Oh, and my perspective on footwear has changed in one other significant way -- we've become more and more convinced that minimalist footwear is the way we want to go for our family. Turns out, people in "shoeless" cultures don't experience the same joint problems that plague first world runners, because you run differently barefoot than you do in a cushy, "supported" shoe with a thick heel. Weight lifters have known this for a long time, which is why they wear flat shoes (it pays to have a husband who knows these things!). I own a pair of Merrell Barefoot Vapor Gloves for running and exercise, and they really are amazing (as in, you will never want to wear another pair of shoes once you put them on). As a disclaimer, I do have one pair of black heels for fancy occasions, and my winter boots aren't exactly minimalist. But my everyday shoes are as flat and "minimal" as I can manage -- though ballet flats, which are typically flexible and have little to no heel) are the closest I've come without spending a fortune. 'Cause let me tell you, there are not many minimalist shoes available -- especially if you're on a budget. I guess it's a good thing I was downsizing already...
In fact, between my two "minimal" philosophies (fewer pairs and less between me and the ground), I rarely even bother looking at shoes when I'm shopping.
Then I saw Sseko sandals -- a single amazing sandal that can be tied in umpteen different ways with any color of ribbon? Don't pinch me, or I might wake up! Oh, they're also made fair trade by women in Uganda. Like they needed to be any better. There was only one teensy, weensy problem: Ssekos are not minimalist. I would have gladly shelled out the cash if it weren't for that subtle rise between the toe and the heel.
But I wasn't about to give up. Ideas have been simmering in my mind for months (no joke), and I finally summoned up my courage and got started. Turns out, the solution was simple:
|You know you have minimalist shoes when the wear pattern on the sole shows your heel, |
the ball of the foot, and all of your toes!
I like simple. Two scraps of free leather (brown upper and black lower, because that's what I had), a utility knife, Contact cement, and a pair of knit "straps" did the trick. I wouldn't feel right doing a full tutorial for these because they are total knock-offs of the Sseko sandal -- but it's a simple design to simulate, based off of this image. I traced my foot and smoothed out the shape, adding a bit so that my foot wouldn't fall off the edge. My leather pieces were relatively thick, but they're still quite flexible. I scientifically "eyed" the location of the leather loops after perusing images on the Sseko website, and fortunately they seem to be placed properly.
I can't wait to try out more of the different tying options, and to also make a whole rainbow of straps. The straps, by the by, were sewn with two strips of excess knit fabric, leftover from a shirt I made (more on that project soon!). I just made them the width of the fabric, which, being a knit, was characteristically wide. 60", perhaps? I'd used grosgrain ribbon at first, but it was not nearly as comfortable. With the knit straps, it feels like I have absolutely nothing on my foot! In fact, once I put them on I have absolutely no inclination to take them off. I think Sseko ribbons are made from woven fabrics, so I'll probably try that to see how it goes.
|My toes look a bit wonky in this one, because it's harder than you might think to get pictures of your own foot...|
I've noticed some areas of separation between the two sole pieces, so I'll probably try to re-glue them or even try a different glue (I've heard Barge cement is great for leather shoes). Oh, and I think a bit of stitching around the edge would also work splendidly (and solve the glue issue), but I didn't have the proper type of "thread" for such an application and I was too impatient to wait. But since these were free, they're a perfect experimental pair. I can work out any kinks at no cost to myself. Though quite honestly, I'm perfectly happy with them and will continue to wear them as long as they'll last!
I'm so thrilled that I have a new option for footwear; I'd like to experiment even more once I have a little more experience under my belt. Making shoes -- however simple -- was never something I'd thought possible. Now I have an option that fits both of my "minimalist" shoe requirements, with the added bonus of cheap materials, a customized fit, and virtually endless style possibilities.