Sunday, July 25, 2010

paper-feet sandals: a review

This week at the Ann Arbor Art Fair, I found an interesting booth by the paper-feet company, started by some local Ann Arborites. Their idea in ingenious in its simplicity: They buy old billboard ads and cut them up into a design that, along with strategically applied velcro strips, allow for 'tabs' to be folded up and over the top of the foot, making for a super lightweight, and super thin, sandal.

I thought billboards were printed on regular paper, but it turns out they're actually a canvas-like material, which is, according to Jimmy, one of their sales reps, “billboard banner vinyl, flexible fiber-reinforced PVC,” which is actually pretty tough. Walking around in them, I found I could still feel street grit, but only as 'bumps', rather than something 'pokey.' They also cut down, a little, on the 'sand paper' feel of sidewalks and pavement, though I don't mind that at all now that my feet are more hobbit-like. One of the tabs comes up between the big toe and second toe (whatever it's called) and ends up as kind of a scrunched up thong, though not uncomfortable at all.

I asked Jimmy how long a pair would last, and he showed me the pair he had been wearing regularly for three months, and the bottoms, while showing some wear (ie dirt more than anything) didn't seem to be even close to wearing out, or through. I think actually a person could even run in paper-feet, though at that point I'd say they may as well just go barefoot. I did have the idea that someone could carry a pair during a marathon if they weren't sure about being able to run the whole way, and/or if they weren't sure if there were rough gravel spots. It would actually be interesting to run a marathon in them to see how well they stand up, but at this point I'm more interested in pushing myself with the barefoot running. Unless they sponsored me? [hint hint].

Their lightweight-ness is actually why I'm reviewing them here, not for barefoot running, but as an 'aid' to the barefoot lifestyle. Because they're so lightweight, and can literally be rolled or folded up and put in a purse, or even a back pocket, they would be great for going around town, in case a situation came up where I had to be shod. For example, going out to eat: If the manager really made a fuss about my bare feet, I could pull the paper-feet out of my pocket and slip them on, hopefully with the whole restaurant watching!

They look a little odd, but no more odder than VFFs. In fact, most people don't seem to notice that I”m wearing paper, and, for example, when I walk into a cafĂ© I don't get the immediate 'group stare' that I do going barefoot, or even in my VFFs. They are comfortable, mainly because paper is about as thin a layer one could find. No padding, no arch support, almost no nothing. They're the next best thing to being barefoot, and would work well for those folks who just don't like getting their feet dirty. Sometimes after a long barefoot run, my feet feel a little raw. These would be great for those times. Best of all, they're made from recycled material.

The cost for a pair is around $15. The paper-feet sandals come in small, medium and large sizes. I'm normally an American size 10, and ended up with a pair of 'mediums', though I'm still playing with the velcro tabs, which seem to have a fairly wide ranges. There's no color choice per se, because the sandals come from the mix of colors from whichever billboard canvas the company has bought, though they'll find you a pair that comes close. You can specify if you want something more mellow (I chose a black, grey and white look) or, if you like the idea of making people notice and freak out a little (a la the VFFs) with something more noticeable, like a bright red pair.

paper-feet info:
(814) FOR-FEET
(814) 367-3338
More pics:

Side view

paper-feet on my feet!