japanese jika tabi shoes ninja shoes

The general belief is that tabi shoes are traditional footwear in Japan. While that is true, tabi shoes were first invented in the twentieth century and were modeled after the split-toe socks. As the socks’ design implies, the shoes also have the toe split from the rest of the fingers. However why did they become popular, what is their purpose and benefits, and how do you choose a pair? Those are all questions we are going to answer in the following article.

What are Tabi Shoes and How to choose and Wear Them?

As already mentioned, the most unique feature of tabi shoes is the split between the toe and the rest of the fingers. The feature is believed to provide additional stability and comfort to the wearer. They were originally created to be utilized by the lower class of the population such as farmers, construction workers, and road workers. They were also quite popular during festivals due to their unconventional nature. In reality, in modern days they are quite suitable for any everyday attire.

The unique design of the tabi shoes makes them quite customizable. There are plenty of different types, styles, and colors that come with different fastening devices, with some reaching as far as the knee of the wearer. The tabi shoes are usually produced by natural rubber, to provide flexibility and comfort while protecting the wearer from any ground obstacles on their path.

The metal clasp which is used to fasten the shoes is called ‘kohaze.’ The kohaze is usually put on the inside back of the shoe, and the shoes are fastened with the hooks and around the ankles. If you’re wondering whether the size is different compared to traditional footwear, it’s not. Look at your respective size number and use the same size when trying to figure out which size you should purchase online.

The cool fastening design allows the wearer to wear the shoes in different styles. You could potentially leave a few hooks unattached to the thread and leave the shoe somewhat “exposed” from the inside, providing you with beautiful, modern, stylish options. Obviously, it all comes down to personal preference in the end, but it’s nice to know that the possibility is there.

Functionality of Tabi Shoes

There is a common misconception that the tabi shoes were originally made for the utilization of martial arts practitioners and that ninjas currently wear tabi shoes. This image is false and is created when people watched  kabuki theater. The backstage actors in kabuki would all be covered in black, in order to blend with the stage and not be seen. As you might’ve guessed, the actors all wore tabi shoes, and the black clothes implied them to be ninjas, thus creating the false image and conception. That expanded overseas, as Hollywood decided to implement the footwear in all ninja movies and as they could say “the rest is history”.

Health Benefits of the Tabi Shoes

To have a full understanding on that topic, we should go back to 50,000 years ago, when our species were still undeveloped. We were used to gathering and hunting, and out of the leather of the animals, we used to create protection from the ground and external obstacles. At that time, we still separated our toe from the rest of the fingers. In fact, it was only a few centuries ago that the humankind decided it would be best to encase our feet together. In fact, some pieces of evidence suggest that this could lead to potential health problems related to the bone structure and the muscles.

Have you ever wondered why shoes often receive a hole at the location of the toe? It's no wonder that the toe tries to “escape” its prison and be set aside, freely. The design of the tabi shoes returns us to the basics. It provides the necessary support for the whole body, coming down from the position of our foot fingers.

Around the time tabi shoes came into existence, so did the amatsu therapy. Amatsu is a therapy which uses soft tissue pressure and mobilization techniques meant to treat the whole body of a person. The feet are a key factor playing in the successful results of the therapy as it is meant to rebalance the energetic and mechanical structures of the bones of the individual being treated, especially those with limited mobility.

Could You Wear Tabi Shoes On a Daily Basis?

As long as you live in Japan, there is not a single problem doing that, nor would anyone find it odd or point a finger at you. The Western world may not have the same view, even though there could still be a variety of different events that might provide you with a good opportunity to try out your new tabi shoes. Festivals and art exhibitions could be the place of choosing to wear them. They’re also perfect for training martial arts with. The misconception didn’t come out for any reason at all. They provide proper flexibility and stability to the wearer, making it a perfect alternative to other training footwear.

Are There Any Disadvantages?

Truth to be told, it’s a matter of an opinion. The only “disadvantage” tabi shoes have is that unless the tabi shoes are the type that can be worn in bare feet, they do require a specific set of socks to be worn, as the toe is split from the rest of the fingers. Thus there are the so called “tabi socks”, which are in the same shape and design, unsurprisingly.

Also as they are made from cotton, the color will slightly fade with time, regardless of how you wash them, however, that is the case with all types of shoes, so it’s not something particular and unique.

Interested in Tabi Shoes?

If you are you interested in tabi shoes, you can take a look at our entire collection of tabi shoes from Marugo, one of the major Japanese jika-tabi manufacturers. Ninjaya.com is the official international distributor of Marugo brand products.