Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My Altum Barefoot Dress Shoes have arrived!!!

Back in November I was very excited to have "kick-started" my first ever project, the Altum Dress Shoes. I had been looking for some time for some shoes that would go under the radar of what is or is not considered acceptable footwear in the office especially since the dog ate my last pair of normal work shoes. I had discovered several options, such as the Ra from Vivobarefoot, but none of them would have avoided attracting attention for the wrong reasons.

Why should I even care about a "barefoot" or "minimalist" dress shoe if I am not planning to go running in them? Firstly, I can't stand shoes with a heel counter. I'm not really sure what the point of a heel counter is other than to allow and to encourage you to slouch when standing or walking. In my case, I quickly find that my knee with the torn meniscus starts to play up and my posture worsens, possibly contributing to back pain. The other thing I can't stand about conventional shoes is the narrow toe box which crams all my toes together: just as well I was not born female otherwise I would probably have to put up with far more severe footwear. I am currently particularly worried about an emerging bunion (more on this soon) which is aggravated by narrow shoes.

The shoes finally arrived yesterday - just in time for the conference I am speaking at in Boston next week - after a longer than predicted wait, although something to be expected for a start up company that is yet to get its teeth. They came in wrapped in a fabric shoe bag (which will no doubt come in handy) inside a standard cardboard shoebox. I don't know what you think but the shoes are very stylish and it is quite difficult to spot anything unusual about them unless you get a good side view - even then, they don't look too weird.

The shoes fit perfectly (just as well!) and have a fairly generous toe box. It could probably be wider but then I think they would start to look too weird, unfortunately. It is wide enough, however, to be able to wear my Correct Toes toe spacers (but only just)*. These arrived very promptly from The Emperor's New Shoes in the UK, courtesy of Jeff who was extremely helpful on email. He explained to me that, contrary to what I had supposed on my blog - that they might act as some kind of "crutch", thereby weakening the very muscles I needed to strengthen - they were specifically designed to be worn while load bearing (i.e., walking, standing and even running) because their function is to put the toes in the correct place, not to stretch them.

In terms of flexibility, they are less flexible than my minimalist running shoes tend to be, but more flexible than any work shoes that I have ever had. The leather seems to be of the usual stiffness which contributes to their deceptively normal appearance and, I suspect, will help them last longer, so the added flexibility is entirely due to the thin rubber Vibram sole.

The only downside (literally) is that I immediately lose about 3 centimetre's of height after stepping down from the MBT shoes I have been wearing lately in lieu of traditional footwear. Being an Englishman in Madrid makes me eccentric by definition and gives me certain license to be unconventional but I was getting a little tired of the friendly but amused comments about my weeble-like shoes; the loss in stature is a small price to pay for a bit of peace.

If you can't tell, I am absolutely delighted with my new shoes. I just need to do my bit now, to make sure the word gets out so that this fledgling company can really spread its wings. I'll certainly be going back for more once they have finished with their kickstarter phase.

* UPDATE: Actually, they are not really wide enough to accomodate the Correct Toe spacers although they do feel comfortably wide when the spacers are not in place. After a couple of hours the slight pressure on my "pinky" becomes intolerable and, according to the Correct Toes people, it is probably going to do more harm than good to have my toes being both stretched and squashed at the same time. One option would be to lop off one of the segements of the Correct Toes but, before I take that radical step (because they are not terribly cheap), I'll try just wearing them without my shoes on. It does mean that I often leave the Correct Toes spacers on my desk, something I have to be careful of because, for some inexplicable reason, everyone who comes to visit me has an urge to pick them up and play with them. "DON'T TOUCH THEM! For your own good! They've been between my toes!!"


  1. I just ran across your blog and was wondering how you're fairing with the Altum's after a few months. I am really interested in getting a pair once they are available to the general public. I unfortunately didn't find out about them until after the Kickstarter.

    1. Hi there

      I am still very happy with them now that I have been wearing them nearly every day since I posted this (bar
      the holidays).

      A few minor problems have arisen which I think will be ironed out in the production model: the sole needed a little extra glue around the edges (which they supplied) and, for some reason the thin "lip" where the sole extends a couple of milimetres beyond the heel has worn down and broken off on one of my shoes - probably more to do with how I walk than anything else.

      Otherwise, they are a good quality pair of shoes, they are comfortable and noone ever notices the lack of a heel counter. The shoes are easily wide enough for my wide feet but, as I mentioned above, not wide enough to accomodate "correct toes" toe spacers. For this you either have to buy unconventional looking shoes or get a "trick" pair which disguises the excess width by making them longer (in my case my feet are already long enough without making them look any more "clown like").

      So, in summary, I would definitely buy these again if the price was around the same level I paid for these. I hope they manage to get the company up and running.

  2. Any word on Altum? They seem to have gone into hiding.

    1. Seems not. Their Facebook page is frozen in time. A shame, really, because there are still few alternatives out there, unless you are willing to pay a lot more...

    2. Here are some alternatives:

      My money's on this one though, shame it's so expensive:


  4. That link is the only production run for 2014. They now have loafers and chuukas in addition to the derby. From what I remember the kick starter price was $160 but it is now $178.

  5. Hi there :)
    Do you know where these can be purchased?