Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Invisible Shoes

Invisible Shoes - 6mm Contact

I have been toying with the idea of making huarache running sandals for the past few weeks (That's not quite true, I have really been thinking about them since I read Born to Run two years ago).  After spending some time trying to make a pair completely from scratch, I determined that I would quickly spend more on gas trying to track down materials than the cost of a complete do-it-yourself kit.  I asked myself why should I try to re-invent the wheel (or in this case a millennia old sandal) so I broke down and ordered the 6mm Contact from Invisible Shoes.  I placed the order Thursday night and I received it by priority mail on Monday.  I love it when an on-line retailer is so diligent about order fulfillment.

They offer two sole thicknesses, the 4mm Connect and the 6mm Contact.  I opted for the thicker Contact because I thought it would offer a little more protection for a running sandal novice.

My first impression after opening the priority mail envelope was how dense the soles are.  They have a substantial feel in the hand and seem very durable while still being completely flexible.  They seemed so tough that I questioned my reservations about ordering the 4mm version of the sole instead.  Not to worry, if I decide I want the thinner soles with an even better ground feel, at this price I could easily afford to order a second pair.

Fit before trimming
The package comes with two soles with holes pre-punched at the ankles, two 6 foot laces, a bobby pin (thoughtfully included to help thread the laces through the soles) and a simple instruction sheet.  You are required to punch the toe hole yourself for a perfect fit.  There are more detailed instructions including several videos on the Invisible Shoes web site.

The soles are precut and the size 10.5 was a pretty good fit for me already but I decided to do a little trimming for a custom fit.  The process was easy, just trace your foot, smooth the lines a bit, and then carefully cut with a pair of heavy duty scissors.

Fit after trimming

Whoops. I accidentally laced the left sandal backwards.

I have been experimenting with lacing options with my Walmart flip flop huaraches over the past few days and settled on a slip on method instead of the more traditional toga style that wraps around your ankle.  Again, there are several videos on their website demonstrating various lacing methods.   I had the sandals trimmed, laced and ready for running in about half an hour and it only took that long because I was taking pictures.

Walmart Flip Flop Huaraches
I took them for a very short run up and down my street about quarter mile using the traditional lacing method and then again with the slip on lacing.  It confirmed that I like the slip on method much better.  This method doubles the strap around your heel which I found more comfortable, not to mention that once tied it only takes a few seconds to put them on.

I plan to use these for trail running, but even running on pavement I was surprised at how good they felt.  The feel of the sole under my foot is not dissimilar to my Merrell Trail Gloves and I loved having my feet completely exposed to the air.

My one reservation is the knot in the lace under my toes.  It was noticeable but not uncomfortable when I walked and ran on a hard surface.  I could barely feel it walking on carpet or on my lawn.  After tying the knot I squeezed it with pliers and melted it a bit with a flame but it was still noticeable.  It did flatten out some and improve after just that little bit of running and walking around the house so I think it will improve as I continue to wear them.

I thought it would be a few days before I got to really test these out, but a fluke break in the weather presented me with an opportunity to get in a quick trail run after work.  I ran a hilly 2 mile loop in the LyoniaPreserve.  The surface is mostly sandy, some very loose and some well packed, mixed in with some harder packed earth and plenty of roots to trip you up.  The shoes performed very well, similar to my Trail Gloves but with an even better ground feel.  You definitely feel it when you land on something hard, like a root or rock, but it was not painful and I could sometimes feel my foot able to conform to the shape of the irregular surface. One disadvantage I have noticed in my Trail Gloves is the amount of sand and debris that collects in the shoe.  When I ran my 50k earlier this year I had to stop several times to shake them out.  That will certainly not be a problem with these sandals.

The lacing worked extremely well and the sole did not shift at all while I was running, even on steep inclines.  I need to tweak them just a little bit because the fit was too snug around my second toe.   Some slack in the toe strap will allow me to pull the lace towards my big toe.  I also had no trouble with the knot under my toes.  I didn’t notice it at all while I was running.  The entire setup was very comfortable.  After running the two miles I haven’t noticed any unusual aches or pains – no blisters or chafing from the laces, no heel or arch pain, shins, calves, knees, hips – all fine.

It was a lot of fun and I can’t wait to go for another run in them.  Although I confess I did change out of them when I stopped at the grocery store on the way home.  Comfortable as they are, I am still a bit embarrassed to be seen wearing them in public. ;-)

After 2 miles on the trail.


  1. These do seem very light and birdlike - so perfect for you! I'd be so scared to try them, glad you enjoyed them!!

  2. Wow Bob, this is intense! Have you tried them again since this adventure?

  3. @missflorida I am waiting until after MCM to do any more running in them but I have been walking around in them quite a bit. I've also been tweaking the laces and trimming the sole a little piece at a time to improve the fit. It has been a great distraction while I'm tapering.