Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Paper-Feet: The Merger of Eco-Awareness & Minimalism

Minimalist shoes — slimmed-down sneakers and glove-like Vibrams that mimic bare feet — are all the rage. It's a less-is-more approach to footwear that you can spot everywhere from the trails to the grocery store. Yet one company has taken the minimalist movement to the extreme with eco-friendly flare. Inspired by the beach, TOMBOLO LLC’s has created minimalist sandals manufactured from upcycled outdoor billboard advertisements. The result: Paper-Feet.

It’s worth noting that these sandals aren’t actually manufactured from “paper”. Instead they are constructed from upcycled outdoor billboard advertisements.

The giant roadside outdoor advertisement displays are wrapped with a one-piece 14×48-foot PVC vinyl material that’s a lot like a dense pool tarp or poly cover but thicker and more durable. Instead of ending up in the landfill, the advertisement you may have seen adorning the placard while driving down the freeway now becomes transformed into a one-of-a-kind, flexible, waterproof sandal on your feet.

The most notable asset of Paper-Feet is the feather-weight and malleable nature of a sandal manufactured from fiber-reinforced PVC plastic sheeting. Unlike traditional sandals or flip flops, Paper-Feet fold flat and can be rolled/folded up and put in a purse, or even a back pocket. Great for going around town, they are a creative solution for situations when shod feet are required. That “No Shoes No Service” sign no longer need stand between you and a quick bite to eat. Simply pull the Paper-Feet sandals out of your pocket and slip them on, hopefully with the whole restaurant watching.

Velcro tabs ensure that the adjustment process is intuitive and straight forward. Yet the dichotomy of the shoes comes at the intersection of performance and durability. In terms of durability, Paper-Feet sandals held up to the rigors of traversing gravel walkways and old paved country roads. However they offered little protection to the soles of our feet nor did they offer any barrier from the entry of soil, thorns or small rocks which proved to be irritating to the feet.

If you’re a kayaker or living a ‘beach lifestyle’ Paper-Feet sandals can be a novel treat for your feet. Yet in our review process the biggest hurdle to actually utilizing them for a truly active outdoor lifestyle is the thin soles.


There is no substantive level of protection.  So in the instance you happen to step on a sharp rock or a few goat head thorns (as we did while out for an evening walk) you’re going to feel it. Additionally while the material is durable, it doesn’t breathe so when going barefoot you can expect your feet to work up a sweat. The addition of a thicker more protective perforated sole that still affords the same incredible packability of these sandals would be a massive improvement to future iterations of the Paper-Feet sandal.

Bottom Line…
Admittedly we enjoy the idea of being able to carry our footwear around in our back pocket. Still in the beta testing phase the Paper-Feet sandals aren’t yet perfect but we applaud Tomblo LLC for finding an innovative way to merge the minimalist movement with an eco-friendly and socially responsible lifestyle. If you’re a fan of cruising barefoot, but not willing to pay a hefty price tag then Paper-Feet might just be the right fit for you.

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