In 2001, Tim Brennan invented the vivobarefoot concept whilst a design student at the Royal College of Art, London. The idea had been in his imagination for at least two years following a eureka moment whilst walking home from an Alexander technique class in 1999. The Alexander technique teacher, Colette Lyons, (formerly a sprinter) had made a huge impression on Tim as she taught how the human body best functions during walking and running. Walking home from the class, Tim realised that the technique he had just been performing perfectly well without shoes on now became very difficult because of his trainers.
It was at that point that he imagined a shoe that would allow the foot to feel the ground and flex freely – like a second skin that allowed a completely natural interaction with the ground. At that time however, he was in the middle of a mechanical engineering degree and not only lacked the time to take on this project but also the University had all design rights of anything he created until graduation.
In Spring 2001, Tims idea finally took shape for the first time when he was given free reign to create any product of his choosing under the theme of “economics“. The easiest way to make a shoe was to cut off the soul of one of his trainers and replace it with thin material. Not having anything else to hand he took an old tennis rackets cover and cut out to fit shaped pieces to replace the solver here just carefully sliced off scalpel.
Walking over the pavement outside felt to Tim like a crucial moment in the Inventing process. He was sure that he had something that not only could help him play tennis without injuries, but allow Everyone in the world to discover as he had how wonderful it is when the foot is allowed to work as it has evolved to work.
Returning back to the college, Tim’s enthusiasm was met with scepticism and doubts. The tutors said that the product could not be continued unless it was in someway validated by medical research. This was a setback at first, but Tim decided to rise to the challenge and spent the whole of his summer break in the British library reading dozens of scientific papers going back 100 years. Whilst the vast majority of the literature was funded by the big shoe companies, he found a handful of papers that were very exciting. It has been long known in the medical community that countries that were too poor to afford shoes had a complete absence of all the foot elements that were extremely common in the western world. This information gave Tim the green light to be able to take his shoe concepts and develop it for the remainder of his degree.
Earlier on, Tim realise that going barefoot was something that was frowned upon by many of the people in the college – especially the Dinnerladies in the canteen. Upon further investigation people seem to be concerned that the foot would be accidentally cut if it were not inside a shoe. This gave Tim the idea to start looking for a space age material that would not only be puncture resistant but also be thin, light, and flexible. I found that law-enforcement gloves had been successful in utilising woven Kevlar to ensure that police officers could frisk a suspect without risk of getting AIDS from a needle..
This material Multiplied the puncture resistance tenfold and was instrumental in alleviating peoples fears of treading on sharp glass on the streets.
Tim graduated in 2002, and started approaching the major shoe manufacturers in order to get the shoe out to the people. After a few months it was clear that the big companies were not interested, however whilst playing a tennis tournament in West London, one of his opponents struck up a conversation about his strange looking prototype shoes. That led to an introduction to the clerks family, who agreed to produce Tims Vivo shoe under license.