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Putting Our Best Foot Forward: A Conversation with an American Shoemaker, Part Two

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Welcome back for the second part of my interview with Larkin Holavarri of Soft Star Shoes. So, Larkin, can you sum up the philosophy behind Soft Star?

Our shoes should help your foot move as if it was barefoot. Our soles are lightweight, flexible, wide and do not shape the foot into a molded foot bed. The uppers are free from glues and shape to the foot. For all feet, but especially young developing feet, the foot muscles and tendons need to bend and stretch to develop into a healthy and strong foot. Walking barefoot is the best way for this to happen, but this is not always practical or recommended when your feet need protection from the elements (be it cold snow or broken glass).

That is where Soft Star comes in. Our shoes give enough protection to keep your feet safe, but don't interfere with how you walk. There are lots of stories out there about people with chronic back pain and foot trouble making the switch to barefoot/minimal shoes and their troubles go away. It's all about a strong, healthy base.

I've never owned handmade shoes before. It seems like such a luxury, especially in these trying economic times. What makes your shoes special?

There are so many things! We use high quality materials so the shoes last. Our little shoes are often handed down to siblings, cousins, or neighbors. It may not be good for business to make a shoe that will stick around, but it's good for everybody else. Since the shoes are handmade, our customers can create their own design... colors, motifs, and style options. We work directly with the customers to figure out what will work for them. We've made shoes to fit special feet, accommodate braces, and size 16s, to name just a few.

It's easy in our globalized economy to become disconnected from the products we use and eat. Many of us have never met the people who sewed our clothes or grew our food. This is a dramatic change from a few generations ago when we were often involved in harvesting the raw materials and then converting them into useful products. I think people miss this - and being able to connect with their shoemaker is a fun experience for most of our customers.

It's so true about that disconnect. But, what makes your shoes so good for babies and small children? Babies barely walk, so isn't $30 a lot to spend for something they'll soon outgrow?

Before, I mentioned our minimalist approach to shoe making. Barefoot-like shoes are especially important as the foot is developing. If you put board-like shoes with arch supports on kids, you can cause the foot muscles to atrophy. This can lead to a lifetime of foot problems.

Larkin, you and Trish have four kids under the age of six. Are they in-house guinea pigs?

Every day! The poor kids always have interesting experiments happening with their shoes. Just this week, we made a special pair of Ramblers for my three year old to test out some ideas we have to improve the durability of the sole. We also use our kids when we develop new styles. Trish's little girl was the first to wear our Mary Janes and my son was the first to wear our Saddle Shoe.

Having kids at work, we have a napping corner that gets used regularly. Unfortunately, it's too small for sly adults as you can see adult legs sticking out from under the curtain.

You tout yourselves as a green company.Is it just hype?

We've talked about this a lot since it's very close to our hearts. Being "green" is very fashionable these days and we feel the term has been cheapened somewhat. There are companies out there that use the term for marketing. I can give you some examples of how we run our shop and you can decide if we are just hype.

Our workshop is 100% solar and wind-powered, all of our leathers are tanned in the US or Europe so they have to meet strict environmental standards. We try to regularly ride our bikes to work, we use environmentally friendly cleaning products, we invested in LED lights, we re-use and recycle all paper that comes through the shop. We are always looking for ways to reuse our scrap leather, including giving it away to local customers and selling it to distant customers for the cost of shipping, we have minimal packaging options available for customers, and we have low flow toilets. [Read all about it.]

Very cool! Thank you for taking our readers on a virtual tour of Soft Star Shoes, Larkin. We have a women-owned, green, American business with a dedicated staff and a quality product. Comfortable, handmade leather footwear* for babies through adults, delivered to your door a few days after you place your order. Definitely worth a look-see!


*Vegan options also available.

Part one of my interview with Larkin

Soft Star Shoes website


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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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