For the record, I would rather be completely barefooted and have been mostly barefooted since last spring. About a year ago, I went from being just a barefoot runner (for about 2 years) to being a barefoot person as much as I possibly could. Since I work at home, that is a lot. I have benefitted from having bare feet in many conditions and situations that I had previously thought beyond me, adjusting gradually to various terrains and temperatures. When I found myself faced with circumstances wherein I wanted some foot covering, I wanted as little as could be managed until I could adapt further.
It has surprised me how very little I actually want foot covering. Even when I am running in moist temperatures as cold as 37 degrees. I know, people who have not gone barefoot much can find it hard to understand just how horrible shoes can become. You might as well put stiff canisters on my legs, such that my knees won’t bend, and tell me to ry to be efficient at and enjoy walking. And the shoes become unbearably hot after a short while.
Another thing that has developed is my balance. I’m not sure I can explain this. I knew from the moment I started to run with bare feet the first time, that it made my balance better. I knew after a few weeks of living in bare feet that I just didn’t fall down when I tripped over carpet or the dog. Now, I am realizing that I have even better balance after being barefooted longer! Much better balance. Putting shoes on deprives me of this very useful ability. It’s like putting tin foil on cat’s paws!
So thinking about needing back-up footwear with the deep cold of winter approaching was kind of stressing me out. I have mostly given up flip-flops for walking any significant distance (such as shopping). They are tripping hazards and tend to be slippery in unexpected places. I like my Soft Star running moccasins, called Moc3’s, however I sensed that while they will still be great for the lowest temperature, I needed something for the temperature range wherein I found walking or running on the cold (and probably wet) ground painful for too long, but my feet were still much happier in the open air.
Enter the Venado Luna sandal. Since they arrived a few weeks ago, I had ridden my spinning bike with them and worn them walking in places like the neonatal intensive care unit to see a granddaughter. The hospital didn’t seem like the place to test the limits. But I hadn’t run in the sandals. I was actually rather dreading it, despite the good reviews from minimalist runners. Most of them wear sandals all the time to run. I have logged nearly 500 hundred barefoot miles this year and I was loving it. I didn’t want anything on my feet.
Spending the time walking in them proved to be valuable for figuring out strap adjustment. It wasn’t complicated, but if I had started running with where I had set them up at first, I would have been frustrated with them slipping off. It is one thing to stop and fix a strap when walking. It can really decrease the enjoyment of a run to have to deal with that. So, when I got ready for my first run in them, that aspect was well under control. The walking also left me with the distinct impression that I could probably run close to normal distances in them from the beginning, without any real “breaking them in” or getting my feet used to pressure points. I planned to play it a little on the safe side, and only run about 6 miles versus the 12 that I have recently worked up to again.
The day that I decided I needed to at least start with something on the bottoms of my feet, it was hovering around 36 – 37°F and quite damp. The fog had mostly lifted visually, but the air was heavy with moisture and the pavement was wet. I dressed in insulated long running pants and long sleeve shirt. I donned cheap polar fleece gloves and put on one of my ear warmer headbands. I topped it all off with an insulated running jacket I got for Christmas last year.
I knew I had made the right choice because my toes were just a little chilled for the whole run. They were not cold enough to wish I had something else on them, but cold enough that I knew that constant contact with the ground would probably have been painfully cold and numbing. Some people say a bit numb is okay, but I’m with the group that says it’s best to be able to feel what I am stepping on.
Even though the soles of the sandals are thicker than my Moc3’s, they flexibility was great. It really felt very much like running barefoot. I could feel enough of the rockier sections of pavement, that it still helped me work on running lightly, but all the time I had put in barefoot over the last 6 months has made running lightly come more naturally, too. Another pleasant observation was that the soles of my feet never got to feeling sweaty, like they sometimes can in other sandal-type footwear. The sandal stayed on without any trouble, but the sole seemed to separate from the bottom of my foot the few microns needed to get a little airflow down there.
The edges of the sandals were never any sort of tripping hazard for me, whether moving onto the heavily graveled shoulder of the road for impatient drivers (once only feeling safe when I dipped a bit into the gully) or stepping on and off curbs. I never felt I had to be extra careful because something was flapping or catching. The sand on the road side did not get into the sandals either, as I thought it might.
Lastly, I ran for 6.45 miles and never for one moment felt any rubbing of the straps. This truly amazes me. Up hills, down hills, weaving sideways when needed, even slopped sideways. Nothing ever pulled or became uncomfortable. I know it was only my first run in them, but there is a certain cliche about the troubles with new shoes. Not so with the Luna sandals.
When my run was over, I felt my toes with my hands. They were a normal temperature. Both of my feet were a rosy pink and nothing was numb. It really was the next best thing to being barefoot for those conditions.
The next thing I want to test is whether or not toe socks make running with my Moc3’s feel better. As mentioned, I think they will be great for the colder temps, as I have proven in previous years. They are also probably still my choice for desert running where there is a lot more debris to deal with. They have a good toe box, but I always feel that my standard socks still force my toes together more than I would like. But this will have to wait until colder weather. Open air is what my feet want now.