Back in 1960, a 28-year-old named Abebe Bikila won the olympic marathon. He wasn't a very well-known athlete at the time, but he instantly became famous when it was discovered that he won that marathon running barefoot. People were amazed and started researching how this feat could even be possible
Since then many books have been written about the benefits of barefoot running. After reading the book “Born to Run” Montrose resident Olie Marchal went outside and ran 100 yards in his bare feet and was immediately hooked. He went to his wife, Nathalie Marchal, and told her that he wanted to create a barefoot shoe made in the USA, better yet, made in Colorado. SOM Footwear was born.
Flash forward to today, and SOM Footwear is alive and thriving right here in the Uncompahgre Valley. As soon as you step foot in the door of the facility on North Cascade Avenue, you'll quickly understand that this is a serious operation where each team member believes in the product they are creating. In fact, every worker wears a pair of SOM shoes that were stitched, glued, cut, and molded right there in the factory.
Today, SOM produces more than just barefoot shoes, but they are still at the core of the company. When asked about the benefits of barefoot shoes, the Marchals explain that SOM shoes replicate walking around barefoot, but with protection for your feet.
“This means better posture, more room for your toes and more comfort for people who stand all day long,” Nathalie said. “We start from the ground up. If your feet are feeling bad, then the rest of your body follows.”
When Olie first started the company, he went to a French trade school to learn how to make shoes. He then looked for potential shoe manufacturers to create his first barefoot-style shoe but didn’t find anything that satisfied him. So, as an entrepreneur, he decided to make them himself.
With an enormous amount of research, patience and perseverance, ten years later Olie and Nathalie are now running a full-production facility that produces a range of shoes inspired by the barefoot philosophy.
The Marchals are quick to point out that switching to a barefoot-style shoe can take time as most people have been wearing shoes with heels, arch support and narrow toes for their entire lives. They are confident, however, that once you adapt to the neutral position and foot shaped sole, wearing them will make your feet feel amazing.
The Marchals’ goal is to help people live happier and healthy lives with their shoes, and they seem to be accomplishing that with customers that range in age from seven to 94.
Visitors are encouraged to stop by SOM Footwear for a tour of the factory or to visit the factory outlet store next door.