Saami Lite and Tabi Hi: Shoes Inspired by ancient wisdom
We have travelled the world on the quest for the perfect shoe, perfect for feet. We’ve worked with the leading modern and indigenous shoemakers, from the San Bushmen of the Kalahari to the Saami people of Northern Scandinavia, advanced mould makers in Germany and the automated pionieers of China’s manufacturing.....and the journey continues.
The shoe designs we witnessed in the Kalahari, Northern Scandinavia and parts of Asia, have been refined over thousands of years. They honour natural foot function and use local materials, perfected for their environment.
We are humbled and inspired by our interactions with some of the very best barefoot cobblers, who have been making shoes like this for a millenia. We continue to learn from them and gain incredible insight into how we could simplify our designs, improve the natural function and environment specific performance in all our shoes.
We call some of these shoes “modern indigenous”. To us, this term refers to our never ending journey of exploration into designs that are inspired by indigenous wisdom, reimagined for the modern world, using advanced modern shoemaking technologies.
The Saami people understand winter. For countless generations, they have lived and worked in sub-zero conditions in the Eurpoean Arctic, herding reindeer through knee-deep snow, from Autumn through to Spring.
We visited them with our good friend and research partner Catherine Willems, on the last leg of her research trip. She’d been studying feet, gait and barefoot shoe-making. Her work helps indigenous shoe-makers continue to pass on their ancient skills and wisdom through generations. Our continued collaboration with Catherine takes us all over the world and allows us to work with some of the best traditional shoe-makers.
Galahad and I, en-route to meet the makers of the Saami boot.
The Saami people have kept their feet warm and dry using the best resource available to them: reindeer. Their traditional boots, called Nuvttohat, are made from the thinner hide of reindeer legs. They are strong and durable, yet soft and pliable. The boots are insulated with thick reindeer hair and natural sedge grass, keeping feet protected from the cold, without weighing them down. Simply put, the traditional Saami boots are the perfect footwear for natural foot function in Winter conditions.
A tough design to beat, yes, but we drew great inspiration from the traditional Saami boot, learnt from the techniques of the Saami people, and the Saami Lite was born. We swapped the reindeer hide and sedge grass for 100% synthetic uppers and felt insulation. A simple, near stitchless construction makes the seams waterproof and the felt and neoprene insulation, alongside our thermal insole, seals the heat in and help keep the Winter out. Snowmaggedon will have nothing on you, whether you’re on the back of a dogsled in Norway, or scraping frost off the car on a chilly morning in Norwich.
The Tabi Hi is inspired by indigenous craftsmanship and centuries of design. The iconic Tabi socks of Japan were traditionally worn by the revered Samurai. The Tabi socks are made from super-tough waxed canvas, to keep feet protected from the outside elements.This footwear features thin, slip resistant soles, to allow feet to move skillfully, with natural poise and control. Infact, Jika-tabi means ‘contact with the ground’. Naturally, this concept spoke to us at Vivo, and inspired us to design the Tabi Hi.
Like all Vivobarefoot shoes, the Tabi-Hi allows the foot to gain maximum contact with the ground, with a thin, patented sole and roomy toe-box, so feet can function as they should. The weather-proofed eco canvas is made from a rugged blend of 50% recycled PET and 50% cotton, which not only reduces plastic landfill (roughly 20 bottles per pair) but helps to keep the elements at bay. The insulated lining and thermal insole keeps the cold out, enabling you to feel the ground, not the cold, and move with the sure footed control of a Samurai.
You can find the Saami Lite and Tabi Hi as part of our Winterproof collection.