The Luna Leadville Pacer is a barefoot-inspired running sandal for the pure minimalist adventurer. While this model has a following within the trail running community, we think it will leave other hikers, climbers, and adventurers wishing for more. Our testers appreciated the Vibram soles and the adjustable strap design, but we struggled with the thin soles and slippery footbeds on wet or uneven terrain. While these sandals certainly fill a minimalist niche, we think that most general outdoor users would likely prefer something a bit more substantial. Our Editors' Choice Award Winner Bedrock Cairn Adventure isn't as lightweight but earned much higher scores in our comfort and stability ratings.
Luna Leadville Pacer Review
Cons: Not stable, poor wet traction, minimal comfort
Manufacturer: Luna Sandals
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Leadville Pacer is one of the lightest sandals we've ever tested, tipping that scales at 0.64 lbs (10.2 oz) per pair in size 10. Made for barefoot inspired trail running, this model has thin soles with excellent trail feel, but starts to struggle when the terrain gets steeper or the conditions become wet. Our testers were pleased with the overall build and design of these sandals, and enjoyed the feel on flatter terrain, but noted that they couldn't keep up with the heftier competitors when the conditions became more rugged.
Comfort is a relative term when it comes to barefoot-inspired footwear, as the purpose of this type of shoe is to mimic barefoot running as closely as possible, with just a minimal amount of material to protect your feet from the ground. The Leadville Pacer certainly accomplishes this, with very thin soles and excellent trail feel. While they definitely aren't as comfortable in a traditional sense as some of the thicker cushioned models, they certainly achieve the desired goal of mimicking barefoot movement.
For anyone not already accustomed to such minimalist footwear, we definitely would recommend a gradual transition period to allow your feet, ankle, and leg muscles to adjust to the new stimulus. For anyone looking to try minimalist inspired footwear with a little more comfort and support, we recommend our Top Pick for Ultralight Touring Xero Z-Trail.
With their Vibram soles, these shoes scored near the middle of the pack in our traction ratings with dependable dry traction. However, when conditions got wet, muddy, or sandy, the shallow treads became overwhelmed and the footbeds became slippery, quickly turning the traction from good to poor. With such a minimal design, this made it tough to move efficiently on sloped or uneven terrain.
For a similarly designed model with a bit more aggressive traction, we recommend our Editors' Choice Award Winner Bedrock Cairn Adventure with their Vibram MegaGrip soles. The Cairn also has better stability and more comfort, without adding too much weight or sacrificing too much ground feel.
With its thin sole and thong style forefoot attachment, we were interested to see how this particular model would hold up as we took on more rugged terrain. While we appreciate the feel of the ground beneath our feet with the Vibram soles, we were disappointed that the straps and footbed struggled to hold our feet steady on steeper uphill, downhill, or sidehill slopes, especially when wet. While we were more satisfied with the dry traction, the poor wet traction and slippery footbed stood out to us in our rating, as feet often will get wet, sweaty, or dusty when running or hiking.
We found our feet were a bit more stable in the similarly lightweight Xero Z-Trail because of the more extensive webbing system, as well as in the Bedrock Cairn Adventure.
The Leadville received a respectable score in our adjustability ratings, behind only the Cairn Adventure. Our testers really enjoyed the ease of the adjustable velcro ankle strap, as well as the potential adjustability of the forefoot straps. We also appreciated how there are many ways to customize your fit by moving or sliding some of the straps around, and how on-the-fly adjustments are typically quick and easy.
The only downside to the extensive adjustability is that some testers sometimes found it difficult to determine exactly where an adjustment needed to be made in order to address a particular fit issue. We expect that this minor issue would work itself out with a more extensive use of the product.
These sandals scored near the bottom of our lineup for the versatility ratings. While we could see these being a reasonable sandal to wear hiking or around town, we think that these guys are best appreciated within their intended niche of barefoot-inspired trail running. They were developed for that purpose, have a popular following in that demographic, and would excel with the right user under the right conditions. Trying to turn these into a rugged hiking or climbing sandal will have some limitations.
The best application for the Leadville Pacer is barefoot-inspired trail running. They would be best suited for experienced trail runners who already have experience in minimalist footwear who are looking for one of the thinnest and lightest options out there. While they would make a reasonable all-around option, they struggle when our testers put them up against more rugged terrain.
With a list price of $90, this model falls near the middle of our lineup. If used for their intended purpose of trail running, we could see them lasting for a long time. Because of their minimalist design, there aren't many parts or materials to wear out. If you are a minimalist trail runner looking to go lighter, these could be an intriguing option.
The Luna Leadville Pacer is a barefoot-inspired running sandal that takes minimalism to the extreme. With just a thin rubber sole between you and the ground, these offer unbelievable trail feel. For users looking for an all-around rugged hiking and adventure shoe, you will likely run into limitations with this model. But as the lightest product in our test, it will give experienced barefoot runners an intriguing option.
— Nick Bruckbauer