Original Luna Sandals – a review

In Barefoot running, Born To Run, Injury problems, Luna sandals, Minimalist shoes, Review by All This Running Around1 Comment

Okay, so I’ve had my Lunas for a while now and clocked up a good few hundred miles on them. Time to give you my (largely worthless and entirely pointless) opinion on them. I’ve broken the review down into a few different parts, but to be honest I’ve no idea what I’m doing. Maybe you’ll find it useful. But more likely this post will be used to teach future bloggers how not to review something. So, here goes. Bet you can’t wait.

Choosing and buying my Lunas

Right, so first things first. I read about these sandals in Chris McDougall’s ‘Born To Run’ over Christmas 2011. Having Googled Barefoot Ted, I quickly came across Luna’s website (https://www.lunasandals.com/) and pretty much decided to buy a pair on the spot. It’s worth pointing out that at this time, I was quite firmly gripped by my new-found zeal for running, and convinced that barefoot running was the way to go. I’m still convinced, although I’ve learned a great deal about my body during the course of the year. When people say it takes time to transition to a barefoot running style, they’re not kidding.

Luna don’t currently have any retail distribution in the UK, but not a problem as I could buy direct from their website. First stage was to choose which pair were going to be right for me. Although the range changes constantly as they improve and adapt different models, the essential considerations remain the same. The main thing is where you’re going to be doing the bulk of your running. On roads, on light trails, heavy trails? There’s a sandal for every option, but since I figured I’d be doing very little serious off-roading, plus the fact I was keen to get good ground feel, I went for the Original. The Original Luna uses a 6mm neoprene sole (made by Vibram, of ‘Five Fingers’ fame) and is designed for roads, pavements and light trails.

Having  chosen my sandal, the next step was to decide on laces, footbed and of course size. I’m a complete arse when it comes to tying knots or anything of that nature, so I decided on the 1/2″ elasticized laces as opposed to the traditional huarache style leather or hemp lace. You also have the choice of a suede footbed; essentially just a 2mm layer of suede glued onto the neoprene sole. It provides a little more comfort, but can get a little slippery when it’s wet. Alternatively, you can go ‘naked’, in which case your foot rests directly on the neoprene. More grip in damp conditions, but comfort’s important, right? I went with the suede top. (Things have changed slightly here: Luna no longer supply their sandals with a naked top, as they’ve developed a different surface for those who don’t want the suede. You can read about it on their site, it’s called Monkey Grip Technology. Seriously.)

Finally, sizing. Luna offers some good advice in respect of what size will suit you, and you can even have your sandals custom made to fit your feet. Back in February, that was a free service. There’s now a $15 charge for having your sandals custom made, but that’s a small price to pay for having odd shaped feet! I was reasonably confident that a normal size 10 would do the job for me. I take a 10 in nearly all my shoes, and I was pleased (and relieved) to find that the sandals fitted well. But if you have any questions regarding the size of your feet, Luna strongly encourage you to get in touch with them.

The ‘basic’ Original Luna starts at $50. With the footbed, and the elasticized laces, mine came to $75, or around £46 in proper money. (And it’s worth noting that nine months later, the price has remained the same.) So, job done, sandals ordered. And, wait… They took a while to arrive, plus I had to pay import duty on them (eleven or twelve pounds, from memory). But no problem, and the staff I spoke with via email were very helpful. So far, so good.

First impressions

In a way, first impressions are kind of meaningless when you get your first pair of Lunas. These are not flashy, colourful running shoes. They’re not really supposed to blow your mind when you take them out of the packaging for the first time. That happens later, when you’ve got them on your feet. But my initial thoughts were “wow, they’re light”, followed closely by “wow, they’re basic”. There’s no getting around it. They are. Even though I’d spent ages looking at them on the website and had a good idea of what I was getting, when what you’re holding in your hand is essentially a bit of plastic with some suede on top, it’s a natural response. Here’s what they look like before you put them on.

As you can see, when they first come they are completely flat. The suede starts to mould itself to your foot very quickly, and after a while the overall shape of the sandal will change dramatically. Here’s what mine looked like after the first run.

The suede has already started to darken down, but you need to put some miles on them before the whole shape of the sandal changes. And here’s how they look today.

One final point about the laces. Due to the fact I often go through life showing all the signs of someone with a significant brain injury, I made a complete cock up with them. I hadn’t quite grasped the fact that I didn’t need to untie and re-tie them. They come pre-tied, and all you have to do is put your foot in and adjust them as necessary. Well, I thought you had to untie them and start again. I am an idiot. I sat there swearing for about half an hour before my wife took pity on me and sorted them out. Since then they’ve been fine. Probably no need to include this, but there might be someone out there as stupid as me.

Running in my Original Lunas

FINALLY. The actual bit that matters. I’m not going to drone on about form and transition and zzz… Let’s assume you know something about barefoot/minimalist running.

The first thing to note is that, considering I was only wearing 6mm of neoprene and a bit of suede on my feet, they were (and still are) incredibly comfortable. Having managed to get the elasticized laces correctly adjusted, they just felt – right. They were stable and secure, and I quickly became accustomed to having them on. This is probably why I ran four miles first time out, and was crippled for about five days as a result. Don’t let these sandals lull you into a false sense of security. Your feet might feel great, but your legs will curse you for being a bloody idiot if you don’t take it easy at first.

The neoprene sole gives excellent ground feel, whilst still providing enough protection to ensure you’re not going to get anything stuck in your foot. Where I run there are a lot of stony tracks and paths. The Lunas will cope brilliantly with smaller bits (gravel etc), but anything larger and you’re going to have to watch where you’re putting your feet. (Which, if you want to run barefoot, you should probably be doing anyway.) Even running on the road I found I could feel the surface on the bottom of my feet. It goes to show how incredibly sensitive that part of your body is; incredible really.

Whenever I show the Lunas to anyone, they always hone in on the material that sits between your two toes at the front. The assumption is that it will rub and chafe, creating a blister there. It doesn’t. (And let’s face it, it would be a pretty monumental design fuck up if it did.) I’ve never been conscious of having it there, let alone had it cause any problems. The only issue I’ve ever had with the laces was when I decided to tighten them up and went too far. The result? Well, nothing really. Bit of a mark on my foot where the laces had been.

Over the course of the first couple of months, I did virtually all my running in my Lunas. I can safely say that it was the most fun I’d ever had while running. It’s true to say I’ve had various blisters, top of foot pain and so on. But these issues can be attributed to the change in running form as opposed to the sandals themselves. I’m still not close to having made the transition fully, and just as one little niggle seems to disappear, another arrives. Never mind, it’s all part of the process.

If I have one little gripe about them (and it is a minuscule, wafer-thin gripe), it’s that I do occasionally get a tiny stone stuck between the sandal and my foot. This is pretty annoying. I remember reading online somewhere that Lunas were preferable to VFFs on the basis that any small stones that find their way under your foot will just instantly fall out again. I haven’t found that to be the case, and usually end up performing a weird kind of leg shaking manoeuvre while I’m running, which makes me look a bit like a nutter.

I’ve tried them in all conditions and on different types of trail. By and large I’d agree with what Luna themselves say on their website. If you want something that’s going to take whatever you can throw at it and works brilliantly in the wet, go for a different sandal. (The Leadville, most likely.) But actually, I’ve found the Original to work okay in the wet. At least when you’re on tarmac or a nice solid path. What they don’t work with is mud. I foolishly tried to negotiate a slippery trail in the spring and ended up hurting myself as a result. Put them on wed mud and you might as well be on ice skates. (Although you’d also have to be on ice for that analogy to work. Never mind.) But again, this is nothing that Luna themselves don’t tell you. The Original has fantastic ground feel but almost no grip. The thing is, you’ll enjoy running in them so much you’ll just want to give it a go…

I think that ultimately, my favourite thing about Lunas is not having my feet feel restrained in a sweaty shoe. It’s a great feeling to run with your feet open to the elements, in fact it surprised me just how strong a feeling it is. I would say there’s nothing else like it, but of course there is: running completely barefoot. Of which more below.

Novelty factor?

The fact is, huaraches have been around for thousands of years. Equally, you don’t see many people wearing them, certainly not if you’re out and about in England. You definitely don’t see many people wearing them to run in. I’ve seen one other person wearing Lunas this year, and that was in a 100 mile ultra that I helped out on. There’s no doubt about it, wearing this sandal is something of a statement. If you don’t want to people to do a double take when they see your feet, or make hilarious jokes about flip-flops, or be utterly dismissive of barefoot running as a ‘fad’, then these aren’t for you. However, you will also come across people who are genuinely interested and want to talk to you about them. It’s that that makes me think huaraches (and specifically Lunas) are going to really take off over the next few years. I’m not suggesting you buy a pair of sandals to create a talking point. But if you’re interested in barefoot running and you like the idea of not having your feet cooped up in shoes, you should give them a try. In fact, you should give them a try anyway.

Benefit of hindsight

After speaking with various barefoot runners and learning a bit along the way, the one thing I’d suggest to anyone thinking about barefoot running is not to pin everything on one bit of footwear. I believe that the best approach is to incorporate some fully barefoot running into your routine, because despite the thinness of the soles and so on, the fact is that even Luna Sandals remove a little bit of the sensation from the soles of your feet. Another very good idea is to learn with someone who’s already been through it.

Having said that, I absolutely love my Lunas and will certainly be adding another pair fairly soon. There will always be places you want to run where it’s not really possible to be completely barefoot, and there’s a good chance that you’d rather have something on your feet regardless of the terrain. Lunas let your feet breathe, they’re comfortable, secure and they look good. So get some.

Go to https://www.lunasandals.com/ or click the icon in the sidebar.