A super comfortable casual flat with a traditionally simple design
It is an exciting time to be a minimalist footwear reviewer. Previously unheard of companies are coming out with new and innovative, or downright traditional, minimalist designs. OTZShoes is one of these companies. They offer a wide range of hand-made, simplistically designed footwear based on the footwear found on Oetzi the iceman, a well-preserved mummy, carbon-dated from about 3300 B.C., hence the name of the company. The OTZ-300GMS is a lightweight espadrille, or casual flat, and the review pair is the Black Coarse Linen. I’m amazed at their outstanding comfort as well as their simple materials and design.
This is truly the best feature of these shoes, the upper is amazingly comfortable. The linen is luxuriously soft against the skin, despite the word ‘coarse’ in their name. The edges have a slightly rubbery material glued to them to soften the edges further, in addition to providing some structure to the collar of the shoe.
These shoes are, however, slightly modified from their original state. The OTZ-300GMS comes with a rigid CORKlite™ insole, which is an anti-microbial cork footbed with a less than minimalist design including a 5 mm heel rise. Thankfully, it is easily removed and this review will be of the shoe wear-tested without the included insole. Without the insole, the outsole alone has a zero drop between heel and toe, and the shoe functions perfectly well.
I found that the footbed of the shoe is a little hard for my liking, so I scavenged an old foam insole from a different pair of shoes, it minimizes the shoe volume, which is ample considering the size of the original outsole, and adds a little bit of padding. The footbed itself is smooth enough to wear the shoes without an insole but there is a somewhat noticeable seam running along the outside edge and, as mentioned, is very hard.
These shoes are wonderfully wide. The outsole is the only rigid structure of the shoe and is anatomically foot-shaped with a wide toe box and midfoot. They have more than enough space for natural foot movement.
Sole / Flex
The sole is made of co-molded rubber and jute, a vegetable-derived natural fibre. It is, sadly, not very flexible, despite being relatively thin. A more flexible outsole would definitely improve their minimalist qualities.
One size 38 OTZ-300GMS weighs 5 ¼ oz (149 g), so together, they weigh unsurprisingly 300 grams, hence the name of the model. They are well under an unacceptable weight for a minimalist shoe but because all the weight is in the outsole and there is no adjustable attachment, the weight is noticeable at the end of your feet.
Support / Insole
There is no support in the design of this shoe, not even in the shoe itself. The insole is regrettably not minimalist but thankfully easily removed and not necessary. Despite the lack of rigidity, I haven’t noticed that the heel part of the shoe slips down at all. This is probably because of the reduced shoe volume due to the scavenged insole I added.
There is, sadly, no ground feel at all in these shoes. Because the outsole is so rigid, there is no ground transmission. However, that does make them great for walking on sharp gravel.
Although not flexible, the outsole is pretty grippy. On all dry natural and wet or dry man-made surfaces, there has been more than adequate grip. I wouldn’t try them on mud but if you did, you’d probably wreck the uppers anyway.
The linen upper is not breathable, however, because there is ample shoe volume, air easily enters the shoe from the top and collar. I have found up to 24C (75F) quite comfortable for walking.
Quality of Materials / Manufacturing
The quality of the Italian-made coarse linen upper and rubber/jute outsole is great. The manufacturing is all hand-made with the outsole stitched to the upper to reduce the use of glues in their production and is impeccably done. There are no flaws in the review pair in the stitching or construction.
The outsole height is about 7 mm. If you’re walking in water less than that depth, other than splashes, your feet won’t get wet. Water will go right through the linen, so your feet will get wet if walking on wet surfaces.
The OTZ-300GMS fits true to size in length. I usually fit a size women’s U.S. 8 or EU 38 and the test pair sized EU 38 fits perfectly in the length with plenty of room in the width. Despite the lack of attachments, they fit well on my feet and I do not feel like I need to curl my toes at all to keep them on.
At $75 USD on the OTZShoes website, you might think they’re a little on the expensive side but they are individually hand-made out of natural, high-quality materials.
The style of these shoes is simple and yet functional and immensely comfortable. They are based on a traditional, casual flat espadrille design with an anatomically foot-shaped outsole.
There is no break-in period required for these shoes. The materials will not stretch and should immediately fit comfortably with the right size.
These are not a pair of shoes you want to stick in the washing machine. A wet cloth is probably the most you’ll want to use to get them clean.
The coarse linen does not breathe making them a fully-uppered shoe on the warmer side, although air does get inside from the loose fitting collar. For added warmth, you could easily wear socks with these shoes comfortably as there is plenty of shoe volume to accommodate the extra material.
These shoes are simplistically styled, casual flats that work well with pants or shorts. I’d keep them to urban adventures or easy walking trails due to their lack of secure attachments. I have been on several walks on gravel with no issues at all; the inflexible sole is good for sharp surfaces, at least.
Although these aren’t the most minimalist shoes, considering the insole and the sole inflexibility, they are wonderfully comfortable and I have already enjoyed much use out of them. The insole is easily removed giving the shoe a zero differential between heel and toe. The style is the definition of simplistic and easily works casually with either pants or shorts. For more information and to check out their other styles, take a look at the OTZShoes website.
Originally posted on LivingBarefoot.info