When it comes to minimalist/”barefoot” shoes, it’s not unusual to have some unconventional designs. For example, while moccasins like Soft Star Shoes and huaraches have been around for millenia, they don’t really look normal next to a pair of Air Jordans (yes, this is strange); and of course, toe shoes have a long way to go before anyone thinks of them as commonplace. So it takes a special kind of shoe to cause me to do a double-take — and that’s exactly what I did when I first saw BeNat Shoes. A unique shoe made of a lace and a riveted sole that wraps the foot from the ground up, BeNat Shoes are evocative of a Roman boot; or perhaps a mutant huarache sandal sprung to life and making a meal of a hapless, unsuspecting foot! I digress. I was put in touch with the man (Michael) behind BeNat Shoes — BeNat is based in Germany — and was provided with a pair of BeNats to test out. What follows are my initial impressions of these hyper-minimalist, incredibly unique shoes!
Having taken in the various overlapping flaps of the BeNat, one can’t help but wonder what they’d look like laid flat. I’ve not had the heart to delace them (perhaps for fear of getting them laced again correctly), but I imagine the result would look a bit like a stretched out starfish with a lot more arms to it. Each “arm” would end with a hole through which a single lace can pull all the arms together, effectively creating a sole that can wrap around the foot. It’s a fascinating footwear design and I can only imagine the iterations it took to get the template dialed in. As far as the sole material is concerned, the BeNat is composed of two layers of material. On the outside of the sole you have a thin layer of synthetic material (rubber?) bonded to the insole, which is an incredibly soft, supple leather. When shaped into the form of a shoe as with the laced BeNat, the result lacks a lot of structure. This is most apparent when you look at the empty shoes as in the full-sized photo above — the sole just curves right up to the upper. This lack of structure means that BeNat shoes aren’t much of a shoe at all (that’s a compliment). Here are a bunch of photos of the shoes sans feet.
The BeNat sole is leather bonded to a synthetic material; the sole has numerous rivets through which laces run to wrap the shoe upward.
Another benefit of this design is that by wrapping the toes so closely, when you wiggle your toes, you get better sole adherence — the sole tends to lift with whatever toe or toes you are flexing (Good for a traditional toe box’ed shoe).
The front of the BeNat shoe can expand by untying a double knot, letting through more lace, and then retying the double-knot. You can see how this expands the forefoot from left to right in this progression.
BeNat shoes require a very unique style to pull off. Any time you have a lot of laces wrapping a bare foot, the first image that springs to the mind is that of a Roman circa A.D. 30. The BeNat shoes have that look dead to rights, but they also have a very natural aesthetic to them, thanks to all the “arms” that effectively are hugging your foot (They also remind me ancient footwear — see here and particularly here, for examples) Meanwhile, BeNats are so distinctive in their look and so unique in their design that wearing them without attracting attention will be next to impossible. Embrace the look and just roll with it. I’ve yet to attempt this, but I’ve an idea about replacing the single-lace of my BeNats with various disparate laces (maybe using individual lengths of hemp rope) that would accomplish the same overall goal as a single lace but eliminate the criss-crossing (e.g. one rope for the forefoot knot; individual lengths of hemp for each rivet over the top of the foot). Below are a few photos of me donning the BeNats — could you see yourself pulling these shoes off?
The immediate reaction these shoes evoke is that they are gladiator shoes. Hard to argue with that aesthetic!
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