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!


Monday, October 29, 2012

Ancestral Footwear: Leming Footwear Review

Things have been so busy lately, so I've got a number of reviews of some great products backed up.  Today I'm finally getting to a review of a really great shoe.  And to quote my wife.."Wow... you actually have some minimalist shoes that don't look goofy!!"

The shoes she was talking about?  The shoe from Leming Footwear (formerly Stem Footwear). And I have to say, these are some of the most comfortable minimalist shoes I've worn.  Leming (which is short for Level & Flat, Extra wide toe box, and Minimal design), has created a super comfortable, casual shoe for those of us that can never return to a lifted heel, over cushioned shoe.

While these shoes weren't specifically designed as a running shoe, I did take a short run in them just to get a feel.  They performed well, and were really comfortable... BUT.. the whole time I was worried about getting them too dirty... lol.  Since that time, these have become my "go to" shoe for every day wear.  They look great, and I love the wide toe box, light weight, and great proprioception that comes from a super flexible shoe.

From a specifications standpoint, the Leming's weigh in at 6.3 oz and have a total stack height of 8.5mm, but that includes the insole which I would estimate is around 3mm.  The insole is used as a sizing tool (similar to the GoLite Dart Lite), so that if you leave it in, it fits better for a narrow to medium width foot, and remove it for a medium to wide foot.  I tried it both ways, and preferred the shoe without the insole. Fit was great, and I generally wear socks with them.  However, if you wanted to wear these barefoot, you certainly could as the stitching inside is very smooth, and the shoe is machine washable.

The obligatory flexibility test photo...
So... if you are looking for a really comfortable, and truly minimalist casual shoe, I think the Leming's are a great choice.  They function as a great casual shoe (and I've worn them bike riding as well).  Currently, Leming offers just the one style (for men and women), but I am hoping that sometime in the future they may put out other styles, and perhaps some running specific shoes. 

For you minimalist shoe folks out there... what is your favorite casual shoe? Besides barefoot of course :-) Let me know!

Happy trails!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Insanely Fast! Switch Eyewear Review and Giveaway!

H-Wall Swept Back - Switch Eyewear
Insanely fast!!  Uh.. no... not talking about my running.. lol.  That would be insanely slow...  Insanely fast refers to how quickly you can switch out your lenses with Switch Eyewear's trademarked Magnetic Interchange Lens System.  Pretty cool stuff...   Stay tuned through the review to see how to win a pair for yourself!

Recently I've been running in a pair of these cool glasses from Switch Eyewear.  Trail running in Colorado requires quality thermonuclear protection, and I seldom run without some kind of sun and debris protection.  Earlier this year I did a review of Ryders Eyewear trail runners here.  What I liked about those was the photochromic lenses that allowed for a transition from low-light to bright sun environments.

Switch addresses this issue by designing frames that allow a quick swap out of different tinted lenses for the type of environment you are running in.  Most sets come with low-light rose amber lens, as well as a polarized grey (or other color) lens for bright settings.  What is really slick is the magnetic interchange system to swap out lenses.

Extra lenses can be carried in a slim protective case, with magnets (similar to the ones in the frames) to secure the lens in the holder.  All you have to do is get the lens close, and BAM! it locks into the case. The case is very trim and light, and easy to tuck into a pocket, or handheld.

All you have to do is get the lens close to position in the frames, and they snap in by themselves.  Very secure and very stable.  As for the lenses, I liked the rose amber for early mornings or cloudy days. They work much like driving glasses to help bring out the detail of the trail.  The polarized darker lenses work really great in the bright Colorado sun.. I had no issues with distortion either.

As for venting, the H-Wall design works well... even with my slow running, I get enough flow through to keep the lenses relative clear of fog.  The only time I had issues was when running pre-dawn in them... I would wear them on my hat, and they got pretty steamed up so that when I went to use them, there was a lot of moisture there... I know.. gross.   But a quick wipe off and they were good to go.

Here they are in action.. I know, not the best pic.  On this particular day, I knew I would be running in full sun most of the race, so I stuck with the darker lens.   The worked great... very light weight, but the quality of construction is good.  I didn't take any face plants, but if I did, I think they would have held up very well.. at least the lenses could be popped back in if the dislodged!  But I doubt they would.. the magnetic bond is really strong.

Most frame/lens combinations retail in the $75-$95 range, so a little pricier, but not crazy expensive like some brands can be.  And for the price you get a great multi-lens system. Check out their website to see how easy it is to customize the type of lens and frame combo you are looking for... OR read a bit further and win a pair for yourself!

For this giveaway, I'm excited to be able to give away two pairs of Switch eye wear.. What I have is two pairs of the "Stoke" style pictured above.. one in black, and one in a demi purple.  So, to make this more fun, I'll giveaway the black pair to one lucky guy.. and the purple to one lucky gal... how does that sound?

Good luck.. and happy trails!

Follow the instructions on each option below to earn entries.  Contest will close on Monday, October 29th 2012, at 10PM MST.  Winners will be selected at random from all entries using   Contest limited to residents of  the U.S. and Canada 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Am I truly born to run?? Born2Run Preview....

I just love this cover of the Japanese version of the book.  The original cover photo taken by Luis Escobar had Caballo Blanco (Micah True) in it.   Anyway.. thought it was fitting since this book motivated me the most to run, and more importantly to run the right way :-)
Which ultimately has led me to sign up for my first marathon at the end of January.  Still can't believe it! My primary goal for this marathon? To finish under 5:30 (don't laugh.. well, ok go ahead) so I can try to get a spot in the Pikes Peak Marathon next August!  I know.. even crazier.

I'm just starting my 2nd week of a 16 week training schedule for this marathon.  That in itself is kind of nutty to me...  for the last year or more, I've just ran when I felt like it... and tried to run my next race distance at least once before the race so I would know how it felt (and whether I could make it!).  But of course now, jumping from a 1/2 to a full marathon is a whole new ball game. So, I am using the Runners World app on my iPod and created a 16 week schedule that I'm hoping will help me ramp up to the distance (my long run so far is 15).

So.. I couldn't have been more excited to get an inquiry from asking what I thought about their site and products.  Born2Run was started by Eric Orton, who coached Chris McDougall, author of Born To Run.  I loved reading Born to Run... and recognized Eric's name from the book.  You have read the book right?  If not, stop reading this... go read it... and come back :-).  Also, go check out Eric's site.. it is pretty cool.

I was really intrigued by the Born2Run site, and the shoes, training products etc. that Eric has available on his site.  And I was really stoked when the goodies above arrived.  As I am just starting my official marathon training, this was perfect timing. I had noted that I was by no means a high-performance runner, but really just your back of the pack minimalist runner just trying to keep moving.  But, that turned out to be a plus, as a slow novice runner, what better candidate to see how these products and programs could help!

So, pictured above are the B2R Road Peformance Shoe (with the cool split toe), split toe socks, 3mm insoles (which I removed since I liked the shoes better without), the Level 1 Strength Training DVD, balance board, trekking poles (for balance), and a cool carrying bag.

I've run once in the shoes so far, and really liked them, and I will continue to use them for my road runs, and probably the marathon as well, but we'll see how it goes.  So consider this kind of a pre-review of the shoes, and the strength training program.

Better shot of the poles (they are really nice).. and the Millennium Falcon :-)
I'm going to use the strength training (and running form) DVD, in conjunction with the balance board/poles, and an exercise ball to work on my foot/leg strength and core on the days I'm not running...  and I'll probably put up a post about halfway through training with an update...

So... we shall see if I am really born to run, or destined to flail away at it stubbornly... regardless, I have no inclination to stop!

Thanks for stopping by...  look for a cool giveaway coming up very soon!

Happy trails!


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Intentional Grounding! Quantum Earthrunners Review

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.

Obviously, the best way to do this is to go barefoot. However, that is not always possible (although I continue to try and build my barefoot miles), hence the rapidly growing market of minimalist shoes. I really enjoy wearing huarache type sandals whenever I can when running, and this is where EarthRunners has figured out how to get the protection of a minimalist sandal, while maintaining a connection with the earth.

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.

Besides those two features, the strapping system provided is a little different than a lot of huaraches that position the knot, clip or connector somewhere near the middle of your foot in front of your ankle.  The nylon strap on the Quantum actually wraps around the front of your ankle and connects over on the side, using a lever type clip that cinches down after you adjust the tension.  Additionally, rather than a hole in the side of the sole, the Quantum uses a metal D ring as a strap guide.

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   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!


Monday, October 8, 2012

Get those kids running! (Part 2): Kid's Injinji Toe Socks Review

So back in April, I had put up a post (click here) about getting kids out there and running, and talked about the Spring Landsharks running team our 8 year old (then 7) twin boys had joined at their elementary.

Well, they enjoyed it so much that they wanted to participate again this Fall.  And I was excited because in the Fall the focus is more on cross-country type running. In anticipation of their fall season, the cool folks at Injinji sent them some of the new kids socks to try out.

Ok... so before I let my boys give you a full review, let's talk about the colors.  They currently come in the gray/blue or purple/pink.  Now, I obviously I have twin boys, both different sizes.  When the socks showed up, I had a minor panic...  one pair was pink and purple! I even went as far as to send an email with a heads up that I may need to get those swapped out for the blue/grey.  But, obviously the insecurity is my own.  When the boys saw the socks, J says "oh hey cool! I love these colors!".  So.. never mind me :-).  That made me feel pretty good... I truly hate when things are promoted as "boys" color or style, or "girls"..  kids are kids and let them decide.  But of course I had concerns about him being teased at school... however that was not an issue because he had no problem letting his peers know that he was specifically chosen to "test and review" these socks for the company, and would be helping to provide a review on the internet based on his impressions.  Case closed :-)   I also have to give credit to the boys PE teacher...  my wife had given her a heads up and noted that the boys said that she would know all about minimalist running..  so, she quickly got educated.. and then let the boys talk about their socks during PE... too cool.

Getting ready! And yes.. that's me in the back running sweeper.. or "turtle" as I like to call it :-)

Ok... so after receiving the socks, the boys were more than anxious to wear them..  bugging their mom to ensure they were clean for practices and for their big meets!  Here they are getting geared up for one of their 1 mile runs at the local golf course.  And in case you were wondering, they ran in water shoes... super flexible, super flat... and from Wal-Mart.. super cheap!

N powering it out for a strong finish...I could learn some form techniques from him!

J with his PR in the last meet... running faster than Dad.. lol

The coveted medal in the last meet.. oh, and snacks

Hopefully just a start on a good collection of medals!

Ok.. so on to the review!  You already know how I feel about Injinji toe socks, based on the three reviews I've done here, here, and here.

So.. at the risk of losing all future reviews to my boys, here is their video review of Injinjis toe socks for kids!

Ok Injinji...   you heard it from them.. let's get some new colors, and new features!  However, if you include the lighting enhancement, they expect credit for that idea!  And, Vibram, if you are tuning in, you have a couple of dudes here ready to give your kid's sized VFF's and good run and a comprehensive review!

So.. get out and get those kids running!

Thanks again for tuning in.. and if you have any comments/questions/feedback, please let me know below!

Happy trails!