XeroShoes Umara Z-Trail Preview!

Video

Stop the Press! XeroShoes have just announced the release of the new Umara Z-Trail sandal. I was lucky enough to get a preview pair and OMG, they’re awesome.

As a special treat for Beginning Barefoot fans, I’ve put together a short review video so you can see what they’re all about.

In a nutshell:

  • They’re very lightweight
  • The new soles are durable, comfortable, and flexible!
  • They Float!
  • They’re the best sandals XeroShoes yet!

The Z-Trails launch officially on March 11th, but if you’re quick, you can take a sneak peek and enter to win a pair of your own!

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Review – Shamma Mountain Goats

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

ShammaLogoCompetition in the running sandal arena is steadily becoming more intense, with a lot of new companies coming on board with offerings ranging from the ultra thin to the ultra comfortable.

Some companies, however are pushing to the head of the pack with shoes that bring the best of all features together to create incredible footwear. One of these companies is Shamma Sandals.
Shamma3One of the many companies that sprung up in the post Born To Run craze, Shamma has been steadily adding to its range of comfortable sandals, slowly eating into the trail running area, held for several years by Luna.

With their latest offering, The Mountain Goat, Shamma have moved to take even more ground by delving feet first into the lucrative hiking and trail running market.

Construction

The Mountain Goats are sturdily built, featuring an 11m thick Vibram sole. This can be topped with either, black goatskin, yellow sheep skin, or for a saving of about 1mm, no top at all. For a sole that’s on the thick side, these sandals are surprisingly light at ~170g (6oz).

Shamma2

Strapped to the ample footbed is the remarkable Shamma lacing system. It comprises one continuous strap, huarache-style. Where it differs from other strapping systems out there is the placement of the buckles, the lack of a toe-post (a good thing IMO), and the super-comfortable leather heel strap.

Shamma4The shoes arrive effectively untied, so that you can lace to fit your foot comfortably. I really like this approach, but was a little surprised at how tricky the initial setup was. I won’t deny that I had to have a few looks at the lacing instructions (check out the Shamma lacing page here if you need help) before I got it right. In the end though, I found myself literally sighing at the comfort of the fit, and lack of any irritating rubbing.

Performance

The Mountain Goats use a fairly common aggressive tread, which can be seen on several other Vibram-soled sandals. It’s a really grippy design that holds well on the trails. Past experience with this tread have shown that they do wear down pretty quickly if used on the roads, however this can be mitigated by keeping them as dedicated trail shoes.

Shamma5My first trail run in my new Mountain Goats ended up being a wet one, and I’m happy to report that they performed admirably. Leaving them to dry in a sunny spot afterwards left them in pristine condition, with no bad smells (another big plus for a minimal shoe!).

The lacing system held up well under running conditions, with only one minor adjustment being needed to tighten them up a bit at the beginning of the run. Once they were dialed in, however, the lacing held its position well, and kept my foot firmly planted on the footbed. So far I haven’t had any blisters, most notably on my heel, which was nicely protected by the leather heel strap.

Impressions

Overall, I’m very pleased with my new Mountain Goats and with summer coming on, am extremely happy to have a new go-to trail shoe. I’m finding myself wearing them around town a fair bit, which is taking a bit of a toll on the tread, but that’s my own fault, since I know better. I’m really looking forward to doing some long runs in them, as I think they will work well as a long distance trail shoe.

Ultimately I think that if you’re in the market for a nice set of trail running sandals, you could do a lot worse than to invest in a pair of Shammas.

Have you tried Shammas before? What were your impressions? Let us know in the comments!
Beginning Barefoot would like to thanks Shamma Sandals for providing sample shoes for testing. if you’re interested in purchasing a pair of your own, please visit their website (shammasandals.com), and don’f forget to follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

Review: Merrell Trail Glove

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

Merrell1As far as I’m concerned, 2013 is the year of trail running. Trails offer such a great opportunity to improve your technique and become a better, stronger runner.

One thing I have discovered along the way, however, is that some trails are better tackled with some footwear. Where I live, there are a lot of trails, and many of them are barefoot-friendly. However, there are certain tracks that, unless I want to pick my way slowly and painfully, I prefer to do in minimal footwear.

With this in mind, I jumped at the chance to try out a pair of Merrell’s Trail Glove.

Merrell2The Trail Glove is part of the Barefoot series of shoes that Merrell have become famous for over the past couple of years. Unlike some of the other shoes in the line however, the Trail Glove includes several features that make trail running a little bit easier on the soles, even if they do sacrifice some of the barefoot feel that the other shoes offer.

 

Looks

Merrell3One thing that I noticed straight out of the box is that these are some nice-looking shoes. They have a well-put-together appearance, and there’s no question that the design team spent a lot of time thinking about this aspect of the shoes.

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What I really liked is that despite having a large toe box, the shoes don’t have the ‘clown shoe’ appearance of some other shoes I’ve tried out with the same feature. This is a real plus.

 

 

 

Construction

Merrell5The Trail Glove’s uppers are made of a very lightweight, breathable mesh, which is attractive and functional. It is one of my favourite features of the shoe as it is very comfortable and allows ample air to flow in and out of the shoe (a necessity when going sockless).

Merrell6The soles of these shoes are a little bit thicker, creeping in towards the 10mm mark. This is the upper end of thickness that I prefer in a shoe, but it is a huge help on the tough trails. Made by Vibram, they feature a reasonably aggressive tread, and a contoured design.

Merrell10Merrell9With the thicker sole usually comes rigidity, however these soles have been designed in such a way as to allow a fair bit of flexibility. This flexibility is mainly uni-directional however. I could lift my toes up without any trouble, though bending downwards meets a bit of resistance. For a road shoe, this is not normally a problem, however I did find it a little bit restrictive on some trails.

The shoe does not contain any insole. Instead, the interior of the shoe is seamless and very foot-friendly. This was a nice surprise, and is typically a sign of good design and construction.

Performance

We’ve had some pretty variable weather here in Sydney lately, so my poor Trail Gloves have been through a bit of everything. On the whole, I was very pleased with their performance.

Merrell7Where the Trail Glove shone, in my opinion, is wet weather. The tread pattern is medium-aggressive, and held on well, even in slick conditions. The mesh uppers allow water to flow in and out without much trouble, allowing my feet to dry out pretty well.

I found that I needed to take them off ever half hour or so to let me feet dry out a bit, but I never got any blisters from them, which is a good sign.

The wide toe box was a pleasure and went a long way to providing a comfortable ride.

Merrell8If there was one aspect of the shoe that I didn’t like, it was the sole’s built-in arch. It’s quite rigid, and I was aware of it the whole time I was running. I felt that it was a bit too long for my foot, and caused a little bit of discomfort. I’d love to see this feature removed in future versions of the shoe, as it did detract from the overall enjoyment of wearing these shoes.

That being said, I did have a good time testing these shoes out, and it’s always a big plus when a pair of minimal shoes is socially acceptable in the looks department. I’ve had several strangers comment on them, and they have been included in my ‘going-out’ pile of shoes, as well as having a place in my trail running kit.

It’s great to see high-quality minimal shoes finally start to take off in Australia, and I look forward to seeing what Merrell will be coming up with down the track.

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank Merrell for providing a pair of Trail Gloves for review. To find out more, visit the Merrell website, download the Barefoot Challenge app, and/or visit your local retailer!

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!).