What about flat soled minimalist shoes for the office? Please take my survey.

I obtained permission in advance for this post. 

Looking at my friends who love the Vibrams, and how popular they're getting, along with authors like Tim Ferriss recommending them for every day wear, I decided to try my hand at being an entrepreneur.

Many people who own Vibrams cannot wear them into the office.  There aren't too many heel-less men's office type shoes out there.  I am currently in the process of converting several pairs of loafers to flat heels, but that's not for everyone.  I own several pairs of slippers from Kmart called the Route 66 Nolan that blend in, but occasionally people at work give me weird looks for it.  Especially those who bought them as slippers. :)

Is there a market for a flat soled office shoe?  I'd like to find out.  Please take the survey below and let me know what kind of shoes you'd like to see in this style.  The shoes would definitely not replace your Vibrams.

http://www.theycode.com/limesurvey/index.php?sid=47461&lang=en

The survey is totally anonymous, and is on behalf of myself, no one else is involved.  There is a spot for your email address if you'd like me to email you when I have more information about my plans to market a shoe, but it's not required.  I will not use it for any other purpose, and no one else will see it.

Thank you very much!

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Comments

  • Someone just asked "Why only men's?"  I have no idea whom, so I'll assume that it was someone here.

    First, I'm new to this whole entrepreneurial thing, and wanted to keep it simple to start.

    Second, I'm a man, so I'm more familiar with men's shoes.

    Third, I've seen many women's shoes that could meet the definition of what I'm trying to accomplish, even amongst women at places I've worked who would have zero interest in Vibram FiveFingers and do not run.  I perceive the market to have a dearth of these kinds of shoes for men, not women.  But since I don't hang out in women's shoe stores, I could easily be wrong.
  • Yes there is. I need shoes that look nice enough to pass business casual, but also prefer a bit nicer as I'm a consultant. I don't need super fancy, but they need to be leather and look dressy.

    I actually ended up buying some Cole Haan shoes today - not my first choice, but it was the lowest heel I could find that looked decent and I needed them promptly. I looked at Terra Plana Dharmas and they by no means look dressy. They look too much like a sneaker.


    PS: Took your survey.
  • I get away with the Trek's in our professional environment, but some aren't pleased.  Some other less daring barefooters I work with wear Ecco's.  They have a few styles that are flat and very thin soled.  However, the other day there were more than just my piggy prints leading into our building.  I wish VFF would make a nice leather upper version with the KSO sole.  I'd pay $$ for them.  Regardless, I want the toes...

    I took the survey...
  • I work in an office setting too, and I'm in a supervisory role as well.  For days when I have meetings and have to wear slacks, a dress shirt, and tie, I was able to find a pair of Nunn & Bush dress shoes that had a lower heel lift than normal.  It's still pretty significant though and I notice it when I get home and throw on my VFFs or RunAmocs and go for a run.  It takes about a mile or more of consciously trying to forefoot strike before my body settles in to it.

    On days when I don't have meetings, I can almost get away with wearing the Terra Plana Oaks.

    And on dress down Fridays, I wear a pair of black jeans and my FeelMax Pankas.  People like the look of the FeelMax shoes, though thus far only one person has noticed that there's no tread on the sole and that the shoe is low to the ground.

    I'd really like to get a pair of Terra Plana Button shoes for dressier days in the office, but I haven't been able to find any decent reviews.
  • on 1296305616:

    I'd really like to get a pair of Terra Plana Button shoes for dressier days in the office, but I haven't been able to find any decent reviews.


    I looked at those on Amazon.co.uk and was surprised that the soles looked like they were too big for the rest of the shoe.  Sanuk seems to do that as well.  Looks weird to me.
  • In doing some research into shoe manufacturing, I measured my own foot, and found that according to the industry, I should wear a plain old size 11.  Now I can fit my foot in a size 11, but it feels cramped.  Do people actually wear shoes they can't spread their toes in?

    This could have an effect on how I'm sizing these things...hmmm...

    My guess is that fans of Vibram Fivefingers are the type that like to spread their toes out a lot.
  • Even in a EEE wide I can't wear the size shoe that I'm supposed to without causing bruising on my toes.  Long time ago I went to a high end store and was fitted.  The older gent that waited on me, fitted me with a 12 (+1/2 size) saying he liked to have about a fingers width at the toe for comfort.  Ever since, that's the rule of thumb (finger) that I've gone by.  However, after being a sole VFF wearer for about a year, nothing fits anymore as my feet have really changed.  I don't know what I'd do if I had to wear "shoes"..... :'( 
  • The easiest thing for you right now, if you had to wear actual shoes tomorrow, would be to find the widest boat shoes you can find and then resole them yourself or have them resoled.

    One American manufacturer told me they cannot sell to me unless I set up a storefront.  Definitely not a direction I wanted to go in.
  • I'm definitely waiting for a pair of minimalist dress shoes. What I'm currently wearing is a pair of Fred Perrys: http://www.gravitypope.com/shoes/product/13882-fred-perry-B6176-811-foxx-leather-oxford.

    I bought a size up to get a larger toe box, I tore out the three layers of insole and midsole, but left the mesh, and I stuff the toe with cotton batting to prevent it from collapsing. It's not perfect, but it has good ground feel, and looks nice enough for work.
  • Terra Plana makes some nice looking dress shoes that have a pretty flat and thin sole along with a wide toe box however they aren't cheap.
  • Johnston & Murphy have some very thin and flexible slip-ons.  I didn't try them on but would imagine they're what most are looking for.  However they are pretty pricey.

    http://www.johnstonmurphy.com/product.aspx?c=1216&pid=73108
    http://www.johnstonmurphy.com/product.aspx?c=1216&pid=73150
  • on 1297386578:

    Johnston & Murphy have some very thin and flexible slip-ons.  I didn't try them on but would imagine they're what most are looking for.  However they are pretty pricey.

    http://www.johnstonmurphy.com/product.aspx?c=1216&pid=73108
    http://www.johnstonmurphy.com/product.aspx?c=1216&pid=73150



    I've thought about talking to them.  Some of theirs are in Italiy, others are made in the USA.
  • Someone asked about the sole of the pictures.  The photos are Photoshopped.  ;D 

    I'm thinking of using just a plain rubber sole attached to the bottom of the shoe with no shank, perhaps glued or combination glue and stitch.  The idea is NOT to duplicate the Vibram FiveFingers for office use, but to have a shoe for the office that allows a forefoot strike when walking, and is a lot more flexible than the typical work shoe.  (Not even going into the steel toe/OSHA realm.  I don't think OSHA would go for that.)

    You won't have all the benefits of the FiveFingers but you won't get all the stares and weird comments from your co-workers either.  I don't have the expertise or budget to get Vibram to throw an Oxford cover on the FiveFingers. :)

    I found a manufacturer that makes these:

    yellowshoe.jpg

    They said they can make them in black or dark brown.  Just have to get a sample to make sure it's real leather and has a rubber flexible sole without a shank, otherwise it won't work with what I plan.  Also they should make them in big and wide sizes, so that you can spread your toes out more.  It still amazes me that people don't spread their toes out in shoes!








  • EricP, are those dance shoes?  Who makes them?
  • on 1298113477:

    EricP, are those dance shoes?  Who makes them?


    I'm not sure if they are dance shoes, I'm waiting for them to get back with me on what the sole is made of.  It won't work if those are like tap shoes with plastic soles.

  • The product description says leather upper, rubber sole.  Patent leather on the eyelets, but that's not too big of a deal, maybe it can be changed.

    yellowshoebottom.jpg

    Looks like the bottom is mostly flat.  I could not find anything like this when looking for dance shoes, so maybe it's some other kind.  Will make an interesting print in the snow and mud. :)
  • Does it make any sense to remove the insoles from work shoes?
  • on 1298150335:

    The product description says leather upper, rubber sole.  Patent leather on the eyelets, but that's not too big of a deal, maybe it can be changed.
    yellowshoebottom.jpg
    Looks like the bottom is mostly flat.  I could not find anything like this when looking for dance shoes, so maybe it's some other kind.  Will make an interesting print in the snow and mud. :)


    The toe box in these shoes is way too narrow. The color isn't very discreet either.
  • on 1298151196:

    Does it make any sense to remove the insoles from work shoes?


    If you're comfortable wearing it that way, sure.
  • on 1298151568:

    The toe box in these shoes is way too narrow. The color isn't very discreet either.


    No one really makes the kind of shoes I'm looking to sell, so I will have to take the closest thing and have them modify it for me.  In this case, the basic design of the shoe (Oxford) and thickness of the sole is what I'm after, as well as not having a shank.  If they can make it in men's big sizes (say up to a EEE or EEEE width) then it's a go.  I would tell them to make it in black or brown leather, which they've already confirmed they can do for me.  The sole might look a bit weird, if I can get them to put on the same thickness of sole but with a little bit of tread, it'll be perfect.
  • I ordered some jazz/dance shoes in my size from a seller on eBay in Hong Kong.  In his thank you email, he mentioned that you can have the shoes custom made to your size, just ask.  So I asked him if he would remove the shank and heel and glue on a rubber sole, as I was planning to do, since these kinds of shoes normally have a leather suede sole.  He told me I probably shouldn't buy from him if I want that!  He's worried that the shoe will fall apart if worn outside.  How odd.  I told him to not modify the shoes and to send them anyway.  Hopefully he won't just refund my money and leave it at that.
  • on 1297386578:

    Johnston & Murphy have some very thin and flexible slip-ons.  I didn't try them on but would imagine they're what most are looking for.  However they are pretty pricey.

    http://www.johnstonmurphy.com/product.aspx?c=1216&pid=73108
    http://www.johnstonmurphy.com/product.aspx?c=1216&pid=73150


    I like the look of these a lot and may have to check them out.  Thanks for sharing.
  • https://picasaweb.google.com/altinos/FlatSoleShoeConversion

    In case you're interested, this is a pair of shoes I bought at a resale shop where the soles were already falling off.  I finally glued the soles on.  Because it's been cold here, I decided to try Loctite Stik'n Seal No Mess acrylic adhesive, which doesn't have the same fumes as the Freesole.  I hope they last a while.  I have to clean them up and polish them.

    As you can see, the conversion can get a little weird.  The original shoe was made on a last designed for a heel, so when you convert it to a flat sole, the toes stick up slightly, and it can look a little weird.  At least my wife thinks so. :)

    Also you can see that the leather has a big hole in it for the shank, so removing that left less room for the adhesive.  I tried using a shoe stretcher instead of the bag of coins or kitty litter, and had a few problems with that.  Had to reglue a few parts.  I bought some big rubber bands from Harbor Freight to wrap around the shoe, and glad I did.  I broke a few in the process.
  • Loctite Stik'n Seal No Mess acrylic adhesive doesn't work well for this.  I wore them today and by the end of the day the soles were starting to come off.  Time to use the stinky stuff instead.
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