How it all began...
Hello, my name is Mia and I am the founder of the Slovak barefoot shoe brand, SHAPEN.
Why barefoot shoes and how I got interested in them? I am a mother of a little girl Alexandra and when she started walking, I wondered like many of you what kind of shoes to buy and I was faced with two options. The first option was to buy the classic orthopaedic shoes. The other one was called barefoot shoes.
I spent much time studying both options and, in the end, I decided to go for barefoot shoes because I found them more natural. I am quite a sensible person, therefore I had to try barefoot shoes myself and get a first-hand experience.
I had to also convince my partner, Marek because I didn't want to listen to his rants about how expensive the barefoot shoes are and whether we really need them . One of the reasons why I wanted to try them myself were my health problems. I had the flat feet since the childhood and I was also diagnosed with a severe scoliosis and joint hypermobility. When I was a child I used to exercise and swim regularly (several years also professionally) to improve my health. I have never had back pain but when I got older, I started to have sore feet. They were so sore that every morning when I woke up, I had to remain in bed sitting for a while and I was able to stand up only after a little exercise. If someone told me a few years ago that an adult flat foot is not lost yet and the arch height can be increased, I would have not believed it. I started to wear the barefoot shoes when I was 32 and I knew that I have made a good decision almost immediately.
I knew what kind of footwear I want for myself and for my family, however I was facing another problem. One could choose from the range of barefoot shoes for children but I found the barefoot shoes offered to adults quite ugly. I didn't really like any of them... There was not much to choose from, mostly trainers, dull coloured, no design at all. Most models were suitable for my grandma, not a young woman in her thirties who has had shoes of various colours, types, patterns and materials until recently. That's why I started to search for alternatives that would meet at least the most important criteria for barefoot shoes while bearing in mind not to end up as a family of "clowns" . There was not much to choose from, but when I found something, I wrote a comprehensive review to make it easier for other barefoot shoe enthusiasts. It was sometimes around 2016 when an idea to create my own brand of barefoot shoes started to take shape. I was not sure where to begin and how to set about it. I have been working in marketing and I didn't know anything about shoe-making. I didn't have a clue how the shoes are made and what it entails. But I had a strong desire, dream to build something of my own. In summer 2017 I started to devote more energy to this idea, studying shoe-making theory and mapping the market. I devoted much time to a preparation stage and I did a big market research in Slovakia and Czech Republic. I knew exactly what I wanted, thus I started to search for reliable partners. This part was exceptionally challenging since nobody took me seriously, the shoe-makers and designers didn't have any experience in making barefoot shoes. The shoe lasts underwent some changes, they were modified several times until we achieved a suitable shape and size. You can see one of the first, imperfect lasts in the photo.
Eventually I managed to convince some people from the shoe-making industry. The first meetings, assignments, designs, adjustments... After the first prototype testing, I realized that there is still a long way to go.
The progress was not as fast as I had imagined, I could forget my perfect timing Excel table. There have been several funny moments during the development process. For example, when people in the factory tried to persuade me that the shape of shoes was strange and the sole could not be just 3 mm thick, because I would feel every stone and surface unevenness. Or their wonder when I weighed the shoes on a kitchen scale .
When everything was finally moving at a steady pace and we spent a lot of time, energy and money to make it work, we had to make a tough decision and start looking for other shoe-maker. We had to start anew. One step forward, two steps back. The current barefoot shoe prices are so incredibly high that some suppliers are convinced they can make enormous profits immediately. . But thanks to our research we know our target group and we know how much the quality shoes should cost. We want the price to be one of our competitive advantages. Despite that we did not give up on our resolve to make shoes in our home country, in Slovakia. Unlike various other brands we do not wish to make shoes in China even though it would mean significant reduction of our costs. The quality would suffer. Sometimes I thought that it could not be done. Luckily, we have found a good Slovak shoe-maker with a long tradition in shoe-making and years of experience employing many willing and skilful people.
This confirmed our belief that one should not give up, everything is possible when one tries and looks for the solutions. We have found them and finally more than a year and a half later we have made a prototype of TULIP ballerina barefoot shoes we were happy with and thus introduced the SHAPEN brand. The ballerinas became a great success. During the next months we have made open POPPY sandals that can be considered as the first barefoot pumps ever. Again, they were a great success. Then we started to make all year round FLEUR shoes and IVY boots.
We want our customers to be discerning. Meeting the barefoot shoe criteria shouldn't be everything they are interested in. The customers expect more and they will get it. We use the proven technologies and shoe-making methods and certified quality materials to raise barefoot shoe-making to a new level. We have been offering barefoot shoes to women but we plan to expand the range of our footwear and offer them also to men and children. You can look forward to the stylish ballerinas, sandals, trainers, all year round footwear as well as winter footwear for the whole family. Our story has just begun and we believe that you will become part of it .
Mia, founder of SHAPEN brand barefoot shoes