Allbirds merino wool shoes

It’s autumn in the Southern hemisphere, and there is a definite nip in the air as the weather gets colder. As it’s getting colder, I thought I would write about these New Zealand merino wool shoes that can keep your feet warm.

The fairly new label is called Allbirds, and they make footwear out of merino wool. Allbirds is a New Zealand label, and they call the shoes ‘from the land of 29,221,344 sheep’. Allbirds was founded by Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger. Tim Brown was a former professional football player who played for the All Whites, the New Zealand football team. He retired from professional football in 2012, and in 2014 used crowd funding to produce their first wool runners shoes. Joey Zwillinger is an engineer and renewable materials expert who helps develop the sustainable materials the shoes are made of. This includes the textile and insoles for the shoes. The shoes are made from 16 micron merino wool (micron is a measurement of the diameter of wool fibre in micrometre) with the textile woven in Italy. The insoles are made of a vegetable oil-based polyurethane and can be machine washed.

To me, machine washing shoes is a very alien concept, though I know that people do it and I guess it’s very convenient. Allbirds shoes are super comfortable and can be worn without socks with no worry about odour. Hey, the shoes are made of wool. It’s a bit like wearing woolen socks, but they are shoes.

Personally, I find Allbirds shoes a bit plain both in design and range of colours. Allbirds shoes only come in 2 styles: sneakers, called ‘wool runners’; and slip ons, called ‘loungers’. And both styles come in very limited colours. Allbirds market that as a selling point, preferring to focus on simplicity in design and premium, natural materials. It is also a very new shoe company, so I’m excited to see more from them in the future.

An Allbirds merino wool shoe. This is their sneaker (wool runners) design.

Photo by Dora Yip at

Minnie Mouse Keds sneakers

A few years ago, I had a pair of Mickey Mouse sneakers. You can read about themĀ here. Recently, I bought a matching pair of Minnie Mouse sneakers, but sadly I no longer have the Mickey Mouse sneakers, as they became too worn.

Shih Yen’s pair of Mickey Mouse shoes.

There’s a mildly funny story about when I bought the Minnie Mouse sneakers. I saw the sneakers advertised in one of those print ad brochures that get delivered in the letter box with the newspaper. I love the design and immediately went to the shop looking for them, but I couldn’t find them. So I went to the counter and said,

Me: Hi, I’m looking for the Minnie Mouse Keds.

Salesperson: We don’t have Minnie Mouse Keds.

That made me confused. Had I accidentally gone into the wrong shop? Then, I saw the exact print ad sitting on the counter, so I picked one up, pointed at the picture on the back page and said, “This one”.

The salesperson consulted another staff member and it turned out that the sneakers wouldn’t be in stock until the following month, which annoyed me a little. Why were they advertising something they didn’t have?

White Minnie Mouse sneakers in Keds’ iconic Champion design. This sneaker also comes in black with Minnie Mouse wearing a red bow.

But no matter. A few months later, I finally bought a pair of Minnie Mouse Keds sneakers, and they were on sale. Bonus! There were a few different Minnie Mouse designs. One was a white pair with a picture of Minnie Mouse on the side. After being forced to wear all-white canvas shoes in Malaysian schools for 11 years, I now refuse to wear white shoes. So I bought a black pair with a platform sole. I love the design, even the design of the shoelaces. The shoelaces have gold metal aglets. (If you don’t know what aglets are, they are the plastic or metal tips at the end of shoelaces).

Shih Yen’s pair of Minnie Mouse sneakers, with gold aglets on the shoelaces.

Keds is a very old sneaker brand, and has been around since 1916. In 1916, the United States Rubber Company advertised their Keds brand tennis shoes as ‘sneakers’ because this appealed to their target market of teenage boys who used the term ‘sneakers’. Keds’ iconic style is the Champion sneaker – canvas shoes with rubber soles. In 2015, Keds launched a campaign called ‘Ladies first since 1916’. This campaign focuses on female empowerment and features celebrities like Taylor Swift.

Glitter light-up sneakers

My friend, who is petite, bought this pair of glitter light-up sneakers from the children’s department. They were nice, comfortable and cheap, and there were 3 pairs left in her size. So she bought all 3 identical pairs.


Glitter light-up sneakers (photo by Leonie Kueh).

I’m always slightly envious of adults who can buy footwear from the children’s department, because children’s shoes are usually cheaper and have more cute designs than adult shoes. I could not wear children’s shoes even when I was a child. Before I was 10 years old, I could already fit adult sizes. So that makes me ask, ‘Why don’t they make them in my size?’

Glitter light-up sneakers (Photo by Leonie Kueh).

Sneakers with lights in the soles (photo by Leonie Kueh).

I think this pair of light-up sneakers is pretty cool. They have colourful glitter straps across the front. Do manufacturers think that adults don’t want to wear glitter? Even cooler, in my opinion, are the lights in the soles. The soles of the sneakers light up in different colours every time the wearer takes a step. There are batteries in the soles that power the lights. Considering that there are lights and batteries in the soles, these sneakers are not heavier than regular sneakers. In this particular pair of sneakers, the batteries are not replaceable and there is no way to turn the lights off. I have seen other light-up children’s sneakers that come with an on/off button in the heel, which would prolong battery life.


Sneakers with lights in the soles (photo by Leonie Kueh).

I think these light-up sneakers are very cool, especially when worn in low light. It’s a bit like having your own disco on the soles of your feet. So shoe manufacturers: ‘Why don’t you make them in my size?’


Sneakers with lights in the soles (photo by Leonie Kueh).

Shoes that I have lost

Last month I wrote about shoes that I have loved. Just like with people that you have loved and lost, I also remember the shoes that I have lost. Apologies for the poor quality of the photos; these were the best photos I could find of my shoes that have been lost.

I remember 3 pairs of shoes that I have lost. All losses happened in Malaysia. I was 4 years old the first time I remember lost footwear. I don’t remember the loss itself (I was only 4 years old!), but I do remember the footwear. It was a pair of red slippers, a gift from my aunt. They were bright red thonged flip flops. What I remember most about them was that there were two red apples on each thong. I loved these slippers. According to my aunt, I lost them on a car journey. After stopping at a park, I got back in the car without my red slippers. When the loss was discovered, my mother drove back to the park, but the red slippers were gone.

The second loss was a pair of Reebok sneakers. They were white with the Reebok stripe in a purple and pink colour. I left them behind on a camping trip in the jungles of Malacca. I’m not sure where I left them. I just know that I had them when I went to camp, but I came home without them. This happened 20 years ago, but I still think about them sometimes. After that loss, I bought another pair of Reebok sneakers, as similar as I could find to the ones I lost, but they were never the same, and could not replace the ones I had lost.

The best photo I could find of the pair of Reebok sneakers I lost.

The best (and also the last) photo I could find of the pair of Reebok sneakers I lost. This photo was taken at the camp in Malacca where I lost them.


The purple and pink Reebok sneakers I bought to replace the ones I had lost. They were kind of similar, but not the same as the pair I had lost.

The third time I lost a pair of shoes was due to theft. They were a pair of black lace-up Alain Delon shoes in a suede type of material. As people in Malaysia remove shoes before entering a house, shoes are usually left outside the house. My shoes and socks were in the shoe rack outside the house, and some time in the night, someone came and stole my shoes. The thief was selective, stealing only good men’s shoes (I wore men’s shoes back then because finding women’s shoes to fit me was too hard). The neighbours also lost shoes to the thief. I loved that pair of shoes, and I loved the socks too. I had the shoes for about 4 years and wore them almost every day for 2 of those 4 years, as I wore them to school in New Zealand.

NZ school

The black Alain Delon shoes that was stolen.

At the time of the theft, I was very angry and cursed the thief, but now so many years later, I hope that someone else wore my shoes after me. No matter if they were a pair of forgotten child’s slippers left in a park, or if they found a pair of forgotten Reebok sneakers in the middle of a Malaysian jungle, or wore a stolen pair of black Alain Delon shoes. I hope whoever wore them loved them as much as I did.

Why do sneakers have zips?

Q: Why did the shoes have zips on them?
A: The pair of shoes was having an identity crisis and thought it was a pair of shorts.

But seriously, silly jokes aside, why do sneakers need zips? I understand why shoes have shoelaces, sure. Straps? Yeah, totally. Buckles and buttons? Yes, I get it. But zips? No, I don’t really get it.

At first I couldn’t work out if zips on shoes were actually functional or just for decorative purposes. I can understand why tall shoes, like knee-length boots, have zips. The zips are normally at the back of the heel, or on the side of the calf. This makes it easier for someone to get their feet into tall shoes, but the majority of shoes don’t have zips, so I figure it’s not necessary.

high top sneaker

Shih Yen’s high top sneaker with zips on the back of the heel.

So then, I thought zips on low shoes like sneakers must only serve a decorative rather than functional purpose. This was until I recently bought a pair of high top sneakers that had zips on the backs of the heel. Initially, I thought the zips were purely decorative. I wasn’t even sure if the zips actually worked. But after wearing the shoes a couple of times, I found that the zips actually do up and there was a purpose for them. With the zips done up, this made the shoe tighter. So if shoes are just a bit too big for you, and if they have zips, with the zips done up this will make the shoes about a half size smaller.


The back of the sneakers. With the zip done up, this makes the sneaker a bit tighter.


What shoes would a zombie wear?

What shoes would a zombie wear? Well, assuming they still have a foot that is – anything goes!

What exactly is a zombie? A zombie is a human who has died, but the corpse is re-animated and comes to life again. This can happen by witchcraft or through some kind of infection. Zombies have a penchant for eating brains and biting humans to infect them and turn them into zombies too.

Zombies feature in Haitian folklore, with Haitian zombies created by sorcerers called bokors. The word ‘zombie’ possibly originated in Haiti or West Africa. ‘Zonbi’ is a Haitian creole word meaning a reanimated person. ‘Jumbie’ is a West Indian term for ‘ghost’, and ‘nzambi’ is the Bantu (an African language) word meaning spirit of a dead person.

I’m not sure what it is about zombies that make them so appealing in popular culture. Zombies feature in movies like ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (a classic movie from 1968); 28 Days Later; Shaun of the Dead and World War Z. Zombies are on popular TV shows like ‘The Walking Dead’, and there are games featuring zombies, such as ‘Resident Evil.’ In music, Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ is the most famous music video with dancing zombies. The Cranberries also sang a song about zombies, featuring the haunting, tortured vocals of Dolores O’Riordan, who also wrote the song.


A zombie during the filming of ‘I Survived a Zombie Holocaust’.

The reason I became interested in zombies was because I was in a zombie movie, lurching around in the background as a zombie extra.The movie is called ‘I Survived a Zombie Holocaust’, also called ‘I Survive a Zombie Apocalypse’. It is a low budget New Zealand movie. It had its world premiere in New Zealand on 16 August, and its UK premiere in London a week later. It will also have a US premiere at Screamfest, a horror film festival in LA in October. This movie exceeded my expectations. I did not have high hopes for a low budget zombie movie, but the script was well written and it was genuinely funny. It is a zombie comedy.


Zombie footwear. Shih Yen wears a pair of cream, slingback low heels as part of her zombie costume.

Prior to working on this movie, I had never given much thought to zombie fashion. I suppose blood stains and blood splatter are a must in zombie fashion. I have given even less thought to what footwear a zombie would wear. I guess boots or some other type of sturdy footwear like that would be appropriate for a zombie to shuffle or stagger away from humans wanting to kill them with shotguns. My costume was a torn beige suit covered in blood (golden syrup with red food colouring really). The shoes I had to wear as a zombie were a pair of cream, slingback shoes with low heels.

If you still can’t get enough of a zombie fix, here’s a website where they can print any image you want on a Converse or Vans sneaker. My friend went for a zombie image on her sneakers.

Converse sneakers with zombie image (Photo by Sarah Naylor).

Converse sneakers with zombie image (Photo by Sarah Naylor).



I don’t usually write about stuff that I don’t know much about, but I’m making an exception this month.

Shoefiti (kind of like graffiti with shoes) is the practice of throwing a pair of shoes on to power lines. The shoelaces of the shoes are tied together so that the shoes will hang from power lines. A related practice is a shoe tree, where shoes are thrown onto a tree, so that they hang from the tree branches.

Shoefiti is usually carried out by young people and the shoes they throw are usually sneakers. There are many different explanations for why people do this. Some say shoes on power lines are a sign that drugs are sold in that area, or that someone died there, or a sign that a particular gang controls that area. I don’t know if any of those explanations are true. Personally, I think that shoefiti is just a way for people to get rid of old shoes, or shoes that they no longer want.

An extreme case of shoefiti. About 10 pairs of shoes hanging on power lines.

An extreme case of shoefiti. About 10 pairs of shoes hang from power lines. This shows how strong power lines are.

The power companies don’t like this practice because it wastes the time and resources of their linesmen to get the shoes removed from power lines.