Sunday, November 7, 2021

Be Lenka Sierra Review: Barefoot Minimalist Riding Boots

Update: I ended up altering these boots to fit my calves better. See the blog post here.


Lately I have been very into barefoot or minimal style shoes. Everyone's feet are different, but for me, switching to barefoot style shoes has made a huge difference in my long-term foot pain and problems. 

If you are not familiar with them, "barefoot" shoes have absolutely no heel or heel lift and are sometimes called "zero drop." They also have a foot-shaped toe box so that you can spread out your toes fully and a thin sole with minimal padding that allows your foot to have more of a sensation of "feeling" the ground. 

The first barefoot shoes I tried were athletic shoes to help with my foot pain when walking and running for fitness, but I soon found that switching all of my shoes to barefoot style shoes helped my feet feel better on a daily basis. 

My job as a professor involves standing and walking for much of the day, and wearing barefoot shoes has really helped me to stay on my feet for longer with less foot pain. It seems counter-intuitive since arch support and padding seem like a good idea when your feet hurt and your arches ache, but I've tried so many of the "orthopedic" brands but none of them really helped in the long term. 

I was really nervous about the footwear I was bringing to Europe with me since the amount of walking I do when teaching in Rome far exceeds my lifestyle in the US, but I was very happy to find that my barefoot shoes have kept my feet happy and pain-free.

The other advantage of being in Europe is that there are barefoot brands that are more accessible here. Most brands will ship to the US, but often do not accept returns or the cost of shipping for returns is prohibitive. 

My latest purchase has been the Be Lenka Sierra, a leather riding boot by a manufacturer in Slovakia. I just couldn't wait to share them with you!

Some Be Lenka shoes are available from Anya's Shop for free shipping and returns in the US. I had purchased the Be Lenka City in suede from Anya's Shop before coming to Europe, and these are one of my most comfortable shoes. For days when I know I'll be walking for a long time on varied terrain, these are my shoe of choice, so I knew that there was a good chance that I would like other Be Lenka shoes. Anya's Shop carries the Be Lenka Sierra, but they don't currently have the Ruby and I was smitten by this eye-catching color. 

My feet are 25.5 cm long and I ordered my usual size in BeLenka, a 41. My calves are wider than the measurements on the size chart-- they measure about 42cm, and the 41s have a calf circumference of 38.2. However, I have successfully stretched boots to fit my calves in the past, so I decided to give them a try.  Since I'm in Europe, returns would not be terribly difficult if necessary. 

When my Be Lenka Sierras arrived and I first put them on the heels felt very stiff and uncomfortable, and I could not zip them up. However the foot box was a perfect fit for my toes in both width and length. 

After a bit of wearing them around the house the heel started to feel more comfortable, and some stretching of the elastic caused a bit of relaxation, so with some work I was able to carefully zip them up. Wearing them around the house I have continued to break them in, and today I wore them to lunch at a friend's house. They are still quite tight in the calf, but very comfortable in the foot, like wearing a cozy slipper. 

They still might require a trip to the cobbler for some calf stretching, but the fact that I can wear them gives me hope that only a little bit more space is needed to make a perfect fit on the calf. In some ways this is probably ideal since the boot with time will have a perfect fit with no sagging. 

I am very happy that this boot fits, since I very much missed having a riding boot last winter as I was transitioning to barefoot shoes. 

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Zaqq Equity Brogue- Barefoot Chelsea Boot Review

When I was looking for a great barefoot Chelsea boot, I came across the brand Zaqq. Their Equity Broque Cognac was exactly what I was looking for-- a beautifully made chelsea boot lined with leather in a zero drop, thin sole, natural foot shape shoe.

I tried to order this shoe from the US but I was unsuccessful, as they required me to send my SS number and I am not comfortable giving this to vendor. When I knew I would be coming to Europe, I was excited that I would be able to try this boot. 

My foot is 25.5 cm, so after watching their videos and looking at the size chart, I chose the 44. This boot was massively too large on me, so I sent it back and ordered the 42. 

The 42 fits in the length, but the boot is very wide in the ankle and heel. Both of my heels slip when I walk. I tried adding a wool insole from other shoe, but this does not fix the problem. You can see how baggy these are on my foot in the photos.

I have a fairly wide, high volume foot, but these are still too wide for me and they are on their way back. Zaqq has been good about honoring their return policy, but they do not pay return shipping outside of Germany.

Interestingly, my husband also ordered a pair of Equity chelsea boots. The size he chose based on measurements was too small for him, so he ordered a size larger, and this fits his foot very well. He has a very high volume foot in both the ankle and heel. 

Happy shoe shopping!