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Barefoot Shoes Reviews

Luna Sandals Mono Winged Review

Nearly a year ago, I bought a pair of Luna Sandals Mono Winged huaraches (affiliate link).

For those unfamiliar, Barefoot Ted McDonald, star of the classic text Born to Run, founded Luna Sandals in 2010.

My first pair of Luna Sandals was the Leadville, about as basic a pair of huaraches as you could get. Over the years, they got beat up and worn down. Somehow I lost them.

Last summer I set about getting a replacement pair.

But before I get to reviewing them, I must digress.

Hard or soft Vibram rubber?

Now, you should know I also have a pair of “dress” Lunas. They use leather all over — save for the soles — and look like this:

They are the Jesus sandals, and though I’m sure my wife feels differently, I think of these Lunas as my “dress sandals.” I’ll pair them slacks or shorts and a button down. They always receive positive comments.

Your mileage may vary.

Now, I mention these old Lunas I have for one major reason:

They use a fairly thick, Vibram rubber sole. And the rubber is dense.

Why’s that matter? Well, if you consult Jarvis’ trusty Vibram Rubber sole guide, you’ll find that Vibram soles vary a lot in terms of density and stiffness.

I’d place the fancy Luna sandals I own (and mind, you can’t buy these anymore), as similar to Vibram Woodstock.

They’re kinda stiff. They have broken in — but not much — after years owning them.

Cairns

Now let’s talk about a competitor: Bedrock Cairn sandals.

I’ve owned a pair of these sandals for years. And you know what? They are great! I love the Cairns for their rugged dependability.

  • No they don’t offer much in the way of ground feel
  • Yes they are pretty dang stiff

But they are definitely better than your Chacos (lighter), and their soles last a long time. Mine are probably seven years old now and, though a bit worn at midfoot, still ticking along. You can use these sandals in all sorts of conditions. They are beasts.

Bedrock soles are made for them by Vibram, so I’m not sure where they fit according to Jarvis’ guide, but as Jarvis put it in his review:

Make no mistakes about it, this is a thick sole and it will protect your foot from just about anything. I gave it plenty of testing following sea turtles along the jagged rocks of Maui and I never was concerned that anything would dig into my feet from below.

Bedrock Cairn review

This is a pro/con thing with the Cairn. You can bomb over surfaces on the platform they provide. But you lose ground feel and the soles are stiff on your foot. It can feel a little grating and takes some getting used to. (Similarly, the Bedrock Mountain Clog feels best with socks — but that’s a story for another day).

The photo below is from four years ago and I’d say the Cairns are more or less in the same shape now, despite being my goto summer sandals … up until last Summer.

Warriors

Finally one more sandal to mention.

Here’s the Shamma Warrior (with that extra strap, which I don’t use at all, but it has a purpose if you run in them):

The Warrior uses the Vibram Newflex sole (see the guide). It’s a dense sole that’s super thin (as you can see!). This sole does not break down — and therefore “in” — to your foot, so years after I got these, the sole is still flat just like that photo above.

Because the sole is dense but not thick, it transfers a lot of ground feel, way more than the Cairn, which itself is more than the fancy pants leather Lunas.

These sandals are my go-to for deadlifts and squats these days. I like them for the connection to the ground, but don’t love them for earthy surfaces because they just let lots of stuff “in” from the flatness and thinness of the sole. #barefootsandalsproblems

That brings me to the Luna Sandals Mono.

Sweet spot sole

Now I’m ready to talk about the Luna Sandals Mono (with wings).

When you first get the Luna Monos, they are flat as a board. Just look at this:

The Luna Mono uses Vibram Morflex for its rubber sole. This is the least dense rubber Vibram offers.

Did I mention Jarvis’ Vibram rubber guide? Because it’s fantastic.

As Jarvis puts it:

Morflex “mouse pad” is a micro-cellular sole, with one-third the weight of rubber, but excellent resilience and a little bounce. The material can be equated to a very dense neoprene, slightly squishy and conforms easily to the shape of your foot. It has good grip and durability.

Guide to Vibram rubber

Now, Jarvis contends that Morflex is not meant for offroad, but I think that was just the particular sole pattern of Morflex that he was evaluating.

The Luna Mono’s sole looks like this:

It’s clearly meant for a variety of conditions.

The thing about Morflex is that as it breaks down it “molds” to your foot. That is, it acquires this curvy structure.

Meanwhile, the Morflex is super lightweight and conforms to the ground. This “mutes” the poky bits on the ground, but you still feel connected to the surface.

It’s a tradeoff.

I love this tradeoff, and across the above mentioned sandals, the Mono’s Morflex sole is my favorite. It just hits that sweet sole spot of comfort while also being incredibly lightweight.

The drawbacks? A little less ground feel, which is fine by me. And yes, the sole wears faster. Here are my Lunas after a year (lots of summer and late fall wear — now spring wear):

You can see how the sole is wearing more at the midfoot and that the wear is significant. This absolutely means the Monos will not last as long as the Bedrock Cairns.

But how long will they last? I’d say still a good bit longer based on my current wear habits (which is a lot).

More on the Luna Mono

Now that you’re bored from all that sole talk, let’s dive into some other aspects of the Mono, good and bad.

The wings and straps

First, let’s talk about those straps and “the wings.”

The easy part first. Lunas use “Supple, easy adjust performance laces kicked up a notch by our super secure wing design.” The “laces” are those webbing straps.

This is a nice material that feels great on the skin. I imagine it’s just what you expect it to be. For me, the straps are too long, and though I could trim them, you’d lose the stitched end. They do come with an elastic bit that keeps any excess strap down, but sometimes this rides up and the extra strap past the buckle “bubbles.”

The wings and buckle system use one continuous strap. The wings are easier to adjust than when the laces run through the sole (the “retro” option). The buckles also are custom to make all this work fluidly.

A lot could be said regarding the buckle systems of Lunas and Bedrocks and Shammas and Xeros … and on and on. I will save those comparisons for another day.

Here are a few thoughts on the wings and system:

  • Luna’s system works and is easy to understand
  • The system is quick to adjust, running the laces through the wings and buckles to tighten the sandals
  • The drawbacks?
    • The laces took a bit of time to “break in,” meaning they had this tendency to want to slide back through buckle and loosen. Once the laces became a little less stiff, they settled in
    • The top buckle is just kinda bulky. Probably necessary for the design, but just something I don’t love.

Kevin

I have a good friend — Kevin — who is a huge Luna fan. Kevin runs in Lunas and has gone through dozens of pairs over the years. He even makes a habit of stopping by the store when he travels to Washington and grabbing multiple pairs on the cheap via the Lunacycle program (affiliate link).

Kevin does not like the wings. I’m not clear on why they bother him, but my hunch is they rub his feet. I’ve never had this problem, but I can imagine it being a thing if your foot is wider at the back. I also could imagine that the sandals might feel a little more locked down when the straps go through the soles — it’s just a more vertical attachment point from the heel and top of foot.

The good news is that you can’t lose with Luna. Just pick wings or no wings.

(I felt obliged to get the wings given my name. I’m curious to “go back” and get a retro pair to compare. Maybe in the future I will.)

The monkey grip footbed

The Luna Monos also have a monkey grip footbed. This is a thin layer of material atop the Vibram rubber footbed.

This material feels good on foot, and for me, it’s an improvement over the raw rubber I recall from my old lost Leadville’s.

Sometimes I do get hotspots on these footbeds if I walk enough in them. They are more forgiving than the Cairns more aggressively knobby footbed, though.

Do you run in these?

No I don’t. I should try it some day. My goto running shoes over the last year have been Xero Shoes HFS (now on version II) and, though less and less, Altra Lone Peaks when I feel like bombing around in cushy, but flat and wide, sneakers.

Overall

I haven’t worn my Bedrock Cairns much since I got these Lunas. I still like the Cairns. I just enjoy the soles of the Monos more.

If you’re interested in Luna Monos, check them out. They still run $110 (around what I paid a year ago). Apparently if you’re new to Luna, you can use this referral link and get $20 off (and I guess I get a $20 coupon? Haven’t done this before!).

If you have Luna Monos — or the Gordos or another pair you love — let me know what you think about them in the comments.

By Justin

Justin Owings is a deadlifting dad of three, working from Atlanta. When he's not chasing his three kids around, you'll find him trying to understand systems, risk, and human behavior.

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