Thanks to Footwear News for publishing an article about our workshop's planned move to Philomath, Oregon!
Here's the article:
By Barbara Schneider-Levy / November 3, 2015
Softstar Shoes was never interested in being the next footwear conglomerate. In fact, since its launch in 1985, the company has continued to produce shoes handmade by a group of artisans in a workshop in Corvallis, Ore.
Despite remaining under the radar by selling exclusively on its website, Softstarshoes.com, and a companion store at its headquarters, growing sales have forced the company to break ground on a new 12,000-sq.-ft. facility in nearby Philomath, Ore., where it plans to relocate in fall ’16.
The company, founded by Tim Oliver, originally produced soft-soled infant and children’s shoes. It wasn’t until 2005, when the company was purchased by friends Tricia Salcido and Larkin Holavarri, former employees of Hewlett-Packard with backgrounds in engineering and business, that adult moccasins were added to the mix.
According to Salcido, she and Holavarri, who were ready to start their families, were on the hunt for jobs that offered a more flexible work schedule. They noticed that Softstar Shoes was for sale and were attracted by its unique products and loyal customer base. The pair immersed themselves in the shoemaking business by reaching out to industry insiders as well as learning from Oliver, who continues to work at the company.
The addition of adult styles was followed in 2010 by the launch of a minimal running style — the Original RunAmoc, which is still in the line. The move was sparked by the popularity of the barefoot-running movement, said Salcido, and the 2009 bestsellerBorn to Run. “It’s not easy to design a barefoot-inspired shoe,” said Salcido. “It must be light, flexible and fit the foot like a glove, but still be durable, safe and attractive.”
This fall, Salacido and Holavarri have once again expanded the product offering with the addition of the Hawthorne chukka boot, Softstar’s first style featuring a sole that can be replaced. “It [appeals] to the eco-conscious customer,” said Salcido, of the ability to prolong the life of the shoe.
Since the company’s move into the adult market, it has posted double-digit growth annually, with 15 percent of sales from international customers. According to Salcido, about half of Softstar’s business is in the adult category, from barefoot-inspired athletic to casual looks, retailing from $80 to $225, with children’s styles from $30 to $100.
In addition to selecting from looks offered on its web site, customers can also design their own shoes from a range of colors and materials.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! I have purchased over 8 pair of 'minimalist' shoes in the past 3 years...none of them felt like walking barefoot to me......until now. Your leather is soft your soles are flat and my foot is relaxed!!!"
"My entire experience with Softstar has been nothing short of an amazing experience from beginning to end. Will not buy any other shoes...my feet no longer hurt at all."
"This shoe is exactly what you would hope it to be. High quality leather and workmanship in a simple, natural stance running shoes made of all natural materials. Glad I found them."
"I've never had shoes that have fit as well as these or received as many compliments… I wish I had found them sooner!"
"There are no other shoes like Softstar - strong, comfortable, pretty - the best choice of minimal shoes one can get. Thank you for making our lives easier and wonderful!"
"I am loving these shoes! They are just lovely to have on the feet. And I am not easily impressed... There's nothing on the market that I know of that allows full toe splay! To me, it's a beautiful thing to let the toes move with absolute freedom in the shoe. I cannot do that with ANY OTHER of the barefoot shoes."
"I spent SO MANY years searching for a shoe to fit my feet. At last, you have given me such a shoe! I am convinced that had I met this shoe 30 years ago, I would not have the deformed feet I have now, nor would I have had surgery done on one of them. Abundant thanks for this design that honors my feet."
"These shoes are absolute perfection… The toe box finally allows my pinky toe and big toe to splay naturally and has taken away all previous foot pain… My feet will accept nothing less now."
"Finally something I will wear to work that is truly foot shaped… I usually take my shoes off as soon as I arrive home. I was so comfortable in these that I didn't think about it, and I left them on for hours into the evening."
"These are fantastic. Softstar showed themselves as the best minimal shoe company on the market with these. Functionally, they are the best fitting shoes I own, and they are the most stylish."
"Blown away. These should be the standard. I work at a physio clinic and see multiple people come in with foot pain (bunions, flat feet, plantar fasciitis) and it's mostly because of the effects of improper footwear over time... These shoes are the perfect solution."
"These are the best shoes I've ever owned. FINALLY A TOE BOX SHAPED LIKE A HEALTHY FOOT… I can wear my toe separators in these without any squishing or pressure against the sides of the shoe. Finally, finally, finally... someone prioritized function over form in creating a shoe that feels great to wear."