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Earthrunners Elemental Adventure Sandals Review

Overview

A new Adventure performance laces for one of my favorite sandals! The Earthrunners Elemental Lifestyle Sandals have consistently been one of my most used sandals for running and hiking. The new Adventure versions hope to improve on durability and functionality!
Read more to see my thoughts on the performance of the Earthrunners Elemental Adventure Sandals!

From the Manufacturer

Here’s what Earthrunners says about the Elemental:

The Elemental will keep you light on your feet 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 Performance laces featured on the Elemental Adventure sandals provide ultimate security and longevity on all of your adventures, while the thinner & more flexible Lifestyle laces on Elemental Lifestyle Sandals are ideal for maximum comfort in casual everyday life. *The only difference between Adventure and Lifestyle sandals are the laces.

We proudly donate 1% of all sales to True Messages, a non-profit focused on honoring the running heritage of the Tarahumara culture and supporting the youth of the community.

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Sole and Performance

I cannot believe it has been five years since I reviewed the Earthrunners Elemental Lifestyle Yellow Flash sandals! Not just because of the actual tick-tick of mother time forever looming over all of us, but also because those original Yellow Flash sandals STILL hold up after five years and I still run, hike, and play in them three seasons out of the year in New England!

This review covers the Earthrunners Elemental ADVENTURE version of the sandal, which has mostly changes to the laces of the sandal; the sole is the same for both versions of the sandal.

Elemental indicates the thinness of the sole. Earthrunners has three tiers of thickness in their sandals: Elemental (thinnest-8mm stack height), Circadian (middle-9mm stack height), Alpha (thickest-12mm stack height).

For me, I always will aim for maximum lightness, flexibility, proprioception, and dexterity. If you are an ultra minimalist like me, the Elementals are for you! If you are looking for more protection and height, feel free to check out the Circadian or Alpha thicknesses!

As in previous generations of the Elemental and Circadian (Alphas use Vibram Woodstock), 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. Gumlite is an excellent sole that provides a good compromise between traction and flexibility. While other compounds have their place and speciality–Morflex is great for dry road running, Newflex is thin and flexible, Woodstock is smooth and thick—Gumlite has proven to be the best out of all of them, In my opinion.

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Gumlite features hundreds of little nubs for traction. These nub lugs work together to give you good traction in dirty, grip on rocks and bark, but also combine to become a smooth surface on roads. 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.

This gumlite sole is very flexible and can be easily rolled up in any direction.

There is some 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 a little extra stability and comfort. Gumlite is very durable for all types of activities. By my estimate, my most worn pair probably have 600 miles on them and they are still in great shape, with just the balls of the sole wearing down to the point where I might consider replacing them for hiking situations. However, for road running, they will continue to be a best friend for hundreds of miles more.

If you have good form, these are quiet, ninja sandals.
There is a very slight impression upon landing, but nothing like what you would find with a softer Morflex shoe—which are excellent for road running and light trails, but wear out quicker than the more all-arounder Gumlite sole.

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For running, Gumlite is smooth enough for roads, but also provides the right amount of traction of trails. The rubber is durable enough for last for hundreds of road miles and is comfortable enough for long runs, while being thin enough to force good form.

Every year on my birthday, I run my age in miles and I always run those miles—37 miles this year!—with Gumlite soles and mainly with Earthrunners Elemental Sandals.

This sandal is great for biomechanical training. With a proper running form and practice–landing below the center of gravity, bent knees, and light forefoot or midfoot strikes–you will become a better and more efficient runner.

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In terms of traction, no sole and lace combination makes me feel more capable and powerful than Elemental-thin Gumlite and Earthrunners straps. Gumlite is flexible enough for me to mold individual parts of my foot on rocks, logs, and tree bark. I can flex my foot to carefully ascend incredible inclines, and perch myself at almost any angle while maintaining balance and hold. The combination of good lugs, flexible sole, and the rubber itself makes Gumlite the best overall Vibram rubber. In many cases, I will be climbing rocks on hikes with friends and while everyone else has to basically get on all fours, I can stand proudly on steep angles like barefoot ninja.

Aesthetics

I miss the yellow flash color!
Gone are some of the more adventurous and fun colors. The choices on the current website for lace colors are a myriad of khaki, black, brown, olive, etc. It’s a bit drab and I wish that new flashier colors would return in the future.

The Elemental Lifestyle sandals have a slightly more open and lithe appearance to them—they look light and more elegant with their slightly thinner laces. The Adventure sandals have a more spartan and workman appearance, especially with their more earthtone colors, but they are certainly still very lightweight looking sandals.

Many running sandals have a Y-shaped lace structure, wrapping around your heel and running down the groove between your big and index toe. Earthrunners does things a little differently and their lace system is angled a bit more towards the outside of your feet. This gives them a more graceful appearance that stands out. More importantly, they are more stable, and provide better control of your feet in more directions. Because the laces are angled in such a way, more of your foot is actually within the confines of the laces, which gives you better security at more angles than a Y-shaped sandal.

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Fit and Materials

The Adventure laces are designed to be more durable and capable than the Lifestyle laces from Earthrunners. The Adventure laces are wider (9/16” vs 5/8”) and feature a dense 1/2″ Hydrophobic Polyester Webbing Core, and feature a 1″ Military Spec Nylon Reinforcement wrapped around the laces (versus 3/8″ of stitched reinforcement in the Lifestyle laces).

The result is a denser, more durable lace with more stability. Because the laces are wider and allow for more surface area of your foot being held together.

In practice, this denser material does require a longer breaking in period and it is a bit scratchier at initial wear than the lifestyle straps. While the Lifestyle laces were comfortable at first wear, the Adventure laces took a few runs to become truly comfortable, but once broken in, they are seamless.

As a tradeoff, the material is noticeably thicker and tougher and while the lifestyle laces have always been very durable in my experience, these are certainly more capable and will handle more in terms of snags, tear-resistance, wet-to-dry-to-wet conditions, and mud. As a bonus, the hydrophobic layer will keep your sandals lasting longer if you are a rain runner, like I am.

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The toepost has the same grounding plug as in all EarthRunners sandals and the laces loop around the bottom of the sandal in two places. This plug does not affect your walking cycle and is not noticed underfoot. Since it is a copper plug, there is a chance you might scratch some delicate surfaces, like hard wood, but this has not been an issue for me. Because of this grounding plug, the toepost is actually quite a bit more reinforced and durable than other sandals, which typically just a washer of plastic or rubber.

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While many sandal makers have opted to design models with all their straps raised from the sole, the Earthrunners strap system continues to wrap an exposed part of the straps around the edge of the sandal and the instep. For me, this is not much of a concern. The exposed part of the lace will flatten out over time, but I have never noticed any wear and tear of concern after hundreds of miles, so I expect these laces to last even longer than the Lifestyle straps that have given me five years of adventures and counting. After so many years running in huaraches, I have only had one exposed strap give on me and that was because it was a leather strap.

Ultimately, I find the lifestyle straps to be a fantastic marriage between comfort, lightness, and capability, but the Adventure laces are available for those seeking a bit more structure and more peace of mind.

Bring back the fun colors!

Future Improvements

As I said in a prior review, I would love an 6mm ultra minimal sole! Something slotted below the Elemental in terms of flexibility and thinness. Earthrunners sandals have a lot of charm and the charm is further enhanced by some of the wonderful colors that I have enjoyed in a handful of prior models. The current trend of earth tones is fine for many, but a pop of color would greatly enhance the character of a sandal already popping with character.

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Summary

The Earthrunners Elemental Adventure Sandal represents the most capable and durable for the most minimalist users and fans of Earthrunners. The Gumlite sole continues to be excellent and impressive, the lacing system is very secure and gives you an great sense of control, and the new laces and toepost provide more durability than prior models. While I would attest that the Lifestyles are my favorite laces from Earthrunners, the Adventure versions do empower the user to do more and should last long for many adventures in the future.

Disclosure: This review sample of the Earthrunners Elemental Adventure were provided by Earthrunners

An old friend: Elemental Lifestyle Yellow Flash.
I ran my first ultra marathon in these and still run in them to this day. First reviewed in 2017

By Jarvis

Minimalist ultra-marathon runner with flat dinosaur feet.

50K Ultra-Marathon Runner

Associate Dean

I hold a PhD in Political Science.
You can follow my photography adventures at jarvischen.zenfolio.com and Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/chenjarvis

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