2019 NO.27

Souvenirs of JapanSouvenirs of Japan


Keep your feet firmly on the ground
Tabi -style Shoes for Running

Photos: Osaka Satoshi

Jika-tabi running shoes: MUTEKI (center) and Toe-Bi (above right). (Photos courtesy of Kineya)
Top left: Jika-tabi are very useful at construction sites.
Bottom right: Conventional white tabi socks worn with Japanese-style clothing.

Tabi are traditional Japanese socks made with a split separating the big toe from the others. This unique design provides a sense of snug fit and comfort of movement. Originally, tabi were made of leather, but silk and cotton later became the more popular materials. In the late 19th century, a new type of tabi called jika-tabi (lit. “tabi that touch the ground”) arrived. These had rubber soles and could be worn outdoors without shoes. Even today, jika-tabi are the footwear of choice among construction and forestry workers. With jika-tabi, they can feel the ground beneath their feet, which helps to prevent slips.

Most Japanese people wear western-style clothing, and less wear tabi and jika-tabi nowadays. In recent years, however, concerns have arisen that the over-protective function of running shoes may lead to injuries, and this has once again brought tabi into the spotlight. A growing number of runners choose jika-tabi shoes equipped with running features. They especially like the thin soles that give them a feeling of running almost barefoot. Why not try this new take on ancient, much-loved footwear and enjoy a more comfortable jogging experience?