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!