I remember it well. In November 2011, I created an account on a Kickstarter-like website called “Indiegogo,” and invested in a new idea for shoes by preordering a pair from a fellow who goes by the name “Mountain.” I figured, since it was a brand new company he was trying to get off the ground, I would have to wait maybe six months. Wrong. My new shoes arrived just a week or so ago — 18 months since my original purchase.
But I’m not upset. They were worth the wait.
My friends know that since 2010, I have been wearing Vibram’s Five Finger “barefoot” shoes. You know, the ones with the toes. I love how they allow me to feel barefoot in just about any circumstance, and I literally wear the things almost everywhere. I have purchased six pairs over the years, so I can have a variety depending on conditions. But the key features remain stable: barefoot feel, no “cushioning” or “heel” to get in the way of my foot’s biomechanics.
I said I wore them in “just about any circumstance.” There was one situation where I could not wear my beloved toe shoes: in professional situations. It was getting me down. No way was I going to wear toe shoes with a suit. So, when I had to dress up for work, I would slip on a nice pair of leather dress shoes . . . and grumble. I hated feeling up on a heel, I hated how they squished my toes together, I hated how I felt like I was clomping around in clown shoes.
Mountain had come up with the solution — he called it the Primal Professional. Dress shoes for people who dig the barefoot lifestyle. A simple pair of tasteful, black cap-toe shoes — but altered.
His idea was simple, and relied on two basic strategies. First, he employed a “false” heel. From the outside, they look like regular men’s shoes. Inside, your heel is actually sitting inside what appears to be the shoe’s heel. The second strategy is to make the toe box extra wide, to allow your feet to splay naturally. But by being careful with the shape, Mountain was able to create a toe that doesn’t look huge and boxy. They just look like a regular, nice pair of dress shoes.
But slip them on, and barefoot aficionados will be pleased: they feel just about like other minimalist shoes out there. Not perfectly barefoot, but darn close.
They don’t feel anything like dress shoes. They feel more like wearing a pair of Five Fingers. But they go with suits and dress slacks — any situation that would normally require dress shoes.
It took a long time to get them into production because Mountain wanted to do it right. American labor. Sustainable sourcing. Cut no corners. He kept all his investors informed along the way, at every heartbreaking misstep and back-to-the-drawing board turn of events. And because he was totally transparent about it, I felt happy waiting, knowing that when these things finally got into the wild it would be awesome.
And they are.
Thank you, Mountain.