Category Archives: Soft Star

BestTough Mudder Shoes Ever!

Soft Star Dash and the Tough Mudder

I’m sure most of you that found this page are looking for a tough, gnarly shoe for the tough mudder, spartan race, or even death race.  What you are probably expecting to see is something like this.

I’m here to say that an unlikely shoe actually makes it to the top.  I was focused purely on performance and function and talked to many people about their shoes.  Read my conclusions below.

Back in September I decided that a custom pair of Soft Star Dash would be the best option for the Tough Mudder.  After running the race I can say that the Dash outperformed every other shoe out there.  They had no weakness and performed flawlessly.  If you are looking for the perfect pair of shoes for the tough mudder, the perforated Soft Star Dash is it.  Here is why.

The race forces you to get wet many, many times.  It also requires about 12 miles of running over a variety of terrain and a little bit of swimming.  Lastly, the course forces you through tons of sticky mud.  Regular shoes are the worst option due the the weight when wet and the amount of mud that gets into them.  Not to mention I saw several people loose their shoes in the mud and were forced to finish the race in socks.  Five fingers would be a great option and anyone that already has these should use them.  The downfall of the five fingers is the mud.  I didn’t see anyone loose theirs but I saw many people complain that they had their feet abraded away once gunk got in.

The advantage of the perforated leather is that the mud gets in but then goes right back out.  I routinely had gravel under my foot just bounce out.  After the muddy spots, tons of people had to stop and empty their shoes out.  Not me, I was able to keep running.

The GA event was also really cold.  My feet were cold when submerged in water but actually dried out very quickly and became comfortable again.  The people in VFF’s had numb feet and were complaining about not being able to feel the ground or their toes.

I wore drymax trail socks and couldn’t have been happier.  These socks don’t hold water, dry quickly and most importantly, keep out all dirt.  After the race, my feet were clean, although my socks and shoes were caked in mud.

Note: Drymax trail socks run way big.  Order one to two sizes down.  (they stretch).  I wear size 13 shoes and the Large fit perfect.

The Dash provided the right amount of traction and protection.  My feet came out happy without any issues.  The dash was great to run in regardless of the conditions.  They were also great to swim in and the enhanced ground feel really helped with the obstacles (especially the balance beam).  Anyone looking for the ultimate or perfect shoe for the Tough Mudder should consider the perforated Dash.

One added plus is that the race didn’t trash my shoes.  They took a beating but a quick rinse brought them back to normal (almost).  The leather needs to get a quick coat of dye to restore the color.  Take a look.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Custom Shoe, Dash, Long term test, Review, Running, Soft Star

Soft Star Dash Review

It has been a little over a month since I completed my custom Soft Star Dash project.  I wanted to wait to review them until I had sufficient time to test them.    Overall, I would say that the Dash is a great shoe.  Anyone that is used to wearing traditional shoes will feel at home in these.  Since they have laces, generally feel and look like a shoe, I’m going to say that they are definitely a shoe not a moc.

If you are coming to the Soft Star Dash from a traditional shoes, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the improvement in comfort the Dash will provide.  The toe box is wide enough to let your toes spread without any compromise.  The heel and midfoot are nice and fitted which provide for a more secure and sleek feeling.

However, if you are coming from the traditional RunAmoc you may be a bit confined feeling.  The Dash is confining in the sense that a sock is confining.  There are no hot spots or pressure points but there is an overall feeling that your feet are being squeezed.  This never would have been an issue had I not been spoiled by the Original RunAmoc’s.

Comparing size of Dash vs Original RunAmoc


Why is the Soft Star Dash is better than any other minimalist shoe on the market

First off, it is a shoe so it is competing with all of the other shoes on the market.  Next, it employs one of the best principles in life – the KISS principle.  By keeping things simple Soft Star has made a shoe that is everything it needs to be but nothing it doesn’t.  Let’s break this down piece by piece to show what I mean.

A shoe is essentially made up 4 parts, the heel, midfoot, toebox and sole.
Heel – The heel is reinforced with an additional layer of leather and some thin EVA foam so that the heel keeps its shape and ensures your heel is positioned where it should be.  There is no ankle padding or ‘extra features’ to rub or cause problems.  I have worn these mostly barefoot and never had an issue with the heel or ankle enclosure.

Heel cup on Dash


Midfoot – This area is dominated by one amazing feature, the tongue.  Shoes have had a tongue on them for over 100 years, but this is what causes me the most discomfort in traditional shoes.  Soft Star got it perfect.  The tongue fits smoothly over the top of the foot and never moves and never causes any discomfort.  Did it really take 100 years for someone to get it right?  I don’t know, but I do know that the Dash has it right and this alone is a reason to get the Dash.  Besides the perfect tongue, the midfoot fits snug and give you the feeling that it is just an extension of your foot.
Toe – You can’t beat Soft Star when it comes to the toe box and the Dash is no exception.  They provide ample room for toes to splay, wiggle, or bend.  Additionally, the leather will conform to your feet and will soon feel like they were tailor made for you.
Sole – Mine are different from what Soft Star offers, but I have tried all of the soles they offer and it come down to simple performance.  You don’t need computer models to perfect a sole, you only need a little protection and some traction, which is exactly what they offer.

Since I’m raving, I’m just going to continue.  This was my first pair of perforated leather shoes.  I love my smooth RunAmoc’s but when it gets hot the perforated is the way to go.  This leather is so much more porous than I had thought.  I said porous since it lets stuff in and out.  Sweaty feet are never an issue, as the breeze blows straight though, which is why I wear these barefoot so often.  They aren’t sandal airy, but very close.  A plus and minus is that I get tons of stuff in them, but I can usually just bounce it out.  Water, rocks, pine needles, and dust all make their way in an out fairly freely.  I rarely take them off to clear them out as the stuff usually makes its own way out.

Now for the grumbling
What I dislike about the Dash is that it is not the Original.  It is not as comfortable, as easy to put on, as simple, or as weird looking.  Ok, my only real complaint is that the midfoot is a little too narrow for me.  I have ridiculously long toes so I think my midfoot is back further than most.  In the future I will probably order a wider pair to accommodate this.  Just realize that it fits like a sock all the way through the arch and then loosens up for the toes.

I don’t love the Dash like I love the Original RunAmoc (1 year review coming soon) but they are a fantastic shoe.  For people that aren’t sure if they want to try a moc style or (as in my case) you need a shoe that will stay on through mud and water, this is the perfect option.

One last note on the newflex sole that I put on.  First, it is exactly what I wanted as far as protection and ground feel.  I just hiked Stone Mountain in Georgia and they did great.  Really, I couldn’t find a fault with them.  Actually, the shoes in general were almost perfect for this all granite steep hike.  My only disappointment is that they are wearing much faster than I had hoped.

Ok, one more last note.  My coworkers say that the Dash look better with my dress clothes than the Original RunAmoc’s.  I think the tighter fit and laces make it look more normal.  However, my wife says that I’m weird enough that I can pull either off.

Leave a comment

Filed under Custom Shoe, Dash, Long term test, Review, Running, Soft Star, Soft Star RunAmoc Review

Custom Soft Star Dash Completed

They worked!!  I was seriously nervous and a bit scared that I had just ruined my shoes.  I had dreams that I had mistakenly glued them in the shape of a pretzel.  I didn’t and they turned out beautifully.

It was not an easy job and I have a new respect for effort Soft Star puts into making their shoes.  I started with a pair of expertly sewn shoes thinking that the hard part was done.  I didn’t realize that the glue you use, how much of it you use, the pressure applied, and the way they are applied makes so much difference in the final product.  Soft Star, you have my full and complete respect for creating great shoes.  Fear not, I will not be entering into competition with you anytime soon.

On to the finished product.

Finished product. Notice the difference between the tip of my right shoe vs the left. Gluing can change the shape if not done carefully.

Finished product. Note: I changed my mind on how to handle the arch on my left shoe.

The shape of the sole was identical prior to gluing, but gluing can be very tricky.  I inadvertently stretched the leather while trying to smooth it out.  Balancing pulling it taught and not stretching it are something that takes skill (and I had none).  So I now have one pointy shoe and one round one.  Luckily the pointy one does not affect my gait so I’m ok with it.

Showing how the arch pulls up around the foot

I’m very happy with the arch cutout.  It is 100% unnoticeable, but saves weight and adds to the flexibility.

Finished arch area

I was initially planning on using some 2mm cherry material to fill in the arch but after accidentally applying glue to the entire sole I realized that the glue provides more than enough protection.  I’m going to add glue to the other arch too.

The sole 

If you want to make good barefoot shoes, this is the new gold standard.  I went with the 8mm newflex sole because I had feared the 5mm would be too thin.  After using these I’m not so sure.  They are great but I bet that I could have saved some weight and gone with the 5mm because the glue does add some protection.  If I weren’t intending these to be used in such rough terrain I probably would have gone with the 5mm, but as it stands I’m happy to have picked the 8mm.  The suppleness more than makes up for the extra thickness.

Can your shoes flex downward? Mine can

This material is new and quite expensive, but totally worth it.  The properties that are important to a barefoot enthusiast are embodied by this new sole.  It is light and flexible in a way that make it feel like it is attached to your foot.  When walking over rough terrain it feels more like super thick skin than a sole that is protecting your foot.  The rubber is just a little bit squishy so it forms over rough objects and lets your foot mold to them like they would if you were barefoot.  Comparing it to my 1/2 worn out trail sole on my originals I would say that it out performs them in every way.  They are more flexible and provide more ground feel but somehow don’t sacrifice protection on rough terrain.

Overall, I am happy with this project.  The sole is perfect and I’m glad I cut out the arch.  Next up is some serious testing.  I need to see how these perform in the water and mud.  I’m hoping to take them for a swim before it gets too cold out.  They seem to be more flipper shaped than any traditional trainer so I think I will have an advantage on the swim.

4 Comments

Filed under Custom Shoe, Dash, Running, Soft Star

Custom Soft Star Dash

I finally had some time this weekend to work on my latest project.  It has been in the works for months and is a little embarrassing that it took this long.  But let me back up and tell the whole story.

When I first started on this minimalist journey I wasn’t sure if I was going to like them so I picked the cheapest option I could find.

Feiyue's have a supple and very soft rubber sole

Feiyue – Pronounced (Fay-you), like Tina Fey and hey you, yeah I’m talking to you.  Anyway, Feiyue’s are a bit narrow for my feet and I haven’t worn them much in the past year.  I have been wearing my RunAmoc’s or Luna’s almost exclusively.  The Luna’s are really the one that got this ball rolling.  I tried a pair of their Equus sandals and they were stiff and thin.  I didn’t like stiff at all so I removed the rubber sole and used just the cordovan leather and it was better.  A half dozen coats of leather conditioner and they were better yet.

Ok, so we have established that I like soft, so what.  Well, one day awhile ago I pulled my old Feiyue’s out and took a walk and my feet were exhausted.  I have been running in nothing but Luna’s all summer and wearing my RunAmoc’s to work, how could my feet be weak?  The Feiyue’s sole is soft, softer than any vibram product out there.  It isn’t all that thin but being so soft really made a difference.

Enter the Tough Mudder

After I signed up my first thought was shoes……I don’t have any shoes…….what am I going to wear?!  Panic sort of set in because I really only have 4 pairs of shoes.  Luna sandals, Soft Star RunAmoc SMOOTH, Vivo Dharmas, and some black dress shoes.  Dress shoes are obviously out and my RunAmoc’s are not perforated so they would be like running the race with muddy water balloons tied to my ankles.  I seriously considered the Luna’s but that much mud made be rethink it.  I searched through all of the recommended options and discussed them with many people that actually ran the Tough Mudder.  Here were my options

Regular shoes – 12 miles is not an option in regular shoes
Five Fingers – My feet are weird shaped and don’t fit them well
Inov8 – These could work but I don’t know that I would wear them beside for the race
Soft Star Dash – Based on my success with my originals, this seemed like the clear choice.  Thanks Ryan B. you help was priceless.

Soft Star has done a great job with their shoes but they only offer two choices for soles.  I didn’t want to go with the street sole due to the slippery mud factor and the trail sole is just a bit stiffer than the newflex sole I used in my huarache’s.  The tread and flexibility of the newflex would be the perfect sole if it were combined with the dash.

I have a special relationship with Soft Star and after a quick call they agreed to send me a soleless Dash RunAmoc to test on (thanks Soft Star).  I have never worn these before and the first thing I noticed was that without a sole they fit like a sock.  The laces pull the leather up and around the foot without any gaps anywhere.  The next thing I noticed was the arch.

Dash pulls up around the arch

The arch would not like to be pulled down and glued to the sole.  I took a look at the wear on my original RunAmoc’s and noticed the wear pattern.

RunAmoc Original trail sole with 500+ miles and no wear in the arch area

I decided to lighten the shoe and increase its flexibility by removing the arch since it wasn’t needed anyway and would cause me gluing problems.

Rough cut sole

I hacked a rough shape out, using my originals as a template.  Then came the messy part.  The belt sander.

Cleaning up the edges

Final sole shape

At this point I was starting to feel confident that this was going to work.  I was taking my time and had not made any mistakes.  I wanted these to last so I was going to do it right.  I stopped and made a fancy gluing press.

Homeade gluing press

My plan was to slip this inside the shoe to provide a flat hard surface to press the sole to.

Shoe with gluing press inserted

Ready to glue

Oooops

The sole was the right size, I was sure of it, but the gluing board had stretched the leather bottom so the shoe was now way too big.  I tossed all my hard work making the perfect gluing board out the window and just decided to glue them.

Gluing time

Pound it, beat it, hammer it, just make sure it is on good

Top of the line "Shoe press 2000" in action

So in the end my fancy shoe press was sent to the trash but my trusty “Shoe press 2000” was ready and available.  I took my Luna’s and used them to help spread the pressure and just clamped it everywhere.  I’m going to let it sit for 3 days to make sure it has had sufficient time to cure.  I can’t wait to see how they turned out.  I’m excited and a bit nervous.  See the finished shoe HERE.

2 Comments

Filed under Custom Shoe, Dash, Running, Soft Star