Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bare Feet with Sole(s) - Quick Review of Dopie Sandals by Terra Plana

Recently i wrote about the benefit to our nervous systems and therefore general well being in freeing our feet and going barefoot as often as possible. I've learned the philosophy of the Twist Test: if you can't grab your shoe and the heel and toe and twist it around the middle, it's too stiff for decent foot bone mobility. Another test is: can you bend them just behind where the ball of the foot is, and are they heel-less? It's incredible how high tech trainers do not pass the twist or bend tests, and many shoes that pass the twist/bend test, ruin it by having heels. So since going through these multiple lessons on footwear failure, i've been looking for shoes that pass the Heel-less Twist Test and support barefootedness as much as possilbe.

So far, i've been disappointed in the mixed up sizing of the otherwise brilliant Vivo Barefoot boots for women (scroll down this article to "vivo" for why), and have been keenly waiting my next trip to the states to try out the much celebrated Vibram Five Fingers - ask RKCs Doug Nepodal (aka the kilted one) and Ronaldo Garcia (aka the elvis one) what they think of these flexible wonders (update nov08: see article on experience with how to fit FiveFingers).

Sandals Special Additional Factor: toe clutch One of the biggest challenges has been to find sandals to replace the venerable, but untwistable/unbendable birkenstocks, or even Reef flipflops. Two problems: don't twist, and many many flip flops require toes to remain pretty much in flexion (clenching or bending the toes) to hold the shoe on while moving. Guess what? that constant flexion, well that's not natural: when walking the toes should be able to do many other things than hold on a sandal.

The solution for now seems to be another product from the Terra Plana shop: the oddly named Dopies. The Dopies are, yes, flip flops BUT the toe clawing effect induced by the raw flip flop is both reduced by the weird toe holder that rather hooks over two toes; the clawing is even further mitigated by using the optional strap - even if that strap is really loose.

The cool thing about this sandal is that the sole is very thin. in this way, the shoe is effectively very close to being barefoot - with a wee protective sole on the foot.

There's quite the design development discussion on the sandal's web site. I'm not that persuaded by footware designed by artists rather than people who know foot mechanics, but in this case i have a simple test: does it twist? yes. does it cause toe flexion? not when the strap is attached. After that, is it comfy? yes. Is it fun? oh very.

COST Is Dopie cheap. oh no - or that depends. If you visit the Dopie site at Terra Plana, you'll see that the sandals sell for thirty quid in the UK. That's more or less 60 USD - granted that includes 17.5% vat. That's 24.75 without VAT, so 50 USD. 50USD for foam rubber molded sandals. According to Terra Plana they sell quite alot at that price, so they were not interested in price matching with other online dealers. If you look around, you can find them for less - at least right now before new stock comes in in February. In the UK, i've found them from 10 quid to 19, pending on availability of size. In the US, amazon has 'em from 19 to yes 49 bucks. And sadly now, for us in the EU where this company is founded, in looking at the US version of, they're 30USD. Please explain how a product that comes from china is double the cost in the EU from what it is in the US.

Value: i only have my feet to go by, but they look interesting and feel fine. Walking on sidewalks and grass has been equally zippy. The thing between the toes is less noticeable, it seems, the more one walks. I've only tried them briefly without the strap, and as suspected they really do flip/flop - rather loudly.

I may experiment with that further, but was less inclined to do so due to the toe flexion thing. Without the strap - they really do look naked. The one disadvantage compared with birks for instance is that they're going to require ninja tabby toed sox if they'll be worn in the winter. That aside, unlike birks, these have the advantage of being highly wash and wearable.

Overall: Freeing Your Feet The tag line of the Dopie is "naked shoes for naked people." When naked footed people need a little sole protection, Dopies pass the twist test, and seem to pass the sandle toe flexion test. They're comfy and fun. While it's warm enough not to wear gloves, it may well be likely warm enough to go as barefoot as these Dopies afford


Update, a month later
I've been wearing these sandals pretty much daily for the past month, both in the UK, and in the US. The longest walk has been about 3km. The average daily extended walk is 1km up and down hill, all on pavement, plus walking around in an office environ at work. I've worn them on 11hour flights and in the rain.

I like 'em. I like being able to kick them off to stretch my toes (even more), or put my feet up on a chair. My downhill heel strike seems to be softening in the gait too.

What i don't like: two things about fit
One Bug: On both feet the strap across the top of the foot has worn away the skin in a way that looks like a stigmata pattern on both feet. While one foot has recovered i'm still bandaiting the other. Another solution perhaps would be to put some moleskin on the strap that rubs.

Another Bug: The other issue, and one that others have noticed who have tried these on is that the toe peice can make a toe feel like it's suffering from an ingrown toe nail a bit when you put the shoe on. this feeling sort of goes away when you're walking, but i don't quite understand what's up with this. It's only happened to me on one side.

In each case, my feet have adapted, but can ya reasonably expect people to stick with a product that wounds them in the first moment of putting them on?

The pluses are such with the shoe that i'm going to experiment with these further until the weather turns colder: i figure when i start needing mitts, i'll start needing sox again.

What's been weird is that putting on sox and shoes the other night for a doo felt utterly horrible, even in nike frees. Perhaps this is something beech dwellers go through annually? But here's to foot freeing.


Ron Ipock said...

I tried the twist test. I twisted the toe cap on way and the heel the other. I think I ripped some fascia in my foot while doing this.

Casey said...

Another "barefoot" sandal that I couldn't do without are from Sanuk. The Sidewalk Surfers are the most comfortable things I've worn. I like them even more than my Five Fingers, and I never thought I'd say that.

dr. m.c. said...

Casey, as long as a shoe passes the twist test, and you don't have to curl your toes to keep 'em on, you're likely rocking.

Happy feet are free feet :)

thanks for stopping by.

sveti jebem said...

The day I bought this Dopie sandals they seemed fun, in the evening I went out on a bike and didn't walk much. It all seemed OK until next day when I tried to put them on again... it was the most horrible experience with a shoe I ever had. It felt like an elephant is standing on my toe. Whole elephant on only one toe.

The shop didn't want to replace them, not even for a candy or smile. I hate both of them, the sandals and a shop.

dr. m.c. said...

sweti - sorry you had such a terrible experience with the store and the shoe.
i kinda have a hate for terra planna stores myself: while the web store supports full refunds, the physical stores only provide in store credit. i didn't think that was legal!
crap stores are enough to put you off everything.

have you found a light shoe that works for you?

kits said...

I have my dopie sandals for 4years already. So durable and I find it comfy to use. I love it.


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