“Shoes for shoe people,” is how Kuni Awai, the buyer at the Natural Shoe Store, describes the stock on offer in the bright and airy Covent Garden boutique.
Though the store may look similar to all the other footwear shops packed into the cobbled pavements around the block, Awai’s eye for quality and the next word in cool puts its offerings a step above the rest.
The unisex store opened in 1976 and the concept isn’t hippy, vegan footwear brands as many think. Rather it’s about stocking shoes that are designed to encourage and support the natural movement of the feet.
Naturally, it stocks plenty of the dad brands — supportive soles, chunky treads and all — that are doing the rounds on the feet of east London hipsters. When the ultimate dad-shoes, Birkenstocks Arizona, had a second coming a couple of years back, queues of young Londoners formed outside the shop and around the corner. (Tip: the store will replace the soles of any tired Birkenstocks for £30.)
They also stock Tevas, the dad-sandals of summer, as well as Blundstones and Paraboots. You’ll find fashion-forward brands too, such as Trippen, from Berlin, whose sandals and shoes have a cool Comme des Garçons aesthetic at an affordable price-point.
Previously a footwear designer, Awai uses her industry contacts to nab exclusive designs and collaborations. This summer, for example, she has instigated a partnership between the Italian fashion house Missoni and Malibu Sandals, a little-known California huarache company mostly stocked in the States. The result is a line of pretty woven sandals with a chunky, comfy sole that you won’t find anywhere else.
Also keep your eye out for Morena Gabbrielli’s chic leather mules, Gaimo Tanco’s ankle-boot espadrilles in Liberty print fabrics and the Céline-esque £39.95 tomato red bovver boots by Sanita.
70 Neal Street, Covent Garden, London WC2, thenaturalshoestore.com