50 Miles in Flip-Flops? Luna sells sandals to ultra-running market

Would you run a mile in sandals? How about a marathon, or 50 miles even?

Crazy as it sounds, a subset of runners and ultra athletes now tackle great distances in shoes most people wear to the beach.

(See more images of the Luna sandals on this page.)

Luna Sandals, a Seattle brand founded in 2010, is a leader in the sandal-running movement. Indeed, its founder, Ted McDonald, is something of a cult figure, a man known as “Barefoot Ted” who was featured in the bestselling book “Born to Run.”

ultra runner in sandals.jpg

Luna-wearing runner in the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon

In 2006, McDonald traveled to Mexico to run with the Tarahumara, a tribe known for its distance-running prowess. Some members of the tribe made footwear out of the rubber from discarded car tires.

The sandals made by Luna today are more refined. But with just a thin slab of rubber and simple straps they remain among the more basic shoes you can buy.

I got a pair of the company’s Venado sandals to test. They cost $65 and consist of narrow nylon straps, a single buckle, and a flexible piece of foot-shape rubber for the sole.

luna shoes.jpg

Luna Venado sandals

The company touts the Venado as “great for running or walking on paved surfaces and moderate trails.”

On my first test trail run a rock wedged under my heel. I stopped to remove it then squinted ahead. The route was rocky and included puddles and mud.

But the soft rubber sole gripped well on stones and dirt. The laces, made of 5/8-inch webbing, were more comfortable than they look.

handmade sandals.jpg

Tarahumara man making footwear from car tire rubber

On hard surfaces, the sandals slap loudly. They are not comfortable on pavement.

To be sure, I run light on my feet and am used to minimal and barefoot-style shoes. But the Lunas are less a shoe, more a thin covering that straps over your sole.

And that’s the whole point: The company has a reverence for barefoot running, which is seen by McDonald as the most natural and best way to move over land. Its sandals are one step away, a buffer for the thinner skin and non-calloused feet of the modern man.


Luna sandals with leather footbed

The Venados are handmade in Seattle. They are tough and should last a lot of miles, walking or on the run. Just be careful not to stub your toe.

If nothing else, the minimal sandals are interesting and fun. I like wearing them around casually. Just don’t expect to see me in Mexico (or anywhere else) running 50 miles in them at any time soon.

—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.GearJunkie.com.

Detailed images of the Luna Sandals continued on next page. . .

Posted by Craig Porzondek - 05/13/2013 10:00 AM

Not a chance!

Posted by Josh - 05/13/2013 11:58 AM

The slapping goes away with break-in and form correction, and yes, you will occasionally get debris under foot but that’s a small price to pay for the other benefits. I’ve been running in Lunas for a couple years now and while I do occasionally use another shoe here and there, Luna’s are by far the best running “shoe” out there once you’ve made the transition: feet stay cool, no rubbing/blisters, they don’t smell and they last for hundreds of miles.

Posted by Haley @ Climb Run Lift Mom - 05/13/2013 05:04 PM

I seen those at summer OR a few years ago. Was very intrigued. They look like an awesome product.

Posted by Jacob - 05/13/2013 05:11 PM

I have been running pretty much exclusively in my first pair of Luna Venado sandals with the leather footbed for the past six weeks. They’re really fun to run in. I wore them to run a 5K race in Westport Connecticut a couple of weeks ago and got a few curious questions from other runners. BTW, these sandals are beautifully constructed.

Posted by megankr - 05/13/2013 05:36 PM

I can attest to the slapping reduction – after a few weeks they formed nicely to my foot shape and there is very little “slap” anymore

Posted by Jeff - 05/13/2013 07:14 PM

I’ll third what Josh and Megan said. I’ve been running in them, well, since BFT started making them. I’ve got the equivalent of the Venado and also the Leadvilles (for trails). Been meaning to pick up the new Mono. If I was just starting out, I’d suggest the Mono.

Posted by Amanda - 05/13/2013 07:24 PM

I have been running in Lunas for the past few months and I love them. I have the Monos with the leather footbed. I love that my feet stay cool throughout my run. I am a big fan and I do not see myself ever going back to conventional running shoes. But I would like to note that I prefer the traditional laces over the ATS laces.

Posted by Caleb - 05/14/2013 06:28 AM

“On hard surfaces, the sandals slap loudly. They are not comfortable on pavement.

To be sure, I run light on my feet and am used to minimal and barefoot-style shoes.”

Obviously you are not as usd to it as you’d like to think you are, lol. If your technique was as good as it should be, there would only be a light tapping sound. There shouldn’t be any slapping.

Posted by Chris - 05/14/2013 12:05 PM

I’ve been running in Lunas for about a year. You really need to break them in (only takes a couple of runs) to experience their magic. Once the sandal molds around your foot, they really are by far the most comfortable (and fun!) running footwear I’ve found. If the sandals are slapping loudly, you definitely need to a) adapt your form a bit and b) run in them for more than just a mile or two and let them take the shape of your foot.

Posted by Bill Hoffman - 05/14/2013 06:20 PM

When I got my first pair of Luna’s and headed out the road, I heard the sickening smack smack. I was an avid VFF runner and thought I was smooth and light. However, instead of blaming the sandal, I worked on my form. I can no long run in the VFFs and only run quietly in the Lunas. Stick with it and they will get quieter and they will teach you. To me it is a big feature of the sandal that they have a sonic feedback when you are landing wrong.

Posted by Russ - 05/15/2013 03:03 AM

I have been running in vivo’s, since last summer, and moved to Luna sandals around 2 months ago so i am still relatively new to barefoot-minimalist running. I just completed a marathon in them, I love them on road, I have found that they help me to run with more precise form, as you can’t get away with as much as you can in my other shoes, I am a real convert and run almost exclusively in the Lunas now.

Posted by Marianna - 06/05/2013 09:49 AM

We lived in south Texas for almost 20 years and I wore a shoe similar to this for short runs when it “cooled off” to only 80 or so in the evening. It did keep my feet cool. Don’t know if I would do that here at altitude w/stones though. Nice casual shoe but I would still prefer keens to protect my toes.

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