Barefoot Shoes

Kickstart Altum’s Barefoot Dress Shoes

Some of you may have heard early rumblings about another initiative to bring suit- or slacks-ready barefoot shoes — no, I’m not talking about Primal Professionals or Tune Footwear’s just arrived loafers (Surprise! Tune’s are for sale now! Stay “t…

Some of you may have heard early rumblings about another initiative to bring suit- or slacks-ready barefoot shoes — no, I’m not talking about Primal Professionals or Tune Footwear’s just arrived loafers (Surprise! Tune’s are for sale now! Stay “tuned” for a first look in the next few days!). Allow me to introduce you to Altum Footwear. Altum is in the early stages of producing an Oxford shoe for men that can easily pass in your dressiest attire. The Altum dress shoes promise to have the following characteristics:
  • Thin, flexible Vibram sole
  • No heel or arch support
  • Lightweight materials
  • Wider-cut toe box
That is, if they see the light of production. And that’s where you come in. Let’s get this kickstarted! Read on!

Altum on Kickstarter

First a video to whet the appetite. Check these shoes out: Altum was founded by Rory Hennessey and Jeff Mroz — ex-college roommates turned professional football players (Rory for the Lions and Jeff for the Cowboys). Rory and Jeff are trying to bring their brand of dressed up, business-suit-ready-yet-foot-friendly shoes to market by crowdfunding the initial manufacturing process through crowdfunding site Kickstarter. You can check out their Kickstarter campaign here. It officially launched yesterday and is already off to a great start with $16,822 raised of their $30,000 goal! If you’re new to Kickstarter, here are the details of how the process works — in the words of Altum:
We are launching our pre-order campaign in partnership with Kickstarter, a crowd-funding site that makes the pre-order process nice and easy. By using a pre-order system for our initial order with the factory, we are able to make sure that we get the exact size and color combinations that you want. This removes the guesswork in trying to figure out how many size 9s we should order or how many pairs in black or brown or red. Knowing this information allows us to really hit the ground running. This is a quick overview on how Altum’s Kickstarter Project will work:
  • We will have 30 days to raise $30,000 through the sale of pre-orders to fund our initial order of shoes. (Why $30,000? That is how much cash we need to source and manufacture our first order of made in the USA shoes.)
  • You will be able choose the color(s) and size(s) of the shoes you would like to pre-order and enter your billing information.
  • At the end of 30 days, if we have successfully met our goal of raising $30,000 your credit card will be charged and we will begin making our initial order, getting them delivered to you ASAP.
  • Even though our goal is $30,000, there is no cap to how much above and beyond that we can raise. Hopefully that number ends up being $300,000 or better yet,$3,000,000!

Sound interesting? What exactly would you be getting with an Altum pair of shoes? Let’s check out the prototype shoes.

The Shoes!

Altum has already tested out four colorways of their Oxford barefoot shoes. You can see them above. Also, below is a walk around the shoes in the brown and light brown leather colorways. Note that the photos were provided by Altum — I’ve yet to try these in person! Being that it’s so hard to get a sense for the toe box of an Oxford-styled shoe—any guy will tell you these shoes are notorious for cramping your toes—I asked Rory if he could photo his foot stomped down on the front of a pair of Altums. While this is in no way a scientific way to solve photoing the width of a toe box, things look pretty good:
As for the Vibram soles Altum plans on using, you can see them below. One benefit of using Vibram soles in this way is that it should make sole-replacement much easier since it’s less proprietary (than say the cleverly camouflaged but brand-proprietary Primal Professional sole that is currently under production). Here’s a close-up of the soles:
As you might expect, a thin, rubber-soled shoe is likely to transmit a lot of ground feel. Even better, it’s likely to be exceedingly flexible, allowing the foot to move dynamically:
Between the wide toe box and the thin, flexible sole, Altum co-founder Rory has been wear-testing his Altums running and working out. Why would you run in dress shoes? Well, you probably wouldn’t except as a means to prove a point, which is that functional, healthy footwear is defined by it’s lack of constraints on the dynamic, natural capabilities of your feet. In other words, a good shoe should be functional in all sorts of endeavors, even if it’s aesthetic best fits an expensive suit. Here’s a shot of the insides of a pair of Altums (and you’ll note throughout the photos Altum provided, none are with socks, which tells me these are pretty comfortable shoes against your bare skin):

Barefoot Shoes for Suit Slacks!

Ultimately, the question is: how good will these shoes look paired with the kinds of pants you’d wear with a suit? Well, as you can see above and in the photos below, aside from the notable lack of a blocked out heel, these black Altums look great with some pinstripe pants. Mind, you’re probably going to need to make sure your pant hems are short enough not to drag on the ground — a trip to your tailor may be in order!

Will Altum be Funded? It’s up to you.

While I’ve yet to try a pair of Altum’s out or even held a model in my hands, I like what I’m seeing out of Rory. These Oxford’s look really good. The word “premium” comes to mind. But will they see the light of day? It’s not clear. Raising $30K is no walk in the park. And if you’re not sold on some of other, existing options in the barefoot dress shoe category, maybe these Altum’s are just what you’re looking for. What say you? Want to invest? If so, head on over to Altum’s Kickstarter page now!

By Justin

Justin Owings is a deadlifting dad of three, working from Atlanta. When he's not chasing his three kids around, you'll find him trying to understand systems, risk, and human behavior.

25 replies on “Kickstart Altum’s Barefoot Dress Shoes”

but i have HUGE WEIRD TOES with a big
gap between the first and second one.
question is: how flexible and forgiving is that shoe’s upper?

too steep price for me, especially considering additional 30$ international shipping and national taxes upon arrival.
Sad, but I think I have to pass on those, although they’re good looking.

Don’t see this justified though – a huaraches sole and a bit of leather sewed on top of that…maaaan…

I remember sometime back you posted about a similar oxford, yet that shoe was doing creative things to hide the fact that it was zero drop – they had done something aesthetic in the read to make it look like it had a heel. I wish this show did the same thing, I don’t like the look of the rear.

These look very cool and I’m interested – enough so that I’m like to buy these assuming the finished product looks as good as those shown in the projects kickstarter page. I’ve backed two kickstarter projects one of which is the pebble watch, which has gone well beyond the initial completion date. The other was a bamboo bluetooth keyboard (kinda an impulse buy) and I wasn’t totally thrilled with the final product. My two experiences have lead me to a couple of conclusions regarding kickstarter projects: First, the “reward”, usually the final product, may be of a slightly lesser quality than what one would get with the commercially available product (b/c the rewards may have come from initial and/or test runs); and Second, in the case of the Pebble Watch, I’m convinced that what I will receive will be the highest quality product they can deliver, unfortunately this means I likely won’t receive the “reward” until January/February 2013. In both cases, the difference between the cost of the reward and what the planned retail price isn’t worth the headache and I suspect the “suggested” retail price will eventually come down to what I paid for it as a backer. My point is, while this product sounds promising and I’d be interested in the final product (including initial reviews), I’m not willing to back another kickstarter project. Good luck Altum – Build it, and they will come 😉

These shoes are truly one of a kind. I have been wearing them for over a year as a tester for both work and play. Altums have the same ground feel as a NB Minimus with a look suitable for the office.

Well, they don’t have 15s anyway, but that toebox still looks pretty pointy. Compared to other shoes it is probably nice, but for someone whose second toe is longest, and third toe is about the same as the big one, a boxy toe box is much better. I guess perhaps that wouldn’t be true to an Oxford?

pity the toe box gives so little room for the big toe to work sideways… The price is OK for me but for a proven product.

I actually like the fact that they are not trying to make it look like it has a heel. It’s pretty safe to say that raised heels are not good for us so why should we even support the idea of it? It might look a little different but if we’re always trying to conform then the style will never change. Maybe in 10 years or so people will look at shoes with raised heels and say, “I can’t believe people actually wore those… they look so weird!”

I’d love to support this brand since they are doing a lot of good. Manufacturing in the U.S. is a big win as well. I just can’t afford to drop $160 on a pair of dress shoes. I just don’t wear dress shoes very much.

The shoe looks very good. I have to agree that I prefer these over the Primal Professionals cause they are not conformist (pretending to have a heel). However, the toe box looks narrow!

One comment mentioned it before me, but it bears repeating: the toe box on these shoes are not wide enough. Even given the picture of the foot on top of the shoe, anyone can see that the toe box is only suitable for feet that have already been permanently altered by improper footwear. For those of us who’ve been running barefoot for our entire lives, these shoes are still waaaaay below what design standards should be (look at the Vivobarefoot Ra’s for an example of proper design). When moving barefoot, it is important that the hallux is allowed to flex medially so that it comes in line with the first ray of the foot (aka the first metatarsal). If this action is restricted for too long, you wind up with toes that are misaligned, and chances are pretty good that you will develop some type of neuroma or bunion. I am extremely pro-active about supporting minimalist shoe companies (especially ones with manufacturing in the USA) but I cannot support a flawed design. There are too many of those in the market already! Widen the toebox, and I can guarantee you my business.

I like the look but agree with the comments above that the toe box doesn’t give nearly enough room for the big toe.

Looks like the Vivobarefoot Ra but with a narrower toebox. The price is a bit high.

The person in the picture demonstrating the shoe width has a really deformed foot!

They surpassed their $30k goal at kickstarter so it looks like this thing is gonna happen.

Justin thanks for the post and please keep us updated as to what happens with these guys.

Remind me of my sidewalk surfers, Sanuk but in a dress version. If these are as comfortable, I am in. $160.00 for your feet is worth it, its the most critical part of your body.

those are nice looking shoes. $160 isn’t too bad if they are durable. I can usually wear dress shoes for work for 2-3 years so overall it’s not a bad investment.

I just want to drop in to say that with that pointed toe box, I would never be able to wear these shoes. By that I mean it would be physically impossible, not just uncomfortable. The prototypes shown are not foot-friendly. If we all wore shoes like that we’d end up with deformed feet like the guy in the pictures. As much as I would like some minimalist dress shoes, I cannot support this start-up.

Back in the ’80s, I had a pair of dress shoes which, after I removed the heel from, looked just this. Yes, that toebox is horribly narrow. Such a common mistake for new companies to make (like Scora, etc).


Not sure if you kept up with these guys or not but they had an initial issue with the sole of their shoes coming a part after a day of wearing. This was wide spread so they sent out a pack of glue with a letter promising everyone with issues that they will get a free pair of shoes from a future design. This was back in May or so. Since then they have kind of disappeared. They disbanded their facebook page and no website etc..

Can you look into this, as you have much more resources, and tell us what’s going on?


Too bad these don’t seem to have gotten off the ground. They look a lot better than Primal Professional, I think. If anyone knows how to get a pair or if there’s a tasteful alternative, please hit me up on the message form.

Great idea, lovely designs. I have been pulling off the sole from leather shoes and getting them re soled with zero drop soles as there was nothing available that I could find that fitted my needs. This saves time. I wonder if they have a boot? These look really good.

what a shame. just a perfect model in many ways one of the best minimalist smart shoes yet with a totally conventional toe box – the bent halux valgus/bunion used in the promotional pics just makes it look even more ridiculous and repulsive. it could have been the ultimate barefoot smart shoe…

if you look carefully you will spot the flaw straightaway – the foot in the prom pic has the first three toes so horrible bent – it looks to me that most toe boxes might actually resemble this one which degrades this otherwise interesting design badly

Come on people! The money is available – be entrepreneurs and make great minimalist dress shoes! We want some! 🙂

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