Episode 37: Carets FER Cap-Toe
Updated: Nov 7
Barefoot shoe enthusiasts are faced with a number of challenges when it comes to finding suitable dress shoes: Are they wide enough? Are they minimalist enough? Do they look legitimate? Do they fit within my budget? This approach becomes somewhat exhausting (for myself included, initially), when you become accustomed to barefoot sneakers, and somewhat forgetful of the purpose of what dress shoes were designed for. When you shake off that dogmatic approach, and come to the realisation that you're not expected to partake in athletics in your dress shoes - with the main objective being, to fulfil uniform or dress code requirements; it becomes much more of an easier ordeal. So with that in mind, you can be assured that with the Carets FER Cap-Toe, you won't be compromising your style, or too much of your minimalist shoe requirements.
Carets are unique compared to their competitors, as they retain the classic aesthetic qualities of a dress shoe, whilst embracing minimalist ideals. They do this by incorporating a hollow heel and bevelled edge into their sole, which gives you the illusion of a heel, whilst still remaining zero-drop. In addition to this, they make clever use of the angles in their upper, by creating a wide toe box whilst retaining the pointy dress shoe aesthetic. They do this by tapering the toe box once your toes reach the prescribed length of the shoe.
I was given the opportunity to test a pair, and following a chat with both Darius and Mountain from Carets - was given recommendations, regarding which shoe would suit my requirements for my needs (professional office based work and formal events). We came to the conclusion that the FER Cap-Toe in Cacao would be the perfect candidate (rightly so). The FER Cap-Toe is currently priced at $250 USD, slashed from $350 USD, ranging in sizes 7US-14US, and available in the following colour choices:
FER Cap-Toe Cacao (Currently being reviewed)
FER Cap-Toe Oxblood
FER Cap-Toe Black
FER Cap-Toe Honey
In addition to the FER Cap-Toe model, Carets also have 2 other models available:
Zetone Plain Toe (Classic plain Oxford)
Falcon Wingtip (Brogued Wingtip Oxfords)
Click here to jump onto the Carets website. Use the code AJFRIENDS10 for 10% off new customers. Valid until November 18th.
Disclaimer: This page uses affiliate links, and these shoes were given to me to review, however my opinion is my own. By purchasing from an affiliate link, I will receive a small commission.
"Carets came from me scratching my own itch. The year was 2010 and I was a corporate accountant fresh out of college. I had been a lifelong athlete, but after college–and feeling like my career was on a secure path–I decided to really explore, and what came up on my radar was barefoot running.
There are two benefits to barefoot running. The first part is sensory. Our feet are really, really sensitive. That’s why they’re so ticklish. This is because our feet are the primary way that we interact with the earth and they give us so much important data about how we’re moving. Particularly for a runner, when you run barefoot it’s like having a really strict running coach who will let you know, ‘Hey, you’re not doing this right, so please fix this before you hurt yourself.’
The other half is structural. A lot of people tend to think of their feet as a stick of bone, when actually it is this really mobile living thing that can twist and turn and expand and contract. When we put our feet into a very stiff, overly supportive shoe, we take away all this freedom of movement. And when we take that away for even a moment, the muscles start to atrophy and that leads to structural issues–like fallen arches, bunions or neuromas. Serious things that you need surgery for. So by removing as much of the shoes interference as possible, we’re able to allow our feet to grow stronger.
So those are the two benefits of barefoot: structural and sensory. I started barefoot running and I did the LA marathon without any shoes. I think at that point I was like, ‘I know that my office dress shoes are bad for me, but what can I do?’ I wore Five Fingers (those toe shoes) into work on a casual Friday and I freaked out all my coworkers. That wasn’t exactly the reputation that I wanted to have as an accountant. We try to portray this very stable, secure type of personality. I got so frustrated with my dress shoes, I tried to saw off the heel and I just totally ruined them. So it was in these moments of defeat where I looked online and I just couldn’t find anything that met my ergonomic needs–my health needs–while meeting other people’s aesthetic and social expectations. So I decided I just had to make it myself and that’s how Carets was born."
Manufacturing and Sustainability:
"Our calfskin is produced by a tannery with a Silver certification from the environmental Leather Working Group’s Environmental Audit Protocol. They are strategically located so that they have direct access to SAPAL, the local residual waters treatment plant, and they work with certified waste management companies for disposing of chemicals in an environmentally responsible manner.
One of our sustainability goals is to continuously aim to improve environmental footprint, so the next step here is to include further considerations; for instance, the calfskin is made using a selection of tanning providers who were chosen for their more environmentally-friendly offerings. It still involves chrome tanning as opposed to the much more environmentally-friendly vegetable tanning process, but this is purely because of quality reasons: 100% vegetable tanning results in a stiff leather that is very susceptible to water damage. Dual vegetable & chrome tanning, on the other hand, creates a supple leather with greater water resistance. It is softer, more pleasant to the touch, and hardier to the elements - important qualities for us and our customers who value comfort and durability. Given this, our aim is to continue work on reducing the quantity and toxicity level of chemicals used, while retaining the qualities our shoes need. If a more natural process becomes available we’ll definitely look to making the switch of course, so we keep an eye out for that too. For example, we just ordered our first sheet of organic cactus leather from Desserto. Excited to see how it performs!"
In addition to this, Carets are a part of the 1FTP Network - donating 1% of sales to non-profits. Specifically, nonprofits that are protecting, restoring, and improving the planet we all live in, and they currently have an outlet store, with heavily discounted shoes in the following condition:
Irregular: These have minor defects or signs of use, but are still very presentable. If you get it and its not acceptable to you, we'll cover your return shipping to upgrade to a higher tier.
Flexpoint: With all leather shoes, normal creasing occurs at the shoe's flexpoint, almost immediately upon trying on.
New (no box): Many pairs are only here because the original branded box was damaged in shipping. The shoes are in brand-new condition.
Shipping and Returns:
365 Day test-drive
Main Store USA: Free standard shipping and free return labels
Outlet Store USA: Free standard shipping and free return labels. But in order to keep these prices as low as possible, we are only providing free return labels for exchanges or store credit
Main and Outlet Store International: If you're outside the USA, we offer a discounted (less than cost) shipping rate to anywhere, and FREE shipping on replacement orders.
We can't generate prepaid return labels outside the USA
See more here.
The most premium packaging i've come across. Carets come with a sturdy pull out box, a storage bag and shoe trees for each shoe, in addition to complimentary laces, heel and tongue pads. This makes for a grand opening once your package arrives!
The leather doesn't have the most powerful smell; However, it looks extremely refined
The general quality is superb. In particular, the inner. It uses embossed logos, and the stitching is perfect
The illusion of the hollow/bevelled heel and tapered toe box is better in person. These shoes are completely zero-drop, and are wider than most shoes I own
They're longer than any shoe I own (they are a dress shoe after all); However, they're still fairly easy to walk around in
They're not that heavy, considering they are a dress shoe
Sizing and Fit:
**My foot is approximately 292mm in length, with my 2nd toe being the longest. At the time that I measured my foot, the width was approximately 110mm. I'm normally an EU47 or US13.**
The sizing is a bit tricky for Carets... Initially, I ordered the US14; not because it converts to an EU47 (my usual size) in the chart below, but because the length states its 30.2, and I usually leave a gap of about 10mm for my feet. However, when the US14 arrived, it was much too big (length and volume). Not only did they look and feel too big, they were also quite difficult to walk in. Following an extremely quick exchange (Carets have some of the best customer service I've encountered), the US13 arrived, and it fit perfectly.
The toe-box was super accomodating, and on par with the width of my feet (Toe box: 115mm. Feet: 110mm), and the hollow heel provided a completely zero-drop sole. The FER Cap-Toe is quite high in volume, and one other thing to note is that Carets offer complimentary heel and tongue pads - to ensure that the shoe will give you a better fit, in case the shoe is too high in volume.
In addition to this, the shoe had a fairly low cut - so it didn't rub my ankles or achilles.
As it would be fallacious to compare a conventional dress shoe to a conventional sneaker, barefoot shoe wearers must also remember that it is also unfair to compare Carets to a barefoot shoe. Their purpose is clear; they are designed to bring the wearer classic dress aesthetics, while ensuring that minimalist comfort is also a priority - and I believe they do achieve this.
Upper and lining:
Although the leather upper is sturdy, I didn't have any pinching at the toe crease, nor did I experience any uncomfortable rubbing on my ankles or achilles
The shoe is generally quite high in volume, and the toe-box is wide and accomodating
The leather didn't crease anywhere significantly either
Overall, I didn't encounter any issues whatsoever, and it's what you'd expect from a quality dress shoe.
The sole is possibly the most fascinating component of the shoe - due to the clever design of the patented hollow/bevelled heel.
The hollow heel is bevelled on each outer edge of the shoe, which in addition to the 9mm stack height, retains a zero-drop sole - yet gives the illusion that it's just a regular dress shoe; perfect for those people who need to ensure that they look the part
As mentioned, the stack height is 9mm, and gives you a reasonable amount of ground feel
The sole is flexible enough to ensure that your biomechanics aren't impacted negatively. A flexibility test is possible, however I believe it is somewhat redundant and unnecessary, as it could crease the upper, and shouldn't be compared to an athletic barefoot shoe anyway
There sole is flat and free from any contours (besides the hollow heel), and also has a toe spring; however, it isn't anything significant, to warrant any stress about
Carets claims to the sole as non-slip, and it does feel that way; however, I haven't really used it in a particular environment where I would need to focus too much attention on traits such as that
Overall, amazing.... I feel the sole gives you the perfect aesthetic for the occasion, and it is minimal enough to not cause any issues.
Weight and movement:
The shoe is slightly heavier, and longer than sneakers i'm usually accustomed to (Vivo, Wildling, Groundies, Leguano Etc.); with the weight being comparable to boots I own (Xero, DaVinci, Lems Chukka Etc.)
Overall, when taking into consideration the nature of the movements you'll be performing in the FER Cap-Toe (office work, fancy dress occasions), this is completely reasonable and justifiable. In short, I feel like a gentleman when i wear these, and can control the urge to move in a certain way for a select period of time
Upper: Full-grain aniline cowhide
Liner: Full-grain aniline cowhide
Outsole: 4.5mm Polyurethane
Weight: 10.6 Ounces (Mens Size 9)
Drop: 0 mm
Stack Height: 9mm total (including 4.5mm polyurethane outsole + Poron cushioning and leather)
Available sizes: 7 US - 14 US
Price: Usually $350 USD, currently $250 USD
A budget range using cheaper materials and packaging
Different sole thicknesses
A boot range
A more casual range
Where and how to wear:
The Carets FER Cap-Toe is one of, (if not) the classiest minimalist/barefoot dress shoes on the market. I chose the Cacao, as I own a couple of Black dress shoes already; however, I also felt that i'm able to wear the Cacao for various occasions, both formal, semi-formal and dressier casual occasions.
The Cacao looks great in dressy pants/jeans of most colours
Colourful socks help make your outfit look more playful
I'm going to reiterate once again, that this is not a barefoot shoe. It's a premium dress/minimalist shoe shoe, aimed at customers that wear barefoot shoes, and need a dress shoe which fulfils their minimalist requirements.
If your workplace or event lacks a strict dress code, you have die-hard ideals regarding shoes, and don't care too much about aesthetics - then perhaps this isn't the shoe for you. However, if you can sacrifice sneaker like traits for a few hours, in order to uphold workplace/event dress codes, whilst looking your absolute best - then look no further...
With barefoot like comfort (wider than most shoes I own) in addition to their premium materials, packaging and accessories, and clever design features, which allow them to stay true to classic design principles - Carets are my top recommendation for dress shoes.
Click here to jump onto the Carets website. (Affiliate link)