Thursday, February 26, 2015

First Look! Xero Shoes Amuri Z-Trek Sport Sandal!

Aha! So I've been wondering what Mr. Sashen over at Xero Shoes has been up to lately...  and now I (and you) know!

Today is the pre-launch announcement of the Amuri Z-Trek sport sandal pictured above!  I just got a pre-release pair last week, and I'm really impressed!   This is not really a true review, as I've only been wearing them a short time, and have not been able to run in them (since I'm not a huarache snow runner), but I really wanted to share my first impressions ahead of the full release next week.

So, the Z-Trek is based on the same sole as the Ventures (5.5mm), but obviously have a totally revamped lacing system.  The wide nylon straps cross over the foot, versus a between the toe type set up.  There are two points of adjustment, across the front of the foot, and a velcro connector over the heel.  Once you dial in the front adjustments, all you need to do us slide in and out via that back of the sandal, tighten up and go.

I've been wearing these around the house, but as I noted, I haven't got to run in them yet!  But be certain that I will and I'll provide a full detailed review.  I am really curious as to how secure the "across the foot" style works, versus between the toes, especially running down hill.  But right now they feel very secure and comfortable.

The only minor thing I noticed was a little poking in my foot under the stitching by the big toe, and again on the outside connector stitching.  Upon further inspection I notice a small nylon thread just barely poking out, so I simply snipped it a tiny bit shorter so it fell below the surface of the material... problem solve!   Of course, the true test will be how the fit over a longer run, but hopefully find out once Spring arrives :-)

In addition to the Z-Trek, Xero Shoes has also revamped the lacing system on the Amuri Cloud and Venture!  Anyway, to celebrate the launch of the Z-Trek and the new lacing system, Xero Shoes is giving away a ton of stuff!   Take a minute to learn more from the video below... AND you can click HERE to jump to the Xero Shoes giveaway page...   Z-Trek's should be available for order next week!

Happy trails!


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Endless Summer II: Earth Runners Circadian-X Review and Giveaway!

Ah yes.....  those endless days of summer...   hopefully to return soon!  Don't get me wrong, I love the winter, and am looking to run a 50K Fat Ass (Headless Horsetooth) on Saturday, and it is predicted to be snowing... a lot!  But it's still great to daydream about barefoot runs in the sand, and logging warm trail miles in comfortable huaraches.....

Which brings me to part 2 of my Endless Summer series on new trail running huaraches...    The sandal for the day? Earth Runners Circadian-X! 

I've been working with Mike Dally, and Earth Runners, since October 2012 when they ran their first Kickstarter project...  At that time I reviewed the original Quantum's and you can check out that review by clicking HERE. 

Since that time, I've had the pleasure of working with Mike, providing feedback/input, and watching Earth Runners grow into a top notch, high quality, running sandal company.  Each product iteration gets better, and the new Circadian-X is no exception...   so check out the review, and stay tuned at the end to enter to win a pair as well, courtesy of Mike and Earth Runners!

So, I'm really excited to tell you about the Circadian-X shown above.  Back in May of 2013, I did a review of the Circadian (6mm) and Alpha (10mm Birkenstock) sandals, which you can check out HERE to learn more about the original Circadian.

The original version was a 6mm stack height trail runner, which is a great trail running huarache.  The new Circadian-X differs from the Circadians I reviewed before in a few ways:

  • 8 mm stack height
  • leather foot bed
  • leather lacing

It doesn't sound like a lot of differences, but wow what a difference in feel.  I really like the 8mm stack height. Up until now, my sandal collection included thin (4-6mm) or thick (10-12mm) soles.  The Circadian-X fills a nice spot right in between, finding a new balance between flexibility, ground feel, and protection.   What I like about this particular combination of stack height and composition, is a sole that carries the protection of a thicker sandal, but still retains some really nice flexibility and good feedback.

The Circadian-X's also come in at just under 6 oz for my size 10, which is pretty nice.

The best features to me however, are the new leather laces, and foot bed. They are so soft and comfortable, and it took very little time to get them fitted and ready to go.  The "race-lacing" style works terrific and the leather was very comfortable on my feet while trail running.  I was only able to get around 30 trail miles on these before the weather turned, but I think these may be my "go-to" sandal once it warms up again.  And because they are so comfortable, they'll probably be a well used casual pair as well.

The model I reviewed included the conductive inserts as well, to incorporate being grounded as well.  If that isn't something you are interested in, you can also order these without the inserts.  And if you want to further enhance the grounding feature, you can also get conductive nylon laces, as well as conductive leather laces as an option.

So, if you like what you've seen and heard, be sure to check out the Circadian-X and the other great sandals at the Earth Runners website

And, as always, leave me a note below if I've missed something or if you have a question.  Also, feel free to leave me a note at the Barefoot Inclined Facebook page too. 

Ok... now to give away a pair of Circadian-X's!  I'll run this contest through Friday, February 27th, 2015 10 PM MST.  Open to the residents of the U.S. and Canada only.  Enter below using the Rafflecopter widget... and good luck!

Happy trails!


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Endless Summer I: Shamma Sandals Warrior, Mountain Goat Review and Giveaway!

Aaah... summer time. For many of you, especially in the East, winter must seem like it is going to last forever!  Here in Colorado, we've had a relatively mild winter...  some snow, cold temps sure, but at least this week its unseasonably warm...  which makes me think of summer... and huaraches of course!

Today's post/review is part one of two new huarache sandal reviews to help you get in the mood for summer!  I do miss sandal running through the winter, and am looking forward to the season to arrive again soon!

So... to kick off dreaming of summer, I am reviewing a few sandals from a relative new comer to the huarache market, Shamma Running Sandals.  Well, new to me at least as of last Fall.  So, stick around for my impressions of the Shamma Warrior, and Mountain Goat huaraches, and of course be sure to enter to win a pair, courtesy of the cool folks at Shamma! I'll start with the Shamma Mountain Goats first...  primarily because they are similar to many of the heavier duty trail running huaraches I've reviewed before, and enjoy running in.

Here are the specs:

Vibram sole with a stack height of 11mm
Premium black goatskin foot bed
Hook and Loop fastening system, with a suede leather heel strap
5.8 oz weight (in my size 10's)

My initial impression of the Mountain Goats was that they reminded me a lot of the Luna Oso's..  based on the construction and feel, it's difficult not to compare the two. You can click on the link above to see the review of the Oso's if you aren't familiar with them.

The Mountain Goats sport one of the typical Vibram huaraches soles/tread patterns, and these work well for decent traction.  Also, the toe strap is attached via an embedded plug, which so far has proven to be very durable.

Although lighter than the 7 oz Oso's, I would say that the flexibility of the sole on the Mountain Goats is at least as stiff, or perhaps stiffer.  I did notice that they softened up as I put a few more miles on, but I didn't have enough time last fall to get more than 25 miles in these before the weather turned.

So, what makes these sandals unique?  Good question, as that seems to be a bit more difficult to do as the running huarache market grows.  For me, I really like the goat skin foot bed. I like the feel of a natural material, and the leather used on Shamma Sandals is soft/comfortable, but still provides some nice traction on the foot bed while running.  Also, the sandals immediately began to mold to my foot, creating a nice custom fit and feel.

Shamma Warrior and Mountain Goat
The other feature is strapping system.  With a hook and loop style adjustment, Shamma has moved towards making huaraches adjustments a little faster, and maybe a little easier.  However, I still had to spend quite a bit of time dialing in the adjustments on these to find a comfortable fit.  That is pretty common for most running huaraches, but for some reason these took me a little bit longer.

The Shamma's also include a stretchy "heel strap helper" which helps to guide the straps at that kind of awkward spot by your ankle and to help keep things in place.  This part was a bit confusing to me (and might even be incorrect in the pic!), BUT.. have no fear, there are some terrific info videos on how to set up and adjust straps which can be found by clicking HERE.    I also found the suede leather heel strap to work well and staying comfortable and helping to keep the heel strap up.

The only issue I have with the Shammas, is that the hook/loop strapping system can be a little scratchy on top of the foot.  Not terribly so, but I would have more of a concern running ultra distances in these, as any slight niggle is going to amplify over time.  Beyond that, the Mountain Goat is a well built, and sturdy trail running sandal, on par with similar huaraches on the market in this category.  As always, it boils down to finding what you like, and what works for you!

Shamma Mountain Goat and Warrior

Ok... so next up is the Warrior (above right).   A trail running huarache as well, but much more on the minimal side.   Here are the specs:

Vibram Sole with 5mm stack height
Premium goat skin foot bed (tobacco brown, as opposed to the yellow above)
Hook and Loop fastening system, with a suede leather heel strap
Only 3.5 oz weight (in my size 10's)

Next to my 4mm Xeroshoes Connects,  these are the thinnest running sandals I own.  I won't go into the other features that are the same as I noted above (strapping system, footbed etc), but instead make some observations about this particular model.

First off, these sandals are thin and light!  The thin Vibram sole is super flexible, and when combined with the goatskin foot bed, they are some of the most comfortable sandals I've worn.  Obviously, trail running in them is different than the Mountain Goats because of the decreased protection, but the ground feel is terrific.  I run a lot of rocky trails, and I like a little protection, so, for me, these wouldn't be my go to trail runner, but they are terrific on road, and I love them as a casual sandal.

Again, the only issue I have is with the comfort of the strap, but I found the scratchiness to be less noticeable on the Warriors... perhaps due to the weight, or maybe I got better and adjusting.  Regardless, I'll continue to mess around with them to get them exactly the way I like them.

So there you go...  another option in the huarache market place, and as always, I love seeing new companies, especially ones being hand made in the U.S.   I think Shamma Sandals offer a good product and a competitive price point, and I appreciate the opportunity to check them out!  As always, if I missed anything, or if you have a comment/question/rant, leave a comment below, or on the Barefoot Inclined Facebook page :-)

Now, if you'd like to check out a pair, make sure to enter via the Rafflecopter thing-a-ma-jig below. Contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only.  Contest runs until 10PM MST, Monday February 16th, 2015. Thanks and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy trails!