As most of you know, I consider myself first and foremost a “barefooter” – that is, I prefer having nothing at all on my feet as much as possible. Therefore, I’m always looking for “emergency” and practical footwear that will provide the most minimal experience while providing some protection and, most importantly, keep the “shoe police” at bay when I’m in public places like stores, malls, restaurants, etc.

Recently, I found an interesting product out of Encinitas, California: Luongo Footwear. Company founder and personal trainer Michael Luongo designed these specialty “shoes” as gym footwear. They provide protection against dirt, cuts, or scrapes, while allowing the user to perform most types of workouts “barefoot” style.

As soon as I saw the photos of this product, I got intrigued. They basically look like a cross between ankle socks and slippers. They remind me of extremely light water shoes. Indeed the most minimal closed-toe “shoes” I’ve seen so far. The top is made of a soft cotton/poly blend mesh fabric, which allows for ventilation. The bottoms are made of re-enforced, thin neoprene. They essentially fit like socks right out of the package, completely moulding to one’s feet and allowing for comfortable and natural motion.

Comfortable sock-like fit, allowing full range of motion

Comfortable sock-like fit, allowing full range of motion

Thanks to Michael and his team’s courtesy, I’ve been able to try a pair of their gym shoes over the past month. I have put them to the test in a number of situations, including my daily indoor workouts (aerobics and weight training) driving my car, and even running a few errands at local stores and the mall.

I’m happy to report that I’m positively impressed with this product. They offer a good, yet not excessive, grip on every surface I’ve tried: tile, hardwood, laminate, carpet, ceramic, concrete, asphalt, grass, and dirt. The slip-on design is great: no laces or straps to deal with, just on or off in one single motion. I also love their extreme portability; they fold or roll quite easily to fit into a pocket or a bag until I need them again. Even though, they are not waterproof, they have proven comfortable in rainy and wet conditions. I did notice my feet got a bit hot after prolonged use, especially indoors, but nothing too extreme. On the other hand (or foot, if you will) I was very impressed on how well insulated my feet felt outdoors, even at temperatures as low as 0ºC (32ºF), under dry conditions – further proving their use as backup footwear for barefooters.

After a month of fairly regular use, I haven’t noticed any obvious wear or tear and they seem fairly well manufactured. However, due to the very nature of the product, I expect them to show damage quicker than other sport shoes. In all fairness, they are promoted as indoor footwear; therefore, I am actually pushing them a bit farther than the manufacturer’s recommendations by wearing them out on the streets. Luongo recommends kinesiology tape for repairs and to extend the shoes life – they even include a couple of pieces of tape in the package for you! Cleaning them is also easy, throwing them in the washer in the cold cycle and air-drying them has worked perfectly for me.

I’d definitely give Luongo footwear my thumbs (and toes) up and would recommend them to anyone looking for an ultra-minimal solution for those occasions when you can’t simply get away with your bare feet. Luongo Footwear are available online for US$65 at – check them out![/fusion_text]