Two Feet (13K)

Kanji for ZORI (3k)
the ZORI page

ZORI are a type of traditional Japanese footwear.  The modern version is sometimes referred to as slippers, sandals, thongs, or flip-flops.  In Hawai`i, they are most commonly called "slippahs" or zori.

I think they are the most comfortable, convenient, and versatile shoes on the planet.   Zori can get wet with no problems and dry rapidly.  They let your feet breathe naturally.  Conventional shoes bind you, crushing the toes together, warping the shape of your feet, trapping moisture in place leading to unhealthy foot conditions.   Zori are healthy, lightweight, and inexpensive.

I've worn them my entire life, except for public school which had rules against open-toe footwear.  My parents have worn them for most of their lives as well.   I've done everything in them, even playing football and hiking through snow.

Technically, Zori are "a thin or thick soled sandal with a V-shaped thong which comes between the big toe and the rest of the foot and so keeps the sandal in place."   Traditionally made of straw, modern zori are made of rubber, with plastic or nylon straps.  Old-fashioned styles often meant to have the thong go between 2nd and third toes, unlike more comfortable modern style.

Japanese footwear was designed so that it is easy to slip off, necessary in a country where footwear is removed before entering a house.

Where to find them: In stores, the most reliable source is "Surf" and "Sport" shops.  I can highly recommend the "Scott" brand as being very study and reliable, and their website allows direct ordering.  Insist on proper arch support!  My favorite Scott style is the "Hokulea".  There are a bunch of "official" Scott dealers online, but for many years i have happily ordered from a nice site called "International Marketing Group".

In the early 1990s, a company called "Teva" figured out that if you take a modern zori, add a few more straps and charge a ridiculous amount of money, then yuppies would buy them in droves.

All seasons: Many people are surprised to see me wearing my zori in cold weather.  I find that once you become acclimated, your feet are no more temperature-sensitive than your hands!  Hence, you don't need socks until you also need gloves.  So if the weather gets cold, or you need to "dress up" for formal settings, you need:

Toe socks:  Called tabi in Japan, these are special socks that have a gap in the toes.  Around the world, they are popular as a "fun" sock for children, but also are available in "serious" styles for men and women.

(As tabi, toe socks are popular in the martial arts.  However, ninja wouldn't wear zori since the flapping sound could give away their presence - instead, they wore special tabi with extra thick soles built into the socks.)

Warm toe socks can be hard to find.  I finally found some at Olas Sol Socks.

Strange fact: Great toe transplantation is the process of surgically moving a big toe to your hand, to replace a missing thumb.  It is "not popular in the Orient, where zori-type sandals, which require a first web space, are worn."

Feedback from Habib in New York: "The sandals I've owned so far were all from the Reef Brazil brand.  I like them.  Unfortunately, I work for a bank which forces me to wear suits, ties and conventional shoes on the premises."

June 2006, NY Times article says: Suddenly, flip-flops — those slabs of rubber with V-shaped slivers between the toes — are ubiquitous in what were once dressed-up settings.

modern zori

zori_mod180_1.jpg (8967 bytes)

traditional zori
zori_trad180_1.jpg (6422 bytes)
zori_trad180_2.jpg (5450 bytes)

ornamental zori
zori_orn180_1.jpg (6103 bytes)
zori_orn180_2.jpg (10162 bytes)

toe socks

thanks to mantid for help with the zori info!