We had the chance to catch up with David Zasloff, the founder and CEO of Sockwa. Dave is a mechanical engineer by training and got into barefoot running after trying to add the thinnest sole possible to his beach sock. Thank you Dave for your dedication to freeing our soles.
How did you learn about / get into barefoot running?
I was busy adding the thinnest sole possible to our awesome beach sock when the barefoot running community and I collided. I took more notice when Dr. Lieberman with Vibram made the cover of Nature Magazine in 2008, I thought. We heard from their core users that what the pure barefoot people want is paper thin, so we listened and delivered with our G and X.
What was the transition like?
I started wearing Sockwa full time from when the first prototype G2 was available. One of the perks of developing the product, is that you get to test the product first. I noticed that I felt more. More pebbles, more textures, more temperature, and that I wasn’t banging into things all day long with big bulky shoes. You can say that they’re my everyday shoe, where my feet can just be a bit more natural like our philosophy.
What has your personal experience with barefoot running been? Any noticeable / significant benefits?
I have personally noticed that the tips of my toes don’t hurt anymore at the end of the day. In traditional shoes, the upper is like a barricade for your toes and that pounding takes its tole.
What inspired you to start Sockwa?
Customer demand. Our customers were playing tennis, running around swimming pools, and barefoot running in our beach socks which of course are designed for sand and don’t hold up to more than a day or two of pounding. We needed to added a sole to give our customers the ability to tread earth lightly. Walking around barefoot feels free, like you are always on vacation.
What is the typical design process behind each new line of Sockwa shoes? How do you do customer research / how many iterations do you go through?
Several dozen uniquely different prototypes usually go into each new style. We listen to our customers intently and pivot with them. It’s a fun collaboration that always growing and changing, like our customers.
How is Sockwa different from other barefoot running shoes?
We have one sole purpose, make shoes better. We don’t make our shoes using old, 20th century rubber soles, instead we use a more sustainable material that has better properties and that we can do more with during the manufacturing process….Our sole provides tactility in a way that’s never been felt before. Simple, surf the technology edge and listen to your customers, like they pay your bills.
For the benefit of those who are new to Sockwa, could you categorize your current line-up of products? Which are for more intensive outdoor activities / which are more for casual activities?
Our original beach sock, the Playa Lo is an awesome first product for a consumer. It was specifically designed for the beginning beach soccer and beach volleyball or any beach and sand activity. Our Playa Hi is what the professional players use to keep all the sand out, since it has a high top cut with a strong, durable velcro collar. Our G2, G3 and G4 have the thinnest sole in the world. Thinner in this case, means feel the pebbles and temperature gradients. It’s a great fall and winter shoe for barefoot purists who need some protection against the elements. The X8 is brand new and is breathable. We use the same great sole as the G but we’ve upgraded the fabric, using a specially designed compilation that replaces neoprene with new, recyclable, Ariaprene. It’s high end for 1/2 the price of the competition.
Where are your customers located?
70% North America and 30% rest of world.
What have customers been saying about Sockwa?
Technically Running says:
“I would like to say that my experience with Sockwa has been a fantastic one. My thinnest shoe, prior to the Sockwa, was the Vibram FiveFingers SeeYa and although the SeeYa is very thin (at 5mm), the Sockwa is the first shoe I have been in that completely mimics the feeling of running barefoot. To top it off, the simplistic design, wide range of colors, durability, and comfort are top notch with this shoe. Remember back when you were a kid, and would run outside in your socks, followed by your mother yelling “PUT YOUR SHOES ON”? The Sockwa gives you the ability to do what your mother always told you not to!”
“The Sockwa even helped with my form by forcing me to be lighter on my feet and smarter with my foot strike.”
“The outsole wraps slightly up the side of the neoprene vamp, so as you begin to run, the sole flattens out and allows for your toes to splay out naturally.”
“Sockwa is says that their shoes are “Crushable, Washable, Durable, and built for different size and shaped feet”, and I couldn’t agree more. Not only can you fit these shoes into any pocket of your carry-on (or even your actual pocket if you really wanted to), but the things ship in a USPS First Class envelope! The neoprene is very easy to wash and the TPU plastic is not only simple to clean, but is extremely durable.”
Daniel C. (a bicyclist) says:
“Easy in/out of pockets and ready to go at the coffee shop”
“I love putting on my Sockwa after a hard ride, especially when in the garage cleaning the bike after the ride…and for walking after the ride…seems to help relax my feet (after they’ve been in those rigid cycling shoes). And most riders who do group rides inevitably end up at a coffee shop to sit and chat. They are forced to walk around in very uncomfortable cycling shoes with cleats. The Sockwa easily folds and fits in a jersey pocket for quick access.”
Where do you source your materials, and how do you go about achieving ‘earth friendly manufacturing’?
We stay current with new material developments in magazines and at trade shows. We will achieve earth friendly manufacturing soon with our R & D skunkworks product, that will be ready soon. In the mean time, we use less energy to make our soles, which tend to last longer. We also ship 100 pair of shoes from Asia in the normal size of 12 pair of traditional shoes, so saving energy consumption per pair.
What advice do you have for beginning barefoot runners?
Free Your Sole.