Venado Luna Sandals Review: Barefoot Running

Venado Luna Sandals Review

It’s now been over a month since I received my handmade Venado Luna Sandals.  I believe I’ve had plenty of time to test-drive these Copper Canyon inspired sandalias.  I’ve tested them in just about every possible condition I could find.   At least, every condition that summer offers.  They’ve enjoyed strolls in the park, and 7-mile runs through torrential downpours.  They weathered the storm, but did they make the cut?  Read on to find out.

A Bit of History

Manuel Luna, a Tarahumaran from Mexico, helped Ted McDonald make a pair of traditional huarache sandals out of an old tire.  Ted, who was a Vibram Five Fingers wearer, fell in love with the idea of using sustainable materials to make minimalist footwear.  He, like many others, was impressed that the Tarahumaran people of Mexico could run for amazingly long distances (often for several days) using this simple footwear.  Ted set out to create his own variation of these huaraches, and with much persistence, Luna Sandals was born.

Before I get started, here’s what Luna had to say about their Venado Sandals:

“The Venado (Deer en Español) with our super secure ATS laces is our recommended street sandal.  The Venado (previously named the Original Luna) is handmade in Seattle. It represents the best fruits of our experiences and experiments with old-school footwear and gleanings from insights that we have gathered from both our ancestors and our customers. It uses a 6mm Vibram neoprene sole (7mm with footbed) that is lightweight, comfortable, and has excellent ground feel. This sandal is great for running or walking on paved surfaces and moderate trails.”

Venado Luna Sandal Review

[Note: Although I am an affiliate of Luna Sandals, I will offer my fair and honest review.  I would not attempt to sell you anything under false pretenses] 


My Venado Luna Sandals 

  • Monkey Grip Technology (MGT) footbed
  • ATS (All Terrain Strapping) laces


  • Lightweight (One sandal, mens size 9, weigh in at 3.9 oz)
  • Comfortable  (No issues with the laces around toes or heel)
  • Slip Resistant (Monkey Grip Technology lives up to its name, even in pouring rain)
  • Breathability (This is an understatement and probably should go without saying)
  • Great for running off-road trails, everyday walking, and hiking
  • Eco-friendly materials (natural, sustainable materials. Made by hand, without the use of large machinery, giving them a lighter carbon footprint)
  • Easy to slip on and off
  • Fair price (Venado starts out at only $65)
  • Almost no transition from other minimalist (zero drop) shoes


  • Loud slapping noise and feeling when running on pavement
  • Lack of feedback from ground
  • Not great for running on pavement
venado sandals cons

Although there are many great things to be said about the Venados, I must point out some potential drawbacks.  I ordered my Venados with the hopes of finding a sandal that would carry me for long distances on pavement, with an occasional trail run thrown in the mix. 

I was a bit disappointed when I first heard the sandals slapping the pavement with each stride I took.  At first, I chalked it up to them being new; I assumed it would go away after some breaking-in-time.  Unfortunately, that was not the case.  And although I’m not sure there are any “problems” with them making this noise, they do draw a bit of unwanted attention. 

Try running through a quiet park, full of bird watchers and morning strollers, and see if the Venados don’t raise some eyebrows.  The sound from the Venados, unlike a “deer,” resembles the galloping of a wild horse clanging its hoofs against the hard pavement.  I was also a bit dissatisfied with the feedback I received from the ground.  I was expecting this “great connection” with the ground, but it just wasn’t there.

On the other hand, trail running in these sandals was an exhilarating experience.  Jumping over limbs, navigating my way over roots, and climbing up hills was a breeze.  Actually, it was a lot of fun!  I believe the reason for this goes back to the very inception of Lunas.  The terrain from which the sandals originated, was mostly sand, dirt, and rock.  Perhaps, sandals just aren’t cut out for life on the road.  Maybe they are better left to handling trails.

I was blown away with the ATS laces’ ability to cling to my feet, even in heavy rain.  I honestly expected some loosening of the laces during my run, but found that they held tight.  I was also surprised with how my foot stayed firmly planted in the sandal.  My first run was through a pretty serious storm, and I was certain that my foot would be slipping on the rubberized bed of the shoe.  I was amazed when they didn’t.  The Monkey Grip Technology of the sole kept my foot firmly in place, even through the slipperiest conditions.

As I mentioned, the Venados are great for trail running. But they are also an ideal option for everyday wear.  They look great, feel great, and make for good conversation.  Even more, the ATS laces allow you to slip the sandals on and off in a matter of seconds.  Before purchasing them, I was weary of how comfortable they would be. 

I’ve never been a big sandal wearer, and just knew that I would have difficulty adjusting to the straps wrapped around my feet.  After many days of wear, I haven’t noticed as much as a single blister or friction burn.  And I’m not surprised as I’ve not had any discomfort.


The Venados are of high-quality.  I have not found one flaw in their craftsmanship.  The straps are surprisingly comfortable and stay tight through long runs (even in the rain).  I will continue to use my Venado Lunas for everyday wear, walking, hiking, and moderate trail running.  Although Luna suggests Venados for running on roads, I’ll be keeping mine off of the streets for now. 

Perhaps,with more testing, I’ll learn to enjoy them on pavement as much as I do sand, dirt, and grass.  I would recommend these sandals to anyone looking for a casual, comfortable, economical, and Eco-friendly option for relaxed outings, hiking, and running the trails.  If you are coming from a thick-soled shoe, allow yourself time to adjust to the thin 7mm of tread.  However, if you have been running in minimalist zero-drop footwear, your transition time should be greatly reduced.

If you are interested in purchasing the Venados (or any other Luna sandals), please use my link.  I am happy to answer any questions you may have.  Feel free to leave a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.  For longer inquiries, drop ForksToFeet an email.

Note: I strongly encourage you to read my GladSoles Trail Sandals Review. These sandals are great for road and trails, and are custom-cut to fit your two feet.

- - -