When I got home from the Elk/Beaver 50K trail ultra, my new Synclines were waiting for me. They came in the mail, courtesy of the good folks at Oakland, California-based Bedrock Sandals, in the small burlap bag pictured above. (I love neo-hippie minimalist marketing!)
Presenting the Bedrock Synclines…
I’m a big fan of evolution. Without it, I wouldn’t have espresso, the Internet, modernist architecture – or Bedrock Syncline sandals. The Synclines represent the evolutionary peak of minimalist sandals technology for me right now. They offer a solution to some of my present trail and ultra running issues, and they promise great things for the future.
First, though, a little bit of backstory…
Shortly after I started running barefoot six years ago, I got my first pair of minimalist sandals – a pair of Barefoot Ted Macdonald’s pre-Luna sandals. Later on, I got a pair from Invisible Shoes (now called Xero Shoes). After that, two pairs of Xero Shoes – the Connect (4mm sole) and the Contact (6mm). Then I was an early reviewer for the Xero Shoes Sensori Venture.
In the image above, you can see some of the sandals I’ve worn, along with my new Synclines. (The Barefoot Ted sandals are long gone. After about a year of wear, the soles broke at the lacing side holes, and I pitched them.) The Xero Shoes Contacts are at the left, with the leather laces from the BFTs. Next are the Xero Shoes Connects, with nylon laces in a slip-on lacing pattern. Then, the Xero Shoes Sensori Ventures, with stock/out of-the-box lacing. And, finally, the Bedrock Synclines, with straps (straps at last!)
Pre-Syncline, each of the sandals has presented its own joys and sorrows. I like the openness and freedom sandals offer. But the BFT sandals’ leather laces, which I tied Tarahumara style, cut into the thin skin on my upper feet when I’d run long distances (30K+). And they eventually broke. The nylon laces on the Invisible/Xero Shoes sandals broke after about 300K of use. And all of them made a slappy sound when I ran in them, no matter how good my running form was. (And you can be sure that, after six years of running barefoot, my form is reasonably good.)
The Synclines are different in a number of ways.
First, that shape. I followed the sizing chart on the Bedrock site, and ordered the indicated sandal (size 8, which is a size smaller than I usually take). Not only do the Synclines fit my foot shape perfectly, they also follow the curve of my foot in an almost eerily precise way. Point one to Bedrock.
Next, the sole. The Synclines offer an 8mm Vibram sole, with a nubbly rather than chevroned bottom surface. This thickness choice, say the folks at Bedrock, provides wearers with more protection on trails and more durability. That makes sense to me, as long as it doesn’t inhibit groundfeel. (It doesn’t.) Point two to Bedrock.
Now, the really good stuff – the Synclines’ straps. They’re “U.S. Military Grade” (I don’t quite know what that means, but it sounds good), with a lightweight pull-tab at the heel, an elastic heel strap, and a patent-ending buckle adjustment system (very nifty, as it makes tweaking the sandals’ fit an absolute breeze).
Bedrock has also tried to solve some of the wear-and-tear issues normal to sandals with inlayed bevels on the lower sides of the soles to protect the straps from abrasion. Big point number three to Bedrock!
The straps are available in your choice of colours – black, gray, teal, lapiz blue, sage green, yellow, olive drab, and red. I’m told by Bedrock that black and olive drab are customers’ most popular choices. That makes me feel good, as I’ve always thought that brightly-coloured straps or laces on serious sandals are a bit weird. (Then again, I don’t like the sight of brightly-coloured running shoes either.)
One feature worth noting is the new corded toe-straps that come on the Synclines. According to Bedrock, the toe strap has always been the weak point on thong strap sandals, and so they made this change. It’s “Our way of making Bedrocks much harder to kill.” To date, they say, none of their customers have reported a broken corded toe-strap. I agree – but it’s nice to have an interchangeable feature if ever needed, so I plan to order a pair of replacement toe straps to tuck away in my race/run bag.
So far, I’ve run on trails, roads, and my treadmill with the Synclines. They fit perfectly, they don’t slide around, they don’t chafe, and I don’t make loud slappy noises in them. I’ve run in some mud, though it wasn’t deep mud, and am prepared for some slippage when I get to the deep stuff. I haven’t done any really long runs in them yet, as I’m still on healing journey after shredding my feet at Elk/Beaver (read my race report for all the gory details), and may try some band-aids or blister strips behind the heel straps as needed for really long distances. However, I have a feeling that the better way to resolve that will be to find the right adjustment for those straps.
“Walking wounded” doesn’t quite convey the post-Elk/Beaver picture, by the way. After EB, my feet were completely shredded, swollen, and very, very sore. However, with some bandages and my new Synclines, I was able to run – albeit slowly and tenatively – within a few days. That would have been a much slower process without the Synclines, and I’m grateful.
(It’s worth noting that Bedrock plans to add a new sandal model to their product line late this summer. It’ll have a completely new lacing system as well as a new sole, and will be market-positioned as an all-around adventurer built for hiking, fishing, kayaking, etc. Worth watching for, I think!)
My Bedrock Synclines have made me a happy man and a happy runner. I have a feeling that they’re also going to make me a better trail and ultra runner. ‘Nuff said.
Note: Product was provided by Bedrock Sandals for this review.