I plan to write a preliminary review of these sandals in March or April, once the snow melts and huaraches become a little more practical. I also plan to use these sandals while training for, and hopefully during, the Superior Sawtooth 50 Mile Ultra this September. Afterwards, I will write another review detailing how the sandals stood up to high mileage training.
Be on the look-out folks, because there's something in it for you guys as well. Maple Grove Barefoot Guy will be doing his first ever giveaway of a pair of these sandals as well! That's right...a freebie!
Why did I choose to attempt this ultra with this brand of huaraches? It's not because this attractive young man is already sponsored by Luna Sandals (picture below). It's because I hope that these shoes are the right tools for the job.
There's Patrick Sweeney, as always looking like a professional runner in every picture...probably because, for the most part, he is...
Here's the skinny. Whenever us barefoot runners sign up for a race, we all become like women dressing up for a date. No...we don't go put on something skanky and douse our necks in a gallon of Cool Water (seriously ladies, get a new fragrance...that stuff smells like stripper). But the question,"What am I going to wear?" always comes to mind.
This isn't a problem for our boat-anchor wearing counterparts. Unless they have racing flats, they run in the shoes that they've been wearing while training. If it's a trail race, and they have trail shoes, they wear those.
While gearing up for a race, us barefoot runners all do the equivalent of, "Do these shoes make my butt look big?" We've been blessed with the freedom to run unencumbered by cushioned trainers. At the same time, we're cursed with the need to find just enough shoe for the job at hand.
The dirty little secret of barefoot runners is that we are really closet shoe-junkies. Even the most hardcore among us has at least three pairs of minimalist shoes in his closet. Personally, I own two pairs of Vibram Fivefingers (one for running, and one pair to embarrass my wife in casual public settings), a pair of New Balance MT100s for trail running, and some Luna Sandals. And I consider myself to be on the low end of a shoe addiction.
The current state of my minimalist shoe addiction. It looks like a woman's shoe closet. A woman with horrible, horrible taste.
Now sometimes the right tool for the job is barefoot. Most of the time, that's the right way to go for me. But after signing up for the Superior Sawtooth 50 Mile Ultra this September, I knew that this wouldn't be a race I would be attempting barefoot.
I love barefoot trail running. The combination of textures and terrain provide a sensory experience during running that is unlike anything else. At the same time, it can be rough and downright dangerous. I can handle stepping on rocks and debris for a quick trail training run. I'm unsure of my ability to survive 50 miles on the trail. After my friend Jason's attempt at a barefoot 100-miler went south after 33 miles, the thought of a 50 mile barefoot trail attempt makes me pee my pants.
Jason finishing strong at the Burning River 100. It's amazing that after 100 miles he still has the same goofy look on his face. There's fellow minimalist runner Jesse Scott to Jason's left looking very "Malibu Ken".
So after signing up for the ultramarathon, the search was on for a pair of trail shoes. Nothing in my arsenal currently works.
For example, I love my MT100s for shorter, technical trail runs when I don't feel like worrying too much about where my feet land. But they are the heaviest shoes that I own. In comparison to my old 13oz. Mizuno Waves, these 8oz. shoes are like Rocky in Rocky IV (for those who haven't seen the greatest Rocky of all-time, that means they are much leaner, and much meaner). That being said, I can always feel my legs getting fatigued while wearing them, even on short trail runs. The cumulative effect of 50 miles in these things would not be pretty.
On the other hand, all of my other shoes suffer from the same problem. They don't provide enough protection. My Vibram KSOs provide good protection from rough terrain. Still, after long mileage, I start to feel discomfort from rough surfaces. Not to mention more ugly issues that creep into play during very long distances while wearing shoes; namely, foot swelling and sweating. Having now run two marathons in my KSOs, I know exactly how my feet feel after extremely long distances. They feel and look like Sasquatch caught swampfoot. Huge, sweaty, putrid meatballs attached to my legs. Gross...
So as a solution, I've been attracted to the idea of training to run this ultra in huarache sandals like my Lunas for a while now. For those who aren't familiar with huaraches, they are essentially sandals designed for running. Well...they were originally designed for hippies and Mexicans (no really...read Born to Run), but have become popular among the minimalist running crowd.
They are popular because of their open design and extremely light weight. My Lunas weigh in at a slim 3.5 oz. They allow my foot to breath and swell and splay...and all the other weird things feet do, to their hearts content. They are the closest that you can come to barefoot running without being barefoot.
Picture of my Luna Sandals, a rather over-priced and underwhelming brand of huarache sandal.
There's just one problem...I dislike my Lunas. I've tried really hard to like them, since I dropped $80 on them (yes, I dropped $80 on the equivalent of the bottom of a shoe with a lace attached to it...at least I didn't order a time machine or a Chia Obama online okay!). I go out for a run with them every so often, like that obligatory second date, just to see if we have some chemistry. I just can't get to like these things.
I should be more specific. The sandal isn't the problem. The Vibram sole with suede upper is actually very comfortable. And I love the way it conforms to my feet. The problem is the lacing. The leather laces make me look like an ancient Greek, but without the cool toga (sometimes...see profile picture). They also cut the inside of my toes to hell. If you search Youtube for "huarache tying method", you'll discovery that there are about 400 mediocre ways to tie these buggers. They are always too tight or too loose.
Enter Unshoes. When I saw Unshoes, I thought to myself, "These are the huaraches I should have gotten." This sandal, like most running huaraches, uses either 4mm, 6mm, or 10mm Vibram soling material. Instead of the typical tie lacing system, they use a tubular webbing that is more strap than lace. The finished product is something that I think resembles a Teva sandal, but without having to go to REI and purchase them from a guy in a fishing vest.
My favorite part...the webbing has an adjustment that allows you to tighten or loosen the sandal simply by pulling or pushing the toggle. My hope is that this makes my problem with lacing adjustment a non-issue. I chose the 10mm model in hopes of mimicking the Luna Sandal Leadville model, which is a 10mm Vibram sole with a tough, leather lace.
I'm not going to talk about them too much, because I still have a review to write. But I will plug them incessantly. Right now Unshoes is migrating to a new website (for more information visit their blog), but you can currently buy them at their Etsy store. For any other questions, please visit their main website.
End of shameless plug...