Oliberté Mbozi Fair Trade Footwear
Before I start to talk about the Mbozi shoe from Oliberté, the first fair trade footwear company in the world, I wanted to take some time to give the background story for the brand in order to provide context. Oliberté was founded in 2009 with the mission to create a “sustainable brand supporting workers’ rights in sub-Saharan Africa. [They] believe in empowerment, transparency, and doing right by all. This means making premium quality products with a lifetime warranty, and it means treating every employee, everywhere in the world, with respect.” (Source) As someone who tries really hard to pay attention to where the products I use are coming from, the mission of the brand really resonates with me. They became the very first fair trade certified footwear manufacturer in September 2013 and they manufacture every pair of shoes that they sell in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Do you know where the shoes you are wearing come from? To me, having the knowledge makes me feel better about what I’m putting on my feet even if I have to pay a slight premium for it.
Design of the Mbozi from Oliberté
Now on to the Mbozi, a women’s casual shoe designed for your post sport relaxing time. I first got my hands on the ballet-inspired moccasin earlier this week. My first reactions to it were fairly positive. From an aesthetic standpoint, I was a bit leery of the stitching around the shoe, which really does remind me of a moccasin that I wore when I was younger. The premium leather exterior of the shoe is a lovely tan shade that really makes it easy to wear with anything. And the feeling of the material was very luxurious.
The lining itself is made from 100% goat leather, which really helps to keep it very comfy for feet, even without socks. The footbed liner is a 4mm OrthoLite insole that cradles your foot without adding lots of extra weight or bulk. The map details on it and on the sole of the shoe are a really nice touch. It’s pretty fun to show off your shoes and be able to see “these were made THERE!” with excitement while pointing to Addis Ababa on the map.
Fit and Sizing of the Mobozi by Oliberté
Now, as for the fit, I was quite surprised at how well they fit my feet when I first put them on. I did give them my european sizing information (a 39) because it often is a more accurate size for me than traditional American sizing where I can wear anywhere from an 8 to a 9 depending on the manufacturer. I am really glad that I did so because this particular shoe came to me in a size 9. They do not offer half sizes, so I certainly recommend sizing up when you order. My feet are sometimes closer to a wide width, but these actually fit well without pinching or feeling like my feet were sausages.
Initial Reaction After Wearing the Mobozi by Oliberté
Before going anywhere wearing the Mobozi, I decided to wear them to work to break them in a bit. I opted to wear nylons under them for work and to see if it would help get my feet adjusted to them faster. Within a fairly short time span, I opted to forego the nylons as I developed hot spots on my small toes not too long in to my work day. By the end of the day, the hot spots had turned in to blisters. As a former pointe shoe wearer, my tolerance for foot discomfort is a bit higher than most so I was able to keep wearing them until I got home. Upon inspection, I found that the blisters on my toes were right in line with the stitching on the outside of the shoe and there were slight wear marks on the inside of the shoe showing the hot spots on my feet.
Obviously, I have not worn them since Monday when I first put them on so that my feet have time to heal. That being said, I am optimistic that I will be able to wear them without any discomfort once I have broken them in and they have formed to my feet better. Styling wise, I think they make a great addition to my post workout or adventure wardrobe since they are very easy to dress up or down depending on what else I pair them with. I am planning to bring them on my next trip for just that reason since they will help to cut down on the number of footwear options I bring with me.
Stay tuned for my next update on the Mobozi by Oliberté coming after I get home from that trip. In the meantime, I’ll be wearing them to the rock gym as well as in my daily life as a great cross over shoe to wear everywhere.
Follow Up Review
It has now been a month since I first got my hands on the Oliberté Mbozi fair trade footwear. Oliberté prides themselves on being the world’s first fair trade, sustainable footwear company who sources their footwear from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. When I first put them on my feet, I’ll be honest that they felt a smidge tight, but I have a fuller volume foot and am therefore used to it. The Mbozi itself is also sturdier than other shoes of similar style that I have worn before, so I expected it to take some time to stretch to fit my feet the best.
The first day I wore them for an extended period, I went to work with them on. I typically dress more formally for my day job, but these manage to cross from casual to dress reasonably well. Unfortunately for my toes, the tightness I felt meant that I had blisters on my little toes by the end of the day. That being said, that was the only spot that I felt any friction all day. Typically my heels are also inflamed with this style footwear since the heel cup usually moves around. But the styling of the Mbozi and the solid construction meant that it didn’t shift around and, if it did, it certainly did not cause any friction or result in blisters or hot spots. In the end, I would say it took about a week of off and on wear for the Mbozi to break in.
In terms of durability and long term fit, the Mbozi did stretch out a bit to accommodate my foot shape the more I wore it. There are wear marks on the goat leather lining from where the fit is the tightest, but they have broken in very nicely and I’ve been wearing them a couple times a week with no discomfort. The Mbozi does not tout itself as being appropriate for rain, but I did run into a bit when I was wearing them. It did seem to loosen the leather a bit to make it stretch to fit my foot, which subsequently tightened up back to normal once it dried.