Ambassadors Wanted

 

chrisJay_SUP

We are seeking ambassadors from various backgrounds, expertise, and talents. Some examples include, paddleboarding, running, kayaking, minimalist lifestyle, travel, hiking, backpacking, yoga, RES practitioners, outdoor junkies, slacklining, etc.

Dear friends,
We are currently accepting applications for ambassadors for the year 2016. Ambassadors are representatives of our product, philosophy, and values. In short, ambassadors are asked to post relevant content on social media, attend any relevant events (such as races, etc), and be a point of contact for people interested in our sandals. In return, you get a free pair of sandals plus 40% off on any additional orders. You also get some other free swag :)

If you love your Unshoes, have some kind of relevant experience, and you share the values that represent Unshoes then I encourage you to head over to our online application and fill it out. We will close applications at the end of the month.

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Exclusive Items only on Etsy

When Unshoes started, it was only going to be a side gig for me. I was unemployed and I honestly didn’t think anyone would buy my sandals but my wife (as usual) was right in urging me to set up a shop on Etsy. Etsy was instrumental in allowing this crazy venture to grow into a business. It really was the perfect platform for us to get started. Eventually, we said goodbye to Etsy and started selling on our own website. At that time, Etsy was limited and we had “outgrown” it.

Years later, Etsy has continued to grow and has solutions for the small seller like we were and more established businesses. After a long hiatus from Etsy, we’ve decided to start using it again. All our regular sandals can be found on our Etsy shop. Additionally, we’ve also decided to use Etsy much like we did the first time. It is going to be a tool to introduce some of our new products. The reason for this is because it is common for items on Etsy to be made to order and the number of orders placed can be easily controlled. We have a few items that we will be introducing to our line in the future but we are not ready for mass production. They will be made, by hand, after they are ordered.

The first item that we will introduce on Etsy is a men’s loafer shoe.Men's moccasin inspired loafer by Unshoes It is a very basic design and is a mix between a primitive moccasin and a classic loafer. They are made with genuine pigskin leather. These are what I have been wearing all winter and I love them. They are extremely minimal but keep my feet dry and warm. I find that regular old socks work just fine unless it is extra cold. Then a good pair of wool socks do the trick. Right now, they are only available in this bluish/greenish color that was listed as “pearl”. After we sell a few then we’ll be able to add a different color. They will mostly likely be black or brown in the future. Again, my original intention was not to sell these but just to have a pair of my own. However, they have worked out so well that I wanted to share. We also feel that Unshoes needs more winter friendly options that give the foot freedom to move!

I am currently experimenting with a very basic women’s shoe as well. They are not ready to publish but keep an eye out for them.

Next on the list is our Children’s Keota sandals. Unshoes minimal sandals for childrenMany of you have been waiting for us to bring back our kids sandals. You can read more about why we decided to stop making kids sandals here. In short, kids sizes were draining our resources and they really were not functioning as well as they needed to. We are happy to say that after we introduced the Keota sandals, we realized that that particular (I’m supposed to ad the words, “patent pending” here) design was perfect for children. They can get them on and off more easily and they are much more simple to make. We are very close to being ready to produce kids sandals on a larger scale but until then we are going to offer them on Etsy as an introduction. As far as business goes, it just doesn’t make sense to fully launch until closer to spring. However, we know there are some of you out there who can use them now. With Etsy, we can make a few pairs, get a little funding, and be ready to launch before spring. Check out kids sandals here!

I can’t post a picture of the next thing but we are working on a kids sandal that is totally different. It will not have a strap between the toes. As of now, it is expensive to produce and still has some design issues that need to be worked out. My daughter is very excited for her pink prototype sandals. Hopefully we’ll get some warmer weather so she can wear them a little bit! These will not be available right away but will probably be up on Etsy by summer.

Lastly, there is a chance that we will offer some kind of simple moccasin style shoe for children. However, by the time we get the design worked out it will probably be much too late for this winter so it is something we would introduce next fall.

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Free Movement Game Download!

One day I was out doing farm chores (yes, I said farm chores. I live on a small homestead and we attempt to raise as much of our own food as possible) and listening to the Nutritious Movement podcast by Katy Bowman. You all follow her right? If not, you need to! Check out the podcast here. The topic of the day was about finding ways to get more movement during the winter months. One of the things that was mentioned was a yoga memory game. I didn’t think much of it but later in the year as I was gathering Christmas presents, the idea came back to me. I like to make as many of my Christmas gifts as possible and I suddenly remembered how much my wife likes games. So I decided to make my own memory game and include yoga, but I would also include some other natural movements in there as well. The idea is that as you get a match then the game pauses, everyone gets up and does that movement. Some of them require you to go away from the game (ie. Go find something to hang on!).squat

There are other variations to the game as well depending on how much you want to move. You can have everyone do the movements every single time a card is turned over if you have time and want to move more. It will likely help you remember where the card is if you have a physical action associated with it. Or you can just do the movement when a match is made. We played this with our nephews on New Years and it was a hoot! Even the small ones joined in and did their own little variations of the movements. In some cases they did it better than the rest of us!

We decided that it would be a fun thing to give away to encourage all of you to get more movement while you’re stuck inside on a snow day or cold evenings with the family. I have set the cards up in an 8.5X11″ page layout that you can download and print. I suggest that you laminate them (or cover in packaging tape) otherwise they’ll get destroyed rather quickly. For international readers, 8.5X11 is our standard page size here in the States. You should still be able to print this on A4 paper since A4 is just slightly larger. There are crop marks included that will guide you while cutting them out. The best way to do it is with a metal ruler and razor knife. Just be careful! Download the game here.

We hope that you enjoy the game! :)

TF

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The Unshoes Vision (for 2016)

Each new year I like to do a quick recap of the past year and introduce some of our plans for the upcoming year.

2015
In some ways, 2015 seems like it was only a few months long and in others it seems like it was the longest year ever! We started off strong by releasing the Uinta model and we had a good spring season as we whittled down on our arch nemesis, the long turnaround time! We were finally getting to a place where we could produce the sandals more quickly. However, it still wasn’t where it needed to be. We were working hard at figuring out some solutions when two adventures slowed things down. Actually, they came crashing to a halt. In a couple of days, our production manager unexpectedly quit and my wife went into labor early*. This was a serious speed bump but after hiring a new manager, we got right back to it. Since then we have worked hard to increase our ability to make sandals more quickly while also increasing the quality. By the end of the summer we had our production turnaround time down to a few days.

Toward the end of the year we released the Keota sandal which was an unexpected model but we anticipate that it will become one of our top models. We also pulled our children’s sandals so that we could re-design them, standardize sizes, and make the process more efficient.

2016
The first major item on the agenda for 2016 is to reintroduce children’s sandals. We are actually very close to this but we need to get through the slower part of winter before we can fully launch. We are discussing opening this up for pre-orders. The kids line is going to start out with the Keota design. This design is better suited to smaller sizes and is easier to get on and off than our other designs. Eventually, we will add a model that doesn’t have a strap between the toes. More on that below!Unshoes minimal sandals for children

Actually, we have already begun working on a new design for kids that does not have a toe strap (or toe post) and it looks like it will be a very promising model. In fact, we will probably make into an adult version as well. I can’t give too many details at this point, but it is like nothing else you’ve seen in a minimal (huarache) sandal. We’ll keep you updated as things progress.

Another thing that we have been doing during the slower season is dabbling a little bit in making closed toe shoes. We are considering the possibility of adding a simple closed toe, minimal shoe for those who can’t quite wear sandals year round. This is very preliminary and we are just experimenting but it looks like a very good possibility. If we do continue to add models, we will likely have to move to a new location as we are already finding ourselves strapped for space.

Lastly, we will continue to improve our systems. Although we have made large strides in our production methods, we still have work to do. We have been studying Toyota and their Lean Manufacturing principles. This year we will ruthlessly work to identify waste and inefficiency, then we will eliminate them. This will have less to do with design changes, and more to do with internal processes of the company. We are committed to keeping production local. Competing with Asian made shoes can be very difficult and there have been times that we have wondered if it is possible. As I see it, the only way we can continue producing our sandals locally is to make the process extremely efficient and eliminate waste.

Thank you all for helping us have a great 2015 and I look forward to serving you in the upcoming year!

Terral

 

*Although she was born a few weeks early and very small, the birth went well and our sweet little Eliza was healthy and happy. She was born on my birthday and was absolutely the best birthday present I could ever receive. Interestingly, she also resembles me more than the other kids :)

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Why we don’t use professional foot models

Obviously, we need to take pictures of our sandals. If you look closely, you might notice that the feet featured (Ok, I can’t help myself, I need to get my dumb humor out and just write “feetured”. Sorry!) in our pictures are “regular” feet.

Keota outdoor sport sandal

Real people, real feet, real sandals.

 

At one point, we got a comment on Facebook regarding our photos. It read, “Cool shoes but you guys really need to get some better foot models. Yikes!” My first reaction was to get defensive. Especially since my wife and I are in many of the photos. I have hobbit feet and am comfortable with that but don’t insult my wife! However, I realize that we have all been conditioned by mass advertisement to maintain unrealistic expectations (especially for women). My response was to invite the individual who commented to come in and we would take pictures of his feet. Suddenly his tune changed! I was able to laugh it off but it made me think of all the reasons we don’t hire professional foot models.

1.
The first, and probably most obvious, is that we simply can’t afford it. Large corporations with huge advertisement budgets set unattainable standards for body image but they also set unattainable standards for small businesses. People just assume that because we are a “shoe company” it means we’re doing very well financially. They forget that we’re making these sandals locally and not outsourcing it to China. This means that our costs are something like 85% higher than others. We don’t spend money on something that is not absolutely necessary! Sorry dude on Facebook, but professional foot models are not absolutely necessary.

2.
The next reason is probably the most important to us. Even if we had the money to spend on models, we wouldn’t do it. Why? Because our main goal isn’t to push inventory out the door and make fortune. We are all real people. I may not know all of you but everyone that reads this is an individual human being. So am I. I’m not perfect, neither are the rest of the Unshoes team. We’re not out to convince you that we are perfect. There has been some media attention lately about all the fake photos on social media after Australian model decided to quit. In a world where so much is fake, we just want to keep it real folks. Sure, some of our pictures are posed but we only take pictures of people that actually wear our sandals and use them in real life.

3.
Few people know feet like we do. Seriously, for several years I received tracings from people, many of which sent photos as well, and turned those into custom sized sandals for their feet. Iv’e seen all kinds of shapes and sizes! There are as many kinds of feet as there are people. They come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Yes, some feet are more attractive than others but who are we to say what the most attractive foot shape is? Again, we’ve all been conditioned

4.
Lastly, what are the chances of getting a professional foot model that has been wearing healthy footwear? We’re not selling sandals to everyone (although we think everyone could benefit from them). We’re mostly trying to reach people that want to improve their health and understand how detrimental common footwear can be. Things like bunions are now considered normal because so many people have deformed feet from cramming them into tight shoes. The feet in our pictures may not all be perfectly healthy. We’ve all been wearing restrictive shoes at some point or another, but the people in our pictures are actually trying to improve their foot mobility. I just don’t think a professional foot model would understand.

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Annual Holiday Sale

30% off all Unshoes Sandals November 16-21

30% off all Unshoes Sandals November 16-21

We have never participated in Black Friday and we don’t plan to do it in the future. We really like what REI is doing with their #OptOutside campaign by closing for the day to encourage people to get outside. While we also want you to do something meaningful during the Thanksgiving holiday. However, we do like to give our customers a little gift and also give our sales a little boost to get us through the winter months.

There is no need for a coupon code, just add to cart and the discount will be applied. We truly appreciate all of you! HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Click here to shop our sandals.

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Introducing The Keota Sandal!

Our newest model, the Keota, is the perfect balance between a flip flop and the traditional huarache design.

Our newest model, the Keota, is the perfect balance between a flip flop and the traditional huarache design.

When minimal sandals first hit the main stream market as “huaraches”, they were basically a leather or rubber sole with long laces that needed to be laced up, wrapped around the foot and tied every time they are put on. One of the driving forces behind the start of Unshoes was a desire to simplify the process and make a sandal that was easier to adjust and get on and off. Since then, a wide variety of minimal sandal designs have come out that are much easier than the original huarache design.

Even though Unshoes are easier to put on and take off, people still want something easier. Many people have asked us to make a custom flip flop and we have tried a couple of times. However, we decided that we wouldn’t make a minimal flip flop (or slipper, or thong, depending on where you live). You can read our blog post here about the problems with flip flops. If a sandal isn’t secure to the foot, it will cause problems.

With that in mind, we would like to introduce the Keota Sandal (patent pending) It features a high strength elastic loop just like our Feather model, but is in a different location. The toe strap goes straight up the foot from between the toes and connects to the elastic loop. The main strap also connects to the loop, runs around the ankle and back to the other side of the loop. The result is a sandal that fits snugly, is secure, and is easy to get on and off. Just like the Feather sandal, once you get the tension set, you can leave it as is and slip the sandals on and off without adjustment.

Keota outdoor sport sandal

Although the Keota makes the perfect casual sandal, it is extremely versatile and has been tested running, hiking, parkour, and farm chores! :)

The Story behind the Keota

About three months ago we implemented something we call “Experiment Friday” The idea was that during the afternoon on Fridays we would stop regular production and everyone is free to work on whatever footwear or production related project they want. The idea was that each person can work individually on some idea they had. However, it quickly became a big collaboration on one or two ideas each week. Experiment Friday is something to look forward to each week, it breaks up the monotony of producing footwear and it fuels innovation. So far, it has been a great change!

During one of our Experiment Fridays we started discussing kids sandals, flip flops, and some other non-minimal sandal designs that we’ve seen on the market. At one point during the day, William mentioned an idea he had for kids sandals. Later on, Jonathan told Shaelyn (production manager) another idea that he had for straps. Shaelyn decided to combine the two ideas and put together a prototype. The result was the first version of the Keota. However, as it turns out. Shaelyn completely misunderstood Jon’s idea. So the Keota is based on a misunderstanding of two ideas combined. It’s brilliant!

On a more personal note, this is the perfect time for me to brag about the Unshoes team. We currently have an seemingly random mix of strong personalities. Somehow all our personalities combine in a great balance and things get done in a way they never have before. All our employees are hard working, reliable, motivated, innovative, and just plain awesome! I’m extremely grateful for each one of them and their individual contributions.

Keota minimal sport sandal for casual and outdoor wear

The elastic loop creates a snug fit but also allows for micro adjustments in the straps as your feet move. This means that your feet get to move more naturally with less impediment from the sandals.

The Good News!

If you’re still reading this then your perserverence may just pay off! To celebrate our new addition, we’ve decided to drop the listed price for the Keota for the first 50 customers. There is no need for a coupon code. Just go to our website and place your order. The first 50 customers will get 40% off which makes the sandals only $33.00! We like to price our products as low as possible considering they are hand made in the USA. We rarely offer discounts and when we do they are rarely this big. This one is a doosey!

While the Keota looks great on women, like our other models, it is a unisex design that works well for men.

While the Keota looks great on women, it is a unisex design that works well for men.

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The Awakening (of my toes)

Toes. People seem to either love them or hate them. People wonder what the purpose of toes are. They are perplexed that there are five separate toes. In our shoe wearing culture, it’s no wonder that the idea of five toes is strange to people. Some say they are just to give us balance, and I agree, but what if there is more to it than that?

dexterous toes!

My toes are crooked, hairy, scratched & scraped, and some people might even call them creepy, but they are functional, and I love them! :)

After several years of either going barefoot or wearing sandals (with the exception of snow days) I expected that my toes would spread out after being crammed into narrow shoes most of my life. My toes have spread significantly, however, something else has happened that I didn’t expect. My toes are waking up as individual parts more like my fingers and less like a lump of toes. It started with picking up small objects with my toes. I thought it was silly so I started picking up my kids toys with my toes and trying to do things like dropping marbles into different holes. Doing little things with my toes is starting to feel more “normal” (for lack of a better word). The other day I was cutting  a board but it was moving around so it put my foot on it to hold it in place. There is nothing abnormal about that, but when I was done, I glanced at my foot and realized that I wasn’t just putting pressure on the board with my foot, I was actually holding it in place with my toes much like you would do with your hand. I didn’t do it consciously!  In fact I was rather surprised and amused that I was doing it.

I’ve been called out for wearing sandals in “unsafe” situations like running a saw, hunting, helping the neighbors move, etc. Maybe it’s rightfully so, but I’ll tell you that when you don’t wear shoes all day you become hyper aware of your feet. When I drop something, my feet move out of the way before I even consciously realize what is happening. I do often have nicks and dings on my feet but they usually happen when I’m not being mindful (or stupid) like going down my stairs at night without the lights on and finding toys that were not put away! :)

Do you know what your toes are capable of? Maybe our toes are capable of so much more than we use them for. Maybe it is time that we start actually valuing our funny little phalanges and take better care of them. I don’t mean that we need to hide them and lock them away from any chance of danger. I mean we should use them, develop them, and stop being afraid of them.

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The Flip-Flop-Clop

Over the summer we had several people who emailed us about a problem they were having with their sandals. The sandals were drifting slightly to the outside of the foot and in the case of the Pah Tempe models, the foot was coming off the front. One case was especially bad. Since I founded Unshoes over 5 years ago I had only seen this problem a few times. It seemed more prevalent this year so I began to worry that maybe it was a design flaw. While we have changed some small design elements, the basic design of the sandals is the same and has remained unchanged. We got some of the sandals returned so we tested them on other people. The problem didn’t repeat so I could only assume that it was being caused by individual gait patterns. I took my sandals and walked around trying different things until I could (more or less) replicate the problem. To me it felt like a very strange way of walking  but in my experience and after reading this book, by Biomechanist Katy Bowman, I know that the mechanical environment that we spend most of our time in will shape and mold your gait and movement patterns.  It might feel weird to me but for others it might feel completely normal.

Later that day I was at the grocery store and because I’m the weirdo that’s always looking at people’s feet, shoe choices, and gait patterns, I happened to see someone walking just the same way that I had earlier to replicated! I watched the person for a moment as he walked with feet drastically turned out clapping his forefoot down in a scuffing motion. I did notice that he was wearing a pair of cheapo flip flops. The very next day I was at the thrift shop when I saw someone else walking the same way. Immediately, I noticed what they were wearing. You guessed it, flip flops! I was intrigued so I started actively looking at gait patterns everywhere I went (In case you’re getting embarrassed imagining me staring rudely at everyone’s feet, rest assured that I’ve developed a talent for discreet foot staring methods, or DFSM). Of course each individual had a slight variation, all of the people I observed shuffling along like that were wearing flip flops. Most of them were the really cheap, or ill fitting flip flops. I started calling it the flip-flop-clop.

After observing this gait all summer I came up with my very unofficial and unscientific hypothesis. In a more natural walking gait pattern you shift the weight of the body from the back of the foot to the front of the foot while using leg (glute) muscles and pushing off with the toes to propel your body forward. Now imagine wearing flip flops. They are not secured to your foot so after the forward propelling motion of walking and pushing off the ground with the toes, your foot is left for an instant with your toes pointing downward which means that the sandals fall off slightly. To keep the sandals on, the wearer must “clench” their toes. You can read Katy’s blog for more information on the consequences of excessive toe clenching. Now suppose that you don’t want to clench your toes but you still want your flip flops to stay on. What do you do? First of all, after the toe push off, you don’t let your toes straighten as you lift your foot. This works but the sandals still slide off a bit. To get them back on securely, you come down on your foot with a scuffing/breaking motion so the sandal stops when it makes contact with the ground but your foot keeps going forward just a bit. This forces the thong part of the sandal back between the toes. Of course people are not really thinking this motion through. Their bodies are just adapting to their environment and most of it happens subconsciously. The smooth and efficient forward propelling motion of walking becomes a jerky, inefficient, falling forward motion that some people call walking (but is really more like controlled falling).

Next time you enjoy the effortless ability to slip your feet into your favorite pair of flips, just keep in mind that your body is constantly trying to adapt to its environment. Pay a little bit more attention to how you walk in them. Even Unshoes, as much as we want them to be natural, have an effect on the way you walk. All shoes change the natural gait pattern of the body but some are more intrusive and can come with unexpected or undesired consequences.

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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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