Review: Unshoes Wokova Feather Sandals

A few summers ago, I purchased a pair of Chaco sandals. The mountains and rivers where I live demand to be explored, and Chacos fit the bill just fine.

Until I went barefoot. And then? They felt like 10 lb. deadweights overengineered with artificial “arch support”. My feet could not abide.

I don’t know if any of you are having the same experience, but once you start barefooting, your foot will no longer settle for less. On the rare occasion I try to wear some cute shoes or boots to an event, my feet are like that really annoying diva that somehow gets invited along, and you’re like, “Who invited the beeyotch?” They complain, they whine, they don’t want to do what you want to do. And then they get really drunk and flirt with your boyfriend, and then you’re all like, “Oh no, she DI’INT!!!” And then you wake up the next morning and wonder what the heckity-heck happened and you’re grateful you blacked the whole thing out of your memory.

Or something.

What I’m trying to say is this: I try to keep my feet happy these days with minimal shoes and going barefoot as often as possible. Easy to do in the summertime for sure. But I was finding that even though I LURVE doing my outdoor sessions barefoot, sometimes the pointy gravel and rugged woodchips are still a bit much for me. I also wanted something for hiking and water compatibility, both occasions for not being 100% conscious of where each step is going. A little traction can be helpful too. And the vain side of me liked the idea of something cute to wear around when I was going to be doing a little more walking than a pair of flip-flops could handle.

I did some research and decided to order a pair of Unshoes. These are custom-made to fit. You have to stand on a piece of paper, trace your foot’s outline, and then ship it off to the company. And then you wait. For weeks. I had finally given up on running to the door every day to see if a package had arrived when, lo and behold, one day a simple US Postal Service envelope showed up…in my mailbox! That’s how light and tiny they are, they fit right next to my Outside magazine and junk mail.

I ordered the Wokova Feather which features a very thin 5mm Vibram sole. I got the olive straps with brown sole, which is a fashionable combo, in my opinion. I had a little issue getting the straps adjusted, but once you figure it all out, it’s a piece of coconut flour-and-honey cake.

I had seen some other similar sandals. I’ve read about the Tarahumara huaraches, and they sound great until you learn that they use BANDAGES TO SOAK UP THE BLOOD from them on their long races. Seriously. Not my sort of gig. And thank goodness for online reviews of other sandals. Chafing? Knot under the toes? No thank you.

The strapping used here is a silky smooth webbing material which is both durable and comfortable. So far, I haven’t noticed the strap between my toes, though I might on some serious downhill, of which we have plenty around these parts.

I was a bit dismayed at first that the sole is cut pretty generously. It can look a little goofy to have so much sole sticking out around your foot. That is, until you actually start moving in them and then you realize the extra material is needed for protective purposes. I jump, run, slide, crawl, balance, and climb in these suckers, so I shift around quite a bit, especially once I get sweaty or they get wet from dewy grass or stream crossings. I recommend you tighten the straps snugly for those reasons.

So how did they perform? I took ’em for a spin this morning at my usual park location. Together, we jumped on picnic tables, bear-crawled, crab-walked, ran, walked into a stream, climbed trees, climbed a rock wall, balanced on a slippery board, and heaved a rock over my head. They stayed with me every step of the way. The sole is thin enough to provide ground-feel but thick enough to protect from most pointy, hurty objects. Only once did I wince from a super jagged rock which obviously had it out for me. Don’t worry, I showed that rock who’s boss!

So far I have only two concerns:

  1. Durability. As you can see, the welds are rough hewn. I figure if I get through a year without them giving out, it’ll be worth the money.
  2. Friction. The inner sole where it meets the foot has a grid pattern, presumably so that you can glue the sole onto a shoe’s structure. The grid is a scoring of sorts to provide traction for adhering. I’m not sure it’s actually meant to be in contact with a foot. I haven’t taken these out for a longer run yet (if you know me, you know I’m not a distance runner, so long = 3 miles), but I’m worried there might be blisterage. Barefoot running purists will say that this indicates poor form, and I agree with them about 85%. As mentioned, I’m not just running, there’s lots of lateral and random movement in what I do. Only time will tell if this is an issue.

So what’s the verdict from my vain self? I’ve already received several compliments on them from non-minimal shoe wearers. Sweet!

Overall: Highly recommend.


7 Responses to “Review: Unshoes Wokova Feather Sandals”

  1. My hubby recently bought a pair of Chacos. Seems everyone here wears them. He wears a size 9 and I swear they weigh a ton! Not to mention the lack of flexibility. So, I went to my local dealer and tried them on. Not impressed. I disliked the webbing, the weight and the lack of flexibility so much. At least my Tevas flexed when I walked. I guess I will stick with them for a while. However, I have been eyeing the Wakova Feather for a long time. I’m glad to hear that you enjoy them so much. Perhaps my next purchase will be a pair for myself. Thanks for the review!

    • I loved them at the time, but yeah. Now they feel like concrete blocks. I’ve heard of people shaving the sole down to something more flexible, but I wouldn’t want to do it with a new pair. Especially when the Unshoes are only $45. Go for the gold!

  2. Thanks for the review! Have you thought about trying the Pah Tempe sandal? That is what I prefer for the type of activity you’ve described.

    • Aha! You know, I think I saw the Wokova Feather and immediately my vain side had to have it since it’s so darn cute! But you’re right, the Pah Tempe looks like it would be great for lateral movement, although, so far, my Wokovas haven’t let me down.

  3. Alright, I just ordered my own. It’s all your fault :-D I’m so excited!

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