It’s the day after Easter Sunday (for those who celebrate) and, normally at this time we would be dusting off our summer sneakers or looking to get a fresh pair in the hope of spending more time outdoors. Unfortunately, these are not normal times. With many countries on lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, figuring out what shoes to wear for daily allowed exercise is the last thing people worry about. We just throw on something adequate and go out to get some fresh air and, if possible, some sun.
Folks in the Mediterranean countries, like Italy and Spain, are extremely traumatized by not being able to do what they love – walking around for the sheer pleasure of it while enjoying the superb Mediterranean spring weather in the company of other people. The outdoors life style is the essence of Spanish living – maybe that’s why there are so many great Made in Spain sneaker brands. It’s not an accident that most sneakers (or bambas, as the Spanish like to call them) featured in this post are made by Barcelona-based brands. Barcelona is not just Spain’s, but also Europe’s favourite stomping ground. People come out for the weekends or for a social gathering. It’s hard to imagine La Rambla, one of Barcelona’s busiest pedestrian streets, empty of people, but right now it is.
The title of this post is “sneakers of hope” because we all hope that the confinement is going to be over some time soon. At some point in the next weeks or months we should all be free to walk, saunter, stroll, mosey around, dawdle, and generally tool around town to our hearts’ content. That’s when we will break out our sneakers/bambas and hit the ground running!
Each spring, I find myself happily browsing Spanish sneaker companies’ websites, curious to see what hidden gems they have in store for the new summer season. Brands that are permanently on my radar include Maians, a Barcelona-based maker of breezy plimsolls, one of which you can see above. Also Victoria, a sneaker expert from La Rioja in northern Spain – they produce an impressive variety of uppers in great many styles. Muroexe and Munich X, both from Barcelona, are always experimenting with new colours and materials. I also follow another Barcelona brand, Beatriz Furest, for the latest in high-end minimalistic design. With one exception, all sneakers are handmade in Spain by highly-skilled artisans. Produced in relatively small batches, the newest styles sell out fast. If you do manage to get your hands on a pair of sneakers Made in Spain, you’ll be the proud owner of pretty unique and high-quality footwear. Here are my seven “sneakers of hope” – the special 2020 edition.
1. Classy (and classic) Victoria
I have a huge weakness for satin sneakers. They are the perfect blend of feminine and sporty. These two particular ones are only available in stores, in Spain or wherever else Victoria has been exporting to for the last hundred years (yes, that’s how long they’ve been around). As far as I can tell, the brand is not really pushing to get on to the North American market because of fierce competition, no doubt. There are people who are selling Victoria sneakers on Ebay, but only limited styles. You will also find some left over stock at great prices on YOOX. But otherwise…
We have good brands here that make plimsolls, but, honestly, have you seen any like the ones above on anyone? This one was the result of a collaboration between Victoria and Bourgine, a high-end French boutique that sells clothes, shoes, and accessories as charming as you can ever imagine that famous French chic style to be.
Well, let’s keep our fingers crossed that things will change and one day it will become easier to buy Victoria sneakers from North America. I’m not waiting around though – one of these days I have to figure out how I can get my hands on a pair.
Victoria also runs the Dear World program to help the environment, so part of the brand’s sneaker collection comes with soles that are 20% recycled rubber.
2. Sports Cool Munich X
This stunning “Osaka” sneaker is from the brand’s fashion line. The mesh version comes in neon pink, neon yellow, and metallic silver. The upturned nose means that “Osaka” sneaker is more of a running than walking sneaker. Either way, whether you are running or walking, you are doing it in style.
The different style and colour combinations of Munich X sneakers seem inexhaustible. This type of sneaker is guaranteed to make you feel better. In Catalonia they are a household name. If you are unsure about size, you can download a printable size guide that is 100% to scale. You place your foot on it and it tells you what size you are and all the size equivalencies between countries. It’s a piece of cake ordering these, as Munich X delivers worldwide. Custom charges of each particular country will apply.
3. Groovy Maians
My Maians favourite of the season is this two-tone classic canvas sneaker with a little golden logo embroidered on the side. Unfortunately, it is not sold to Maians’ international customers. To get this one, you would have to order from the European version of the brand website or wait until you can go to Barcelona again.
Maians sneakers and other shoes (like my all-time favourite cotton mesh “Ines” plimsoll) are made in the town of Arnedo, La Rioja, an important Spanish footwear manufacturing hub. Currently, most of its production facilities belonging to a number of firms have been retooled to produce protective medical equipment for the health workers battling Covid-19.
4. Fancy Popa Brand
It was a nice surprise to see these pristine white leather sneakers by the Popa brand from Menorca. Popa’s specialty is the avarca – the traditional Menorcan sandal very popular in the Balearic Islands and often worn in mainland Spain. Turns out the brand also makes sneakers and some sneakers they are! The subtle snake print of the leather gives them a fancy look. Both tongue and heel are accented in blue raffia for a slight rustic effect, in a nod to the natural trend in fashion and to the traditional use of raffia in Spanish shoemaking. The raffia accents also come in beige and peach. All in all, a very attractive proposition. It’s too bad that Popa only delivers within the European Union.
5. Innovative Bullfeet
Bullfeet is a new brand for me, so I don’t yet know much about them, except that they make vegan sneakers from …recycled plastic bottles! You definitely can’t go more ecologically friendly than that. An industry magazine reports that Bullfeet brand was founded by Álvaro Temiño and Pablo Gil, two entrepreneurs/environmental activists from Albacete, Almansa – a region known for its high-quality shoe industry. The company website refers to the material as a type of microfibre that is light, breathable and water-resistant, as well as scrape and scruff resistant. If this is not innovation, then I don’t know what is. The sneakers are unisex and certainly very good-looking. I would love to own a pair. Apparently, the company was only founded last year, but they are already set up to deliver internationally. Sunset Sky sneakers are currently on sale for 87€. I very much hope that the Covid-19 disaster doesn’t stop this start-up company in its tracks. Holding my fingers crossed for them!
6. Timeless Beatriz Furest
Beatriz Furest is a Barcelona-based high-end boutique brand specializing in leather shoes and accessories. They have also developed an interesting line of clothing. The style is understated elegance bordering on austerity. The two-tone linen “Scarlet” sneakers first caught my attention last spring. I love the sturdy simplicity of linen and the fact that this style is very true to the first sneakers women were wearing in the 20s of the last century, when exercise and sports became popular pursuits among the well-heeled set. At 145€, the “Scarlet” is the most expensive sneaker on my list, but that’s the price of quality and timelessness.
7. Techno Muroexe
Muroexe is a fast growing, innovative company that uses a very smooth, flexible, and durable “techno fabric” to make its unisex sneakers. This also makes them vegan. I buy their sneakers for the men in my life and they love them. These sneakers can handle a lot and look cool in the process. The “Alpha Carbono” sneaker in blue is the first one that I would pick out for myself. The brand website delivers worldwide and the customer service is excellent. Disclaimer: the brand is the only one on this list that doesn’t have their sneakers produced in Spain.
These seven “sneakers of hope” are my personal favourites, but there are many more Made in Spain sneakers and sneaker brands out there. Some are established firms that make “bambas” in addition to their signature collections, some are gutsy news start-ups that bet everything on their sneakers’ success. The hope is certainly that all of them survive the current crisis. One hopeful sign is that a lot of shoe companies quickly realized that they could use their factory floors to make personal protection equipment for the struggling health workers. Being able to help your country cope with a terrifying epidemic while keeping yourself busy and productive is a blessing in these troublesome times. May the blessings continue, for Spain and for all of us.