The Fully Customizably Soled Minimalist Sandal
Ever worried about ordering the right sized shoe online? Do you have a uniquely shaped foot and have difficulty finding a shoe that fits properly? Both of these worries are easily addressed by Unshoes, a custom-made sandal company based out of Utah, U.S.A. The owner, Terral Fox, had difficulty finding a sandal design that he liked, so he decided to try making his own; then he decided to try selling them. I’m glad he did because he has created the only huarache-style sandal made with straps rather than laces with a design that does not go between the toes. If you like the between-the-toes style, they have that, too! What is absolutely fabulous about this company is that they have all their sizes readily available to print from their website and compare to your own feet AND 8 shapes to try! They take all the guesswork out of ordering sandals online.
I started wearing minimalist sandals in 2008 and before that I wore a trusty pair of Teva sandals pretty much all summer. They unfortunately did not have a zero drop sole so I had to give up wearing my favourite pair of summer sandals with their adjustable, wide, and sporty straps. Ever since, I’ve scoured the minimalist shoe companies’ websites for a similar design with no strap between the toes. I’ve finally found what I’ve been looking for. The Unshoes PT Sleek is a sporty minimalist sandal with wide, adjustable straps made for both men and women. I am extremely grateful to have found them (after a long wait) and been given the opportunity to review them here.
Price: $60.00 USD
Width: Narrow to Extra Wide
Sole Thickness: 8 mm
Drop: 0 mm
Weight: 3 3/8 ounces or 96 grams
Insole: None Included
Sizing: Women’s Size 5 to Men’s Size 13 or Custom
Category: Minimalist Sandal
Comfort & Fit
The PT Sleek scores top marks for comfort. The stamped EVA footbed is slightly textured and provides just the right amount of cushioning for my liking. The 1.5 cm wide straps are as soft as satin and thick enough that the edges feel quite rounded against the skin. The location of the straps does not interfere with foot mobility and don’t dig into the skin anywhere. The slide adjustment allows for the perfect fit every time (no learning to tie knots with this design). You can loosen them every time you put them on or, if you’re like me, leave them tightened just right and slip them on and off easily by sliding your foot under the top strap completely and sliding the heel strap over the heel; so easy!
As for fit, the website provides all the information you need to print out the right size and shape for your feet. They have 20 sizes to choose from and if yours is not included, Unshoes makes custom sizes available as well. As for shape, they have 8 to choose from of varying widths and dimensions in the forefoot or heel area. It is the easiest and most worry-free online sizing decision ever!
Barefoot Feel & Function
The PT Sleek has an 8 mm thick sole with plenty of flexibility and ground feel. You will not feel all the tiny pebbles underfoot like you will with a thinner sole but the sole does bend easily underfoot around larger rocks and contours. I found them an excellent choice for trail walking and river fording because of their suitability for walking on potentially sharp terrains.
Their multi-directional grip pattern is perfect for excellent traction on man-made and natural surfaces both wet and dry. As mentioned above, they are perfect for walking on sharp gravel paths and slippery river beds with no traction worries.
Weighing in under 100 grams, they are well within the range of ultra light minimalist shoes.
The upper straps are made of high quality, climbing grade, tubular nylon webbing with one sliding buckle and one tension buckle made of plastic. All other attachment points are sewn together with sturdy but unobtrusive seams. I appreciate the use of the tension buckle rather than Velcro for adjustability as the latter tends to look worn very quickly and stop working well under rugged use (especially around dogs with shedding fur that gets caught up in it).
The only break-in period required for these shoes is figuring out what tightness is just right for your feet. The adjustment strap is easily shortened if too long with simple instructions from Unshoes. In addition, should your sporty, adventure sandals get muddy, they are easily washed with warm water or these washing directions from Unshoes.
The sole is made of a 3 mm stamped EVA footbed and a 5 mm rubber outsole with a multi-directional grip pattern and 2.5 mm grip depth, which are glued together. There is plenty of flex to the 8 mm total outsole but it is thick enough to maintain its shape without front end floppiness (a very common issue with huarache-style sandals). The straps are attached to the sole with plastic-coated metal rivets that lay flush with the footbed. The attachment point on the top lateral side is a loop for easy sliding adjustment over the top of the foot.
There is no arch support in the flat rubber outsole design, as minimalist design should be.
** Update ** Unshoes has informed me that the sole material is going to be changed on new orders of the PT Sleek. The sole material used for the review pair has been found to shrink in extreme heat. I noticed that mine got somewhat warped when left out on the deck in the sun but they did straighten out again after a couple of wears and some bending. The new material has a circular grip pattern rather than the diagonal linear one photographed here.
The quality of the materials appears excellent. The quality of the manufacturing appears sturdy and well made but definitely by hand rather than mass-produced machine. The only cause for concern is that the top lateral loop is glued in between the two layers of outsole and burned in at the bottom. Although not the prettiest solution, I have no doubt that it will last as long as the rest of the shoe (and it’s on the bottom of the shoe so I don’t really care how it looks).
I suspect these sandals are durable enough to last at least a couple of seasons of rugged wear.
The PT Sleek style is all sporty, rugged, minimalist design. I love the minimalist and clever strap design; there is nothing “extra” included in their execution. Even the little logo on the outside edge is minimalist! The outsole has a rugged, mountainous look with its unique multi-directional grip pattern.
They are a unisex sandal with three strap colours currently available: black, blue, and purple.
Any use that you can think of for a sandal, you can use the PT Sleek for. I’ve gone on short and long walks with no problems like hot spots or chafing. I’ve walked across creeks and rivers with them without slipping or fearing losing them in the rushing water (the front end does flip down a bit in a current but was strong enough to hold its shape when stepping down on it). Their design allows rocks and sand to fall out from between your foot and the sole. The straps hold their length when soaking wet and don’t chafe even when wet. I would even recommend them for running without the need for toe socks (even though I love them), which makes them an excellent choice for cooler temperature minimalist running because your toes will stay warmer longer. And, yes, I have worn them with socks (although mine were toe socks anyway) and I liked it, too.
The only functional issue I’ve had with the PT Sleek is walking steeply descending hills. My feet tend to slip forward on the footbed and my toes have just come off the edges. This is more an issue with the type of sandal it is, an across-the-top design rather than between-the-toes design. Personally, it’s not a big deal and I have had bigger problems walking downhill with a lace digging in between my toes.
At $60.00 USD plus shipping, they are priced at the low end of custom, hand-made minimalist huarache-style sandals. I am confident in stating that these sandals will last at least one season and probably more with moderate to heavy use. I think this is a good value for a minimalist sandal and they do happen to be the ONLY ones on the market with a strap across the top rather than a lace between the toes.
I can honestly say that I’ve been waiting for the PT Sleek design of minimalist sandal for years and I was not disappointed by their eventuality. They are super comfortable walking for long distances. They are extremely functional with their promotion of natural foot movement. They are incredibly versatile with their sporty look, rugged construction, and superior traction. The PT Sleek is as equally in their element walking around town or fording through rivers. They are an excellent choice for both men and women looking for a minimalist sandal with an unconventional huarache across-the-top strap design. Great job Unshoes!
For more information about Unshoes, check out their website. If you happen to prefer the between-the-toes huarache style of minimalist sandals, they have those too in the Wokova and Wokova Feather. In addition, the company is working on production on a new series of minimalist sandals for women with more feminine designs, called the Wildflower Series. This is definitely a company to keep an eye on in the future.