The Origins of the Leadville Trail Sandal by Barefoot Ted

The goal was simple, complete the Leadville Trail 100

The year is 2008. I am about run my first Leadville Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run. My goal is simple: complete the run under the 33 hour cut off, but the secret goal is to complete it in huarache sandals that I had made myself. I was still training mostly in bare feet and Vibram FiveFingers, but I knew I was going to need something more substantial if I wanted to run 100 miles in the Colorado Rockies at elevations entirely above 10,000 feet and with climbs over 12,000 feet on rocky paths...all under 33 hours. A huarache sandal seemed a legitimate choice, after all, the race had been won by Raramuri runners wearing tire tread sandals on more than one occasion. What could go wrong?

My footwear choices for Leadville 2008. I was starting to learn how to crack the code.

The long-and-short of it is that I completed the race, but had to change footwear in Winthrop for the final 50 miles back to Leadville. My homemade sandals were not up to the challenge. I was still perfecting my sandal making skills. I realized that if I was going to succeed, I was going to need something significantly more robust than the thin and floppy sandals I had assumed would be the best. It was the beginning of my explorations into "portable ground". The future looked bright.

Me in Leadville 2008, my first attempt to complete the race entirely in sandals. Could it be done?

Cut to August 2010, I show up to Leadville with a truly trail-worthy sandal. Code named the "Leadville", we expect it to succeed. In Spring 2010 I had started the LUNA Sandals Co. with the Smuin brothers and we had started making sandals in my garage in Seattle. Our first trail sandal project was underway. I was the test Monkey and the Leadville 100 was the test.

I knew I was going to need more grip and a thicker sole, but I also wanted something that was lightweight and had good ground feel, and ideally slip-on-and-off-able. The old school tying style was cool, but my mountain running style included regularly running full bare foot, especially on the muddy steep climbs. Tying and untying a sandal was tedious. We developed a way to wrap the leather laces to make it a slip-on that had enough holding power for trail running. It worked, and it became holy grail for a modern trail running sandal, i.e., easy on-and-off, yet fully secure.

It's hard to believe these sandals started a trail running minimalist sandal revolution, but they did!

As it turns out, 2010's Leadville 100 was a success! LUNA's first true trail sandal, the Leadville Trail, was born. As soon as we reported the story and offered the sandal for sale, people starting buying it and the stories and reports of awesome adventures from around the world started pouring in, and continue to pour in to this very day! A new tradition of minimalist-style trail sandals was started and the inertia of that first run is still being felt. 

Me & Christopher McDougall after completing Leadville Trail 100 in sandals in 2010

After the success of the Leadville Trail sandal, we started realizing an even tougher sole was going to be necessary for even tougher conditions and we craved more safety and comfort. Between 2010 and today we have created two mature lines of trail running and hiking sandals: the Leadville line born in 2010 and the Oso line born in 2012. Both are extremely popular to this day, and in the case of the Oso Winged Editions, have improved in performance and ease of use. Today, trail LUNAs are truly mature mountain sandals with case histories and testimonials from every corner of the globe. We have inspired a whole new generation of adventure sandal runners.

The Original style Leadville as worn in 2010 is available on the LUNA Roots Builder

Today LUNA Sandals has grown to over 20 full-time employees making sandals the old-school way, by hand in our own factory with the finest materials and a 10+ year history sharing them with the world.


Above, Barefoot Ted & Pacer Christopher McDougall Finishing the Leadville Trail 100 in 2010!

5 Responses



July 26, 2019

Dear Ted,

I just bought my first pair of Luna’s a few weeks ago. I fell absolutely in love. There wasn’t a day I didn’t wear them-I have the tan lines to prove it!

Recently I went hiking in NH and was going to have my first attempt at hiking in the sandals. Unfortunately, they had unclipped from my backpack and were lost on the trail. Once I had realized that they weren’t with me anymore, I broke down crying. In that moment I realized how much they meant to me. It wasn’t about the price, it was about the shoe and the experience I got from it! It was about the empowerment the shoe had given me. My first go in them felt so natural and gave me the confidence to truly push myself in running-something I’d never done before! I PR’d my mile just the second time using them. This was a huge hurdle conquered thanks to my Luna’s. It’s worth every penny to me to get back to confident running. Thanks for truly giving me something special!




July 26, 2019

Thank you for bringing the Leadville Trails back! The perfect trail sandal in my opinion….light, flexible, just the right amount of thickness for rock protection but not too heavy, awesome tread. I have trusted them to carry me across a many of Ultras. 👣👣👣🤙🏻

Tony Deluca

Tony Deluca

July 26, 2019

My Leadvilles are amazing. I have two pairs already and just ordered a third. Can’t wait to hit some trails with them. Aside from comfort they perform really well on technical trail providing good grip and good feels.

Lyndon Miles

Lyndon Miles

July 01, 2019

Dear Barefoot Ted

I’ve had my Lunas for about 6 years

I also decided I wanted a bit more cushioning and so had them resoled

My Lunas are still going strong and I don’t only wear them for running but everywhere else possible. Winter is a doddle with Injinji socks

Keep up the great work!

All the best from London England via Bulawayo Zimbabwe




July 26, 2019

Did my first ironman in the Leadville! Been a barefoot/minimalist Walker and runner ever since a young child and was unable to find any shoes that could fit my wide and stable feet. I tried out a bunch of shoe brands but none of them felt right on my feet, ankles, knees and hips. I just wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do a four minute kilometre in them for 20+ km. But after putting them to the test they worked really well! I’m not sure a 3-1/2 minute kilometre would work in them but I won’t rule it out. Nevertheless, while people were tending to intense blisters at the end of the race my feet were perfectly fine. It appears the dust from the trail acted like chalk on my feet which kept him safe and protected. It was quite an experience.

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