Earth Runners Circadian Review
I love huaraches. I've raced in the bare minimum clothes and bare minimum shoes you could have without being naked. I wore them for my first marathon. Heck, huaraches have even started to take over as my default CrossFit shoe on days where any running is involved. Clearly I'm a fan.
Other people obviously are, too, as more and more huaraches makers keep popping up. This is likely due to the relative ease of producing huaraches when compared to traditional shoes. Despite the simplicity of these types of shoes, there's plenty of variation in terms of quality, style, fit, and philosophy.
One of the more unique of these -- especially in the philosophy department -- are Earth Runners. I've been curious about their offerings and was fortunate enough to get a review pair of the upcoming Circadian model to test out.
Check them out after the jump!
The Sandals in Photos
What? On Earthing.
Central to Earth Runners' unique philosophy is the idea of "earthing" or "grounding." From the Earth Runners Kickstarter page:
The idea of living connected to the earth is an ancient practice that has received a lot of attention in recent years. The book Earthing addresses our lost connection with the earth over the past century, including many studies supporting the benefits of living a more grounded lifestyle. Our new copper impregnated conductive laces attach to a copper plug on the bottom of the sandal allowing you to stay grounded to the earth throughout the day while still enjoying the luxury of high performance rubber tread.
The gist: grounding/earthing allegedly allows us to connect with the earth and allow a healthy and natural transfer of energy throughout our bodies.
I probably don't need to tell you that the concept of earthing is a hotly contested one, especially online. "When I read what most the skeptics have to say about earthing online I feel like most of them seem to miss the big point. They get caught up on electrons, free radicals, and anti inflammatories," Michael Dally at Earth Runners tells me. "What they seem to miss is the idea that when people live insulated ungrounded lifestyles, their bodies are not able to tell time as accurately. Most people believe that the circadian clock of the brain is controlled exclusively by the light and dark cycles but this is not the case. There are magnetic cells in our suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus that coordinate with the electromagnetic resonance of the earth and its ionosphere. When people are disconnected from this 'timing signal' it effects their bodies ability to coordinate nano-scopic biochemical reactions that are crucial for optimal health."
But Dally's interest in promoting the concept goes beyond the commercial interests of the company. In fact, it was the concept that led him to develop the shoes in the first place. Dally experimented with it quite a bit beforehand. Again, in his own words:
When I first heard about the concept of earthing I was intrigued by the concept but a bit apprehensive to its validity. I decided to test it myself and form my own opinion. I thought that this could be another factor contributing to the relief, harmony, and prospective I receive while connecting with nature. I figured the best way to test the effect of sharing the same potential of the earth would be to do it when I sleep, to 'weed-out' as many of the other variables that could be experienced while barefoot out in nature. I replicated the techniques used in the studies I read about in the book and began logging my results. I used an app on my iphone that measure movement throughout the night to determine how much restful REM sleep I would get. I logged my results for a week ungrounded, then for a week grounded, then I alternated days. When I woke up I would recorded how many hours slept, how rested I felt, etc. After recording my data for a month that data was clear, I slept better grounded.
What this means in terms of design for the shoes is that there are small copper inserts in the foot bed, as well as new "conductive laces."
I'm not going to make any sort of call as to the concept's validity. I wanted to be sure to share all this since earthing is an important part of the Earth Runners philosophy, but it's up to you to make up your own mind. For my part I am approaching the concept with complete neutrality. I am reviewing the Circadian strictly as a shoe, and specifically comparing it to other huaraches.
What you get
The Circadian features a 6mm Vibram sole available with or without a leather foot bed. Incredibly light -- only a few ounces maybe. And zero drop, natch. The pair I received had the bare foot bed, which is my usual preference. The sole is one of the most flexible I've seen on a pair of huaraches. The Circadian is second only to Xero Shoes' 4mm model in terms of flexibility, but are actually more flexible than their own 6mm model. The shape of the sole is slightly curved and formed to the foot and they get ever more so as you wear them. The laces are sturdy nylon and feature a locking plastic buckle on the side. This keeps the fit consistent as you're wearing it, as opposed to the regular adjustable straps of some other brands that can gradually loosen over the course of a day.
The locking buckle is a nice touch. My feet feel more secure in these than some of the brands with adjustable strapping or elastic heels. This can have a downside in that there's not as much give as with adjustable straps and elastic, but on the whole it's a plus. When you get them adjusted just right it's like magic; you'll entirely forget that you've got anything on your feet.
But the sole and foot bed are my favorite characteristic. There's just enough pattern to give some good grip without sacrificing ground feel or flexibility.
In terms of active movement they're great for walking and running. I took these out on several runs and never had an issue. They're right up there as one of my regular day-to-day shoes now, too.
The nylon straps feel rougher and stiffer than other huaraches of similar design. This decreases somewhat over the course of time, but it's worth noting.
I'm also not really a fan of the way the laces are threaded through metal eyelets on the sides. After a particularly long day of wearing them I noticed that the rubbing of the eyelets had started to irritate me. I should confess that when I get huaraches I tend to get them a size or two smaller than my usual shoe size because I like my heel and toes to come right up to the very edge of the sandals. So it's very likely that more reasonable wearers won't encounter the same issue.
Out of all the styles/models that Earth Runners has had up for offer, the Circadian was the one that most quickly grabbed my attention. And it does not disappoint. These are light, flexible, portable, with a very thin and unobtrusive profile. Again, these are just being reviewed as sandals. I remain neutral on the earthing aspect.
If you're like me and prefer your huaraches to tend towards the "less is more" way of thinking, you'll love the Circadian. You can find it on Earth Runners' website here. You can read Jarvis' review of the "X" varietals — Alpha X and Circadian X — of Earth Runners here.
Thanks to Earth Runners for providing these!