First 3 Miles in Tarahumara Running Shoes

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Born to Run by Christopher McDougall First I want to be clear that I’m not regularly hugging trees or think that we should get back to our roots and run barefoot because cavemen didn’t have Nikes. I just want to be a better runner. If tech from 10,000BC will help me with that, great! If not, “Hello, 21st century!”

In March I finished reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and decided to test he minimalist running style of tarahumara people. The first brilliant idea was to make my own huarache running sandals out of tire rubber and some string. I headed to Youtube to find some instructional material about how to make huaraches.

Xero Shoes Sensori Venture barefoot sandalAfter watching some videos and considering the great success of my previous DIY projects I decided to find out if anybody is selling huaraches. Of course, they do! In no time Google sent me to Xero Shoes website. A little bit later after reading forums and reviews I was ready to buy. I wanted to make absolutely sure that the sandals fit so I printed out the sizing instructions and then placed an order for Sensori Venture Ready-to-Wear Men’s Barefoot Sandals. I opted for the most “hi-tech” version as I wanted 21st century comfort with my stone age sandals.

As it happens I live in the middle of the nowhere and this means that the delivery takes weeks and costs an arm and a leg. But no problem, Estonia is a polar bear country and it was a bit cold for the barefoot running anyways. So, after three weeks I got my huarache running sandals. I couldn’t resist trying them out right after I got the package from the post office. It was about 30F (0C) outside but I ran a few hundred yards. Fast forward another 3 weeks and it’s 65F (18C) outside. I decide to go for a walk I my brand new running sandals:

Putting on huaraches

Xero Shoes huarache running sandals after Now, when the rubber meets the road I need the lacing to fit perfectly. Fiddling with the laces for about few minutes everything seems OK.

First steps in huaraches

In about 50 steps I feel that the right and left foot are laced differently and right foot feel uncomfortable. I play around with the laces but the right foot still doesn’t feel right. I try to run. Slowly. After 100 steps or so the heel strap starts to slide down. I stop and take off the sandal to put some thought into it. Sure enough, a little bit of pulling here and pushing there seems to fix the problem.

First run in huaraches

Now I’m some quarter mile out and it feels comfortable enough for some light running of 9 minutes per mile. I start my Endomondo sports tracker to record the historic moment. And in no time there’s the first challenge, a short but steep decent. I’ve never been good at downhill running. When you have a regular running shoe you are not afraid of sliding off the sole of the shoe when going downhill and putting you foot in front of your center of mass. Your knees will hate you for that but no big deal. In huaraches you have to think about landing your toes under your body where the arrow from your center of mass points. This means that you are not braking and you have to find other ways to regulate your speed. I shortened my step increased the frequency. This is something I need to practice so that I can regain the energy spent on the uphill parts of the course.

Next few miles in huaraches

Everything that followed was quite uneventful. I have been running toe-strike for a year and in that sense there really was no difference. If you have good running technique  you can run in anything. Every time I paid attention to my running I had the feeling that the sandals will fall off. However when I was thinking about other thing and moving on autopilot then the shoes actually stayed on. Go figure! By the end of the second mile I had to stop and adjust the straps on my right sandal as the heel strap started to slide down. That was the last adjustment that I needed to make. Considering how many miles it takes to “run in” regular running shoes a few miles seems quite good.

Oh, my goodness! A blister!

After walking half a mile and running another 2.5 miles I had a blister on the fourth toe of my right foot. It resulted in the combination of less than perfect lacing and my constant fear of the sandals falling off. So I tried to grab the sandal with my toes and the friction from that movement caused the blister. I expect not to have more of these after I get used to the sandals and won’t try to grab them anymore. Xero Shoes huarache running sandals blister Some of my friends pointed out that I will have blisters between my big and second toes where the silicon thing attaches to the sole. No problems there.


I can put the Xero shoes on right now and go out for 5 to 10 mile run, no problem. But the key here is that I have been working on my toe-strike running style for more than a year now and switching to barefoot running sandals is natural. If you are a heel-striker there will be a learning curve. But you have to change or you bust your knees.

Will I run my next marathon in huaraches? I don’t know. I have to run more in these sandals to get a better understanding (100-200 miles maybe).  The main question: Is there an advantage over regular running shoe, more effective style, stronger feet?

One thing I do know all my next “real” running shoes will have a thinner sole.

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