I’ve wanted to do an Unshoes review for some time, and I finally got my hands (feet) on a pair of minimalist Unshoes – super cool river/outdoor sandals made right here in Utah, and I’ve worn them for over a month now – plenty of time for a review. So here goes…
I’ve worn sandals, with almost religious zeal, since 1988 – around the time the original Teva sandals gained popularity. I made it about two years with open-toed versions before switching to a version with a toe strap and I’ve never looked back. Not everyone agrees, but I like the toe strap.
Sometime in the early 90’s, with the Deckers Corporation distributing Teva sandals, some of us river guides had access to the Decker’s flip flop model. I started wearing flip flops and I’m partial to them to this day. I love slipping them on and off. If I’m on a river and worried about flipping a raft (seriously worried) then I just put on shoes. In a big whitewater swim you’re losing your sandals anyway. Big water doesn’t care if you paid a hundred bucks for them, if you know the rep, or how many straps they have.
After 20 years of wearing flip flops (remember when we could call them “thongs” and not be misunderstood?) I’ve gone through dozens of pairs. Lightweight, beach cruiser ones won’t hold up to even a couple river trips, and all the heavy ones (i’m looking at you Chaco) are way too heavy.
A few years ago I jumped (for better or worse) on the minimalist shoe train, and I’ve been pretty happy with that decision. It’s allowed me to justify buying tons of new sandals and shoes. I even made my own sandals once. My minimalist shoe phase roughly coincided with my “made in the USA” phase, and both are still going strong. I have too many shoes, and I have too many bags made in the USA- most of which I’ve reviewed on YouTube at one point or another.
Unshoes – the Review
That brings us to my Unshoes review. Unshoes are Minimalist sandals made in the U.S.A. Made in Utah, no less.
I’ve wanted to try out a pair and do an Unshoes review ever since I stumbled across them a few years ago on the internet. They’re based in Cedar City, Utah, they’re lightweight, simple, and they’re mostly affordable.
For comparison, I’ve worn a combination of Luna Sandals and Chaco’s “Flip” sandal (flip flop) for the last few years. I also have the blown foam (?) Birkenstocks that I like for kicking around the yard – I call them “Birkencrocs” because while they look like the Birkenstock Arizona model, they’re just an expensive version of a Croc.
From Unshoes I ordered the Wakova Feather model. It’s a lightweight sandal with a grippy sole, webbing upper, and a small elastic ring with a little “give” to make slipping them on and off a little easier.
They’re adjustable with a ladder lock buckle, although I pretty much adjusted them once and forgot about the buckle. This was my experience with the Luna sandals too – they have a buckle for adjustment, but I find myself rarely using it. Once the Unshoes are fitted and comfortable, there’s enough give in the system to just slip them on or off without really having to adjust the strap further. I like that. Futzing with buckles is a pain.
I found them to be little “slappy” on the feet for the first couple days, but that went away as they broke in. The footbed is a little more solid or resilient than the Luna model I’ve been wearing for the last couple summers, so break-in has taken a little longer, but the Unshoes conform to my feet a little more each day I wear them, and they’re getting more and more comfortable.
I’ve worn them on hikes, around town, and through Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River. I’ve even worn them in the mud, and while no sandal is ideal for deep, sticky, mud, I thought they did alright. I walked with care and when the mud got real deep I took them off – which I’d do with any sandal I don’t want to lose.
As far as weight goes, to compare anything to the old Luna sandals I have is almost unfair – in fact, I can’t even compare my Lunas to anything Luna currently offers – the closest thing they have on their site to the model I have is the “Mono” – which is a Vibram Moreflex sole that’s 11 mm thick. They list the weight as 5.9 oz per sandal – the pair I have weights 6.8 oz – that’s the pair. Together. My old pair weighs only slightly more than a single current sandal. (On a very relevant side rant – it’s ironic that a guy who proudly calls himself “Barefoot Ted” is now the owner of a sandal company – a sandal company that every year comes out with heavier and more complex models. I’m all for success but the “barefoot” ideal seems to have been sacrificed along the way.)
If the Unshoes bear a resemblance to the Lunas, it’s in the lacing/suspension/strap configuration. The main strap rides between the big toe and over the foot, almost like a traditional flip flop, but then it’s connected to the side straps. While the Luna design opts for a simple loop and wrap around the outsole, Unshoes opts for a more traditional route using a sewed side strap that’s bound between the two sole components with glue. At first glance users might think the stitching a better option, assuming it’ll hold up longer than the Luna design that has the potential to rub on the ground during use, but I’ve found the Luna wrap method has lasted quite long, and, in fact, seems hardly worn at all. Unshoes’ method of stitching does make the portion of strap that rides near the users’ ankle a little thinner, and possibly more comfortable, depending on personal preference. I can’t really say I like one more than the other – they’re just different.
If the current Luna Mono weighs 5.9 oz for a single sandal, then that makes the pair together weigh 11.8 oz. Which means they weigh in at 2 oz more than the Unshoes Wokova Feather model I have. I originally thought the Unshoes were a little heavy compared to my old Lunas, but compared with current offerings in the fall of 2017, Unshoes are among the lightest sandals you can get your hands (feet) on. That’s a plus in my book.
It’s a plus because anytime you wear a thin, soft, well-designed sandal for a length of time and then go back to the Chaco “Flip” (flip-flop) you realize that wearing a Chaco is somewhat like strapping a HumVee to your feet and going for a hike. Sure, they’re heavy enough to hold up to just about anything, but, like with a HumVee, there’s a trade off in groundfeel, comfort, and flexibility/freedom. I like the Chaco flip flops for getting the mail or shoveling the driveway in winter, but not for hiking. They’re too heavy. Way too heavy. My Chacos weigh more than my Unshoes and my old Lunas combined.
Unshoes Review – the video
I had the opportunity to visit the Unshoes factory and meet with the owner Terral. It was a great experience and it’s always fun to meet the folks behind gear I like. They’re a passionate crew who genuinely cares about their product. Terral even showed me the first pair of sandals he made.
You can check out more of a vlog-style video I shot of our visit to the factory here:
Unshoes are great sandals. Although they take a little longer to break in than something with a softer footbed, they’re lightweight, comfortable, relatively easy to slip on, and they’re made in the USA. That’s about everything I look for in a sandal. They’re also considerably cheaper than Lunas.
- easy(ish) to slip on
- Made in USA
- toe strap
- stiff footbed lengthens break-in
Do you have a favorite sandal? A lightweight one? Do you know anyone that makes a durable, comfortable flip-flop? Why are you still wearing Chacos? Let me know in the comments below!