Another review in the gear-and-gadgets vein.
First I made my own huaraches. That was really fun, and they worked well enough, but I didn’t have quite the right sole material. The soles were thick enough but not rigid enough. They flopped and slapped, and if I didn’t have them laced fairly tightly the front end would flop down during my stride-through and I would sometimes catch the toe end: not fun!
Then I bought a pair of Luna Sandals, looking for something more rigid for rougher trails. Maybe some of their models are great, but I went too much to the other extreme and bought the Leadvilles which were far too rigid and clunky for my tastes. I still own them, but I honestly can’t imagine a trail that would be so rough that I’d take them over a more minimalist sandal: you really can’t feel anything through them. Miles and miles of sharp scree, maybe. Typical rough and rocky Kootenay back-country trails? Naw.
Finally last fall I bought a pair of Xero Shoes Ventures. They are sort of a hybrid between a flat basic home-made-style huarache and a manufactured sandal. The have techie lacing fittings and slightly engineered soles and a manufactured toe post. But they’re super light and thin, and just barely rigid enough to avoid the toe-catching and slapping sounds I got from my home-made jobbies.
I really liked them, and used them for casual wear, beach and boat stuff, regular runs, trail runs and hiking. Until a couple of months ago, when one of the toe posts fell apart for no apparent reason. I was sad. I had really wanted to like them. I couldn’t decide what to do. I know runners in conventional shoes trade their $120 shoes out every six months or sooner, but as a minimalist runner I thought I was done with that hamster wheel.
Finally a couple of weeks ago I figured I might as well write to the company to ask about buying replacement toe posts. They were fabulous. They apologized profusely for the problem I’d had, said they hadn’t had much of this problem but no manufacturing process was ever completely free of defects, and they would like to send me a free replacement pair of sandals — but could they talk me into their newer Amuri Cloud style, which was a little bit lighter with part of one are of the topsole replaced with thin foam. Sure, I said!
They arrived within a few days, no small feat considering where we live. And I love them even more than I loved the Ventures. Partly because of the slight cushioning and better grip and breathability of the foam, and partly because I like the mocha/black colourway.
I should say that I found both my original Xeros and these new ones quite frustrating to get adjusted at the beginning. You can adjust the overall tightness of the laces, but by sliding the knot you can adjust the angle of the forefoot lacing, and by pushing or pulling the laces through the side-holes you can adjust whether the tightness is more in the forefoot or heel. There’s no real science to what works to prevent excess tightness and discomfort while keeping the heel straps from slipping off. Maybe other people have less trouble than I do. My foot is relatively narrow and tall so perhaps I have an especially small window of optimal fit with this type of lacing. I’d think I had it, but then I’d go for a run and the heel strap would slip down, or I’d get a pressure hot-spot from the knot. Try again. Different problem. Try again.
But eventually I found it, the optimal lacing tension for me. Barely on, but always on. They’re my favourite footwear. I didn’t use them for the circle route because I know that when I haven’t done a lot of recent running in huaraches I get horrid blisters in my toe web-space if I run too long in them. Since these are new, I didn’t have time to acclimate to them. But next time — yeah!