Earth Runners Alpha X and Circadian X Running Sandals Review
For the last month, I have been testing out two of the latest sandals from Earth Runners: The Alpha X with leather laces and the Circadian X with leather laces and conductive inserts.
They are some of the most handsome-looking huaraches on the market and they feature a unique lacing and strap system that allows for a slightly more secure fit than many other running sandals.
Read on for my review on the Alpha X and Circadian X (as well as for a limited-time coupon code!)!
The Earth Runners "X" — The Rundown
Both the Earth Runners Alpha X and the Circadian X are similar to their non-X counterparts, the Alpha and the Circadian (the Circadian was reviewed by Greg here). You can scan all four models on Earth Runners' website here. The difference is that X-marked Earth Runners feature an additional 2mm of sole material.
Between the two, the Alpha X is more suited for trail running with its 11mm Vibram Woodstock sole (I call it the jigsaw sole) and the Circadian X is more suitable for road running with its 8mm Vibram Sport Utility Sole (I call it the “nubby”). However, since I am used to running in 5mm of Newflex for much of my trail running needs, I would say that the Circadian is definitely fantastic for trail running as well. In my testing pair, the Circadian X came with conductive “grounding” inserts, while they are not available on the Alpha X (more on that later).
Earth Runners is known as the running sandal manufacturer that utilizes Earthing and Grounding as a part of their sandal design. Here’s what Earth Runners has to say about their sandals:
Earth Runners give you that satisfying ”ground feel”, while offering both protection and comfort in a great fitting sandal. What distinguishes Earth Runners from other minimalist sandals is our original design that allows you to absorb the ever-present subtle electrical energies of the earth: this provides an experience similar to going barefoot, while still enjoying a measure of safety from varied terrains or street hazards.
There is a wealth of information on Earthing and Grounding on the Earth Runners website, but my own short explanation/interpretation is that Earthing allows us to be more in tune to the earth and its energies.
It seems that being more “in tune” with the earth allows for more enjoyment of your runs and less fatigue, among other things.
While some contest this concept, I’m gave my first pair of earthing sandals a shot and took Earth Runners at face value. As such, I'll detail my own experience on the technical aspects of these sandals as a BirthdayShoes contributor.
Merits of earthing aside, I can definitely say that the earthing aspects of Earth Runners sandals do not detract from the running experience in any way. Meanwhile, if you are a big fan of earthing and grounding (or want to try it out), these sandals are for you!
The Strapping System
Earth Runners use a unique (as far as I know) tying system that allows for a little extra security around the top of the foot when running. It's evocative of huaraches-style sandals while being different.
Most huaraches (See all the varieties of huaraches we've reviewed here) form a Y-shape from the toe post, which wraps around the sides of the sole and around the back of heel, forming a V on both sides of the sandal. Earth Runners, on the other hand, use a single continuous strap that wraps around the top of the foot and loops around to form the same two Vs on the sides of the sandal. This strapping system actually helps keep your foot planted to the sandal more than the traditional Y-shaped strapping system of many other running sandals and the wider angle of the toe post—which goes further to the outward side, running closer to the rest of the toes than your typical straps—also helps keep the sandal stuck on your foot.
Pictures being worth a thousand words, take a spin around the Earth Runners sandals via photos:
Other huaraches have a slight angle from the toe post to the rest of your foot, but they are typically very straight. By comparison, the Earth Runners swing more to the sides, as you can see in the photos. The straps flow to the sides of the sandals, where they are anchored, and double loop back along the top of the foot and around the heel. Following the straps with your eyes, it’s clear that Earth Runners have a very unique, simple, and secure strap design.
With the leather straps that I have on my two pairs, I found the overall experience to be very comfortable. The leather straps are just wide enough to offer a good amount of security and the leather itself is very soft on my feet.
The only issue I have with the strapping system is that the wide travel of the straps from the toe post to just below the rest of my toes was a bit uncomfortable at first, but after playing around with the tension of the straps, I was able to dial in a more comfortable fit. It is worth noting that your index toe will be getting more attention than you may be used to in other huaraches. That being the case, the extra security may be worth it for many.
Once I dialed in the right fit I cut out the excess strap with kitchen scissors. Voila! A very good fit!
The conductive inserts in the Circadian X are basically invisible and are sure to be a favorite for those who are interested in Grounding or Earthing. Obviously, my knowledge and experience on the subject is very lacking, but if you are not big on grounding, it does not take away from your enjoyment of the Circadian X and Alpha X from Earth Runners.
As noted above, Earth Runners uses two different materials for their current lineup of sandals, both of which are made by Vibram. The Circadian X uses a 8mm “nubby” Vibram Sport Utility Sole and the Alpha X uses a 11mm Woodstock “jigsaw” Sole.
Nubby Vibram Sport Utility Sole (8mm thick) on the Circadian X (note the conductive inserts):
Jigsaw Vibram Woodstock Sole (11mm thick) on the Alpha X:
The Circadian’s nubby Sport Utility Sole provides traction in all directions and while it may be thinner than the 11mm Woodstock sole, it is actually a denser material, closer to Newflex, while the Woodstock sole in the Alpha X is a just a tad denser than the soft Morflex used in many other sandals.
If you're a Vibram sole aficionado and pay attention to density, I would provide the following flowchart:
In terms of durability, the same flowchart would apply, since the denser the matieral, the longer it will last. Out of all of the sole materials, I probably like the Sport Utility or Newflex soles the most, as they can be made thinner with their denser formulas, providing a more barefoot experience (Higher density also means more ground sensation passing through the soles to your feet; lower density meaning more foamy compress-ability is the opposite).
The Alpha X’s Woodstock sole does not offer the same amount of traction as the Circadian sole, but its 11mm sole does provide much more protection overall with its additional 3mm of material.
Overall, both sandals are pretty flexible, despite their “thicker” soles over other huaraches. For transitioning runners, less-experienced barefooters, or those looking for high-mileage running, both are fantastic! Also, both sandals are relatively lightweight:
- In a size 9, the 8mm Circadian X weighs 5.5 ounces
- In a size 9, the 11mm Alpha X weighs 4.9 ounes
Both the Circadian X and Alpha X have a very nice leather footbed. The footbed is not full grain leather, but rather a suede-like leather that is very soft and seems quite durable.
Running in the Circadian X and Alpha X is quite nice. The soft leather feels good on your feet, the strapping system is very simple to adjust, and they are pretty flexible sandals.
Like I mentioned earlier, the strapping system is very secure and helps keep the sandals on your feet, minimizing fatigue. I have found that I usually need to strap myself pretty tightly to my running sandals for maximum comfort, but the Earth Runners provide a very good amount of security without needing to be tied as tightly.
However, as implied earlier, I did experience some irritation on the inner sides of my index toes due to the angle of the strap. It took a little getting use to, but after a while, the irritation went away and it was a very comfortable running experience, especially with the soft leather laces!
I would rate groundfeel as “good” in the Circadian X and “fair” in the Alpha X. 8mm and 11mm is considered average-to-thick for most running sandals, but you do get a lot of communication from the environment, especially if you plan on running trails with either the Circadian X or the Alpha X. I find them to be excellent trail sandals because they offer a good bit of protection, but am still relatively lightweight and flexible.
The Circadian X features conductive inserts along the ball of the foot (see the photo above). These are metal pegs that are sunken into the leather material and are designed to ground the user to the energies of the earth. From a technical perspective, these metal pegs do not detract from the running experience and they do not irritate, bother, or are even noticeable in the slightest, even after running for many miles. I cannot really say if I felt more connected to the earth in my travels with the Circadian X, but I will say that the inserts do not negatively affect my enjoyment of them and I think they look pretty cool.
Running with the conductive inserts is a pleasant experience and anyone that follows grounding or earthing is sure to be a big fan of how seamless the inserts are in the Circadian X.
Both the Circadian X and the Alpha X have a metal toe post on the bottom of the sole. I highly suggest that you do not run on hardwood or any material that is fragile because I can definitely see the metal toe post and the conductive inserts of the Circadian X scratching wooden floors. Treadmills, roads, and—obviously—trails are perfectly fine though!
Earth Runner sandals have excellent durability with their Vibram soles. I expect that they will handle a lot of punishment and continue to perform well. The thicker soles of the Alpha X and Circadian X should also take a long time to wear. With thicker soles, just about any terrain is your playground. Rocks, gravel, sand, and asphalt do not phase the Vibram soles and you feel very protected from the elements.
After some time, my footprint started to show on the soft leather footbed, but unlike running sandals with a less dense sole, neither the Alpha X nor the Circadian X have started to curve, so I expect them to take very long time to break down. Even the leather has held up beautifully and has not even shown any signs of cracking, flaring, or wear—a testament to the quality of the leather.
- Great Vibram durability
- Innovative strap design is very secure
- Handsome, especially with the leather laces
- Toe metal toe post
- Conductive inserts are seamless (for Circadian X)
- Toe strap can be a little tricky for some runners
- Metal toe post can scratch floors
- Thicker soles are less flexible than the non-X versions
The Circadian X and Alpha X from Earth Runners both offer a little more protection over their brothers, but are still flexible and lightweight. The strapping system is quite innovative and secure on your foot (despite some initial irritation), and they are excellent for their intended purpose. I expect that users would really enjoy trails with either model. Those looking for running long distances or transitioning to minimalist running shoes are sure to enjoy these sandals.
If you are interested in Earthing or Grounding, the inserts on the Circadian X are an added bonus! Even if you are not, the earthing concepts used in the design of Earth Runners do not subtract from their purpose as running sandals.
Want to try them out? Here's a coupon!
If you're interested in testing out Earth Runners, you can use coupon code BIRTHDAYSHOES for 15% off up until December 14, 2014! The Alpha X runs for $72 (pre-coupon) and the Circadian X is $62 (pre-coupon). Both can be found here.
If you're a big fan of Earth Runners, let us know what you think in the comments below!
A huge thanks to Michael Dally and Earth Runners for providing me with samples of the Alpha X and Circadian X for this review!