Hey everyone... here is my latest installment on my quest to test/review ALL of the huarache running options out there..well, ok, maybe not all :-). A year ago there weren't that many, but seems like there are new companies starting up everyday, which is a good indicator that the minimalist running movement continues to grow.
One of those new companies is Tanner Sandals, based in beautiful New Hampshire. Tanner Sandals was started earlier this year by three brothers, Coy, Luke & Daniel, who wanted to create quality minimalist sandals that support the natural, or barefoot walking/running style. I've been working with Luke, the "dreamer" of the group, and he provided a great opportunity to try out two models of sandals.. the "Answer" and the "Timeless".
|8mm Vibram/Neoprene Sole option|
As far as sizing goes, Tanner provides good instructions on how to measure and determine what size is best OR you can follow instructions to trace your feet, and send in to them and they will custom cut your size at no extra charge! I thought that was a great feature... and I went ahead and did tracings of both my feet (one is 1/4 inch longer than the other, so I got a perfect fit!
|Sole on the "Timeless"|
So, I spent most of my time in the "Answer" model shown above. Pretty standard huarache strapping arrangement. The nylon strapping is fairly wide, and it connects to two thinner and softer straps in front of the "TS" logo,down through your toes, and is then anchored underneath the leather foot bed. This method avoids any kind of knot or hole in the sole for the toe strap connection.
The straps work fairly well, however not quite as smooth for adjusting as the clip/strap setup on the Bedrock Earthquakes.
The heel strap has a rubber sleeve, which helps with keeping it snug on the back of your heel and helps prevent slippage while running.
So.. once I had the strap adjustments figured out, I ended up spending a lot of time just wearing these while working, or walking around. The natural leather foot bed was stiff, and the smooth surface was a bit slippery feeling. Huaraches I've tried before these were all rubber only, so this was kind of an adjustment for me. I just didn't feel like I could run in them right out of the packaging. I could tell I needed some time for them to begin to mold to me feet. Eventually they did soften up a bit and I could see the impression my feet were beginning to leave in them.
After a week or so, I felt like I could take them out on the trail, so I did. On the first few runs, I had to stop a few times to readjust the tension in the straps, but that is fairly normal and to be expected. The only thing I struggled with in running in the "Answer" model was getting used to the leather foot bed. Although traction was better, I was still not that crazy about the smooth slick feeling. Perhaps with a few more miles they will wear in better.
As you can see here, after several runs and more time wearing them, the foot bed is certainly molding to my feet. That has helped somewhat with the slick feeling. I asked Luke about other options, and it sounds like Tanner Sandals is working on a rubberized foot bed that may be available in the future. For me personally, I would like to see that option, as that is more my personal preference.
But aside from the foot bed issue, I did like them on the trail. The stack height certainly provided much more protection against nasty stuff on the trail, but of course at the cost of some ground feel. That will always be a trade-off, so its a matter of finding that sweet spot for your own personal tastes as far as the feel versus protection. I also noticed that the sole seemed to soften up a bit, allowing more flex. I think as compared to other huaraches I've tried, these just require a little more break-in time, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Ultimately, wearing these in will provide a truly customized fit (no one is going to steal your shoes!)
Now.. on to the "Timeless" model. These basically had the exact same sole, however the strapping is obviously much different. These are some really classic huaraches... or as my wife calls them.."Jesus shoes" :-). The split soft nylon strapping is the same between the toes, but after that its natural leather looped through a ring system. The straps are really long, so you can create your own wrapping styles etc. As far as running goes, I didn't like these as much, primarily because it was more difficult to dial in a snug and comfortable fit that wouldn't shift around a lot when running. However, for casual wear.. these are great. The leather is comfortable, and while you will get some looks for sure, I think the styling is pretty cool. I know I'll look to these more next summer as my "dressy" huaraches :-).
As far as pricing goes, sandals range anywhere form $70-$85 depending on how you configure them. This places them in the mid to upper-mid pricing range for running huaraches.
So, to summarize my thoughts/impressions:
- Tanner Sandals is a great company, run by cool guys who get the barefoot sandal lifestyle.
- The product quality is very high, and the fact they will customize with no extra charge is awesome.
- A variety of models are offered (including kids), and there are some good options you can customize with.
- Foot bed design allows for no knot under the shoe.
- Nylon straps provide good function for trail running.
- Can be a bit stiff when new (especially in the 8mm option)
- Straps could be slightly smoother to adjust
- Smooth leather foot bed feels slippery at first, and requires some break-in time.
So, overall, a good huarache made with quality material and workmanship. Again, for me personally, I am excited to hear more about a rubber foot bed, especially for trail running conditions. Check out all the Tanner models at their website here.
As always, if you have any questions/comments or if I missed something, please let me know!