Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Shock the Monkey!: Luna Leadville W/ MGT (Monkey Grip Technology) Review

Luna Leadvilles w/Monkey Grip Technology!

Ok.. I have to admit that the first time I heard "Monkey Grip Technology", my first thought was "Kung fu grip!"

So yes.. I am dating myself again.  The Kung-Fu Grip was a feature offered on a line of G.I Joe action figures in 1974 (I was 9).  Wow... two sentences into a review and I am distracted already!

Back to the review..  recently I was provided the opportunity to test and review the Luna Leadvilles from Luna Sandals. As you may know, Luna was started by Barefoot Ted McDonald (of Born to Run fame). So, if you've read the book, you understand that a lot of though has gone into the Luna Sandal product line.

The models available include the Original Luna, Leadville, and Leadville Pacer.  The Leadville is slightly thicker than the Leadville Pacer (11mm versus 9mm), but otherwise have similar features.  I chose the Leadville to review, as I wanted to try the sandal that Barefoot Ted tackled the famed Leadville 100 Trail Race with in 2010.

The sandals come with a choice of traditional leather laces, elasticized laces (for easy on and off), or the ATS (all terrain strap).  The ATS is the best fit for trail running, so I tested that lacing version.  As you can see above, it is a pretty substantial strap, that includes an elastic heel strap to help keep the strap in place and to allow a nice snug fit. Also, the straps kind of do a crossover on the foot with an buckle that can slide forward and back, and then cinch down.  I like the extra loop to keep the extra strap down after adjusting.

The Vibram soles are pretty flexible, considering the thickness, and have a soft feel to them. As opposed to some of the thinner Vibram soles (on the Bedrock Sandals, or Runamoc's), these are certainly softer over all, so I'm curious as to how quickly they may wear.

Vibram sole with countersunk plug for the toe strap

Strap buckle

Vegan elasticized heel strap

Ok... by now I know you are dying to know more about the Kung.. I mean Monkey Grip Technology (MGT)!  Instead of a "naked" top sandal, or a leather foot bed, MGT is a 1mm rubber surface on top designed to enhance foot traction and durability.

Musical interlude!!

Ok sorry... ever since I titled this post I've been wanting to watch this video...  wow.. 1982.. remember when MTV played videos?  ugh.. waxing nostalgic and distracted once again.

Here is a close up of the surface.  The 1mm layer adds some really nice tackiness to the foot bed... something I really appreciate, especially running down hill.

So... the big question is.. how do the Leadvilles perform?  Overall, as a trail running huarache I thought they were pretty exceptional.  Granted, keep in mind that with 11mm between your foot and the ground, proprioception is certainly muted... but so are those nasty jagged rocks!  As I've mentioned before, minimalist trail runners have to find that sweet spot of trading off ground feel for protection that works specifically for them.  And yes, Ken Bob, if by chance you are reading this... first, why are you reading a shoe review? You don't need shoes! And second, yes, I understand barefoot is best... and I will work on it.. promise :-).

Ok... one of the best tests I put the Leadvilles through was the first race (of a 4 race trail series) with Pikes Peak Road Runners.  This first race included about 3/4 of a mile of running upstream in water/sand/rocks/mud that reached near knee level in some spots.  Runners were advised to wear old shoes as they would get jammed with gravel and mud from the stream. What a perfect environment for the Leadvilles!  From all the runners, I chatted with one girl running barefoot (totally awesome), and saw maybe 3 pairs of VFF's out there... but from what I could tell, no other huaraches.  BUT.. a lot of folks were commenting on what a good choice they would be.  Every step I took in the mucky stuff I could feel the sand and gravel get under my feet... but.. as soon as I lifted them, the force of the water flushed them clean...  I stepped out of the water back on the trail with nothing but clean wet feet.  And the MGT ensured I wasn't squeaking and slipping around in them.  Immediately after stepping out, I felt a little slipping, but within 30 seconds my grip was good and I could run past a few folks trying to empty their shoes...   awesome.

As fall has certainly arrived here in Colorado (snowed already), I've done several runs pairing Injinji's with the Leadvilles...  worked out great...  traction was excellent and kept my toes just a tad bit warmer.

If you are looking for an industrial strength trail running huarache, the Luna Leadvilles are a great choice. Especially if you are more focused on a heavy duty huarache that may carry you  more miles (maybe even 100!).

So, what are the downsides?  As far as quality, construction, and features go, these are the Rolls Royce of huaraches.  And like a Rolls, the downside is that they are positioned near or at the top of the price range for sandals.  The Leadvilles (as reviewed), will set you back $100 ($85 sandal, $15 for ATS lace system).  What remains to be seen is how much mileage you can get out of these..  I only have around 50 on them so far, so will be interesting to see if there are any wear issues... if so, I'll update the review down the road... or trail.. :-)

What experience have you had with any of the Luna models?

Happy trails!



  1. Those sound PERFECT for you and you couldn't have found a more ideal race than the first in the fall series to test them out. When I saw that I had to run in that river, I chickened out ;).

    I think I'd like them just to wear with my black leggings to work! :)

    Great review, thanks!

    1. monkey grip technology? looks like a regular flip flop footbed to me

  2. I haven't tried any sandals yet. I have run barefoot a tad and loved it! I do need to do it a bit more, though. I love Shock the Monkey! Peter Gabriel was the first concert I ever went to!

  3. I am hoping to get a pair of these bad boys soon, I was happy to see your review, it convinced me that these are the right choice! Thanks! happy running!

    1. Great! Glad it was helpful... let me know what you think when you get them!

      Happy trails!

  4. you get a lot of these shoes for review ;)


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