BrickhouseBodymindTV Episode 6 – Minimal, Traditional, Handmade Footwear from the Raramuri Indians

Written by Philip Walter on May 27 at 11:35 am in hiking/trail running, itBODYnature, video

Barefoot Ted Running Sandals

Photo courtesy of
Barefoot Ted

So, for the past couple weeks, in addition to preparing for and rejoicing in the arrival of my first son, Ian Andrew Walter (YAY!), I have been researching various various forms of natural, barefoot running. There are many purists out there who would like us all to run, walk, and locomote everywhere barefoot. It appears this is not only honoring the elegant, evolutionary design of the human being, but it’s also great for your arches, knees, and calves, and it reduces your risk of ankle injury. Whatever your stand in this debate, I remain unwilling to run through my neighborhood feet completely unshod, given the various shards of sharp things that lie in wait.

This mixture of a fervent respect for nature’s design and a practical approach to training in the modern world lead me to Barefoot Ted and his huarache sandal kits. These sandals’ design were brought to Barefoot Ted’s attention by a few Tarahumara (Raramuri in their native tongue) Indians running Ultra-Marathons in the U.S. The Raramuri are natives of a rural area in northwestern Mexico called Copper Canyon. They are runners by lifestyle, trekking long distances from enclave to enclave in the rugged mountains of the region, all the while wearing this particular brand of sandal.

So I ordered a kit to make my own from Barefoot Ted and recorded the experiment to share with you guys. Please let me know what ya’ll think!

In terms of looks, these things are so cool I can’t stand it … always interesting to see people’s reactions. In the last couple weeks I’ve run 20 km (about 12.5 miles), mostly on pavement. The first 5k yielded significant DOMS in my calves that lasted most of 5 days or so, but the subsequent 5k outings have been much easier with recovery more in the range of 24-36 hours. I am considering grabbing another kit without the leather footpad to use in wet conditions, because the leather tends to get slick on me.

The sandals really are quite comfortable, but the secret to the comfort is in the proper tie. I did create two “hot-spot” rope burns on my left foot during the first two outings, but tweaking the tie job a bit alleviated that problem … plus, just getting my feet used to the new kicks helped as well. It’s kind of like pulling out my Tevas for the first float trip of the summer: they always leave a little mark or two on my ankles, but after a day or so it’s no big deal.

Overall, I am loving the experience and glad for the opportunity to make my own pair of minimal, traditional sandals. Something about the idea that this design has been working for millennia makes me a happy guy.

Reasons for pursuing minimal footwear:

Fun things to do in your minimal footwear:

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