Saturday, November 3, 2012

Stuff I like: Luna Sandals

If you've read Christopher McDougall's Born to Run, then you're familiar with minimalist running, the Tarahumara Indians of northern Mexico, and Barefoot Ted.  (If you haven't read Born to Run, you really should.  It's one of my favorite running books ever.)  Inspired by the huarache sandals the Tarahumara run in, Barefoot Ted designed Luna Sandals on the same principle, only with some modern touches. The Tarahumara might use an old tire for the sole; Ted uses a Vibram sole.  The Tarahumara use leather straps; Ted uses nylon webbing with a Fastex buckle.  But it's the same idea.
Usually those 1/2-off e-mail offers go straight to the trash, but this one caught my eye.  I had been curious about Luna Sandals for a long time, but the $80 price tag put me off.  For $40, though, I'd give them a shot.  They arrived at a time when I was in a bit of a running lull, so for the first few weeks I had them, I just wore them to walk around.  They quickly became my favorite shoes.  I've always worn flip-flops, but if I'm doing much walking, I don't like them.  I have to sort of flex my toes a funny way to keep them on my feet.  That gets old.  I've also worn several different full-strap sandals (Teva, Merrell).  I like those, but they're always too heavy and have too bulky a sole. 

The Lunas capture the best of both worlds: they're super simple and light, like my favorite flip-flops, and they stay on my feet well, like Tevas, only without any extraneous straps.  I wear them every chance I get.  I would wear them to work if I could.  (In fact, I have seen women at work with shoes almost as stripped down as these.  Why do women get to wear strappy sandals and flip-flops to work and men don't?  Sexism in the workplace!)

Now for the running.  I have worn my Lunas on several runs, all primarily on pavement, the longest being 9 miles.  I have concluded that the only time I would wear these to run is on flat, straight, smooth courses.  The thin sole is perfect; just a little bit of ground feel with adequate protection.  I have run with less on trails, but I think most runners want a thicker sole if a trail has any rocks or roots.  For smooth dirt, they'd be fine.  (They do make a trail version with a thicker sole.)

My problem with running in these is two-fold.  First, if you have any lateral movement at all, you will have a hard time keeping your foot in the footbed.  I noticed this especially when throwing the football around with my boys.  Quick stops or sidesteps had me on the verge of stumbling.  I can imagine that if you run on a winding trail, you would be wishing for more lateral control.  The second problem is more significant.  I love the smooth leather footbed, but on even a slight incline, my foot slides back.  Obviously, the straps keep me from sliding all the way out, as I would with flip-flops.  I tightened the straps as tightly as I thought I comfortably could, but still got some sliding.  Where I usually run, this isn't a big deal, but on a hilly course, the sliding would get really old.  I also slide some if I start quick.

I have continued to run in my Lunas, but as I look toward Isle du Bois, I think I'll start running more in my Vibrams.  For an everyday shoe, I LOVE my Lunas.  But for a running shoe, I don't think they're my first choice.  Also, as much as I love them, I am not sure I can swallow the $80 price tag.  I hope mine don't wear out until I get another 1/2 price offer in my inbox.

Buy Luna Sandals at their web site.  I just went to get the link and saw this:
You can choose between a copper brown suede leather footbed and the MGT footbed. Our new MGT (Monkey Grip Technology) footbed maintains the black, low profile, look of the naked top Lunas while improving traction and durability. For wet and muddy conditions go with the MGT footbed.The leather footbed adds comfort, helps it form to your foot, and absorbs some moisture.
Hmmm....  Sounds like I might need to keep my current pair for daily wear, and order a MGT pair for running. . . . .

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