Although it is already fall now and summer is gone, I want to let everyone know about what I think are the best barefoot-sandals for distance skateboarding. Luckily I still had the chance to test them recently on some warmer days.
For quite some time now I have been a big "fan" of moving in a way that is natural and healthy for my feet and the rest of the body. Part of this is to incorporate more barefooted movement in my life. When running I usually use huaraches (barefoot sandals) to get a little protection for my feet and this works quite well. But pushing a skateboard in traditional style huaraches has always been an unsatisfactory experience to me.
As these sandals are attached to the feet with the help of thin shoelaces, they don't sit tight enough to prevent your feet from slightly slipping around on the sole. As a result the lace next to the big toe always caused a rubbing sensation that could be quite annoying. I made this experience while pushing and especially when skogging. Tightening up the laces more did not help for me and made wearing the huaraches rather more uncomfortable.
But riding a board without any footwear doesn't really seem apropriate to me. I know that some people do skate barefooted and they are doing it quite well, which of course shows that it is possible. But while skating with higher speed or going for longer distances, I personally like to have some protection for my feet to avoid injuries, because scratches on the soles or sides of the feet are more likely to happen when you go faster than just in a walking or running pace. Of course I could always take Vibram Five Fingers which I think would be a better choice than using traditional huaraches. But I know from running in Vibrams that they have a rather stiff sole and the seperate holes you have to force your toes into always gave me a constrained feeling which is still quite different compared to moving around in huaraches.
The sandals can be ordered on www.xeroshoes.com.
So I always wished to find a solution one day that would fit tightly on my feet while at the same time allowing my feet to have that pure barefoot feeling when pushing or skogging. Recently I heard of Danny Dreyer (inventor of the method of ChiRunning) using the Xero Shoes sandals for running. As he praised them to be very good running sandals, I hoped they would work for my distance pushing as well. And indeed, they are exactly what I have been looking for. Instead of shoelaces they use a strapping system which allows the sandals to be attached to the feet more tightly and secure than with usual huaraches. The flat straps also make them more comfortable, avoiding any grinding sensations. Once you have customized the straps, the sandals don't need any further adjustment and fit like a second skin. Another result of this tightening system is that when it gets colder outside you could even wear your usual socks with them instead of having to buy special toe-socks.
The Xero Shoes sandals come in two versions: The Amuri Z-Trek with a 5,5 mm sole and the newer Umara Z-Trail with a sole of 10 mm. As the Z-Trail was made with trail-running on unpaved surfaces in mind, I intentionally chose the Z-Trek for maximum barefoot feeling. The thin flexible sole really gives you the same feeling as if being barefoot but with the needed protection for fast pushing. But I am aware that the Z-Trail, having a thicker sole and nonetheless being 20% lighter than the Z-Trek, might be the better sandal for the really long distances.
The first time I tested my new Xero Shoes sandals was on a short 14 km push going slightly uphill. Although I had two little blisters on my feet afterwards this was nothing tragical and owed to the fact that I first had to find the right way to push without any dampening shoe soles. Later I adapted my pushing and did not experience any more problems.
As the manufacturers claim that both of their sandals have a very durable sole and even give a 5.000 miles warranty on them, I could not help but test the sandals while frequently footbraking on my 14 km ride back downhill. As you can see on the photos I made afterwards, some areas of the soles are already a bit worn down. But the rubber-sole seems to be quite durable, as the result doesn't look worse than what you would expect after footbraking with other skate or running shoes. Nonetheless the sandals are of course not made for excessive footbraking. But for the purpose of long distance pushing and skogging, when you don't necessarily need to do much footbraking, they are the best barefoot-sport-sandals I am aware of.