Monday, October 10, 2011

Minimalist Shoe Review: InvisibleShoe FeelTrue Contact

Here they are after several road and a few trail miles. No visible signs of sole wear yet.
I have a long-standing love affair with sandals. It all started shortly before I entered college way back in *cough-cough*. Excuse me. I enjoy the freedom they offer and the built-in air conditioning, not to mention they always go well with shorts or blue jeans. Running sandals, however, were nowhere on my radar before I started doing the barefoot thing back in 2006. It wasn't until I read what would eventually become the minimalist runner's Bible, Christopher McDougall's Born to Run, that I knew running in sandals was even humanly possible. Well, now I can personally attest to the fact that it is not only possible, but on both hard surfaces and trails, they are a delight!

The FeelTrue Contact foot bed by Invisible Shoes ( is the latest and greatest in homemade huarache sandal kits developed to allow runners a bit more protection from the elements underfoot while still providing nearly as much flexibility and freedom as their 4mm Connect model. See my review of the FeelTrue Connect here. The Contact is getting a bit of attention as the "trail version" of the FeelTrue foot bed due to the increased thickness. But does ground feel, weight, and flexibility suffer with a shift in focus to the off-road? What about sufficient protection for truly rough trails? If you still have questions at the end of the review, please post in the comments.

Notice the trimmed portions at the front and sides. The flash makes it look a bit more pronounced and hackneyed than it really is.
The little loop on the front is an invention of Steven Sashen's wife, Lena, called the "Phoenix Flower." Manly!
Comparing Invisible Shoes' FeelTrue models to other huarache-style sandals and kits available on the market will quickly highlight some of the outstanding qualities of the Invisible Shoe products. Price is one area where Steven Sashen and co. have a leg up, or shall we say a foot up, on the competition. At $24.95 and $29.95 for the Connect and Contact kits respectively ($19.95 for kids' kits), Invisible Shoes is at the top of the heap in regards to aggressively pricing their product. I love a company that puts its heart and soul into a product and then charges a very reasonable price; it's quite the contrast from some "running shoe" companies that spend 99% of their dollars on marketing and charge exorbitant amounts just for their insignia on the side of a shoe that has no research to back its performance claims and falls apart after a couple hundred miles. After several miles in the Contact and Connect huaraches, I can attest to the fact that the Invisible Shoes team has done their homework and rocked the market with a fantastic product.

On to the review: Putting together a Contact sandal is the exact same as the process for any of the Invisible Shoe kits, and you can see me walk through the process at my Connect review here.

In essence, the only real difference between the two sandals is 2mm more rubber underfoot. Rest assured, the extra thickness has very little negative impact on ground feel. Flexibility is also very reasonable - in fact, it's on par with the most flexible, ground-feely minimalist "shoe" soles on the market. Whereas the Connect is comparable to the Vibram Fivefingers Sprint/KSO/Classic sole, I'd put the Contact squarely in the range between those and the VIVOBAREFOOT Neo. Underfoot, the Contact just feels great for what it's intended purpose is.
Flexibility on par with the most flexible "shoes" on the market.

On the Road
Since originally receiving the Connect and Contact kits weeks ago, I have gained a great deal of experience with huaraches that I think might be worthwhile to pass on in this post:

First, while putting your huaraches together, be sure to use the online guides at There is a clear guide where to put the "toe hole" and how to initiate any lacing pattern.

Second, There are literally dozens of different ways to lace your huaraches. Getting maximum enjoyment and utility out of your sandals require quite a bit of experimentation on the front end. Don't be afraid to re-lace several different times looking for a combination that works for you. Also, I would recommend getting a few sets of laces so you can trim to fit with confidence knowing you have spares. Don't expect to get the lacing right the first time because you won't; just don't trim until you are 100% certain (although you don't really have to trim). Tool around with fit until it works for you.

Lacing can be tricky. Prepare for experimentation. This pic details the foot bed thickness.
Lastly, you will probably tie them too loose the first time. Huaraches make great form coaches and will let you know if they are too loose; just listen to the sound of your footfalls. If you get a *slap, slap, slap*, you are either heel striking (poor form), or your sandals are too loose. It took a few tries to get the tightness right because what was uncomfortable when trying the sandals on turned out to be perfect when running. You don't want your foot moving around on the foot bed unless you want blisters or discomfort.

On the Trail
I am still a fairly inexperienced trail runner, so take what I say with a grain of salt. The Contact is obviously more well-suited for trail running than the Connect, but it is far from the requisite level of protection for the gnarly trail that lies closest to my home (my primary testing ground for trail shoes). Tennessee rocks and roots own soft foot beds, but on gravel paths or dirt the Contact is fantastic. I would love to test them on a wider range of surfaces in the future. As I gain more experience, I will update this post.
Good tread depth detail. Not too aggressive so as to be unbalanced, not too shallow to negate traction. I'd say it's just right!

Criteria Rankings
1. Width/Toe Box: Wide as you want it
2. Flatness: "As a board"
3. Ground Feel: Excellent with just slightly more than minimal protection for surfaces inappropriate for full-on barefoot running (dirt or gravel paths, gravel-laden roadsides)
4. Weight: Right around five ounces trimmed. Fantastic.
5. Durability: Rock solid. The FeelTrue rubber is super resilient.
6. Flexibility: It doesn't really get any more flexible without giving up significant functionality.
7. Attractiveness: Huaraches are a decidedly personal taste. There is a hippie flair to the truly minimalist look. If you're secure in your masculinity, you won't have a problem with the attention.
8. Price: As reasonable as any shoe on the market. Minimalist sandal - minimal price.

Another winner from Steven Sashen and his crew at Invisible Shoes. Look at the Contact kit if you're a do-it-yourself-er in the market for a minimalist shoe that gives you a bit of gravel/heat protection for mild-to-moderate trails. The Contact is extremely versatile, but you need to look elsewhere for serious trail protection. Click the link to check out a pair of huaraches for yourself:


  1. Nice review sir. Short and to the point. I too enjoy Steven's prodcuts, and think he provides a great point of entry into the minimalist world. Plus he runs a homegrown company that doesn't sacrifice quality for profit. That's hard to find these days.

  2. Thanks for dropping in and giving me some feedback, puffin! Steven and the Invisible Shoe crew have definitely impress with the FeelTrue line - big step forward for huaraches (pun intended). I hope they continue to keep it simple and inexpensive so the masses can be exposed to this awesome company.