Without question, the shoe company that I have the most fun researching is Sanuk.
When I reviewed their Donny sandal last fall, I described how this fun-loving company with the mellow SoCal beach vibe created one of the most visually appealing ad campaigns in recent memory, and how they’ve embraced a team of surfers (including one very famous surfer/musician) and rock climbers whose style and charisma is matched only by their remarkable talents. It also gave me cause to use an appealing photo of a certain Team Sanuk member, but that’s neither here nor there.
Sanuk’s beach attitude comes naturally - or as CEO Jeff Kelley explains it (in this interview), “Surfing defines, more than anything, who Sanuk is as a brand. 90% of the people that work for me surf or skate. We really embrace the lifestyle.” However, occasionally lost amidst all this surfer chill and rock-climber cool is the fact that Sanuk makes killer footwear.
The philosophy of Sanuk’s sandal construction is an appreciation of natural foot motion, with the goal to let your feet function as if they’re bare. Thin, flexible footbeds enable the foot to bend naturally when you walk, and stimulate activity of all the small muscles in your feet. It’s an ideal balance between minimal midsoles for ground feel, with just enough soft molded cushioning for outstanding comfort.
In fact, the Donny was far and away the most comfortable shoe I tested last fall, and I still wear them anywhere and everywhere – except, that is, for my straight-laced work environment. So when Sanuk introduced the Boardroom sandal this spring, designed to bring that walk-on-the-beach feel to the formal office setting, it was like a gift from the surfer gods.
The Boardroom basically duplicates Sanuk’s classic “lightweight upper on a flip-flop bottom” construction, except in this case, the upper is a very soft, thin handmade leather in rich black or brown. It also features jean stitching and a more sophisticated metal Happy U logo rather than Sanuk’s typical fabric brand tag. It is very stylish and understated, and passes very easily for dress footwear in all but the most formal settings.
The difference, obviously, is that this isn’t formalwear: the super soft EVA footbed is the same as on Sanuk’s sidewalk surfers, so your feet are classy on top, but happy underneath. Midsole thickness is 15mm at the heel, and 10mm at the toes, preserving a bit of ground feel as well. It also features an AEGIS antimicrobial additive so you won’t offend your coworkers with any stank. (Many Sanuks frequently acquire a funk after a while – especially when worn sockless.)
Overall weight of the shoe is 7.1 oz, so it’s a great lightweight alternative to standard office wear as well. The gum rubber outsole is similar to other Sanuk models, and still sports the Happy U logos all over the place.
Another cool feature worth noting is the vamp stash pocket above the upper – it’s big enough for an ID card or some folded up dollar bills, but way too small for a Blackberry, pager, or any other trapping of corporate life. I like to think this pocket serves as a survival kit in case you get the urge to leave the rat race behind: just unplug the computer, drop the phone, and take a stroll down to the ocean to forget about the world for awhile. If such a day ever comes, your Boardroom sandals will be ready to take you away.
The Sanuk Boardroom retails for $85 from Amazon.com.
*product provided by Sanuk
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