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Earth Runners Alpha Review

A fantastic minimal sandal, with great traction, flexibility, and comfort, ideal for those that want to feel the ground beneath them
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Earth Runners Alpha Review (Earth Runners Alpha Sandal 2023)
Earth Runners Alpha Sandal 2023
Credit: Jacob Clark
Price:  $89 List
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Manufacturer:   Earth Runners
By Jacob Clark ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 23, 2023
71
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 17
  • Comfort - 25% 7.5
  • Traction - 25% 7.5
  • Stability - 20% 6.0
  • Adjustability - 15% 7.0
  • Versatility - 15% 7.0

Our Verdict

The Earth Runners Alpha distinguishes itself as one of the lightest and most traction-efficient choices in our lineup. While it might not rank as the absolute top in our review, this sandal delivers impressive minimalist, barefoot-inspired performance. The superior traction sets it apart, making it a favorite for those navigating more challenging terrains. Ideal for daily wearers and ultralight adventurers alike, whether on wheels, trails, or urban streets. If you're in the market for a sandal that's both featherweight and offers dependable grip, or if you're considering a secondary low-profile footwear choice for your next journey, the Alpha could be your perfect fit. Learn more about how it compares to other leading products in our full review on the best sandals.
REASONS TO BUY
Minimalist
Eco-friendly
Flexible
Lightweight
Traction
REASONS TO AVOID
Thin sole
Lack of support
Thinner webbing

Compare to Similar Products

 
earth runners alpha
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award  
Price $89 List$115 List
$115.00 at REI
$74.95 at REI$70 List
$57.85 at Amazon
$39.65 at Amazon
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Star Rating
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Bottom Line A lightweight and minimal sandal with wonderful traction, flexibility, and small enough to carry as a second set of footwear on any adventureA well designed minimalist sandal that is ultra-resilient and ready for the long haulAn eye-catching classic, this sandal offers excellent traction and a simple, lightweight designThis affordable sandal packs high-end comfort and performance into a lightweight packageThis throwback sandal is comfortable and lightweight with classic Teva style
Rating Categories Earth Runners Alpha Bedrock Cairn Adven... Teva Hurricane XLT2 Teva Katavi 2 Teva Original Unive...
Comfort (25%)
7.5
7.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
Traction (25%)
7.5
8.0
8.0
6.5
6.0
Stability (20%)
6.0
7.0
7.5
7.0
6.0
Adjustability (15%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
6.5
6.0
Versatility (15%)
7.0
9.0
6.0
7.5
6.0
Specs Earth Runners Alpha Bedrock Cairn Adven... Teva Hurricane XLT2 Teva Katavi 2 Teva Original Unive...
Weight (per pair) 0.57 lbs (size 10) 1.10 lbs (size 10) 0.97 lbs (size 9) 1.36 lbs (size 9) 0.84 lbs (size 10)
Sole Material Vibram Morflex Vibram XS Trek Regolith Rubber Durabrasion Rubber Rubber
Upper Material Two-ply webbing Premium webbing Repreve recycled polyester Suede Recycled plastic
Footbed Material Moisture Wicking Canvas Granite Grip Rubber EVA Contoured EVA EVA
Midsole Material Moisture-wicking canvas Rubber EVA EVA EVA
Width Options Medium Medium Medium Medium Medium

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Earth Runner Alpha seamlessly epitomizes the minimalist approach to performance footwear, subtly echoing the features of respected peers like the Xero Z-Trail EV. With its unique assembly of components — stainless steel thread, grounding copper plug, and an ultra-thin canvas footbed — the Alpha does not merely fit into the existing spectrum of sandals but distinctly carves its niche, presenting a symbiotic relationship between innovative functionality and essential simplicity with traction as a spotlight feature.

Performance Comparison


earth runners alpha - the alpha is capable of forming and molding to almost any terrain in...
The Alpha is capable of forming and molding to almost any terrain in an astonishingly lightweight package.
Credit: Jacob Clark

Comfort


Navigating through the niche yet expansive domain of minimalist sandals, the Earth Runner Alpha announces its presence with a clear and distinctive ethos. Every facet of its design, particularly the canvas footbed, is meticulously crafted to offer a soft, intimate interface for the foot. For those stepping into the minimalist realm for the first time, the Alpha's subtle cushioning provides a gentle introduction, while for the seasoned minimalist enthusiast, it extends an invitation to a deeper, tactile connection with the earth beneath.


In an environment oversaturated with footwear that often features an excess of engineered components, the Alpha stands out as a refreshing ode to simplicity, subtly blending the serene comfort of its canvas footbed with the raw, authentic experience of minimalist walking, thereby crafting an experience that is as pleasurable as it is genuine. That said, if you're new to this style of footwear, it may initially feel intense. Expect to feel more of the ground beneath you as you move about, and plan for shorter stints until you've built up new muscle and movement patterns.

earth runners alpha - despite a thin sole, the soft cloth foot bed and rubber provide...
Despite a thin sole, the soft cloth foot bed and rubber provide ample comfort from the ground beneath.
Credit: Jacob Clark

Traction


Traction is a domain where the Alpha performs with exceptional prowess. Earth Runners invested considerable thought and expertise into constructing a sole that provides a confident grip across a broad spectrum of terrains.


Whether you're navigating slippery, moisture-laden surfaces or treading cautiously over a trail strewn with rocks and unpredictable elements, the Alpha promises dependable traction that assures each step is both secure and steady. Having a thin sole and minimal design allows the foot to feel, grab, and stabilize in a more profound way than is possible with a thick, overbuilt sole.

earth runners alpha - the earth runners alpha working its way up a slimy wet surface with...
The Earth Runners Alpha working its way up a slimy wet surface with relative ease and almost no slippage.
Credit: Jacob Clark

The superior traction of the Alpha isn't solely about the physical attributes or the quality of the materials. It's a harmonious convergence of thoughtful design and an intuitive understanding of the variances and challenges posed by different terrains. This intuitive connection ensures the wearer feels the Alpha responding with agility and assurance to every nuance of the ground, thereby setting a benchmark for traction in minimalist sandals.

earth runners alpha - the flexibility shown here is just part of what gives this sandal...
The flexibility shown here is just part of what gives this sandal its solid traction and stability scores.
Credit: Jacob Clark

Stability


With a minimalist ethos at its core, the Earth Runner Alpha deliberately steps away from the conventional structured support found in many sandals. The design mirrors the natural sensation of walking barefoot, with the addition of a nylon strap offering a snug and secure fit, wrapping the foot in a gentle embrace that allows for confident movement.


Yet, this minimalist approach does not compromise stability. The design of the Alpha is a careful study in balancing simplicity with the subtle nuances of stability, crafting an experience that feels both secure and unrestricted. With each step, the wearer feels grounded, with the Alpha moving harmoniously with the foot's natural mechanics.

earth runners alpha - this featherweight sandal handles some tricky surfaces well...
This featherweight sandal handles some tricky surfaces well, inspiring confidence.
Credit: Jacob Clark

Adjustability


The Alpha is streamlined and anchored securely by a single nylon strap system. The strap is straightforward to adjust and promises a consistent and comfortable fit, adapting gently to the foot's contours. That said, the initial adjustment takes some time and fiddling to dial in.


The minimalist approach to adjustability on the Alpha is a thoughtful nod to the principles of functional simplicity. Once the initial adjustment is finessed to perfection, this sandal will provide consistent, reliable support without the need for constant tweaking and adjustment.

Sometimes finicky, the thin straps hold the sandal in place well and...
Sometimes finicky, the thin straps hold the sandal in place well and once tuned up are not difficult to put on and off.
A simple single webbing performs well with the only drawback being...
A simple single webbing performs well with the only drawback being the on and off time.

Versatility


The Alpha showcases its robust versatility with confidence. Its design may be minimal, but it navigates varied terrains with a resilience and reliability that instills confidence and provides consistent performance regardless of the environment's demands.


If you desire, the Alpha can transition smoothly and effortlessly from the hectic pace of urban environments to the unpredictable allure of rugged trails. It's a showcase of how versatility and minimalism can indeed be partners, complementing each other effectively to craft an experience that is as varied as the terrains it conquers. However, as we mentioned above, this style of footwear simply won't appeal to everyone.

earth runners alpha - a thin lightweight sandal that functions well as a primary or...
A thin lightweight sandal that functions well as a primary or secondary footwear choice while also being one of the less expensive options in our line-up.
Credit: Jacob Clark

Should You Buy the Earth Runner Alpha?


The Alpha consistently emerged as a noteworthy contender in our extensive and rigorous testing period. Its careful amalgamation of subtle design nuances with robust, practical performance makes it a valuable asset for any individual looking for a reliable and authentic minimalist sandal. Additionally, its pricing is competitive, offering excellent value to a wide range of potential consumers. Those who aren't practiced with barefoot-style shoes should plan to wear the Alpha for shorter periods while the body strengthens and adapts — if you have never worn a shoe like this and try to immediately go for a long hike, you'll likely have a hard time.

Tackling rocks, sand, slime, wet or dry surfaces, this sandal does...
Tackling rocks, sand, slime, wet or dry surfaces, this sandal does it all at a weight that makes you forget you even have them on.
While not as flexible as some, this thin sole remains quite flexible.
While not as flexible as some, this thin sole remains quite flexible.

What Other Sandals Should You Consider?


The minimalist sandal space is competitive, with many options like the Xero Z-Trail EV and Luna Oso Flaco Winged offering varied experiences. However, through the noise, the Earth Runner Alpha stands firm with its unique charm and appeal. For individuals who lean towards a truly minimalist experience without cutting corners on quality and innovation, the Alpha is undeniably worthy of serious consideration. For those not sold on the barefoot-style shoe, the Chaco Z/Cloud is a true classic worthy of consideration, the Bedrock Cairn Adventure is our favorite rugged adventure option, and the ECCO Yucatan is as plush and comfy as they come.

Jacob Clark