Back in the summer of 2014, Deliberate Life Designs Founder Adam Paashaus was a work-from-home Dad looking for a fun and simple craft to make with his two girls.
Using a thin piece of rubber and some paracord, they each made a pair of simple, lightweight sandals to kick around in. But, it wasn’t until after Adam read Born to Run that he learned what they actually made was their own version of huaraches, or minimalist running sandals.
Adam was an avid and competitive runner in his youth, and he’s got the knee injuries to prove it. With his newly constructed “barefoot” footwear though, it became possible, and much more comfortable, to get back into running again.
“I fell in love with the feeling of being barefoot, as opposed to being strapped in real tight,” he said.
Adam began totally geeking out, experimenting with different footbed materials, toe plugs, and design methods, finally dialing in his lightweight, completely customizable sandal. “I thought I had something cool going,” he said of his new craft.
Everything about Deliberate Life Designs sandals are custom and personal. Each and every pair that Adam makes has been cut from a template based off the customer’s individual foot tracings. No two are alike.
“Every sandal is 100% unique, in the literal sense,” Adam explained. “Even left and right.”
The brand offers different colored foot beds, outsoles, and varying thicknesses. The foot straps, again in customizable colors, are repurposed “rescued” rock climbing slings and unsellable webbing Adam acquires from a well-known climbing brand.
But, even though Adam felt he had a perfected and marketable sport sandal, he didn’t jump in feet first. Lacking any formal business experience, he admitted he often shied away from entrepreneurship.
“The mental aspect, without any experience, felt like the most daunting part. It was just a matter of doing it,” he said.
“I can sit here and be afraid, but a lot of the stress was taken off when I decided to keep to my roots, make them custom, and build these shoes on a personal basis.”
And he does all this within the walls of his home: a 40-foot renovated school bus.
Seeking a slower paced lifestyle and more outdoor adventures with their daughters, back in 2016 Adam and his wife Elizabeth purchased a retired “skoolie” school bus for $6,000.
They then spent more than two years gutting and refurbishing the bus, transforming it into a quaint and comfortable home on wheels. Leaving no detail unturned, the Deliberate Life Bus, as it’s named, is equipped with a full kitchen, wood stove, composting toilet and 1,500 watts of solar power. The family of four hit the road in 2018 and have been full-time nomads ever since.
Thanks to the small footprint the sandal making process has, the bus’s kitchen counter makes for a doable workspace. Adam typically does all the construction on weekends, in an effort to maximize his time outdoors during the less-crowded weekdays.
Using a block of wood as a workbench, Adam prints tracings, cuts, glues, clamps, and customizes everything in the bus.
The bus, the sandal brand, and the values they hold are one and the same.
The Deliberate Life moniker is in reference to a Thoreau passage on living fully and deliberately.
Adam expressed the importance of this philosophy; to live with passion, follow your inspirations, and live your best life, “so when you come to the end, you don’t realize that you never fully lived.”
“I would have never gotten into sandal making if I didn’t have that outlook on life.”
Another philosophical motivator for Adam was a motto his family used while rebuilding the bus: There ain’t nothin’ to it but to do it.
“You can hem and haw, but that’s just taking more time!” he laughed.
Adam loves the one-on-one personalization of his brand. “I have a niche-y market and I love it,” he explained of the climbers, hikers, runners, and nomadic, bus-dwelling, barefoot aficionados he mingles with.
“I feel really fortunate to have found something that I believe in, and that my business model automatically comes with a stoked clientele.”
He reportedly has thru-hikers considering walking the distance in a pair of Deliberate Life Designs sandals. “Those are interesting people,” Adam laughed, “But they’re led by inspiration, and that’s what I love.”