As this post is somewhat out of season, and because I’m writing it from Mallorca, I’m labelling these as the shoes that you need for your escape to some winter sun… (Unless you’re one of the lucky ones based in the Southern Hemisphere at this time of year).
WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?
The first time I spotted a picture of a prototype for High Feels my heart skipped a beat. Finally, a barefoot sandal that doesn’t look like a typical barefoot sandal (aka one based on a traditional running huarache). Don’t get me wrong, I do love a huarache (I have three pairs), and although I’m not afraid to pair them with a cute dress, they just don’t quite cut it in the office or if you’re heading out to a fancy cocktail bar.
I’m just gutted I only got these in September as it means that I’m going to have to wait a while before I can wear them again. Cue booking my next holiday…
A FAMILIAR STORY
If you’re anything like me, then the story behind High Feels will both strike a chord and likely be one you’ve heard before…
After several years of feeling unsatisfied with the barefoot sandals available on the market – finding that they couldn’t find a style they truly loved without compromising on range of motion – the duo behind High Feels started building sandals for themselves.
Fast forward three years and more than 20 different prototypes later, they think they’ve finally nailed it. And, going by the number of five star reviews they’ve received, it looks like they’re not the only ones.
HOW TO WEAR THEM
One of the things I love about the High Feels is just how versatile they are. Below are five different ways to lace them (and I’m certain there’s a lot more if you fancy getting creative with your tying skills).
Criss-cross round the lower leg and tied at the back. It’s possible to do a slightly modified version of this style with the tie at the side so the knot is facing outwards rather than towards the back.
This works great when you’ve got your legs out, with cropped trousers, or rolled up jeans. I find the tie around the ankle is very slimming on the legs too.
Laced round the back of the ankle, through the side holes and tied on top of the foot. This way of lacing makes them easy to slip on and off without having to re-tie each time.
A slight variation on the above, threading back through the side holes a second time (although you can miss out the side holes on the way back if you prefer) and tied at the back. This is my favourite way to wear them as they’re easy to slip on and off and get the tightness right (see sizing and fit below). This style also looks great with trousers, whether full length or ankle skimmers.
Similar to number one but looped around the ankle and tied at the front with a knot rather than a bow. You can play around with your knots and bows as much as you like with each of these styles depending on how best you like your tie (and how much of a practised knotter you are). Another variation is not even tying at all and just twisting the ends around one another so they are neatly tucked in.
Last, but certainly not least, I adore how High Feels founder Yamina has styled hers here, accessorising with anklets and a choker for some extra chic barefoot feet.
You can see a video tutorial of Yamina demonstrating all of the above lacing styles (albeit in German – but you can easily get the gist of it) in this video:
SIZING AND FIT
I found my High Feels to be true to size (I wear a EU39 in most shoes) and am happy to say that they fit my feet perfectly. However, as they are not currently adjustable, I do imagine that this might not always be the case for everyone (seeing as no one foot is the same) and there are a few things to bear in mind that I could see being an issue for some:
Foot strap – if you have a very high arch I can imagine that you might have a problem with the strap that goes across the top of the foot being too tight. Some people feel that the strap is a little tight when they first wear them but find it loosens off after a couple of days of wear. However, if you feel it is cutting in to your foot at all then this is definitely too tight.
Width – if you have wide feet then you may have a problem with the width of the sole (which is rather narrow), and again, with the strap that runs across the top of the foot being too tight. This is something that High Feels are working on for the next generation of the sandal.
Toe strap – I’m quite amazed that the little strap that sits across the big toe is in the perfect place for me with just the right amount of room so that I don’t have to worry about slipping out of it. I do wonder if someone with particularly long, short or even wide big toes might find they do not fit as well. And this is actually very important, as if you’re slipping out of this then you’re going to be tempted to either grip the toes, or lift them with each step in order to hold them on.
HOW TO LACE HIGH FEELS
As there is so little material holding the sandals to your feet, getting the lacing right is crucial. You want them tight enough so they’re not flapping around but not so tight that they dig in to your ankles (I accidentally did this once and I swear my feet started looking a bit swollen, yikes!)
I find that the best way to get the correct tightness is to wear them in the number two or three lacing styles (see above), rather than styles one and four where they are tied above the ankle. Although they look really flattering when tied higher, I find that to have them as tight on my foot as I want/need means that they’re too tight around my ankles. But then again, maybe that’s just my ankles.
Also, a little trick I found to get the tightness right was to tie them with my foot flat on the ground with my shin straight at a 90-degree angle. Any time I tried to tie them by lifting my foot up (essentially whenever I was being too lazy to bend down properly) meant that as soon as I started walking in them I realised they were too loose.
I do have to flag that I haven’t got as much wear out of these as I usually would before posting a review, which is down to the time of year. (Believe me, if it was hot enough I would literally be living in them). Therefore, I haven’t been able to test them out as much as I usually would in terms of wear and tear and can’t therefore vouch for this, however, so far I have to say they’re still looking very new and the laces are still going strong even though they feel quite delicate.
HEEL – (5/5) for the zero drop heel
SOLE – (4/5) I almost gave this full marks as the sole is very thin at 5 mm, however, although flexible, the rubber material doesn’t provide quite the same ground feel as, say, a soft sole moccasin.
TOE – (4/5) with just that tiny toe strap holding them on, the only toe that is slightly restricted is the big toe itself. This is solely down to the nature of the construction and not anything that I have actually found has bothered me while walking in them.
UPPER – (5/5) if tied in with the correct tightness in styles two and three above or 3/5 is tied up above the ankles in styles one and four (sometimes you have to sacrifice something for style ;)). If walking on a very uneven surface (like I did on a spontaneous hike) I did have to watch my step to make sure I didn’t slip off the sole, which meant having to grip my toes occasionally, but I wouldn’t expect anything else seeing as these are not designed to be a hiking sandal.
Spending €129 on a pair of sandals does feel like a lot (especially when there’s so little material there). However, this is comparable to a number of other barefoot brands (although certainly not all). And I do find it somewhat reassuring to know that the sandals are made in an 80-year-old family business in Portugal and are almost completely made by hand.
For the time being at least, I don’t see any competition in terms of a better looking barefoot sandal for women so it looks like the price to pay if this is the style you’re after.
In terms of what the future holds for High Feels, as this is the very first product released by the company, I couldn’t help but ask what’s in store… For the barefoot sandal, we can look forward to a new style for SS17 – slightly wider, adjustable, with various colours, and, wait for it… unisex! I will publish more info as soon as I get more details as I’m super excited about this.
And, it seems that High Feels aren’t looking to stop there. The company’s goal is to develop a range of products allowing people to feel comfortable and move freely without compromising on style. So, after conquering the stylish barefoot sandal, they’re looking to reinvent the bra, making one that isn’t restrictive for the wearer but looks great at the same time.
Now, a barefoot bra review could be interesting… 😉
Thanks to High Feels for providing a pair of sandals for this review