Ok... I couldn't pass up on the football reference, being that it is the season and all. But, the grounding that is important at EarthRunners, a new Kickstarter sandal company, is not an NFL penalty, but rather the act of physically connecting with the earth with your feet in order to experience the same electric potential as the earth's surface. This doesn't happen (as I understand it), when wearing shoes or any thing that insulates you from being connected to the ground.
|Quantum Earth Runners, 4mm sole (total 8mm), Medium width, Suede foot bed, Nylon straps|
I was fortunate to get an opportunity to test and review the "Quantum" model. Since I enjoy trails the most, I selected these as being best suited for the trail environment. There are two things that make these huaraches a bit different than ones I have tried before. First, between the suede foot bed, and the rubber sole is a cork layer (similar to like a Birkenstock sandal). And of course, the obvious copper studs that provide the direct electrical connection between your foot and the ground.
What is interesting about this strap setup, is that it provides pretty decent stability and heel strap support. At first I was a bit skeptical, as it seemed the sandal wouldn't be able to remain stable and in place.. and a lack of a rubber sleeve on the strap might cause it to slip. However, after several longer trail runs, I didn't experience any of those issues. I just had to get used to the strap coming from between my toes and cutting across my foot at a different angle than I am used to. Didn't take too long to adjust. My only wish on this system would be a softer nylon strap. I understand these are a climbing grade nylon, so are very strong, but initially a bit itchy between the toes and if not positioned well, could cause some chafing. I didn't experience that, just kind of noticed it was a little rough at first.
As far as the foot bed goes, I kind of liked the cork layer. Combined with the suede, the shoes started to form to my foot and toe shape, and I know over time it that custom fit will develop more. The most unique thing about the foot bed (besides the copper rivets), was the slight flaring around the edges (and arch area above). There was no molded arch in these, however I found that having a slightly upturned edge did wonders on the trail. I picked up less gravel and chunks than I usually do, and I certainly felt less toe strap pressure on the downhills as the front edge provide a little extra stability in the sandal. And, the suede provides decent foot grip, however I didn't get an opportunity to run in any really wet conditions, so I can't speak to how they will react there. Ground feel was somewhat muffled, but that is to be an expected trade-off for the thicker trail sole.
Ok.. finally to the copper rivets that provide the grounding for the sandals. There are 8 studs built into the sandal... 4 in front, one in the center and 3 across the back, just in front of the heel. In case you haven't noticed, I haven't talked a lot about "grounding". Primarily that's because its a new concept to me, and I can't say that I'm a firm believer in grounding or the benefits from it. Just by doing a little poking around on the web, I quickly discovered that there are a lot of people that swear by it, and almost an equal amount of them calling it completely absurd. For me, I do not question the benefits of connecting with the ground barefoot.. I know it is a wonderful feeling, similar to any other outdoor activity. Who doesn't love the feel of beach sand on their feet? However, I can't say it is because you are grounded with the earth electrically, or if it simply a physical/emotional response. Regardless, I'm not going to discount it. My thought process is... it can't hurt, so why not!
Now, do they affect the performance of the sandal? Not really... I honestly couldn't feel them while running... however, I did notice them one day when bike riding at 40 F. When I stopped, I could feel the cold studs when I took a few steps. Copper conducts electricity yes, but it will conduct cold and heat as well. Normally at < 40F I would be wearing Injinji's.. I did that this morning on a trail run, and didn't feel any cold from the studs.. but I wonder what the impact might be when running on super hot asphalt? Guess you might run faster! :-)
In addition to the Quantum, EarthRunners also offers the Ultralight EarthRunners... which would be better suited to road running vs trail... in my opinion.
So, as a quick recap... I really like the unique features of these sandals, and they proved to be very comfortable to run in. I would love to see a slightly more comfortable strap, however I may just be whiny, as they performed just fine on the trail this morning. Also, check out this really great video from their Kickstarter campaign.. cool info on how the company came about and the sandals..
Now for the cool news.... EarthRunners is a Kickstarter project, and the project runs until 10/15/12. If you go to the Kickstarter page at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1287298052/earth-runners-get-grounded you can get these at 20% off, and it includes custom sizing! (currently priced at $60 which will go up to $75... a really good price for the quality of sandal.. and the price of copper!)
Also, EarthRunners will build a conductive sandal to be donated to the children of India with every 10 pairs of EarthRunners sold.... that is very cool.
So... if you feel out of synch, go get grounded!
Now, I didn't get to take any pictures of the Quantum's in action on the trail, as it's been way too dark in the mornings! But I'll leave you with some cool shots from the top of the Manitou Incline..
Enjoy, and happy trails!