Back in the day, quite a few of us used huaraches as our primary running shoe. The other minimal options were piss-poor at best- racing flats, the first generation of Five Fingers, aqua socks, and bare feet. Racing flats were too narrow, VFFs had a peculiar fit that couldn’t accommodate swelling, aqua socks were too floppy, and bare feet suck for real trail running.
Huaraches were a revelation because they allowed a custom fit. That versatility made them invaluable. Indeed, I ran several ultras in huaraches, including the last 2/3 of the Burning River 100.
Around that same time, traditional shoe companies started offering minimalist shoes. The first few generations weren’t all that great. They slowly improved. More companies also jumped on board, which added a tremendous variety to the marketplace. Eventually shoes were developed that filled pretty much every void huaraches once filled.
Today, I only know a few people that regularly use huaraches. All either work for a huarache company, run on light trails or roads over shorter distances, or wear them for aesthetics.
I do encounter quite a few newer barefoot/minimalist runners, but they seem to be using them due to the “Born to Run” effect (read the book, believe the Tarahumara are magical running people that have developed the perfect shoe… when in reality they’re just dirt-poor.)
This topic came to the forefront because I was recently asked to review a pair of huaraches from a newer company. I agreed because I no longer had a pair (got rd of them when we downsized to move into the RV) and have been doing a lot of road running for commuting purposes. The shoes are fine; they work pretty much like any other huarache I’ve ever tried.
The issue- there’s a superior option for pretty much any situation. For causal wear, I use flip flops because they’re much easier to remove. For road running or light trail running, I either run barefoot or use one of my very minimal shoes. For gnarly trails, use a minimal trail shoe. There may be a few specific situations where huaraches would be desirable, such as longer (half mary to 50k-ish) road running in very hot, dry weather.
Sidebar rant- huarache “improvement”, in my opinion, is fruitless. The best huaraches I’ve ever used (I’ve tried roughly ten different brands/models) has been the original Lunas and original Xero Shoes (formerly InvisibleShoes.) You know, the kind that required months to learn to tie correctly.
I’m curious what my readers think- do you feel huaraches are still relevant, or has the idea jumped the shark? Do we continue to use them for a valid reason, or are they a lifestyle statement that connects us to a contrarian movement?
I’m also curious to hear from those that jumped on the minimal bandwagon in recent years versus those of us that were around before minimalist shoes became a thing- have you ever been tempted to try them? What do you think when you see someone racing in huaraches?
Share your thoughts and leave a comment!