Why I Love Barefoot Sandals For Adventure Travel

Luna Sandals Copper Canyon Mexico
Luna Sandals: Great for Adventure Travel
Gear Review

I’ve been traveling with a pair of Luna barefoot sandals for over 5 years now, wearing them for running, hiking, and everyday use. Here’s what I think.

For the majority of human history, people haven’t needed sneakers. In fact they’ve only been in use for the past 70 years.

It’s a modern product, created to solve a problem that never really existed.

Research is starting to show that heavy, overly-padded footwear actually contribute to shin splints, knee injuries, and back problems.

Which is why more and more people are re-discovering barefoot sandals for the first time. Including me!

What Are Barefoot Sandals?

You may or may not already know about the barefoot running movement. But it’s really taken off in the last 5 years.

A barefoot shoe or sandal is one with very little padding on the sole.

Without all that extra padding, it “barefoot” sandals allow you to feel the ground while strengthening and toughening up the foot naturally.

Walling and running the way humans were made to. Striking the ground with the ball of your foot rather than with the heel.

I got into the action a few years ago with a pair of Vibram Five Fingers. While I enjoyed the benefits of the funny-looking Vibrams, they would get smelly quickly, and stood out a bit too much for my tastes. Especially in foreign countries.

You kind of looked like an alien while wearing them.

Luna Sandals Copper Canyon Mexico
Trail Running in Mexico’s Copper Canyon

Traditional Huarache Design

Huaraches are simple leather sandals worn by native peoples in Latin America, traditionally by Mexican farming communities.

Constructed with braided leather — more modern versions also use strips of rubber tire as soles.

Luna Sandals

A friend of mine, and fellow long-term traveler, recommended I check out a pair of Luna Sandals. They were created by a guy named Barefoot Ted.

He based his design on the traditional huarache sandals worn by Mexico’s native Tarahumara people for centuries.

You may have read about his journey in the book Born To Run.

I’ve been wearing Lunas for over 5 years now while traveling around the world to places like Greenland, Turkey, Thailand, Mexico, Afghanistan, and Costa Rica.

So what do I think of them?

  • Incredibly Lightweight: At about 4.5 ounces, Lunas weigh next to nothing. Made with a thin piece of high-tech rubber sole & a leather strap.
  • Easy to Pack: They take up very little room in my backpack.
  • Great for Running: The strap system keeps the sandals on my feet very well, letting me run & scramble up rocks without them slipping off.
  • Decent in Water: While not ideal for walking long distances in water, they work great for most water activities like kayaking, rafting, short river crossings, etc.
  • Classic Look: Ok, maybe “ancient” is a better term. My sister calls them my Jesus shoes. There are different styles available though.
  • No Smell: Because it’s a sandal, I don’t have to worry about sweaty feet.
  • Super Comfortable: Once they wear in and mold to the shape of your foot, it really does feel like you’re barefoot.

Very Few Disadvantages

While I really love these sandals, nothing is perfect. Here are some of the issues I’ve found with them.

  • Tighten Often: You need to remember to re-tighten your sandals every so often, especially if you are running or hiking. They aren’t flip-flops.
  • Cold Weather: Because it’s a sandal, it doesn’t keep my feet warm in colder weather. Which means I carry a pair of shoes with me too. I usually want shoes with me for nights on the town or serious hiking trips anyway.


If you’re looking for comfortable barefoot huarache sandals to provide minimalist protection for your feet while running, walking, or on easy hikes, a pair of Lunas is the way to go.

I’m a huge fan! They’re a great addition to your travel gear. ★

Travel Planning Resources
Product: Luna Sandals (Click For Price)

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip. Pick up a travel backpack, camera gear, and other useful travel accessories.

Book Your Flight

Book cheap flights on Skyscanner, my favorite airline search engine to find deals. Also read my tips for how I find the cheapest flights.

Rent A Car

Discover Cars is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal. They search both local & international rental companies.

Book Accommodation

Booking.com is my favorite hotel search engine. Or rent local apartments on Airbnb ($35 discount!). Read my post for tips on booking cheap hotels.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance.


I hope you enjoyed my article on barefoot sandals for adventure travel! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:

Do you pack sandals when you travel? If so, which ones?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.


Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 10 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
Matthew Karsten
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Comments (36)

  1. Looking for some advice.

    I have achilles tendinitis in both feet; capsulitis in one; minor plantar fasciitis in the other; starting to develop arthritis. I’m 72 and walk about 5-8 miles a day.
    My legs, feet and calves feel better when I’m barefoot which is contrary to current medical and therapeutic advice.
    I would like to try a minimalist sandal for the summer. Anyone with similar afflictions have any suggestions?

    Thanks you.



  2. I bought a pair of Lunas for their cool looks and the thin sole. They are very durable and surprisingly comfortable. Birkenstocks are still my go-to shoes for everyday, but I love the free feeling of the Lunas. The straps do need frequent re-tightening, even just walking. I’ve tried them in the winter and noticed that the soles loose grip as they get colder over time. The loose fit makes it easy to shake snow out from under my feet. For extra cold days, Injini socks fit these sandals nicely. I find I get the most benefit from alternating each day between flat flip flops, Birkenstocks most of the time, Lunas (when more support is needed) and completely bare feet once in a while. This keeps my feet and legs/back well trained and not too used to the perfect support Birkenstocks provide.

  3. Great adventure. Don’t think I’d ever have been up for it. One question. The benefits of bare foot walking aside, would you not be afraid of a bruised toe or suchlike. As a kid in rural Ireland in the 50s I seldom wore shoes for my entire summer break from school. I’m sure my mother was glad that I wasn’t wearing out (hard-to-find-money-for) shoes. Amazing how quickly the feet hardened up on the tarmacked road. Still remember the exhilarating feeling of running full tilt barefoot on the sun warmed tarmac.

  4. Mathew, I’d have to agree with your review. I’ve been wearing Luna’s since I discovered them about 4 or 5 years ago and rarely wear anything else outside of work (running, hiking, kickin’ around, etc). For running they’re the best! I’ve experimented with different soles, footbeds and lacing systems (I own 5 pair; 3 Mono, 1 Oso, 1 ). I’d have to say they’re all excellent. You’re right about the MGT footbed gripping your foot better than Pittards.

  5. Great review Mat!
    Thinking about picking up a pair. Which footbed did you get, the MGT or the Pittards? From what I’ve read, MGT are non-slip; Pittards mold to the feet.


  6. Do you ever have trouble with irritation between the toes from this style? I’ve had to mostly give up using this type in favor of the Teva style, with the 1″ strap that goes across the toes rather than the thong. Been using a pair of Teva “Mush” models for the past several months. (I mostly use sandals for running, not hiking). Have more recently tried a pair of New Balance “Minimus” sandals, but have had a couple of problems with these.

    • Not really, the leather is soft. I know what you mean about how some sandals can be irritating because of the thong, but I don’t have that problem with these unless I’m trying to climb or descend very steep inclines with them, which can create a lot of pressure there. But it’s rare and short lived. Normal walking & hiking feels great.

    • Been working on the NB sandals with a Black & Decker w/abrasive head, smoothing out the sole. I post reviews of shoes on my Tumbler blog. You might also be interested in my book, Run Like an Indian. Have hesitated to buy a second pair of Lunas when I had problems with the first ones couple of years ago. But might try the newer models.

  7. I heard from a friend that barefoot shoes are better on your joints than barefoot sandals. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

    • There have been a few studies and anecdotal evidence that suggests this. But more need to be done.

      It is important that anyone who starts running in these or any minimal-style footware start slow though. There was a big class action lawsuit against Vibram because people were getting stress-fractures in their feet.

      If you go overboard, you can end up harming yourself because our feet are weak from years of being trapped in bulky shoes. It takes a while to build up those muscles and ligaments.

      • I’ve spent about 18 months transitioning to “barefoot” running and it’s all just clicked for me this summer. In my experience, if your foot landing is correct, it shouldn’t matter if you’re wearing sandals, shoes, or nothing at all.

    • Ellie, your question doesn’t make sense. There’s a lot of debate about traditional cushioned running shoes vs. “barefoot” style shoes (Luna sandals would fit into this category, even though they are sandals) and which is better for your joints or feet, but barefoot shoes vs barefoot sandals is like comparing apples to apples. If you’ve been running in heavily cushioned shoes your whole life, then the transition to a barefoot style shoe or sandal should be made very slowly. Too much, too soon can and probably will result in injury. In my opinion, learning how to run barefoot or in a barefoot style shoe is a more biomechanically natural and efficient way to run in addition to being better on your joints. And it’s more fun to boot!

  8. Hey Matthew,
    Couldn’t agree more….although I do still occasionally wear fivefingers, I LOVE Lunas. Big thanks to Barefoot Ted for creating and getting them out there.

  9. Great review, I think all in all it’s a good footwear especially for those who loves outdoor activities.

  10. I run in Altra No Drop sneakers all winter and then have had the toughest time finding a sandal that lets my feet be themselves. I have to hike, kayak, run, etc working at camps in the summer and tried Chacos, but they are horrible. Thanks for the review! p.s. my 5 fingers smelled horrible too!

  11. Cool never heard of these. but like the concept they’re modern design but with traditional/minimalist looks. I have a pair of vibram 5fingers but don’t run in them. I have been using Nike Freeruns to work up to the 5fingers one day. These sound like an good, non-stinky alternative for travelling in tropical countries. Cool that they fit well enough to run in too. Will probably have to order a pair to try out when I’m back home.

  12. Great review. Sorry to hear that the straps break so frequently but I suppose with regular wear this is inevitable.

    Thank goodness they are not horrible flip flops.

    • It’s not as bad as it sounds, just takes a minute to fix no matter where you are or what you’re doing. The newer versions don’t have the problem though, because those straps don’t have a knot. But I just really like the old style. :)

  13. I have been wearing a pare of Luna’s everyday now for three months and i love them. I no longer like wearing shoes at all. I would highly recommend them. For all its minimalism the only thing that gets me is when your foot gets wet it slides around in the sandel. I notice most when rock scrambling along the coast. All in all, i love them and would highly recommend them to anyone! and there sizing guide on there website is great too!

  14. They look really cool actually. Being German I swear by my Birkenstocks, but they are awful for hiking up mountains, so I always use my Keen trekking sandals then. They need replacing though, so will check out the Luna website to see if they post abroad. Thanks for sharing. :-)

    • Brikenstocks are comfy. :)

      I’m slowly trying to build up my foot & ankle muscles in order to go on tougher hikes with the Lunas. For now I’ll only do easier day hikes with them. But I’ve heard of others who take them on longer hikes with no issues. Your feet need to work up to that.

  15. @Matthew

    Sorry to disagree with you on this but most of the MD’s I know have graduated within the last 10-15 years (work in an ER) and I see foot and knee injuries all day long to know any better. One who runs barefoot is purposely running on the ball of his foot. The natural run should be like walking (heel to toe) just faster. I’m not one to take expert opinions from armchair quarterbacks without knowing how the body works. Even more so if it’s from Wikipedia. You do realize that in the field of medicine it’s a requirement to keep your continuing education ever so present?

    • No worries Jim, you’re free to disagree. I love a good conversation.

      But these are not studies conducted by random Wikipedia writers, that first one is from a professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard. I’m just suggesting you look into it a bit more if you’re interested — because it’s pretty fascinating stuff.

      In fact in countries without widespread use of shoes, including indigenous people who’ve never used shoes, the heel strike is not common at all. So the heel strike is only common in that we’re all doing it this way because of shoes, but it’s certainly not “natural.”

      Some of this is covered in the above mentioned Harvard study. Here’s a video of Dr. Lieberman discussing his findings (for anyone who doesn’t want to sift through a Harvard research study): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jrnj-7YKZE

      Of course nothing is definitive yet, more testing needs to be done. But the stuff I’ve read seems to show we’ve been doing it all wrong. Not to mention my own personal experience over the last year and a half. Guess we’ll see what happens in the next 10 years. Maybe I’m completely wrong. As long as I’m seeing benefits and no disadvantages, I will continue to promote this technique. Have you ever tried it yourself Jim? You don’t need to buy anything. Just take off your shoes and go for a long run in the grass. :D

      A side note: It’s initially important to be careful going barefoot because our feet/ankles are weak and overly sensitive from keeping them trapped in shoes our whole lives. It also takes time to stop running with a heel-toe strike. Could that be the reason your doctor friends see injuries?

  16. While they might seem like the ticket…I’ve been told by more than 1 foot doctor that running without a good sneaker is very damaging to the knees in particular. Something this sandal obviously doesn’t address. A hiking boot offers protection for the foot as well as the ankle as well. I’d say thee are perfect for the beach setting as opposed to a serious hiking expedition.

    • Have you read Born to Run yet Jim? Just because someone is a doctor, does not make them experts about everything. Unless that particular foot doctor happens to be an expert on the topic of barefoot running. I’m sure your doctor is a nice man/woman. But I trust modern research done by experts over the opinion of a foot doctor who probably went to medical school back when padded running shoes were considered a good thing.

      Smoking used to be good for you too, according to doctors in the 1950 & 60s. :D

      Here are a few quotes from actual research studies about this: (from Wikipedia):

      “By landing on the middle or front of the foot, barefoot runners have almost no impact collision, much less than most shod runners generate when they heel-strike.” [link]

      “It has also been found that running in conventional running shoes increases stress on the knee joints up to 38%.” [link]

      As for my own research, I used to get shin-splints when I ran. Now with no running shoes, they have disappeared.

  17. Now that I’ve been running in sandals, I don’t think I could ever go back. Takes a little to get used to it, mainly because your calves get worked much more than normal. But it’s good “workout” pain, not injury pain. :)

  18. I may have to try these sandals! I had to train in sandals last year due to a sting ray injury to the heel of my foot. I was forbidden to wear shoes for about 5 months (to keep the sting open). I agree – running in nude feet strengthens the arches, tendons etc… You develop great foot muscles!