At last May's Born To Run Ultramarathon, I had the pleasure of both meeting some of the creative minds behind Luna Sandals, and 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. It was one of those situations where you really can't believe it until you see it. Well, 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."
The "Original Luna" Sandal
Since I wear sandals 90% 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 well, 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 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 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.
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.
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 (and earned myself a stress fracture). So, I took them out on a short run and light run when I got them.
I decided to run around my neighborhood, so it was primarily on road/sidewalk. The whole time, I was focusing on picking up my feet (I was afraid of tripping from the tops of the sandals catching on the gaps between sidewalk slabs). I also was focusing 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, Lindsay, asked me about the strap between the toes. She expected them to be annoying, but 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. Now was the real test: taking them on the trails. Today I took them on a quick trail run near my house, which although is not very technical, it has some large uphills and downhills. I was a little nervous during the downhills, but overall the sandals performed fantastically.
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.