Barefoot shoes: The new Xeroshoes Ipari Hana reviewed

Xeroshoes Ipari Hana

Xeroshoes Ipari Hana

It’s hard to know where the Xeroshoes team find the time to develop, test, and bring to market such a wide variety of well-crafted, thoughtfully designed, and beautiful shoes, but I’m glad they do!

It seems like just yesterday they announced the release of my favourite running sandal, the Umara Z-Trail, but now they’ve created something completely new, and very surprising from a company that has until now specialised in sandals.

I’m referring of course, to the brand new Ipari Hana, which makes its debut TODAY!

2016-10-18-09-57-50I was fortunate enough to receive a sneak peak pair to try out, and am glad I did, because these are going to fly off the shelf. Want to know why? Keep reading.

Let’s start with the construction. The Ipari Hana have a great base to start out on, as they feature the unparalleled Xeroshoes “FeelTrue” rubber soles. This makes them super-flexible and at very thin 5.5 mm, provide excellent ground feel.

Moving up, we have the insole. I’ve had a play with them both with and without insoles, and even though the insoles are technically removable, the Hanas are and are intended to be worn with them in, and are much more comfortable this way. They’ve very thin though, so there is not a major difference in ground feel with them in.

2016-10-18-09-57-37

2016-10-18-09-57-28

Next we 2016-10-18-09-57-00have the uppers. At first glance, they look like they are made of a single layer of canvas material, but on closer inspection, we can see that they are also partially lined with leather (suede?). This touch really makes the Hana feel like a proper shoe, and greatly improves the comfort factor. The leather is soft against your feet, flexible, and durable.

The Hana is intended as a casual shoe, and unfortunately isn’t waterproof, but you can’t have everything, and most minimal shoes fall into this category these days. I haven’t tried it yet on my Hanas, but I’ll likely use the tried and true Scotch Guard trick (ie: spraying them with Scotch Guard) and bump up the water resistance a little.

2016-10-18-09-58-20Finally on to my favourite bit. I don’t have a word for it, as I’ve never seen it before, but the bit of material that the laces thread through is GENIUS. I don’t know how such a simple structure can make such a big difference, but for those of us who wear shoes without socks, this is a godsend. (If you know what this bit is called, please let me know in the comments!)

What it manages to do is move the tightening action to the top of the foot, instead of the outside of the foot. This is a very subtle difference, but is IMHO a killer feature that would (read: will) guarantee I’ll be looking out for tihs feature in future shoe purchases.

On to performance. These aren’t running shoes (unfortunately), but rather sit very nicely in the day-to-day shoe category. I’ve worn mine mostly for trips to the shops and walking the dog, and the best praise I can give them is that straight out of the box they’ve felt like an old pair of shoes. What I mean by this is that they’re not stiff and don’t feel like they need to be worn in. This being said, they have begun to stretch a tiny bit, which is  to be expected wit canvas/leather, but this has only improved the comfort.

On2016-10-18-09-58-48e downside for now, is that the Ipari Hana are only available in Men’s sizes. But don’t worry ladies, there is a women’s version due for release shortly (shh don’t tell anyone I told you).

There’s not much else to say about the Ipari Hana apart from WOW. For a first full shoe, Xeroshoes have done a brilliant job. I can’t wait to see where this goes.

If you’re interested in getting a pair, act fast, and use this link to get your pair discounted to $64.99 USD during the release period (before they sell out!). 

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank the team at Xeroshoes for letting us road test their latest products. Please show your support by visiting their site and browsing their amazing products!

Advertisements

Review: Xero Shoes Amuri Cloud vs Amuri Venture

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

XeroShoesLogoMinimal shoes have come a long way since the publication of the now famous (or infamous) book Born to Run. They are now available in most mainstream shoe stores, and come in a huge variety of shapes, styles, weights and designs.

Despite the huge selection of shoes available, there are precious few that combine function, style, and a low price tag. With their new line of premium huarache-style sandals, Xero Shoes are aiming for the trifecta.

Xero Shoes was one of the first companies to capitalise on the barefoot/minimalist running boom, and their experience in this niche industry has been put to good use. Their first shoes were very simple huarache sandals that could be assembled at home. The latest offerings come ready-assembled and include several new features that vastly improve their looks and performance.

Cloud vs Venture

The first of the new sandals, now called the Amuri Venture (formerly the Sensori Venture), in many ways resembles the original shoes. It is made of durable FeelTrue rubber soles and nylon cords, however, they now also sport a nicely shaped heel cup, a flexible toe post, a well designed lacing system, and improved anchoring on the sides.

The second is the Amuri Cloud, a new offering from Xero Shoes. It is essentially the same shoe as the Venture, with the exception that the sole is scooped out and a 3mm BareFoam pad has been inserted. This small amount of cushioning is intended to provide added comfort, while keeping the sole thin and light.

Before discussing how the shoes performed, let’s take a look at some of the features that make the new Xero Shoes sandals unique.

Features

Venture1The Amuri Cloud and Venture have many features in common:

1. New Lacing System
2. Toe Post
3. Ankle Mounting Points
4. Silicone Heel Pad
5. A variety of colours

 

Apart from this, the two models differ in several key ways:

Amuri Cloud:Cloud2
1. Uses a 3mm BareFoam insert, inset into the 6mm FeelTrue rubber soles
– Improved Comfort
– Reduces Weight
– Increased Flexibility

Venture:Venture2
1. 5mm FeelTrue sole
2. Better ground transmission
3. Available in camouflage

Performance

As you can see, both shoes sport very similar specs, however performance-wise, the small differences make these sandals feel like totally different animals.

Amuri Cloud:

The first thing I noticed when slipping on my Amuri Clouds was that for the first time ever, I was wearing sandals that felt comfortable! Believe me, this came as a real shock, as I wear sandals nearly every day, and hadn’t realised I was in any way uncomfortable before.

Cloud3

The layer of BareFoam on the forefoot section of the shoes may be thin, but it really is all you need to take the edges off gravel and give you the sensation of walking on a cloud (see what I did there?).

I found that prolonged walking in the Clouds was very comfortable, and not a problem at all. I did experience a bit of rubbing initially on the polyurethane toe post, however after a day or two, I completely stopped noticing it.

Normally in sandals, my feet do tend to get a bit tired after several hours. With the Clouds, however, this was not a problem, and I’ve spent many hours in them without the slightest soreness on my soles.

Running in the Amuri Clouds, while still a pleasant experience, was for me less enjoyable than I had hoped. One thing I love about running in sandals is that the (usually) hard rubber underfoot transmits sensations from the ground fairly effectively.

Adding the foam layer dulls this sensation a bit, which I’ve found a bit off-putting. I had assumed that with less rubber underfoot, that the groundfeel would be more pronounced, but the BareFoam does a surprisingly good job of smoothing out the ride. For experienced barefooters, this may not be ideal, but for those transitioning, or looking for a more comfortable experience, this is a real plus.

I also found that with the thinner rubber underfoot, there was a slightly higher tendency for flapping. I needed to make sure that I tightened my lacing a bit before running to minimise this. With slightly tighter lacing, it was no longer a problem.

On this point, I have to commend the Xero Shoes team for putting together a clever lacing system. It’s very easy to tweak and fine-tune, and switching from walking to running modes on the Clouds is fairly trivial.

Amuri Venture:

Venture3Trying on the Ventures after wearing the Clouds for a couple weeks felt like strapping a pair of planks to my feet. The rubber feels so much harder. This is definitely not a bad thing, however, as the thicker, harder feeling rubber give the sandals a much more solid feel.

I found the Ventures to be a big improvement over the older-style Connect series. The new lacing systems, as mentioned above, is excellent and well thought-out.

I use a slip-on/slip-off tying method for my Connect sandals, which causes my heel to be a little more free-moving than with traditional huarache tying. The addition of a heel scoop to the Ventures allows for a slip-on tying method without the heel movement. A big improvement in my books.

Walking in the Ventures is fine, with the sandals staying comfortably on my feet. They are nice and thin, which allows for good ground feel, but when walking, I found that the Clouds were far superior.

Where the Ventures come into their own is with running. I strapped these on, and just wanted to keep running and running. They have a brilliant combination of thin, yet rigid rubber, which is somehow still flexible enough to allow excellent foot movement. The lacing system is solid and flexible at the same time, allowing me to tweak the fit slightly to sit right on my uneven feet.

On top of all this, they of course have all the features tha make running in sandals so much fun: they’re lightweight, airy, and inexpensive.

I normally do my sandal running in Luna Sandals, and may still do so for rougher trials, but for everyday running and light, local trails, I think it will be hard to find a sandal that will beat the Venture.

Conclusions

When the Amuri Cloud was first released, I was shown a preview where Steven Sashen, the company’s founder, said that they were to be a comfortable ‘everyday’ sandal, where the Venture would remain a solid trail sandal.

I couldn’t agree more. I’m quite happy wearing my  Clouds pretty much everywhere, and have no qualms taking them for the odd run. At the same time, when I know I’m going to head out the door and hit the trails, I’ve been looking first to my Ventures lately.

VennAll in all, I think that the new line of sandals on offer from Xero Shoes are a huge improvement over the original DIY kits (which are still awesome IMHO), and bring the company a huge step towards the mainstream. I look forward to the day that I see a pair in stores here in Australia!

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank Xero Shoes and Stepping Out Footwear for providing sandals for review. Please show your support by purchasing a pair for yourself at xeroshoes.com!

Review – Earth Runners Circadian

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

EarthRunners_logoA couple of weeks ago, I very excitedly opened up a package containing my first pair of Earth Runners sandals. Since hearing about Earth Runners last year, I’ve wanted to try out a pair and see if all the fuss was merited. Lucky me, got to try out a pair of the brand new Circadian sandals, which are being launched this year.

For those of you who haven’t heard of them, Earth Runners is a company that got its start hand-making sandals, using funding from Kickstarer.

They make lovely sandals that are designed with the concept of Earthing in mind. What this means is that they contain features that help you feel connected to the ground, in a similar way to how you would when walking and running completely barefoot.

Construction

Custom-molded-600x450The model that I tried out is called the Circadian, and features a thin, but tough, 6mm Vibram sole, with a tread comprised of dozens of small, circular bumps.

The strapping system is very simple, and comprises a single piece of material (nylon?) and a sturdy plastic cinch for tightening and loosening.

Joining the uppers and lowers are several metal rivets, which not only create a firm connection between the materials, but are also an integral part of the earthing experience (they are electrically conductive).

Aesthetics

circadian-sandals2I like the way these sandals look. It’s as simple as that. The durable materials give a substantial appearance to these sandals, yet they strap so nicely to the contours of your feet that they look like they truly belong there.

In a lot of ways, they remind me of Luna sandals, which are one of the most popular running sandals out there, yet they are a little bit simpler in design, which gives them a slightly more traditional look.

Performance

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in my new Cicadians now, and am pleased to report that they get more comfortable by the day. The footbed, which at first seemed a little bit stiff, has softened somewhat, but has retained its overall shape and strength.

Earth Runners have struck an excellent balance between keeping the weight of the Circadians down, while also providing ample stiffness to the sole to enable good running performance over a variety of terrains.

I’ve worn my pair on roads, footpaths, trails and fields, and so far I’m very happy with their performance.

If there is one drawback that comes to mind, it’s that when I first started wearing them, these sandals were a little bit slippery. The new rubber of the sole, and even the rivets did tend to make things a bit slippery underfoot in wet weather. The amount of slippage seems to be reducing as I rough up the soles a bit, and I hardly notice any slipping now after 3-4 weeks of wear. An interesting side-note to this is is that it has led to me improving the way that I step, to give me a more solid base.

Conclusion

All-in-all, I really enjoy the new Circadians. I love that they are produced by a small company that has cleverly used crowd-sourced funding to produce a shoe that rivals some of the major players.

I’d love to be able to go into more depth about earthing and how these shoes work in this regards, but I just haven’t got the vocabulary or familiarity with this subject to be able to discuss it properly. I’d, however, highly recommend getting in touch with Earth Runners, or checking out their website, and/or YouTube videos, as they have a wealth of knowledge in this area.

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank Earth Runners for providing shoes for testing. Please support them by visiting their website and seeing if a pair of their sandals is right for you.

Review: Luna Sandals Leadville Huaraches

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

Luna Sandals LeadvilleIf you’ve read Born To Run, you probably remember the story about how Barefoot Ted met Manuel Luna of the Raramuri, and learned how to make huaraches from salvaged car tyres. What you may or may not realise, however, is that Ted later used this knowledge to create a line of hand-made sandals, named in honour of his mentor – Luna Sandals.

Luna Sandals started out relatively simply, featuring leather straps and a Vibram sole, that mimicked the construction of the car tyre version, but using lighter, high-tech rubber. I’m sure that if he had wanted, Ted could have just ridden the tide of Born To Run and sold his simple sandals, but what he did next is what sets Luna Sandals apart.

Since the first version of Luna Sandals, Ted and his ‘Luna Monkeys’ (as his staff call themselves) have proceeded down a track of innovation and experimentation that has transformed the simple huarache into an incredible piece of footwear.

Luna SandalsI have recently been lucky enough to try out the latest pinnacle of this process – the Leadville.

Featuring a thick Vibram sole with a no-slip MGT footbed and the clever ATS Lacing system, the Leadville really looks like a high-tech huarache. What’s most exciting about this sandal though is that it’s been race-tested by Ted himself at the 2010 Leadville 100 ultramarathon. If this isn’t enough to make you want to try a pair, I’m not sure what will.

Construction

As mentioned, the Leadville comes standard with an MGT footbed. MGT stands for Monkey Grip Technology, and refers to the thin layer of textured rubber that your foot sits on. This seemingly simple feature is actually a marvel for trail runners, as it’s waterproof, comfortable, and as advertised, non-slip.

The sole of the Leadville is made of 10mm thick Neoprene rubber and has a great zig-zag tread on it to help grab onto those rough trails.

Luna ATS LacingArguably my favourite part of the Leadville is the ATS lacing system. At its simplest, it’s a nylon cord with a plastic buckle for adjustment. However, it’s clear that a lot of tweaking has gone on, as beyond being a simple cord, it includes elasticised sections to make it easy to take them on and remove them, while also keeping them very comfortable.

The toe attachment point is hidden using a plug made of similar material to the sole, so there’s no problem with wearing down the knot on the underside.

Performance

I’m not quite ready to test out these sandals on terrain as harsh as Leadville, but I have had a great time tramping around the local trails in them.

When I got them, I spent a couple minutes getting acquainted with the ATS laces. They are a bit different to anything I’ve tried before, but they definitely simplify the huarache tying process immensely. Getting the initial tension just right is a bit finicky since the laces are threaded through a couple holes and wrapped around each other, but this is par for the course for any huarache.

Once I got them adjusted just-so, the top buckle made any final tensioning quite easy. What I really love though is the elasticated heel strap. This is a great feature as once you’ve got your sandals set up how you like them, you can easily slip them on and off. The elastic also reduces rubbing on your heels, and I haven’t had any issues with chafing at all.

Once the Lunas were fitted, it was time to hit the trails. As luck would have it, I got caught in a rain storm on my first excursion. This was actually quite a lucky eventuality as I got to see first-hand how my Lunas performed in the wet.

The first half of the hike was great. The Leadvilles are quite light, despite their sturdy construction, and my feet were cool and comfortable the whole time. With 10mm of sole underfoot, there was minimal ground-feel, but since I was hiking on some pretty rocky terrain, this didn’t really bother me. I was at least able to get a full range of motion, and my toes could wiggle.

Vibram LogoI really like the treads on these sandals. They’re very grippy, yet don’t use lugs. Instead, they have a great zig-zag pattern that seems to shed dirt and mud very well. If I had one complaint, it would be that there are Vibram logos peppered among the treads. These logos tend to fill up with dirt and are tricky to clean. It’s not a deal-breaker, but a mild annoyance. Given the choice, I’d just have the zig-zags.

When the rains arrived, I turned back and headed home. As I walked, it was great to notice all the dust and dirt just wash away from my feet and shoes, leaving them looking brand-new again. I did, however find that my feet slipped a little bit on that first outing, though tightening up the laces helped out considerably. (EDIT: After wearing my Lunas daily for over a month, I’ve found that they slip less as my feet are making impressions, helping my feet to stay put).

Again, the treads behaved remarkably and shed mud just as easily as dirt. When I got home, I left them out on the porch, and found they were dry shortly thereafter.

Impressions

Overall, I loved testing out the Luna Leadvilles. It’s always a treat to wear shoes built and tested by the people that wear them. The quality and thought put into these sandals are reason enough to buy a pair, but their performance has secured them as part of my regular go-to rotation.

I’m planning on racing the Oxfam Trailwalker 100km race next year, and up until I tried Lunas, I never considered wearing sandals for it. Now, however, I think I’ve found my main footwear for the race. Yes, they’re that good.

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank Luna Sandals for providing a pair of Leadville huaraches for testing. If you enjoyed this review, why not visit (and Like!) the Luna Sandals Facebook page, or better yet, buy a pair for yourself (or a loved one!).

Review: Invisible Shoes Huaraches – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

InvisibleShoes (before trimming)

InvisibleShoes (before trimming)

This review has been a long time in coming. I first spoke to Steven Sashen at Invisible Shoe way back in November, and was so intrigued with the paradoxical high-tech sandals (or huaraches – pronounced ‘wa-ra-chays’) that he was making that I grabbed a pair to review as soon as I could. There are several options available, but I went with the DIY 4mm Connect kit, which allows you to build your own shoes that are customised to the shape ansd size of your feet.

Since they arrived, I’ve been trying to run as much as possible in them, and wear them around when I go shopping, etc. After over a month of playing with different tying techniques, running styles, weather conditions, etc, I’ve finally put together a review (and here it is!).

The Good

  • Great soles

If you’re looking to reduce the amount of weight strapped to your feet, but don’t want to go barefoot for whatever reason, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a lighter option than these sandals. The soles are a bit of a miracle, as they are very flexible, yet rigid enough to hold their form as you run.

When I went for my first run, I expected them to be flopping all over the place, but they stayed firm yet still contoured to my feet. It’s obvious that a lot of time and effort has gone into selecting the best material for the soles of these huaraches, and for me, they were a pleasant surprise.

  • Excellent airflow

One of the major benefits of running in sandals is airflow. Living in Australia, running around in very hot weather is par for the course. Though I don’t mind running on hot asphalt in bare feet, it can be nice to give the soles a rest every now and then. One of the big problems with other minimalist shoes is that even though they’re lightweight, they can still hold in heat around your feet, which after several kilometers can get very uncomfortable.

Invisible Shoes are great for this as the airflow is nearly as good as if you had nothing on at all. Surprisingly, this includes the air between your feet and the sandals. I had expected my feet to sweat and slip on the rubber soles, but because they stay cool, this has never been a problem.

  • Low price

Even if you’re the biggest skeptic, it’s hard to say no to a $24.95 pricetag. With most minimal shoes in Australia costing hundreds of dollars (I’m looking at you, Vibram), being able to grab a great pair of shoes for so little is awesome.

An interesting side note to this is that after reading the Invisible Shoes forums, it appears that these shoes are nearly indestructable. So not only do you pay next to nothing up front, but you have a pair of shoes that will last for years. If there was ever a recession-proof shoe, it’s these.

  • Customisable

Another great advantage that Invisible Shoes have over their competitors is the ability to customise them. Most other brands have a set tying or strapping method that can’t be changed, but with the simple nylon cord used for attaching Invisible Shoes to your feet, the options are endless.

Even if you make a mistake and cut a bit too much off, the cords are inexpensive to replace. Add to all this the fact that you can choose from an assortment of colours and even add beads, etc to them, you’ve got some  great options for tarting up your sandals.

  • Comfortable

One of my main reservations about wearing huaraches was that the main strap tends to thread between your first two toes (though there are alternative tying methods to avoid this). I expected this to be a problem as I’ve never found flip-flops, which use a similar design, very comfortable. It turns out that because the shoes are well-balanced and attached at a number of points around your foot, there is minimal slipping, which means very little rubbing between your toes. After dozens of runs I’ve yet to have a problem in this area.

The Bad

  • Change of running style

One thing that I found, even after my first run, was that I needed to adjust my running style in order to run in Invisible Shoes. This may be because I’m really used to not wearing shoes anymore, but I think it also has to do with having a slightly different landing in sandals. For the first couple of weeks, I found that I had a couple niggles in my calves and ankles, which I haven’t felt since starting running in minimal shoes 2 years ago.

It didn’t end up being a problem, as I just adjusted accordibgly, but it’s something that new wearers should be aware of. As with transitioning to barefoot or minimal running generally, if you take it slow and listen to your body, this shouldn’t pose too much of a problem.

  • Reduced Proprioception

The one big thing that brought me over the the barefoot camp in the first place was the ability to feel the ground beneath my feet. Even with only 4mm underfoot, I found that proprioception was reduced, to the point that I felt like I had a few pairs of socks on.

That being said, a lot more can be felt through the Invisible Shoe soles than can through regular running soes, and any increased sensation is a big plus. In truth, I don’t think that there will ever be a shoe that offeres full proprioception, and with this being the case, I would find it hard to find a better option than the Connect kit’s 4mm soles.

Reduced sensation will always be a problem (and in many ways is actually the point) for any sort of shoes, and certainly isn’t an issue unique to Invisible Shoes. This is the only real area that I would find fault with, and would assume that it would be more pronounced in the 6mm Contact style.

  • No protection against the elements

As would be expected, since huaraches are really just sandals, there is basically no protection against the elements. I did find that my feet slipped around a little bit when they got wet, and that I needed to tie them down a little bit more in this scenario. Being able to adjust the tying to suit the conditions ended up being a lifesaver here, and reduced this from a potentially dangerous issue to one of only minor annoyance.

The Ugly

Ok I added this section in for the sole reason that my wife isn’t a big fan of how the shoes look. She calls them “The Sandals that Fashion Forgot”. Personally, I think this is a little harsh, and really like how they look, but I’m used to running in bare feet or wearing shoes with toes, so maybe I’m not the best person to ask. At least with these huaraches, you have  good degree of customisablilty, so they can be dressed up or down to a degree, and don’t need to be worn centurion-style (which is what prompted my wife’s comment in the first place!).

All in all, I have to say that I’ve really enjoyed wearing Invisible Shoes, and I’m glad I went with the 4mm Connect kit. Running in sandals definitely takes some getting used to, but I’ve found personally that the pros far outweigh the cons, and I’ll likely continue wearing my pair for training and in at least a couple of races this year.