Wildling shoes Tanuki Niji review – the summer freedom made by Japanese paper

The past few weeks we have been getting some better weather with the sun coming out a bit more. Although it’s a bit deceiving in terms of temperature, with lockdown easing as well, it is hard to not feel the summer excitement. As I was looking for something a bit airier than my leather vivobarefoot, I came across this German brand – Wildling and their Tanuki Niji.

Appearance

The first impression from them is that they look fresh. From a colour versatility point of view, I am more of a white shoe guy than a black shoe guy, so I was naturally drawn to the Niji (Rainbow) rather than the Yoru (Night/Evening). Speaking of the rainbow, I do like the subtlety of how they place their rainbow. One, it gives the shoe a bit more interest but not ruining the overall simplicity. And two, it shows support in an “I respect people’s right” rather than the in-your-face “I am woke” way. Although it’s not their intention, I do quite like the fact here, in the UK, it also means “thank you NHS”. To finish off with the little red lace rings is just the cherry on the cake. 

You can probably guess by now that they took quite a lot of inspiration from Japanese culture into the shoes’ design. Perhaps that’s also one of the reasons I was drawn to it. With their outsole designed to be a bit like a pair of Ninja shoes and their choice of materials.

Material

This is probably their main selling point of the shoes. The upper of the shoes are made out of Washi fabric which is 75% paper. Washi is also known as Japanese paper or rice paper. Traditionally used for ink painting or to make Shoji screen. Wildling mixes it with polyester to form this extremely thin but durable and malleable fabric. It apparently has antibacterial property on top of being breathable and super quick to dry. I think it’s perfect for the summer months with the look and feel of a nice canvas shoe but with a bit more to it.

How it wears

When I put it on, the first thing I noticed was how much it hugs your feet. Thanks to Washi’s thinness, the feet-hugging cut of the shoe doesn’t actually feel restrictive at all but rather like a second layer of skin. It gives you the confidence that you are protected to roam and feel nature.

It comes with this “Hemp-flax fleece” removable insole, which comes in at 4mm thickness. They said it’s moisture-absorbing and temperature regulating. I find it to be an okay insole, nothing wrong with them but at the same time nothing that special. Unlike their Washi insole, which fits my lifestyle a lot better. As we can sometimes experience all 4 seasons in one single day here in the UK, the quick-dry property allows me to prepare for the eventuality that I would be wearing these shoes out and they decided to rain on me. Also, they come in 2mm which means even closer to the ground.

Because of its breathability and how well it fits, unlike my leather viviobarefoot which I tend to sweat a bit in, I don’t need to and I don’t like to wear socks with them. Plus the outsole is not constructed in one big slab, the shape gives the shoe that bit more flexibility to achieve the maximum freedom and ground feel. Or as they say – Wildness.

Things to consider before buying

First, they are white in colour. The snowy freshness will be gone as soon as it touches the floor. Thanks to their quick-dry nature, you can actually hand wash them to keep them fresher. But at the end of the day if you drop your Indian takeaway on it, just accept the fact now you have a pair of yellow shoes rather than white.

Secondly, which is a bit annoying for us now that Brexit happened, it is a German company. So when you buy from them, you will now have to pay VAT and/or import tax on them. Also, returns are not as straightforward as sending your ASOS back. If you get your size wrong, you might end up paying twice the stupid tax…

Verdict

Wildling Tanuki Niji, in my opinion, is a great summer daily shoes. They look clean with a dash of summery vibe. Versatile enough that you might even get away with the smart-casual style. Thin and breathable to keep your feet cool and dry. Because of the crazy UK weather, I would strongly recommend you getting the Washi insole at the same time as well so you don’t have to pay the shipping twice to have them shipped from German. 

Vivobarefoot Geo Court: the most stylish barefoot shoe that fit every occasion

Ever since I got into the barefoot world, one thing that I am always on the hunt for is a stylish pair of barefoot shoes. There is no denying that apart from the most basic thing a pair of shoes is designed for – to protect your foot – it is also an essential part of your outfit. I don’t know about you, but I am the type of guy that pays extra attention to someone’s shoes. I will be walking around town quietly paying extra respect to a fellow human who is on top of their shoe game, “damn look at those retro AJ 1s”. My partner is very vocal about me being lame but I can’t help it.

In my line of work, I am on my feet, running up and down a lot. So I wanted a pair of barefoot shoes that I can wear day to day to provide maximum comfort for the whole day but at the same time, I am expected to maintain a certain level of professionalism so my sandal is out of the question. When I almost gave up my self-respect and settled for a dweeby pair, Vivobarefoot, a UK-based company, popped into my Instagram ad suggestion and rescued my fragile dignity (sometimes cookies do good deeds too, people). Their Geo court’s minimal yet striking design language clicked with my taste straight away – add to cart.

Appearance

First and foremost, I really adore the two-tone design. Snow white upper with a teal blue heel. Paired with the sharp red logo, it provides the versatility of a white trainer but can also easily stands on its own under the spotlight and be the centrepiece of your outfit. Hands down one of the most good-looking barefoot shoes out on the market.

Source: vivobarefoot.com

Material

As I picked the white version, the fact that it features a full leather upper was brilliant. Anything that drops on it can be easily wiped away without leaving a mark. It also provides a degree of water resistance, perfect for the Northern Ireland weather where it rains, according to online data, an average of 213 days per year which is just under 60% of the time.

They also feature this bio-based BLOOM EVA insole which is a more sustainable alternative to the traditional EVA foam insole. I am not some sort of activist or anything, but recently I do find myself gravitating towards products that are good and, at the same time, make a conscious effort to be kind to the environment.

It is also extremely well built. I have worn my geo court almost every day to work for the past year and averaging about 10,000 steps a day. Apart from some superficial marks and scratches, the stitches are still intact and the outsole hasn’t shown any overt sign of wear. With the current wear and tear level, I expect it to go strong for another 2-3 years if not more.

Beginner-friendly

The Geo court comes with a 3mm hexagonal textured rubber outsole. It is very thin, light and flexible. Given how close you are to the ground, it naturally gives you some amazing ground feel. But worry not if you are only new to the barefoot game, you can start with the insole first. The nature of EVA foam is that they are soft and shock absorbing. Pair with a thickness that is also about 3mm, it gives you a total of roughly 6mm of cushion to start with. It makes transitioning into barefoot shoes a walk in the park ;). Take the insole out once your foot muscles are stronger and ready to embrace the barefoot world.

Don’t just build a business, start a revolution

Verdict

I think Vivobarefoot has not just made an amazing product, they have started a revolution. They have shown the world that barefoot shoes on top of the health benefits that come with, they can be good looking, can be versatile, can be sustainable. They have created a product that not only a barefoot enthusiast would like, but they have also managed to bridge the gap between “traditional” footwear and barefoot footwear. Make it easier for people to try and fall in love with barefoot shoes. I have been stopped, complimented and asked a few times about my Geo court and if they should try it. It is not difficult to see why there are more and more of this “V” logo around. And if you ask me if you should try them too? That’s a solid yes mate, I think you will love them too. 

Xero Shoes Genesis review: Strip back to basic and embrace the root of barefoot

Xero Shoes was the first barefoot shoe company that I came across when I was researching for some compact alternatives to fit into my backpack for travelling. I was going to Cyprus for a lovely sunbathing holiday and wanted to bring a pair of sandals with me that won’t take up much space in my bag. So as every homo sapiens nowadays do, I asked google about some minimalist sandals and that’s when the spiral started.

Xero Shoes is a barefoot shoe company founded by a couple in America, Steven and Lena in 2009. After experiencing multiple injuries from running, they came across the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and started DIY their own Huarache shoes. Initially for themselves and some members of their running club, but soon took off into a business with a fan base across the globe.

Genesis

Genesis is their Huaraches shoes. One of the most minimalist shoes you can find on the market, literally a paper-thin sole and a long string that strap the foot in. In barefoot shoes, this is possibly the barest of them all. Xero Shoes called their Huarache “Genesis” because it is their founding product and I found it fitting for myself as it introduces me to the world of barefoot. £39.95… although might not be the cheapest for a pair of sandals, given their unique position in the market, you will find it difficult to get another quality pair in this price range.

Appearance

I really like its minimalistic rustic look. Just a paper-thin sole and the black cord version I picked makes it look like I am merely having some decorative straps on my foot and not wearing shoes at all. It comes in 4 different colour cords so it goes well with most colourful summer outfit, keeping you cool and free.

Compact and flexible

It kind of goes without saying, majority of the barefoot shoes are flexible. That’s the whole point of them, to mould to your feet rather than the other way round. And the Genesis are so flexible and minimal that they can roll up into a tiny ball that fits into the palm of your hand. It is one of the main selling points to me that I always have a pair of sandal ready for the beach without taking much too much space in my bag.

Amazing ground feel

They called their thin sole FeelTrue® rubber outsole. Comes in 5mm, might not be one of the thinnest of sole out there as you sometimes see company boasting about 3-4mm sole. But from my experience, it feels much thinner than 5mm between you and the element. Although thin, they are extremely durable and have saved my feet from so many sharps on the road. If you are an experienced barefoot junkie, you would appreciate that ground feel of these.

But also because of that, it might not necessarily be the first pair of barefoot shoes I would recommend to everyone out there looking to try barefoot. It takes some times to re-adjust from “normal shoes” to barefoot. So don’t be like me that the first time wearing one is on holiday walking long distance. There are different brands of barefoot shoe companies that are slightly more protective that can ease you into the barefoot world.

Adjustable strap

Improving upon the Huaraches, the Genesis strap has an adjustable system that makes the sandal hug your feet better. By tightening or loosening the heel straps, you can adjust the whole shoes to fit your desire comfort thanks to the looping mechanism on the side rather than having multiple straps like the traditional sandals. With the strap having some elasticity to it, after finding your perfect fit, you can slip on and off them very easily. In reality, I found adjusting to having the perfect fit is a bit more faffy than it initially seems. A small adjustment to one tag at the back actually makes quite a significant change to the whole shoe tension. Ideally, you want to have a good tension so the shoes don’t turn into a stupid flapping swim fin scoping up every little thing on the floor, but at the same time, you don’t want it to be too tight digging into your toe webs. From time to time, I still need to re-adjust it just because I don’t feel I get it quite right.

Verdict

Xero Shoes’ Genesis is deeply inspired by Ramárui’s Huaraches shoes. I love its compactness and minimalistic design that strips it all back to the most basic of shoes – the sole ( 😉 ) purpose is to protect your feet from penetrating injuries by rocks and debris. Their FeelTrue® sole, although protective, gives you a truly remarkable ground feel that all barefoot enthusiasts cherish. It is very comfortable once you are used to wearing barefoot shoes, but you might want to ease yourself into the barefoot world before doing any serious running and walking in these!