Shoes should allow your feet to do their natural thing — the way they have done for tens of thousands of years while we walked and ran barefoot. At Vivobarefoot we have learnt from indigenous cobblers to bring ancient wisdom to modern feet… Your feet! Wearing minimalist leather sandals like these let you reconnect with the earth and run freely.
We discovered this age-old technology of shoe making by researching the last persistence hunters left on earth. We travelled to the Kalahari Desert in Africa to visit the Ju'/hoansi, also known as San bushmen, one of the oldest cultures on earth.
Persistence hunting is a rare and difficult skill, where hunters use a combination of tracking and endurance running to relentlessly pursue an animal until it collapses from heat exhaustion. (NB, this is possible because humans can lose heat by sweating on the move; animals don’t sweat, so they need to stop and rest in the shade in order to lose heat).
To protect them from the burning hot sand and sharp thorns the Ju/'Hoansi made sandals from eland skin, one of the thickest and most durable leathers in Africa. They stopped making the sandals because hunting restrictions stopped the supply of skins, and today, only the tribal elders retain the knowledge and skills of how to make the hunting sandals.
This project is a partnership with a Ju/'Hoan San community, to help revive this ancient skill and assist them to make and wear their traditional walking sandals. As a result of this unique project the San bushmen will be able to produce their running SAN-dals for the world. However, they will only be able to produce up to 1,500 pairs a year! You can be one of the only people on earth to own this ancient footwear today…
“For thousands of years we have moved over the same hunting grounds — and the best shoe for this harsh environment is the one we designed ourselves, a long time ago. We have worked hard to re-make the sandals that our ancestors would have worn. We want to continue making them for many years to come," - Steve, head bushman cobbler.
Treat your feet to a pair of SAN-dals and help revive an ancient bushman craft by reserving your pair today.
They are simple masterpieces of intuitive design: they are the original barefoot shoes.
Made with ethically sourced eland skin (the largest species of antelope in Africa), they are high quality leather and extremely durable and mould to fit your feet.
The outsole and insole are hand stitched and the edges are sealed with natural bee’s wax.
The embossed animal footprint on the sole gives a little extra grip and abrasion resistance, and lets you leave your own unique mark with every footstep.
The Ju'/hoansi have been making sandals and craft items for thousands of years for personal use, exchange and social reasons. This focus on decentralized production is more connected to their hunting and gathering lifestyle and will support the economic wellbeing of the San in the South. Nanofasa Conservation Trust is now making this possible once again through the Barefoot Academy. The Academy does not only provide traditional based training, but we also create job opportunities. The SAN-DAL project is one of many opportunities for the local artisans. Other opportunities include becoming a guide, traditional activity mentor, veldfood cooking, Cyber-Tracker, survival coach, researcher, vegetation assessor, indigenous gardener, game ranger, anti poacher, persistence runner mentor, and traditional teachings at the village schools.
Included travelling to the Nyae Nyae conservation area, providing raw materials and basic equipment and facilitating a revival of the ancient art of sandal making. We then launched this Kickstarter campaign to raise £70k (just over $100,000) to fund production.
San-dals are handcrafted by the Ju/’hoansi, a tribe of San Bushmen in Namibia who have partnered with us to bring the original San-dal, which is one of the first forms of footwear worn by human beings, to the world! They are made from ethically sourced eland (a type of antelope) leather and hand sewn, with added touches like an animal footprint on the sole, which provides some additional grip. Like a flip flop, they have long leather straps that you wind around your foot and ankle to keep the durable leather sole in place. Due to this they fit every type of foot – whether wide or narrow. They are available in standard euro sizes 35 - 49. They are extremely durable and will eventually mould to your foot shape. You can get them plain or embellished with ostrich feathers and handmade beads.
The design is almost exactly the same as those worn for thousands of years by the San Bushmen, but has been adapted for urban life by a group of talented designers. They have developed ways to flatten the knots on the sole, to adapt the shoe for walking on concrete surfaces. The Ju/’hoansi make the San-dals by hand so there is only a limited number available, exclusively as part of this kickstarter campaign. When you invest you have the chance to own one of only a few thousand pairs in the world – making it a very original fashion statement! If you would like any more information about the San-dal, or to give us your feedback, please get in touch with us @vivobarefoot
* sizes from EU 35 up to EU 49
* Investment figures have been converted from GBP to approximate USD values
Check out the fantastic press coverage we've had for this project!
Risks and challenges
As of April 2016, the first prototypes have been completed and local production is ready to start.
Only a number of sandals have been made and are now being worn by some of the local San communities in the Nyea Nyea conservation area of North East Namibia. The first exclusive batch for international sales is being developed. A storage space has being prepared to house the eland hides and key tools have been supplied, with a few more select tools and materials on the way. The next step is to refine the products and work with a local logistics partner to offer international shipping. In case of any delay or emergency issues we will inform our backers straight away.
Risk factors include:
- availability of skins and quality of skins (the supply of Eland skin is from natural culling in the region and being wild animals the skins have a tremendous variety in thickness, look and feel)
- force majeur: too much or too little rain (flooding and drought happen regularly in bushmanland)
- unforeseen local regulation changes and local politics
- robbery: both local and in transit from the San region to Windhoek
- (30 days)