I have to confess that as a barefoot runner, you have to get a pair of sandals. It’s simply not fun to run barefoot for long in cold climate or in warm climate. Malaysia being the later, from 11am onward, the surfaces you run on tend to get way too hot. You can’t run much… Even the hard core sifus do run with sandals… Sandals are also useful for non even surfaces like rocky trails, … you get it !
Having read Born to Run from Christopher Mcdougall, I knew about the Huarache. They are traditional sandals that were wore all over the world by tribal groups. They’re usually thin, with a rope that goes around the foot to keep it attached to the sandals. Nowadays, you can buy modern Huarache… you can still go get an old tyre and carve your own one (I might try one day for fun !)… but it’s better to buy a pair online.
There are 2 main brands I would say (don’t be upset if your favourite brand is not there or if your fake Havaianas is not there too): Luna Sandals (http://lunasandals.com) and Xeroshoes (http://xeroshoes.com).
When you look at people doing races, the most popular and seen is the Luna Sandals. I’m not sure if it’s because the owner is Barefoot Ted (from the book), that they have more models or that they are really better for races… I know people with Xero shoes and people with Luna… seems more with Luna.
Back in April 2015, after completing 3-4 full months of barefoot running gradually, I decided that I would buy a pair of Luna Sandals. I did not really know what to buy (they have so many models…), so I ended deciding to buy a pair of Luna Venado. These are road sandals, they have very little threads at the bottom, which means you won’t go on a trail with them. They are only 6mm thick, which is similar to my minimalist Merrell Road Glove 2 shoes. As a comparison the Mono is 12-13mm thickness. I did not know about the Xero at that time.
I had a dilemma on the size to choose as I did not really know what to order. They do have templates that you print and you can contact their online support by email to send them pictures of your feet, … They will advise you on the size to use. Honestly that’s great service as these sandals are not the usual cheap flip flop. They’re quite expensive if you think of it: a pair of Mono is 90 USD + 15 USD of international shipping to Malaysia + import duties (if applicable). So you better get the right size. In the US, you can mail them back but not in Malaysia !
I ended being advised to use a Men size 9. Their templates are more clear now. They added these pictures. It actually make you understand how the sandal should fit and be worn. At that time, it was NOT at all clear to me…
I ordered online and received my sandals via Fedex in less than 10 days. It took 2 days to complete custom clearance because the Royal Malaysian Customs decided that my pair of sandals was worth 125USD despite being 87 USD. For first customers who subscribe to their mailing list, they were giving a 8 USD rebate. Worth checking if you want to buy a pair ! See below the summary of the invoice. After Customs re-checked the invoice, they waived the 45RM of import duties.
Fitting the sandals…
Well, that’s simple at first but I have to say I struggled a lot. And I’m still struggling. You need to have your foot at the front of the sandal as they mention on their template. Then you have the “rope” going around your foot. You have to decide if it should be very tight, tight, or a bit loose or very loose… No one told me what to put.
I started with quite tight, because I noticed on a first walk that if the laces are not tight enough, my foot goes to the back of the sandal (and the heel ends up a little bit outside – you can feel it) while at the front there is a cm between the end the the big toe… However when I put it very tight, the sandal was not moving much but I had pain at the achilles because it was way too tight on it… Then I realised after doing couple of kilometres, I had some blister issues… not at the bottom of the foot but on the sides where the laces were interleaving each other and touching my skin. Also at the big toe, I had some blisters if it was too tight (and even later if not)…
Some of it is because of my feet: the skin except the sole is very soft. After piling up some kilometres running with the sandals, the toe blisters got resolved by itself. I had to get few ones and do always more than 10km. Before 10km, all is good. Doing more than 12km was an issue. However I had to increase the distance with the sandals by having a more loss setting. This seems OK but the foot is going toward the heel/end of the sandal, so it’s not really good. When there is water it becomes worse and the setting is becoming more loose. I managed once to do 30km easy like that but often than not, I had chaffing on the sides (Back to Endurance, LSD in Putrajaya). One time I was out for 20km and I had tightened a little bit the left foot… bingo I got blister and was forced to finish barefoot. So it’s not easy for me…
Here are the setting you can play with:
- The Buckle located at A1/B5 can move along the lace following the yellow arrows. This setting seems to be helping people who struggle to keep the heel strap not falling down. Honestly it never happened to me… I recently tried to move up the buckle to secure more the ankle part and avoid moving forward/backward in the sandal… not satisfied quite yet.
- On the left side of the sandal, you have the lace coming from A1 to A2. At A2 it goes behind the front lace, goes under the sandal at A3 to come out at A4 where it goes up to go behind the lace at A5 then to A6. Note the white dots mean that that part goes behind what you see on the picture.
- On the right side of the sandal, the lace start at B1, goes to B2 on the outside, where it is on the outside right of the sandal, it goes under to get back on the top of the sandal inside at B3 to go up behind the strap to B4 then to B5 the buckle where the extra lace goes.
- The front loop is the ATS lacing. It’s a smaller piece of the lace that will help secure the sandals over your ankle.
If you want to have a tight heel for example you need to tighten on the left side to have the right length, move the lace toward the heel. On the right side, you need to bring more lace in from the heel onto the buckle where you can tighten it.
My current status with the Lunas…
I’ve been managing 1 LSD of 30km with the Luna with a loose setting. Then the next weekend I got blister on the left foot after tightening a bit… Overall I was able to do shorter training with them but not the long ones often. I cooked about 130km with them in 5 months. It was OK but not great as the foot moves quite a bit. However no blisters. If you look how the sandal fits, it’s wrong I think because my foot is toward the bottom. It does not seem to be a wrong size of sandals. I decided to experiment different settings to see how I can fix this. I have to get this fixed before ordering a pair of sandals for trail running (if ever…).
As you can see there is variation between both feet ! The left stayed in place while the right moved to the back… Some advice on fitting the Luna Sandals:
I still have a lot to experiment to find the right setting 🙁 but I like the sandals. They’re fast, have the barefoot feel. I hate though the flip flopping sound they can make but…it’s a sandal issue, nothing they can do. The ATS strap is great. I really want to make this work because… I’m ready to ditch totally even my Merrell 🙂 Having ran barefoot for 9 months now, it really increases my lower leg strength. I can sustain longer distance…but at night or in the afternoon, I need sandals to protect my feet from what I can’t see or from the sun !
I’ll be experimenting with various setting and document that here…