The trouble with walking around barefoot is, of course, the gunk on the street – not to forget the pointies that will stick and jab at your soles. But what if what you want to keep your feet free in the open air, unconfined, and also keep your soles away from, shall we say, sin? The answer comes courtesy of the rightly named That’s Cool, Inc : topless sandals. These are soles that stick to the bottom of your feet with a skin-friendly adhesive, with no uppers or straps to “bind” the foot, thus leaving it – say it with me - topless. To add flair, the insoles are available in a cornucopia of colours and patterns. Very cool, indeed. Here’s a pic of what they look like off and on – and I promise this will be the last pic of my feet until the next time:
But do they work? And are they comfortable? The answer to both questions is a resounding yes. At first, it felt a little strange to have something sticking to the bottom of my feet. But after walking around in them for a while, I stopped noticing. Movement felt fine – all in all, these things were quite comfortable.
Style-wise, these things look as great as they feel in the paradoxical sense that it almost looks like you’re not wearing anything. To emphasize the effect, a stylish accessory is the foot thong (or barefoot sandal). I wondered initially why That's Cool only offered them individually instead of in pairs. But my contact at the company, Miriam VonStruble, offered a sensible explanation; wearing two makes the sandals look like flip-flops, while wearing one emphasizes their toplessness. How true it is. The foot thongs are light beads on an elastic string. A large beaded loop slips around the ankle while a smaller one loops around the toe so that the beaded strap rests on top of the foot. Although women are the ones who typically wear these, I don’t see a reason why men can’t too. (Miriam tells me that while foot thongs haven’t caught on as a trend with American men, European and Asian men will wear them.) As with any fashion item, it’s all about context.
However, I did notice that the adhesive weakened after some time (more or less; this was true of one sandal in particular). Some explanation is required: I wore these at the office for pretty much an entire day. Except for lunch break, when I took them off, I wore the sandals for 3-4 hours straight, mostly while sitting at my desk. I suspect that, in combination with the jeans I wore (the hems kept catching on the adhesive), I abused the sandals a bit. More walking, less intrusive jeans, and less fussing in general might have led to better results after a few hours of wearing. But even so, the sandals did stay on, and the lesson is a rather familiar one with shoes; wear the right shoes for the right occasions and purposes. It’s for this reason I don’t hold the lack of arch support against the sandals; they’re not designed for hiking. (I have to wonder, though, what would happen if we were to take a Vibram sole with a fabric insole and put on a replenishable layer of adhesive. Hmm.) These are shoes of leisure and, in that capacity, they are absolutely fun – a cure for the common shoe. I’m looking forward to wearing these again in a more active capacity. Heck, I might even get a few more.
Miriam tells me that the adhesive should last for 80-100 wearings provided the sandals are properly cared for. This means:
- Wearing them with dry, clean, lotion/oil-free feet.
- Not wearing them in environments filled with particles – e.g. sandy beaches, despite what the picture on the package might tell you. While the shoe is theoretically supposed to fit the foot as closely as possible, in practice there is some insole exposed, which means that sand and dirt will stick to it if you’re not careful.
- Treating the sandals like socks and washing them with soap and warm water using a soft-bristled brush; this reactivates the adhesive.
Note: Many thanks to Miriam Von Struble for her assistance and for providing me with a free pair of Topless Sandals to review.