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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

PRODUCT REVIEW-EARTH RUNNERS ALPHAS

I have had these for a while now, but held off on reviewing because I wanted to put them through their paces. I'm not really good about "logging" my miles, but these definitely have between 200 and 300 miles on them, and have been worn in a lot of diverse conditions. I run mostly trails, with some asphalt and concrete thrown in. Living in Northern San Diego County, there just hasn't been a lot of opportunity for snow/ice testing, and I haven't been to the mountains this year, so I'll leave that part to folks like Jeff Gallup over at Barefoot Inclined. We've had some rain and mud, though and they got a good shot at that. I have run barefoot, but mostly minimalist for the past 4 1/2 years. I used to run in "motion control" shoes like NB and the like, on poor advice from running store employees. I have the banged up feet to prove it. I have run in Xero Shoes and these Alphas only in recent times. Both of those are fine products, and I have reviewed Xero Shoes in the past. I have migrated in the past few months to exclusively running in the Alphas, due to my specific needs and foot situation. Having had a pretty serious bout with metatarsalgia after a period of exclusive barefooting, I looked around at the various options. When I came across the Earth Runners Alphas, I liked the fact that they have a 10mm Birkenstock sole. My feet just feel better with a better "rock plate" under them, probably a testament to my continuous need for improved form. My footstrike is much lighter than when I used to run in "heel stompers", but I, as are many others, am a work in progress. At this stage, the Alphas give me what I need. With that lead in, let's talk about these Alphas
The ordering process was top notch. I followed the directions on the website, (a link to which is at the top of this blog). There are detailed instructions on measuring your foot, printing a template, and getting them sized correctly. I opted for the leather footbed, resulting in a total 11mm thickness of the sole. I like the feel of the leather under my feet. These come with a variety of laces, including leather, nylon, and nylon with conductive material incorporated within. Michael Dally, who owns the company, has a lot of information about "Earthing", or getting connected electrically with the Earth. The sandals come with a copper stud in the sole and metal rivets at the rear connection points of the laces. I must admit that I haven't made up my mind about that whole theory yet, however the metal is totally unobtrusive, so there is certainly no loss of comfort from its presence. My Alphas arrived quickly, as promised, in a plain postal mailer, and were essentially ready to wear. The laces come a bit long, with the intent that the individual wearer should trim them as desired. I did trim mine, and left about 1" past the buckle when worn. On reflection, I will leave another 1/2 to 3/4 " on the next pair just for ease of grasping the lace when putting the sandal on. Early on, I had a couple of chafing issues, one at the buckle (near the outer ankle) and one between the toes. Both were quickly cured by some minor adjustments of the laces. Once I began running in these sandals, I was pleased at how they felt, hugging the foot with no slippage or "flopping". That is partly due to the relative stiffness of the sole. You do lose a substantial amount of ground feel over sandals with thinner soles, but it is a reasonable trade-off for the additional protection, should you need it. Earth Runners also offers styles with thinner soles if that is an issue for you. Once I started running in these, I never looked back, nor have I run in anything else. I have run in wet, dry, and muddy conditions, with no problems at all. The tread on the Birkenstock sole gives me plenty of traction, and the laces and buckle have never slipped loose. Over time, these conform to your foot, as you can see from the photos. After this much time, they have that custom, "old sweater" feel, and my feet find their exact place every time I slip them on. On the tread side, there is very little wear to this point. This pair cost $55.00 plus shipping. That is a bit mid-range between some of the other types on the market, but WAY below any "traditional" running shoes I've bought in the past. As I mentioned above, I have been running in sandals for several years, so my legs and feet are used to that. If you are transitioning from "traditional" shoes, take it slowly and work up to longer distances as your body adjusts. As in any real minimal shoe, you won't get away with heel striking in these. You need to run like your body was designed to run. Mid-foot or fore-foot strike. In summation, I am very pleased with these sandals. They are reasonably priced, extremely well constructed and durable. Comfort becomes more and more important as distances increase. These have been very comfortable to wear. I have even begun wearing them while I work in our fruit orchard. They have been up to every task, from mud to mulch to digging holes. I think I need to buy another pair just for running...............

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