A few years ago, a friend gave me a pair of traditional Japanese carpenter shoes (jika-tabi), made of cotton fabric, with a split toe and thin rubber soles. Winter was coming, so I thought only of encasing my bony cold feet in warm wool to ward off frostbite while at home in my 1885 brick row house in New England. I’ve since made a ton of these felted tabi slippers (Toebiters) for myself, friends, and others who buy them at my shop on Etsy. I think of them as deconstructionist-influenced and pretty crafty. Martin Margiela meets Commes des Garcons at Frenchy’s. Ha!
I’ve been getting order requests from the barefoot running community. Sometimes I make a custom pair for someone who has wide feet and wears minimal sandals while running in the winter. As a pedorthist and as a shoemaker, I am fascinated by this concept. The jury’s still out on whether barefoot running is good or bad for you, and there are certainly divergent opinions (see links below). I admit I am attracted to the idea of barefoot walking/hiking or being, or barefoot running on soft, level ground, but the idea of barefoot running on rough hiking trails in the woods over boulders gives me the heebie-jeebies.
This article debates whether running barefoot is more efficient.
And this article was sent to me from someone who goes barefoot most of the year.
Update: I’ve started making Toebiters with super thick merino felt soles.