Have you already been shopping new shoes for spring & summer? I haven’t, because I love the shoes I already have and I look forward to wearing them again! Therefore, here’s an ode to my favorite shoes and shoe brand: Tanuki from Wildling. They fit my feet so perfectly, it’s like I am not wearing shoes at all. They’re lightweight, sustainably made and vegan, and they look darn cute too.
The bright red fairy shoes
These shoes are ‘barefoot shoes’, made with a very thin and flexible sole so you can move like you would without any shoes on! That’s the sole purpose; it’s the aim of the company Wildling to make shoes like this, and I’d say they do so pretty well.
The Tanuki model is a spring/summer shoe made of washi, a material that consists of 75% paper and 25% polyester. Within the Tanuki series, there are several different types, among which the Tanuki Keshi. Keshi’s sole is made of ‘synthetic rubber with approx. 50% recycled content, cork’. It’s also very lightweight and flexible. It’s very easy to pack in a backpack, if you want to. It will fit!
I find my Tanuki Keshi’s really cute, in deep red and with a high cut. They remind me of forest fairies and makes me feel like one: playful, kinda like I’m fluttering instead of walking. The physical experience of wearing these shoes adds to the feel: wearing them and walking does feel more like floating than the walking you’re used to. Or like dancing, like life is a party and you are here to enjoy.
Apparently, Keshi means poppy and these proud deep red shoes are named after poppies! I like that. (Top image is taken from Wildling – the background is added by me!)
These shoes were from the spring/summer 2019 collection and that’s the year that I bought them. I am only writing about them now, because this way I can be 100% sure of my experience with the shoes. By now I can confidently shout out that these are indeed my favorite shoes!
My newer blue summer shoes
These favorite red shoes are not in use anymore because the sole got damaged, which I have been quite sad about. Then I replaced them by a pair of Tanuki Mori, a low-cut blue Tanuki of the spring/summer collection of 2020, which I have already worn a lot too last summer. So yet, I am very happy with these too, and in time I’d love to collect more colors of Tanuki. (They also make more neutral colors like white and black, in case you’re wondering!)
In the pictures: Tanuki Mori from Wildling’s spring/summer 2020 collection. If you see weird patterning on the shoes, that’s a distorted view caused by the surface of the washi textile in combination with image properties. Images taken from Wildling, top picture also from Wildling.
And great news about the newer models is that they have an extra layer of material to the sole so that the same damage mine had will not happen and they can last longer! You can read more about this new patch here. (To be clear, it was not the sole itself that broke, but the fabric in between the pieces of sole, which is the piece of fabric that bends a lot. So the sole itself seems to be unchanged, but the connection between the ‘pieces’ is now more durable.)
Also, in all fairness, I have worn my red shoes all the time, so I guess that if you take that into account, they didn’t really break that fast. Mentioning this may be bad promotion, but I am very much in love with these shoes still! I also trust that Wildling will keep improving the shoes so that over time new models can last longer. Just like the improvement that they already made to the sole.
I love ’em a lot. I also frequently get questions about both pairs from people who are interested in trying them too. People ask me if it feels nice and my answer is HECK YEAH. I am quite used to it by now and I love it, don’t want to go back.
Wildling’s new spring/summer collection
I’ve just told you about my two favorite pairs of shoes, and now I have to tell you that they aren’t being sold anymore – the red one only in EU size 23-25 still . Wildling launches a new collection twice a year and right now you can check out the collection for spring/summer 2021. They do still have some older models in stock, including the Beaver that my partner is pretty happy about.
As I’m writing this, there’s four Tanuki models in store in adult sizes. They’re all a low cut – and have that extra layer in the sole to make them last longer. Wildling has other models too, which have a really similar shape as the Tanuki really, but are made of other materials than washi and, you know, are just slightly different. You have to check it out for the details! Wildling also has a ‘barefoot’ sandal named Feather, which now comes in three colors.
More shoes like these – also for the cold
There is one thing about these shoes; I don’t want to go back to other shoes. This is a little bit difficult in autumn/winter when the weather circumstances require warm and waterproof shoes. I personally require them to be vegan too. Thus far most barefoot winter shoes I’ve seen are made with wool and/or leather. I do believe there’s improvement in that area too. As more people would want to get shoes like this, more companies will be able to create and sell them.
A few years ago I got the Peacock winter shoes from Wildling that were made without animal products. These are in the picture above, and I wrote about them already. But I have to be fair: they look and feel more like cosy indoor shoes than outdoor shoes, and they are certainly not rainproof.
Last January I got myself Vivobarefoot’s Primus Lite II Recycled Winter Ladies (yes they have huge product names!). These are supposed to be waterproof and all, and thus far I’m very happy with them! One possible downside is that they are quite a low cut, which allows for cold ankles in winter times.
Other than that, I’m still using ‘old’ shoes of mine that don’t give the barefoot experience. When I put these on, I am amazed at how restricted my feet are, how this alters my way of walking and how weird that really is. It’s amazing how we have made shoes a fashion item which we expect to be ‘hip’ instead of first and foremost a functional item that allows for proper movement and posture. The feet are the base of the posture, so please let us take that seriously and get some good shoes for our feet and bodies.
Watch out to get the right size
Earlier when I wrote about my first pair of barefoot shoes of Wildling, the autumn/winter model, I was a bit too enthusiastic and early to write. Because a little bit later I realized that these shoes were actually too large for me. This is very disappointing, since I did use the size guide on their website and I’m pretty sure I did it correctly. I still wear the shoes, with an extra pair of socks, but I imagine the experience being much nicer if they are the right size.
So that is something to look out for: even though it is good for your toes and feet to have some space in the front so you can move properly without limiting your toes, watch out for the shoes actually being too large! That is also a shame, because then you’d adjust your way of walking to the too-large shoes, so you’re not walking in your authentic way after all. This is my experience at least.
One possible downside of Wildling shoes could be that they are only being sold in their online shop which makes it more difficult to find your size. They do hold local sessions (at least occasionally in Germany and in the Netherlands) where you can try the shoes on so to be sure to get the right size. That’s great.
Additionally, they announce on their website that they offer free returns for first time customers! That makes it easier to trust that you’ll get the right size, because it is less inconvenient if you get the wrong size at first. Or if you do not like them after all, no biggie, you can return them so someone else can love them instead. Go Wildling!
On transitioning to barefoot shoes
If you’re unsure about using these barefoot shoes, please do some research into it. I am not an expert at all, but many state that barefoot shoes are better for your body than shoes in different shapes and consistencies (drop, cushioning, flexibility). If you have had injuries, please look up and be careful with it. I’d say it’s worth trying to find out if using these kind of shoes could be better for you, especially if you’re a runner.
More ethical and/or barefoot shoes coming up
So, that’s it for these shoes! I am very curious about other ethical and/or barefoot shoe brands. I have seen some of them around on the internet, but I haven’t tried them myself. I expect these kind of brands to increase in numbers and popularity and I am curious to see where it goes!
Also, not mentioned here yet: my first barefoot shoes are the Vibram Five Fingers shoes, which I use for running and walking. These feel amazing too, but look a bit more ‘weird’ than the Wildlings. So I like to have them both! To sum op, I’ve been having five barefoot pairs thus far and I’m happy with all of them: Vibram Five Fingers, Wildling Peacock, Wildling Tanuki Keshi, Wildling Tanuki Mori, and Vivobarefoot Primus Lite II Recycled Winter Ladies. I believe these’re all vegan, I checked for that.
If you have experience with great shoes, let me know in the comments! Even though I love these Wildling shoes, I am definitely open to trying others too and I would appreciate recommendations.
I bought all mentioned pairs of shoes myself, I wasn’t paid or rewarded for this post, nor does Wildling know that I’m writing it. So this post was brought to you by my own honest enthusiasm. 🙂