Earth Runners are minimalist trail sandals that are inspired by the Tarahumara tribe; a tribe known for their long distance running abilities. Earth Runners is headquartered in the Santa Cruz Mountains and offers a unique take on the traditional huarache sandal. One big difference Earth Runners have from other huarache sandals on the market, is that they are grounded (the sandals feature copper inserts and conductive laces to ground you to the earth’s energy).
Earth Runners offer a few different models of their sandals. There is the Alpha, (which has a 10mm thick Birkenstock sole), the Alpha X (which has an 11mm thick Vibram sole), the Circadian (which has a 6mm Vibram sole), and the Circadian X (which has an 8mm Vibram sole). Each of these sandals are available with your choice of nylon or leather laces and traditional or conductive laces. You can really customize these sandals to fit your style and personal needs.
I have run in minimalist shoes for the past 3 years and have worn multiple different huarache models, primarily for hiking and everyday wear (with occasional runs thrown in) for a few years as well. I was offered an opportunity from Earth Runners to test out a pair of Circadian X’s with the conductive leather lacing system. Let me tell you, I have been blown away!
To start with, the straps are insanely comfortable. As mentioned, I selected the conductive leather laces. The laces on my pair has conductive metal woven through the leather to increase connectivity to the earth. The leather is very attractive and you would not know from looking at them that the stitching is metallic. The sandals fit perfectly right out of the box and the leather straps are soft and have the precise amount of “give” to make them feel like a second skin.
The lacing system on the ER’s is very unique. The buckle to tighten your straps is located on the outside of the foot below and slightly behind the ankle-bone. It is a bulkier buckle than I have experienced with other huarache models, but it is very solid. (In almost 3 months of wearing these sandals daily, I have only had a buckle come unexpectedly open one time). I have found that it is slightly uncomfortable to sit cross-legged on hard surfaces with the buckle in this location but the performance outweighs this slight qualm. There is no “creeping” of the laces- they just don’t come undone.
The positioning of the laces is also something that is important to note. One of the first things that struck me about the ER’s when I pulled them from the box (besides their striking good looks) was that the strap attachment on the inside of the footbed was in a different location than I was used to. Instead of circling the outside of the sole- which would position the attachment point farther away from your arch-, it was recessed into the footbed- slightly beneath the arch. I have high arches and initially thought that this was going to be an issue- little did I know that it would become one of my favorite features! The fact that the interior strap attachment is slightly under your foot means that these sandals stay securely attached to your feet. There is NO “flip-flopping” with Earth Runners- their soles stay on your soles, period. (Specifically, there is no heel sliding in the back of the shoe.) This is particularly fantastic when on the trail- the fact that the sandal sole doesn’t leave your sole leaves zero room for rocks to get between you and your sandal. I have been impressed with how seldomly I find any sand, rocks, or trail grit in my way.
The footbed of the sandals is also special. There is a suede topper on the Vibram sole that eliminates slipping in all but the wettest conditions (the only time I experienced any significant slipping in these sandals is when I was hiking IN a river). That being said, they regained traction almost immediately after departing the water and were back to their normal feel.
The Vibram tread sticks to anything and offers fantastic traction in any weather. I have torture tested these on sandstone, sand, dirt trails, and in rivers and they have stuck to everything I have thrown at them. I have used these to summit peaks, approach various climbs and canyons, and also as my everyday footwear (because their classic look makes that okay!) The 8mm thick sole provides fantastic ground feel while offering plenty of protection. After about 250 miles (including four Colorado fourteeners in a week) I have definitely smoothed out the tread underneath my forefeet (but still have pretty decent traction and sole thickness- even though the “nubs” are mostly worn off).
Overall, I couldn’t recommend the Circadian X by Earth Runners enough. The sandal’s superb ground feel, impeccable fit, and great looks make these my top pick for hiking shoe and all around shoe. I will absolutely be purchasing another pair of Earth Runners!
We were also asked to test out a pair of men’s Alpha X (11mm) sandals with conductive nylon laces. Blake put these sandals through their paces with similar results to the Circadian X. The thicker sandal of the Alpha X is definitely a plus if you are looking for a sandal with more support. They lose a little of their minimalist feel but the durability is definitely top-notch. The nylon laces were strong and comfortable. Blake did report that the nylon laces were a little tough to get on initially but that only added to the secure feeling they had once under foot. These sandals are definitely worth getting if you are looking for a sandal with extra rigidity.