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.