Running in Sandals. For Real!

Paprika

Crista has written 23 posts on Salty Running.

I'm currently a graduate student in Clinical Psychology (trying to earn that Ph.D!), freelance creative writer, aspiring ultrarunner, part-time Vegan (and part-time In & Out and Sushi lover), acoustic guitar player and crafter of cute things (like crocheted owls). I like to tackle life head on. I like to learn. And I'm not afraid to make mistakes.

The Original Luna Sandal

I recently took minimalist running to an entirely new level. I’ve started running in sandals. What has compelled me to do such a thing?

At last May’s Born To Run Ultramarathon, I had the pleasure of both meeting some of the creative minds behind Luna Sandalsand witnessed several of the “Lunar Monkeys” (their affectionate nickname for the sponsored sandal-runners) take on the ultras in them. Patrick Sweeney won the men’s 50K at the Born To Run Ultra in a pair, and has won a considerable amount of other races donning them as well. And he’s not the only one. It was one of those situations where you really can’t believe it until you see it. Well, let me say that I saw it with my own two eyes and was blown away. The biggest question I had lurking in my mind was, how often do you stub your toes? I asked Sweeney, “Come on, be honest, how often do you stub your toes?” He laughed, “Surprisingly, never! I’ve kicked rocks a few times, but never stubbed my toes! The rocks actually roll over the top of my feet sometimes. That’s about it.”

 Since I wear sandals most of the time when I’m not running, the idea of always having my feet be free (and have no ugly sock tan-lines) started to compel me to buy a pair for myself. But before I tell you about my own experience running in them, let me give you a little background on Luna Sandals.

Traditional Tarahumara Huarache Sandals

In 2006, as chronicled in Born To Run, Ted McDonald (Barefoot Ted) and six other elite ultrarunners visited the Copper Canyons in Mexico. They found that the native Tarahumara (“the running people”) wore traditional huarache sandals made out of old tires and rope. McDonald is arguably one of the biggest contributing factors to the massive popularity boom in minimalist running. He ran the first Copper Canyon Ultra in a pair of Vibram FiveFingers, and when he returned to the states, he told anybody and everybody who would listen. Many did, and now you can currently find minimalist shoes in all the major running shoe brands (along with Vibram soles). While he was in the Copper Canyons, he also befriended Manuel Luna, a local sandal-maker. McDonald asked Luna to make him a pair of sandals, and an amazing partnership was formed. The rest is history!

Here is Manuel Luna making Barefoot Ted’s first pair of traditional huaraches! Photo Credit: Luis Escobar and LunaSandals.com.

Luna Sandals represents a movement that is not just minimalist, but more so towards our most natural form. On Luna Sandal’s website, they state:

“We believe that when we become more connected and in tune with our own bodies, as well as with each other, we can often regain a fundamental source of happiness and good health. Our bodies are not broken by design, and when we trust them, our instincts, and our desires, we often find a more genuine expression of who we are.”

Adventure World Magazine also stated: “If you want a pair of high-quality, low maintenance minimalist footwear, get a pair of Luna Sandals.”

Ok, so that’s the background information. Now, let me tell you about my experience running in them so far.

My Luna Sandals…still figuring out how to tie them right!

After much deliberation (and looking at the comparison chart on the website) I decided to purchase the Leadville Pacer with the copper-brown suede sole and elasticized leather laces. They weight in at about 6.7 oz, and the sole thickness is at 6mm. They are designed primarily for dry trails, and the added thickness (compared to the thinner and lighter versions) help with the feeling of rocks/technical trails. They are not recommended for wet conditions (hence the suede) but are versatile enough to use on the road. They are flexible and have a snug fit when on. I really like the ability to tie the laces– it allows you to have a more precise fitting.

With any minimalist footwear, it is always recommended that you adjust gradually to the shoes. I’d learned the hard way when I transitioned from cushioned shoes to my minimalist-style Merrells. I earned myself a stress fracture and about a month of recovery time. So, having learned from my mistakes, I took them out on only a short and light run when I got them.

I decided to run around my neighborhood, so it was primarily on the road/sidewalk. During the run, I focused on picking up my feet properly and not letting them drag (I was afraid of tripping from the tops of the sandals catching on the gaps between sidewalk slabs). I also focused on maintaining good running form– there is nothing worse than bad form in non-supportive shoes. Easy, light, smooth, was my mantra the entire time. The sandals felt great. Even more, it was really nice to have my feet be able to breathe. I never realized how confining socks and shoes felt while I was running until I finally ran without them on! I made it home three miles later, completely exhilarated, injury and trip-free! And they didn’t fall apart, untie themselves, or cause blisters.

My cousin asked me about the strap between the toes. She expected them to be annoying, so I was glad to report that they didn’t bother me one bit. I ran in them a second time two days ago, and was delighted that I had another injury-free, trip-free, and blister-free run. Then was the real test: taking them on the trails. I took them on a short trail run near my house, which although is not very technical, it still had some large uphills and downhills. I was a little nervous during the downhills, but overall the sandals performed fantastically. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about my sandal runs in future posts!

My ultimate goal is to be able to run primarily in the sandals (with the exception of extremely technical trails and muddy/wet conditions). It would be even more awesome to be able to race in them (like in the Copper Canyon Ultra, where they originated from). Pssst, Luna Sandals, if you’re ever looking for a female-Lunar Monkey, I’m your gal! ;-)

Luna Sandals are not for everybody. But if you’re like me, and prefer a minimalist approach to running (and life), a pair of Luna Sandals is a perfect addition to your footwear collection. And, might I add, they not only are great running sandals but they are also great everyday sandals as well.

Would you run in sandals?

Disclosure: I was not compensated in anyway by Luna Sandals. These opinions are strictly my own.

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12 Responses to “Running in Sandals. For Real!”

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  1. Viper says:

    I’ve wanted to try the Lunas, but the price is a bit out of my league. I’ve made my own huaraches and now have a pair if Invisible Shoes, but my interest has gravitated more toward actual barefoot running. I ran the Pine Grove/Ledges trails in Peninsula, Ohio, just last week without shoe. Tough, but rewarding. Nice to see others out there looking for more minimalist approach to running. Cheers!

    • Paprika says:

      That’s fantastic that you made your own!! How did you do it? I’ve only ran completely barefoot at the beach, still working towards going barefoot on the trails. Inching my way! :)

  2. Lynette says:

    Nice report, Paprika. I picked up a pair of Les Waddel’s sandals at B2R just because he was there. I’ve run in them several times and do enjoy for freeing experience. My current issue is that I am still recovery from losing skin as a result of deep blisters acquired while running Zion the week before B2R. I still have lots on the calendar this year, so I have ventured to the other side and am trying a pair of Hokas to get me through Wasatch. Next year I have only two races in mind (B2R 100 and Bryce 100), so I plan to take the year off and focus on sandal/barefoot running. Hope to see you running in your Luna’s at B2R 2013. :)

    • Paprika says:

      I wonder how Waddel’s design would compare to the Lunas! I won’t be wearing the Lunas during my races this year (Red Rock Marathon, Malibu Canyon 30K) but next year I want to definitely wear them at Born To Run. Hopefully they will be nice and broken in by then :)

  3. Mint says:

    Nope, I can’t imagine trying to run in sandals, but that is because I think sandals with the toe strap like that are uncomfortable just walking in!

    Truth be told, I am on the fence with minimalist running. When I started, I had a lot of injuries thanks to my biomechanics that were fixed only after I got supportive shoes to correct my over-pronation. Suffice it to say, minimalist running would have gotten me very injured. However, over the years, my shoes have become more and more minimalist (thanks to the shoe company, not my choice). I wasn’t pleased at first, but am now able to do more with less. I even ran my last marathon in racing shoes (minimalist for me) which was huge to me.

    The point I am trying to make is that I see a place for running barefoot and in sandals, but I urge everyone to do so cautiously and to slowly ease into it.

  4. Pepper Pepper says:

    I am not sure I am brave enough to try this. And ditto to the above commenter, it feels so wrong to pay so much to “go minimal” :) Glad you are enjoying the sandals though!

  5. Ben says:

    Wow! 3 miles on your first run? I’ve had mine for months but only for walking. I want to run in them but have never wanted to spend the time getting ready for a 1 mile transitioning run.

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