The other day, after a day of rigorous gardening, my wife looked at me and asked, “Is this how most people do yard work?” I don’t really know the answer to that, but as I looked at the both of us, caked head to toe in mud, sweat, feathers and plant debris, I understood her point.
We garden hard.
And for us, as with many folks, fashion is the last thing on our minds as we head out to tend to our plot of land. But we do consider a few things when getting dressed to play in the dirt.
Like, we need durable pants and disposable shirts. We put a lot of stock in hardy work gloves. And a cheap farm store hat with a breathable back? So necessary.
Footwear Matters in the Garden, Too
But what about shoes? I’ve personally struggled over the years with determining what to shove my toes into while doing outside work. In my more suburban days, I, like many, kept a pair of retired tennis shoes handy for mowing and weeding the lawn.
But as more and more of my lush, green lawn gave way to vegetable beds and flower gardens, the green-tinted tennies struggled to keep up. Mud soaked through the fabric, for starters, leaving my feet soggy and sore. Stomping on shovels feels dicey in sneakers, too.
And, once subjected to serious yard work, those old shoes actively started falling apart.
Workwear for your Feet
Of course, the issue of work shoes isn’t unaddressed by myriad products. When I lived on and worked our family farm, durable rubber rain boots kept me (mostly) dry during mud seasons in the muddy hog yard.
I’ve walked pastures in cowboy boots. And I love my leather work boots so much that I’ve considered ordering a backup pair, just in case. (I’ve replaced them once already.)
And while I haven’t personally gone the route of garden clogs, I know they’re plenty popular.
What Are Yard Shoes?
So I’m not gardening barefoot for lack of options. But recently, I was contacted by a representative from a company called Kujo Yardwear about an interesting new option they call “yard shoes.”
Full disclosure: They sent me a pair to try out. And, because I’m a creature of habit, they sat unused for a few months as I tromped around our yard in my rubber boots.
But the other day, like many days this summer, it was really hot. And I dreaded the idea of unbreathable rubber rubbing against my calves all day. So I pulled out the Kujos, laced them up and took them out for a day of gardening hard.
Yard Shoes: A Brief Review
Kujo’s yard shoes aren’t exactly revolutionary, but they are a good idea. They’re built like tennis shoes, with a breathable top. But the toecap is a heavy rubber or plastic, and the sole feels sturdy like a boot.
“It’s a unique hybrid shoe built specifically for the yard’s terrain,” says Kelsey Martin, Kujo’s Chief Marketing Officer (and sister to founder, Shawn Langton). “Lightweight, breathable, comfortable, water-resistant and nonslip.”
Putting these claims to the test, I headed out to perform the following tasks:
- Pull beets and garlic
- Clean chicken coop and run
- Reset garden fence line
- Dig out a small tree stump
- Relocate a bunch of Black-eyed Susans
- Hand-till and seed a patch of garden for future lawn space
Like I said: We garden hard. The Kujos kept up through it all, too, even stomping on a shovel repeatedly throughout the day. And longevity is actually a part of the company’s stated aim for their product.
“For longer days and lots of steps, the comfort is a noticeable improvement … because of our cushioned EVA midsole on top of our rubber outsole,” says Martin. “This makes our shoes more akin to the anti-fatigue wear of a running shoe.”
The lace-up shoes offer a snug fit, which does come with an unavoidable downside: They don’t slip off and on with the ease of a rubber boot. (The bootstraps help, though.) So if you’re in and out of the house all day and disinclined to tracking in mud or chicken muck, pulling them off and on can get old.
My other complaint is the neon green detailing on the gray shoes, but that’s just an aesthetic preference. I’m more of an earth tones guy, so were this not a review product, I probably would have opted for the solid black design.
My garden isn’t a catwalk, though, so the color doesn’t really matter. (But I might change shoes before heading to the farm supply store.)
Kujo’s marketing seems pretty focused on the weekend yard warrior. And I’m sure they’re great for mowing grass, whacking weeds and annoying neighbors with a deafening leaf blower.
But as a gardener with farming experience behind me, I’d say Kujo’s yard shoes (and, I assume, similar products put out by other brands) can stand up to a number of rural demands. Martin says this is by design.
“Shoes are another tool for the farm that can help things get done more efficiently,” she explains. “Investing in proper footwear affects how hard you can work, how long you can work, and how well you can work.
“Small and hobby farmers have a lot on their plates, which is why they can’t afford to be handicapped by the elements or fatigue when there are options out there designed specifically for them.”
I’m inclined to agree. And next time I have a long day of outside work ahead of me, I might invest the extra two minutes in putting on yard shoes over jumping into rubber boots.