My fantasy of becoming a long-distance runner began when I read Born to Run. I say fantasy because I’m still working on that project, but the image and lifestyle of the Tarahumara people still sticks in my mind.

 

Breaking Muscle Shop

If you haven’t read the book, it’s about barefoot running. But if you’ve actually tried barefoot running, you know that there are more pitfalls to it than at first it would seem. While it might sound sexy to build your own sandals out of leather straps and tire rubber, it’s not so effective in real life.

 

RELATED: 2 Rules for Beginning Barefoot Running (and Avoiding Injury)

 

Enter Earth Runners. Their custom-molded sandals are built to give you the freedom of being barefoot, without all the pitfalls of shredding your feet. But they don’t just want you to run free on the earth – they also want you to connect with it in a special and natural way.

 

What Is Earthing?

The thing that’s lost when you wear minimalist shoes as opposed to going barefoot is your actual connection to the ground. It’s like putting on gloves and grabbing onto a pull-up bar. There is something different about the experience on a physical and sensory level.

 

"If we are not in-sync with the electrical system of our planet, then it is believed that our biochemical and neurological responses to our environment also get out of whack, and the overall result is increased inflammation in our bodies."

Believers in the concept of earthing will tell you that part of what’s missing is the flow of electrical energy from the earth into your body. The idea is that our body is not just receiving cues from light and dark (we’ve all heard of our Circadian rhythm in relation to this), but it also receives cues from the low frequency electromagnetic energy in the Earth and its surrounding atmosphere.

 

If we are not in-sync with the electrical system of our planet, then it is believed that our biochemical and neurological responses to our environment also get out of whack, and the overall result is increased inflammation in our bodies.

 

Now, we all generally acknowledge that chronic and excessive inflammation is a bad state for a human body to be in. Practitioners of earthing (and advocates of the Earth Runner sandals) simply believe that being in contact with the earth is one way to combat this inflammation.

 

READ: An Athlete's Guide to Inflammation

 

And really, can you deny that when you go barefoot that it somehow feels good to your body? And if your focus is performance in your sport, check this out – this study suggested, “Grounding appears to be the first intervention with the potential to reduce the time of recovery and improve muscle function from DOMS.”

 

Watch this video for more information on earthing and going barefoot:

 

 

About the Shoes

So, Earth Runners doesn’t just provide minimalist footwear, they also provide earthing footwear. The way that Earth Runners connect you back to the ground is through the use of copper. The nylon laces on these sandals have copper inside them, and this copper is connected to copper plugs in the bottom of the sandals.

 

The pair of sandals I was given to try are the Alpha X Earth Runners. These are a new version of Earth Runner’s original Alpha sandals. They are built on a Vibram base, so the traction is great, and after much use mine are showing no sign of significant wear.

 

The specifications of the shoes are highly variable to your personal choice. You can choose conductive or non-conductive laces, leather or nylon, slip-on or buckle. So even if you’re not buying into earthing, there are models of these shoes for you.

 

My sandals had the slip-on strap. Even though they are slip on, the slip-on strap is adjustable so that once the sandal is on, it has the right amount of tension to stay on your foot. The thong portion of the straps is where the copper is in these sandals, which connects to the plugs on the bottom.

 

One thing to be aware of – there is a little bit of a strange sensation when walking on hard surfaces in these sandals. You’ll get used to it quickly, but you can sense when the plugs come in contact with something that doesn’t give, as opposed to being on bare ground.

 

 

Features

  • 11mm custom-molded Vibram tread
  • Convenient slip-on design
  • Locking buckle design if you don’t prefer a slip-on
  • Moisture-wicking leather footbed
  • Detailed instruction on ordering the right size
  • Flat-rate shipping: $9.00 in the U.S., $19.00 international
  • Thirty-day money back guarantee

 

Downsides

The obvious con to any pair of sandals is that they are only useful for a limited time of the year. If you live in Southern California, you might get pretty extended use out of these. But for me, in the Pacific Northwest, I haven’t been able to wear them lately. For those of you down under, this may be the perfect time for you to check these out.

 

"If you’re new to footwear like this, then just start in small doses and pay close attention to any aches or pains that show up."

The other caveat with any barefoot or minimalist footwear is that you shouldn’t wear these for extended periods of time if you’ve never gone barefoot or minimalist before. I spent most of my day barefoot and wear minimalist shoes for all the walking and hiking I do, so adjusting to these sandals was not a problem or me. If you’re new to footwear like this, then just start in small doses and pay close attention to any aches or pains that show up.

 

My Recommendation

Even if you don’t buy into the idea of “earthing,” if you’re looking for a good pair of barefoot running sandals, you should still investigate these. I found them great for walking around and the fit is highly conducive to running (no pun intended). There really is a lot of freedom imparted into your movement when you wear these sandals. They just feel like a protective covering on the bottom of your foot - not like a shoe.

 

And Earth Runners is a good company. For every ten pair of sandals they sell, they donate a pair to Seva Sandals, a non-profit that provides footwear to children in India.

 

Alpha X Earth Runners are available for $72.00 at EarthRunners.com

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