Shamma Sandals has been busy in the lab! A new hybrid sandal that aims to combine the best traits of multiple sandal designs, The Trailstar Alpha. How did they do? Read on to see my thoughts!
From the Manufacturer
New Shamma Lacing, new possibilities- TrailStars are designed to take on the toughest trails while keeping you comfortably secure. TrailStar Alphas have whole new lacing system, which connects the forefoot and big toe to the sandal like never before. With the Trailstars, you get shoe-level connection to the sole, using our proprietary Forefoot UltraStrap and SoleAnchors. Forefoot UltraStraps and SoleAnchors allow total control over your adjustments, to give you a perfect fit. All this in minimalist sandal that allows for flexibility and natural foot movement.
The TrailStars lacing is made from HP UltraSuede, which is material that is made without leather but that will provide comfort and security all day long!
TrailStar Alphas share the same rugged sole as the Mountain Goats.
I have always been a fan of Shamma Sandals since their first Morflex Jerusalem Cruisers back in 2014! They are constantly updating their lineup based on feedback from customers and are always cooking up new models to fulfill a niche that users can enjoy. The trailstars are the latest line from Shamma Sandals and they are a great addition. The Trailstars combine the best of toepost sandals like Shamma’s own Warriors, Cruzers, or Chargers (as well as Earthrunners and Bedrock Sandals) as well as the open layout sandals, like the Xeroshoes Z-Trek and Unshoes Pah Tempe.
The sole used in the Trailstar Alpha is the same as their popular Mountain Goat setup. The sole is comprised of two very durable and capable Vibram rubber compounds: Newflex and Morflex
The top of the sandal is Shamma’s UltraGrip footbed. This is attached to a 6mm Morflex on top of a 5mm Newflex sole for a total stack height of 12mm.
With the Mountain Goats, I praised them for having good sole rubber, but I personally found 12mm to be too much height for my own preferences; though many folks would enjoy them. Oddly enough, with despite the same sole setup, the Trailstar Alphas feel like a different sandal.
While using the same sole materials and stack height, the implementation of what Shamma calls their Forefoot UltraStrap and SoleAnchors makes a marked difference in terms of flexibility and dexterity. The sandal feels more attached to your foot in a variety of situations and in doing so makes the sandal feel like it is actually quite a bit thinner than it actually is; a huge improvement and marvel of design.
The design has an “open” layout, which means that the straps cross over the top of the foot at three different points and there is no traditional toepost strap (or toe thong) between big and index toe. From a design standpoint, this can make for a more comfortable sandal experience for anyone who finds discomfort with a strap between the two toes like that. For me, I have never had an issue and do all my running in huaraches with a toe post, but I understand that many people would prefer a sandal that uses the combined tension of three straps for security. This can be especially comfortable for downhill hiking and running, where the majority of tension is focused between the toes in traditional sandals, but the pressure is spread over a much wider area with an open layout of multiple straps on top of your foot. Both Xeroshoes and Unshoes have sandals that have similar layouts, but Shamma does a few things differently that improves upon other open layout designs.
First, the materials are excellent and adjustments are very streamlined and simple. When I first received my Trailstars, I was concerned that it would be a bit more complicated to fine tune the fit to my incredibly picky needs, but it was actually just as easy, if not easier than the Chargers from my prior Shamma review! The loops and Velcro are incredibly easy to adjust and the ultrastraps add one new element, a toe loop.
For anyone with comfort issues with a strap between their toes or needing more control in the open layout sandals, the Trailstars takes care of all of these issues. They combine the control and dexterity of a toepost sandal with the comfort and freedom of an open layout sandal. In addition, they use tried-and-tested Vibram rubber for durability and consistent performance in any situation.
I believe this toe loop is what was missing in open layout sandal designs. It truly combines the best of both thonged and open sandal designs for something that is comfortable, but with a lot of control. This is why the sandals feel thinner than they actually are, the amount of control I have with my big toe to flex and make micro adjustments is incredible, while having multiple straps in an open design means more comfort for most and more wear resistance because pressure is spread over a wider area, rather than on any individual point in the material.
Carried over from the Chargers is the Ultragrip Footbed. This waterproof footbed is made from Toughtek® and has excellent grip for your feet. The Ultragrip footbed features a water-draining diamond pattern that is not perceivable when wearing, but does allow for an outlet for water when kayaking or hiking. It has rubber feeling, but provides a good balance of grip and comfort.
In terms of performance, the Trailstar Alphas are great! I typically would not run in sandals in the 12mm-range, but I am happy to run in the Trailstars Alphas because of the extra control they provide over other sandals in this thickness. They really do feel about 2mm tinner as a result of their design. Before, I said that the Mountain Goats, which share the same sole, are excellent hiking shoes, but not necessary for runners like me, but the Trailstars are legit running sandals. The benefit of the open layout means that there is not pinching or rubbing between your big and index toe and you have a bit more comfort going uphill. The straps are very reliable and easy to adjust with their Velcro design, but still maintaining a thin profile.
The Newflex bottom is, as always excellent and fantastic for all occasions and situations where you can wear a sandal. Rocks? I am confident bounding around. Dirt? Not a problem, the treads are very capable. The addition of morflex under your feet provides a whisper of extra comfort and spring back upon landing. Overtime, these sandals will become the shape of your foot and that is pretty awesome. I am looking forward to a leather top version to give the sandal a that personalized feel and luxury look. All of this makes me want a thinner variant even more! That might be the ultimate sandal!
I find that the Trailstars have a very purposeful aesthetic. It is clear that they are designed with purpose and have a polished appearance. They are not the clunky Velcro sandals you would see on countless feet this summer. There is a swiftness that is conveyed. The issue with many open layout sandals is that the straps can be a bit too wide and make the sandal look overdesigned. Other open layout sandals have straps that are looped through buckles in their adjustments and you may end up with excess strap materials just flopping around and looping sloppy.
The Trailstars are an evolution of the elegance of the Chargers and Cruzers from Shamma Sandals. The HP UltraSuede used in the straps looks great and is the right thickness to maintain security and balance without looking sloppy.
I am hoping for a leather “all browns” version of the trailstars and more colors! I would pick up a bright yellow, deep red, or aggressive purple variant in a heartbeat.
The trailstars look best on the foot. With the straps and especially the toe loop, they project a rugged, slightly intense, feel that is dialed back just a bit thanks to very pleasant looking materials and a polished look.
Fit and Materials
Shamma Sandals provides PDFs that you can print out, place on the floor, and try out to see how wide the sandals are and where your toes will lie when wearing them. If you have a long index toe, you can see exactly where it will rest in relation to the rest of the foot.
This is a feature ALL shoe manufacturers should provide for their customers. This level of reliability and consistency across all models is much appreciated.
In terms of the fit, let’s first get the caveat out there that I have some of the widest feet that I know. A decade of barefoot running will do that. However, I have always found the Shamma shape to be just wide enough for my feet and very comfortable. With the Trailstars, the strap design necessitated a slight revision to allow for a tiny bit more width for proper toe splay. With that in mind, the width of the platform between the straps is exactly to the needs of my feet. The templates you print you from the Shamma website provide you with anchor points, so you can be sure where your foot will fall in place when you wear the sandal.
In terms of materials, I love the footbed and strap materials and, of course, have aways been a fan of Newflex and Morflex for their own special properties. With this sandal, you get the best of both worlds.
The HP Ultrasuede is very comfortable and durable. I have had many Shamma Sandals over the years and their Velcro and suede has never failed on me. It is a very durable and reliable material.
The footbed is comfortable and allows for mud and water to flow out from underfoot. It has a small grid pattern that is subtle and does its job without getting in your way.
Morflex is a fantatic road running and light trail sole. It is light and a little soft for a comfortable run on smoother surfaces, but it lacks treads, so it will not do well in slippery situations or wherever you need grip. Newflex has a fantastic tread and is very reliable, but may be a bit too thin for some (typical applications of Newflex is the 5mm sole thickness). This sole, which first debuted with the Mountain Goats, gives you the best of both soles in a moderately stacked thickness. However, as stated earlier, the control and flexibility of the sandal design does negate some of this thickness and the sandal feels like it is less than 12mm.
As a hardcore minimalist, I will always push manufacturers to embrace thinner and more flexible designs, so I would, of course, support a thinner version of the Trailstar Alpha. Perhaps something in the 8-10mm range, which might be the absolute limit for this strap system while still be reliable. Some more colors would also be helpful.
I would also suggest perhaps having a two template system for the Trailstars in particular. Because of the open layout of the straps, some consideration may be needed to make sure there is a good fit for everyone. While I find it to be an excellent fit for my feet, open layouts with multiple straps anchored into the sole on either side of the foot will not be quite as compatible as a single toepost between the big and index toe.
Shamma Sandals is always innovating and coming up with improvements to their designs and I am very happy to see a new model from them. I think that it really culminates their decade of experience making running sandals for runs, hikes, and leisurely strolls. The Trailstar Alpha combines some of the best features of open layout sandals with toepost sandals in a very polished package that is capable, comfortable, and easy to enjoy.