off
3. Simplify them and make them faster for us to produce
4. Create a model for kids that doesn’t have a strap between the toes
5. Make them durable enough to hold up to the high amount of activity of children
6. Keep prices reasonable

At the time we don’t have an estimated timeline on the project but we will work on it as quickly as possible.

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Why I like Mondays

Everyone here at Unshoes thinks that I am crazy. Well they may be right, but one of the reasons is because I like Mondays. I get to rest through the weekend (or at least on Sundays), reflect on how my week went and then get up Monday morning and take another shot. It’s like a fresh new start every single week! If it was a bad week then I have another chance to make the next one better. If it was a good week then I try to duplicate the good and add improvements. Maybe it comes with the added responsibility of running a company, or maybe I am a little crazy. Maybe it takes a little crazy to run a company! Either way, I find work much more fulfilling when I think of Mondays as another chance to do better.

I’ve never been that crazy over New Year celebrations. When I was young I liked the excuse to stay up late but now that I’m older I look for an excuse to go to bed! However, after reflecting on the business each year, I have come to realize that the New Year is like a really big Monday! It is a chance to look back and count the successes of the past year and look for ways to improve. We’ve had our share of ups and downs (especially during our very busy summer season). We have learned a lot and we have acquired some tools to help the next year to be a success. One of the major points of improvement have been our production method. It has been a challenge to keep quality up and also make the sandals using a system that allows us to keep up with demand. We have purchased some equipment and developed a good system that should keep production humming along all year.

One point that needs to be improved is our Wildflower line that we introduced via Kickstarter. The idea was great but we simply were not ready to embark on that journey. I bit off more than I could chew and it has come back to bite me. One of the main goals I have for this upcoming year is to set that in better order.

Despite our problems, we have been able to learn a lot and have taken a big step forward and the rare art of sandal making. As usual, I like to announce a few exciting things that are coming up in the following year.

1. Design improvement.
Some of you know that we have gone through a series of changes. It all started with an attempt to keep up with demand and have more of the sandal pre-made beforehand. We used screws to keep the straps onto the top of the sole. It didn’t work. We switched to rivets and that worked out better but it was still uncomfortable. Eventually we got a new sole material and changed the strap attachment so that they were sandwiched between two layers. This has been great! With a few exceptions… We still have rivets. They don’t look good and they are not comfortable. We have been testing different ways to attach the straps so that they are secure and durable enough that we can ditch the rivets altogether. We found a good method and as of today, all new orders will be made without rivets.

Here is the 2015 version of the Wokova Feather with the 4mm sole and the standard footbed. As you can see, there are no straps, rivets, screws, cords, plugs, or anything else on the bottom of the sole. Nothin' but rubber!

The 2015 version of the Wokova Feather with the 4mm sole and the standard footbed. As you can see, there are no straps, rivets, screws, cords, plugs, or anything else on the bottom of the sole. Nothin’ but rubber!

Here is the 2015 version of the Pah Tempe with the 6mm sole and the Ultra footbed. As you can see, there are no straps, rivets, screws, cords, plugs, or anything else on the bottom of the sole. Nothin' but rubber!

Here is the 2015 version of the Pah Tempe with the 6mm sole and the Ultra footbed. As you can see, there are no straps, rivets, screws, cords, plugs, or anything else on the bottom of the sole. Nothin’ but rubber!

Another change is that we are replacing the webbing on our Wokova and PT Sleek models.  (more info on this below…).

2. Retail
Now that we have our production method down so that it is more efficient, we are going to start offering our sandals to retail stores. We will start with a few select stores that are aligned with our philosophies. This is an exciting and somewhat scary change for us but we think it will help us ride through our slowest time of year… (right now!)

3. New Model
We have been so busy that designing a new model was not in the plans… but when inspiration strikes, it shouldn’t be ignored. I came in to the shop one day and Nick, our Production Manager, was running around the shop like a kid on Christmas morning! He had the idea and made a prototype on the spot. The new model will be introduced a little bit later on. We still have some work to do before it is ready. It does have a name but we’re going to wait until it is all ready to announce :) It is rugged enough for serious adventures but stylish enough to wear every day.

This doesn’t happen very often but we are going to have another sale. As mentioned above, we are going to change the webbing on the Wokova and PT Sleek models. So we are going to put those models on sale for 20% off regular price and use up as much of the cut webbing as possible. When the new webbing arrives offer a new and improved version of the Wokova and PT Sleek. (No discount code needed.)

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30% off Unshoes

Every now and again we get emails asking if we are going to offer any sales or promotions in the near future. Unfortunately, the answer is usually no. We rarely offer sales/promotions. Our product is made in the USA and isn’t cheap to produce. Our philosophy is that we would prefer to offer our sandals as low as we can all the time.

However, every year before the holidays we like to put our sandals on sale. It is nice to get a good deal every now and then! What we don’t like is the hard marketing push towards consumerism that we get used to this time of year. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or whatever other clever names they are coming up with are just not our cup of tea. In my opinion, the concept of giving away a product at a good price but only for a couple of hours to rush people into purchases just isn’t wholesome. It might be good for sales (for products that are normally marked up very high normally) in the short term but it really just sends the message that the products are cheap and contributes to commercializing important holidays.

Our sale started this morning and will run through the weekend. We don’t want to rush you but it is rare that you’ll see this kind of discount on our sandals. Order your Unshoes here.

Annual Unshoes Holiday Sale going on now!

Annual Unshoes Holiday Sale going on now!

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Join our Ambassador program!

We are just rolling out with an ambassadorship program here at Unshoes! We would like to introduce you our first official Ambassador, Arianne (or Ari) Brown.

This is Ari after running 14 miles across frozen Utah Lake.

This is Ari after running 14 miles across frozen Utah Lake.

Ari is not only one of the best and most humble runners I’ve met, she is an active member of the community, a mother of 6 children, talented writer, and an overall awesome person! She has been dominating local marathons for years. She started trail running and has recently started running ultras as well.

We will be looking for more ambassadors so we invite you to check out our program.

Do you love your Unshoes?

Are you active in some kind of outdoor/heath sport or practice?

Do you have an audience? (social media, blog, events, etc., etc.)

Do you want free sandals and pro deals with us and our partners?

If so then we invite you to contact us for more information on our program by shooting us an email at info@unshoesusa.com. Make sure to put something about the ambassador program in the subject line. We’ll send you an email with some more questions to get to know you better.

In case you are wondering, here are a few questions we anticipate from people so read below for a short FAQ.

1. Do I have to be a runner? 
NO!!! In fact, we will be looking for a variety of people who participate in other activities that may be related to sandals, outdoors, or health/wellness. A few examples may be river guides, serious backpacker, or yoga instructor.

2. If I am a runner, do I have to run fast?
No, we will be looking for good runners but that doesn’t always mean fast. Some attributes that we will look for are runners that are active in the community and social media, have an overall good attitude, and show a sense of balance in life.

3. Can I apply even if I don’t own a pair of Unshoes?
No, as an ambassador you will be representing our company and our products. To keep it real, we want real customers to represent us.

4. What if the sport I participate in doesn’t have organized events such as races where I can promote the sandals?
You can go ahead and contact us anyway. We’ll take a look at what you do and what your sport entails. If we feel the need to make an exception then we will.

5. Do we need to use social media as an ambassador?
Yes. One of the requirements is to regularly post content about Unshoes on social media.

6. I just want a free handout, can I ask to be an ambassador?
Uh, no, we are the wrong organization for that! You’ll have to look elsewhere.

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2014 version, A New Generation of Unshoes

The basic concept at the heart of Unshoes designs is the dynamic mix between ancient huarache type designs and contemporary sport sandals. The idea is to take the best of both worlds. We have been happy to offer a huarache inspired minimalist sandal that keeps the straps up off the ground. We used screws to attach the straps to the top of the soles. They worked great at first but we found that they were prone to coming unthreaded or ripping out of the sole. We made the switch to rivets which have held up much better than the screws. However, there was still one big thing that never sat right with us. It was the fact that this design narrowed the area of the sole more than we would have liked. Especially with the Wokova and PT Sleek models. The straps are pretty thick and it makes a “lump” that could be rather uncomfortable if you stepped on it.  Meanwhile, we’ve been testing a myriad of non-slip surfaces to add to the soles to keep them from being so slippery. The bare, smooth rubber tends to get slippery when wet. We got samples of many different materials and tested them.

imageWhile working on these issues, we discovered that we could solve both issues with one solution. Our favorite footbed was EVA foam stamped with a texture. EVA is surprisingly durable and comfortable. It adds a little thickness to the overall sole but still allows good ground feel and flexibility. It also molds to the foot with use like the soles.

From now on, the straps will be sandwiched between the sole and the footbed. They are cemented and riveted in for maximum durability. The idea came from our new Wildflower Series sandals for women.

This design maximizes the area that the foot has on the sole because the straps wrap up and around the foot. This is especially nice for the Pah Tempe and PT Sleek models. It also makes the sandals look more professional and dramatically increases the durability of the sandals. The texture grips the foot better but since the material is soft, it doesn’t hurt the foot or create hot spots like some of the non-slip surfaces we tested. The two potential drawbacks (depending on your perspective) is that it adds a little bit of thickness to the sole and it also adds a little weight. Despite the extra material, the sandals are still incredibly light weight.

This image features a tan EVA footbed. This footbed was a sample that was used for prototyping and is not available for purchase. Our standard non-slip footbed will be offered in black to match the sole. Our cork footbed is still available with this design.

This image features a tan EVA footbed. This footbed was a sample that was used for prototyping and is not available for purchase. Our standard non-slip footbed will be offered in black to match the sole. Our cork footbed is still available with this design.

Because of the extra room this creates on the sole, we are in the process of modifying the sizing templates. The templates will be the same but slightly narrower in the heel area since the new system creates so much more room. The image below is a tight tracing of my foot in the template that fits me best.


Please note that this is a tracing of my foot with the pen angled inward. If I were to stand on the template and look down, my foot would visually cover more of the sole area. Especially where the ankles are.

The gray outline is the current sole templates and the red line shows the differences that will be made. The changes to the templates accommodate the new system but if you have already chosen a template, they sandals should still fit without problems. The strap on the outside of the sole on my Wokova bothered my feet before, I changed to the new design and those straps are perfectly comfortable now. The new design is available immediately, however, we are still working on the templates. They will be updated on our website soon.


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Stop what you are doing and go for a wal

Stop what you are doing and go for a walk! http://ow.ly/wpR0s

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New Soles!

Our new soles have finally arrived! All orders from this point forward will be shipped with our new soles.

Tread for 6 and 8mm soles

Tread for 6 and 8mm soles

There are a few changes that will come with the new soles. The model that is being affected most is the Wokova Feather sandals. They are now available to purchase with a 4mm, 6mm, or 8mm sole. The 6 and 8mm soles look just like the picture above. A 4mm sole is too thin for such aggressive tread so it looks more like our old 6mm Sport Utility.

4mm tread for the Wokova Feather model

4mm tread for the Wokova Feather model

The other major change is that we are discontinuing the 10mm sole option. We do have a very limited amount of brown 10mm sole material left that we can use for custom requests. Thicker soles can be achieved by ordering an 8mm sole with the cork footbed (just over 3mm thick) for an overall thickness of just over 11mm.

Some of you may be wondering why we have made this change. The answer is simple… Purchasing Vibram rubber through middle man suppliers was expensive and unpredictable. Vibram has bigger fish to fry than Unshoes and they didn’t want to work directly with us. We found a company that competes directly with Vibram and has very similar products. We have been testing their products and have been in communication with them for several months now. To be honest, another reason is that it there are so many other huarache start-ups these days and they mostly use the same soles. There was nothing unique about our Vibram soles that set us apart from others.

The new sole compound we have chosen is very similar to what we had before. The wear seems to be the same but there are some impressive differences. 1. The compound is even lighter. I didn’t think it would make that much of a difference but I love the light feeling they offer! 2. While they are still flexible, the soles snap back into their shape better making them less floppy and should reduce the risk of catching the front of the sandal which is a major problem with minimalist sandals. 3. The tread is multi-directional which makes the traction the same from all angles. The zig-zag tread of the old Neflex was cool but the grip was different at different angles. This was especially frustrating on trails.

If we kept the old soles we would have had to increase the price of the sandals. We knew we would be able to find a manufacturer to work directly with and prevent that. We would have liked to find a U.S. manufacturer but we were not able to. The rubber is actually made in Germany. I have been impressed with German products and these soles are no exception.

Order your new pair here!

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Introducing the Wildflower Series!

For some time now we have been slowly working on a line of sandals specifically for women. We want women to have more options for footwear. Especially in more formal occasions. We are very excited to introduce you to the Wildflower Series!

We have developed the first three models of the series and they are available through our Kickstarter campaign. In order to produce a new line of sandals we are going to need to expand our operations. To do that we need funding. Once we get funded then we’ll be able to purchase inventory, expand our operations and offer these sandals on our website. Because we already have a basic operation up and running, we set a slightly smaller goal for our campaign. However, if we are able to raise more then we’ll be able to offer a larger variety of designs to the series and we can get better equipment and materials which will make a nicer final product. If you can’t back the project financially then you can share it with your friends. Any help is appreciated!

Now, you can get a look at what we’ve been working on:

Aspen sandals by Unshoes Wildflower Series
The Aspen is so far the model that has received the most attention. It has also presented the most challenge in production. The basic structure of the design is the same as our Wokova and Wokova Feather sandals but the lace introduces an element that changes the entire look and feel of it. We will also offer a turquoise/teal version but we don’t have a picture yet. (The company camera had an unfortunate meeting with the creek on a hike! You will be able to see them on toesalad.com for a review)

Comfrey sandals by Unshoes Wildflower Series

The Comfrey also uses the same basic structure as the Wokova/Feather but has a ruffle running up the main strap. This design is simple but adds a more energetic flare to the look of the sandal. We will offer the basic sandal in a few colors as shown and the ruffle will be removable so a wide variety of looks and colors can be achieved with one pair of sandals.

Laurel sandals by Unshoes Wildflower Series

The Laurel sandal is much different than the other three and looks more like a mainstream women’s shoes. We wanted to offer a cute peep-toe option that doesn’t squish the toes like most peep-toe designs. The upper is soft and pliable and is set back just a little bit to allow the toes freedom to move.

As always, your feedback is welcome. We have more design ideas but wanted to start out with these three.

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