Exodus Minimalist Sandals Review
I received an email a few weeks ago from Ryan, the founder of a new minimalist sandal company called Exodus Sandals. My immediate thought—before even seeing a pair of the sandals—was something like, "Oh another huaraches-making company?" I was pleasantly surprised to find I was mistaken. Exodus Sandals were something new?a minimalist sandal that isn't based on the huaraches-design!
Ryan had me measure up my feet and promptly sent me a custom-made pair of Exodus Sandals. What follows is a review of these thin-soled, barefoot-minded sandals. After the jump!
What should immediately jump out at you about the Exodus is that they almost look more like a conventional pair of sandals than what we've come to expect out of minimalist sandals. This is due to the webbing/straps following a unique path that locks down the big toe and is overtly not like a pair of huaraches, which are the minimalist sandal style du jour.
Exodus Sandals use a narrow-webbing that wraps the foot starting at the big toe and moving back and around the heel before ending at the instep. The Exodus design utilizes three ladder tension lock buckles to keep the webbing locked up in key locations. It's all brought together by a hand-molded Vibram rubber sole.
The whole Exodus Sandals manufacturing job—while being made-by-hand—is exceedingly well done. Impressive.
I've handled a number of custom-made minimalist sandals—almost all of which were huaraches-based or huaraches-inspired?everything from the original Luna Sandals huaraches to the original Invisible Shoes huaraches (Invisible Shoes is now Xero Shoes. The original Invisible Shoes huaraches were built on Vibram rubber but have used custom-molded soles for some time) to Unshoes (the Unshoes Wokova is different but reminiscent of huaraches and the Unshoes Pah Tempe is probably the closest thing to the Exodus). Then there's Bedrocks and Brancas, among others. None of these (excepting Xeros since they use their own, pre-molded soles) seemed totally "complete" to my eye prior to break-in due to their flat, cut from rubber soles.
And I know, that probably sounds weird to fault a pair of minimalist sandals for having soles that are flat. While I'd always want a zero-dropped pair of sandals, having a sole that hugged the contours of my foot (without really supporting my foot) goes a long way to making the sandals feel a part of my feet.
Maybe it's just me.
The Exodus is custom-cut from rubber but breaks the mold of others in this category. In addition to their unique approach to the webbing straps, a look reminiscent of Chacos, Exodus Sandals get their soles pre-molded to curve up at the edges. This does double duty of wrapping the foot and pulling the webbing loops that wrap through the bottom of the sole up and off of the ground. They go a long way to make the sandals look like a storebought, mass-produced sandal vs. something cobbled together in a garage. Make sense?
Take a look at the Exodus to get a sense for how it all comes together:
The fixed point of the Exodus straps is at the "thong" in between your two biggest toes. This loops up and over your big toe to the outside where it reverses and then crosses your instep to the outside front of your foot where it reverses tracks again, via the sole, and flies back towards your ankle, staying on the outside of your foot. It then pulls a huaraches-inspired move and goes under and up again, around your heel, and back to the outside of your ankle before going in and out of your sole a final time, and clasping back on that front-to-back strap. Yeah that's confusing to read. Look at the pictures, it helps!
This strap configuration works big time in locking down the sandals to your big toe. This is a feature that is decidedly missing from all the huaraches out there and goes a long way to making the Exodus feel more a part of your foot.
Contrast this strapping method to how huaraches run from the thong all the way back to your ankle. Elegant in it's simplicity and allowing for great toe freedom, the classic huaraches tying method doesn't lock the sole to your feet quite as well. So when you flex your toes to the sky, the sole tends to dangle a bit more with a pair of huaraches. You can see what I mean below via these pics of a broken-in pair of Luna Leadvilles compared to the Exodus out of the box (also note how the brand new Exodus soles are already molded to a level at or higher than the long-broken-in Leadvilles, which came with a perfectly flat sole out of the box):
Since the straps are kept lifted off the ground via the curved sole, there's not too much worry about wear and tear on them.
Probably the only real drawback to this configuration is that the ladder-buckle system, which is a neat looking feature, makes getting the adjustment dialed in a little tricky. To that end, Ryan has a helpful page on adjusting the Exodus straps to dial in the fit.
Here's what the sandals look like on my feet:
The Exodus soles are made of Vibram rubber that is about 6mm thick. It's a dense rubber that transmits a ton of ground feel.
I'm really impressed with Ryan hand-molding the soles of the Exodus Sandals to help them wrap your feet at the edges. Xero Shoes do this a little bit and Lunas ultimately do this once the break-in.
I like the mold-job because it makes the sandals feel a little more stuck on your feet. It's a nice touch. As for preventing wear-and-tear on the straps, it's too soon to tell.
One thing I'd like to experience with the Exodus is a foamier Vibram sole?perhaps something like the Luna Leadville. Why? Well, mostly for a little bit more of a plush ride for all-day wear. My Luna Leadvilles got a lot of wear this summer due to bringing the all-day wear comfort (at least in the soles; the thong on them would sometimes bother my feet, but I digress).
I've asked Ryan if other soles might be offered in the future. We'll see.
Function & Feel
Thanks to a locked-on sole that transmits a great deal of ground feel, once you dial in the fit, the Exodus Sandals really know how to keep up with whatever you do. I've put a lot of walking miles on them, busted out into a trot/light run in them, and worn them just being active (particularly on weekends). To date, I've had no issues with their performance.
Being minimalist sandals, they're also lightweight so you forget they are "there" for all day wear. What more do you want from a sandal or shoe than forgetting it's there? The best compliment to a shoe or sandal is that it blends so well with what you're doing that it never gets in the way, provides whatever protection you need, and compliments the activity. I think the Exodus does a great job in this regard.
I like the look!
If you've ever owned Tevas or Chacos and like the look of these strap configurations, you're very likely going to welcome the aesthetic of the Exodus. While I've grown to appreciate the look of a pair of huaraches, it has a feminine vibe to it that just can't be denied—it's due to there being a ton of women's sandals with similar strap configurations ('tween the toes to the sides of the ankles and around the heel: you know the look). The Exodus has a more masculine look by comparison.
It works well in my book.
Conclusions & Price
The Exodus Sandals are only $56 from exodussandals.com, which includes free shipping within the U.S.
Should you get them? If you're looking for a minimalist sandal that's not a pair of huaraches, you should give the Exodus serious consideration. It's priced well and custom-made to your traced feet. I think my pair was even numbered (somewhere in the 50s). How cool is that?
Anyone else have a pair? What's your experience with them been?