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.”

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 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.

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. . .

Stephen Regenold

Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.