First off, I would like to note that I am not endorsed or affiliated with Earth Runners in any way. After a great conversation with the owner, he gave me a coupon to try them out. I had been considering huaraches for a while, but couldn’t decide on which brand. With 15% off I figured I would give them a try; the worst that could happen is I would end up with a new pair of beach sandals. I bought them and after a week and a few dozen miles of roads, trail, and Colorado’s mountainous terrain…..I present my comparative review. The first night was interesting. I took them out for an easy 6 miles, not yet broken in, with roughly no idea how they should feel, I adjusted them frequently and ran mile 4 and 5 barefoot for comparison, finishing the last mile with them on.
The Home Team:
Vibram Five Finger Bikila EVO. I have put in 4 years in the mid-thickness, Vibram running shoes, not having tried the thicker Treks or the the thinner flats. When I am not barefoot, these are my footwear of choice. 8.6 mm without socks.
Earth Runners Circadian with leather straps and a Vibram rubber sole. The huarache is an ancient design. Thousands of years old, recently popularized in the media by the Tarahumara in the novel Born to Run. Its a classic, but something I haven’t tried. 6 mm without socks.
They offer the same protection over rocks, sticks, dirt, and broken glass. There isn’t much to say as far as “padding” or support – you need to know how to run BAREfoot if you’re going to run in either of these. However at the end of the day, I hate glass in my foot and like a little something to soften the blow of sharper rocks and nuts and things. They both do well in this regard.
Moving fast through slick mud was easy going with the Vibram tread. I used to run barefoot at the Noland Trail in Newport News, and still do when I am in town, where there are some really soft-silt sections that can have your feet sliding out from under you in a heartbeat. It helped teach me to be a better barefoot runner, but still…accidents happen. The tread, although minimal, handled it well.
VFFs As I told my wife after the 50k, I feel like the latest pair of VFFs fit me length wise, but do not allow my forefoot to splay fully. I felt…cramped? I do not remember this feeling in my KMDs.
ERs No problems, I felt like my foot was able to splay, form, bend, and do all that it is supposed to do. Light and free.
Note: There is a break in period where the leather straps are stretching and working into their final shape. I had to adjust a lot the last few runs, both to accommodate the stretching leather and my own personal learning curve.
VFFs When they get wet, they stay wet…ish. Without socks is better, they tend to dry more…however I know a lot of people like toe socks for the comfort and padding, etc. They definitely do not slog as bad as shoes, and give you the freedom of tromping through puddles, but still hold it in more than the ERs.
ERs Water, sweat, and moisture dries fast. Layer of mud creates lubrication, slipping. Had to pull them off and wipe my feet and the sandal bed.
VFFs Little rocks, dirt, and debris means taking them off to clear it out. Let’s not talk about the beach.
ERs Little rocks caught under your foot, easy removal. Does not happen really at all despite what I was expecting. I imagine these will be nice at the beach.
VFFs I always felt like my toes jammed up at the ends of them going down steep rock faces and descents. Not killer, and. I never had any “black toe”, it just is not comfortable. ERs I’m still getting the fit down, but sometimes the lateral slide is a bit much. I feel I go off the sides of the sandal on steep faces running sideways, but then again that just may be a nature of the beast, or I am still not mastering the art of tightening them. Moving down a forward incline is nothing, though. I thought the thong strap would bother me but I do not notice it.
The Mental Aspect
VFFs I have kicked a rock or two in my VFFs and it hurts. A lot. I never think about it till I smash something.
ERs I think with less protection on top I was actually more consciously and subconsciously mindful of running on technical terrain for fear of smashing my toes to bits. It is an interesting notion to bring up in a shoe review but after a week of consideration I find it a valid point to bring up.
VFFs They didn’t keep my feet toasty, but I was warm in snow, freezing rain, and any other foul weather. I could put on socks and be wet but warm enough.
ERs I assume I will be colder in the snow. I suppose I can wear toe socks but I have yet to try.
Well…. I feel this one goes to to the Earth Runners. I love my toe shoes and find their goofy look appealing and endearing; but as a fashion conscious guy who uses Pinterest…I think the Earth Runners get the point here.
I have really enjoyed my week in the Earth Runners. I find them to be a well made product, and a joy to run in.
The leather is a great option – it feels great and looks sharp. I dig the comfort of the straps, and the Vibram sole speaks for itself. I don’t need to say much on that, other than look at the sole on most of the shoes in REI.
I feel the Earth Runners certainly hold their own in the minimalist footwear category. With many viable minimalist alternatives they are a fantastic option. It is a younger company, still working to gain a foothold (heh..) in the market, with website improvements, improved ordering, and other new options on the way. Keep an eye out, big things are on the way from these guys.
If you pick up a pair, let me know what you think.
Have you tried them or any other huaraches? Leave it in the comments below!
Thank you for reading! The generous folks at Earth Runners have offered a 5% discount to readers of this review available at their website, just use code WINGEDLING5 at checkout.