I learned a few years ago that babies’ and children’s feet are made of relatively soft and flexible cartilage that gradually converts to bone throughout childhood. Wearing ill-fitting shoes can cause injuries or compromise the normal development of the foot bones and arch. So my kids went barefoot when learning to walk and still do as much as possible. When they do wear shoes, it’s important to me to pick quality shoes that won’t compromise the health of their feet. After all, our feet carry us our whole lives long!
That’s why I was so excited when Soft Star Shoes approached me to review a pair of their handcrafted leather shoes designed to mimic barefoot walking. They make all styles of footwear for babies, children, and adults, including moccasins, casual shoes, slippers, classroom shoes, sandals, and boots. As it’s winter now, I chose their North Star boots in chocolate leather with a chocolate sheepskin cuff. I fell in love with these as soon as I saw them. I love the rich, deep colour, and the little gold star is a delightful touch. Aren’t they just the cutest?
Anatomy of North Star Boots
Like all their footwear, these boots are handcrafted in Soft Star Shoes’ workshop in Oregon state from locally sourced, breathable, and formaldehyde-free leather. All their leathers are dyed with FDA-approved food grade dyes. I’ve caught Kay chewing on her shoes more than once, so chemical and toxin-free materials are really important to me. The leather is buttery soft and the sheepskin lining is cushy and oh so warm.
The boots come with a sheepskin innersole and cuff. You can request to have your boots made fully-lined for colder climates, but we don’t need that here on the West Coast. They’re naturally water resistant which is a must in this climate. The thin Vibram Geo soles are made from durable and flexible soft rubber which allows for natural foot movement and mimics barefoot walking.
My favourite feature of these boots is that they can be laced up (like Kay has them on in the pictures further down), or laced with the cuff folded over into cute little booties! It’s like two pairs of boots in one!
Fit and Performance
But how do they fit and feel? I ordered a size up to leave room for thicker socks when the weather gets cold. Kay is a notorious shoe escape artist, but even without socks, the boots fit around her little feet and ankles so well that there’s no danger of them coming off. They do require a little more time and effort to get on as the laces have to be loosened and snugged every time. But honestly, this is more than made up for by the fact that they stay on. Period. I save more time than not because I don’t have to hunt for missing shoes or continually wrestle them back on to Kay’s feet.
At 16 months, Kay is a confident walker, but she does still sometimes trip over her own feet or lose her balance. It took Kay a few minutes to get the hang of walking in these boots the first time. When she first tried her North Star boots on, she tripped a few times. I’m not sure if this was because they were slightly longer than her other shoes, or if the feel just wasn’t what she was used to, but she quickly figured it out and was soon running around like she usually does.
Witness her having a blast in her North Stars! (Don’t worry, I didn’t set her loose in traffic. We live in a very quiet cul-de-sac and all the kids play out here.)
I didn’t notice any wear in Kay’s boots during our review period, but obviously soft leather will not wear the same as conventional shoe materials. If you scrape your toes or heels along the ground when you walk, they’re bound to wear out in those spots. Luckily, Kay doesn’t do either of these things, so I hope our North Stars will be around for a while. I have a nephew who I’d love to hand these down to!
About Soft Star Shoes
Soft Star Shoes was established in 1984 when Tim and Jeanie decided to make soft, quality shoes for their baby girl. 30 years later, Soft Star Shoes is still handcrafting quality shoes in an environmentally responsible and community-minded way. 100% of their power usage comes from solar or wind energy, they use minimal and recycled packaging, and their employees are even reimbursed for bicycling to work. They give back to the community through in kind as well as cash donations, and they donate 100% of the proceeds from their cat toys (made from upcycled leather scraps) to Kids For Kids, an organization that combats hunger in Darfur, Sudan.
Soft Star is one of a very small number of shoe manufacturers continuing the tradition of handcrafting shoes using local materials and a local workforce. If I’m ever in Corvallis, Oregon, I want to take a tour of their workshop. (They do that too!)
One of the coolest things about Soft Star Shoes’ website is their Design-Your-Own shoes section. You can pick the style, width, sole, colours, and embellishments to create your perfect shoe. And you can still return or exchange them if they don’t fit. That’s some pretty incredible dedication to customer service!
I love these boots for our West Coast climate. They keep Kay’s feet dry, warm, and cozy, and they look fantastic doing it! I’m not sure how well these would work in snow as the boots lace up on the side, and snow could work its way in there. Soft Star does note that their boots are water resistant, not waterproof, and they’ll soak through after extended hours in snowy or wet conditions. We so rarely have snow here that it’s really not an issue for me.
I also appreciate that unlike many other shoes out there, Soft Star Shoes are made in an ethical and environmentally responsible manner. On top of all that, Soft Star Shoes are very reasonably priced, particularly for handcrafted specialty shoes like these. The Design-Your-Own shoes are really a steal! The level of customizability you can get with these is virtually unheard of at this price point. (Something for my Canadian readers to know: Soft Star adds a “NAFTA: Made in the USA” sticker right on the box so you won’t have any surprise duty charges when you buy your shoes. Yay!)
If you’re looking for high quality and fun footwear that supports healthy foot development, you really should check out Soft Star Shoes.
Are you excited yet? Come back next week for my giveaway in the New Baby, New Year Giveaway Hop where you could win this pair of super cute Baby Roo Moccasins for your little one!
Go shopping at Soft Star Shoes for a pair of beautiful, custom shoes. Moccasins start at only $29.00, and North Star boots like I reviewed start at $65.00.
Disclosure: I received a sample item for review purposes. All opinions expressed are completely honest and my own, based on my personal experience. Your experience may differ.