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October 14, 2009

Soft Star Roo Moccasin Review (And Coupon Giveaway!)

Have you ever seen really comfortable or attractive children’s clothing – like a cozy pair of pajamas, a cute skirt, or a colorful raincoat - and wished that there was a grown-up version that you could enjoy? If so, you’ll absolutely love Soft Star footwear.

from Soft Star brochure

Soft Star was founded in the 1980s by Tim and Jeanie Oliver, who initially wanted little more than to operate their own business and do something nice for children. As their baby daughter was learning to walk, they were unhappy with most of the hard, stiff toddler shoes on the market, and looked for footwear that was soft and flexible to better support muscle development.

Finding nothing satisfactory, they educated themselves on the shoe crafting trade, and started their own cottage business. Soft Star moccasins were designed for little people to run, jump, and roll around in – and their designs were totally adorable.

Tim Oliver at work; photo from Soft Star website

The Olivers sold their footwear at local festivals and through mail order, and gradually developed a loyal following. Over the years, their cool designs and natural construction have also attracted the attention of many celebrities whose children grow up in Soft Star moccasins. (Children’s styles remain the primary engine of the business, as a look at Soft Star’s press room will quickly confirm.) Fortunately, Soft Star recognized that many grown-ups want the same comfort, style, and natural benefits as their moccasin-wearing kids - so the company began making their footwear for the entire range of adult sizes.

from Soft Star website

Although the company has grown significantly, Soft Star shoes are still hand-crafted at the family workshop in Oregon. There’s no outsourcing, and no mass production; each pair of moccasins is hand-made by one of the nine Soft Star “elves”, making it one of only a handful of shoe manufacturers whose materials and production remain entirely in the United States. Since each pair is individually made, Soft Star also specializes in custom orders for those who have trouble with traditional footwear sizing.

Avoiding the “staging” process of most shoe companies helps keep Soft Star one of the greenest companies around. They also have several eco-friendly processes such as using formaldehyde-free leathers and all-natural materials without chemicals, dyes, or pollutants for manufacturing. Their factory is powered by Oregon’s Blue Sky renewable energy program, and Soft Star’s overall carbon footprint must be one of the smallest of any business around.

But that’s not why you’ll love the shoes. You’ll love them because they’re fun to look at, and they may be the most comfortable thing you’ll ever put on your feet.

Soft Star’s line of adult footwear is basically an expanded version of its children’s moccasins. The materials and color schemes are tailored to more adult tastes, but you don’t have to limit yourself to what’s on the menu. If you want to custom design your colors, they’ll do that for you. (They even have a chart that can match a moccasin to your favorite crayon color – how fun is that?) If you want suede instead of leather, that’s OK too. You can choose 100% vegan options if that’s your desire. And if you want the exact same rainbow-with-elf-fringe design that your toddler wears, they can do that as well.

Soft Star Roo

My model came off the menu, and is one of Soft Star’s most popular styles: the Roo (kind of a fun name, isn’t it?), made of suede with a grippy undersole. Like all Soft Star mocs, it features an insole with plush sheepskin, a naturally homeostatic material that wicks moisture away and keeps your foot at an even temperature in hot or cold weather. There’s an elastic ankle closure that makes them a cinch to put on, but keeps them securely in place during activity.

The insole is attached to a bottom layer of suede, which is then bonded to the T-Rex soling material - a soft black rubberized fabric layer which provides non-slip properties and offers a moisture barrier to allow indoor and outdoor use of the moccasin. The Soft Star site claims that T-Rex material is used in mountain apparel to help climbers keep their grip on tough terrain.

T-Rex fabric on underside

Since there’s no midsole to the moccasin, the underside of the Roo is just a few millimeters thick, so this is a true minimalist shoe that provides all of the ground feel and musculoskeletal advantages of going barefoot – except that you’re swaddled in sheepskin and soft suede. If there’s a more comfortable way of walking naturally, I haven’t seen it yet.

Super soft and flexible

Predictably, the barefoot community has flocked to Soft Star, and several minimalist runners use this footwear for running. (Soft Star actually has an entire page devoted to the benefits of going barefoot, which I'm fairly certain was on their site even before the Great Barefoot Craze of 2009 began. They’re not being trendy; it’s a philosophy they truly believe in.) I’ve tried mine this way, but the sheepskin felt too warm against my bare feet, so I prefer to stick with my Vibrams or Feelmax for running. However, for casual use, these have become my “put them on as soon as I walk in the door after work” footwear – and as winter creeps closer and the temperature gets colder, I’m certain that I’ll be logging a ton of hours in my Roos.

My grippy Roo moccasins retail for $63 from the Soft Star site, and the children’s versions retail for $34. These individually made, hand-crafted products are assembled with attention to detail and built for durability, so you’ll enjoy them for years to come – unless you’re a kid that grows out of them, of course. For the comfort and utility you get, they’re totally worth the price. They'd also make a great baby or toddler gift for all the little Roos in your life.

In conjunction with this review, Soft Star provided me with a single $20 coupon redeemable on any item from their website, including custom orders (which are usually slightly more expensive than standard models). If you’d like to get a pair of Soft Stars and save yourself 20 bucks, leave your name (first names OK) in the comment box below, and I’ll randomly select a lucky winner on Monday.

*product provided by Soft Star Shoes

*See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at


pichburg 10/15/09, 6:03 AM  

Emmarie (pichburg@yahoo.com)

p.s. been loving your shoe reviews. Am interested in this one, and the one on women's flip flops a few days ago. Thanks!

RD Jim 10/15/09, 7:38 AM  

a $20 coupon might just tip the scale on these guys.

Trailrat 10/15/09, 8:25 AM  

Just what I was looking for as a christmas gift for my girlfriend. Throw my name in the hat.

mariko 10/15/09, 9:07 AM  

Hi! I found your blog, uh, I can't remember how (must have been through some other running blogs). Those Soft Stars look great, and I do like to support my fellow Oregonians! Also, they look ideal for those following the minimalist footwear lifestyle. Thanks!

Spokane Al 10/15/09, 11:16 AM  

Thanks for the offer Don - I'm in!


Spokane Al 10/15/09, 11:17 AM  

Sorry - I meant Donald.

Notleh,  10/15/09, 11:36 AM  

Tuhwenty Dollahs puhleez.

shel 10/15/09, 4:25 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
shel 10/15/09, 4:26 PM  

put my name in too donald!

Gretchen 10/15/09, 7:27 PM  

Oh now I see why your wife thinks you are turning into a hippie. Because you are. Clearly.

Those mocs look stupendous, and yeah, I don't know if 'Roo' is a reference to the Whinnie the Pooh character, but I will choose to believe that it is, because that makes them even better.

You should check out Steger Mukluks for some barefoot friendly footwear for extreme cold weather regions. I adore mine. They only get use on super snowy days here in California, but I wore them all winter long outside in Minnesota.
(And don't feel the need to put me in the drawing. You should save it for someone else.)

Anonymous,  10/15/09, 8:00 PM  

Well since I have a horse named Ru, I definitely am interested. But seriously, those mocs look awesome and could even pass at work (ok, it's a casual workplace). I would definitely like to try running in them too. Put my name in the hat. And good luck to whoever may win the coupon.
-Kim Neill

Ryan 10/16/09, 10:52 AM  

I'll take a shot at them. You inspired me to start doing more of the barefoot thing. I've done just 5-10 minutes at a time running, but I'll probably increase it after my next marathon.

- Ryan

Kaitlin&noahsmommy 10/18/09, 8:52 AM  

I would love the chance to win the $20.00 coupon, would definitely make Christmas shopping much easier this year. Thank you very much for this opportunity.


Bill Cotton,  10/19/09, 6:16 AM  

Hi Donald! Throw my name in the coupon bucket please. Adios, Bill

Bob 10/19/09, 10:35 AM  

Hey Donald!

Would love to use that $20 coupon! Enjoy your site and great reviews!

~Kathy 10/19/09, 1:41 PM  

Nice review!


violicious 10/19/09, 1:47 PM  

i love soft star shoes~

violicious 10/19/09, 1:48 PM  

oops forgot to leave my name!


Judemo 10/19/09, 3:06 PM  

Judy judyro@gmail.com

I love 'em! Thanks for posting the review.

Anonymous,  10/19/09, 6:31 PM  

So great to read your piece! Natasha

Anonymous,  10/19/09, 6:37 PM  

Throw me into the hat, please!
-Brad K.

kate r,  10/19/09, 9:34 PM  

I really love Soft Star mocs, and would love to have my name entered in the drawing. I know an elf that could use a new pair!

Lisa,  10/19/09, 10:32 PM  

yeah, put me in too, please! It's Lisa!

SizeTracker 10/23/09, 9:12 AM  

The kids shoes are adorable and the adult versions look so comfortable. They'd make great holiday gifts.
Stormy, SizeTracker.com

Megan 10/25/09, 5:48 PM  

We love soft star shoes!! My kids wear them all the time. Would love to get hubby a pair of mocs for Christmas!
- Megan

Nathan Seibt 3/14/10, 8:33 PM  

These have been the only shoes I've worn on the weekends since I got them. I've run five or six miles in them, too, which felt great. They're definitely heavier than my FiveFingers, but they're super flexible and let your toes move around a lot. I also wore them for a hike up into the mountains, over a snowy, slushy, icy trail, and they kept my feet dry and cozy. They get a little warm when you're not moving inside, so I usually take them off for that.

KT,  6/3/10, 10:03 AM  

I just found your site today, and these are just what I've been looking for! In my 50th year now, I'm returning to myself , and all those things I was essentially when I was young... an artistic, raw vegan, barefoot, happy, dancing woman. I'm gonna run barefoot again! Please through my name in that hat, too!


Runner @ 55 10/6/10, 12:28 PM  

Okay, I'd like to try a pair of RunAmocs. Is the coupon giveaway still going?

Dan 10/16/10, 8:58 AM  

I have a pair of ramblers that I love, but would like to also get a pair of run amoks for running

- Dan, Portland

Rae 10/16/10, 7:36 PM  

I live up in VT and am looking for an alternative to my Fivefingers for winter. I've not used any other shoes since I got my Fivefingers this spring. The leather or suede RunAmocs look like they might fit the bill perfectly. Any idea how the sole would be in snow/ice conditions??

If the coupon draw is still on, please put my name in. Thanks for all the info and such a great site!! :)

Donald 10/17/10, 5:56 PM  

Rae -

I think the trail sole would do pretty well on ice, but I can't say that from experience.

Recent commenters: thanks for your interest, but this contest was from last year (2009)! I'll continue to answer questions about the mocs, though.

Cassie 10/18/10, 1:50 PM  

Wow, looks like I found this review a year too late to be in the running for the coupon! Looks like I will have to put them on my Christmas list!

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