Unshoes Pah Tempe (Summer 2014 Update) Review
Over the last three weeks, I have been lucky enough to put the latest version of Unshoes' Pah Tempe sandals through their paces through a variety of activities and environments and presently believe they have crafted THE BEST minimalist running sandal currently on the market. If you are passionate about minimalist/barefoot running, you have to check these out.
This is an exclusive first review for BirthdayShoes.com! Read on!
The Pah Tempe was one of the first huaraches-inspired minimalist sandals that featured a toe-post-less design and was originally reviewed by Rob on BirthdayShoes a couple years back. The Pah Tempe design has a number of advantages over traditional huaraches and with the latest 2014 update, Unshoes has improved upon their previous designs by leaps and bounds. As I said earlier, I feel Unshoes has crafted THE BEST minimalist running sandal currently on the market. If you are passionate about minimalist/barefoot running, you have to check these out.
- Super custom fitting templates and sizing
- Rugged looks and durability
- Good ground feel
- Very Secure fit
- Made in the USA
- Excellent wet performance
- No more toe posts!
- Competitively priced
- Slightly thicker sole than previous versions
This review was written after running around 200 miles in both the new (summer 2014) and old (fall 2013) Pah Tempe. The Pah Tempes were used for for road running in Boston, Massachusetts, mountain trails in Denver, Colorado, and dirt roads in San Antonio, Texas.
The Pah Tempe from Unshoes has a unique design that lacks the traditional huarache toe post. The 2014 design has an EVA/cork hybrid footbed that enhances traction in wet environments as well as an updated and more comfortable strap anchoring system. Both additions are improvements over the predecessor in just about every way. They are currently my favorite running shoe—that is, sandal— and are, in my opinion, the best minimalist sandal you can find on the market right now.
The design of the anchors and straps are more comfortable and secure than other huaraches and allow for better stability in wet environments (the footbed helps a lot in this department as well) and running both down and uphill and the sole/footbed combination provides a good balance of ground feel and comfort/protection.
Here are some photos:
The Pah Tempe comes in both 6mm and 8mm flavors of sole, which are topped off with three choices of footbeds: a 1mm EVA footbed, a 3mm ground cork/eva hybrid footbed, and a 4mm "super" cork/eva footbed. In previous versions of the Pah Tempe, Unshoes used a popular Vibram Newflex sole, which was durable, flexible, and lightweight.
With the last two updates, Unshoes have used their own sole material that they advertise as having similar durability as the old Newflex sole, but slightly lighter.
In my experience, the Unshoes sole does not quite have the same density as Vibram Newflex and thus its durability is pretty close, but perhaps a whisper less than Newflex. Comparing the wear in my Shamma Sandals Warriors (see the review!) to the Pah Tempe after 200 miles shows that both have some wear, but it's only slightly more noticeable in the Pah Tempe. Overall, I expect these soles to last 750 miles or more.
The threading on the Pah Tempe sole is omnidirectional, which provides excellent tracting across a variety of terrain and both uphill and downhill.
Groundfeel is good with the 6mm sole, even with the additional 1mm of EVA. Overall, the sandals feel similar to a mix of between Vibram Morflex and Newflex if you're an afficionado of Vibram soles. When properly strapped in, I've run in excess of 12 miles in an outing with no issues of hot spots or rubbing.
I was a little skeptical at first when Unshoe moved away from Vibram soles, but I can confidently say that there is little-to-no compromise with their latest sole.
Fitting the Pah Tempe is a pretty unique experience. With other running sandals, you typically have two choices: One size fits all or trace your foot and scan it to the shoemakers. Unshoes have come up with a fitting process using templates that makes manufacturing easy, while providing a custom fit for all of their customers.
Currently they have eight templates that can be downloaded from their website for each foot in both male and female sizes (called template A-H). They look like this. Just print them all out in your correct size, place them on the your floor like your reenacting your favoring scene from A Beautiful Mind and see how each one fits your foot. It's that easy!
For your reference, my super wide feet fit perfectly with template H, which is the most duck-footed template that Unshoes has. Feet come in many shapes and sizes, so it's great that Unshoes have taken the time to be thoughtful with their manufacturing of a diversity of shapes for their customers. They will still do a custom tracing, if the eight templates aren't quite to your foot's liking.
The Pah Tempe has a few footbed options, including 1mm of EVA, and two versions of an EVA/CORK hybrid.
The version in this review has the 1mm EVA.
If you are used to other sandals or shoes with eva footbeds (such as the Amuri Cloud), you are in for a surprise as the eva footbed does not soften up the ride by much, if at all. When running with the older Pah Tempe (which lack the footbed) and the new ones, there really is not much in terms of "softness" that is gained with the footbed. By adding the EVA (and cork versions) to the footbed, Unshoes increased the durability of the shoe, enhanced the wet-environment performance, and kept the groundfeel roughly the same with the 1mm EVA version. However, in the 3mm and 4mm SUPER cork versions, you will definitely notice a difference and loss in ground feel and flexibility.
I ran through many rivers and rainstorms with the Pah Tempe and they have excellent traction, both with the soles and the footbed. My feet were always comfortable and they dried very quickly, most likely due to the addition of cork.
I was concerned that Unshoes was going to "Cloud" their Pah Tempe, but the 1mm EVA footbed seems to really be for traction, durability, and function, rather than cushioning, while the cork versions do provide more protection and have a more traditional chaco feel.
Overall, with the 6mm sole and 1mm EVA footbed, there is roughly 7mm of total soling material with the shoes. Groundfeel is similar to running in Vibrams Bikila, Bikila LS or Bikila EVO models. The sole is less dense than the Amuri/Sensori venture from Xeroshoes and is more comfortable and forgiving to run with.
Slapping is also not an issue with the Pah Tempe and they are roughly as "loud" as Shamma Sandal's offerings or the Luna Venado. As many minimalist runners have noticed, huaraches sometimes exhibit a "slapping" sound as you run, which improves as you hone your running technique (landing below your center of gravity, with your feet directly under your hips, directly under your shoulders with a high cadence/step rate). Running in the Pah Tempe is not totally silent, but very quiet overall.
The Pah Tempe features a toe-post-less design. Removing the toe post--an important anchoring point in other shoes--requires more security in other places of the sandal and the strapping system of the Pah Tempe is actually superior to other huaraches.
The lacing system is a closed loop and features no belts, ties, or velcro. Just pull the the end of the strap until you get the right tightness, that's it!
The excess strap will kinda just...dangle there, but it never gets in the way when running. If you choose to, you can also cut off the excess with some kitchen scissors, but I just leave mine be and they just flop over on top of my feet.
Overall, the Pah Tempe are very intuitive and easy adjust. The very wide webbing distributes pressure evenly across the entire foot and is very comfortable. Against bare skin, I don't even notice them. With the straps wrapping around your heel and across the top of your foot three times (once at the toes), you have a much more secure sandal than with other designs that holds to your feet better, and it works in ALL directions, including forward, backwards, and even sideways.
The heel strap is thread up high, so it will never slip and the three straps on top of your foot evenly distribute more pressure as you run downhill, which is a huge improvement over a single toe post, which can be annoying or painful to run downhill with.
As a plus, these are one of the only huarache designs that allow you to wear socks....if you choose to (but you pick your own fashion tastes, I suppose). Actually, this can come in handy for cold-weather running without buying toe socks.
With the latest versions of the Pah Tempe, Unshoes moved the anchors for the straps from the top of the sole of the sandal to the sides, which greatly increases the amount of real estate for your foot and makes for a much more comfortable sandal. With the older versions of the Pah Tempe, even with the widest template I found that Big in pinky toe would rub against the anchoring straps, causing some discomfort at long distances. With the updated straps and anchors, I don't even notice them; it is a seamless, smooth, and super comfortable running experience that is unrivaled.
I have included a few photos of the old Pah Tempe with the updated versions to illustrate the difference in anchoring points. With the old anchors, you didn't really get to utilize the complete surface area of the sole. With the new ones your feet are completely free to splay and utilize the entire sandal comfortably.
New Pah Tempe vs Old Pah Tempe: You can spot which is which by the mottled EVA footbed versus the striated rubber footbed of the old Pah Tempe:
The Pah Tempe weigh roughly 3 oz. Very lightweight. You can just toss them in your carryon bag, slide them into a netbook case, or even your back pocket. Your running shoes are always with you.
When running, I barely even notice the sandals, allowing my feet to move unhindered and to their own rhythm.
After 200 miles, my foot is starting to imprint on to the top of the sandal, but it's not as pronounced as with some huaraches (such as the Jerusalem Cruisers from Shamma Sandals).
Overall, I expect similar durability to other Vibram Newflex sandals. I predict that the Pah Tempe will last around 750 miles or so before requiring replacement, but this all depends on running environment and your running technique--better technique should run lighter and softer, which will get more mileage.
With the latest update, Unshoes have created THE BEST running sandal on the market (at least with the 1mm EVA version). The Pah Tempe has excellent stability and durability, good ground feel, fantastic fit (with the custom templates), and are designed and made in the USA. They are perfect for not only individuals who find toe posts uncomfortable, but for all types of runners.
If you are newer to minimalist running, the cork versions of the footbed may be appropriate for you, but I believe that they add too much lift and diminish the ground feel too much for true purists.
The Pah Tempe are excellent for trails, tough mudders, spartan races, river running, and roads. I had been a Vibram purist for many years and I wrote a glowing review for Shamma Sandal's Jerusalem Cruisers and Warriors last month, but Unshoes have not only created a fantastic alternative to the traditional huarache design, but they have improved upon it in many ways with the latest Pah Tempe.
If you are looking to get a new pair of running sandals or looking to upgrade from minimalist running shoes, Unshoes Pah Tempe is an excellent choice. You will not be disappointed! You can get a pair at Unshoes' website — the base price (as reviewed here) is $72.
A huge special thanks goes out to Terral Fox, the founder of Unshoes for sending me the Pah Tempe to review.