Official Shoe Review: Earth Runners

Earth Runners.  It just sounds like music to your ears doesn’t it? What a great name for a shoe.  There is no shoe I wear more often than my Earth Runners.  Earth Runners win the award for “Best All Around,” “Best in Show,” or “Most Well Rounded.”  How many times in this post can I say Earth Runners? 🙂  Find ’em at http://www.earthrunners.com.

About:

Way back in the day, in December, I became intrigued by a company called Earth Runners, and made contact with the creator, Michael Dally.  I was fortunate enough to receive a pair for review, the Ultralight model.  Unfortunately, I was unable to run in them right away, because I faced my medical crisis shortly after the arrival of these good looking friends.

Nevertheless, I became a big fan of this small company, which was launched on Kickstarter.  Michael Dally is a smart, active mechanical engineer, who honed his skills at San Diego State University.  He’s also a trail runner who cares about the powerful connection we have to the earth and others.  He further exemplifies this connection by pledging to donate a pair of sandals to Seva Sandals, a nonprofit that donates protective footwear to children in India.

Earthing:

I really can’t review these sandals without discussing the concept of Earthing.  I still don’t really “get it.”  Good description right?  All I know for sure is that the Earth has a rhythm (Schumann Resonance) which I attempt to describe here and here. Barefoot runners often describe a feeling of ultimate connection to the Earth and their surroundings, gathering energy from the ground and those around them.  Additionally, decreasing inflammation in their body because of their soft landing and the neutralization of positively charged free radicals when in contact with the negatively charged electrons on the earth. I totally get that.  Well, the first part of that sentence anyway.  But I know there’s no feeling like running barefoot.  Except now, I get that feeling in Earth Runners too.

See here’s the deal:  Michael has taken his love of trail running and Earthing and put that concept into the perfect minimalist running sandal.  He has placed copper inserts (flush with the bottom of the shoe I might add) in attempt to ground the wearer and connect them to the earth again.  Like running barefoot.  Does it work? I think so.  I find myself getting that same euphoric feeling I experience when running barefoot.  But, I might add that for some reason I don’t notice that feeling until I’m about 10 minutes into my run.  I honestly can’t explain that except maybe it takes me a little while to become “one with the shoe” or perhaps it takes a little while for that connection to register.  Who knows?  Michael created a really cool video I will share here, in which he does an experiment to compare the difference between being grounded with bare feet and then with a pair of his Earth Runners.

The Running Experience:

Admittedly, it wasn’t love at first run.  In fact, I could only go about 2 miles running in them and 4ish miles of walking in them before ripping them off due to an excruciating middle toe blister.  And, I’m an idiot and maybe a little strap OCD, so I couldn’t get the straps where I wanted them.  I probably went on like this for a couple of months before I was smart enough to contact Michael to figure out how to help myself.  Michael kindly told me that he had a Support section of his website with FAQ’s.  Luckily, he told me right away what the problem was and I was able to fix it.  On the first try.  What a difference that made and all I had to do was ask…

After I fixed the straps just by rotating them a little bit, I was able to increase my running distance substantially.  My longest run in Earth Runners has been 10 miles, and they were enjoyable miles on the road. I must admit that I am used to running in a lighter shoe, so the 8 oz. feels a little heavy to me after that distance.  On a personal level, I really enjoy the Earth Runners for my shorter, recovery runs.  Possibly because of the Earthing effect?  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

For this particular model, I  prefer road running.  The tread on the bottom of the Ultralights is not the best for trails as I tend to slip often in dirt/rocks/mud.  I did attempt several times to go for longer trail runs in them, but I ended up changing after a couple of miles due to the slippage.  To give them some credit though, I did try to take them on the steepest, loose rockiest trails in Ventura and Santa Barbara County.  Like, you should probably go down on your butt, if you catch my drift.  If you want to trail run in your Earth Runners, I might suggest another model (he has quite a few to pick from now!) with better tread on the bottom for rugged terrain, like the Circadian model.  And to finish that thought, I prefer to not run trails in huaraches anyway because I am a total accident waiting to happen on a trail, especially now that I live in California.  These trails are rocky and I’m liable to lose a toe.

Once I am running in these, I feel like the shoe becomes a part of my body and I forget I’m wearing them. I really enjoy running in Earth Runners, not only for the feeling, but for the looks I get.  I can only imagine they are thinking how good looking my shoes are 🙂 Below, I’ve marked the ground feel as fair, but this likely has to do with the 6mm sole vs the 4mm sole which is the max I’m used to running in.  The 6 mm sole is quite flexible, and I’ve read reviews that say that if you choose to have a naked footbed (who doesn’t want a naked footbed??) then the ground feel and flexibility is comparable to the Xero Shoes, which have the best ground feel I’ve experienced in a minimal shoe.

Life Experience:

I wear these shoes all the time.  Period.  The only time I’m not wearing them is at work.  But I would, if I could wear open toed shoes.  If I go out on the weekend, I’m wearing Earth Runners.  San Diego trip with my sister? Earth Runners at the zoo, out to eat, all day every day.  Newport Beach to see my hubby’s best friend? Earth Runners out to the bar, Earth Runners to the beach, and everywhere.  I think you get the picture, I’m obsessed with these things, it’s almost like an addiction.  My husband is thinking about getting some because of my borderline attachment.

Techie Stuff:

  • Stack height: 6 mm
  • Weight per sandal: 8 oz as tested (this would likely be different depending on how large your foot is, what type of laces and footbed you choose.)
  • Choice of leather footbed or naked footbed (tested leather footbed)
  • Choice of laces: Nylon with sturdy buckle, leather, or newly offered conductive laces
  • Sizing from chart or custom foot tracing
  • Zero drop (obv)
  • Foot bed forms to your feet
  • Don’t wear them in a thunder/lightning storm (ZAP!)

Pros:

  • Earthing: Come on, what other shoe can you say this about?
  • Comfort during walking/running
  • Easy strapping system (A big plus for a strap illiterate human)
  • THEY LOOK FANTASTIC. Raw, genuine huarache appearance (A plus for my street credit)
  • Versatility (I can go run, hike, or go to a bar in these.)
  • Favorite “recovery run” shoe. These things suck the inflammation right out of my little legs after a long trail run. Ok, I’m not certain that they really do this, but I do feel somehow more rested after going for a quick run or walk in these.
  • The company you’re dealing with stands by their product and is prompt to answer questions (no matter how silly)
  • For every 10 pairs sold, Michael donates a pair to charity

Cons:

  • Fair ground feel
  • Foot slippage in strapping on trails
  • Ultralights: Not the best choice for trails as tread does not accommodate steep, rocky California trails (Try another model?)
  • Barely a con: Straps take some adjusting, breaking in time needed. (Likely the case for all huaraches)
  • Not my first choice for a long distance (10+ mile run) due to strap rubbing over time.

Some pictures for your enjoyment:  Head on over to http://www.earthrunners.com and get yourself a pair.  And tell Michael I sent ya 🙂

Earth Runners hiking
Earth Runners hiking
fresh dirt after a hike
fresh dirt after a hike

IMG_0493

side view
side view
bottom: Sorry about the blue paint, I painted my front door. In Earth Runners of course
bottom: Sorry about the blue paint, I painted my front door. In Earth Runners of course
Earth Runners out and about in Ventura
Earth Runners out and about in Ventura
Earth Runners in my yard :)
Earth Runners in my yard 🙂
Earth Runners at the San Diego Zoo
Earth Runners at the San Diego Zoo
Earth Runners out in Newport Beach
Earth Runners out in Newport Beach
Earth Runners to assist with recovery after BTR Ultramarathon
Earth Runners to assist with recovery after BTR Ultramarathon

Final Thoughts on Vivobarefoot Achilles and a Sad Farewell

Well, my toes are officially abnormal.  I was so excited about the Vivobarefoot Achilles, but sadly I had to put them back in the cute little bag they came in and send them home.  Away from my crazy middle toe that cannot be tamed.  My overall impression was good other than my toe issue.  But unfortunately, because of my whacky anatomy, I really couldn’t run over a mile in these little cutie pies.  Take home message for these shoes: Try them on before you buy!

 

Pros: Ground feel, appearance, easy peasy strapping system (somewhat uncommon in running sandals!), zero drop, 3.5 mm stack height, high quality materials, 4.2 oz weight, vegan.  Love the furry friends!  Split toe design provides good stability, no slippage when running.

Cons: Split toe design is not for everyone.  Case in point, check out my misbehavin’ toe below.  Split toe design will take some getting used to for all you folks with a smaller space between big toe and middle toe and will require a period of breaking in.  Blisters could result during the break in time.

 

HAS ANYONE ELSE HAD TROUBLE WITH THE SPLIT TOE/CAGE DESIGN?  I’D LOVE TO HEAR!  PLEASE TELL ME I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE WITH WHACKY FEET…

 

Bad toe!
Bad toe!

First Impression Vivobarefoot Achilles for Women

Yesterday I got my new Vivobarefoot Achilles in the mail, and I was so excited to run in them for the first time today.  I went skiing all day at Mt. Hood, so I knew I would only go a short distance, but couldn’t resist taking them out for a test drive.  By the way, Mt. Hood Meadows was off the hook!   Great new snow today, had a great time with Mike and Kyle.

The Achilles are a little odd looking 🙂  But that’s never stopped me before, so I took them out for a short 1 mile run because my legs were a little sore from skiing.  I think their appearance is already growing on me and I really like the strapping system. IMG_0613

I will do a full review on the Achilles after I put some more mileage, but here are my initial thoughts:  My left foot took issue with the plastic betwixt (I love the word betwixt and will use it at any opportunity) the toes, and I might have even developed a little blister on my left middle toe if I’d gone further.  This was an issue for some other reviewers as well.  I do think one could get used to this if devoted to running in them.  Other than that, my left foot was so happy and free in the Achilles!

My right foot had an entirely different issue.  My right foot has questionable anatomy, possibly even a little abnormal.  Yes, I will admit I’m abnormal.  I have an extremely large space between my big toe and my middle toe.  Seriously, I could fit another big toe in that space.  When I was in high school, my friend’s mom was convinced that I’d lost a toe, and she had to resort to slowly counting my toes to be sure that I had all my appendages.  Anyway, the result of this deformity is that my right middle toe was like a misbehaving child in my new Achilles.  My middle toe kept jumping out of its little plastic cage and trying to wander away.  This was really a problem, especially at the beginning of the run, but seemed to get better somehow. Time will tell if this is really a problem for me, my wild ass middle toe.  I wonder if it was because I had my foot crammed in a ski boot the entire day and the toe couldn’t be restrained any longer? Run free middle toe.  Other than this issue, I know that running in them would have been pure bliss.

Bad toe!
Bad toe!
abnormal toes
abnormal toes

 

Initial Review of My New Huaraches From Invisibleshoe.com

The other day, I watched a video on YouTube called “Sh*t Barefoot Runners Say,” which I of course thought was hysterical, in case you didn’t see my Facebook status, tweet or last blog post that I put the video in.  Here is the video, yet again, in case you missed it:

Apparently, the mastermind behind this video is Steve Sashen out of Boulder, CO who is CEO of the shoe company Invisible Shoes at invisibleshoes.com.  Invisible shoes are also known as huaraches, or the running sandals of the Tarahumara Indians.  These cute little shoes were made famous by Christopher McDougall’s earth shattering book, Born To Run.  Half asleep the other morning and procrastinating on doing my patient paperwork from the day before, I decided I HAD TO HAVE a pair.  Steve was so likeable in his video, I thought to myself, I want to do what this guy’s doing! So I finally ordered my very first pair of huaraches  after being such a loyal Vibrams wearer for two years now. 

The shoes are custom fit, so I had to send in a tracing of my foot, which I found very exciting.  My very own custom shoes, we’re gettin’ fancy now.  They have a video on the website that gave me step my step instructions, so I didn’t mess it up too terribly.  I also decided to splurge and so I ordered a custom charm of a tribal sun to adorn my ever so beautiful Tarahumara feet.  When I say splurge, I should mention that these are actually the cheapest shoes I’ve probably ever bought.  $39.95 for the shoes, plus $4.50 for the ever necessary decorative pendant.  I picked blue cord for the shoes and opted to have them go ahead and make them for me, tied and all.  You also have a choice to buy a kit and make them on your own, but I would surely destroy them so I decided to take full advantage of the custom services.

Two days later, literally, I received my shoes in the mail.  Holy hell, that was fast!  I didn’t believe it was the shoes at first, because they just came in a thin envelope that weighed about as much as a few pieces of paper in there.  With the help of the “Tying” section of the website, I got my laces adjusted and started wondering around in the shoes.  What I immediately noticed was that I would probably have to fiddle around with the lacing a bit to get the fit just right.  I realized that I probably tied them too tight, but decided to go out for a “short” run anyway. 

Six miles later, I realized I should probably call it a night in my new friends, considering it was my first go round with them.  I was having a blast!  The laces were definitely too tight and left little indentations around my heel and top of my foot, but otherwise I didn’t even notice the straps.  I was really surprised that the strap between my toes didn’t bother me at all. 

As far as ground feel, you could almost feel the stems of the leaves through the soles, which are 4mm thick.  Or 4mm thin, to be more accurate.  Invisible Shoes does sell 6mm thick soles as well if you want a bit more protection.  The ground feel was different compared to Vibrams, not necessarily in a good or bad way.  The difference was that when I stepped on a stick for example, the whole sole bends a bit to form around the stick whereas when barefoot or in Vibrams, I feel my foot forming to the stick a bit more.  My feet also seemed a bit wider and longer in these shoes, probably because the soles extend slightly beyond the parameter of your foot just like any sandal would.  Again, I think that this was neither good or bad, but probably something that would take some getting used to.

They probably weigh about 3.2 ish oz, as Steve has on his website that a men’s size 9 weighs 3.4 oz.  I wear a women’s size 6, so you get what I’m saying.  They felt very light, and I felt myself running more aware, similar to the awareness when I’m barefoot running.  When I’m in Vibrams, I think I tend to sleep-run a bit more because I know that I’m still protected if I hit my toe…while this is good for sleeping, it can lead to form deterioration, which of course is not good for healthy running.

I also felt the muscles in my legs and core were really activating as in barefoot while running in my new huaraches.  It’s amazing how just that little tiny bit of flexible material on the VFF soles does support your foot and arches just enough to where you do not get the same strengthening benefit of being totally bare.  I will say that I think these new huaraches will be a great addition to my “barefoot footwear,” which is of course, ridiculous to have as much minimalist footwear as I do!!  They really did feel as if they were a part of my foot by the end of the run, which is what I was hoping for.  In the beginning, they felt a bit awkward because my foot felt overall larger hitting the ground, but it didn’t take long to get in the groove.  I should mention this was a road run, I’ve yet to try them on the trails.  I’ll try to hit the trails with them this weekend and provide an update after that magic happens.

I felt very native and wild in my new huaraches, which was totally exciting. I considered doing a few tribal yells or maybe some dancing, but figured that would be overkill in suburbia.  Of course, everyone passing was staring at me anyway.  I wore my Portland Marathon Finisher shirt just to prove I was hardcore and not just some crazy banshee running around.  Afterall, looks are the most important thing right?  At least I looked good. 

This is day two with my new huaraches, and I’m wearing them now as I sit here and write this.  I spent some time loosening the straps today and they feel so much better already.  I’m so excited, I think I’ll go out for another 5 mile run now.  But not before I share some pictures with you!  Behold, my beautiful feet and caveman huaraches.  Er, please ignore the dirt/mud, I can’t ever seem to get all of it out from under my toe nails during Portland mud season.  I know, I know. 

SO WHAT DO YOU THINK?  HAVE YOU EVER WORN HUARACHES, OR DO YOU WANT TO TRY THEM?   

Look how cute my pendant is!