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Unshoes Review – Minimalist Sandals Made in the USA

Unshoes Review

I’ve wanted to do an Unshoes review for some time, and I finally got my hands (feet) on a pair of minimalist Unshoes – super cool river/outdoor sandals made right here in Utah, and I’ve worn them for over a month now – plenty of time for a review. So here goes…

Unshoes Review

I’ve worn sandals, with almost religious zeal, since 1988 – around the time the original Teva sandals gained popularity. I made it about two years with open-toed versions before switching to a version with a toe strap and I’ve never looked back. Not everyone agrees, but I like the toe strap. 

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Sometime in the early 90’s, with the Deckers Corporation distributing Teva sandals, some of us river guides had access to the Decker’s flip flop model. I started wearing flip flops and I’m partial to them to this day. I love slipping them on and off. If I’m on a river and worried about flipping a raft (seriously worried) then I just put on shoes. In a big whitewater swim you’re losing your sandals anyway. Big water doesn’t care if you paid a hundred bucks for them, if you know the rep, or how many straps they have. 

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After 20 years of wearing flip flops (remember when we could call them “thongs” and not be misunderstood?) I’ve gone through dozens of pairs. Lightweight, beach cruiser ones won’t hold up to even a couple river trips, and all the heavy ones (i’m looking at you Chaco) are way too heavy.

A few years ago I jumped (for better or worse) on the minimalist shoe train, and I’ve been pretty happy with that decision. It’s allowed me to justify buying tons of new sandals and shoes. I even made my own sandals once. My minimalist shoe phase roughly coincided with my “made in the USA” phase, and both are still going strong. I have too many shoes, and I have too many bags made in the USA- most of which I’ve reviewed on YouTube at one point or another. 

Unshoes – the Review

That brings us to my Unshoes review. Unshoes are Minimalist sandals made in the U.S.A. Made in Utah, no less.

I’ve wanted to try out a pair and do an Unshoes review ever since I stumbled across them a few years ago on the internet. They’re based in Cedar City, Utah, they’re lightweight, simple, and they’re mostly affordable. 

For comparison, I’ve worn a combination of Luna Sandals and Chaco’s “Flip” sandal (flip flop) for the last few years. I also have the blown foam (?) Birkenstocks that I like for kicking around the yard – I call them “Birkencrocs” because while they look like the Birkenstock Arizona model, they’re just an expensive version of a Croc

From Unshoes I ordered the Wakova Feather model. It’s a lightweight sandal with a grippy sole, webbing upper, and a small elastic ring with a little “give” to make slipping them on and off a little easier.

Unshoes Elastic

They’re adjustable with a ladder lock buckle, although I pretty much adjusted them once and forgot about the buckle. This was my experience with the Luna sandals too – they have a buckle for adjustment, but I find myself rarely using it. Once the Unshoes are fitted and comfortable, there’s enough give in the system to just slip them on or off without really having to adjust the strap further. I like that. Futzing with buckles is a pain. 

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I found them to be little “slappy” on the feet for the first couple days, but that went away as they broke in. The footbed is a little more solid or resilient than the Luna model I’ve been wearing for the last couple summers, so break-in has taken a little longer, but the Unshoes conform to my feet a little more each day I wear them, and they’re getting more and more comfortable. 

I’ve worn them on hikes, around town, and through Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River. I’ve even worn them in the mud, and while no sandal is ideal for deep, sticky, mud, I thought they did alright. I walked with care and when the mud got real deep I took them off – which I’d do with any sandal I don’t want to lose. 

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As far as weight goes, to compare anything to the old Luna sandals I have is almost unfair – in fact, I can’t even compare my Lunas to anything Luna currently offers – the closest thing they have on their site to the model I have is the “Mono” – which is a Vibram Moreflex sole that’s 11 mm thick. They list the weight as 5.9 oz per sandal – the pair I have weights 6.8 oz – that’s the pair. Together. My old pair weighs only slightly more than a single current sandal. (On a very relevant side rant – it’s ironic that a guy who proudly calls himself “Barefoot Ted” is now the owner of a sandal company – a sandal company that every year comes out with heavier and more complex models. I’m all for success but the “barefoot” ideal seems to have been sacrificed along the way.) 

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If the Unshoes bear a resemblance to the Lunas, it’s in the lacing/suspension/strap configuration. The main strap rides between the big toe and over the foot, almost like a traditional flip flop, but then it’s connected to the side straps. While the Luna design opts for a simple loop and wrap around the outsole, Unshoes opts for a more traditional route using a sewed side strap that’s bound between the two sole components with glue. At first glance users might think the stitching a better option, assuming it’ll hold up longer than the Luna design that has the potential to rub on the ground during use, but I’ve found the Luna wrap method has lasted quite long, and, in fact, seems hardly worn at all. Unshoes’ method of stitching does make the portion of strap that rides near the users’ ankle a little thinner, and possibly more comfortable, depending on personal preference. I can’t really say I like one more than the other – they’re just different. 

If the current Luna Mono weighs 5.9 oz for a single sandal, then that makes the pair together weigh 11.8 oz. Which means they weigh in at 2 oz more than the Unshoes Wokova Feather model I have. I originally thought the Unshoes were a little heavy compared to my old Lunas, but compared with current offerings in the fall of 2017, Unshoes are among the lightest sandals you can get your hands (feet) on. That’s a plus in my book. 

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It’s a plus because anytime you wear a thin, soft, well-designed sandal for a length of time and then go back to the Chaco “Flip” (flip-flop) you realize that wearing a Chaco is somewhat like strapping a HumVee to your feet and going for a hike. Sure, they’re heavy enough to hold up to just about anything, but, like with a HumVee, there’s a trade off in groundfeel, comfort, and flexibility/freedom. I like the Chaco flip flops for getting the mail or shoveling the driveway in winter, but not for hiking. They’re too heavy. Way too heavy. My Chacos weigh more than my Unshoes and my old Lunas combined. 

Unshoes Review – the video

 

I had the opportunity to visit the Unshoes factory and meet with the owner Terral. It was a great experience and it’s always fun to meet the folks behind gear I like. They’re a passionate crew who genuinely cares about their product. Terral even showed me the first pair of sandals he made. 

You can check out more of a vlog-style video I shot of our visit to the factory here:

Unshoes are great sandals. Although they take a little longer to break in than something with a softer footbed, they’re lightweight, comfortable, relatively easy to slip on, and they’re made in the USA. That’s about everything  I look for in a sandal. They’re also considerably cheaper than Lunas. 

Pros:

  • lightweight
  • easy(ish) to slip on
  • Made in USA
  • grippy
  • toe strap

Cons:

  • stiff footbed lengthens break-in 

Do you have a favorite sandal? A lightweight one? Do you know anyone that makes a durable, comfortable flip-flop? Why are you still wearing Chacos? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks.

Mesa Arch at Sunrise – Nikon KeyMission 360

 

Mesa Arch at Sunrise – Nikon Key Mission 360

I had the chance to get one of the new Nikon KeyMission 360 (spherical, panoramic, VR, whatever) cameras a few weeks ago. I didn’t have much of a chance to play with it until now. 

The Key Mission 360 is well built and easy to use if you don’t rely on the Nikon Snap Bridge app. I found some Key Mission 360 recommended settings online and optimized them using the app connected to the camera the first time I turned it on, and since then I’ve not opened the app once. The camera seems (for me) to stand fine on its own. It’s basically a compact, heavy little point and shoot that does some video. On the bright side, battery life and the microphone are both better than I’d hoped.

I find editing the video to be quirky – Premiere seems to freeze up now and then and I have to sopt and restart the program. I’ve never lost any footage, but It’s an annoying quirk. 

The video of the Nikon Key Mission 360 isn’t that great either – the stitching on the sides where the images meet is totally visible in Virtual Reality. If objects are further away, then they appear a little better, but the KeyMission 360 seems to struggle to stitch together items that are closer to the VR camera. I imagine Nikon can fix this with a firmware update – I just hope they don’t take too long, because it’s an annoying flaw that needs to be addressed. 

I went and shot some footage at the always incredible Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park. If you’ve never shot Mesa Arch at sunrise, it’s worth a visit. If not for the photos, then for the classic Mesa Arch photographer spectacle. The morning I went was pretty mellow – most mornings after Vetran’s Day are – but this was a Saturday and the parking lot was almost full of cars. 

While there were a lot of photographers there, none were hostile or arrogant. You’d be surprised how often that happens out there. I’ve seen photographers screaming at each other and fighting for a spot right on the front row. I think it’s more entertaining to shoot the photographers themselves than the actual arch, but of course I’ve been there a bunch, so the newness has worn off. It’s still a beautiful palce though, one that even in cloudy or cold weather is still worth the short drive from town. 

I’ve made a video with my thoughts and feelings (more in depth) about the Nikon Key Mission 360. In short, I find it difficuilt to understand the relevance or place of this camera in my workflow. Check it out below. 

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Soundbot SB512 Review

Soundbot SB512 Bluetooth Speaker Review

Soundbot SB512 Bluetooth Speaker Review with Video

Recently I wanted a Bluetooth speaker for my phone. I’ll be honest – I wanted a cheap one; one cheap enough and light enough I could throw it in a backpack or clip it to the outside and let it get hammered or lost and not care. I wanted one that easy to use and would serve me for a few minutes here and there while driving shuttles around town and up to the river. I even thought if it was light enough I might throw it in an outside pocket on my backpack and take it on a trail run. Since wireless Bluetooth speakers are a dime a dozen these days I figured finding one would be easy.

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I was searching around (not looking real hard) and found the Soundbot SB512 – it’s small, claims to be water resistant, and was super affordable (read: cheap). I had 140 reviews on Amazon, although like the worst of Amazon, I assume most of the reviews are generated by folks who got the thing for free. It appears to be identical to the VicTsing speaker – to the point where the photos are identical. At any rate, I liked the price. I liked the size, and I liked that it had MicroSD capability.

I bought it.Soundbot SB512 Review54

It’s super average. Some of my initial attraction to the speaker holds – it’s about the right size, it’s lightweight (which in a speaker generally means poor sound quality, but my expectations in this department weren’t high), and it makes sounds from both the MicroSD card and my phone.

Connecting my phone was a pain. It took way longer than it should have. Several tries. I had to reboot, forget the SB512, reboot again, connect again and again, etc. I finally got it to work.Soundbot SB512 Review55

The MicroSD card thing is cool in theory. The ability to insert some memory and not have to connect the phone is actually easier than connecting the phone – quicker too. The Soundbot SB512 defaults to the MicroSD card and it starts playing music the second it’s turned on. The downfall is that with the MicroSD card it always turns on to the same volume – LOUD, and there’s no shuffle ability with the memory card. It makes using the memory pretty useless. Users have to listen to the same songs, in the same order. Every. Single. Time. Sure, users can turn on the unit and then push track forward several times and you might end up further down the track list I suppose, but that stinks.

The alternative is to, of course, connect a phone. It’s not as easy as simply hitting the power button and listening to the music, but at least a smartphone allows a user access to a method of shuffling and playlist alternatives.

One other thing that bugs me is the button layout. All the buttons are directly opposite one another – pressing almost always means pressing another. It’s annoying and shows poor design.Soundbot SB512 Review56

If you can take the lack of shuffle on the MicroSD card, and the finicky phone connection, and the poor button layout and the volume resetting to LOUD every time, then you might like this little speaker. If you can’t deal with one of those, then there’s got to be a better option out there for a few bucks more. The next one I buy will have shuffle or random mode associated with the expandable memory.Soundbot SB512 Review57

Soft Star Moc3 Minimalist Running Shoe Review

Soft Star Moc3 Minimalist Running Shoe Review.

Minimalist Running Shoe

I hate the term “barefoot shoe”. At any rate, a couple years ago I was having a little knee pain while running. One thing led to another and, for better or worse, I now mostly run barefoot. Not “barefoot”, but real barefoot. Not Five Fingers “barefoot”, not Nike Free “barefoot”, but real barefoot. I like the feeling. I like the freedom. Some claim there might be better connection to the planet – some magical hippie-dippy fairy dust that lines the road in front of you as you run barefoot. While I can’t necessarily confirm that, I might not quite deny it either. I dream in barefoot now. Weird.

Here’s a short video review of this shoe – the reading / photo version continues below.

Minimalist Running Shoe

As much as I like being barefoot, I do live in rural Utah. It’s bitter cold in the winter (14 below zero this morning) and last summer a company did a shoddy and very rough job of chipsealing the roads around my house. While I can usually run several miles barefoot on trails, concrete, or even decent asphalt, the roads nearest my home are now rough and miserable after only a mile or two.

I needed a minimalist shoe that was easy to carry so after I’d hamburgered my feet around the neighborhood I could slip them on and make my way home. I tried the Merrell Trail Glove and found it too shoe-like. I tried some neoprene booties from a local store, but they wore out quickly and were too hot. I finally found Soft Star. I  started out with the Original RunAmoc LIte, and found it to be decent but a little floppy. It was difficult to put on because it has to be tied. I kept watching the SoftStar website waiting for another option and in late summer 2011 they announced the Moc3 RunAmoc. I ordered a pair immediately.

Minimalist Running Shoe

I love these shoes. They’re light, flexible, breathable. The sole is so thin it’s as close as I’ve come to being barefoot while in a shoe. They slip on in seconds. I’ve had them 18 months and they’ve lasted me over 500 miles of trails and asphalt and they show almost no wear. I can slip them in the wasitband of my shorts or hold them in my hands for the first few miles of rough road and then slip them on quickly and keep running. While nothing can replace the comfort of being truly barefoot, these are close. They don’t get in the way of barefoot form, and they let my toes spread out and do their job.

Minimalist Running Shoe

I’ve run to the Great Gallery in Horseshoe Canyon and done the Upheaval Dome trail. I’ve been to the Confluence Overlook and back. They don’t fill up with sand as much as I thought they would.

Minimalist Running Shoe

Minimalist Running Shoe

 

Minimalist Running Shoe

I’ve added a little dab of shoe-goo in a spot on outside of the sole where they were beginning to show a little wear, but this was largely preventative; there was no hole at all. The inner footbed is leather and has broken-in very nice.

Minimalist Running Shoe

Although the Soft Star website claims they’re more well-suited to mild trail running, I’ve run some pretty rugged trails in them and never had a complaint. In fact they’ve held up better than I thought they would from the outset. It’s a shoe I’m glad to have purchased. On top of that they’re made in the USA.

Minimalist Running Shoe

Minimalist Running Shoe

If there’s a downside, they look like slippers. I’m pretty conservative, and while I don’t think they’re as ugly as the Five Fingers, I’m a little hesitant to wear them in public. Luckily, I have the Arrow Moccasin Lace Boot and I have the Arrow Two-Eye Tie Moc, which I love. They look a little more normal, and I’ll review them sometime soon and maybe I’ll compare them to the Soft Star Rogues I got a couple months ago…

Minimalist Running Shoe

Minimalist Running Shoe

 

 

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I’ve written and illustrated two children’s books that are now available in print and digital versions; Coyote Life, and The Cat’s Glasses. If you’ve got kids, check them out. If you enjoy them, please leave a review, tell your friends, etc. Thanks.

The Cat's Glasses

Kid’s Books: The Cat’s Glasses

Does your cat need glasses? How do you know? Follow one little boy as he tries to find out in The Cat’s Glasses by Quinn Hall

Find out more on MagCloud

Coyote Life by Quinn Hall

Kid’s Books: Coyote Life by Quinn Hall

Coyote Life is a short, rhyming children’s book about coyotes in the Southwest.

Find out more on MagCloud

 

Don’t forget to check out some of the fine art prints for sale in my Etsy shop.

Ancient-ViewSalt_Flats_Hot_Rod_One

My wife Leah also makes and sells some pretty cool leather stuff like minimalist wallets and camera straps. Check out her Etsy store for some cool gear. minimalist leather handstitched walletCamera Strap by Aestus Gear

Photography T Shirts and Stickers at Redbubble:

Buy my work

Arrow Moccasins Lace Boot

Arrow MoccasinI’ve owned a pair of the Arrow Moccasins Two Eye Tie Moc for a little over a year now, and they’ve become my favorite pair of shoes for almost any occasion. I have the double sole model and the foot bed has molded to my feet and it’s pliable and protective at the same time. They’re easy to care for – almost maintenance-free. I get them dirty and dusty when hiking but every month or so I wipe them down with a wet rag and apply some mink oil and they look brand new again.

I’ve created a video comparing the different types of Arrow Moccasins I have here:

While I think the leather sole is plenty tough for almost anything, it lacks traction in snow. I wanted to get a pair with a sole for the winter months, and decided to get the taller Arrow Moccasin Lace Boot.

I waited a moderate three weeks and they showed up. Very cool shoes. While the leather sole mocs can be resoled by Arrow, the crepe sole shoes can’t. Hopefully they last several seasons. I’m sure with mainly winter use they’ll last a while.

While any shoe made with leather this thick will take some breaking in, I’m impressed by how comfortable they are right out of the box. The sole is thinner and more flexible than I’d imagined and it allows for decent ground feel. The other benefit to leather this thick is the warmth. So far they’re very warm, even with no socks.

So my first impressions are all positive; a solid shoe, pliable but protective sole, and made in the U.S.A. I also think they look great.

 

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

I’ve written and illustrated two children’s books that are now available in print and digital versions; Coyote Life, and The Cat’s Glasses. If you’ve got kids, check them out. If you enjoy them, please leave a review, tell your friends, etc. Thanks.

The Cat's Glasses

Kid’s Books: The Cat’s Glasses

Does your cat need glasses? How do you know? Follow one little boy as he tries to find out in The Cat’s Glasses by Quinn Hall

Find out more on MagCloud

Coyote Life by Quinn Hall

Kid’s Books: Coyote Life by Quinn Hall

Coyote Life is a short, rhyming children’s book about coyotes in the Southwest.

Find out more on MagCloud

 

Don’t forget to check out some of the fine art prints for sale in my Etsy shop.

Ancient-ViewSalt_Flats_Hot_Rod_One

My wife Leah also makes and sells some pretty cool leather stuff like minimalist wallets and camera straps. Check out her Etsy store for some cool gear. minimalist leather handstitched walletCamera Strap by Aestus Gear

Photography T Shirts and Stickers at Redbubble:

Buy my work