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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Luna Sandals with Equus Laces Review

Frequent followers of my blog (all two of you) probably already know how I feel about huaraches.  I want to love them.  I really do.  On paper, there's so much to like.  They mimic the positives of barefoot running in so many ways.  They are by far the lightest minimalist shoe on the market.  They are the most breathable.  They finally give me that pair of go-to footwear for a toga party.  And with the right materials, they provide the best ground feel.



Also, as you can see, they go great with a gladiator costume.  What impressive legs on that Roman!

On the other hand, I wasn't impressed with the first generation of huaraches that hit the market.  That's because what brands like Invisible Shoes essentially sold you was an art project.  To get a proper fit, you had to send some dude an exact tracing of your foot.  Then...a few weeks later, the dude would send you back soling material in the exact shape of your failed efforts at stenciling.  The finished product always looked like a really sad, Thanksgiving hand-turkey...or the pancake you make from the last batter in the bowl.  Then to hold your foot pancake to your foot, you were allowed to select from a variety of ugly, neon laces.  The resulting product was half the 80s Jelly Shoe, at twice the price.    



If you could see this person's upper-body, they'd also be wearing at least 4 Swatch watches and/or slap bracelets and a Member's Only jacket.  Ahhh...the 80s!

Luna Sandals

Then along came Barefoot Ted and his Luna Sandal brand.  I remember being positively giddy about ordering my huaraches from Ted back in the day.  Lunas seemed to solve all of the cosmetic problems I had with huaraches.  They were factory made to specific, average shapes and sizes.  They came out looking like an actual sandal.  The suede footbed promised a level of comfort and style not seen on anything previous.  And the choice of leather or hemp laces seemed like a similar upgrade.  These were the BMW of huaraches in my mind.

And in many respects, Lunas lived up to my expectations.  The suede footbed is very comfortable, and I love the way it molds to my feet.  They certainly are the lightest, and most breathable minimalist shoes that I own.

But at the end of the day, they suffer from the same problem that all huaraches suffer from in my mind: the laces suck.  I would say that out of the many miles and hours of running I've done on these shoes, they were probably tied comfortably for no more than 5 minutes.  If I tied them too tight, I'd get crazy top of foot pain, and that would annoy me.  If I tied them too loose, they would flop around and that would annoy me.

The Equus Lace

Well after voicing my displeasure for Luna Sandals on my blog post about Unshoes Barefoot Ted, the owner of Luna Sandals, posting this in the comment section:

"Dude!!! The new Luna Sandals have a new strapping system that is blowing my mind - an elasticized leather material that makes the whole experience even simpler and better...and I have been testing and playing with these things for a while now ;-)  Check'em out here: www.lunasandals.com"

After I got over the fact that Ted talks kind of like Cheech and Chong, I became pretty interested in these new laces.  Maybe they were a good alternative to Unshoes; especially for those folks who own huaraches already.  So I contacted Ted to send me a pair.

Apparently I hurt Ted's feelings with that Unshoe post, because he never responded.  But since some of you (i.e. the same two people) wanted me to do a comparison of these laces to those in the Unshoe, I bought a pair to test out.  I got my Equus laces a few days later (Ted has very good order turnaround).  Ted...you can consider my $12.95 plus shipping and handling a peace offering.  It's the only one you're going to get.

Given Ted's above comment, I sense that I'm not the only one with a dislike of traditional huarache laces.  Ted has attempted to solve this problem with the Equus lace.  The Equus is a elasticized leather lace that comes in either a 1/2 inch or 5/8 inch width.  Unlike the traditional laces, the elastic allows the lace to stretch and (hopefully) better conform to your foot. 

Initial Impressions

When I took the laces out of their packaging, I immediately noticed their difference in shape and size compared to Latigo leather laces (which is the default lace for the Lunas).  The laces I received were twice as thick as the Latigo, and less than half the length.

 

This picture shows the length pretty well.  It almost looks like modern art.  Anyway, the Latigo is on the top, and the Equus on the bottom.



Here's a picture showing the thickness of the lace.  The Equus is on the left, and the Latigo is on the right.

Besides the elasticized leather, there are a few other differences between the Latigo and the Equus.  Whereas the Latigo is soft to the touch, almost like a suede, the Equus feels like vinyl.  When I put on the sandals, this difference in texture was very noticeable.  For me, this wasn't a huge negative, but some of you more Downy-soft people might be turned off by the texture of the laces.

Another difference in the lace is the method used to secure it to the sandal.  With traditional huarache laces, you makes a knot at one end of the lace and pull it through a hole in the soling material in order to secure it to the bottom of the sandal.  Because the knot is so small, you usually can't feel it while moving around.  But the Equus is much thicker than a traditional lace, so the knot would likely be large and uncomfortable.  Ted fixed this problem by splitting the lace on one end. 



To secure this lace, you tie the two ends together.  This results in a knot that is roughly the same size as a with the Latigo lace, if not smaller.



I certainly couldn't feel the knot as I walked around.  In my opinion, it is smaller than a Latigo lace knot.  Since I had to pound down the Latigo lace knot with a hammer in order to make it comfortable, the Equus lace is superior in that regard.

Lacing it up

The lace is threaded through the sandal in the same fashion as with the original laces.  The holes in the sandal are already large enough to accommodate the larger Equus.  The lace is then tied with a small knot on the top of your foot, similar to the way that Ted recommends tying the Latigo laces.  However, since the Equus lace is much shorter, you won't have to wind the lace back through the sandal at all.   



Here are my original Lunas laced up with both the Latigo and Equus laces.  The Latigo is on the left, and the Equus on the right.  Sorry about the weird lighting.  I took these pictures while watching The Bachelor.  Go Ashley!

In my opinion, because the Equus lace is both thicker and shorter, once tied it looks cleaner than the traditional lace.  Also, the size of the lace makes it look more substantial on your foot.  Kind of like a sandal that's actually worth $80, instead of $20 worth of rubber and string.  Well...almost. 

One drawback for some with this new lace will be the inability to tie these sandals in "traditional style", where the lace is criss-crossed up the leg for a more Ancient Roman look.  This is the way I usually tied my huaraches, for reasons I'll explain in a minute.  I won't miss the look of the traditional style, but I will miss the comfort.

Comfort

One thing that hasn't changed for huaraches, even with this Equus lace, is that it takes a fair bit of f-ing around to get them to fit just right.  With my traditional laces, I was always pulling and pushing and tugging and tying and retying to get them just right.  I never got them just right, and that's part of the problem.

You will find a bit of improvement in that regard with the Equus.  Because the lace doesn't pass as much through the sandal, there are less points of adjustment.  For me, that means less chance that I'll screw things up.  Additionally, the elasticized leather allows for significant give and take.  The result is that errors in tying are less noticeable. 

But the give and take of the elasticized leather also presents a negative.  Because the lace is so stretchy, I found it very difficult to make small adjustments in the fit.  You may try to tighten or loosen the sandal, but only end up stretching them a bit.  This problem is compounded by the shortness of the lace.  Once you tie the lace in a knot you'll only have about an inch of slack left to play with.  That's not a lot of wiggle room.  In fact, just to make a decent knot, you'll probably find yourself airing for a fit that's a little too snug.



Here's a better view of the top knot.  As you can see, there's not a lot of extra lace at the end of the day.

Another huge issue I have deals with the top knot.  The reason that I use the traditional tying method is to get that knot off of my foot.  Not only does it feel weird to me, but when I run it causes pretty bad top of foot pain.  With these laces, not only is the traditional method off the table, but the top knot is much bigger.  I could feel my feet aching without even moving.  This isn't an issue for everyone, but it certainly is a big one for me.

Slipping in and out

With traditional laces I usually end up re-tying them for every run.  I know that a lot of people don't have this problem, but I do.  For one, because you thread the lace through the sandal a ton, figuring out which part of the lace goes where is like trying to unplug my VCR at night.  And when I do figure it out, I'm bound to knock something out of whack as I pull the sandal on.

This wasn't a problem at all with the Equus.  Slipping the sandal on and off without re-tying was a breeze.  And when off my foot, they held the same shape as when I was wearing them...which I thought was pretty cool.



This is the view from the back of the sandal. 

Walking and running

Any objection that I had to the tightness of the lace diminished when I started walking and running.  The lace stretched nicely as I moved, while keeping the sandal tight to my foot.  I don't like my huaraches to flop around at all while I run and walk.  Mission accomplished.

After walking around my living room and outside, I took it for a test run.  Again, the huarache stayed tight to my foot, and did not loosen as the run went on.  Because the sandal was so tight to my foot, I didn't experience pain between my toes like I sometimes do with Latigo laces.  The sandal didn't appear to be rubbing against my feet or between my toes.  It pretty much stayed put.

My only objection to the sandal during my run was that it was still noticeably tight.  I could also feel the top knot digging into my foot.  Those who like a looser sandal will probably not like the feel of the lace.  And I expect that during longer runs, this sandal will cause me top of foot pain. 

Wear issues

The length of these laces also presents a longevity problem.  As you'll find out with continued wear of huaraches, laces break.  Since you're rubbing the bottom knot raw with every step, avoiding that fact is impossible.  With the Latigo lace, this wasn't a huge issue because of the length.  You just popped a knot on the end of the longer portion of the broken lace and went on your way.  With the Equus lace, you don't have much excess lace to work with.  If you break it, you're buying a new one.  At $12.95 a pop, I imagine that will get old really fast.

Pricing

Normally price is one of my biggest objections to Luna products.  But at $12.95 per pair, these laces are priced competitively with other leather elasticized laces on the market.  So no qualms here.

Conclusion

The Equus lace is definitely an improvement on traditional huarache laces in terms of ease of use and comfort during running.  However, because of their size and texture, I find them to be a step back in the comfort department.  I think they represent enough of an improvement that I will use and enjoy my huaraches a lot more.  But it's hard for me to fully embrace them because they do not fix issues of top of foot pain for me.  In fact, they make them worse. 

If I had to rate Luna laces on a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate the Latigo at a 3.  The hemp would be a 5.  And the new Equus would be a 7.  I imagine that Unshoes will still hold an advantage, at least to me, because the strapping system doesn't include a top knot.  They also will likely be easier to adjust. 

Tune in later to find out which shoe wins!  Cheers!

23 comments:

  1. Thanks for the update on the laces. They do look pretty nice but I'm curious to see what you think of the two of them against each other. I wonder if they'll come up with a slightly longer lace. I also enjoyed your review of Jason's book. I too really enjoyed it and will use it as a reference for years to come.

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  2. I decided to get a build your own invisible shoe recently for trail running. I constructed the pair in about a half hour. I choose these because I use a alternative tying method. I had my lacing as happy as can be even on the first run. just had to slightly tighten one side after the first run. The invisible shoes are wonderful, and I would never be foolish enough to pay the full price for Steven to make them for me at twice the price.

    I would never pay the heavily taxed BFT pricing.

    The unshoes are thong style laces. So not a option for me.

    I hit a home run with the invisible shoes.

    Frankly I thought your invisible shoes comments sounded like you were on some drugs. So it is the companies fault you can't trace your foot ? If you did not like that process why would you waste your money ? All you did was trace your foot, and that is a art project ? I don't know your comments just sound very odd.

    I got the white lacing, and I find it is very comfortable with my tying method.

    You sound like you are putting a lot of effort into the whole tying thing. I find it to be very straight forward, and easy. The way you describe your lacing issues it does not sound like you will ever resolve it. Maybe this is not the best footwear for you since you seem to struggle with the lacing so much.

    At the end of the day the invisible shoes look no more funny then the other compared products. Also making these shoes is not rocket science. You could hand make these with whatever material you want. I find the 4mm vibram cherry to be a great choice. Excellent ground feel on the trails, and the right amount of protection. Though still need to be light on your feet.

    Glad you like your leather stretchy laces. As the laces are new to the market. I assume no one really knows how long they will last before they break. Sounds like a money pit on lacing replacements. Good luck with them. I guess BFT tactic worked. You bought them from him, and now have a review on them. Sounds like his comment above paid off in the end.......

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  3. Well based on your post I thought it was warranted. I'm still not sure about something. If your post was BFT lace focused. Why would you go off on a invisible shoe tangent first about construction process ? Then comparing them to a 80's jelly bean shoe. What ? What does that have to do with your lace review ? So you don't like the funny invisible shoe lace colors, or the product itself so what. I don't like the funny invisible shoe lacing colors either, but that is why one would choose white in that case.

    We all have every right to not like a product. I just thought your post would have looked a lot more professional if it was just Equus lace focused.

    Frankly I think folks need to get back to basics. Ted puts all these bells, and whistles on his products that you really don't need. Which increases unneeded extra costs for everyone. Did you read the infamous born to run book ? It is real simple that the foot wear only needs to be simple. Which in my mind = invisible shoe. All you need is some material to "float" under your sole. Seems to me the 4mm is plenty for a barefoot type person. Though I understand some customers may want more protection from the ground for whatever reason.

    Then invisible shoe offers the great option to build it yourself at a minimal price. Allowing you to personalize to your hearts content, and keep simple. Simple includes the lacing material.

    Have you tried the alternative tying method ? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFuUtsA5oew
    I did mine slightly different then the video. Of course I have the heel lacing then the X across the forefoot. Once I make the X I just bring it right back the same path to top of heel to tie it off. For a very clean look. No rubbing between toes, and stays on your foot great. Since your current method does not work I would suggest it is not the material you use, but rather the tying method you use.

    The thing with the equus lace is the shape. It's an odd shape/width. So when you put it through a round hole on the shoe sole. that is going to add additional stress to the lace material. Which will shorten the laces life span. If you have lace holes that are same shape as equus lace then great, but I assume that is not the case.

    Best of luck on your lace journey ! Great gladiator pic by the way.......

    Longest comment #2. smiles

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  4. Perhaps you should sell Invisible Shoes. Or do you already?!?!

    Well, you have every right to like IS. I'm not saying they're a bad product. I'm saying that I don't like them, and they look a little elementary art project to me.

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  5. So what does a elementary art project have to do with anything ? It's a frickin piece of rubber. You cut it to your foot size. Add lace holes. Install laces. Why does it have to be more complicated then that ? It is what it is. A very simple product that does what it is designed to do.

    BFT footwear is die cut so yes it has a more professional look at a higher price value. The product will only match your foot size if your the same size as the die cut.

    Besides by the time it is on your foot the only thing you can really see is the lacing. So what is the need for a expensive "under the hood" product ? All a onlooker can really see is the laces. Again your paying added costs for features that are not needed to walk/run.

    No I don't sell invisible shoe, or vibram product.

    We should be clear to other readers that invisible shoe shipping is priority mail. It does not take multiple weeks as you state.

    I just find it entertaining how we actually read ideas from the natural source in a popular book. That these sandals can be made with very basic design. Yet people feel they need to spend excessive money for something the foot does not really need. Kind of reminds me of the infamous main stream shoe industry.

    I enjoy the home made look much better then the professional look. It gives much more character. Though I can understand others paying the "professional tax". However at the end of the day both products function the same. You just pay a lot more for one product over the other for the individually perceived aesthetic factor.

    Though clearly you want a more professional look. That is the great thing about our market we have those choices. I just wanted to share an alternative perspective. That's what these blogs are all about. To interact with each other. This is what happens when we post in public places.

    Hope you figure out your lace issue. Have a great day !

    Longest post #3

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  6. I made my Invisible Shoes two weeks ago and they are pretty decent to run in. The pads of my feet are not robust enough to handle the dirt and gravel fire roads of northern California.

    I ruined a pair of VFF in 1 month on the trails. I don't have a very high opinion of the VFFs. Too constricting on my toes.

    This morning I donned my running socks in the huaraches because it was in the 40's and the mountains were snow covered at 1700 feet. Since I lace my huaraches for "slip on", the fit was terrible and I just ran barefoot in them. Much better. I am able to run for over an hour in them with no discomfort. Wish I could that barefooot!

    Huaraches are a breeze to make. I wish the Vibram blocks of rubber were readily available. There is no way that I will be paying $70 for BFT's Lunas. I am wondering if a fat mountain bike tire would do the trick? You never know! Or maybe a motor cross tire.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Nice with a review on this subject. I have had a pair of Luna Sandals but have had a hard time to make them fit, I really think the lacing is really bad and are not sure if it would get better with the Equus, so any experience with this I would be happy to hear about.

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  8. I'm actually a big fan of the Equus elastic lace. It is a lot easier to tie than traditional laces, and it holds the sandal firmly against your foot. The downsides are that because it holds the sandal so tight to your foot, the lace can feel a little uncomfortable at times. Also, the stretchiness can be an issue sometimes, like going around corners or on trails. If you're havinng trouble with traditional laces, it's worth getting a pair.

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  9. I just ordered a pair of Equus sandals last week and they arrived yesterday.

    Maybe BFT heard your complaints about lace length because the pair of elasticized leather laces that came with my size 12s have tons of extra length. Maybe not enough to do the Roman style, but long enough I will probably cut some length because there isn't a great way to handle the extra without a big bow on top that seems to bug the Mrs. Even if I cut 6" or so I'll still have plenty of "spare tires" to use.

    My only issue seems to be the width of the laces and irritation between my toes. I am usually either barefoot or in flip flops, so I was surprised that, even though I've beat the toe crease into submission over the years, it feels compelled to speak up so quickly when wearing my first pair of huaraches. I'm sure it will subside, but I figured the warnings on the Luna sandals site were just for other people.

    Anyway, I love your blog. Just thought I'd mention the length thing.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I actually got a new pair of laces while testing the Equus sandal for BFT, and I agree with you. The length wasn't an issue on this pair. More than enough extra material. So I have the stupid bow on the top as well.

    The wider lace definitely takes some getting used to. But it will happen. Took me several runs, but now I don't feel it at all.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I figured out that if I made the top strap a little longer and the instep strap a little shorter, the top strap would go straight up the foot (parallel to the metatarsal) instead of across the bottom of my 2nd toe and that was WAY more comfortable.

    That also helped me figure out a way to tie and store the extra lace length so I don't look like I'm giving my foot away as a gift.

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  12. I make my own huaraches. You can buy a giant piece of soling sheet for the same cost as a pair of BFT's sandals. Enough for half a dozen pairs of sandals or less if your feet are big. My craft store has a nice 1/4" suede lacing and the hardware store has some nice nylon rope. I take the center out of the nylon rope to make a thinner cord. I can make the laces as gladiator-styled as I like 'em (I like 6' laces). The suede is really nice. It is soft on the skin and seems to have a little stretchiness.

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  13. I cut the latigo lace in half longitudinally at the knot end to make the lace narrower. I was able to reduce the knot size by more than half. I may not get the same lifespan out of the knot but it is well worth that sacrifice because i cant feel the knot at all now.

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  14. Strap sandals is a comfortable sandals that we can use.
    This the best for everyday use and this will not make your feet hurt.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thanks for providing recent updates regarding the concern,

    ReplyDelete
  16. in my view maples are good for gym flooring and they are durable also but a little care need to take while going for blocking the moisture

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