By Alec Smart
iGUANEYE – pronounced Ig-Wun-Eye – are minimalist shoes consisting of a moulded insulated sole with a comfortable lining, which allow your feet to breathe and move freely as though you were barefoot. Neighbourhood Media put a pair through their paces.
When I first took custody of a pair of iGUANEYE shoes I didn’t know what to expect. Actually ‘shoes’ is almost a misnomer, because they’re a pair of close-fitting soles with almost no uppers – meaning no laces to tie, no ‘wearing them in’ until they’re comfortable, no muscle cramps, no foot odours, no blisters.
They’re also unisex in design, come in three main types in a range of colours, and much more versatile and safer than other open-toed footwear, such as sandals, crocs and thongs.
Admittedly, they take a bit of getting used to. Firstly, they fit anatomically, comfortably cupping your heel and enclosing your big toe, which seems to defy both gravity and logic. Secondly, looking down they resemble ‘flats’ or ‘pumps’ worn by ballerinas, yet the nearest I’ve been to the ballet is a stroll around Sydney Opera House. And my wide feet will never gracefully ‘pointe’ on their tippy-toes to enable a pirouette.
iGUANEYE were brave in agreeing to let me road-test a pair of their ‘Freshoes’, one of three varieties available in Australia, including Jungle Lights and Jungle Lux. As aforementioned, I have wide feet. Like a duck. Some time ago, after I fractured a metatarsal in my left foot, an X-ray revealed I had a sixth knuckle on the side. I assume the right foot is the same, because, although it wasn't X-rayed, it matches the left in width.
After a childhood of enduring painful cramped feet from shoes the correct length but narrowly constrictive, the stitching tearing prematurely in surrender, I learned to wear shoes up to two sizes larger than my foot length.
I also walk a little awkwardly, both pigeon-toed and bouncey, because I have mild scoliosis. This used to see me mocked in school, with kids imitating my strange gait as they followed me across the playground.
So, how did the iGUANEYES perform?
As substitutes for thongs or Crocs, I couldn’t fault them. Easy to slip on and pad around the house or stroll around the neighbourhood. One time I had to hurriedly bolt outside and move the vehicle from a time-lapsed parking zone. No problem driving either.
Being taken for a beach walk by a friend’s dog, which subsequently plunged into the sea and needed to be coaxed back before it set out for New Zealand, was all taken in stride.
However, the iGUANEYES didn’t take to cycling, detaching from my heel and flapping each revolution of the pedals. That was street cycling, so mountain biking is off the curriculum. Nevertheless, when scrambling up rocks along the seashore or strolling around suburbia they performed admirably, comfortably absorbing my bouncing gait.
Overall review: I’m putting my foot down for a thumbs up!
Background on iGUANEYE shoes
They were designed by Oliver Taco, company founder, who asked the question: How far can you strip back the shoe and still have comfort and protection?
Taco was inspired by early Amazonians who dipped their feet in liquid rubber for protection from the elements, enabling them to move faster through their forested environs.
iGUANEYES are made sustainably, in Porto, north Portugal, with each shoe hand-pressed in the factory. The removable cork inner soles of the Freshoe and Jungle Lux shoes are also sustainably harvested (keeping alive an historic Portuguese industry that has for centuries provided corks for wine bottles).
iGUANEYE explains: “The trees are not cut down or damaged when the cork is harvested, and they can be harvested every 9 years for the lifetime of the tree (roughly 270 years!). These forests are a unique habitat in the Iberian Peninsula and the refuge of various endangered species. Cork is also easily recyclable. This makes the cork in iGUANEYE shoes sustainable.”
iGUANEYE have pledged to donate 10% of their profits to Amazon Watch and Children’s Ground charities, the former protecting Amazonian rainforests and its Indigenous peoples, the latter working with Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders to challenge poverty and develop communities through cultural and economic initiatives.