Earth Runners created an updated version of the popular Circadian with a trendy and functional hemp footbed and laces and a new all-around model, The Elemental. I received both to review here for BirthdayShoes. The previous Circadian was my favorite “storm” huarache for rainy weather and hiking. Let’s see if the new models do the Circadian justice! Read on to see my thoughts on the Elemental Yellow Flash and Circadian Hempies!

Overview and Comparison

First, take a look at what we’ll be reviewing. Here is a photo gallery of the Earth Runners Circadian Hempies: And here is a photo gallery of the Earth Runners Elemental: Let’s start with what Earthrunners says about the Circadian:
The Elemental features our conductive lacing system™ keeping you secure while remaining plugged into the natural world around you. The ultra comfortable lightweight aggressive sole will have you wondering if you remembered to put your shoes on or not.
The Circadian features our grounded conductive lacing system™ to keep you secure and in tune with the earth’s natural rhythms—at every step. This minimal aggressive sole design combined with our Hemp Earth-Grip footbed resembles the feel of a mild bare earth equivalent—with superior all weather traction. Earthrunners are made in Windsor, California. Weight:
  • 4.58 oz – Elemental Size 9
  • 5.9 oz – Circadian Size 9
(The previous, thinner, version of the Circadian were 3.6 oz) Total Stack Height:
  • Elemental: 6.5mm base + 1.5mm tread = 8mm
  • Circadian: 7.5mm base + 1.5mm tread + 1mm footbed = 10mm
Barefoot scale — The Elemental provides a good compromise between protection, flexibility, smoothness and traction with an 8mm sole. The Circadian’s thicker sole and hemp footbed brings the total stack height closer to 10mm. I would consider this a more “casual” sole due to its diminished flexibility over other models or as a durable mountain sole. Ideal Uses — Elemental:
  • Road Running
  • Light to medium trails
  • Racing in the rain
  • Hiking
  • Casual wear
  • River crossings
Ideal Uses — Circadian Hempies:
  • Hiking
  • Casual Wear
  • Light to heavy trails
  • River crossings
Pros — Elemental
  • An excellent compromise between smoothness and protection
  • The best wet-weather sandal on the market
Pros — Circadian
  • Hemp footbed and straps are comfortable
  • Hemp material is odor resistant and dries quickly
  • Eye-catching looks
Pros — Both
  • Excellent Grip
  • Stable lacing arrangement
  • Easy adjustments
  • Durable sole
  • Excellent traction
Cons
  • Not as smooth as Morflex and Newflex soles for running
  • Circadian hempie is less flexible
  • Metal toe plug might scratch surfaces
  • Undyed hemp material can get discolored after hiking
Price
  • Elemental – $69
  • Circadian Hempies – $79
Sizing — Earth Runners has a standard sizing option and a single foot shape. This shape has a wide toe splay area that slightly to a narrower heel and should fit most runners. Like many running sandal makers, Earth Runners provides PDFs of their various sizes for customers to print and test out before purchasing.
The standard Earthrunners sole is excellent for wide feet
The standard Earthrunners sole is excellent for wide feet
My feet are hilariously wide and flat and the heel section is a bit narrow. For me, the open Earth Runners shape is very accommodating for my feet. Wide-feet rejoice! Overall, the shape is wider than Xeroshoes and Bedrock sandals, but a little less wide than fellow California-sandalmakers Shamma Sandals. Shamma Sandals has a narrow midsection, but the heels are quite similar. Overall, the shape is very similar to the template I used for Unshoes as well. If need be, you can cut the sole of the Elementals a little bit to be a more custom fit, but only around the toe area. Earth Runners are true to size.

Sole

As in previous generations, Earth Runners continues with the tried-and-true Vibram Gumlite utility sole. According to Vibram’s sole catalog, “VIBRAM® Gumlite® Unit Soles have the wear characteristics of rubber, yet are half the weight. Maintains its slip resisting characteristics in cold temperatures and on wet surfaces.” Gumlite is stiffer than Morflex and Newflex soles that you might find in other sandals. I have written about various sole materials in a previous post, so you can check that out if you want some additional information, but the short version is that Gumlite is an excellent sole that provides a good compromise between traction and flexibility. While Morflex is great for dry road running, Gumlite has hundreds of little nubs for traction. These nubs are about 1-1.5mm thick and are great for jumping on rocks and hiking and—in the case of the Elemental—road running as well.
 The Vibram Gumlite sole is versatile and has good groundfeel
The Vibram Gumlite sole is versatile and has good groundfeel
This gumlite sole is very flexible and can be easily rolled up in any direction, even with the thicker 10mm Circadian. There is some VERY subtle molding around the ball of the foot and the heel, which helps your foot stay in place a bit better. The sole is 99% flat and moves with your foot upon landing and takeoff; these sandals does not dictate how your foot lands when running. For me, this subtle molding is a great for all heels and arches, barely enough to even see with the naked eye, but helpful for stability. Gumlite is very durable for running and hiking needs. I have been running pretty consistently with my old pair of red-laced Circadians and they still look basically brand new. The red mountains of Denver, the Appalachian trail, and even the rocky parts of Jamaica would have worn down weaker shoes multiple times over by this point, but the Gumlike soles of these sandals will likely continue to last for years and easily a thousand miles.
 Excellent flexibility
Excellent flexibility
In terms of slapping, the both quite silent sandals.There is a very slight “give” upon landing, but definitely nothing like what you would find with a softer Morflex shoe. You might find that you are a bit louder than with traditional running shoes at first, but that just teaches you to be lighter and more efficient with your running form. With a proper running form–landing below the center of gravity, bent knees, and light forefoot or midfoot strikes–makes a big difference in how loud your running can be. I will also add that the new straps feel more balanced on the Elemental and Circadian. The previous nylon straps were pretty thin and a bit scratchy, but the plusher multi-layered straps provide a bit more polish and a bit less bite. Overall, even though the sole is thicker and heavier than in the previous Circadian, it does not feel off balanced because the straps work so well.

Fit and Materials

Earth Runners have upped their materials game and completely revamped the conductive laces for the Elemental and have an entirely new choice of material for the footbed and laces in the Circadian. The Elemental have sharp-looking multi-layered laces that are excellent at keeping things while being comfortable. The straps are comprised of ½” Nylon, a Mil-Spec nylon trim, and Earth Runners Conductive nylon thread. If you would like, Earth Runners also offers a hemp lace with a khaki trim. I am a big fan of the Yellow Flash color. It is very eye-catching and gives this Tarahumara-inspired sandal some nice flair.
 The Elemental features durable nylon webbing and a very customizable lacing system
The Elemental features durable nylon webbing and a very customizable lacing system
Many nylon laces will feel rough out of the box and may continue to do so until a break in period. These are comfortable from the first step and continued to become more comfortable as I put the Elemental through its paces with multiple 12+ mile runs (one marathon) and a few weekends of hiking. The top silver layer is also reflective for night safety. The Circadian returns with a thicker sole and a lovely hemp “Earth Grip” footbed and laces. These look and feel great and are an excellent feature for hiking and casual use. The hemp is quite soft and gives the sandals a very premium feel. The hemp straps round out the look and give the sandals a uniform, rustic look. The feel is pretty close to a soft canvas and they look a bit like light-colored linen pants one might wear for a beach wedding. Due to the soft feel of hemp, there is diminished stickiness when compared to a naked rubber footbed. I would say that you can still run in these, but the 10mm stack height really makes them ideal of walking, hiking, and enjoying the day.
 The Hempies have a great hemp construction that catches eyes and gives a bit of traction
The Hempies have a great hemp construction that catches eyes and gives a bit of traction
The edge buckle for all Earth Runner Sandals has been made more substantial and secure, with a nice little Earth Runners logo. The laces loop across the top of your foot and around the back of the heel and the toepost lace archs around your foot to the outer edge for extra security. The toepost has the same grounding plug as in all Earth Runner sandals and the laces loop around the bottom of the sandal in two places, exposing the laces to the ground. This is an asymmetrical loop, where the inside lace is looped inside the sole, while the outside lace is looped on the outside. This allows the laces to get closer to your foot near the arch for better security and stability. This insert is very minor and does not affect comfort, even with my incredibly flat feet. The laces come pre-cut with a good amount of excess lacing to accommodate different foot volumes. You can easily cut the extra and seal it with a lighter. Overall, Earth Runners has a very unique lace design that really ties down the foot and prevents it from floating too much while running. At first, I was not very comfortable with having the toepost lace slight slung across my toes instead of between the bones of my big and index toe, but this discomfort went away on my first run and I actually prefer this angle. While the nylon laces are a bit thicker than in previous versions, they quickly dry out after crossing a river. The footbed is also quick drying. You can dirty up your feet, jump into a river, come out clean, and be on your merry way; a wonderful way to cool off during a long hike.
 The Earthrunners lacing system allows for a lot of customization to your foot shape and a good range of security and comfort
The Earthrunners lacing system allows for a lot of customization to your foot shape and a good range of security and comfort
The exposed part of the lace will flatten out over time, but I have never noticed any wear and tear of concern in the thinner straps after hundreds of miles, so I expect these laces to last even longer. Actually, after so many years running in huaraches, I have only had one exposed strap give on me. It was leather and I was foolishly (otherwise known as how I always run…) bounding around on rocks when a small tear occurred and I had to take it easy for fear of severing the lace entirely.

Tabi socks!

Earth Runners was also kind enough to send along a pair of their tabi socks. These are medium-cuff length socks with a nice smoothness to the fabric. They are a medium thickness and would be great for those looking for a little insulation in the fall and winter months. Honestly, I kind of wish all my socks were like these after using them a couple of times. The big toe is separate, of course, and they seem quite durable. They are made with as few seams as possible for long lasting enjoyment. The Earth Runners logo is a nice touch and does not scream out for attention. They were excellent companions with the Elemental during a couple of colder Boston mornings in March. They are far less cumbersome than five-finger socks, and will not bunch as much as standard socks. A great idea for winter huarache runners!

Performance

The Elemental is an excellent runner’s sandal. Incredibly secure, well-balanced, and unabashedly ready to tackle the wettest, muddiest, and grossest stuff that you can throw at it—or just take it for a nice leisurely hike. With the minor improvements in the buckle, laces, and the medium Gumlite sole, this is the most secure running sandal that I have tested out. The Yellow Flash color is also especially handsome and I have received a number of compliments on it during my adventures. The old Circadian was my go-to for thunderstorms and guilty pleasure running sandal; perfect for splashing around to my hearts content—and then left outside to dry overnight. The Elemental supplants its older brother in just about every way. As a bonus, it is a bit less floppy and provides a bit more protection from small rocks. With this sandal, I AM THE YELLOW FLASH (anime reference). The lace system allows for varying levels of tension in three different sections of your foot: the from the toepost to the outer edge, around the heel, and the top of your foot. Such customization means that just about any foot can find a nice compromise between security and comfort. The new laces are also a huge improvement over the previous nylon laces, being more comfortable, secure and visible.
 The Elemental is a frontrunner for best in show for 2017 sandal designs
The Elemental is a frontrunner for best in show for 2017 sandal designs
A true winner in every way. The Circadian Hempies a great casual and hiking sandal. For me, it is a tad too stiff for running, but excellent for short jaunts and long hikes. The hemp footed feels fantastic and it softens up over time. While funk is not a big concern with sandals, the odor-resistance is a nice touch and hemp is a very chic material to have for the majority of the construction of the sandal. It is easily washable and dries pretty quickly after contact with water. Personally, I would love to try out the hemp footbed with an old Circadian sole to have the best of both worlds. Of course, the Circadian has the same lace and buckle system as the Elemental, so all those benefits are included in its construction. In the spectrum of running sandals, I think that only soft leather of the Shamma Sandals All Browns is more comfortable. A real head turner and excellent for beach, mountains, and everyday wear.

Future Improvements

Honestly, I would love to have a 4-5mm Gumlite sole with a hemp footbed. Give it a new name and I am sold. I used to not be a fan of the copper plug on the bottom, but I think it adds a nice touch, regardless of earthing properties. In the future, I would also like to see Earthrunners bring back their leather options, which would compliment the hemp versions in their product line.

Summary

Earth Runners has improved their popular lace and buckle system for a more secure fit in their Elemental and redesigned Circadian sandals. The Elemental is one of the best all-around and all-terrain sandals for runners and hikers, while the Circadian is the more robust version for casual and long distance hikes. Earth Runners has continued to refine their designs and have created a very polished product for 2017. For all-weather enjoyment, nothing comes close to the Elemental. When it starts raining, these will be the first thing that I grab for those drizzly fun runs. If you’re interested in giving the Elemental a try, it runs for $69 over at EarthRunners.com. With their eye-catching good looks, the Circadian Hempie really stands out. I’ve received many compliments on the hemp and a few people actually asked to touch them while I was taking them around town. Not a bad compliment! The Circadian will set you back $79 over at EarthRunners. Overall, these new designs are definitely worth checking out if you are looking for a pair of summer sandal.