As you may already know, I'm a huge fan of "barefoot" shoes-- shoes with minimal soles, especially those that can be worn barefoot. Yes, I'm too busy for socks. I really liked a lot of things about Vibram FiveFingers, but their synthetic materials always ended up smelling bad, forcing me to spend a lot of time washing them. After a while I switched to huaraches made by invisible shoe, which I had few problems with. But a couple weeks ago, Michael from Earth Runners asked if I'd like to try a pair of his barefoot sandals.
I haven't put many miles on the Earth Runners yet, but they've already taken the place of the invisible shoes. The two major advantages they have are the build quality and a much more reliable lacing system. The Earth Runners looked great in pictures, but they're even better in person. They were custom made from a tracing of my foot, and the quality is top notch. When my friend Todd first saw them, he immediately commented on how well made they look. They feel really great, too-- I like the leather footbed and the neoprene is a much better sole than I expected. I imagined something like wetsuit material, but it's actually pretty dense and molds quickly to your feet. Not much cushion, but that's how I want it anyway.
If I had any gripe about the invisible shoes, it was that the knot that extended through the bottom of the sandal was prone to break. This didn't happen often-- maybe once or twice a year, but I once found myself in the middle of Bogota wth a broken sandal and no immediate way to repair it. The Earth Runners have a flat patch of rubber on the bottom, shielding whatever holds the nylon strap laces in, leaving no way for the pavement to eat away at the laces. On the sides of the sandal are metal loops that guide the nylon webbing straps. At first I thought that they would scratch my floor, but when the shoe is laced they lift into the air a little bit. Because of the sheer nature of the laces, they really have to be exactly the right tension or they slip off. It took me a few adjustments to get mine right, but there's quick release clasp that makes this pretty easy.
As much as I'd like to, I can't write this review without talking about the earthing properties of the sandal. I'll start out by saying that I've done very little research on the topic, but what little I did do had more than a few people calling it pseudoscience. I'm inclined to agree. The shoes have copper plugs through them which conduct electricity between you and the earth, thus grounding you. I fully believe that the Earth Runners are successful in doing this. I just don't think it matters. I could be wrong, though-- maybe Michael will reply here with some links to offer a counterpoint. On the other hand, I always get static shocks when I'm in the dry carpeted environment in Vegas, and these shoes prevent that. And, to be honest, the copper things just look cool, so I'm glad they're there.
All in all, these are really great minimalist sandals. They're durable, comfortable, and VERY nicely made. I really like things that are built with care and high quality materials, and these are the best built sandals I've ever seen. Other than my Five Finger boots I wear for motorcycling, the Earth Runners are the only shoes I wear.
Right now they're doing a Kickstarter campaign, which you can check out here. I'd love to see them get fully funded, and love to see more people wearing their sandals.
Besides giving me this pair AND making me another pair that I'll wear for a hike I'm doing in Peru in a couple weeks (special camping version of the gear post coming), Michael has offered to give a pair away to a reader of Tynan.com. Here's how the contest will work:
Step 1. Leave a reply to this post, just to "register" and be eligible for the contest .
Step 2. Leave a high-quality reply to any other post on Tynan.com or DanielOdio.com OR start a thread in the community section of either site about anything. Whoever's post has the highest rating wins a free custom pair of Earth Runners. If there is a tie and one entry is a community post and one is a reply to a post, the community post will win. If they're both the same type of post, whichever has fewer downvotes will win.
Do not try to cheat. Cheating includes stuff like posting to Facebook and saying "Upvote this post to help me win!". If I think you've cheated OR if your post is so bad that I can only assume you must have asked people to vote for you, I reserve the right to disqualify you.
I had a bit of a love affair with the Vibram Five Fingers. Todd got a pair right before we headed to Tokyo on Life Nomadic 2008, and I was jealous the whole time. Near the end of the trip Vibram graciously sent me a pair (intentionally delayed until after the running of the bulls, because they didn't want to be associated with that), and I wore them as my only shoes for a couple years afterwards.
I love how the Five Fingers feel, I love how they look, and I love supporting such an innovative company, BUT.... they smell terrible.
If you wear them as your primary shoes, you have to wash them every five to seven days or they smell really bad. When you live in an RV, this is difficult to do well, and when they're your only set of footwear, it's annoying to wait for them to dry. So I began searching for a replacement.
I'm sure we've all heard about people who train barefoot. A lot of us have looked at them like they're crazy. Shoes give added support, cushioning, and protection to the foot, right?
Well, is it right? First lets look at some anecdotal evidence:
Shoes are a fairly recent invention, being only several thousands of years old. The Hominini tribe, the earliest ancestors of Homo-sapiens genus, divulged from their Pan genus brethren 6.3 million years ago. The human foot, and all the body's supporting mechanisms for the foot, evolved over millions of years to be fairly good at what it does. We could probably trace the evolution of the human foot even farther back, but lets go from there. Human feet were designed to be walked on. Shoes stop you from walking on them.
You are probably wearing shoes right now. Take them off, and put one on your desk. Look at it. Do you see how the toe is curved upward? This is done so it is even possible to walk in shoes.
When you walk barefoot, you strike with the middle of the heel, rolling forward onto the balls of the feet, and then there is a powerful push-off from the balls of the feet. When running, they were designed to strike in the midfoot, not the heel. Shoes alter your gait - when you walk in shoes, the back of your heel strikes first, and your foot rolls forward, and then you push off your toes which creates a rocking motion. When you run with shoes, it feels "natural" to run heel-to-toe, which causes a jarring shock to your ankles and knees. High heels exacerbate problems caused by an unnatural position of the foot. They cause different and unnatural stresses on the bones of the foot, the ankle, the knee, up to the pelvis and even through the shoulders. It raises the heel, which is the foot's natural supporter of weight, by an inch, two inches, sometimes even four or five inches! The entire weight of the body is transferred to the ball of the foot, while the pelvis and the shoulders tilt to compensate for the difference in weight distribution.