Nummulit – Urban Shoes with a Minimalist Sole

Today we interview Josep Puig, owner of Nummulit Urban Shoes, and reveal his challenges and solutions in starting his niche barefoot shoe brand. Enjoy!

The barefoot sport shoe Nummulit Ignis provides lightness, flexibility and stability for every workout, walk or run.
The barefoot sport shoe Nummulit Ignis provides lightness, flexibility and stability for every workout, walk or run.

The Shoe Dog: 
Hey Josep, thank you for speaking with me and sharing your story with our shoemaking community.

Josep: 
Hi Wade. The pleasure is mine. It is a great honor for me to share this time with you. Without the help of your books, Nummulit shoes would not have been the same. (go to www.nummulit.com/gb/ for more information)

The Shoe Dog: 
Please tell us about yourself and how you got interested in shoes.

Josep: 
I’m a big foot, I have a size 47EU. I am 41 years old and an engineer. I live with my wife and our 3 little children in Girona, Spain. Girona is a very beautiful city and well known by runners, cyclists, triathletes, and others for its quality of life and it is a quiet area with a fantastic environment for outdoor sports due to the proximity to the mountains, the sea, the lake, etc. We also have excellent facilities for indoor and track sports.

I have competed in various sports since I was little (soccer, basketball, mountain biking, running), but always as an amateur. To give you an idea of my level: my time in a half marathon is 1h40m. Due to my knee injuries, I became interested in footwear, orthotics, rehab, functional exercises, footprint studies, and posture very early in life.

Looking for solutions, I went from conventional, cushioned footwear with pronation control to orthopedic insoles and all the rest. In 2010, thanks to my brother-in-law who introduced me to the bestselling book, Born to Run, I discovered an opposite approach – barefoot or minimalist footwear. 

So, I started going barefoot most of the time and bought my first minimalist shoes, a pair of Vibram FiveFingers KSO. And for me, there is no turning back.

I haven’t studied at an official shoe school, but I’ve been training on my own for years. I’ve attended fairs and seminars, read books. I’m in touch with various manufacturers, developers, and designers from whom I have learned a lot about footwear. I have also received advice on biomechanics and foot health from my wife, who is a physiotherapist.

The Shoe Dog: 
Great! I think our readers would like to hear more about your shoe brand, Nummulit (you can visit the website here www.nummulit.com).

Josep:
Nummulit shoes are a chameleonic way to wear minimalist shoes. Just like nummulite fossils are camouflaged among the stones of Girona, Nummulit shoes go unnoticed among conventional footwear. In this way, the brand aims to be able to wear minimalist sneakers discreetly.

We offer footwear that is comfortable from the first moment and throughout the day, respects the nature of our walking, and has a casual look.

The Shoe Dog: 
What a great niche for a shoe brand. Can you tell us more about the concept of barefoot shoes? Nummulit designs look more conventional than other barefoot shoes? Why do your shoes look the way they do?

Josep: 
Yes, the main feature of minimalist footwear is to protect the feet and not restrict movement or change the way we step.

To be minimalist, a shoe has to be very flexible, without interfering with the foot’s natural movements or limiting the feet in any direction. The sole must be thin, without any cushioning. The think sole increases sensitivity and favors a close connection between the foot and the ground, improving stability and proprioceptive sense. The last on which they are built has to be wide, so there is no pressure on the toes. Conventional footwear usually has a difference of several centimeters between the heel and the metatarsal, while in minimalist shoes, the inclination of the sole is practically zero. This is known as “zero-drop.” This helps one’s posture when walking or running and encourages the natural movement of other parts of the body such as the knees, hips, or back. In addition, minimalist footwear is very lightweight to make the most of our energy.

In general terms, it is a shoe that improves foot mobility.

To achieve this, each barefoot footwear brand offers its particular point of view. For example, some have removed internal insoles. At Nummulit, we considered that it is an element that can give comfort, be hygienic, and at the same time allow a natural walk or run. Some brands have shoes with toes, which are great, and I wear them from time to time, but I don’t feel comfortable going to the office wearing these types of shoes. All of these pros and cons have been considered and have contributed to making Nummulit shoes the way they are. 

The Shoe Dog: 
Many of our aspiring shoemakers worry about the cost of launching a new shoe brand. Can you share your experience organizing the money to get started?

The barefoot sport shoe Nummulit Ignis provides lightness, flexibility and stability for every workout, walk or run.
Super Flexible!

Josep: 
The product cost and sale price are basic to creating any business and deciding where to position your brand in the market. I started with your book, How to Start Your Own Shoe Company, and worked through every step necessary to move the company forward (tax consulting, web costs, shipping to customers … everything). 

I built spreadsheets for every item and considered the best solution for each. For example, what taxes and customs will I pay in Europe? What online payment gateway will I use to calculate commissions? How much will the outsole molds cost? Doing this took a lot of work and time, including contacting manufacturers and service providers asking for different quotes, and so on. 

New shoemakers need to consider the minimum volumes required by the manufacturer and the costs you can afford. Also, most importantly, you must be very clear about the costs of marketing and advertising. Even if it’s simple, you need to have a marketing plan!

Once I struck a balance between the spreadsheet numbers and my available budget, it was time to start the next challenge.

The Shoe Dog: J
osep, can you take us through a normal working day for you?

Josep: 
In the mornings, I work as a computer scientist, and in the afternoons, I dedicate my time to Nummulit:

I always start by handling new orders, then incidents (size changes, returns, customer replies). I divide my time between marketing and social media, and I continually look for solutions to delegate these tasks or to cut down on the time they take.

Other jobs need regular dedication too, like long-term strategy, company management, etc.

The Shoe Dog: 
What do you have in mind for your next steps?

Josep: 
I am clear that the next step is to increase the sizes we offer. I would also like to expand the color range and restyle our current models.

In the short term, I would like to create new models of sneakers and sportswear in the line of minimalist footwear, which are very versatile and keep with conventional aesthetics 

I’ve been asked to create children’s shoes, trail shoes, and to add particular features such as waterproofing, etc. These suggestions are great and give me very good ideas, but I have to think carefully about using my limited resources.

The Shoe Dog: 
Can you share with us your biggest challenge and how you overcame it?

Josep: 
Minimalist footwear is not very popular among manufacturers. Thus, the first thing I set out to do was to create a clear and precise design brief to communicate my ideas. This also helped me to be taken seriously despite not having a track record in the business. Once you have secured a manufacturer, you have to know how to express yourself very well because every sample you request and every mistake you make costs money. Therefore, you have to work smart to stay within budget. In addition, minimalist footwear is performance footwear, and functionality is paramount: a millimeter or so of material in one place or another completely changes the function of the shoe.

The Shoe Dog: 
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Any final advice to share with others thinking about launching a shoe brand?

Josep: 
Thank you so much for the opportunity to share about myself and Nummulit running shoes. Also, thank you for guiding me through the journey with your books. Final advice: Be eager and keep up your energy! These are the main ingredients needed to solve the different problems that may arise when creating your footwear company. But, without a doubt, it’s a great experience.

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