About two months ago, I read Born to Run, bought Luna Sandals and switched to running with these sandals almost exclusively. I kept wanting to write about my impressions, but then I discovered that Benjamin Baugh had bought the same sandals at about the same time, had written all the words I wanted to say, and when I asked him, he said I could just repost them.
The sandal we’re talking about is the Luna Mono.
Benjamin Baugh writes on Google+:
In my little vaguebook post yesterday about my new sandals, I said I’d talk about how they handled after my run today.
The conditions were about as good as you’d hope for a test – the most technical trail I had easy access to (lots of roots and rocks, gravel, mud, ups and downs), in first the sweaty Georgia heat, and then in a proper thunderstorm. Plus, about a quarter mile on pavement.
Generally, these sandals performed brilliantly. In fact, the only real issue was getting them adjusted just right. I’ve not worn this style of sandal before, so I wasn’t sure exactly how to dial in the fit. I got left perfect, and the sandal hugged my foot, didn’t slip at all, and by the end I didn’t even notice I had it on anymore. Right was trickier, and while I got it satisfactorily snug, it isn’t sitting as well as the left. I think it’s something to do with the heel strap adjustment.
Righty likes to roll a little, and I step off with a twisting motion on the ball of my foot. This eats into shoes on pavement, and on these sandals tended to rotate my foot out of alignment with the shot, so my heel came over the edge on the inside, and my pinkie toe on the outside. I played around with tightness and cinching the tech strap very snug, but that only made it worse. I got the best results by taking the tech strap off entirely.
At some point, I just decided good enough and got to the running. I only did three miles, between time crunch and fiddling with the sandal adjustment, but they were a very good three miles. No blistering, hot spots, or chafing anywhere, despite expecting a few where my feet were rubbed in unaccustomed places. They’re also incredibly light. Even lighter than the Lems I wear casually (and run in more than I should), about the same weight as my old homemade all-leather guillies.
The grip was excellent, and I didn’t get any slips even on a muddy bank with pine straw. I also didn’t hook the shoe on anything, which is something I do pretty often.
Running with open-top sandals was wonderful though. At one point, to test how they felt when soaking wet I stepped into the lake, and then set off running again. It made my feet delightfully cool, but didn’t affect the fit of the sandals or how they wore at all. I could see wading and fishing in these sandals, and then hiking back afterwards no problem.
These are thicker than what I’m used to running in, but that’s actually looking like it’ll be a boon. I’m still too fat, though I’ve started to lean up really well with the daily runs and no crap diet, and my feet would ache pretty badly after runs in really thin shoes, especially as I’ve started to up the intensity recently. With these, the extra padding was just enough, while not dulling my sense of the ground under me. Gravel was no problem, but I could still feel the surface, and how it shifted. On pavement, they provided just enough spring to make it feel more like I was running on packed dirt instead of asphalt, which is just want I wanted.
In terms of keeping rocks and crap out, I had no problem. I actually have a worse time keeping things out of my lace up shoes, A shake of my foot dislodged the one little piece of gravel and the acorn that got under them.
My earlier assessment that these are well made holds up, I think. No signs of distress at any of the potential failure points in the design. I’ll post an update when I have fifty miles or so on them.
So to sum, fantastic sandals, worked as-advertised on many different surfaces very well, comfortable, fun to run in, but with some unexpected complexity in getting them to fit right.
Benjamin Baugh writes on Google+:
I bought a pair of these a couple of months ago, and did a basic comments/thoughts post on them after running in them a couple of times, and said I’d post more when I had some miles on them. I’m waiting for a system here at work to rebuild, so I thought I’d go ahead and do that now.
My overall impression with 100+ miles on them is positive.
The Mono is Luna’s all-purpose all-terrain sandal – not optimized for road or trail, but providing crossover utility. I hate having lots of different special-purpose shoes, so this was the obvious pick for me. As to how it performed, I have to rate it excellent. The footbed is extremely grippy both on top and underneath. When I got the fit figured out (more on that later), there’s no slipping when they are wet, and they grab the ground better than any shoe I’ve worn. There’s modest wear on the forefoot where I habitually wear down my shoes fastest, but nothing too bad. I have not been gentle on them, and they show no signs of coming apart – the workmanship is great on these. They’re just as sturdy as promised. There are a few thread-ends poking out of areas that have reinforcement sewn on, but nothing coming undone.
As my running is primarily on trails, with a mix of root, dirt, rock, sand, mud, pine straw and leaves, and similar surfaces I’ve found them excellent on everything I’ve tried them on. I have not run on serious sharp rock, but have run on granite gravel without any issue. Only once or twice have I stepped on something that caused me actual pain through the footbed, despite it being dense but fairly soft material. I’ve run in them exclusively since getting them, and use them as my only footwear outside of work, including a recent roadtrip and vacation to Houston.
When I get the fit dialed in properly, they perform brilliantly, but there lies my issue with these sandals. They’re hard to get fitted, and they’re hard to keep fitted.
There are four points of adjustment, and being unfamiliar with how a huaraches type sandal was supposed to fit, I had to mess with it for a month before I got the basics figured out. The side-strap that connects to the one running from the toes can slide up and down the toe strap, as well as tighten. It needs to be a finger’s width from the end of the reinforced slider patch to fit snugly on me. The straps that feed through the footbed need to be adjusted to tighten the heel strap considerably, or it slides off my heel all the time, which is irritating in the grocery store, and intensely aggravating on a run. All well and good… except these adjustments don’t stay put. I have to tweak the adjustments every time I put them on, else they tend to fall off. This is actually more of an issue with walking around daily stuff than running though. I notice much worse slipping when I’m walking casually than when I’m running.
The heel strap is elasticized in this model sandal, and I think that’s where the issue with maintaining a good fit arises. It introduces flex and give in the straps, and that becomes slack that works it way into the system where only tension keeps things in place. The sliding strap always slips forward, the heel strap always gets looser. The Monos come standard with an item that used to be sold separately – a removable ‘tech strap’ which you can see in the pic – the second strap close to my ankle that holds up the heel strap like sandal suspenders. With all the other fits dialed in, and this attached, it solves the heel strap slip issue perfectly, but I think it’s inclusion as a standard item indicates that Luna is aware of the slipping fit issue. I’m not sure if the elastic heel strap adds anything to the comfort or fit of these sandals. I think in future, I’d not buy a sandal with that.
While not perfect, the Monos have proven quite good – they’re certainly a pleasure to run in. I don’t think Luna has the design for an all-terrain all-day sandal nailed down quite yet, but they’re really close with this one. The footbed is certainly there, as is the look. Getting the fit and adjustment system working better and not slipping so much, and providing a bit more guidance on how to go about getting them dialed in would certainly push these from good to excellent .
So, even with their flaws, would I recommend these?
Yes I would, even as they currently are. If you are looking for a minimal light-weight running sandal that can wear everyday as casual footwear, that can handle paved surfaces and technical trails, then these are a winner despite the learning curve and slipping adjustment.
Thank you, Benjamin Baugh, for letting me copy your words so I didn’t have to write anything. I’ll just add that my sandals didn’t come with the tech strap you mentioned, and I do tweak them on every run after maybe half an hour. Oh well. They’re still my favorite way to run because in the last few years my feet have started to complain about my shoes. Small toe feels crushed, big toe feels bent sideways… The sandals are much better than any of my other shoes, running (Asics) or not (Scarpa).