Rediscovering a ‘Sense of Motion’

Olie Marchal, a founder and co-owner of Sense of Motion, demonstrates use of a piece of equipment at the business's Montrose production facility.

From a pair of homemade, hand-crafted running shoes to a Montrose-based production facility turning out three models of fashion sneakers, Sense of Motion and its owners Olie Marchal and Nathalie Bouchard have come a long way in the footwear business.

The 100 percent made in the U.S. footwear company has burgeoned from a personal quest for the ideal shoe to a company making strides in minimalist, natural-feeling footwear for a variety of activities and lifestyles.

Marchal and Bouchard established a production facility in Montrose about a year ago and were making shoes fit for retail by July. After a long process of settling in, calibrating equipment and perfecting their production process, Marchal and Bouchard are ready to take their unique products into the public eye.

Sense of Motion strives to provide shoes that are comfortable to wear, versatile enough for casual wear and active lifestyles, and fit for healthy feet.

The style blossomed from Marchal’s own history with mass-produced footwear.

“I’ve been a runner for many years,” Marchal said. “When I turned 37, I started to experience some back issues, back pain — always the day after I went running.”

Through doctor visits and personal research, Marchal discovered the barefoot and minimalist philosophies that decry today’s high-cushion and large-heeled shoes.

“The problem came from those running shoes with the high-cushion, high heel — it changed my posture, so it hurt my back,” he said.

After searching the marketplace for shoes that would fit his needs, Marchal came up empty handed. He took the project on himself and hand-crafted his first pair of shoes. His specifications: a flat soled, lightweight shoe with a roomy toe box to allow his feet to find their natural balance.

“The first pair looked like slippers, kind of goofy, like elf shoes almost,” Marchal recalled.

While the appearance was quite unique, the results for Marchal were undeniable.

“I ran a 50k in those (shoes),” he said.

After making a second pair, and then another, on until he had crafted more than 20 iterations of his original design, Marchal and Bouchard knew they had something worth pursuing. They looked into producing the shoe, and found that there was no domestic facility that could accommodate their design.

Again relying on their own ingenuity and passion, the co-owners found a facility in Montrose and set to work, becoming just the third domestic footwear manufacturer in the country, according to Bouchard. Sense of Motion now employs four full-time and one part-time employee and has three models of sneakers for retail sale.

The same ideas that guided Marchal’s first pair of shoes are now the distinguishing features in Sense of Motion’s product line: the shoes feature a flexible, flat sole with a toe box wide enough for toes to move.

“Your toes are not made to be squeezed; your toes are made to be free for movement, to adjust and help your balance,” Marchal said.

The shoes have already gained attention from podiatrists and chiropractors and have received enthusiastic testimonials from early clients.

“It’s a simple design, but it’s definitely very healthy because it’s just natural,” Marchal explained. “We want to help people to rediscover their natural sense of motion; their natural sense of walking.”

The two-person team behind Sense of Motion is still adapting to being small business owners and all the responsibilities that come with it.

“In the process of doing this, we learn, every day, something,” Bouchard said.

There is a driving force behind the operation, though, that keeps the business going.

“We just keep getting good feedback, and that’s very encouraging and motivating, for sure,” Marchal said.

The Montrose facility has a retail section set up, but will open just once per month for customers to visit. Four days of the week, the facility is busy with production and on Fridays, the owners often take their wares to regional markets.

Sense of Motion shoes are available for retail purchase in Montrose at Nina Suzanne’s boutique, and the owners hope to expand soon to Jagged Edge in Telluride. Products can also be ordered online at www.somfootwear.com.

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