Soft Star RunAmoc Dash Review (Barefoot Running Shoes)
Since last December, I have had the privilege of helping to test the Soft Star Shoes RunAmoc Dash. I’ve run 367 miles on Dash prototypes since then. The Dash weighs only 5.6 ounces for the 2mm sole and the perforated LITE upper. With a thin 2mm Vibram sole and zero heel to toe drop, the RunAmoc Dash is far “less” of a shoe than many of the heavier transitional/minimalist shoes coming onto the market this year.
Two weeks ago, I won second place in the 35K division of the Santa Barbara Endurance Race, wearing Soft Star’s new minimalist running moccasin, the RunAmoc Dash.
Below is my review of the RunAmoc Dash from a design, aesthetics, and performance standpoint.
The first thing fans of the original RunAmoc would notice about the RunAmoc Dash is the Oxford-like styling and the new laces. A smooth leather saddle criss-crosses the top of the moccasin, providing stability for the laces. This is my favorite revision of the RunAmoc since it allows me to tie the laces tightly at the midfoot/arch. After a few stream crossings, I can cinch them down at the midfoot so that my foot isn’t sloshing around inside the moccasin, but the toe box remains spacious enough for my toes to spread out naturally.
Like the old RunAmocs, the Dash is a great looking everyday shoe. People are often surprised when I tell them that the shoes I’m wearing are also my running shoes. The low-slung styling is similar to many of the skateboard shoes I see around town, yet I’ve worn them to several upscale events. Even better, you can pick from a full palette of colors when you order your shoes, instead of getting stuck with the three or four standardized choices of most running shoes. You can also pick different colors for different parts of the moccasin, such as the toe, the saddle/heel, and the leather half-moon under the saddle.
Besides color choices, there are three options for the upper. The LITE is a breathable, perforated leather, or you can choose a smooth leather upper or special order a suede upper.
Part of the new design of the Dash includes tougher leather in the heel cup area, providing a solid grip around the heel that feels comfortable and secure. Even though I wear the Dash with no socks, the leather doesn’t get the funky smell that VFFs are notorious for.
Sole and Ground Feel
Soft Star meticulously altered the design of the sole at least four times during testing for the Dash. The final version of the sole has a toe box wide enough for your toes to splay, which I notice particularly on steep downhills. However, Soft Star eliminated the sloppiness of earlier prototypes by sculpting a more precise fit at the end of the toes. Unlike the Terra Plana Vivo Barefoot Evo, the Dash has no extra inch of trip potential sticking off the front of the shoes (Here's a pic of the outlined soles of the Evo vs. the RunAmoc Dash).
There are two options for the soles, but I recommend only the 2mm Vibram “street” sole. For me, a 5mm sole does not have adequate ground feel. Even though the 2mm sole is called a “street” option, I have tested it on the most technical trails I could find, and it has performed flawlessly in every case. Traction is one of the most common questions I get about the shoes, and I answer by referring back to the whole point of the minimalist paradigm, which is to run lightly. Most of the new transitional/minimalist shoes coming onto the market are missing this point, in my opinion, which is to say that our feet don’t need to claw into the ground for traction. Minimalist shoes are supposed to be stepping away from the old dominator paradigm of powering over any obstacle that gets in the way.
With 2mm of Vibram rubber and a non-removable insole that is perhaps 1mm thick, you can bend and fold these moccasins like a yoga mat. This allows one of my favorite things to happen during fast trail descents. As I’m flying down a steep trail too quickly for my brain to process the upcoming rocks and sticks in the path, I notice a foot softening to accept a rock’s brief pressure in the midsole, or I’ll notice my weight is pulled from a slick spot before too much potential for sliding builds up. It amazes me to watch all these micro-adjustments happening without conscious control.
Another cool thing that happens is that the moccasins curve to match your arches. When I receive a new pair, the sole is fresh and flat. But after a muddy run in the rain, I’ll hang them up to dry and come back later to see they’ve dried to the natural shape of my feet.
When I agreed to test the new Dash, I decided I needed to really put them to the test. I run almost completely on trails, but of course trails vary widely. There are the groomed dirt or wood chip paths of my favorite parks. And the other end of the spectrum includes sharp scree, gravel roads, sideways-sloping talus slopes, or muddy/snowy descents. So I ran the Dash through all of the above. During a run around Applegate Lake on a rainy day in March, I counted 19 seasonal stream crossings, including 7 that completely submerged the Dash. No socks, no blisters, no problems.
At the Santa Barbara Endurance Race, I padded through soft sand, hopped boulders, bombed a rocky, technical single-track at a sub-six minute pace, and gently eased up about 5,000 feet of climbing. Some of my favorite trails have sharp Oregon grape and blackberry vines growing in the middle of the trail, and the Dash has handled numerous brushes with these guys in fine shape. The only problem I had was a small puncture in the perforated upper on one pair after a severe brush with a rock. This was easily fixable with a few minutes of sewing.
One caveat about the colored leathers is the color transfer. The black color rubs off on bare feet to a minor extent, but the purple leather will temporarily paint your feet a wild and hilarious color. I took this photo after a 17.5 mile run in the snow on the Pacific Crest Trail, and there’s no chafing or abrasion on my feet—simply mud and purple dye. Fortunately the dye washes off easily in the shower. Soft Star assured me that the vegetable-based dyes are non-toxic.
I see the RunAmoc Dash retaining the original values of the barefoot/minimalist movement in a light, durable fashion. I’m looking forward to running the Dash through the Siskiyou Outback 50K in July.
Technical Specs, Pricing, Availability
Here are the technical specs on the RunAmoc Dash, which comes in two different upper styles, each with your choice of sole:
- Laces for improved adjust-ability and a less moccasin-like look.
- Ventilated leather uppers on the RunAmoc Dash Lite; regular, non-perforated leather on the RunAmoc Dash Smooth
- Wide toe box
- Outsole options are trail (5mm thick rubber) or street (2mm thickrubber) soles made with Vibram rubber.
- Lightweight — between 5.6 oz to 8.7 oz depending on sole choice/shoe size.
Though the RunAmoc Dash comes in either Smooth or Lite with either a Trail or Street sole, you can go full-custom and pick your color/leather combinations (the purple RunAmoc Dashes are custom, for example).