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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Winter Product Sneak Peek!

Disclaimer: The images and models described in this post are prototypes. Exact details may change for final products.

If you’ve followed us on social media at all you might have noticed that we’ve published a few teasers about making a warmer option for cooler weather. We’ve kept a pretty tight lid on the details (which is really difficult for us!) but we’re ready to announce what we’re doing and give our followers a sneak peek. I had set a deadline to have them ready to release by last Friday but it just wasn’t working out. I was stressed, frustrated, and annoyed that things were not moving as quickly as I wanted to but after an interesting experience with a group of 3rd graders (which I’ll write about later) I was able to chill out and start enjoying the creative process again.

This process began with a pair of shoes I made for myself several years ago. They were made from our old cork material, some reclaimed wool from an old sport coat, and one of our sandal soles. They looked terrible, and broke down pretty quickly. I was able to modify the pattern and make a pair out of some scrap leather that I bought for a project that didn’t work out. The leather was a weird greenish, bluish color that isn’t attractive at all on shoes! However, I was happy to have something comfortable to wear through the winter. We also sold a few pairs of them on Etsy. Eventually we started working on some cute closed toe shoes for women. This project is still in the mix so I won’t give away any details but they will be a good addition to the market when we work out the details. As we worked on them, I realized that they were not going to be ready for fall which is what I had hoped. While brainstorming shoe ideas, with my wife, we noted that the shoes I had made for myself the prior year were somewhat similar to moccasins. My wife then suggested going even closer to moccasins. It makes sense, our original product is a modern take on an ancient sandal. Moccasins have been put to the test and have survived the years in terms of style and function. They are basically a warmer version of what we were already doing!

Rather than starting with a moccasin pattern, we started with the pattern that I had developed and used design elements from moccasins to bring it together. Right now we’re working on four different styles that we plan to release very soon. We have yet to decide on names so bear with me:

1. Casual Moccasin based on my original shoesUnshoes casual Moccasin for men and women

We are working out a few more details with this but the basic design is set. This will be the first that we release and will probably be available in a limited quantity within days (but we can’t promise anything!)

2. Ballet Flat Moccasin

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This model will be available with a variety of accent colors on stitching.

This model is design to be cute, comfortable, and healthy. We used an asymmetrical design to the vamp (top part of a moccasin) to allude to the asymmetrical shape of the Wokova Feather model. Obviously, this isn’t an outdoor winter shoe. It is made for situations where you might want something cute and maybe a little dressy but it’s cool enough that you don’t want sandals. We really liked the look of this one but we realize its design comes with some limitations. This leads us to the next model:

3. Black Suede Moccasin

Suede Unshoes moccasin for casual and active wear

This model will be available with a variety of accent stitching colors. This picture shows the grey stitching.

We used the same pattern but modified the vamp for more coverage and security. This model will feature lacing (or securing system). We have several ideas that are all very similar in concept but have yet to agree on one specific style so we just photographed it without laces altogether. I can tell you that the lacing will be unique and secure. This model is also fairly close and will probably be second on the list to be released. Hopefully, within a week. (again, I can’t promise as we may still run into hiccups.)

4. Boot Design
This design is a little further out so I’m not going to include a photo. However, it’s a pretty rad design. Yes, I still use the word rad! Don’t judge. This isn’t going to be an extreme cold weather or snow boot but it will be warmer and cover more than the moccasins. The model we’re currently working on is not a moccasin but we may end up with a low boot moccasin as well.

We hope to have at least the black sued and brown moccasins out within a week available in limited quantities but again, things happen and we can’t make any promises. Also, we are still deliberating on names although we have some promising ideas. If you have a suggestion let us know in the comments below! As always, these new offers will be made by us right here in our small facility in Cedar City, UT.

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The Last Hurrah

Love it or hate it, fall is just around the corner! I’m seeing memes about pumpkin spice, boots, and hoodies. If you’re like me, you’re getting ready for one last summer hurrah before it gets too cold. I’m headed to Lake Powell this weekend for some sunshine and water and then its time to gear up for colder weather. We thought we help you out on your fall adventures by giving you a small discount on a pair of Unshoes. This sale will run Friday the 9th through Sunday the 11th. Shop our sandals here. If you’re going for one last summery adventure, I hope it is epic!
Get 15% off all sandals at Unshoes September 9 through 11 2016

For those of you who hate to put away your Unshoes but can’t quite take the cold on your feet, stay tuned for some more winter appropriate Unshoes coming soon. :)

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Pah Tempe, Mo Bettah

Back in April, I was running our booth at the Adventure + Gear Expo in Utah and I realized something. When women tried on our sandals, they would gently work the straps until they were on their feet or they would ask for help if they didn’t go on smoothly. Men, on the other hand, would grab the heel strap, stick their foot where they thought it might go, and pull without mercy! This was especially the case with the Pah Tempe. It puts an exorbitant amount of pressure on the straps. We had a few people who would break the sandals just putting them on! Since then, we have changed construction inside the sandals where the straps attach so they are much tougher, but we decided that we needed some kind of quick release buckle to make this process more smooth.

The idea actually came a few years ago. I had this idea of moving the buckle on the Pah Tempe so that it was positioned on the outside of the ankle. With the tension buckles we had, I knew they would stick out at a funny angle so it was rejected. As usual, the pressure and rigors of running a small business took over anything that wasn’t immediately pressing and the idea was put away. After discussing the issue of people struggling to get the sandals on, someone said, “why don’t we try using a quick release buckle?”That simple thought changed everything.PTbetterWe obtained buckle samples from our supplier and decided to give it a go. I made  a test pair for myself. Of course, as I always do, I made both sandals in the pair differently to see how different things would affect the performance. The left sandal never quite felt secure. Part of the reason was the buckle that we were trying. It was really cool in concept but just didn’t do the job. Eventually, I changed to a different buckle but I also decided to try using a different type of loop on the outside edge of the foot where the strap connects to the sole. I like having the sandals somewhat loose in the front as it gives my toes plenty of wiggle room and movement but some people felt like they couldn’t get the sandal secure enough in the front. I carefully performed major surgery on my sandals to change the loop over to a tension based slider. Once I was finished, I took the sandals for a little spin. My big concern was the larger hardware digging into the flesh. Other than the lump under foot that my sandal surgery had created, I was surprised that I couldn’t feel it at all. I promptly took it down a steep hill and found that the sandal without the tension loop slid forward quite a bit more than the one with the loop. I was sold. We’ve since tested it on various sizes and foot types and have had nothing but positive feedback on it.

Unshoes Pah Tempe Sleek version on sale for 25% off

The PT Sleek uses the same design as the Pah Tempe but with a narrower, 5/8″ webbing for a sleeker, more feminine look.

The Pah Tempe is one of our best selling models and is the original minimalist sport sandal that doesn’t have a toe post. The basic mechanics of the sandal remain the same, but it has some very helpful upgrades! All our Pah Tempe sandals will now be made with the side release buckle and tension loop for a better performing model. To kick off the design upgrade, we’re going to put the Pah Tempe (and Sleeks) on sale for the weekend! From now through Sunday you can get them for 25% off!

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The Coyote vs. The Competitor

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As we are based in Southern Utah, we get to see some spectacular scenery. Honestly, I don’t get out NEARLY as much as I’d like to. Between a family, homestead, and running a sandal company, the outdoor recreation sometimes gets put on the back burner. However, I’ve decided that instead of getting something for my birthday, I’d rather do something. This year I told my brother-in-law that I wanted to take some kind of adventure for my birthday and I wanted to invite him. His birthday is just two weeks before mine so he was all in. I was thinking a river rafting trip, but he suggested backpacking in Coyote Gulch near Lake Powell. I dropped the ball on planning/deciding anything so he picked it up and planned a trip to Coyote Gulch.

He lives in a different town in Southern Utah so I drove part way, and then he met me and I rode with him. Part of the trip requires 4 wheel drive and I didn’t think my little Saturn would make the cut. After I met my brother-in-law, I jumped in to the cab of his truck and within minutes I looked down and noticed that one of his friends who was joining us was wearing minimal sandals. I was excited that I wouldn’t be the only one wearing minimal sandals but I noticed they were from a competitor so I thought I’d tease him about it. I asked if they were (insert company name here) and he was surprised that I knew anything about them. I asked if he was going to hike in them or just bring them along as a camp/water shoe. He hesitantly told me that they were the only thing he brought, so yeah, he’d be hiking the whole way in them. Then he suddenly asked if that would be OK! He isn’t an experienced backpacker. I told him it depends on his feet and how conditioned they were. I also told him that sandals were the only footwear I brought as well. Most of the hike is along or through a small creek and is very sandy. Eventually, I told him what I do and that his sandals were one of our biggest competitors. Of course, for the rest of the drive, I teased him about wearing competing sandals.

Coyote Gulch is in the Glen Canyon Recreation area just south of Escalante Grand Staircase. As you travel south the fewer trees you see and the more red sandstone you see. Eventually you’re driving in deep sand and all you can see for miles and miles is rolling sand and sandstone hills with hints of deep crevices and no sign of life other than the occasional dusty vehicle passing the other way. The sun and rocks were scorching hot as we got out of the air conditioned trucks and we began our journey. I had been quite busy leading up to the trip because our Customer Service Rep had been out of town and Production Manager was sick for a week. I didn’t have much time to pack let alone study the route. I trusted that my brother-in-law would have put in quite a bit of research and would know what he was doing. However, I began to worry as we wandered off the trail within 3 feet of starting! I asked where we were going and he mentioned that two other guys with us knew. I asked them and they said they had been there several years ago and they thought we needed to go in this direction. Suddenly, I realized that I was in the middle of the desert where a million things can go wrong, off the trail, with a bunch of guys that I didn’t know (except for two). A few of the men there, I could tell had plenty of experience and I didn’t worry about them but there were others who didn’t seem experienced at all. The guys who “knew” where we were going didn’t seem very sure about it. I figured that we ought to just stick together and if we hiked more than an hour or two before finding a real route then I would suggest going back. I’m always up for a good adventure but I wanted to be safe out there.G0160383

It didn’t take long before we found the gulch. However, we were several miles too far to the south. You can just drop in to the gulch anywhere. This is a deep canyon (yeah, it’s called a gulch for a reason) with huge cliffs. We followed the winding canyon to the northwest and ended up having to do some scrambling on the slick rock and we had to do a little bit of backtracking but I was more at ease because at least now I knew where we were at. It was about 10 am and the sun was blazing down on us. The rock underfoot was hot enough to cook on. If you used your hands to scramble for more than a few seconds they began to burn. Eventually we found the marker that shows the way into the canyon. At this point, you start walking into a deep slope that looks like it you’re just going to walk right off the edge of a cliff. You have to scramble down some fairly steep rocks. Because of being a Boy Scout leader and an Outdoor Guide earlier in life, I tend to stay in the back of the pack and make sure that nobody gets left behind and help anyone who is struggling. I noticed at this point, the guy wearing the competitor’s sandals was really lagging behind. He looked really worried about the descent into the canyon. I figured that he was just afraid of falling. Eventually, he said that his feet hurt too badly. They had been sweating and had gotten slippery. I decided to wear my Uinta sandals because I knew we’d have to do some scrambling. I wanted the most versatile and rugged model available. I had some slipping around in them with a few small hot spots on my already tough soles. When I looked down his feet were halfway out of his sandals. To be fair, had I worn another model, I would have had more problems than I did. His feel had already blistered and were in immense pain. He couldn’t just take them off because the rock was too hot. I offered to let him use my sandals but he said no. Finally, we got to the steepest part only about 150 feet from the canyon floor. Luckily someone had left a rope. This was a relief for our unfortunate sandal wearing friend because he could turn around and use the rope to descend without having so much friction and pressure on his feet. The second he got into the canyon his sandals came off and he laid in the creek! Actually, we all did.

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Down in the canyon is the natural bridge (an arch that water runs through). This is where we came to the canyon at the beginning of our hike so we were able to spot our campsite from above before we got there.

The canyon floor is nothing like the harsh and deadly desert above! The creek is very small but it flows year round so it provides vegetation. There are canyon walls and green trees that provide shade and a cooler environment. It is much more humid (more than I’m used to) and very peaceful. Immediately we were met by a very large arch right in the canyon. There was also a spring with potable water running very close by. Because of that, this is the most popular place to camp. We, wanted to hike further down the canyon and camp at the natural bridge.G0430427

At this point, the hike was easy, mostly flat and in water. Our friend who got the name “tenderfoot” walked barefoot in the water the entire time back to camp. Of course, he was teased a little bit by the others because he “picked the wrong brand”! It was funny, but honestly, going down super steep rock that is blazing hot isn’t really what they were designed to do.

Our camp was located a few miles downstream at the natural bridge. The rest of the day we took time to rest, set up camp, hang out, and explore the area. We didn’t have a set number of miles to hike like many backpacking trips. This would be our base camp and we had the rest of the time to explore.

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Could anyone ask for a better place to camp!? This was amazing!

The rest of the trip included more hiking, playing in the water, boat (stick) races down the creek, jumping into the “Black Lagoon” (named very appropriately for its very deep, and mostly stagnant water), a hike down to the Escalante River and Steven’s Arch, flips into the river, plenty of “guy humor”, a surprise of finding fireflies in the canyon, camp olympic competitions, games, and hanging out in hammocks. It was really chill until we hiked back up and out of the canyon into the dry heat of the desert. This time we took a different route and actually followed cairns but the rough was actually more difficult as there was more sand. When we finally got back to the trucks, we found that one of the guys had left a cooler full of ice and gatorade. I’m not a fan of gatorade, but having something cold to drink was heavenly! Apparently, someone else thought so too because we found a few missing bottles and a ten dollar bill stuffed in the cooler!

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Black Lagoon

The Uinta sandals were perfect for this trip! Some of the other guys couldn’t decide while going to get water if they should wear their shoes or flip flops. Neither were ideal. There was also no small amount of complaining about sand in shoes! #shoepeopleproblems. It was nice to have one pair of sandals that did everything I needed them to. The hot, deep sand was a little uncomfortable at the very end of the hike but otherwise, they were a dream!

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