For the past three weeks, I have been lucky enough to enjoy two of the latest models from Shamma Sandals: Jerusalem Cruisers and Warriors. Shamma Sandals are a huarache company based in Santa Cruz, California. All of their products are hand-crafted and made in the USA. They are a small operation and some of the nicest guys I have ever had the pleasure of chatting with about running. Shamma Sandals has put a lot of time, love, sweat, and energy into the design and manufacturing of every sandal they make. Their latest models, the Jerusalem Cruiser and Warriors are a culmination of years of huarache-making experience and thoughtful design. This is an exclusive first review of the Jerusalem Cruisers and Warriors for BirthdayShoes–read on!

High-Level Summary

The Jerusalem Cruisers and Warriors may be the best interpretation of the huarache on the market (For all the huaraches and huaraches-style “barefoot sandal” reviews on BirthdayShoes, go here). Shammas are extremely lightweight (3 oz), very comfortable, durable, highly adjustable, made in the USA, yet still competitively priced. The company is always updating their sandals and is truly passionate about running and it shows with these latest models. Both the Jerusalem Cruisers and Warriors have become my running shoes of choice, replacing even my former favorites, the Vibram KSO EVO and Bikila LS. PROS:
  • Lightweight
  • Good looks
  • Excellent ground feel
  • Secure fit with lots of customization
  • Great Vibram durability
  • Priced below much of the competition
  • Hand-crafted
  • Made in the USA
  • No Vibram/shoe funk! (it does not get more breathable than this!)
CONS:
  • Strapping system does loop around and underneath the sole, but this should not affect durability, as the materials are fantastic
  • Velcro strap only present on one side of the strapping system (two sides would provide more adjustability)
  • Jerusalem Cruisers lack an aggressive tread design
  • Huarache stares (you will get more stares from other runners than even Vibrams)
The Jerusalem Cruisers are priced at $50 ($65 with the added sheepskin footbed) and the Warriors are $70.

Testing Background:

This review was written after running road 150 miles in the Jerusalem Cruisers and 70 road miles in The Warriors. About 20 miles of moderate trail running was mixed in to assess the trail capabilities of these sandals. Aside from the sole, the Jerusalem Cruisers and The Warriors are identical, so I will discuss the unifying characteristics of the two shoes before I discuss the features that are unique to each of them.

Photos

Jerusalem Cruiser Shamma Sandals Warrior Shamma Sandals

The Lacing System

The Jerusalem Cruiser.  Note the lacing is the same with the JC as the Warrior.
The Jerusalem Cruiser. Note the lacing is the same with the JC as the Warrior.
The lacing on Shamma Sandals is a super strong 11/16″ tubular webbing that is extremely durable and very comfortable against skin. They are similar to the webbing used by Luna, but are a little wider and provide a little more stability on the foot and are more comfortable as well. The material itself is somewhat soft, but still rigid. According to the website, the material is so tough that you can fight off a bear with it! The lacing system wraps around the ankle and loops through the underside of the inner and outer parts of the sole and comes back up (forming a “V”) towards the toe post, which is recessed into the sole for comfort and durability. On the surface, this is a common huarache design, but Shamma Sandals interpretation of the timeless huarache is what sets them apart from other makers. As a tip, I would recommend to all potential buyers of Shamma Sandals to give the toe post a slight twist at the bottom of the sole to slim the webbing between your toes for increased comfort. Compared to other huaraches, like Xeroshoes Amuri/Sensori Venture and Cloud (using a cord material for their straps), Luna Venado, Unshoes Wakova, and Bedrock Sandals, the webbing from Shamma Sandals is the most comfortable–at least on my foot. They strike a perfect balance between comfort, density, and stability. Having wider straps means there is less pressure on your foot when running by spreading out contact with your foot over a wider surface area. However, there is breaking point where if straps are made too wide, they become heavier and thicker as a result. An example of this is in the Unshoes Pah Tempe, which has some of the widest and thickest webbing of any huaraches I have run in. While I have not had any issues with the Pah Tempe, I can see some people having an uncomfortable experience with the thicker straps (look for a review of the UPDATED Unshoes Pah Tempe this summer!)
The Shamma Sandals Warrior, showing the velcro strap system.
The Shamma Sandals Warrior, showing the velcro strap system.
The latest Shamma Sandals use a hook and loop fastener to tighten the laces quickly and easily. It is a Velcro strap that is very secure and a piece of cake to use. Having the Velcro strapping system gives Shamma Sandals a very familiar feeling when putting them on (just like your favorite summer velcro sandals!) and anyone can dial in a perfect fit with some practice. There is little fiddling, nothing to tie, and zero knots to deal with. There is a lot of customization with these straps and you can move the main strap and plastic top buckle in four directions to get the best fit. The main strap can be moved left and right by either threading the ends of he straps through the sole or with the Velcro strap. The plastic buckle can be shifted up and down along the top of your foot for the best fit as well. Shamma Sandals provides a few how-to videos to get a perfect fit on their youtube channel. As a tip, I would recommend that you position the main strap straight and angled between your big toe and index (second) toe, running down the valley between the bones in your feet. This prevents rubbing and allows for a tighter fit.
Both sandals have a FANTASTIC leather heel strap, which keeps the sandals snug to my heels when running. I cannot recall ever having to stop to readjust the heel, once I got the strapping exactly the way I want it. The suede material is very comfortable and does not irritate or rub my heel. It provides a touch of softness and a little more security than if I only had the webbing on its own. It is more comfortable than the rubber heel strap used by Xeroshoes in their Amuri Venture and Cloud models, which can rub a little bit on my heel. Another innovation that I have only seen from Shamma Sandals is their “heel strap helper.” It is a small elastic bit that they have added to the “V” formed by the straps on the inside of the sandal, which helps to keep the heel strap from slipping on your heel. It is an ingenious and simple innovation that speaks to the thoughtfulness of the design behind these sandals.

Weight

Both The Jerusalem Cruisers and The Warriors weigh in at 3 oz per sandal. They are HALF the weight of my former favorite pair of running shoes, the Vibram Bikila LS, and are only a little more than two thirds of the weight of Vibram’s lighest shoe, the EL-X. Compared to other huaraches, both the Jerusalem Cruiser and Warrior weigh in well below most of the competition, including Lunas latest offerings, XeroShoes Amuri Cloud and Earth Runners. Having such a lightweight sandal on your foot makes it even easier to forget that you are wearing anything at all. In fact, once I have my straps dialed in, I really do not notice the sandals on my feet as I run. The feeling is like running barefoot in a world that has been painted over with a small amount of protective rubber. The light weight and open design of Shamma Sandals allow your foot to naturally splay as much as they would when completely barefoot and that really helps to make them nearly “invisible” on your feet. The soles of both the Jerusalem Cruisers and Warriors provide the right amount of protection and tons of ground feel. In an industry where everyone likes to talk about their “barefoot-like” experience, these sandals truly deliver.

The Sole

Shamma Sandals use two different materials for their current lineup of sandals, both of which are made by Vibram. The Jerusalem Cruisers have a Vibram Morflex Sole and the Warriors have a Vibram Newflex Sole. Many huarache and minimalist shoemakers have used Vibram soles for their products. The most popular soles are Gumlite, Morflex and, Newflex. Gumlite has the wear characteristics of rubber, but with half the weight. It has good durability, but does not have the same great grip characteristics of Newflex or even Morflex. My favorite sandals that use Gumlite are Bedrock Sandals. Vibram Morflex Soles on Jerusalem Cruisers
Morflex 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. Vibram Newflex Soles on Warriors
Newflex is one of Vibrams latest soles with excellent slip resistance and durability. It has the greatest durability and grip among the three. It is also the densest sole in the lineup, which means that it can be made thinner than other materials. For those keeping track of foot shape, I have VERY wide feet. In fact, I cannot even wear some of Vivobarefoot’s shoe offerings, despite the fact that they advertise an anatomic toe box! Lifestyle shoes, like the Dharma and Jay, are absolutely fine for my feet, but their running shoes, like The One, are just a little too narrow for me. For another example, Unshoes has come up with a number of foot-shaped templates that they use for their sandals to fit a very wide range of feet, but I actually had to ask for a specially ordered pair because my toe splay was just too wide for their templates. However, even my duck feet fit perfectly in the Jerusalem Cruisers. They should accommodate a large range of foot shapes. In addition, Shamma Sandals provides printable sole outlines on their website for ease of ordering. Just print out your size, place it on the floor and see if your foot fits; it is super easy.

But how do these soles function?

The heart of the Jerusalem Cruiser is their Zero-Drop 6mm Vibram Morflex sole. It is extremely lightweight and forms up to the shape of your feet within a couple of runs, customizing itself to your footprint (as you can see from the pictures!). It has a smooth tread pattern that is ideal for both urban landscapes and rural terrain. In terms of ground feel, it is comparable The KSO EVO, but a little softer. I can feel the Morflex sole compressing a little bit to every step (eventually to the point of forming signature of your foot on the foot bed), which softens the ground a bit compared to the Warriors, and also silences you footfalls. As many minimalist runners have noticed, huaraches sometimes exhibit a “slapping” sound as you run, which improves as you hone your running technique (landing below your center of gravity, with your feet directly under your hips, directly under your shoulders with a high cadence/step rate). With the Jerusalem Cruisers, the slapping is less pronounced than The Warriors and Xeroshoes Feel True soles, as it is a less dense sole. The slightly softer feel and quieter steps of the Jerusalem Cruisers makes them an excellent choice for new minimalist runners. However, do not be so quick as to judge them as “soft sandals” as they are lighter and thinner than sandals from many other manufactures (such as Luna). If you step on a rock in the middle of your run, YOU WILL FEEL IT. While the Morflex sole lacks any treading, they performed very well in light and moderate trail running. Rocky trails and root-filled forests are not a problem with the Jerusalem Cruisers. While the Warriors are marketed as a versatile “do-it-all” running and trail shoe, I believe the Jerusalem Cruisers are an excellent choice for new runners as the softer sole provides a little more cushioning from small rocks, sticks, and other bits on your run. In terms of durability, the Morflex sole has held up very well after 150 miles. Clearly, my wide foot can be seen on top of the sole and my foot strike pattern on the bottom. The soles of the Warriors are 5 mm of Vibram Newflex rubber. They are lightweight and flexible. This highly durable soling material is perfect for trail runs and off-road conditions. The tread pattern is very aggressive, providing the traction needed to stay on the path — or go off it. The Warriors are the minimalist purist’s choice between the two models. This is the more flexible sole of the two and it is very easy to do a downward toe flex. The sole is actually very floppy and really follows your foot wherever it goes.
In terms of ground feel, the Warriors are thinner than the Jerusalem Cruisers, but the sole is a denser material. Overall, the Warriors transfer about twice as much ground feel and information over the Cruisers. Even though the Warriors are rated as 5mm, that does not quite tell the entire story about the sole. The 6mm Morflex sole of the Jerusalem Cruisers is a solid piece of material; while the Warriors have a more aggressive tread design. The 5mm of the Warriors sole is measured from top to bottom, but there are many cuts in the tread, so there are sections of the sole that are really only 2.5mm thick, which contribute a lot to the ground feel and flexibility of the sole. Since the material is denser, it does not give as much as the Cruisers during a run and will provide a little more protection on a trail, but because it is thinner and more flexible, you will feel every rock and little thing underfoot. For a new trail runner or someone who is not used to lightly running on trails, the feeling of trail running with the Warriors can be a little jarring, so I recommend these for experienced minimalist trail runners. The “slapping” with the Warriors on roads is a little more pronounced than the Jerusalem Cruisers, so I have to be more mindful of my running technique, which makes these more suited for experienced minimalist runners. When running properly, they are essentially silent. Unlike the Jerusalem Cruisers, the foot bed of the Warriors has not quite conformed to my foot, which is why the Warriors only come with a leather foot bed, aiding a bit in creating a “foot signature” on the sandal. However, even after 70+ miles, the foot bed still does not quite have my footprint stamped in.

Foot bed

The Jerusalem Cruisers come topped with either a Premium Sheepskin Leather foot-bed or Naked Top. The sheepskin foot-bed is stylish and comfortable, providing just the right amount of cushion for your feet and grip for running. The Naked Top is another great option, ideal for water-bound adventurers and those that plan on running on trails with very wet conditions. My pair of Jerusalem Cruisers has the leather foot bed and it feels great. The leather is very comfortable and quite stylish. I have not noticed any slipping when they were wet, but I took a lot of care to make sure that the straps were properly tightened during rain runs. The Warriors only come topped with the same Premium Sheepskin Leather foot-bed, while it is an option for the Jerusalem Cruisers. You will notice that sheepskin has a grippy, tacky quality that provides more traction for your foot on top of the sandal. It also helps the sandal mold to your foot’s shape, and it increases the strength of the plug and lace holes. Again, they are very comfortable and I really like the look of the sandals with this foot bed.

Durability

As I said earlier, the Morflex sole of the Jerusalem Cruisers has held up well after 150 miles. My footprint is clearly branded where my toes are and my foot strike pattern can be seen on the bottom of the sole. According to Shamma Sandals founder Josh Stiles, the soles of the Jerusalem Cruisers should has between 500-1000 miles. I am going to guess that I should reach the upper limits of that figure, especially if I stick to road running. The Warriors, which have a denser, but thinner, sole should last somewhere around that same figure or perhaps a little longer. I have yet to see any wear on the treads, so I will say that they are probably the more durable of the two.

Conclusion

I truly believe the Shamma Sandals makes the best huaraches currently on the market. I had been a Vibram purist for many years, but the Jerusalem Cruisers and Warriors have completely converted me to running sandals. I have since banished my Vibrams to the back of the shoe closet and have been running 13 miles everyday in my Shamma Sandals. They are very comfortable and lightweight, appear to have fantastic durability, look great, and the completely open huarache design lets me feel the wind as I run and prevents shoe stink. The fact that these sandals are hand-crafted, made in the USA, and a small operation only makes Shamma Sandals more appealing for ordering. It’s great to know that my shoes were hand-made made by someone in California (the founder of the company, none less!) really solidifies the human connection. You cannot find these in a brick-and-mortar store. Josh Stiles (Shamma Sandals founder and shoemaker) has been so helpful with all of my emails and inquires and I could tell that he enjoyed talking about his shoes and running as I do. If I wrote a long email with my ideas and questions, Josh would write back a LONGER response. With talking to other huarache companies (and their founders), I had the feeling that they were trying to rush through my emails or phone calls. Shamma Sandals not only make a fantastic product, but their support and underdog attitude makes for an even more enjoyable purchase. At this price point (starting at $50 for the Jerusalem Cruisers–$65 as shown in this review with the sheepskin foot bed), such high quality of materials, good looks, and excellent groundfeel, right now, there is no other sandal on the market that I love more than Shamma Sandals. Any other Shamma fans? Let’s hear your thoughts (or questions!) below! Special Thanks: A huge special thanks goes out to Josh Stiles. He is the founder of Shamma Sandals and he made my shoes. I bombarded him with a countless string of email questions and he happily shot just as many more emails my way. I have never met a more eager and helpful shoemaker in all my barefoot travels. I’ve been told by Josh Stiles that they will have a new trail model coming out this summer and am looking forward to taking those along the Appalachian Trail as soon as possible (look for a review soon!). Another huge thanks goes out to Justin Owings for his time and dedication to birthdayshoes.com. This is truly the best site for all minimalist and barefoot enthusiasts.
About Shamma Running Sandals:
At Shamma Running Sandals, we are enthusiastic about minimalist and barefoot running. From the health benefits to the pure enjoyment of running unencumbered by traditional footwear, we love running in sandals. So we decided to bring our happiness to you. We have designed a lacing system that allows your feet to move naturally. At the same time, you can depend on the sturdy construction of our sandals – we use premium quality Oil-Tanned Hide Leather and high strength Tubular Nylon Webbing, as well as dense neoprene and rubbers from the best soling materials company in the world, Vibram.