As you may have noticed, I've been up to my ears in huaraches lately (and bears, but that's a different story). That's not a bad thing (although the recent snow in Show Low has made getting in test runs a bit more difficult), especially considering the quality of the sandals I've gotten to try. What's really made the experience especially interesting is that--in stark contrast to the minimalist shoe industry as a whole, where giants like Merrell and New Balance have taken over--the running sandal industry is dominated by a number of tiny startups founded by one or two outdoorsy types with a penchant for tinkering.
|The Bedrock "Adventuremobile"|
Bedrock sandals is one of those startups. The company is based in Harrisonburg, VA and was founded by two friends “with a shared passion for barefoot running and geology” as a Kickstarter project in June 2011. Bedrock currently only makes one model of sandal, the Earthquake V2, which weighs just over 3 ounces and retails for $54. The V2 comes in whole sizes, or you can send in a foot tracing and have a pair custom made. The custom option is free if you mail in the tracing, or $5 if you email the tracing. You also have your choice of strap color.
One cool thing about Bedrock is that part of the price of every pair goes to maize and bean seeds for Tarahumara families in Mexico. Also, your sandals come in a very cool burlap bag (see the picture at top).
Overall the construction is simple and solid, using good quality materials. The Earthquake V2 is based on the classic Tarahumara 3-hole huarache design, but with a modern-style buckled lacing system. The sole material is 6mm Vibram rubber which is different from the Vibram rubber used by the other huaraches companies whose sandals I’ve tried. It’s moderately dense and stiff, less so than the neoprene used in the classic Luna and more so than that used in the Luna Leadville or Unshoes Wokova Feather. It doesn’t seem to mold to my feet as much as either of those rubbers. The tread is a pointillistic nub pattern.
I was a little surprised by the shape of the sole. If you get a non-custom pair like I did the sole is cut with a slight banana-shaped curve to it. This struck me as strange when I first tried the sandals on since it doesn't really fit my foot when it is still. The idea seems to be to allow the big toe to splay out to the side without falling off the sole. Based on my experiences with sandals that aren’t cut this way I don’t think it is really necessary since my toe doesn’t usually fall off the sole like that. However, when I ran in the sandals they seemed to fit my feet well without any noticeable extra sole material, so maybe there’s something to the idea after all.
The laces are strong nylon webbing. At the moment there are apparently two types of webbing, one stiffer and more rugged than the other. Which type you get depends on which color lace you get. According to the website the stiffer variety will be available in all of the colors in the future. I got red so my laces were the stiffer variety. The lace connects via a plug which is countersunk into the sole, so there isn't any bump under the toes.
The unique feature of the Earthquake line is a piece of elastic rubber (made from recycled bike tubing) attached to the inside of the lace behind the heel. This is designed to keep the lace from slipping off the heel and also allows you to slip the sandal off and on without adjusting the buckle. The clever thing about this design is that the nylon lace is unbroken (more on that later).
The laces adjust via a small plastic buckle. I’m not a fan of this buckle. I was never able to get the sandal adjusted the way I wanted without taking it off my foot, adjusting it, and putting it back on. Even off the foot I found it a bit tricky to adjust, though not impossibly so. Fortunately, since the rubber tubing on the heel allows the sandals to be slipped on and off, you only have to adjust the sandals one time. Once you get them adjusted how you want them, you never have to mess with the buckle again. (It is possible that the buckle would be easier to adjust with the softer laces). [EDIT: the guys at Bedrock have since addressed this issue with an optional "Quick Fit Lacing" system. It looks like a real improvement, though it does add $10 to the price. More info here.]
Overall, I like the look of Bedrock sandals. They look normal enough to wear around town without getting any funny looks and the laces come in attractive colors. My one big complaint with the way Bedrocks look (and really my only big complaint with Bedrocks in general, which tells you how vain I am) is that the tail end of the laces sticks straight up. This was the case before and after I trimmed the end of the lace. I know it’s not just me because the lace even does this in Bedrock’s promotional pictures.
For casual wear the comfort level is decent but not superlative, meaning when I wear them around they don’t bother me but I don’t spend the whole time thinking about how comfortable my sandals are. When running, I like them a lot more. In fact, when I run the sandals tend to just disappear on my feet, which is exactly what you want them to do (and which isn't the case with a lot of huaraches with slip-on style laces). The laces feel fine between the toes and the rubber tubing is very comfortable against the heel. I never had trouble with anything rubbing.
The Earthquake V2 really surprised me by how well it performed. The laces really work quite well once you get them adjusted. Even on rugged trail they are very secure, surprisingly so for a slip-on design. This is the big advantage of the way the rubber tubing is integrated into the heel. Usually, when a sandal has an elastic section in the heel it can allow the foot to slide off the back of the sandal, especially when walking up steep terrain. The beauty of the Bedrock design is that since the nylon lace is unbroken the foot can only slide back a fraction of an inch before the nylon lace stops the foot and holds it in place.
The 6mm sole works well on both the road and trails. Traction is good on both, although I haven’t done any wet runs in them. Groundfeel is excellent. In fact, I wasn't sure about how the sole would handle trails at first since the sole allows you to feel every rock and piece of gravel you encounter (which I suppose makes sense considering the sandal was designed by a couple of geologists). However, after running an extraordinarily rocky 7 mile trail I have to say it has plenty of protection for most runs. I’m going to wear something thicker for my (very rocky) next trail ultra, but for just about anything else I would be confident choosing the Earthquake V2.
The Bedrock Earthquake V2 is a great running huarache and a lot of fun to run in. It works well for road and trail running and features the most secure slip-on laces I have tried. The main downside is simply that the 6mm sole doesn't offer as much rock protection as a sandal with a thicker sole, although in compensation you get much better groundfeel.
You can buy a pair on the Bedrock website.
Sandal provided by the manufacturer
Order my children's book about barefoot running: What Should I Put on My Feet to Go Run?