Jordan Flowers conducted this review in June and July 2011. He is primarily a road runner who shoots for 30-40 miles per week, consisting of 4-7 per day during the week and a 12-18 mile long run on the weekends. Jordan does nearly all his running in a pair of Vibram Bikilas and has just recently started looking for something less padded. He tries to get into a race at least once a month, and is currently training for the Hood to Coast Relay in August. Jordan will run his first marathon in January 2012. He’ll be running minimalist, but exact footwear is yet to be determined.
The following is Jordan’s review of the Luna Equus Sandal. The description from the Luna site describes the Equus as…a premium huarache sandal made by hand to order in Seattle, WA using one of finest leathers in the world called Shell Cordovan on top of a 2mm Vibram rubber sole.
To be clear, the Luna Equus is not a shoe. This is a sandal – technically, a huarache (wah-rah-chay). These sandals consist of a sole strapped to the bottom of your foot by a single strap that starts between the first and second toe and then runs around the back of the ankle, anchoring to each side of the heel through a small hole in the foot bed. Varying slightly by size, the sandal weighs in right around 5 ounces (test pair is a US men’s 12).
The Equus consists of 2mm of flat Vibram sole covered by a 2mm Cordovan leather foot bed. There are several options for laces of varying widths, material and elasticity. I opted to test the ½” elasticized leather laces, which are described on the site as the most comfortable lace option.
The fit of the sandals is one of the biggest highlights. While you do have the option of purchasing sandals in a standard size, Luna offers the option to have a pair of sandals custom fit for your feet. I traced my foot, leaving markings for a toe hole and ankle straps. Once completed, I faxed in my foot tracing and had custom sandals shipped to me in about a week. This option was available at no additional charge.
- The biggest trick to the fit is getting them laced right. Adjusting the strap positioning and ideal tightness take quite a bit of trial and error. Personally, I like the straps pretty tight, but I keep the ankle loop loose so that my foot isn’t pushed forward over the toe hole.
- As for the toe box…it’s a huarache so it’s pretty wide open. My toes are free to curl, spread, grip, spread, push or do anything else they like to do. There are absolutely no restrictions.
- The vamp is one leather strap. The sandals allow your feet to breathe. Since I was testing on a rather warm summer day, it was great to feel the open breeze on my feet. My feet stayed nice and cool. However, these sandals will not provide much protection from adverse winter weather. I’m not sure they’d offer much comfort in icy or snowy conditions.
- The heel is the same 4mm of soling material as the entire shoe. There is no additional rubber, cushioning, elevation or support. After a couple of days of casual wearing, I started to notice the sole of the sandal cupping and molding to my foot. I suspect that this will continue over time until the sandal really takes on the contour of my foot.
My wife called them caveman shoes! I think they have more of a roman soldier appeal. They are certainly unlike anything I have ever run in before. You are certain to get some reactions running in huaraches. Comments will probably range everywhere from, “Hey, you forgot your shoes” to “Wow, that guy is pretty tough”. Regardless, you’ll definitely leave an impression.
Now the important stuff – the road test results. I started with my normal 3.5-mile distance for the trial run in the sandals. It’s an all-pavement run with small rolling hills. I do not push for speed, but try to maintain an easy, constant pace.
The first thing I noticed was a slight slapping sound from the stiff sole striking the pavement. I did my best to land light, but I have yet to find any way to completely eliminate the sound. It only a slight concern since it’s still much less violent than the crashing you feel when heel-striking in a standard running shoe.
At just over a mile, I start to feel a little rubbing between my toes on my left foot. It’s something that I had anticipated, but I thought it would take a little longer to settle in. I try to shorten my stride and quicken my cadence even more, but the rubbing continued. It did not prevent me from maintaining my normal 8-minute pace.
By 3 miles, I had pretty significant pain in both feet. My footpads felt hot! The sensation was nearly identical to when I decided to run barefoot (too far) for the first time. I considered ending my run and walking home, but I figured that would just delay my opportunity to get some ice packs on my soles.
I finished the run and pulled the sandals off to find a big blood blister near the pad of my right foot and a torn blister between my toes on my left foot. There was a small dab of blood on my left sandal, but not enough to cause a great concern.
With the sandals off, I could see that they were already starting to shape to my foot. The once-flat Vibram sole now had a slightly noticeable curve to it. It still looked nothing like the well-worn sandals that you see in most YouTube videos, but I figured it was a good start. Over time, I expect the sandals to really mold to my feet and become more and more comfortable.
After running in the sandals for a few weeks, I would say the pros are:
- The sandals are light and cool.
- My feet breathe and sweat evaporates nicely.
- I get adequate protection from rocks and glass, but can still feel the rough edges as I run.
- The elasticized leather laces make the sandals very easy to slip on and off.
- The shoes stand out and will start many conversations about the benefits of barefoot running.
- The sole is a little firmer than expected.
- The lack of included tying instructions means you have to have an Internet connection.
- The strap between the toes causes some discomfort, but may subside as calluses are formed.
Overall Impression – The Luna Equus is a tough teacher
I realize that my initial pain from running in the Equus was more to blame on me than the shoes.
My maiden run should have been a shorter distance. They felt pretty good, so I just kept going until I hurt myself. Secondly, I believe that footpad blister is a sign that I am pushing off when I run. I can’t blame my bad form on the sandal.
If these sandals force me to improve my gait and cadence, then the pain that I am experiencing will be well worth it.
I cannot stress enough that the discomfort I am feeling is nearly identical to the first time I tried to run barefoot on pavement. To me, that is a good sign that these sandals really do give a natural, barefoot response.
Stay tuned for the follow up review of the hemp laced Equus sandals.
~ Jordan Flowers