Coming right off my announcement that we are moving to San Diego this summer, it feels rather fitting to be reviewing a product that comes out of the West Coast. Founded by none other than Barefoot Ted McDonald, the illustrious insane barefoot character in Chris McDougall’s book Born to Run, Luna Sandals is located in Seattle, Washington. The name Luna comes from a Raramuri dude named Manuel Luna, who actually taught Barefoot Ted how to make his own pair of running sandals.
And now, you can wear his running sandals!
I’ve always sort of dug Luna Sandals, they’re gorgeous and super high in quality. And any runner can up their cool factor by ten points or so just by wearing them (which is something I definitely needed). But I never much saw myself actually running in sandals. I had worries about pinching, rubbing, hot spots and bloody toes. Especially bloody toes. I mean, I can barely walk across my office building without bruising my hands on metal filing cabinets or stubbing my foot on the edge of a desk. But, after some unexpected networking, I was granted a very generous discount to try out a pair.
So I jumped over to the website and discovered all of the different choices of sandal that Luna offers. Suddenly, I could see myself running in these things! You can take your pick from several different footbeds, including trail soles, or you can even get a DIY kit to make your own, if you are so inclined. Not to mention three different lacing choices: leather, elasticized leather, and something called ATS laces. ATS stands for “All Terrain Strapping,” which, unlike the other styles, has its own backpack-style buckle closure (rather than the traditional wrap-and-tie method) that makes last-minute adjustments a little easier.
I decided to go with the Original Luna Sandal footbed, which is a 6mm neoprene Vibram (yeah, those guys are everywhere) sole with a thin suede leather covering. When I started to look at their sizing, I noticed that you could measure your foot width as well as length to choose the right size. But, not surprisingly, the width of my foot was like three sizes higher than the length. So I went with the option to have my sandals custom made to fit my foot. Which is GENIUS! I mean, how many other shoe companies do you know that are willing to make you a shoe that’s exactly the shape of your foot? Can you say amazing customer service?
It was fun, too. I got out a sheet of paper and some markers and drew the outline of my Flinstone feet. It felt a little CSI and a little 3rd-grade-Thanksgiving-turkey-art. I was tempted to write “gobble-gobble” in the margins. Then I sent it along to Dylan, who is one of the chillest sales reps I’ve ever spoken with. In fact, I’ve met about half the team and so far they’re all laid-back and super friendly.
The question of lacing choice was a little harder for me. I have always loved the way traditional huaraches look, all wrapped up the ankle like ballerina shoes. Of all the lacing styles I’ve seen for running sandals, the traditional tie is the most feminine looking as well (no offense, guys). That style of sandal happens to be in fashion for women this summer, too. But I decided to go with the ATS lacing because I wanted to run in these, and I wanted to get the most feasibly comfortable style, so that I would have a better shot at actually wanting to run in them.
I won’t say that a little part of me doesn’t want a second pair with the original lacing…but alas. Story for another day.
A week and a half later, they came in the mail…and they were breathtaking! I mean, it sounds weird to say that about a pair of sandals, right? But they were. They were just so…undeniably cool.
Soon as I put the sandals on they felt comfortable. The footbed is supple, soft and almost silky (alliteration is fun). The shape is exactly the shape of my foot, no falling off the edge, a big deal for me! The heel strap is elasticized for comfort and fit. The plug hole at the top of the shoe (between my toes) has an indent at the bottom, so I can’t feel a lump on my second toe like one might with some other huarache laces.
I will admit the ATS lacing was a bit tough for me to figure out at first. Tighter or looser? Should the elastic stretch across my heel or just sit there? How close should the buckle be to my ankle? The first two runs I took in them, I stopped about a half dozen times, tightening and re-tightening. I found that the way I need to wear them for running is not comfortable when I am walking, and vice-versa.
I learned that for comfort and stay-put-ability purposes, the buckle on the ATS laces must be adjusted tightly and as close to your ankle as possible, positioned behind that bump on the top of your foot. Otherwise it gets loose faster and it somehow tends to throw off the way the rest of the shoe fits (although it’s really not an issue when walking). Only problem is I can’t get the buckle to stay there; the loop that attaches the buckle to the lace is a little on the loose side, and as a result it keeps sliding back toward my toes. I’ve actually considered stitching the loop down to keep it there, and that might solve the problem. Also, this could just be an issue for my particular foot…as you may have read time and time again, I have a weirdly-shaped one.
Lacing aside, running in the Luna sandal is really, really FUN. The soles are truly comfortable. I love that I have air on my toes instead of hot fabric, and yet I don’t feel like I’m missing out on any of the positives of wearing shoes. I think they help me keep my form a little better than shoes, too. The first few times I wore these I got hot spots; but then it stopped. Since then my form has felt a little more natural, and I have been able to run farther barefoot, as well.
The original luna sandal was made for all terrain. I haven’t tried them on trails, I am not in any particular hurry to find out whether I’ll like having little tiny rocks trapped between my foot and shoe. But they are fine on roads. It’s probably good to point out that I have also had none of the pinching, rubbing or bloody toes referenced earlier. Please ignore the broken toe nails, though – hazards of running a hilly 50k.
Since it’s now summertime, my Lunas have all but replaced my other running shoes, sandals and flip-flops. I have been wearing them everywhere. To the grocery store, to the beach, out to dinner, even to the office. As I mentioned before, the ATS lacing isn’t the most feminine of Luna’s choices, but I’ve gotten along just fine. I’m happy to sacrifice for comfort, these days.
But don’t be surprised if I show up some day soon wearing a second pair of these babies, with traditional lacing. Oy vey.
Overall, I am very impressed with my Lunas. They exceeded my expectations for comfort, and they have made me into a cooler runner and person.