Back in May of this year Luna Sandals, the huaraches-making company founded by “Barefoot” Ted McDonald launched a “premium” huaraches sandal offering in two American Bison leather-laced and soled colorways—dark and milk chocolate, respectively. As…
Back in May of this year Luna Sandals, the huaraches-making company founded by “Barefoot” Ted McDonaldlaunched a “premium” huaraches sandal offering in two American Bison leather-laced and soled colorways—dark and milk chocolate, respectively. As someone who has been looking to round out my summer-barefoot-wear options with a Birkenstock-like minimalist sandal, the Premium Mono Lunas immediately caught my eye.
Mind, at $125/pair, the Mono Premium is hardly a misnomer. These bad boys aren’t cheap, but I bought a pair (believe it or not) to wear and review here on BirthdayShoes.
Did the Mono Premiums deliver? You’ll have to read on to find out.
I got the Milk Chocolate colorway — the “Milk Chocolate Mono” — and as you can see in the photos here, they’re a mix of a thicker Vibram sole and classic brown leather for the footbed and laces. The footbed’s leather is smooth side up and the laces have a “furry” suede side facing the top of your feet.
Take a look:
Luna describes the Milk Chocolate Monos on the product page thusly:
The Chocolate Monkeys (Milk Chocolate & Dark Chocolate) are the first of a new line of Premium LUNAs. The current batch is being made with hand-picked, top-quality “American Bison” that is creamy and soft to the touch, and strong. The most luxurious LUNA ever.
The laces on “Chocolate Monkeys” are either hand cut from the same super soft leather or our famously custom made Black Elasticized Leather Laces. Be aware that they will stretch a bit at first, but the comfort is far superior to any other LUNA lace. Easily adjustable on the go.
In short, they’re a very fancy pair of huaraches made from topnotch materials.
Here are a few more photos of the Monos after my 2-3 month test period:
How they look
Given the mix of premium materials and the craftsmanship of Luna Sandals, it’s not surprising that these huaraches are sharp. They catch the eye with their robust laces and look like a nice pair of sandals.
As such, they are right at home worn with a number of different types of pants and shorts. They work well with Hipster-tastic Selvedge denim but also with rundown jeans. They can be easily worn with nice shorts or more casual cargo shorts.
The Luna Mono Premium is a fashionably versatile sandal, which is great because that’s their purpose—minimalist sandals that look good (contrast to homegrown huaraches or other minimalist sandals that have a decidedly unpolished look to them and/or wouldn’t look “nice” in certain states of dress).
How they Feel
My feet immediately appreciated the beefiest leather laces of any huaraches I’ve tested to date. The underside of the leather laces is super soft and the laces themselves are cut from a thick Bison hide. Just look how furry that suede is:
Like other huaraches with non-elasticized parts, there’s some adjustment that is required to dial in the knot and fit of the Mono Premium. Once locked in, you’re good to go—for a time. It’s worth noting that it takes a few periodic micro-adjustments to the tightness of the Mono Premium laces as the American Bison laces break in and/or the knot loosens. This can lead to the dreaded dropped rear lace as seen in this photo:
Interestingly enough, the leather footbed feels almost over-smooth to my feet—as someone who grew up wearing Birkenstocks 99% of the time, I got somewhat used to a suede footbed, or really, a broken in and smoothed out suede footbed (though smoothed over suede still feels different to the bottom of my feet than the smooth outside of leather).
The primary drawback to this design consideration on my feet is that my feet can very slightly stick to the footbed. It’s not a huge annoyance, but I’d also rather it not be there. I can’t help but wonder how the Premium Monos would feel with the suede-side of the footbed facing “up.” Texture-wise, I bet it’d feel great to feel that suede against the bottom of my feet—even after the suede breaks in and smooths out a bit.
Just a thought for Luna to ponder.
About those soles
The Mono Premium sole is comprised of a 10mm Vibram rubber outsole made exclusively for Luna that is topped with American Bison leather. The outsole rubber is 10mm thick and noticeably firmer (and transmit less ground feel) than other Vibram soles I’ve tried of the same thickness—more on this in a second. As you’d expect, the Monos lack arch support and are obviously “zero drop,” or neutral from heel to toe.
One of my most-worn pair of huaraches is an older (Circa 2011) pair of Luna Leadvilles (post-ATS lacing, pre-monkey grip footbed — close to like this). One thing I really like about those Leadvilles is how well the 10mm neoprene footbed ultimately breaks down and in to your foot. Over time, my Leadvilles have taken on a molded contour that mimicks my feet, making the soles hug my foot in an appreciable, comfortable way.
By comparison, the Mono Premiums have a similarly thick Vibram rubber outsole but the rubber is markedly denser. While it has broken in a bit over the past 2-3 months of wear, overall, the rubber sole is still pretty flat:
(Contrast the above photo to this one of the Mono Premium when brand new)
This was somewhat of a letdown as I was really hoping it would take on more shape like my Leadvilles.
Another drawback to this sole is that it has some heft to it relative to foamier rubber (like the neoprene of the Leadvilles). What am I talking about? All huaraches have three points of contact with the foot—a thong between your biggest two toes and two points on either side of the ankle. These three points anchor the soles to the foot. With static (non-elasticized) laces like those on the Mono Premiums, if the laces aren’t tight enough, the sole can hang and dangle off your foot. Meanwhile, if they’re too tight they will be uncomfortable on the tops of your feet.
There’s a fine balance that has to be struck between the sole and the laces, in other words.
Huaraches made with soles that shape and contour into your feet can help mitigate this design consideration. With soles that mold to your feet you get soles that stay with your feet a little better. Lighter soles also don’t have as much dangle and sway to them either. The Leadville Lunas score much higher in this regard compared to the Mono Premiums.
Something to think about.
On the flipside, what I do like about the firmer, thickish ride of the Mono Premiums is that they keep your feet elevated off the ground more than many other minimalist sandals, which can be nice for wet or rainy surfaces, which can result in wet feet in very shallow puddles.
Overall, what do I think?
On the plus side, I love the premium materials and build of the Mono Premium Luna Sandals. I really appreciate the use of extremely thick American Bison leather for the laces and enjoy the finished, high-end look of the leather-clad, Vibram soles. That the Mono Premiums bring dress and class to chinos and a nice pair of jeans while also doing double duty dressing more casually is a huge win for the sandals — versatility is a big deal when you’re dropping $100+ on a pair of sandals.
That said, if I had my druthers, I’d love to try out some Mono Premiums that:
Put the suede-side up, in direct contact with the bottom of my foot.
Use a lighter and foamier rubber sole that’s more likely to mold to my foot.
What do you think? If you have a pair, what are your conclusions?
And if you’re looking for a pair, just head over to Luna Sandals!