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.

Posted in adventure, backpacking, hiking, lifestyle, news, outdoors, water sports | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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.


Posted in barefoot, design, news, sandal care | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

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.

Posted in barefoot, design, fashion, lifestyle, minimalism, news | Tagged , , , , | 19 Comments

Unexpected Award!

SBDC Client of the Year Award Presented to Unshoes

Back in 2011 when my wife and I made the decision to take Unshoes from a side gig to a full-time job and legitimate business, I knew I would need help. My background is in art which was nice in helping me design the sandals but not so helpful to run a business! I approached the local SBDC (Small Business Development Center) for help. They gave me some information to help me take the next steps, but most of all, I left with a renewed sense of confidence. Every now and then I go back to them with questions that I’m too embarrassed to ask anyone else. They are great people who are patient with me. I have come to know that they really care about me and want the business to succeed.

Several months ago as I was chatting with the director, he mentioned that they might like to highlight Unshoes as a success story on their website. Of course, I agreed. They drafted an article and asked me for my mug shot and a few quotes about the business. I was happy with the final article but I didn’t know exactly what it would mean for us. About a month ago they sent me an email informing me that I was nominated to receive the “Client of the Year” award. There would be an award ceremony at the State Capitol Building as part of the Rural Legislative Day. I was very honored and surprised by this. We were told that there would be a luncheon and award ceremony but other than that we didn’t really know what to expect.

The morning before the award ceremony I received a phone call from the SBDC Assistant Director asking me if we would be able to make it to the Capitol Building early. She said the Senate wanted to recognize the award winners. While I keep updated on current politics, I’ve never had any reason to attend a Senate meeting or even be in the Capitol Building other than as a visitor to admire the architecture. Again, I didn’t know what to expect. We live about 500 miles from Salt Lake City so we left the night before and stayed the night with family. My sister-in-law kindly agreed to let us stay at her house and watch our kids while we attended our meetings. The drive itself was very intense because of weather. The roads were slippery and visibility was very low. Also, part of the freeway was closed due to a shooting.

The next morning we were running a bit late and were afraid that we would miss the senate meeting. We made it there just in the nick of time. I was still tying my tie while I received instructions from the head of the SBDC. My wife and I both wore our Unshoes of course! There were nine business of over 2,300 that were recognized during this event. They called us in and talked about the importance of small businesses in the economy. They then highlighted each business individually and asked us to step forward. I was a little overwhelmed in this meeting! It was like visiting a foreign country for the first time. I’m sure that I had a “deer in the headlights” look on my face!

After the Senate meeting we ate lunch and had the award ceremony. We were first to be presented with the award since the Senator for our region wanted to participate and he had another meeting he needed to attend shortly after. The person who introduced the awards (I’m not really sure who he was) was rather monotone. He didn’t show much emotion until we were just about to sit down and he noticed that we were wearing our sandals. He asked us to “hold up our feet” so everyone could see them!

Award to Unshoes presented by Utah Lt. Governor Spencer Cox

From left to right: Utah Lt. Governor Spencer J. Cox, Mary Fox, Terral Fox, Utah Senator Evan Vickers, Joni Anderson Cedar City SBDC Assistant Director, Sherm Wilkinson SBDC State Director

It turned out to be a bigger deal than we thought. It was a fantastic experience for us and we were very honored to be recognized in such circumstances. Just like my first visit to the SBDC office, it was a much needed shot of confidence to help us take the challenges that lie ahead.

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Moving Forward in 2014

2013 was a harsh teacher but we learned a lot at Unshoes this year. We’re very excited to move forward with 2014 and apply the things we learned to make our company better. We are in the process of making some more changes to our production process to get our turnaround time down and get sandals delivered faster. Our goal is to take a few steps ahead so that everything is in place when an order is received instead of executing the entire process after an order has been placed. Rather than bore you with production and management details, I’ll just give you a couple of announcements for 2014.

1. Last year we announced that we would release a new women’s line of sandals. We have been working on them, but we realized that we had to work out the kinks in our current production before we can start producing a whole new line of footwear. Now that our current process is being revamped, we are almost ready to go. We’ve continued to work on prototypes and will be launching a Kickstarter campaign by March to raise funds to get this project off the ground. To start off, we’ll offer a few of the more basic designs and then as we receive funds for the project we’ll begin working on new designs. We’ve chosen a name for the new line but it’s not set in stone quite yet so I can’t tell you what it is. When we get it all ready We’ll announce it here and post some pictures of new prototypes.

Once we launch the Kickstarter campaign, we’ll need as much help as we can get to spread the word!

2. We will soon be using new soles for our sandals. The actual rubber material will be very similar so they will function the same. The tread patterns will be different. Also, the Wokova Feather will be available with  4mm and 6mm soles. The 4mm will offer the maximum “barefoot” experience and function and the 6mm will give just a little bit more protection and cushion. When we get ready to launch this change, we’ll update the blog with more info and pictures.

Sneak preview of the new 4mm soles.

Sneak preview of the new 4mm soles.

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The end of the “barefoot fad”?

I’ve noticed some recent articles in mainstream media talking about how barefoot and minimalist running was just a passing fad and is now dead. All these articles have a very “I told you so” attitude and they love to compare minimalist shoes to those rocker soled toning shoes that came and went in a flash. These claims are based on minimalist shoe sales. In fact they are based mostly on the sales of shoe companies like Nike which didn’t make minimalist shoes until they realized they could ride the wave and make money. Their sales of minimalist models have dropped dramatically and they will now move on. They also cite injuries that runners have sustained after switching from traditional running shoes.

Personally, I’m not surprised. There was so much hype about injury reduction that people thought it was a magic bullet. The majority of people that jumped on the “trend” most likely did not do the necessary research to transition. They probably didn’t reduce miles or do any sort of foot strengthening exercises along the way. If they did, it was probably the bare minimum. Another factor is that we tend to live a very sedentary lifestyle 95% of the time and then go out for an intense run to “make up for it”. I have been guilty of that line of thinking. It is a recipe for disaster. I know from experience!

What the media fails to acknowledge is that switching to minimalist footwear is a lifestyle change. Not a running change. It is something that you commit to. It is a slow process. It takes more than a few days, weeks, months, or even years. It is all about slowly re-programming our bodies how to function as they were designed. It includes things like being more active, sitting less, and mindfully re-activating the parts of our bodies that have atrophied over the years. Actually, we’ve noticed that a large number of our customers have mentioned that they don’t run. There are a huge number of people out there using minimalist shoes that are not noticed by the media because they don’t label themselves as runners.

It is easy to gather data about injuries but it is impossible to know how many injuries were avoided. They give us facts about sales and injuries but facts are just bits of data. They don’t always represent the whole truth.

The “barefoot fad” might be at an end but nothing the media can say will change the mechanics of it. The foot is designed to function. The less we interfere with that function, the better off we’ll be. There is one thing that these articles got right. There is nothing special about minimal footwear. That is the whole point! They get out of the way and let your body do its job. That’s what we’re committed to. Making footwear that does only what it needs to and let’s your body do its job.

Posted in ancestral health, barefoot, lifestyle, minimalism, running, walking | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment