Earlier this month elite ultramarathoner and vegan Scott Jurek made an appearance at Tortoise and Hare Sports in Glendale, Arizona as part of a promotional tour for his book Eat and Run. The evening began with a 5K run through the flat, mostly residential neighborhood north of the store.
I had recently started running in a pair of 6mm thick Xero Shoes sandals. Xero Shoes are a vegan-friendly modern version of the huarache sandals that the Tarahumara Indians of northwestern Mexico have been running in for thousands of years over long distances on rugged mountain trails. Part of their appeal for me is their obvious simplicity. Consisting of a very durable one-piece molded rubber sole and a single nylon/polypropylene lace, they couldn’t be more minimal. They can be purchased as a do-it-yourself kit (which is what I chose) that requires that you punch the hole between the first and second toes where the lace is anchored, and then install and tie the lace in your preferred style. While the soles (available in either 4mm or 6mm thicknesses) come in about a dozen different pre-molded sizes to fit your foot length, it may be necessary trim some excess area from the front and sides. But if you like, for a few dollars more the Xero Shoes people will do all that work for you, starting with a simple tracing of your feet that you can fax or mail to them.
It took some experimenting with different tying styles and lace tensions before they were snug and comfortable, but by the book signing event I had figured everything out and was ready to run in them. The non-competitive run started out at an easy pace. Jurek reminded us before we started that it wasn’t a race, then joked that “if you ever wanted to beat Scott Jurek, this would be your chance.” However, some of us at the front were itching to go faster, and when someone blew past us at the halfway point and opened up a big lead, we promptly followed. That proved to be a good test of my Xero Shoes sandals, which functioned superbly through the whole distance at different paces.
Andy, who is one of my few friends who are both vegans and runners, also attended the Jurek event. She shot this short video of me in the parking lot in which I show how the sandals appear with the tying style I came up with, and then demonstrate how I run with them. I plan on making another video in the near future, showing step-by-step how I tied them.
Currently I’ve run up to 8 miles (13 km) at a time in these sandals. I don’t use them that much for walking (I actually prefer something a bit thicker with a little cushioning for walking), and they would not be my first choice for track workouts or faster and shorter races, but for the ordinary long distance running that comprises the bulk of my training, they are already my favorite choice of footwear. The very minimal design allows the toes to splay out fully, and does not otherwise restrict the natural function of the foot.
I can see Xero Shoes sales eventually overtaking Vibram FiveFingers, at least in the running category. Not only is the running experience better, but also the cost is only one-forth to one-third that of a typical pair of FiveFingers. The price advantage is even greater when factoring in their superior durability. I’m clearly excited about this product and believe it is something that the world needs to find out about.
©2013 Kenneth Hopes