A Sheffield footwear company has become the first manufacturer in the UK to produce handmade barefoot running sandals.
Tom Harper and James Jones met in 2020 after competing in a six man, 100 mile relay race organised by Tony Riddle, a barefoot endurance athlete and author of the bestselling book Be More Human.
Both Mr Harper and Mr Jones shared a passion for being outdoors and collaborated together to start wildsole sandals alongside their wives Faye Harper and Naomi Jones before launching their footwear in April this year.
“That’s what the sandals are all about really, having an enhanced connection to nature but also to ourselves. There’s a disconnect between people’s feet and themselves and it’s really important that feet get more attention because they’re our foundation,” said Mr Harper, 46, from Penistone.
He was inspired to start wearing barefoot sandals after listening to the podcast ‘Feel Better, Live More with Rangan Chatterjee’, in which guest podcaster, Galahad Clark, an ancestor of the Clark Shoes’ founders, talked about the importance of barefoot shoes.
One of their main aims was to source and produce the materials for the sandal from Yorkshire.
Mr & Mrs Harper make the shoes in Penistone from sustainable, animal friendly materials and have worked hard to ensure they use plastic free shipping
The toe plug, which can be found at the bottom of the sole with the company’s logo, was developed in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University and the branding of the foot-bed and packaging of the product was developed by M. Shaw Engraving Ltd., a local company located on Hill Street.
Mr Harper also explained he was also inspired by Christopher McDougall’s non-fiction book, Born to Run, about the Tarahumara Indians tribe of Mexico’s Copper Canyons and their ability to run phenomenally long distances wearing barefoot sandals.
Mr Harper decided to create his own barefoot sandals when he discovered that there were no similar products in the UK leaving him no choice but to have a pair shipped from the US,
Now, after three years of developing wildsole sandals, Mr Harper ships his product across the country.
Prior to opening the business, Mr Harper and his wife ran L&S Fashion Ltd, a fast fashion retail company.
The branding for wildsole has other links to Sheffield too, as the font is a revival of one made by English type foundry Stephenson Blake at the end of the 19th century.
Mr Harper estimates he has made over 1,000 pair of sandals and they can take up to three to four hours to produce each pair.
The long-term plans of the company include franchising and increasing their UK market but they currently do not have any plans to ship internationally.