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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.

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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.

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Filed under Custom Shoe, Dash, Running, Soft Star

Luna Sandal Review Summary

I’m about to switch gears and start a new project but I thought after so many posts about my Luna’s it would be helpful to summarize my experience and put everything in one place.

In my experience there are three aspects that make a huarache or Luna sandal

Each of these three work together and can dictate weather you love your sandals or hate them.  Laces come in three varieties:

  1. Elastic – Quick and easy to put on, these laces provide the least security but are great for casual wear.  Since they are elastic there is a constant snugness that I am not overly fond of.  My Equus sandals (which I don’t run in) have the 5/8″ Equus laces and I find them to be the most stylish and publicly accepted option.
  2. Leather – Comes in different sizes and colors.  In my opinion, this is the best overall option.  They are aesthetically pleasing, secure, and comfortable.  Since they are inelastic they allow for a looser fit without sacrificing security.  I like both the 1/4″ and 10mm laces.  Most people will get used to either just fine.
  3. Wool, hemp, rope, etc.  This is sort of the other category.  Since I haven’t tried the hemp I can’t comment personally, but from what others have said they work great and are comfortable.  From my experience with the wool laces I can attest to the fact that there is nothing more comfortable to wear.  Style and security may be half a notch below the leather but the comfort fully makes up for that.

The sole options have gone through a transformation.  When Ted started he had the Originals, then added the Equus and the Leadville’s.  I actually have all three so I will give a short summary of each.

  1. Originals – 6mm neoprene.  It is the original for a reason and is still one of my favorites.  The neoprene has the right combination of flexibility and thinness to provide great ground feel and allow for natural foot movement.
  2. Equus – 2mm rubber and 2mm cordovan.  The cordovan feels amazing but is stiff.  Moisturizing it helps but I am not a fan of stiff and thin.  These sandals look great and have become my church sandals.
  3. Leadville – 10mm newflex.  10mm!!  That is what I said, but the properties of this sole are deceiving.  The material is extremely light and flexible.  Ground feel is better than the Originals but in a muted sort of way.  It is hard to explain but I’m excited that Luna is taking this amazing (and very expensive) material and using the 8mm and 5mm versions.  The Leadville Pacer is being made in my shop now and I’m excited to test it out.  I think that this is the sort of natural progression that comes through testing and striving to create the best sandal on earth.

Once you have decided on the right lace and the right sole the last part is to connect them all together.  My advice – experiment – a lot.  In the end I went with the very standard tying method (the way the Equus are tied on Luna’s website).  I don’t wrap or double up just lace them and tie it off.  I cut all my laces so there is no extra cord since my new knot design will allow for many more miles of wear and I don’t have to worry about knot breakage.

After several months of wearing these exclusively, my originals have molded to my feet and feel like an extension of my foot in a way.  My advice, if you are looking at getting a pair of Luna sandals, is to get the originals with the 1/4″ leather lace.  This is the cheapest way into a truly magnificent sandal.

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Filed under Equus, Long term test, Luna Laces, Original Luna Sandal, Review

Wool Lace Review for Luna Sandals

I was fortunate enough to have my friend over at Baring My Soles send me a pair of wool laces to test out.  I am glad she did because she made my Luna Sandal wearing experience 100% better.


For me, the Original Luna Sandals are nearly perfect. It is just a piece of rubber and leather that you step on. They feel very close to barefoot but there are two problems that can cause discomfort.

  1. They connect to your foot with laces that run between your toe and can rub
  2. The toes strap uses a knot which you step on and can become very noticeable and annoying

Each type of strap/string has its own pros on cons concerning these two issues.  Taking these in order, lets dive into how the wool laces compare.

Wool Laces

  1. Pros
    The wool laces above all else are comfortable.  Amazingly comfortable.  They are soft and fairly inelastic so they provide a secure fit without causing blisters, chafing, or hot spots.  They tie well and stay where they should.  They also do well when wet as wool doesn’t hold water well.  Wool fibers aren’t elastic so they don’t stretch when wet.  The weave is what stretches with wool so once stretched wet or dry they shouldn’t change much.
    Cons
    They stretch a little.  Generally I have to retie mine every third run because they have stretched out.  I’m assuming that this will stop once they have reached some equilibrium point.
  2. The knot has been my biggest annoyance with these sandals.  My goal with all of the laces is to make the knot disappear.  With the wool laces the standard knot is only slightly noticeable.  I played with it a bit and came up with the perfect solution.  I will go into detail on knots in a week or two but have solutions for all of the laces that effectively remove the knot from being obtrusive.  However, using the standard overhand knot, the knot is almost unnoticeable.  The durability of wool is great and a single knot has lasted 30 miles with no noticeable wear.

In the end where do the wool laces fit?  I see them as a hemp alternative.  The 1/4″ leather is a bit more secure feeling but nothing can compare to the comfort of the wool.  Getting your Luna’s to be comfortable is about 3 things in my mind.  Toe comfort, knot size, and lacing security.  If I were to give my wife a pair of Luna’s (which I’m planning on doing) they would be laced with the wool laces.  Good security with premium comfort and easily tied.

What’s a good blog post without pictures.  Here are some select pictures from the last two weeks of trying to get these sandals to feel right.  I’ve had lots of failures but feel that I finally have it right.

Loop used instead of knot which reduced the bump on the underside.  I eventually took this loop and plasticized it

Use this to make moldable plastic.  In 3 days you have steel like strength in any shape you want.

Traditional knot vs. Plasticized knot.  This was a terrible idea.  The plasticized knot was like stepping on a boulder.  Back to the drawing board.

Traditional knot vs. Plasticized wool

Traditional vs. Smashed plasticized wool.  Before it fully hardens it can be shaped.  I smashed mine in the vice to flatten it out.  Better but still noticeable due to the abrupt edges.

Plasticized Wool after Sanding.  Seriously tough stuff.  I had 36 grit sandpaper on my belt sander and it took awhile to sand this down.  Now the knot can not be felt at all.  Perfect!

Final Product – Long lasting and nonobtrusive

Wool laces in action

Final thoughts
The wool didn’t need to be plasticized but if makes me feel more confidant that it will last.  For reference the knot had almost no wear on it after 30 miles (both plasticized and traditional).  These laces are light and would be a great backup on a run.  If you were concerned about rubbing leather laces on a long run, bring these with just in case.  Better yet, just use these.  Finally, wool laces are 100% different than the Equus laces.  If you don’t like your Luna’s because of the laces, try these and you will be surprised how different your Luna’s feel.

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Filed under Long term test, Luna Laces, Original Luna Sandal, Review, Running

Luna Laces

When I started looking at getting a pair of Luna sandals I first had to decide which model to get.  Once I did that I found that there were lots of lace options.  I searched for reviews on each but it seemed to be a personal preference.

Original Luna’s with 5/8″ Equus Laces

I took my Luna’s out on a 3 mile run yesterday.  I didn’t want to repeat the prior days experience with the in between the toe pain (IBTTP) so I set off with 3 sets of laces.

  • 5/8″ Equus elasticized laces
  • 1/4″ black leather
  • 1/4″ Felted wool laces

5/8″ Equus elasticized laces
I ran the first mile in the 5/8″ Equus.  I like these laces the best due to their ease of wear and more beefy look.  You can get away wearing these in public and not get any funny stares.  The first half mile was great.  The leather is not uncomfortable against your skin but it is noticeably there.  While not rough on the skin it does have a texture that reminds you that they are there.  For this run I tied them fairly snug.  I preferred the snug fit over the loose fit as there was no flopping.  The laces never dug in and even though they were quite snug were still very comfortable.  At about the mile mark I noticed the toe rubbing again but this time on my right foot.  I’m thinking that this rubbing/pain is due to the angle and tension of tying.  I could have kept going but decided to stop and switch laces.

1/4″ black leather
I swapped out the Equus laces for the thinner leather ones.  My tying needs some improvement but I figured out a decent way to tie them.  My first few steps were an amazing joy.  While comfortable, the elasticized Equus laces were much more claustrophobic than the leather laces.  I ran for about a mile and had no issues with these laces at all.  I see why burbonfeet uses these to race in.  The short mile made me realize 4 things.

  1. The smaller diameter leather was much more comfortable between my toes
  2. Tying the lace around your ankle helps to stabilize the shoe in a way that the Equus can’t
  3. Since the leather doesn’t stretch the sandal feels looser while still being secured well to the foot

1/4″ Felted wool laces
I didn’t want to take the1/4″ leather laces off but due to my poor tying ability they sort of fell off.  Rather than retie them I decided to swap to the wool laces.

Wow!  Seriously WOW!

It was like curling up with a snuggie on the couch, like having a piece of silk rubbed against your foot, like getting a Swedish massage.  Ok, it wasn’t really like any of those things but it was pure running heaven.  The properties of wool worked perfectly here.  They were soft and secure feeling.  They stretched a little but not too much.  They tied well and caused no problems at all.  I couldn’t help feel like the three little bears at this point.  Equus was too tight, leather was too loose, and wool was just right.

I can’t underestimate how comfortable these were.  I would say running in a pair of socks would be 10x more uncomfortable than the comfort provided by these laces.  I wanted to keep running because my feet felt so great but the lightning was getting closer so I thought I should get home.

Lace Summary
To sum up these three laces I would say that the 5/8″ Equus laces were comfortable, the 1/4″ leather laces were great, and the 1/4″ wool were perfect.  The Equus was secure feeling but a bit more confining feeling due to the elastic.  I could see these being great after I get used to them.  To me these laces look the best and for casual use will be my number one choice.  The 1/4″ leather was great in use and I have no complaints.  I would use these in a race any day.  I don’t think I would pick these for casual wear due to the tying issue.  The wool laces were absolutely a dream to wear and I couldn’t imagine anything better.  They do look a little different so that may be an issue for some.  If you are ok with the hemp than you should be ok with the wool.  If you don’t mind giving off a hippie vibe than these are the laces for you.

Tying notes:  I know many people like the toe strap to run straight up but I prefer the angled approach so far.  I don’t like the knot on top of the bone on my foot and it seems to fit into the space next to that bone.  I also have problems with my foot sliding to the inside with the toe strap running vertically.  Running it at an angle helps to keep my foot in the correct place.  See picture above.

Take the Luna Lace Poll below to see what others like.

Which laces do you prefer

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Filed under Long term test, Luna Laces, Original Luna Sandal, Review, Running

Luna Sandals Review

The time has finally come.  My beloved RunAmoc’s are starting to feel like a wet blanket in this 100 degree 97% humidity summer and my feet are screaming to be set free.  When it comes to minimalist sandals Barefoot Ted’s Luna sandal company is the premier place to go.  I have debated purchasing a pair for about a year now and finally pulled the trigger.  I read a lot of reviews about Luna sandals but none really gave the full story.  For all of the wanna be Luna fans I am embarking on a long term test of my Original Luna sandals.  I will update this blog as often as possible.  I will do my best to show how I transitioned into these and the struggles along the way.  When I’m done I hope there is no question about what owning a pair of Luna’s is really like.

The test: Original Luna Sandals

Laces:

  • 5/8″ Equus elasticized laces
  • 1/2″ Equus elasticized laces
  • 1/4″ black leather
  • 3/8″ black leadville leather
  • 1/4″ Felted wool laces
  • Other laces after I test these

I wasn’t sure which lace I would like best so I decided to get an assortment.  Of all the laces I am the most excited about the felted wool laces.  I have read many stories about laces cutting and causing pain.  I was lucky enough to have my friend over at http://baringmysoles.blogspot.com/ send me a pair of her amazing felted wool laces for this test.  Since wool is one of my favorite things and I can’t see it cutting into my toes like the leather might, I am excited to get these on my feet and give them a good testing.

Unboxing

The crew at Luna sandal was very busy and my order took almost 2 weeks to receive (a week longer than normal).  My first impression after pulling them out of the box was “wow, they look small” followed by “wow, they are really light” and finally “wow they are flexible”.  Yes, that was three wow’s.  I have size 13 feet so all of my shoes always look like clown shoes.  For some reason the sandals looked more like a regular persons shoe.  I quickly tried them on and they fit my foot perfectly. (custom foot tracing highly recommended)

Besides being light, flexible and fitting perfectly they looked very nice.  The leather was nice the edges were cut perfectly.  They looked and felt like I got my money’s worth.  My wife’s first reaction “Great, more ugly shoes?”

First Run

I decided to take it really easy at first.  I played with the 5/8″ Equus elasticized laces and ended up tying them rather loose.  I ran about a mile and noticed two things.  The loose tying allowed the sole to catch air and separate from the ball of my foot.  This was not a bad thing just different.  The second thing I noticed is that my form was much more apparent.  As in my bad form became clearer and more noticeable.  I have an imbalance in my stride.  I do something different with my left foot that causes more heat than my right.  While running I noticed that my right foot landed almost silently while my left slapped the ground.

After an easy mile I started to get some rubbing between my left toe.  The right however felt perfect.  After another 30 steps the left began to get much worse.  It suddenly felt like the plastic compression piece that folds the strap was cutting my toes.  3 more steps and now it felt like a screwdriver was being driven into my 2nd toe.  I stop and walk.  The pain is gone.  Run and I get the screwdriver, walk and its gone.  I opt to walk home.  My first task will be to replace the plastic compression piece with a softer smooth fabric piece and try again.  Right now I am dreaming of the wool laces.

First success – My wife says “They actually look nice on your feet”

Fit notes:  5/8″ Equus elasticized laces with the toe strap running diagonally towards my outer ankle bone.  Tied very loose, toe strap had almost no tension on it at all.

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Filed under Long term test, Original Luna Sandal, Review, Running