I was lucky enough to get a first release pair of VIVOBAREFOOT’S new Achilles Running Sandal to test out, and I was very excited about the opportunity. I have read numerous accounts of people’s experiences with huaraches, but I have never tried to run in anything like that myself. I tried making a pair of huaraches and had a lot of difficulty tying them so that they stayed comfortable. It was that issue that made the Achilles very enticing to me. I’ve run for a very long time and have logged miles in just about every type of footwear imaginable, but this was a new adventure in what turned out to be a great a great sandal, for running.
The first thing that needs to be addressed is the look of these things. Yes, they look weird, but you and everyone around you will get used to it. The looks have purpose, and there is a function behind every aspect of the styling so there’s really no way around it. When mine first arrived they were in a big yellow padded envelop which made me think that I had received a true test pair that didn’t even come in some sort of packaging, but I was wrong. These things are really thin and don’t need a shoebox so why use one? They actually come in something that is very handy – a clear plastic carrying bag that fits nicely in a big yellow envelope for shipping. I pulled them out, thought about how they looked as weird in person as they did in pictures, and then immediately started fitting them to my feet. While I was putting them on I started to think that they looked much cooler than I thought they would, and the truth is that they do. On my feet I really like the way these sandals look. Sure they look sort of futuristic, but that’s part of the coolness so I say go with it.
On foot they felt a little odd at first because of the material between my toes. I like to wear flip flops and of course those crazy toe shoes so I’m no stranger to having things between my toes, but this felt different. The difference is in how far apart these sandals keep those toes. This is obviously to better secure the sandals on your feet, but it is something that will take some getting used to in terms of the way it feels. The strapping system is comfortable and is fairly adjustable. Overall these sandals are easy to get on your feet once you get used to them.
I wore them around a bit the first day and they felt good, a little awkward but good. I say they felt awkward because of the bit between my toes and my needing to get used to it. I also played a little with the strap to figure out just how tight I liked them which is something I recommend. The only thing left for me to do with these wonderful sandals was go for a run, and I did.
I started with a nice warm-up, and my feet, or should I say the sandals, felt great. Outside of running barefoot I have never felt so light and airy. I set out on a loop that is roughly eight tenths of a mile long just in case something went wrong with my first trial run, and I’m glad I did. Roughly halfway through the loop I felt a blister starting between my first two toes on my right foot and a hot spot on the other. I finished my lap and took the shoes off to check the damage. The blister was a pretty good one so I stopped the test there. Aside from the blister the Achilles were amazing. I felt light and smooth, and my feet were cool the entire time. The foot bed felt great against my foot, and the sole had good traction so I was happy. The blister was a bummer, but it was something that I kind of expected.
I let the blister heal and went for round two in my Achilles on the same course for obvious reasons, and it again turned out to be a good idea. I got a blister again in the same spot, but it was not as bad and it took longer to happen, which was progress even if it was disappointing. Again I have to say that the sandals performed really well, and I absolutely loved the way they felt on my foot aside from the forming of blisters. After the second run I thought I would check with Terra Plana to see if they had any advice about the blisters that might help me avoid the problem on my next run. Their advice was that there really isn’t a way to mess up the fit of the sandals and that they expected people would develop some blistering at first. They likened it to the first of summer and the feet not being used to wearing flip flops. I thought that to be sound advice except for one thing. I live in Texas and literally wear flip flops most of the year, and I had been wearing them for months when I got my Achilles.
So why was I having problems? I thought about it, and I came to a conclusion that kept me positive about my ability to adapt to these sandals. I wear leather flip flops and never wear the rubber/plastic kind because they rub between my toes, and it’s uncomfortable. They tend to make my toes hurt and I sometimes get blisters. That alone gave me enough reason not to give up on the Achilles as a great summer running tool, and I’m glad I came to that conclusion.
Since then I have adapted to the Achilles and can now comfortably enjoy running in them. It took about four runs to get my feet used to the toe area, but it was worth the effort. I love running in these sandals because of the free feeling I get in them. It really comes very close to feeling like I’m not wearing any shoes at all. I can feel the air blowing across my feet and that is great because it keeps me from sweating as much. I also feel cooler in general when my feet don’t feel hot. They are very protective of my feet without being intrusive, and they are a joy to run in.
I would recommend running in these sandals if you want a light and open footed running experience but go into it knowing you might have to put in some ground work. You may have to go on a few really short runs to get your feet used to having a thicker than normal piece of rubber between your first two toes. I do believe however that if you are willing to take the time to adapt that you will not be disappointed.
Sole Thickness: 3mm
Addition: I’ve been asked what I think of the Achilles as a walking sandal. I am currently dealing with a heal spur that makes walking in very minimal shoes awkward and often times uncomfortable. For that reason I chose not to comment on the walking performance of the Achilles. For the short periods of walking I have done in them I can say I think they would work well for that purpose, but my testing was not such that I can really speak on the subject.