A Japanese short sandal with history.

A short sandal with a long history is finding a growing following after years of obscurity. Called “ashinaka,” they extend only to about the ball of the foot, and while that may sound uncomfortable, fans claim just the opposite.

Runners are starting to embrace ashinaka sandals because they force the body to move more efficiently.
A Tokyo woman in her mid-20s says she wears ashinaka every evening after coming home from work.

“The sandals help release all the tension built up in my feet from wearing high heels all day,” she said.

Walking Massage

The sandals are typically 10-20 or so centimeters long, sufficient to cover part of the toes and the ball of the foot but leaving the rest exposed, so the heels can touch the ground when walking. The rear edge of the sandals presses against the arch of the foot, producing an effect similar to that created by an “aodake-fumi” bamboo foot massage, according to Shunsuke Matsuda, a chiropractor who also runs “Ashinaka-ya,” an online shop specializing in the sandals.

Sales of ashinaka at Matsuda’s shop have steadily risen since he started the business three years ago. The sandals, which sell for 3,980 yen a pair for adults, first became popular among people in their 30s who were clients at Matsuda’s clinic. More people began discovering the sandals through word of mouth, such as via celebrity blogs. Matsuda said he sold 1,000 pairs last year and that sales are already up by 50% this year.

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