Testing the Luna Mono trail sandal
Maybe you’ll also feel like a streaker running across the pitch at a cricket match when you run in the Luna Monos for the first time.
You may feel naked, liberated, exposed and slightly giddy with child-like exuberance.
The difference was that my feet continued loving the sensation of freedom well after my runs; which is not the reward of streakers once they’re caught by Security!
To form a true impression of the Luna Mono, I ran more than 100km in them over a period of three months and enjoyed their lightness, coolness and flexibility.
You’d expect that to be the case, since they’re essentially just a 12mm thick sandal with a heel strap. Without an upper to reduce the side to side and front to back flexing, they’re fun to give your feet a good stretch, if your feet are ready for that kind of exercise.
They were also ideal for hiking over non-technical terrain in warm conditions.
Although they worked for me, fact is they are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.
As always are some downsides, including getting occasional double takes from passersby who seem to be wondering whether you’re a runner or a hippy.
Weaknesses that you should know about include:
- they are not great in rougher grassy sections. Grass stalks stung my toes as my feet flicked into touch down. Fact is, your foot is moving really fast as it shoots forward, faster than any other part of you,
- grit gets between your foot and the sole as well as the straps, potentially causing raw patches on long runs if left unattended, and
- they offer minimal protection against rocks. I took the Mono into territory that would scare the owners of even well-protected shoes, into the jaws of Krantzkloof Nature Reserve. This is a rocky, steep, unforgiving place for feet moving at any speed above stationary. It wasn’t a surprise that I emerged with two slightly bloodied toes and a scuffed heel after a three hour run there (Incidentally, Krantzkloof is the site of the 2014 Molweni Trail Run).
Back in the supposed safety of the suburbs, I suffered a humbling faster-than-a-blink sack-of-potatoes stumble after my foot slipped into a concealed dewy grass hole.
I’m not implying that regular shoes would have saved me from that episode but the flexibility of the Luna means there’s not much around your foot to bolster it.
There isn’t a distinction between the midsole and outsole like with a regular shod shoe, although this is deceptive: it’s actually made of two layers. The first is a thicker mouldable Vibram sole glued to the upper, which is either made from Pittards Premium Leather (currently not imported by agent Dave Els: “Lots of vegans around these days so didn’t bother”) or non-slip MGT. This upper is the 2mm-thick footbed on which your feet rest.
If you’re wondering about durability of the wearing edge, the Vibram tread did show slight signs of wear after the 100km but 50% of the running had been done on tar and hard trail. This is just a hunch, but I would expect the straps to perish before the sole, unless they tore through the sole for some reason.
I’d estimate lifespan to be a few years of regular running provided you’re light on your feet. And you can use them as a regular sandal.
When you look at the cost like that, the price of nearly R1,100 isn’t too extreme. And they are a lot of fun to run in, once you have them dialled through easy adjustment of the single-pull strap system. It’s a no-brainer if you want to be as close to barefoot as you can, although that can be arranged. Its cousin the Venado is half as thick (6mm) and will undoubtedly give greater feedback of the ground.
Overall, the Mono can be recommended if you’re in the first category of runner described below:
Runner 1: minimalist die-hards, curious runners, exhibitionists, show-offs, ‘natural’ runners, people who want to run ‘naturally’.
Runner 2: beginners to running (although no doubt, several will prove us wrong), people who don’t like flip-flops.
If you want a greater sense of freedom for your feet on the trail, the Luna Mono should definitely be on your shortlist.
It’s equally ideal for light hiking in warm climes and casual wear. Run to the pool, swim (without them!) and run right back, no need to dry your feet or battle with socks. Sweet bliss!
More at thebarefootrunner.co.za