Here is a some background on Sanuk and how the Sidewalk Surfer Sandal Shoe came about.
As long as I can remember I have always been into unique types of footwear. I have been involved in the Surf / Action Sports business since 1985. In 1999 I saw an opportunity to start a company based on my love for surfing and my attraction to funky footwear. I founded Sanuk which means happy or to enjoy in the Thai language (correct pronunciation is Sanook, Like look Sanook, get it?)
My goal was to make fun sandals from different materials with a positive happy vibe. Sanuk’s novelty sandals have changed the way people perceive flip-flops. What was once outrageous is now main stream. The sandal category as a whole has grown because of it.
Fast forward to the Sidewalk Surfers
I have always been a runner and I have tried all kinds of running shoes. I would frequently run the stairs leading to the beach by the office here in Cardiff by the Sea. One day after going for a surf, I ran up the stairs barefoot carrying my surfboard. As I did so, I noticed that the running motion was completely different than when I ran in my running shoes. I felt myself landing on the ball of my foot and then using the muscles in my toes to propel myself upward to the next step. The motion was much more efficient than in my running shoes which limited my flexibility. I knew that a sandal, because it is constructed without a rigid stitch down board would be closer to a natural walking or running motion than a shoe would be. So, I decided to experiment by putting a shoe upper on one of my Sanuk sandal bottoms. I was amazed at how much more efficient my use of energy was running in these sandal/shoes. In addition, because there was not excessive heel lift I also found that I was not striking my heel as hard as I did in a running shoe. Instead, I was landing more on the ball of my foot and the front of my heel and then rolling to my toes. As a result, my toe muscles actually began engaging in the running motion. Because I was heel striking less my leg was slightly bent when I made contact with the ground and that was engaging my leg muscles to help absorb the shock. The problem with a running shoe, which generally has a lot of heel lift, is that you tend to strike the ground straight legged and that sends a shock directly to you lower back. I also found that the added width of my sandal shoe allowed my foot to spread at impact further aiding the absorption of shock. This doesn’t happen in a tightly lasted shoe.
After I made this early prototype of our Sidewalk Surfer, I did some research and found that many trainers and athletes were starting to train barefoot for many of the reasons mentioned above. In an article in the Wall Street Journal (attached) a lab tested athletes on a tread mill in different running shoes against barefoot running. The result was barefoot running resulted in 4% less use of oxygen because of the improved efficiency. It is apparent to me that that walking naturally strengthens the muscles in your feet which support your arch and improve your balance. The flat profile of our Sidewalk Surfers also allows you to stand more erect, the way your body was designed, which helps the muscles that support your back to be more properly aligned. We have received testimonials from people whose livelihood depends on the strength in their feet including, for example, several world class rock climbers, the two time US Thai-Chi Champion and some top UFC fighters that the Sidewalk Surfers are the most comfortable shoes they own and they have become part of their every day training.
Walk Natural and Keep Smiling!