Okay, so the big question is, “WHY use huarache, the Tarahumara running sandals?”
The answer is pretty obvious, but there are some important-yet-surprising pieces to the puzzle.
The obvious answer about huarache is: It’s the closest thing there is to barefoot running, without some of the hazards of barefoot running. Namely, you’re adding a layer of protection to your feet that bare skin simply can’t give you, no matter how well conditioned your feet are.
Especially with the 4mm Vibram Cherry sole material we use in our huarache kits and custom huaraches, you get what I like to call “better-than-barefoot.” The soles are so flexible it’s like having nothing on, so light, you barely notice them… except it’s blissfully clear that you’re not getting scraped up, cut up, scratched up and dirty like you would if it was just your tootsies on the ground.
That said, I’m not going to say “Don’t run barefoot and run with huarache running sandals instead!”
Well, because running barefoot gives you more feedback than running with ANYTHING on your feet.
If you want to know how efficient your form is, go barefoot and you’ll know (that is, if it hurts, you need to change something!).
If you want to know if you could be running lighter or easier, go barefoot and you’ll find out (did I mention: if it hurts, you need to change something?).
Conversely, putting ANYTHING on your feet, including huarache sandals, can mask some improper technique, give you the illusion that you’re better than you are and, possibly, lead to overtraining. Especially at first.
That said, since it takes awhile to develop that new barefoot running technique, and since it takes a while for your feet to get conditioned (btw, they do NOT get calloused), I recommend a mix of barefoot and huarache running.
In fact, what I often do is carry my huaraches with me when I go out barefooting. And if my feet start to get a bit sore, and I’m still a ways away from home, I’ll slip on my huaraches for the 2nd half of the run.
Or, I’ll warm up in my huaraches, and then slip ‘em off (using the method of how to tie huarache sandals here), and take off from there.
Oh, if I’m on serious trails — and by serious, I mean a lot of rocks, twigs, etc. — then it’s all huarache, all the time.
“Barefoot Ted” sells a running sandal he calls the Luna Sandal. It’s similar to our custom-made Xero Shoes, but with a few key differences:
1) Did you know there are 18 different types of “size 9″? Rather than pick just one of those and pre-make our sandals, the custom-made Xero Shoes are, actually, custom-made for your unique foot. We use a tracing of your foot to make sure the length and width are correct for your specific foot — and if your feet are different sizes, you get sandals that match. We make sure that the toe and ankle holes are placed correctly based on the size and length of your toes and heel. With Xero Shoes, you’re getting a product made just for you.
2) We use the 4mm Vibram Cherry sole material or our exclusive FeelTrue rubber to give you the optimal barefoot feel, and for your convenience. Aside from really being able to connect with the ground with our soles, you can roll up Xero Shoes and keep them in your pack or pocket — go out barefoot, and come back with some protection on your feet. The thicker sole in the Luna is comparatively rigid and over 60% heavier… add some glue and a leather upper and you’re further minimizing the minimalist feel.
3) We use soft, durable polyester laces that don’t stretch or contract when they get wet and dry out, unlike leather or hemp. Our laces are round, meaning that there are no edges to rub on your skin. Polyester is a very strong material — I’m still using the original laces in my 12-month old huaraches that I wear every day — and after getting wet, nylon laces dry really fast. And with round laces, you don’t have to worry about “which side is up” or getting them twisted when you use the different tying styles (some of the clever tying variations people have developed require round laces. Plus, you can get our laces in a bunch of fun colors. And if you ever want to replace your laces or get other colors, they’re inexpensive.
4) Our product is “vegan friendly”. So is Ted’s basic Luna Sandal if you get the hemp laces instead of leather.
5) Luna Sandals have an optional leather footbed. Ted is making a fine product… some people like the leather upper — which, over time, molds somewhat to your foot. Any material upper, though, will wear and collect dirt. And, for those who are sensitive to these kinds of things: natural materials are not anti-microbial. While we don’t currently offer a material upper, we have heard from a couple customers who bought some leather and glue and added those to their Xero Shoes for only a couple of dollars.
Want to run with the Tarahumara (the Mexican tribe featured in Chris McDougall’s bestseller, Born to Run)?
Well, if you can’t make it to the Copper Canyon, or anywhere else for that matter, here’s the next best thing.
Ultra runners Jonathan Sinclair and Melissa Gosse went to Costa Rica for La Ruta 100k, arguably the hardest trail ultramarathon in the world.
About a dozen Tarahumara runners were there and Jon and Mel got to spend the better part of a week hanging out and running with them — as well as swapping huaraches and Xero Shoes, eating, drinking, and much more.
If you want to hear the story of La Ruta and the Tarahumara, join us on Tuesday, November 26th for a live video chat with Jon and Mel.
They’ll be sharing pictures and stories as well as giving great tips about barefoot running, minimalist running, ultramarathon training, and anything you can think to ask about.
Click on this link to find out more about the live video chat.
Jonathan Sinclair and Melissa Gosse left the cold weather in Edmonton, Alberta and jetted to Costa Rica for the La Ruta Run, perhaps the hardest ultramarathon in the world.
We’ll have a full report about their trip and the race in about 48 hours. But until then, I wanted to share this quick story they told me.
Knowing that they’d be running with some Tarahumara runners, I gave them some extra Sensori Venture Xero Shoes to bring on their trip. They sent the photos, below, and report (from their phone):
We gave away all the Sensoris you sent us down with. One to Maria (Tarahumara female who hasn’t taken hers off since I put them on her feet), the “presidents” of Chihuahua, Mexico (two men in this picture), Martin (spelling? “Head/leader” of the Chihuahua Tarahumara tribe…the one in this pic with us) and tonight, two local Costa Rican natives who will be running la Ruta with us on Saturday!!! Everyone is LOVING the Xeros. The presidents of the Tarahumara want to talk to you about getting some more for the Tarahumara back home to wear..how cool is that?!
The answer? VERY cool!
We’ve proudly supported the Tarahumara through the Tarahumara Children’s Hospital Fund… but I love the idea of getting more Xeros onto runners’ feet! Stay tuned.
I am extremely happy and proud to announce that you can now get Xero Shoes (our new name… website is almost done) in 4 WAY COOL colors. And to celebrate, you can also save 20% if you order by October 2nd!
In addition to our Coal Black, you can now get Mocha Earth, Electric Mint, Boulder Sky, and Hot Salmon.
Combine those with our different lace colors…
Well, here are a few combinations that you’ll see around our office:
Lena in her Mocha Earth with matching brown laces and a bunch of Brass Beads
Our office ultra-runner (and customer service manager), Bill, in Electric Mint with Purple laces (he puts 80-100 miles a week on these!)
Steven, taking inspiration from an 8 year old customer who was the first one to wear non-matching laces, in Boulder Sky with White laces and a Hand Pendant (on the left) and Hot Salmon with Red laces (right).
These new colors come in both Connect 4mm and Contact 6mm styles. And you can get them as kits or custom-made.
Being barefoot and running barefoot is a blissful and consciousness-expanding endeavor. The feedback supplied from the ground is powerful enough to force even experienced runners to try it for only a mile or so, if they make it that far. Barefoot running, however wonderful, should not be subscribed to dogmatically.
There are myriad resources available expounding on the benefits of being barefoot. Most of their reasons, methods, and warnings have merit. Unfortunately many of them sway to heavily towards the one-size-fits-all solution.
Experiencing life unshod isn’t always the best option. Putting on a pair of huaraches or other minimalist shoes can serve a number of beneficial purposes:
Technical Trail Running. Many people worry that the rocks, twigs, and roots on a trail make barefoot trail running impossible. Not true. First, you use your eyes and avoid what worries you. Second, your feet aren’t rigid and can grab and grip and mold around many “obstacles.”
That said, while there’s nothing better than feeling the grass beneath your feet, having your heel land on an embedded rock leaves something to be desired. To be more specific, it could leave behind a bruise that will take at least a week to heal.
That doesn’t include the chance of damaging the fatty tissue which protects your heel bone from impacting the ground. If any of this sounds painful, trust me, it’s worse than you’re picturing.
A trail has hazards which you may not wish to risk if you’re still an inexperienced barefooter. When a single false step means a week of no running, it’s just not worth it to be ideological about keeping yourself unshod.
Additional mileage Your body may be able to take additional mileage, but the bottoms of your feet may not be ready to support it yet barefoot. Now, if you’re looking to become a better barefoot runner, this is good news — when your skin tells you to stop… STOP! Over time it’ll adapt (not callous) and you’ll be able to put in more miles.
Until then, there’s nothing wrong with protecting your precious footsies, but only if you know your form is correct. If you are transitioning from shoes to barefoot and have yet to perfect the change from heel strike to mid foot strike or a forefoot strike, don’t ask for trouble by adding more miles in a minimalist shoe. You’ll find yourself injured promptly and thoroughly.
If you are comfortable in your stride, you will find that your feet hit a natural point where further barefoot running may only lead to blisters (that usually means your form has broken down and you’re pulling/pushing the ground, instead of placing/lifting). In these cases, adding a protective covering will give you the opportunity to add those additional miles you crave.
Racing A foot covering increases your margin for error while running. Proponents of barefoot running tout the pain feedback loop as a beneficial aspect. Any foot covering blocks the pain receptors, which allow you to cause more damage to your body.
In a race, this can be a necessary evil. A reduced pain feedback loop allows you to run a longer duration of more intensity. The covering may also absorb some of the mistakes you may have made barefoot (stepping on that rock in your mental fatigue).
There’s obviously a very fine line to be ridden here, and one that you can certainly go too far with. Go with the least amount of covering possible and you should be able to dampen and absorb just the minimal amount of error to improve your results.
I’d love to say, “If you’re not comfortable running that distance, don’t race that distance.” But I know how some of us… I mean, YOU… can be
The bitter cold Mother nature yields to no man. Don’t even think about getting the best of father winter.
If you live in a climate that has a true winter, you know what frostbite feels like. Now try running barefoot.
Amazingly, there are folks who do it, and enjoy it. And check out Steven shoveling snow in his huaraches. Frankly, I’ve tried it and even I think that’s crazy. Most people are going to need something to keep their feet protected from the elements (wind, snow, slush, etc.). Each person has a different tolerance, which will adapt as they get more comfortable with the colder weather.
When dealing with the elements it’s best to be safer than pull up limp 3 miles from your house and walk the rest of the way home.
Here in the Northern Hemisphere, Winter is upon us. And people email me every day asking what to do if they want to be barefoot or minimalist in the cold weather. While I’ve written about running bare foot in the cold before, this is a whole new thing
First let me say: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. In other words, don’t go out and try to imitate me.
I’ve been barefoot running for over 2 and a half years, and haven’t worn a pair of real shoes for more than a total of 3 days in that time.
Last winter, I thought, “I’ll keep my Invisible Shoes on until it seems too cold.” And the next thing I knew, it was Spring!
So, clearly I’ve acclimated. And that’s not too surprising. Humans (and our hominid cousins) lived in cold climates without shoes for a LOOOONG time. So, we’re kinda wired for it, if we give ourself time to adapt.
Here’s the video I just shot, after we got 18″+ of snow in Boulder. It’s about 15 degrees out.
What I did is this:
Outside for about 10 minutes
Inside to dry off my feet and warm them for 5
Outside for another 10
Inside to dry and warm for about 3
Outside for 30+ minutes… by this time my body temp had gone way up. I was sweating quite a bit. And my feet felt totally warm. Not numb. Warm. When I got inside after finishing the shoveling, they didn’t have to thaw or warm up or anything.
Lena wants me point out that you should check the Wiki about frostbite so you don’t do something stupid and get hurt
There are LOTS of reason you'll want to get out of your regular shoes and go barefoot or wear Xero Shoes. But the "barefoot world" is full of mythology, contradiction and, frankly, lies told to you by giant shoe companies. Even ones that sell minimalist shoes.
How do you discover the truth? How do you find the fastest and easiest way to start enjoying being barefoot or minimalist, whether you're a walker, hiker, paddle boarder, or runner? Simple. By signing up and receiving our free 7-part series: "Feel The World: How to enjoy the fun and benefits of being barefoot"
“An almost-barefoot feel, but with some protection... provides barefoot-like balance. It's so light you hardly feel it...” -Los Angeles Times
“Winner 2011 "Best Huarache" A powerhouse of a sandal that has no apparent weaknesses.” -Christian Peterson
“I was extremely surprised and delighted by how well the Invisible Shoes fit my feet... the closest to going barefoot without actually going barefoot...” -Jessica Lee
“It wasn’t until Steven made me my first pair that I understood how much fun they are to run in. My feet feel like they’re completely bare...” -Scott McLean
“If you are a barefoot runner or plan on running barefoot, you need a pair of huaraches!...”
“Xero Shoes for kids make an awesome summer sandal. They can be tricked out with beads and charms to make them even more fun. My daughter's daycare teachers always want to know where to get them!” -Justin Owings
“These are soooo cool!! It really is like running barefoot, but with a little protective mat under your feet. Your foot is completely free, unlike the Vibram FiveFingers...” -Joy Frantz
“Running in my Xero Shoes is really enjoyable – they maintain almost all of the fun barefoot feel, and give me enough protection to take on more challenging terrain..." -Donald Buraglio
“These are pretty much the only shoes I wear now. It makes sense that being barefoot (or close to it) is the way to walk..." -Tracy Jones
“Xero Shoes are the closest thing to actual barefoot running. Putting them on made me feel like a Native American warrior! They're great for my strength training workouts as well as running..." -Al Kavadlo