2018-04-24

Review: Softstar Runamoc

I just purchased my 4'th pair of these.

The Softstar Runamoc is designed as a minimal running shoe... and I mean minimal. The sole is 100% flat and completely unshaped. The shoe is made of one layer of leather sewn to a leather sole which is subsequently glued to a vibram sole.

You can have Softstar custom make whatever you like, but I get them with a full-grain leather upper, and Softstar's "trail sole". The trail sole is the thickest of the soles they offer minimizing bruising of your feet by rocks, and maximizing wear life... it's still *very* flexible, easy forming around rocks and the like. I like the full-grain upper because I think it's a little tougher, and it resists water a *little*, so I can walk across a damp field in the morning and not instantly have wet feet.

The good
  • Wear life is approximately equivelent to a normal shoe
  • Easy to repair
  • Truly flat zero-support shoe
  • No padding to collapse and give you knee trouble
  • 100% leather upper is non-porous to grass seed
  • Lightweight

The Bad
  • Slots where the back meets the front allow mud in to the shoe
  • Waterproof? Hah, it's barely a layer of leather, and has a slit in the side
  • You better be ready to bruise your feet on rocks
For me, they are perfect. Having moved to minimal shoes with no support some years ago these are my every-day shoes, my backpacking shoes, and my running shoes. In cold weather I switch to something more like a boot, and if it's hot enough I sometimes wear my huaraches to try and save wear on my runamocs, but 95% of the time I wear these shoes. I wanted to make shoes for years, and these are pretty close to what I would've made (and in fact, did at one point).

I wore a pair of these on my 72 miles in 72 hours hike on the "ring of fire" in Virginia. It was extremely rocky, and my feet definitely hurt from bruising, but they worked great being light-weight and grippy, and I didn't get any injuries.

The toe usually blows through first, which is great. As I explained in my article on shoe repair http://www.blog.smalladventures.net/2017/03/shoe-repair-on-and-off-trail.html this is a very easy repair, and will get a fair bit more life out of the shoe. By the time you get around to replacing the shoe the sole will be paper-thin anyway and the heal possibly torn through as well... but you'll still be walking in them fine. This is perfect for those of us who don't replace gear until it's really shot.

If you usually wear a normal shoe do NOT buy these and start backpacking in them! If anything you'd want to buy these as your normal shoes and keep wearing supportive shoes for backpacking. If you walk around barefoot a lot, and want a shoe to walk on trails covered in chert, or otherwise have been looking for a thin layer of leather and rubber to wrap your foot in when hiking, these are the shoes for you.

UPDATE:
They no longer make these shoes. I bought one pair of the so-called replacements, which have rubber bicycle inner tube over the toe, and I blew them out in less than half the lifetime of the old ones. The sewing is poor, the leather is too thin, in general they are simply no good.
Sadly, if you want a shoe like this now, you probably have to make it, see my later articles on making shoes.

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