The way-out-of-the-box skimpy shoe market slowed down considerably since the trendy barefoot days of fuzzy five-toed shoe socks and chainmail foot sleeves just a few years back. Lately, though, it feels like it might be making something of a comeback. We've seen a few oddball ultralight footwear concepts in recent months, and the Link flip-shoe is possibly the weirdest of them all, the lightest slice of footwear we've seen since adhesive foot pads. Designed to combine the advantages of flip-flops and sneakers into one, these "sole-based shoes" keep your feet free, cool and protected ... and probably at the business end of an endless flurry of sneers and jokes.
Link sets out to combine the free, breezy comfort of the flip-flop with the protection and support of a sneaker. At least some of that very mix is already available in the form of a closed-toe sport sandal like the Keen Newport H2, but Link has something different in mind. And to be fair, its thick, bright flip-shoe does appear to offer a better mix of cushy underfoot support and easy slip-on design than many a sport sandal. On the other hand, it doesn't appear quite as effective in terms of toe protection since it leaves everything but the toe tips exposed — or at least that's how it appears in the photos.
"Sole-based shoe" is an apt description, as the meat of the flip-shoe design is below the foot. A wrapping heel counter, side ribs and a slight toe box extend up from the sole to better secure around the foot. It's a shoe without an upper, a flip-flop without a thong or straps.
Link claims the design offers the cool summer comfort of a flip-flop when out on the street but with better adherence to the foot during walking and less fear of toe-stubbing. It even says you can run, bike and skateboard in it, though we're not sure we'd want to. We're even less sure about the claim that the flip-shoe is "always appropriate for work."
Link's flip-shoe is a simple piece of footwear, but there are still a few materials and components at work. Cushioning comes from a breathable EVA insole with anti-odor/bacterial properties, while traction comes from sole pads interlaced with flex joints that mimic the joints of the foot to deliver more natural movement. Hard TPU sides hug the foot for a closer, surer fit.
Bright, open-topped foot pods aren't really our thing, but they do look like an interesting alternative for travel, packing fairly small and working for a variety of activities, from hitting the hotel pool to strolling through town on a warm afternoon.
Link's flip-shoes are doing a lot better in crowdfunding than naysayers might expect. Link hit its Indiegogo goal in just over a day after launching and is now moving toward tripling that goal with over a month left to go. So someone's digging them. If that's you, you'll find them for early bird pricing as low as US$69 per pair, less if you buy two or more. If all goes according to plan, they'll start shipping in November of this year. Retail price is estimated at a far less enticing $119.
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