Sun Run Race Report and Luongo Footwear Review

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

Race Report

This past weekend saw the third running of the Dee Why to Manly “Sun Run“. This 7km course takes in some of Sydney’s most picturesque beaches as the sun rises over the water.

SunRunBibUnfortunately for myself and several thousand other racers, the ideal was a bit removed from the reality. Arriving just before dawn, we sat huddled at the start line, waiting for the sun to come up and the torrential rain to cease.

In truth, however, the rain only seemed to add to the sense of enjoyment of the assembled runners, as we slogged our way together from once headland to the next.

Photo credit: Sydney Morning Herald

Photo credit: Sydney Morning Herald

This was my first race since injuring my ankle back in October, and it was also a great opportunity to test out my pair of Luongo Footwear (more on this later). As such, I wasn’t out for any PRs, and had the chance to take it easy and enjoy the run.

To my surprise, there were several minimal shoe wearers out there. I counted 4 all up! Each was sporting a version of Vibram Five Fingers, (2 Spyridons, a Bikila and a KSO). With the Sun Run being a relatively small race, this was a surprisingly large showing, and I’m certain there were others that I didn’t get a chance to see.

I even ran into another barefooter, who I had a chance to chat with briefly. I get pretty excited when I see other barefooters at a race, and think it’s great to see that this ‘fad’ is carrying on, with new blood injected at every race.

As for the course itself, it was pretty barefoot friendly. It was run entirely on regular roads, most of which were nice and smooth. There were a few rough sections that beginners might find troublesome, but with white lines and footpaths close by, these were relatively minor annoyances.

My one gripe for the race was that there was limited information on public transport options, and a lot of the parking facilities were closed due to the hour and street closures for the race itself. I hope that this gets rectified in time for next year’s run.

I look forward to doing this race again next year – hopefully in the sun!

Luongo Footwear Review

Luongo_logoOne of the main reasons I chose to sign up for this year’s Sun Run was to get a chance to test out Luongo Footwear in race conditions. As far as I know, I’m the first person ever to review these shoes for use in racing, and want to thank the guys at Luongo for giving me the opportunity.

Before I talk about performance, I think it’s a good idea to talk a bit about the shoes.

Luongo1

Luongo Footwear are unlike any shoes I’ve worn for running before. Made from neoprene and nylon, they are incredibly light and breathable. They are snug-fitting and conform nicely to the shape of your foot.

They are up there with some of the most minimal shoes I’ve worn, to the point that, honestly at first, I thought they would simply fall apart on my feet. Luckily they have proven to be surprisingly resilient, and very comfortable.

Luongo3

I managed to get a few short training runs in the Luongos before the race, and each time, I was surprised at how well they would go. When standing around, getting ready, I found them a bit on the warm side, and was aware of my feet sweating a little. This initially had me worried about overheating when running, but once I was out on the road, the shoes really came into their own. The porous material and minimal design allow the breeze to flow through the shoes and surround your feet, which keeps them nice and cool.

When I saw the sheets of rain coming down as I set out for the race, I had second thoughts about bringing the Luongos. They’re porous shoes, and would instantly be soaked through once I stepped outside.

Instead, what happened was that the water actually helped the shoes conform to my feet. They stayed warm and comfortable, despite the frigid rain. Who’d have thought that wet  shoes could be comfortable?

Luongo2

They didn’t have the flopping feeling that a lot of really minimal shoes have, and honestly, I pretty much forgot about them for most of the time I was wearing them.

Around the halfway mark of the race, I did end up taking them off, but this was not a comment on the shoes themselves, more that I still prefer full barefoot, and love the feeling of the wet ground beneath my feet. This is one area that no shoe will be able to truly match, no matter how minimal. Of course, protection and reduced sensation are the main reasons why people wear shoes in the first place, so this isn’t really a problem.

If I had to find one negative aspect of the shoes, it would probably be their conventional toe shape. I found when running in the wet, that this pulled my toes together just a little bit. I’m really sensitive to this as I splay my toes significantly when running. Personally I’d love to see a split-toe version or a wide toebox version of this shoe down the track.

Luongo4

All in all, I really enjoyed wearing and racing in the Luongos. They were lightweight, comfortable, and most importantly, didn’t get in the way! I would recommend them for outdoor use for experienced barefoot runners, since they are so minimal, or else for inside work, such as at gyms, where bare feet may not be allowed.

It’s really exciting to see more and more interesting and innovative designs like these coming out of small companies like Luongo. If their first shoe is any indication of things to come, I think we’ll see some amazing products in the future!

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank Luongo Footwear for providing samples for testing. Visit their website or follow them on Facebook or Twitter for some great barefooting insights, or better yet, pick up a pair for yourself!

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20 Responses to Sun Run Race Report and Luongo Footwear Review

  1. zinnrunning says:

    This was a great read, when it comes to shoes less is more! Quick question, are the ads on the right by google Adsense?

  2. Robert Carpenter says:

    Good to hear you are back out on the streets kicking pavement. My last race, possibly a bit bigger than this one (Disney and all) included a number of people in Vibrams (mostly Bikilias but a couple of Komodos) and even a guy in a Sportskilt (it matched his charity shirt!). Totally thought of you when I saw the Sportskilt guy, you may have come up in our conversation.

  3. Great read! I really like the idea of these “shoes”. Do you think they would work for ultra-runs? I’m hoping to run the 250 km Spartathlon in a year or two. Would it be crazy to do that in a pair of Luongo’s?

    • That really depends on the terrain. If it’s a road race, then with the right training, I think you could do it in Luongos. If it’s trails, then I think you might need something a little sturdier.

      • Thanks! The Spartathlon is mostly on asphalt. But part of the run is off-road, up and down a mountain. Do you have any idea how long it would take to be able to run 250 km (150 miles) “barefoot” without getting injuries? Then next Spartathlon is in 146 days (http://www.spartathlon.gr/), which I think is way to early. So, I’m thinking of doing the one next year, in about 16 months from now. Do you think that’s doable? Or would it be better to wait one more year?

      • That’s an interesting question. It will largely depend on your current barefoot running base. If you’re brand new to barefoot running and distance running, I’d say it would take a minimum of 2 years to prepare yourself, and this means very careful and diligent training, and no injuries.
        You could probably reduce this time with some form of footwear, such as Xeroshoes though.
        The truly difficult thing is the speed at which you need to travel. The 100km in under 10h qualifying time is incredibly hard. I just completed 100km in 27h, and even that was tough in minimal shoes.
        Send me an email at bfdawsy@beginningbarefoot.com, and we can chat about your options if you like?

      • I began running barefoot in early 2011, when I bought a pair of DIY-huaraches for Invisible Shoes. I started walking in them, with little running. Then gradually I wore them more and more, until I wore them 95 % of the time outdoor (walking and running), including in winter. I did that for about a year, until they broke, and I opted for the easy solution, and strapped on a pair of boots, instead of repairing the huaraches. So for the last year and a half I haven’t been wearing my huaraches much. I did fix them at some point, but was no longer in the habit of wearing them. A couple of weeks ago I began wearing them again now and then. But it’s obvious I have to start almost from square one, as blisters are now something I have to be very aware of.

        I’ll send this as an email too. Thanks. :)

  4. By the way, I’m curious to know how you completed the 100 km race you mentioned. Your average pace was 2.3 mph. That’s walking pace. So, I’m curious to know how much you ran, how much you walked and how much you rested. Also, what makes it hard? Blisters? Joint pain? Tiredness? Muscle soreness? Fatigue? Or…? Thanks.

    • Yep, that was walking pace…we hiked in a group of 4 on pretty challenging trails. I did, however, do a fair bit if running in training, and would estimate that I could have shaved about 5 hours off that time by running g the downhills and flats with the training I did.
      Incidentally, the course record for the race is around 9 hours, and most teams lost at least one member along the way.
      The real trick with ultras is balancing speed and rest, knowing when to push and when to ease back. Once your mileage starts ramping up, there’s a very fine line between finishing sooner and breaking yourself. This is made even tougher when you do it in minimal shoes, as the margin for error is much smaller.
      You’ve really got me thinking about all this. I don’t know of any people who have run past 100 miles in minimals or barefoot.

      • This is all very interesting for me. Some claim barefoot running reduces the chance of injuries, and I tend to think it can, if done right. So when you say that the margin for error is smaller running in minimal shoes rather then typical running shoes, I wonder why that is. It seems to contradict that barefoot running reduces injuries. But maybe I misunderstand you. Could you please elaborate?

        To qualify for the Spartathlon I first have to run 100 km in less than 10 hours. That I hope to be able to do next summer.

      • It is interesting, isn’t it? I’ve spoken to a lot of barefoot and minimalist runners, as well as ultra runners, and have had a fair bit of experience on my own. What this has taught me is that there is a spectrum when it comes to running with or without shoes.

        At one end, you have full barefoot, which IMHO is the best way to reduce and prevent injuries. The tradeoff you get, however is that it takes a long time to transition if you didn’t grow up running barefoot. Simply put, your body won’t let you overdo it, so you’re limited by what it wants you to do.

        Further along the spectrum, we have minimal shoes. These vary from paper-thin soles to padded, zero-drop shoes. As you add more cushioning, you reduce proprioception (the ability for your feet to process feedback), which makes it harder to auto-correct your form. So, in minimal shoes, you tend to be able to start off well, with good form, but as you tire, you don’t notice the small changes in your form. These changes may be minor at first, but as you continue to exert yourself, they become more pronounced, which can lead to injuries. Overuse injuries become more common as your feet don’t tire as quickly in shoes, so you tend to be able to run further than your body may be ready to go.

        At the far end is conventional running shoes. They suffer from more pronounced form changes than minimals do, but this is mitigated somewhat by the extra cushioning. With these shoes, feet injuries tend to decline a little, with maybe the exception of heel injuries from overstriding. Injury is transferred up the legs a bit, due to the instability of the cushioning, so knee issue become more common.

        So the upshot of all this is that if you want to run without injury, go full barefoot and increase your mileage that way. You can extend this a little further by cross-training in minimals, or even starting out in minimals and taking them off after a little while.

        This is all my own observation, from reading and talking to folks and running on my oown, so take it or leave it as you like.

  5. Interesting! I’m sorry about the late reply, but I got an abdominal muscle injury the other day, so haven’t had running on my mind these days. In fact, this will probably set me back 2-4 months. But that’s okay. Still, I really appreciate this correspondence. Great insights.

    • Oh no, sorry to hear about that…hopefully it heals fast, and you can get back into it soon. Let me know if you have any more questions!

      • Thanks! Luckily it seems that I’ll be able to run again faster than I first thought. Actually, I’m been running a little the last week, with gradually less and less pain. I will likely have a bunch of questions along the way. As of now, I have one: do you think it’s possible to complete the Tor des Geants in 113 days from now? It’s a LONG race (200 miles), but the time limit is 150 hours, so it’s a LOT slower than the Spartathlon. Even with 11+ hours of rest daily, the average speed needs to be no more than 2.5 mph. I’m thinking of this as I’ve done mostly walking the last two weeks, due to my ab injury. What do you think? It’s an amazing scenery and I’ll be in close to Italy in September anyway.

        Here’s a link to the Tor des Geants: http://www.tordesgeants.it/en.

      • Wow that looks spectacular! Well if you’re in good shape, which you seem go be, and you go in with a plan, and a good support team, then sure, you could do it. The real challenge is going to be seeing how your soles fare. It could be a great preview of what the spartathlon will be like on your feet.
        If you decide to do it, plan to do some pretty long training walks as the effects of being on your feet for that many miles can be unpredictable. You’ll probably find that you go well for the first 8 hours, but beyond that, you may start to experience swelling and blisters. It really depends a lot on your current conditioning.
        That all being said, are you planning to do it barefoot or o
        In minimals?

  6. Yes, it’s beautiful! And yes, I’m in pretty good shape. The cardio isn’t a problem. It’s the joints and the skin that needs to get used to such a heavy beating. Being all too sedentary for a long time, I’m getting blisters after just an hour of walking. But it’s already getting better. I would like to do it all barefoot, but I think that’s stretching it. I am a firm believing in what I call “variation not to get intoxication”. This idea came to me while talking to my wife (who is a microbiologist) five years ago about eating a varied diet not to get intoxicated. Over the years, I’m come to believe that this principle applies to many other things. For example, I don’t believe in finding THE best running shoe to avoid injuries. Instead, I believe in having a handful of footwear, and changing between them regularly to “distribute the beating”. So, I’m thinking of doing this partly barefoot, partly in my homemade huaraches and partly in my new MT20’s. I might even add a pair of Luongo’s and something else. What do you think about this?

    • I think that’s a great idea. I took much the same approach at the 100k i just did, alternating VFFs and Vivos, and my feet were pristine at the end. I totally agree that there’s no perfect shoe, and that the key is to keep adapting and changing to the feedback that you get from your feet.

      • Good to hear that someone with more experience agrees with this. I’ve seen photos of feet after long distance running, and it can be a horrible sight. Glad to hear your feet were fine after the 100k. :)

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