Barefoot Shoes

Tune Footwear Penny Loafer Review

Before I even I started writing for BirthdayShoes, I?d been searching for a pair of minimalist dress shoes to wear for work. I?ve had a couple good options from VivoBarefoot that I can wear on casual Fridays, but I?ve been waiting for someone to come a…

Before I even I started writing for BirthdayShoes, I?d been searching for a pair of minimalist dress shoes to wear for work. I’ve had a couple good options from VivoBarefoot that I can wear on casual Fridays, but I’ve been waiting for someone to come along and create a truly minimalist dress, complete with zero drop heel and a nice thin sole. And then came along Tune Footwear! Funny story—I and was out grabbing lunch when I randomly bumped into a guy named Mike Norris who commented on the Skora running shoes I was wearing at the time and had reviewed on the site a few days earlier. We got to talking and I learned that he was in the middle of a starting a minimalist dress shoe company. At the time, the only prototype shoes that he had were the ones he was wearing on his feet. Fast forward a month or two for a preliminary look at Mike’s vision, and a few more months after that and we finally had a couple pairs to play with. Justin reviewed a first look of the tassel loafers and I’ve been putting the penny loafers through their pacers over the past 6 weeks or so. So let’s dive into the review!

Sole & Uppers

Tune uses the same sole across four different models of shoe. They current make a Penny, Tassel, and Ornament loafer as well as a Boat shoe. The loafers all come in three different colorways (brown, black and a lighter tan) and the boat shoes come in one color of tan. All models come in half sizes between 8 and 13.5. The shoes reviewed here are the Penny loafers in tan and in black. The sole is made of a soft 8mm thick rubber and has a zero drop heel. The bottom of the sole has stylized lugs in the pattern of the company logo. The shoes have fine traction around the office, along the sidewalk when you’re grabbing lunch, and even can work sufficiently if you forget your regular pair of running shoes for your evening workout. (more on that below!!) The upper is made of soft leather (full grain, pebbled and new buck, depending on which model you go for) and has a 5mm thick insole. The toe box has ample width, without being obnoxiously wide or looking like clown shoes. Thick stitching runs along the rim at the front of the shoe, while thinner stitching runs along the sides and heel. The panels inside the shoe are smoothly joined and are comfortable, and while I’m a socks with shoes guy, I expect these loafers to be comfortable going barefoot in them as well. The tongue even has room to add the traditional penny, if one prefers to make that kind of fashion statement.

The shoes in photos

Brown penny loafers — Black penny loafers — Packaging —

Fit & Performance

When first slipping them on, the area below the tongue across the top of the foot feels always feels a bit tight to me. This feeling quickly goes away after 30 seconds of walking in them. The toebox is plenty wide with lots of room to wiggle your toes. The soft rubber sole and supple leather upper allow for plenty of dorsiflexion. The heel cup fits well, doesn’t let your foot slide at all, and is especially comfortable on the Achilles tendon. It’s hard to explain in words, but there isn’t much structure to the loafers along the instep and outside of the foot between the heel and the tongue so the shoes appear to bow outwards. This isn’t actually an issue when you’re wearing the shoes, but it does seem to appear a bit odd when they’re off the foot (See this photo).
Despite having a total thickness of 13mm between your feet and the ground, it feels like much less. These shoes have an awesome ground feel which surprisingly rivals some of the more minimalist Vibram FiveFingers I’ve worn. They certainly have greater ground transmission than any of the Trek LS sole based VFFs like the Lontra or Speed XC. I’d compare the ground feel to a broken-in pair of classic soled VFFs like the KSO or Sprint and they even come close to a pair of Bikilas or SeeYas! The one issue I found with such a thin sole is that there isn’t much protection in the winter from the cold ground and simply by the nature of the style of loafers, the uppers don’t provide much insulation either. Wearing these in December and January in the mid-Atlantic, I found my toes getting cold easily when spending time outdoors. On the flip side, leather is not a material known for is breathing qualities, so when my feet got hot they would overheat and get sweaty, and stay sweaty. I’m such a princess, right?
Left, a pair of SeeYa FiveFingers; right, the Tune Footwear Penny Loafer. Ready for a dual-shoe test run!
I was impressed at just how comfortable the Tune sole was, so I decided to take the loafers out for a spin on the local running trail. While the uppers don’t fit as snuggly as most running shoes I prefer, they definitely worked out okay for a couple miles. I wouldn’t want to run downhill, or play a sport like Ultimate Frisbee which requires a lot of lateral cuts back and forth in them, but for a casual run they were fine. I’d guess that you could even get in a heavy squat or deadlift workout in them at the gym and besides the funny looks you might get, they’d hold up just fine. Actually, they probably would be preferable over a pair of over-cushioned sneakers when it comes to heavy lifting!

Pricing & Conclusion

All four Tune Footwear models are priced competitively at $99. This is right at, or even well below, the price point for many men’s department store or designer dress shoes available. While I’m sure you could find loafer style shoes at bargain stores, you certainly wouldn?t be getting one of the first to market minimalist dress shoes. Currently the shoes are only available for purchase from the company website but plans are to expand into retail shops across the county as soon as opportunities become available. Shipping is $10 and returns are free within the U.S. and are made easy on their website. So, should you get a pair? I’d say yes, definitely pick up a pair if you like classic styling and want a pair of minimalist shoes with great ground feel to wear around the office. These are now my go-to pairs of dress shoes and I’m excited to see how Tune does and if they’ll continue to expand their model lineup. Regarding my nitpicks with temperature, it’s a minor issue, but if you always have super sweaty or super cold feet, maybe you should think about a different style of dress shoe than a loafer. And remember, if you are just jumping into minimalist shoes of any kind without any break in period for your legs, you might experience some soreness, even if it just for wearing them for 8 hours a day around the cubical. You’ll definitely want to ease into things if you don’t already use minimalist shoes for running or regular casual wear. Lastly, you can also connect with Tune Footwear on Twitter and Facebook. You’ll want to stay in the loop with them because Mike Norris has some fun stuff coming down the pipeline in 2013 for Tune–including rolling out an ambassador program and a series of road running races that he plans to compete in while wear loafers and a full business suit!

By Tim

I’m am a bicycle advocate by profession and an Ironman triathlete for fun which keeps me healthy and fit. I got into minimalist footwear during the summer of 2009 after dealing with injuries resulting from running in “normal” running shoes. Check out what’s going on in my life through photos at [url=][/url] or follow me on twitter: [url=]@TimKelleyDotNet[/url]. Get to know Tim better via [url=]his interview here[/url].

19 replies on “Tune Footwear Penny Loafer Review”

@Tom – I reviewed a size 11. I’m generally a 11 in US sizing in other shoes, and a 43 in European and VFF sizing.

@Ken – I prefer my running shoes to be a little tighter (Seeyas/Bikilas/El-X) and almost like a second skin. For this style of loafer/dress shoe, it’s more comfortable to have a little more space, but they are snug across the top of my foot, which keeps them in place. I can slip my foot in and out pretty easily, but never worry about them coming off accidentally.

Can you elaborate on your socks? Truly, a question I never thought I would ever be asking another male;)

I’m new to minimalist footwear and was wondering what brand style you were wearing and other details you may be able to offer.

These shoes look very impressive. I can see myself in a pair… after I get used to my VFFs


@JimDandy – You can wear whatever type of socks you like with the Tune shoes. The cut is definitely forgiving enough to wear something thicker in the winter if needs be!

I got the Black Ornaments and really like them. For my next pair I’ll go one size up. I usually wear size 45 in Vivos, Vibrams and Lems,and 12 in NBMinimus, but in this, I’ll go 13. Other than that, this is the kind of shoe I was looking for. I’ve been using vivobarefoot Ra’s for working everyday for one year and this will replace the Ras. Excellent shoes, and excellent customer service.

Thank you for this interview Tim!

I’ve been looking for nice looking Casual/office shoe for work after Merrell stopped making the Tough Glove. After reading your review, I decided to buy a pair of Tune Footwear’s Penny Loafers. Boy, am I glad i did! The minute I put those loafers on and stood up, I knew I had gotten my moneys worth! It had everything that you would want in a minimalist shoe; a wide toe box, zero drop heel and good looks!

I did experience the tightness in the instep that you describe and it was quite uncomfortable after a while, but after the third outing, I barely felt the pressure.

Thanks again for the great review!

Very nice review that convinced me to buy a pair of Tunes. However, I found the fit to be small (I missed the disclaimer recommending to order a size larger). I returned the shoes for an exchange for a larger size. However, I have not heard anything back from Tune after 6-7 emails and phone calls. No refund or exchange has been issued after a month of attempting to reach them. Based on my experience dealing with this company, I would not recommend to anyone to buy from Tune.

Does anyone know anything about the company Tunefootwear? I funded their campaign (was it Kickstarter or Indiegogo?) and they contacted me for my size & color. Then said they sent the shoes. That was two weeks ago and, despite repeated e-mails, I never received any information about the shipping, nor have I received the shoes. I notice they haven’t updated FB since 20 September and it is now looking like they’ve stolen the money and skipped town.

This review convinced me to order from Tune. The shoe was not what I was looking for. Tune is a SCAM. Since returning the shoes in August I have not received an exchange or refund. I have left repeated voicemails and emails and have not heard anything from them. STAY AWAY.

I’d just like to say that Tune Footwear is not a scam. I ordered a pair of their tassle loafers and they were too small (something that happens to me a lot when ordering “minimalist” shoes, for some reason). So, I filled out their on-line exchange form, bundled them up, and shipped them back for a half-size bigger. That was all done in the afternoon the day I got them.

I got an email bright and early the very next morning from Michael Norris apologizing for the mix-up and making sure I got the return/exchange right. He told me to send him my tracking info so he could send out my new pair immediately. The whole transaction (small shoes, return, exchange, new shoes) took a week. Their customer service is outstanding.

The shoes are great, too! I got the brown tassle loafers. Yes, the toe box is wide and makes the shoe look almost like a slipper. But that’s true of any shoe that doesn’t mash your toes together. The quality of the leather and the build of the shoe makes up for that, though. They’re nice shoes and if I were in a business casual environment, I would have no problem wearing them to work.

Yes, they snug up around the top of the foot, but that’s how the “hold on” to your foot. I don’t find it contraining at all. Frankly, they feel very light and very minimal on my feet.

Sizing (all my sizes are US sizes): I wore a 10.5 in “normal” shoes (running shoes, loafers, etc.). I wear a 10.5 in Bates boots. I bought a pair of Belleville MiniMil boots, and in those I take an 11.5. My VFF size is 44. In Brooks Pure Drift shoes, I’m an 11.5 (same thing with the Merrell line of minimal shoes: 11.5). That should give you an idea of my foot size. I originally ordered the Tunes in an 11.5, but my toes pushed up against the end of the toe box. I exchanged them for a size 12 (which I have on my podies as I type!) and they are a perfect fit. My toes are just barely at the end of the toe box without touching.

I think it’s too bad some folks out there had a bad experience with Tune, because mine was just the opposite. Good shoes. Great customer service. Outstanding.

This great review is what got me to purchase a pair of TUNE Ornaments about a month ago, right before 2+ weeks of business travel in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Morocco. I’m glad I read it when I did, because I couldn’t imagine a better travel “dress” shoe.

Let’s be clear: no slip-on short of the opera pump is a real dress shoe. But that really shouldn’t stop you from wearing these for everything, as I did – work (with a suit), sightseeing, bar-hopping, and running, in all kinds of weather, on cobblestones and dirt paths.

With a little work, they take a surprisingly good shine, and this really helps make them more suitable for suit-wear. While my traditional balmoral foot coffins sat in my suitcase as dead weight, I was fully comfortable in my TUNEs, even while meeting with prime ministers and members of parliament – shoe protocol be damned.

They feel snug in the right places and airy everywhere else, and like all minimalist shoes, they fit better the more you wear them in. I’m a 9.5 D/E in most shoes, a 42 in VIVOBAREFOOT, and a 10 in TUNE.

I have nothing but great things to say about the customer service as well – they shipped fast and Mike seems like a great guy. Sorry to hear about others’ experiences, but I wouldn’t hesitate to order from him again.

Tune ripped me off. The first size I ordered was too small, and I sent it back, knowing there was going to be a penalty.

However, I received no discount or communication for 6 months. When I finally got a hold of someone, “Michael” said “our bad!” and promised to remedy the situation.

It has now been close to a month, and I haven’t heard from the again.

Shady company..

My experience was the same as DB. It has been two months. My shoes were also too small. I sent back according to their policy, at my expense. I had even ordered a 10 instead of 9 1/2 as suggested. They won’t contact me, and it has been 2 months since I ordered. I am disputing on paypal. Sad–the shoe actually looked great. But if you have to huck out $10.00+ each time there is an irregularity on their product, it gets expensive. And that is for no service.


Buddy, I’m sorry for the headache we caused you. Customer Services is our top priority, even ahead of providing our customers with healthy footwear for the workplace.

I’m terribly sorry I missed your exchange request. I always try to be available to TUNE’s customer at any hour. You can reach me via email at michael@tunefootwear .com or over the phone at 704.231.7536. That, being the said, TUNE receive a large volume of inquiries and request every day of the week. Unfortunately, we have a very small staff and occasionally we miss a request. That seems to be the case here in your situation.

Again, my apologies. We’ve refunded your Paypal account, and we sent out the size 10.5 Penny Loafer your requested to make up for your troubles. Sorry if we left a bad taste in your mouth. Hopefully the Penny loafers will wash it out!

You know how to reach me if you have any questions.

Step in TUNE!


Hi DB and BirthdayShoes Readers,

My name is Michael, and I’m the person DB spoke with over the phone. DB and I have communicated via email, but I just wanted to clear the air here on the this forum.

I did miss DB original return request. DB received a pair that was too small. He then ordered a larger pair, and sent the original back to our warehouse. I missed the return coming in, and as a result DB never received his refund.

DB finally receive his refund, but it was extremely late. I dropped the ball here, and I apologize. I just want to be clear that Customer Service is TUNE’s top priority, but I made a mistake in this case. I’ll do my best not to let it happen again in the future. If there ever is a problem, I try to make myself available at all hours of the day, so don’t ever hesitate to reach out to me.

Ultimately, DB did receive his refund, and we sent him a complementary pair of loafers in an attempt to make up for his trouble.

If anyone has any question, I can be reached at 704.231.7536, or via email at michael@tunefootwear .com.

Step in TUNE

I ordered from Tune Footwear and they sent me the wrong colour shoe (I ordered a black penny loafer but got brown).

I returned the shoes for a refund 5 months ago and have not heard back from them. I have not received my refund.

Be careful.

I bought these as my 2nd pair of tune shoes, and they have not disappointed me yet. There aren’t many shoes out there that can pass in an office/corporate environment that have what I (and hopefully you) am looking for:

1) Wide toe box (yes, those pointed oxfords look great, but they’re ruining your feet!)
2) Zero drop (heels will ruin you from the feet up)
3) Style (minimal shoes have what I call the “goofy factor,” and tune is able to balance that out without sacrificing room in the toe box).

My other pair are V2s, and I prefer them. The post mentions the “tight” feeling when you first slip these on – I get that too on the V1, but they have worked out the shape better on the V2. Nonetheless, the V1 is still a great shoe at the price.

Amazing customer service, quality products, I’m a Tune fan for life!

They look excellent shoes, and on my daughter’s recommendation, I ordered a pair. These have never arrived – three months later – and there is no sign of a refund or replacement from Tune even though I have sent many emails and have been most patient. They have now stopped replying to my emails. Be warned. This is a great shame as they deserve to do well, but will suffer if this poor service is anyway normal.

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