(Movement) Lifestyle Design

Running a business has taught me a lot of lessons. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is the importance of organization and systems. I still struggle with it! It requires that you find a problem, dig deep enough to find the root of the problem, and set up a system that prevents the problem in the first place. The difficult thing for me is to have the discipline to keep a good routine!  I’m a right brained creative that would rather dream about the next big idea I have than make sure my mail is sorted! However, a month later when I get a warning from the IRS and I have to go back and sort through months of mail to find the missing letter, it takes hours and sucks my attention and energy. If I had just created a system instead of dropping boring mail in a pile on my desk I wouldn’t be getting reminders from the IRS!

I love it when I visit someone in their home or office and find that they have a beautifully organized system, and life. It inspires me to go back home and make changes for the better. We as humans are hard wired to organize, categorize, and simplify our lives. I believe it is a Godly attribute. However, sometimes we get carried away with it.

We like to categorize our lives. The fact that we even have phrases like “work life” and “family life” prove this. You don’t have multiple lives! It is just YOUR life! Many people categorize movement by taking a tiny bit of time out of the day for movement. This is better than not moving, but humans are designed to be in motion. We need regular movement throughout the day.

I’m guessing that you’ve heard the phrase “lifestyle design”. Some people think that it’s all about living a lavish life of luxury in Costa Rica. However, it’s more about getting out of the victim mentality and creating the life that you want. What if you could move freely in your work life, home life, etc.? It’s a concept that I’m working on improving in my own life one step at a time.

Our mission at Unshoes is to allow your feet to move naturally so that you can live with the freedom to move. We want you to be able to design a movement based lifestyle without having to bring along so many different types of shoes. The fact is that most people have different shoes for every different activity in their lives. We realize that you need to have equipment that is appropriate for the activity but we design our products so that they are versatile and can be used in a variety of different activities. Our goal is to make footwear that moves with you no matter where you are or what category of your life you happen to be in. We are working on a few projects that revolve around this very concept and are EXTREMELY excited to introduce you to them! One of which is coming up very soon and the others will be announced in the upcoming months.

Stay tuned…

—Terral Fox

 

 

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Less Shoe, But More Than Just Shoes

RM-web-banner
Several years ago, I was pouring over the numbers that show our website traffic. I’m not a numbers guy, but I still find it very fascinating and informative to see where our website visitors are coming from. I happened to see that we were getting an increasing number of visits from a website that I was unfamiliar with. It was called katysays.com. (note that the website is now nutritiousmovement.com) There was a biomechanist named Katy Bowman who was writing a blog about alignment, natural movement, and biomechanics. I was immediately interested. This website was right down my alley! Not only was Katy’s work down my alley, but it changed the future of our little footwear company. I have continued to follow Katy and her work which has really helped us make decisions on what features are most important in our footwear and what features we have let go. We have formed a professional relationship and we even now sponsor her podcast, Move Your DNA.

My understanding of the human body and how it all works together has increased substantially. I still have a lot to learn! Although I don’t have formal training, I’m finding myself wanting to share more and more how our bodies work. I want to share how movement affects us, and, of course, how foot health affects the rest of the body.

Our mission at Unshoes is to free your feet and allow them to fulfill their natural function. Obviously we are focused on feet and that just makes sense. However, there is so much more! I thought about how we can incorporate more of an educational aspect into the business. Eventually, what we decided to do is to start a new business that is interrelated but has its own branding. With that in mind, I want to introduce you to Reclaim Movement. The idea is that Reclaim Movement isn’t limited to just feet and footwear related topics. We can explore all kinds of health and movement related topics. Both business will work together often and sometimes even mix and intermingle. However, they will operate separately. I admit that part of my motivation is selfish! I wanted something that encouraged me, personally, to get out and move more. I love my work at Unshoes but I needed something to get me outside more often.

We’ve already started using both businesses together to bring you more value by hosting free webinars. Our first webinar was about the benefits of minimal footwear. We are having another one on Thursday, March 21st at 1:00 pm MST on how to properly transition into minimal footwear. It’s a tricky topic because everyone is different and seems to have a different experience. However, I’ve been able to help enough people transition that I’ve noticed some patterns and helpful tricks that you can use to transition more effectively. Even if you’re well on your way, this webinar can help you. Click here to reserve your spot at the webinar now!

I look forward to having the opportunity to share some of the things I’ve learned in this movement journey! Thank you for your support!

—Terral Fox

 

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One Thing You Need to Know if You’ve Transitioned to Minimal Footwear

_DSC6051One day I was walking down our stairs and  felt a strange pain in the top of my foot that I hadn’t ever felt before. Being the owner of a minimal footwear company and someone who has been wearing said footwear for eight years now, I felt rather self-conscious about the fact that I was experiencing foot pain. I don’t know how many people I have helped over the years. I can’t tell you how many times I have assured other people that they don’t need arch support, padded shoes, etc. Suddenly, one little pain in my foot caused a flood of doubt to come into my mind about everything I’ve built my career on. What if I was wrong and have been misleading people all this time?

I do occasionally ask myself these types of hard questions like, “what if I’m wrong?”. I think it’s important to be open to being wrong. However, this was just a devil on my shoulder trying to bring me down. I know better than to listen to that voice. I know that if I persist and keep moving (literally and figuratively) then the answer will become clear to me eventually.

I’ve been following Katy Bowman and other movement experts over the years and have learned a lot. I have improved my own movement and alignment, but I still find myself with some poor movement habits that persist from previous years of bad movement. I sometimes forget that just because I have improved, it doesn’t mean that I am perfect.

Besides movement and anatomy, I have also had to study lean manufacturing principles so that we can continue to produce our footwear in house. Lean manufacturing is also known as the Toyota Method and was a simple method of production developed by Toyota during a time of financial difficulty in a climate where it was difficult to compete with other car manufacturers. These methods have been instrumental in our ability to stay in business. One of the big principles that I learned was from a Japanese parable about lowering water in a lake. They say if you are sailing in a lake that has large rocks (problems) under the surface of the lake, you want to lower the water levels so that you can see the rocks and navigate around them. In other words, you want a production method that doesn’t hide problems. I’ve found that this is very true when it comes to our bodies!

The fact of the matter is that as you improve anything in your life, you will find that improvement only reveals other problems. This is something that people generally don’t understand and don’t have patience with. I get it, you are supposed to be improving! You don’t want to see new problems surface as you improve! However, you should look at this as a good sign.

The human body is a master at adaptation and sometimes when there is a weakness or imbalance in some area of the body, it will automatically make up for it in some other area of the body. Things like padded footwear really allow those problems to lurk just under the surface! When you work on removing the things that hide the problems including more movement and better alignment, it lowers the water level and reveals problems that your body has been hiding for who knows how long! This is a good thing! It means that now you can address the issue and get it solved rather than just letting it lurk under the water ready to strike when you least expect it!

I was eventually able to figure out what was going on with my foot. My whole point here is to let you know that if you feel that you’ve fully transitioned into minimal footwear and foot pain strikes, rest assured that you’re still on the right path. Anything worth doing will come with some adversity. Don’t give up! If you’re just getting started on the path to transitioning into minimal footwear, don’t be afraid, you will experience changes and some may be a little pain or discomfort, but the results are well worth it! I promise!

Do you have a similar experience with pain after you’ve supposedly transitioned into minimal footwear? If so, please share your experience with others in the comments below!

If you feel that you are ready to jump in and transition to minimal footwear to start improving your overall health then you can check out our footwear here.

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Enough Cowbell, More Barefoot!

BarefootZionHike.jpg

Back in October, I was driving back home from Kanab, UT. As the crow flies, I don’t live that far away but because of a national park and rugged mountains, you can’t just drive straight between the two places. We usually drive north and then up and over the mountain range. However, I had a little time, and I have an annual parks pass so I decided to drive through Zion National Park on my way home. I stopped on the east side of the park (not in the main park area) and decided to drop down into a canyon and go for a little stroll. I was by myself and I don’t advocate venturing into canyons alone so I made sure to stay very close to the road and not let myself get too deep. This particular canyon is very, very mild. As I walked down into the canyon on the slickrock, I thought that maybe I would take off my sandals and just go barefoot. It had actually been a really long time since I’ve just gone on a barefoot hike!

I took my sandals off and strolled through the amazing canyon by myself. I was able to feel a variety of surfaces including sandstone, smooth river rocks, pine needles, and of course, the cool sand. I walked for about an hour and it was extremely therapeutic!

As the owner of a footwear company, I have this strange, self-imposed expectation that I should always be wearing Unshoes. Even during times when I would rather go barefoot, I feel like I should be “showcasing” our product everywhere I go. On top of that, I’m usually testing some new prototype or trying some new material to see how it holds up so I try to put some abuse on the sandals when I have the chance. The funny thing is that as a company, we really advocate going barefoot as much as possible! Yes, there are times when you need some kind footwear. That’s life. There are also times when you don’t. Most people just keep on wearing footwear because it is a habit, or because of fear.

Don’t get me wrong, I spend way more time barefoot than the average person but I realized as I walked along in that canyon, that I don’t go barefoot enough. I don’t connect to the earth enough. My challenge to you today is to let go of any fear that may be adhering your shoes (or Unshoes) to your feet, and let your feet take you. It doesn’t matter where, just let them take you there.

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4 Things You can Learn From Your Footprints

Life is about learning. Everything we do has some kind of consequence. We can look at those consequences and then adjust our future actions to better match the consequences that we desire. Looking backwards at the path we have taken can be very beneficial as long as you have the intention to correct your path and then focus on the future path. Of course, this is all metaphorical but when we are talking about biomechanics, we can learn quite a bit from literally turning around and looking back at the path you’ve taken. Here are 4 lessons you can learn by looking at your own footprints

Lesson 1: Foot Alignment

Your feet should point straight forward. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. If your car tires aren’t aligned forward then they wear out rather quickly. I struggle with this. I tend to let my feet point outward (duck foot!). Sometimes I feel like my feet are aligned nicely but then I look back at my footprints and it is clear that I have been walking with my feet pointed outward.

foot-alignment

It’s pretty obvious by this image that the feet are not pointing forward as they ought to be!

Lesson 2: Arch Height

Everywhere we go, people tell us about their various foot ailments. One of the most common ones we hear about are flat feet. People assume that they just don’t have an arch and that is permanent. Of course every case is different and there are a variety of reasons someone might have flat feet but most people do have an arch hiding down there. Step in some water and then step on the concrete and it will show you. Most flat footed people either have wimpy arches from too much support, or they are standing on the side of their arch (more on that later). If your footprint is extremely thin then you probably have pretty high arches, if you have a wide footprint then you probably have less of an arch.

 

Lesson 3: Leg Alignment

This one is more subtle, but in some cases you can actually see signs of improper leg alignment by looking at a footprint. In the image below, the footprint on the right was made with improper leg alignment. The most common issue we see is that people point their feet outward, and their knees inward. This is a result of weakness in hip, gluteus, and pelvic floor muscles. Notice how the edges on the right footprint are not well defined? This could happen if the ground was unstable but on concrete and a little water, that print should be defined. It is because this foot was turned inward and the weight of the body was more on the inside rather than the bottom of the foot. The foot really can’t properly hold the weight of the body that way and the arch squishes down more when weight is placed on it. This creates a small amount of movement and makes the edges of the print less defined. You can also see that there is more water between the toes and the ball of the foot, especially on the big toe.  Again, if you stand this way, you’re standing on the inside of your foot and your toes get forced into a weird position where the they lay more on the sides than the bottom. It can also force your big toe inward over time.

knee pointing forward in proper alignment. The print on the right is improper alignment with the foot pointing outward and the knee pointing inward. This happens when the hips are weak or are not properly holding the leg in place.

The print on the left is made with the foot and knee pointing forward in proper alignment. The print on the right is improper alignment with the foot pointing outward and the knee pointing inward. This happens when the hips are weak or are not properly holding the leg in place.

If it was done in the sand, you would be able to see that there is much more weight on the inside of the foot. The footprint on the left was made with the foot pointing straight forward, the knee pointing straight forward and the ankle, knee, and hip stacked directly in alignment.

 

Lesson 4: Imbalances

In the set of footprints below, you can see that the right and left prints are clearly different.unbalanced
The one on the left is narrower and seems to have a higher arch. There are a variety of things that could be causing this including tight muscles somewhere in the foot or calves but simply looking at the footprint shows that something is out of balance. Our bodies are masters of adaptation so if we get an injury or weakness in one area of the body, the rest of the body quickly adapts to it to compensate. This often happens unconsciously and we don’t even realize it is happening. It can become a habit and then the body is out of balance.

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Finding Balance in Business

It seems that one of the biggest challenges in this life is to find and maintain balance. Good things can be taken too far and cause problems. Work is great but if you work too much and neglect personal relationships, health, etc. It’s going to bring you down pretty quickly. One of the aspects of life that I am working to find balance is conformity. All my life I’ve questioned why we do certain things a certain way. Most of the time, I get a good answer but sometimes the only reason people can give me is, “that’s just the way it’s done”. In my opinion, that’s not a good enough answer for me. I like to know why. Because of that, I’ve found that I have tendencies to lean toward non-conformity if I don’t see a good reason to do things a certain way. However, I’ve learned that while things can always be improved, there is usually a reason that things are done a certain way.

If you’re not already familiar with the story of how Unshoes began, it wasn’t originally mean to be a business. I simply wanted to make myself a pair of sandals because I wasn’t satisfied with what was out there at the time. My wife prompted me to list them on Etsy to get some extra cash while I was unemployed. Because of this, it started in extremely humble circumstances and then grew very organically. I knew nothing about business and have learned through a lot of trial and error. There were times when I was advised by those with more experience to do things differently. Some of them had good reasons and others told me it was just the way things were done (outsourcing manufacturing overseas, for example). Some of the business advice that was given to me I implemented, and some was carefully considered and then disregarded. Some of it was good advice, but I just wasn’t ready to accept it. I love getting business advice because I fully understand that it’s not my strongest point. I’m a designer at heart.

Some advice that has been given to me several times is to dramatically increase the price of our products and target only the elite, high paying customers. They suggested that we position ourselves as the premium of the market. I realize that we’d make a better profit that way, but it goes against the core values of Unshoes. One of our big goals is to give the average person the chance to wear healthy footwear. We really do care about giving people that opportunity. We’re a family friendly company and we want families to be able to wear our sandals. The truth of the matter is that families tend to have less cash to spend on clothing. Because of that, we’ve tried to keep our costs low while producing our sandals in house (another pesky core value!). We’ve come a long way and implemented many systems that have made our process more efficient so that we can offer that. However, the truth of the matter is that if we want to continue to produce our footwear, something needed to change. We simply don’t make enough money to do it. As I thought about this, I went back to the idea of increasing prices and it just didn’t settle well with me. My task was to find a way to keep us from going out of business without making huge pricing changes.

Once I took a critical look at our business model and values, the solution became clear. We needed to standardize our sizing system. We simply have too many options to choose from. It overwhelms some customers and it certainly overwhelms us! We are using up a ton of space and inventory to keep pre-made components for all the different templates and sole/footbed options. After deliberation and much discussion here, we have decided to standardize our sizing and sole options. If customers really want or need a custom product, it is still available at a higher price. Simply go to the “Custom Sandals” link on our website. We came to this conclusion as a way to strike a balance between honoring our core values, and accepting that there is a good reason most footwear is not customized.

The goals of standardization are as follows:

  1. To prevent overwhelming the everyday buyer. We get lots of comments from confused customers and this will help those that just want to get sandals and don’t want to bother with so many options.
  2. To increase profit margins. I realize that sounds selfish and greedy. That “p” word has become a very negative thing but if we want to continue making footwear, profit is necessary to allow us all to provide for our families.
  3. To decrease our turnaround time. We’ve got our process down pretty well but if we had standard shoes in the more popular sizes and colors in stock we could have product shipped same day. Very few people are wiling to wait for a custom product to be made and shipped on demand. 
  4. Simplify returns. We’ve done a lot to try and give people the information they need to get the right fit from the beginning but the truth is that unless they can try them on, there are going to be returns. Also, some people return because they expected something different or maybe exchange for different models. Right now we have a huge pile of returns that are good for nothing. They are in new condition and up to date but we can’t seem to re-sell them because of all the custom options. It’s rare that we get two orders that match exactly. Returns are killing us slowly. Standard sizing will make the return process more painless for you and us!

Again, custom options are still available on our website. In conclusion, I want you all to know that we work tirelessly to come up with innovative ways to bring you more value with our products. We believe in our mission and while we are not perfect, we work toward improvement every single day. I appreciate all the support we’ve had from our friends and customers over the years. We’re determined to continue bringing you footwear that allows your feet to do what they are supposed to do!

Cheers,
Terral Fox

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5 Common Walking Mistakes to Watch out For

Walking is one of the things that we learn at a very early age. It becomes so natural and engrained that we stop thinking about it. It is almost like breathing. It just happens. Despite this, most people walk wrong.

Most of the problems with the way we walk have been created because of (you guessed it) shoes. The thicker and stiffer the shoes become, the less you can feel the ground and the less natural your gait becomes. I’m not going to dwell on this aspect too much because most people reading this already know all of this. However, I think it is important to look at the gait changes that have happened because of shoes so that you can spot them in our own gait habits and become more aware of how you walk so that you can begin to change if needed.

  1. Duck Walk
    This is a very common issue and one that I still struggle with although I’ve made a lot of headway. People tend to walk with their toes pointed outward. There are various reasons for this but mostly it is because of tight and immobile muscles in the hips and legs. Excessive sitting (in the standard chair position) is probably the main reason this is so common. This has been compared to having the front wheels of a car out of alignment. If both tires are pointed outward they are going to wear out very quickly! The same is true for your body. Walking duck footed is going to put excessive pressure on your knees, ankles, etc. Also, it is simply inefficient. Next time you go shopping or are out where there are many people walking just look down and watch people walk. I’ll bet 4 out of 5 people walk with their toes pointed outward.
  2. The Foot Scuff
    This is an issue that older generations apparently don’t have because when I was a kid, I remember always hearing my dad get after my siblings and I for dragging our feet when we walked. I think it drove him nuts because of the sound and the fact that it wore through our shoes faster. The latter was probably the biggest factor! I didn’t do that very much but my brother did it quite a bit. If your shoes are too stiff, it is difficult to really bend your foot as you touch down on the ground with the back of your foot and roll through your steps. This makes it more likely to either slide your feet along the ground or lift and clomp down which we will talk about later.
    The truth is, most of the people that scuff their feet are simply lazy. They just put the minimal amount of effort into walking.The interesting thing about this, is it is actually fairly natural to lift the foot only a little bit when we walk. If you take your shoes off and walk barefoot outside, you may notice that while you definitely don’t drag your feet, you don’t lift them more than necessary. This leads us to the next walking problem.
  3. The Clomp
    If you are barefoot, it makes sense that you are not gong to lift your foot way up and smash it down to the ground as you walk. If you can’t feel anything because of thick, padded shoes then it doesn’t matter so it’s easier to make this mistake. Also, stiff shoes contribute to this. How can you walk smoothly and efficiently if your foot can’t bend?! It isn’t possible. People tend to lift their feet up, put their feet forward and simply fall onto their foot. You’ve likely heard about barefoot running studies that talk about the problems with heel strike. Walking this way is just like the heel strike in running. It sends shocks up the leg and your joints take the damage. If you find your knees and hips useful, don’t fall onto your foot like this!
  4. The Tiptoe
    Speaking of barefoot running. I have mixed feelings about the barefoot running studies. On the one hand, they have helped a lot of people to become aware of how traditional shoes change our gait. They have paved the way for minimalist shoes to come to the market. On the other hand, they can be misleading. One of the big mistakes I see people make is to assume that because barefoot running form is to land on the forefoot, then walking should be the same way. That is just an assumption based on running studies. Running is not walking. The mechanics are very different. It sounds obvious, but many people don’t really see the difference. When you walk, you should gently come down on the back of your foot. I say “back of your foot” rather than heel because it is a subtle difference. You don’t want to come down on the back of your heel, but the pad of your heel is the first part to touch the ground. Immediately, the rest of your foot touches down and at this point, your glute muscles activate and as your leg pulls back, it propels your body forward. At the end of the gait cycle, you push off with your toes just before your other foot goes through the same motion.
    Proper barefoot walking gait
  5. The Bounce
    Any of the motions of walking can be taken to excess. One of the things I’ve seen go too far is the last push off of the toes. This makes sense if you need to walk quickly but not quite run. Using your calf muscles to push off the ground with your toes can create more spring to propel you forward more quickly but in general walking, it should be a smooth motion. If you’re bouncing up and down, you’re trying too hard.

 

The most important lesson about your walking gait is to be mindful but not worried. Go walk and just observe how your body works. Don’t get yourself down if you have bad habits that linger. Just keep paying attention and you’ll find that things will eventually work themselves out. If you are interested in getting more information about walking gait from a biomechanics point of view, we highly suggest checking out Katy Bowman’s work. She gets more specific and has much more knowledge of anatomy and biomechanics. Check out her post about walking here.

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Call For Entries!

Are you a loyal customer of Unshoes? Do you tend to tell people about your sandals everywhere you go? If so, then you may be a good candidate for our brand ambassador program. In short, you agree to do a few things including posting relevant information on social media and we give you a free pair of Unshoes, a killer discount, and some other cool free swag! On top of that, you get to be part of an exclusive influencers that gets to see and give feedback on our products before anyone else.16508547_1388306954547042_3641011171511176906_n

If you have some kind of expertise in a related field (ie. yoga teacher) that is nice, however, it isn’t required. The most important thing is that you are active and passionate about our product and our mission of helping to liberate people to move more. If you are interested in becoming an ambassador, click here to get more information and to apply!

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#LoveYourFeet (Giveaway)

Win a pair of Unshoes moccasins by telling the world why you love your feet!

A couple years ago, Unshoes was featured in an online article of a local news network. The author warned me that there are always negative (sometimes hateful) comments on this particular site so she advised me to either not read the comments or at least make sure that I don’t take them personally. Of course I read the comments. I wanted to make sure there were not any legitimate questions or concerns that I could address. She was right, there were negative and hateful comments. However, the majority of them were not directed at me or Unshoes as a company/product. They were mostly directed at feet in general! This isn’t the first (or last) time that I have heard degrading comments about feet. Every time we try to target a new audience with a Facebook ad we get the same thing.

“Eww, feet are gross!”
“Why would I ever want to show my feet?”
“Nobody should ever, EVER, see your feet!”
“I’d love to wear your sandals but trust me, nobody wants to see my feet.”

Or there are always those who think that their feet are more of a burden to their lives than anything else and that they are permanately broken. Of course, there are situations where people have deformities or serious injuries but most of the phrases below come from as a result of lifestyle. Many people just don’t realize it.

“I have to wear at least a little bit of a heel lift”
“I have (fill in the blank) so I have to have arch support”
“My feet are way too sensitive to ever go barefoot!”

The phrases are all different but the underlying message is the same. As a culture, we don’t value our feet.

The message we want you to take away is different. We want you too look down at your feet and feel love and gratitude that you have such an amazing body! The feet are the very foundation of our bodies! They allow us to move and to be mobile! They give us balance, speed, power, and they connect us with the ground. Why are we so afraid of them?
unshoes tan line

I’m guessing that most of you value your feet more than the average Joe (no offense if you’re name is Joe). That’s why we’re going to ask you all to help us spread the love. Post a picture or video of your foot on Facebook and/or Instagram and tag them with #LoveYourFeet and #Unshoes and explain to the world why you love your feet. Don’t be afraid to get creative! Every foot has a story. Your feet have been in a lot of places and done many interesting things. Tell us those stories! What? You’re feet aren’t perfect? Nobody has perfect feet so stop worrying about it and find a reason to love the!

Next week on Wednesday we’ll pick a post that we feel spreads the love and give that person a free pair of moccasin inspired shoes!

 

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BBF (Better than Black Friday) Sale!

Unshoes holiday sale up to 30% offIt’s that time of year where you are either excited for all the black Friday hype or if you’re more like me, you cringe at it. At Unshoes, we’ve offered our sandals on sale every year for the holidays because while we don’t love the whole black Friday hype and pressure selling, we do wan’t to give people a good deal on our products for the holidays and say thank you for your patronage. Our sale is going on now (11-17-16) through Sunday (11.-20-16). Check out our sale here.

Also, if you haven’t already noticed, two of our closed toe models are available and on sale now! Check out the Gallivant, and the Forager here!

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