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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!