Coming of age in the late ’90s had its definite upsides. Fashion was not one of them.
In fact, fashion served as a sort of drag effect on societally beneficial trends: feminism, veganism, and especially environmentalism. When I think of the oversize plaid flannels, the pleather pants, the lace-front shirts made from woven hemp, I cringe. Not just because I adopted those trends, but because of how unreservedly I loved them.
So perhaps it’s understandable why, when I first heard of earthing shoes, I felt a simultaneous frisson of delight and dread.
What is “Earthing” Anyway?
Earthing shoes are a type of soft-soled shoe claimed to connect the wearer to the earth’s electromagnetic field. This connection, known as “Earthing” or “grounding,” is said to usher electrons from the ground into the body. These electrons proceed to neutralize free radicals, which end up in our cells thanks to our toxic diet and environment and wreak havoc in the form of inflammation, autoimmune and endocrine issues, chronic disease, and so much more.
Research done in (when else?) the 1990s by scientists in Poland as well as the United States suggests that the process of Earthing creates “a positive and powerful shift in the electrical state of the body and the electrodynamics of blood.” Earthing boosts the body’s natural healing powers and improves its ability to self-regulate. Study participants have reported health benefits from a reduction in chronic pain to hormone regulation to improved cardiovascular health, as well as improved mood, faster muscle recovery, and better sleep.
Earthing can be done simply by stepping outdoors and standing barefoot on a patch of grass or dirt. But why go lo-fi when you can buy a product?
For years, alternative health advocates have touted the benefits of Earthing mats, blankets, and even patches. While I’m normally the first to try the latest alternative health novelty and call it research, I can’t quite get behind something that plugs into an electrical outlet in order to connect me to the earth. For me, it just doesn’t pass the common sense test.
So, What are Earthing Shoes?
Earthing shoes, on the other hand, made my secret hippy-dippy heart do a little dance. Instead of plugging into a wall, Earthing shoes work by means of a little copper button implanted in the sole of the shoe. This highly conductive metal channels the earth’s electricity into your body—it essentially “plugs” your feet into the ground. Earthing shoes also boast a thin, soft sole that allows your foot to feel the texture of the ground, activating all the healing pressure points on your heels, arches, toes and especially the balls of your feet.
This would have been more than enough for me twenty-some years ago. The grown-up me, however, had an objection, one that would have outraged my high school self: Earthing shoes are ugly. One might even say “fugly.”
Moccasins, sandals, even boots … doesn’t matter. These shoes are the fashion equivalent of a Boca Burger. Even if they are good for our health, most people would rather be sick. Including me. I hated disappointing my inner rainbow child, but the me of today wouldn’t be caught dead in these shoes.
Raum Goods is a Cardiff, California-based company that makes earthing shoes for the fashion-conscious. Handcrafted out of beautiful, naturally dyed leather, these shoes have the thin sole and the copper plug that give earthing shoes all their health benefits. From the outside, though, they have the minimalist profile and warm patina of a casual unisex flat.
Wearing the shoe is an otherworldly experience. The supple water buffalo leather slides on like a glove. The contoured heel and loafer-style tongue ensure that the shoe stays put without chafing or pinching. And the soft, hand-stitched sole pads as quietly across the floor as a monk in a Zen temple. Stepping outside in the Raum Goods earthing shoe indeed lets you feel the earth’s natural contours, but it still keeps your foot warm and protected from the elements.
It’s a moment twenty years in the making—at last, my hippie soul and my modern fashion sense have reunited.
Interview with Tyler Pinkos
I caught up with Tyler Pinkos, founder of Raum Goods, to find out how he worked this style-forward earthy magic.
The Manual: What got you interested in earthing shoes? What’s important about them to you?
Tyler Pinkos: My partner Bryan and I have been working in the footwear industry for a combined over 20 years and we have always wanted to make something different. His father-in-law, who lives in Bali, told us about Earthing and showed us a pair he got many years ago. We believe in the concept and really wanted to bring something to market that was more stylish and practical to wear every day.
We believe in all natural materials and small batch footwear. We love picking up a product and seeing that it is made by hand. We partnered with a small atelier in Europe who also employs roughly 10% Syrian refugees. Our footwear drastically reduces the water waste and harmful chemicals used to make traditional footwear, as we use no synthetic materials. We feel this is our effort to accomplish ethically made footwear by paying fair wages and using natural materials that are 100% a by-product of the food industry and tanning them in a way that reduces harmful chemicals.
TM: What was your goal in creating this uniquely stylish take on the earthing shoe?
TP: Our goal is to give people a fairly priced, direct-to-consumer, and all-natural version of Earthing shoes that people actually want to wear. We love fashion and trends, but also appreciate minimalist style and functionality. Due to the small-batch method of being made, we can use unique materials and do awesome collaborations with other natural textile brands or small leather companies. We wanted to empower the locals with producing a relevant brand they also believe in.
TM: Besides looking good, what benefits do Raum shoes provide?
TP: Modern footwear is almost like wearing a brace— supporting your arch and not letting it naturally get stronger. Any “heeled” footwear promotes heel strike when you walk, which can contribute to back pain.
When you wear our shoes, you feel every contour in the earth to stimulate your feet and body. Your toes can spread and with a zero-drop sole, you walk as humans were designed to do. All of this increases your arch muscles and actually makes them stronger. Our footwear lets you walk on the balls of your feet more naturally. After time, the water-buffalo leather sole molds to your feet and is incredibly comfortable. The whole shoe is made of natural materials and a porous sole, so they reduce sweating—you can wear without socks and they won’t stink!
TM: Who is the Raum shoe perfect for?
TP: Raum is perfect for the human who cares about the healing benefits of the Earth. They care about a carefree lifestyle. They value kindness over everything and want our planet to be here for generations. They are people who do not need footwear with unneeded bells and whistles and are not scared of looking a little “different.” And let’s not forget, they are people who love being stylish. Dress them up or rock them with shorts, our shoes are built for an extremely diverse lifestyle for people that have more to offer to society than just “being.”
Still not convinced? Try a pair out for yourself and let us know what you think. Already got a pair of natural earthing shoes but just need a place to take ’em for a walk? Check out the best natural hot springs for some environmental healing.
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