Invisible Shoes Huarache Sandals
I have to admit that I really, really wanted the Invisible Shoes huaraches to work out for me. I loved the idea of a thin-soled, open sandal. The idea of running with nothing more than a long shoe lace and bit of rubber under my feet sounded great. Unfortunately, my first trial run with the Invisible Shoes did not go so well. In fact, the experience has left me with a soar on my index toe. I have not given up on the huaraches, but am emotionally and physically scarred. Let me explain.
Price: $49.95 for custom made, $24.95 for Large Kit, $19.95 for Standard Kit
Mine were custom made and given to me for free by Invisible Shoes to test and review
Weight: 3.6 oz
Size: Sized exactly to the tracing of my foot (usually a 12.5 US)
Material: 4mm Vibram Cherry sole with polypropylene and nylon laces
I was contacted by Steven Sashen, the proprietor of Invisible Shoes, and asked if I would be willing to give his huaraches a test. He gave me two options: to make a pair myself with a kit he would send or have him make them for me. Lacking confidence in my own ability to follow instructions and actually cut rubber correctly, I chose for Steve to make the shoes for me. This required me to trace the outline of my foot onto paper and make a few marks to indicate where certain parts of my foot lined up on the tracing. An online video demonstrates how to do this, helping to make the process rather painless and quick – about 10 minutes.
I also had the choice of lace color. I chose black laces to match the black soles. Shortly after sending in my tracing I received my very own, custom-made sandals in the mail.
I tore open the brown paper wrapping to find my sandals. Describing them as sandals is probably misleading. They are simply two pieces of thin and flimsy Vibram rubber with a mass of black string looping through 3 holes in the soles.
It took some effort to squeeze my feet into the right places of the sandals, but I managed. They felt quite tight, especially between my big toes and index toes.
After examining the rather confusing configuration of string as it wound up, around, and through the soles, I realized the hardest part of getting the shoes ready was going to be figuring out how to loosen the laces so the shoes fit correctly.
I read the letter from Steven that accompanied the shoes and saw that there was an online video I needed to watch to learn how to loosen and tie the sandals correctly. Not having the time to watch the video (or simply not wanting to take the time), I took the sandals off and set them on my desk. And that’s where they sat for several months.
All Tied Up
The perfect opportunity to test the Invisible Shoes huarache sandals came in December. I was about to embark on my second annual run at Pinnacles National Monument on my way from Northern California to Southern California for the Holidays, and making a slight detour off of my driving route to enjoy an incredible trail run was well worth it.
The night before my trip I pulled out the laptop and found a video on the Invisible Shoes website explaining two options of how to tie the sandals. I opted for the more classic “Roman sandal” look. After several attempts to re-lace the sandals I found a fit that seemed right. However, as I walked in the sandals the tips caught on the carpet. I followed Steven’s suggestion in the video to cut the rubber
to the right size if needed.
I would have thought that my trace of my foot was so the cut of the sole came correct, but I guess some final tweaking was acceptable. I was tired and wanted to get to bed so I I grabbed the closest pair of scissors and hacked off bits of rubber until it seemed right.
Free, Yet Protected Feet
The weather at Pinnacles was a lovely 60F degrees when I laced the huarache sandals up and headed up the gravel path that wound up to the top of the volcanic rock outcroppings that soared 2,000 feet over my head.
I walked for the first couple hundred yards to get a feel for the sandals. I loved the feeling of air on my feet and the ground beneath. It felt like I could feel every little rock beneath me as I walked which was great. Having run parts of this trail barefoot before I knew how rough the volcanic rocks were on even tough-soled feet. I felt as if I was as close as possible to being barefoot while still protecting my skin against the cutting rock.
My hurried, rough cuts of the soles was good enough as the tips did not catch on the ground as I brought my feet forward in stride. However, as I began up the gradual part of the incline my heels began slipping off of the soles. I stopped a couple of times to tighten the strings in an attempt to keep my heels in place.
While I didn’t enjoy the way gravel easily got under my feet, I found it pretty easy to kick the offending stones out as there are no sides on the sandals. What comes in easily goes out easily in these sandals.
I decided to run a bit to determine if the heel problem was unique to walking in the sandals. Nope. Even after tightening the laces my heels slid off the back while I ran. Another problem also presented itself. My toes slipped out of the laces. Figuring that this was a sign that the laces were still too lose I once again stopped. This time I sat down and completely re-tied the laces, tightening the loops that go through the rubber soles as well. I remembered in the video that the string that goes between the toes should be kept in the middle of the foot. I pulled, tugged, and tied until the sandals were very snug around my feet, even cutting into my skin a bit.
The problems continued. The sandals seemed to have a mind of their own and wanted to be a different position, resulting in the rubbing raw of the outside of my index toe from the string, an exposed heel underneath, and a hump of sole under my arch. After a couple more adjustments I realize there was no way I could continue without causing serious injury to my now red and raw toe. Fortunately, I had shoved my Vibram Five Finger shoes into my pack.
I released my feet from the sandals. Ahhh. They instantly felt better. I did the rest of the run – I hadn’t even made it to the top yet – in the VFFs.
I Must Suck at Knots
I was left in some pain and frustrated. I had read a number of positive reviews of the Invisible Shoes – folks who run in them all the time and love them. What was I doing wrong, or not doing? All told I must have loosed and re-tied my sandals 10 times. It’s not like I didn’t try.
Now that my toe has almost healed (I had to wear a band-aid for a couple of weeks) I might give the shoes another try. Not without seeking more help and advice, though. Perhaps another option for tying the laces will work better. We’ll see.
Once I got past figuring out how to tighten the sandals, they felt quite good on my feet. That is, until I tried to walk or run in them. I learnt that it’s entirely possible to cause a good amount of harm to your feet if you do not tie the sandals correctly. And who knows, maybe there isn’t even a way for me to wear the sandals so they don’t hurt my feet. Either way, the Invisible Shoes huarache sandals are likely to take a good deal of patience and trial and error. Oh, and some knot-tying skills wouldn’t hurt, either.