Yoga Sandals Meet Trail Running

Inexpensive, comfortable, and minimalist, yoga sandals double as minimalist trail running footwear.

Running Streak: Day 525IMG_3753YTD Running Mileage: 883
YTD Biking Mileage: 20

A couple of weeks ago, Phillip and I wanted to explore the Canyonlands trails in Lakeway, a small community on the outskirts of Austin. We had never run in this area before, but I had heard that it is hilly and beautiful; I definitely wanted to take advantage of the long Memorial Day  weekend to finally try out those trails. I had a bit of a trail running dilemma that weekend, however. Even though I can run barefoot on just about every type of surface, I’ve yet to master barefoot running on the rocky, technical Central and South Texas trails. Luna Leadville huaraches have been my trail running footwear of choice for the past few years, and although not perfect, they worked better for me than any other huarache / sandal-type footwear I’ve tried in my nearly ten years of barefoot running. A few weeks after running the BB50 in April, while running some singletrack along the Leon Creek Greenway in San Antonio, one of my huaraches suddenly broke. My friends and I were nearly finished with our run, so I just took off the unbroken huarache and carried both while I finished the last .5 mile barefoot. 



Forced to replace my Lunas, I decided to use the opportunity to look into other trail running sandals. I do like the Barefoot Ted’s Luna brand, and as I noted above, my Leadvilles had worked satisfactorily for quite a while. Many super talented minimalist trails runners enjoy wearing Luna-brand huaraches, and wear them successfully for their trail running. The reason I decided to look into perhaps changing to another model and make of huarache or sandal is that I found, after about five or six miles of running, the top of my right foot began hurt where the strap of my Lunas crossed over it. No amount of adjusting the strap prevented the problem from happening. On really long runs, the strap between my toes would begin to hurt, on both feet. Everything else about the huaraches is fine. They are light enough, and they protect my feet from rocks, roots, and the tiny tree trunks that are often randomly appearing on the trails around here. The bottoms of my feet were never bothered by the rocky surfaces, when I wore the Luna’s, and the non-slip surface on the top of the sandal worked pretty well to keep my sweaty or wet feet from slipping around on the surface of the sandal when I ran in hot, muggy weather or through puddles on wet trails.


I had yet to replace my Lunas by the weekend we wanted to run Canyonlands, so I had to find something in stock in a store in the city. I decided to find some inexpensive pair of sandals to use until I could research and decide upon a proper replacement for my broken Lunas. I thought I might even end up being another pair of Lunas, but I wanted to take some time to decide. I actually looked in the Target and Walmart shoe departments for something that might work temporarily, since my singletrack runs seem to be of lower mileage these days. Unable to find anything suitable in those two stores, I went to check the possibilities are REI. I found several possibilities in stock at REI, sandals by such makers as Teva and Chaco. Although moderately priced, these sandals have something of a heel and very thick soles, making them undesirable for minimalist running on trails. As I was leaving the shoe department, I spotted the Sanuk shoe display full of yoga sandals. These sandals are flat, with soles about as slender as the Lunas. The straps are made from cloth, and they are embedded in the sole of the sandal rather than through the sole to the bottom of the sandal (the area that broke on my Lunas – and on the Xero huaraches with which I replaced with my Lunas a few years ago).


I tried on a pair of the Sanuks, walked around in them in the store, and found them similar to my Lunas as far as weight and minimalist feel. Moreover, they look nice enough to wear with casual clothes for running errands and such. For a relatively low price of $38, I decided to take a chance on these sandals for trail running. When I got them home and was able to compare them side by side with my Lunas, I found that the cushioned top of the Sanuks makes the sole just a tad bit thicker than the Lunas. I weighed each pair, and found that the Lunas weigh .6 lb and the Sanuks weigh .8 lb; the Sanuks are a little heavier. I’ve worn the Lunas for at least two years, though, and the permanent imprint of my feet is unmistakeable on the tops of the Luna soles. Long-time use has understandably worn down the soles of the Lunas, so I don’t really know by how much thicker the soles of the Lunas may have been, compared to my new Sanuks, before my long-time use wore them down.

The obvious differences between the Luna and the Sanuk sandals, though, are the cushioned top of the yoga sandal, and the straps made from cloth instead of leather. The cloth strap, I thought, would solve the problem of right foot pain caused by the leather strap on my Lunas.I decided to purchase a pair and give them a try on trails. Even though REI has a wide selection of colors in the Sanuk yoga sandals, I chose to sandals with black straps. Black goes with just about anything and I want a color I can wear with most of my running clothes (naturally!).

Canyon lands Trail, May 2016
Canyon lands Trail, May 2016



While getting ready to drive to Canyonlands, Phillip was doubtful when he saw the Sanuks for the first time as I cut the tags off them. He thought they looked too flimsy to wear on trails. They do actually lack the sturdy appearance of the Lunas. They don’t lack the sturdy feel, though. I wore them for our three mile run (the trail system has about ten miles of trail but we got a late start, then got lost – which we heard is a problem out there – and had to leave so we could make a 3 pm commitment that same day). The trails were very rocky and hilly. In one place we had to cross the creek. I felt that these conditions put my Sanuks to a pretty good endurance test. They passed the test. They stayed snugly on my feet, the texture and material on the top of the sole kept my  sweaty, wet feet from sliding around, and the fabric straps felt very comfortable during the run. Even though they weigh a tad bit more than the Lunas, I didn’t notice a discernible difference while running in them. I can’t say how much difference the extra cushioning in the Sanuks makes, since the lack of cushioning in the Lunas never bothered me.


I tried the Sanuks a second time yesterday, on a faster paced five mile run, again on technical, rocky trails (on singletrack along the Salado Creek Greenway). I’m very pleased with the way these sandals worked for me during yesterday’s run as well. I do worry that the straps will stretch out over time, or that a strap may break as the strap on my Lunas did. Given the price difference between the two (Lunas cost over $100), and my initial satisfaction with the Sanuk yoga sandal as a viable choice for trail running footwear, I’ve decided to stick with the Sanuks for trail running until they wear out or otherwise need to be replaced.





Author: TD Morris

I am a small business owner (ATX Ultra Eats, gluten-free, grain-free products who loves God, my family, my dogs, running, barefoot running, cooking, eating, and reading!

2 thoughts on “Yoga Sandals Meet Trail Running”

  1. Thanks for your post! I have an injured toenail and trying to think of viable non tennis shoe options so I can keep running. I’m not sure I’m ready for barefoot so thinking about trying my Sanuks. Glad to see it has worked for someone else.

    1. Hi, Steph! I’m sorry to hear about your injured toenail. The Sanuks worked for me on unpaved trails; since writing that post, however, I’ve gone completely barefoot on unpaved trails now. Between trying out the Sanuks and going completely barefoot on trails, I tried a pair of Unshoes: The Unshoes work well, too. The reason I decided to go without footwear altogether on trails as I do on all other surfaces is simply that I don’t like anything between my feet and the ground. I just have to feel the ground with my feet in order to feel comfortable while running. Barefoot running isn’t for everyone (I’m not one of those barefoot runner zealots who thinks everyone needs to run without shoes). If you’re not ready to try it, but you have an injury that is exacerbated by wearing shoes, running sandals are definitely an option for you. I hope it works out for you so that you can keep running! Don’t give up. Just keep trying different solutions until you find one that allows you to run with that injured toenail!

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