Review: Luna Sandals Leadville Pacer

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Disclaimer: Yes, I am sponsored by Luna Sandals. But it should be noted that:
A) I bought the review sandals for this review at full price;
B) I have been wearing them for nearly 18 months;
C) I approached Luna for the sponsorship BECAUSE of what I wrote in this review;
D) I had formed my opinion of these sandals well and truly before I was offered the sponsorship (an opinion which, as I mention in point C, pushed me to seek the relationship with Luna that I now enjoy and appreciate).
Okay, that said, let’s get on with it!!

Many readers of this blog will know that my minimalist tendencies also cross over into my sport – distance running. For the long story read the first few paragraphs on my review for Xero Shoes or read the long story short which goes a little something like this…

I have always had an off again/on again love with running – more often off again. This was due to two key factors:
A. Just plain lazy, and
B. Put off because of the injuries that would always come upon me.

I was turned onto the idea of minimalist running in 2006 after reading an article by Christopher McDougall in Men’s Health Magazine about the Tarahumara/Raramuri running people of Mexico. I began running barefoot and in Nike Free, the only other minimalist shoe of the time. The in again/off again continued (due to laziness alone now as the injuries were gone!) until the start if 2012 when I decided to get off the couch and change my life.

By this time, there was a plethora of new minimalist options and Luna Sandals were one of these. Luna were the company started by Barefoot Ted McDonald. Barefoot Ted was one of the “gurus” of the Barefoot/Minimalist movement who was further brought to notoriety via McDougall’s book “Born to Run”. Ted famously had a pair of huarache running sandals made for him from car tyres by Raramuri runner Manuel Luna. When Ted began making sandals, he called them Luna’s in honour of the man who showed him how.

I bought my first Luna’s back in September 2012. I bought the Leadville Pacer: a 9mm trail sandal with Monkey a Grip Technology footbed and the All Terrain System laces. It must be made clear that the Leadville pacer is designed as a trail sandal. My intention was to begin getting out on the trails in sandals – I had been wearing another huarache on the road but needed something that could provide a little more protection. The plan did not quite happen at first. If I am honest, I tried a number of other minimalist shoes for running with the Luna’s being relegated to my casual wear.

So let’s start there – as a casual huarache, the Pacer is excellent. It is comfortable and although when new ground feel was there but a little limited, now after much use there is plenty of feel. Set the ATS laces and you can slip on/slip off the sandal every day and never give the laces another thought. It also looks like a casual sandal as opposed to the traditional huarache lacing that gets people staring. So for everyday lifestyle wear, exceptional.

However all that time, I was wearing and experimenting with a whole heap of other shoes. The Pacers got relegated to shopping, cafés and BBQ’s. Then one day in September of 2013, I out them on for a run. Don’t know why – all I know is that my training log shows that morning of the 23rd, I put on the Pacers and hit the street and came home 11.05km later. And after that, almost every run on road and a few on trail have been run in the Pacers.

The Leadville Pacer is a 9mm thick but light sandal made for trails. It has an aggressive Vibram rubber tread on bottom; and on top a thin footbed of what Luna calls it’s “Monkey Grip Technology”. It comes with Luna’s ATS (All Terrain System) laces which are smooth, flattened tubular nylon straps with a buckle slide for secure fastening. The heel part is made of an elasticised vegan material which allows for a very easy slide on/off once the laces are secured. There is really not much more to say about them because that is all there is of them!

So how have they fared nearly 6 months later of almost daily use? Brilliant!! The Leadville Pacer is currently my go-to running shoe. It is comfortable, reliable and offers great ground feel for it’s 9mm sole. I have worn the tread away under the ball of my feet where my foot falls, but to be fair, Luna make it clear on their website that, “The aggressive tread will wear out quickly on pavement though, so stick to trails with these sandals!” That tread has done me well in wet and dry on trail and (way much more) pavement. And despite the wear, it continues to perform and will continue to, although I think my use has jeopardised the trail life of the sandal. But remember, that is my fault, not the sandals.

I was concerned that the buckle would cause me issues. It hasn’t. On the one occasion it did, it wasn’t the buckle, but the fine sand that got stuck under it (I was running down the beach) that I left there. A quick finger swipe would have fixed it, but I was too proud to stoop down for a quick second and didn’t fix it. I have run along the beach and on trails many times since with no problems (and certainly no need to finger swipe under the buckle every time).

As someone who travels a lot, I must say travel with running gear is a breeze – they take up less room than my tech shirt and shorts in the bag. And they don’t smell!

As I said in the disclaimer, this review was well underway before I began a conversation with Luna about sponsorship. But the performance of these sandals was enough to prompt me to approach them for support of my upcoming running event. I am so glad they came to the party – this is a product I am proud to wear and promote because I believe in it wholeheartedly. So much so, I would have bought at full price the sandals for my event and training for it had Luna needed to decline official involvement.

Some have complained about the price (the Pacers are $85USD plus shipping), but I believe their value for money is excellent. As more and more people get on the Luna bandwagon, Luna Monkey’s the world over are wearing Luna’s in everything from 5k’s to 100mile Ultra’s. And at some of those you will find Luna’s on the podium.

Of course, Luna’s may not suit all as a running “shoe”. If you are a barefooter or used to running in minimalist shoes you will find a transition to a huarache like the Luna easy. But don’t let that stop you – Luna’s are the ideal Lifestyle shoe and it is well worth a visit to the Luna Sandals website to check out their styles.

Running NoXS Minimal for me is about carefree running. No hi-tech, flashy latest doo-dad stuff here. If you are into that, great. But what I love about Luna is it’s down to earth “let’s let running be about running for the sake of running” vibe. Each day, I pull them on and off I go – bit of protection for the soles of my feet with a strap to hold them on. Nothing more, nothing less. And off a I go with a smile on my face.

I love them and look forward to wearing them for years to come.

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