I have been running in homemade 4mm-thick soled huaraches for eight months now and enjoying them very much, but I'm always on the lookout for something even better (For example, check out my recent review of the Teva Zilch Minimalist Sandals). I was intrigued when I learned Vivo Barefoot would be releasing a modern interpretation of the huarache sandal. Can modern technology improve upon a time-tested classic, or will technology only hurt as it has in millions of other modern running shoes?
Read on to find out!
It took a some time for me to get comfortable with the look of my first pair of Vibram Fivefingers, and the Achilles are equally if not more odd. These aren't toe shoes — I've come to refer to them as my "camel toe shoes" due to the unique split toe design. My wife initially refused to be seen with me wearing them, but even she is getting used to them. She even talked about getting a pair for herself, but alas, they are not yet available in women's sizes. Even the sizes for men are limited to just three: small, medium and large. I got the medium size and while the width is about perfect, they are a bit long. This isn't a problem as it simply means there is some unused footbed at the back of my heel.
If the unique design alone doesn't stand out enough for you, they are available in vibrant colors like lime green or yellow. I opted for the more subtle grey and red combination. The foot strap is either grey or black depending on which color sandals you choose. Vivo Barefoot is prominently displayed across this strap—it's a bit too much advertisement in my opinion.
The contrasting colored, flat footbed has the company's signature hexagonal pattern with no arch support or toe spring. The surface provides excellent grip and strikes a good balance between comfort and durability. The edges are curved slightly upward. This provides a bit of protection while maintaining an open toe design. In my huaraches, catching grass in my toenails running through fields is always uncomfortable, and the slight curves on the Achilles eliminate that.
The soles are truly minimal at just 3mm thick with you guessed it -- more hexagons. The pattern provides a minimum amount of grip and should be adequate for most surfaces. Oddly enough, these soles provided a more protection than my 4mm Vibram Cherry soles on my huaraches. The Achilles soles provide protect against smaller rocks and roots yet are surprisingly lightweight at the same time.
Running in the Achilles
I've done two six-mile runs in my Achilles sandals on a mixture of trails and roads. The foot strap does a superb job of keeping your foot from slipping fore or aft. Unfortunately, the split toe proved to be a bit troublesome. The first and second toe gap enforced by the design is a bit too wide for my feet. It certainly locks your foot securely into the sandal, but this caused some irritation on the inside skin surfaces of my first and second toes during my runs. Only after the second run did a blister begin to form on one toe. I'm hoping that enduring some more miles will toughen up that skin. As the foot strap was the primary point of contact with my foot, the molded outsole did not cause any problems. I'm certain that with other foot proportions, your mileage will vary.
Other than the rubbing between my toes, the Achilles performed wonderfully in every other way. I really love the soles. They are light, flexible, and provide the perfect compromise between protection and ground feel. I had good grip on the road and on loose dirt, and my feet never slipped on the footbed even after getting moist with perspiration. I haven't run in the rain yet, but I'm guessing they would be just fine under those conditions too.
Vivo Barefoot did a superb job interpreting the huaraches for the 21st century. My only complaint is the width of the split-toe though I'm hoping I can adapt to it. If I could send Vivo Barefoot a pattern of my foot for a truly custom fit, I might abandon my huaraches altogether. For now, I'll just have them as another option to add a little variety to my running sandal regimen.
The Achilles are available for $60 at retailers that carry Vivo Barefoot footwear or you can grab them online from vivobarefoot.com.