SOLE RUNNER is a German barefoot shoe company. I heard about them from a Barefoot Running Sub-Reddit. They make a range of shoes, trainers and boots for Men, Women, and Children.
When I first went on the website, I thought the site was a little basic. For example, there is no company information on the About Us page. Which is a good way for a company to set out what they are about. However the website is easy to navigate, and you can easily find what you like the look of. There are multiple photos and descriptions to help you decide on what you want. So it is a functional and effective website.
What Sole Runner says “Sole Runner Transition Vario 3, the 365-day boot in the Sole Runner Barefoot Shoe Comfort Line. Water-repellent Mesh material with a weather seal and the removable heating elements are the highlights of the ankle-high Transition Vario. Almost like walking just on the soles of your own feet.”
I have the Black Leather version. However, you can also buy them in Black/Red mesh and Dark Brown.
I live in the North-East of England, which means the weather is pretty changeable. So I needed a barefoot walking/hiking boot. I spend a lot of time walking my two Lurchers. I also do a lot of camping and spend a lot of time in places like the Lake District. However, this is the first time I have had barefoot hiking boots. I have barefoot shoes/trainers for all occasions, apart from hiking boots. So I have finally plugged that gap in my barefoot lifestyle.
“Upper: Leather, quick drying, water-repellent (water-repellent, not waterproof)
Closure: Functional closure: single-pull lacing system
Shape: Extrawide cut for strong feet. Wide at front. The toes have lots of room to move around.
Sizes: 36 – 48
Outer sole: 6mm rubber, non-marking. Allows as direct a contact to the ground as possible.
The Shipping and Packaging
I ordered the shoes late on Tuesday afternoon. They were dispatched on Wednesday and arrived on Friday. I was very happy with this.
The ordering was really easy. I created an account when I ordered, and you could check the status of the order whenever you liked. Then once it was sent out, there was an excellent package tracking page. So you knew exactly where your package was at.
At checkout, I just picked the cheapest shipping option, and I was very happy with the delivery time.
As all barefoot shoes should be, these are zero drop. They are 6mm which I believe is a good thickness for a boot made for all occasions. If it was any thinner, then it might not be suitable for all weathers and types of walks.
The tread is made from rubber and it looks like little stones. Giving the tread a natural look, rather than a manufactured one. These boots are made for all occasions, however, like I mentioned I will primarily be using them to replace traditional hiking boots.
You could never replicate the big clunky treads of “normal” hiking boots. So barefoot shoe brands have to get sufficient grip without losing the “feel” you want from barefoot brands. Sole Runner gets around this issue by using a sticky rubber, to make this a true 365-day shoe.
The shoe arrived with 2 removable insoles, which I didn’t expect. The boots had a 6mm black insole already in. These are meant to be for colder months of the year, or probably all year round in the UK haha. The second insoles are red and 2.5mm. These are for nicer weather, less gnarley terrain, or if you just prefer as little protection as possible. You could double these up too, for extra protection if needed.
I am not sure why but the red insoles come with 3mm heel cushions glued to them. I have no need to use the red insoles as it is currently winter, but when I do. I will remove the heel cushion. It looks like it will easily peel off.
The upper part of the boot is made from water-repellent and breathable leather. It is certainly very flexible and soft. This is important for me as I want this boot to become my go to hiking boot. So it does need to have some level of water resistance. The fact that it is not fully waterproof is not a deal breaker. I am rarely out walking if it is raining heavily, mainly because my two dogs hate the rain! To I just need a reasonable level of protection, if the ground is wet. I have been out on two long dog walks of over 4 miles, wearing these. The ground was wet and muddy but my feet remained dry. If for whatever reason I knew I was going to be out in the rain for a long period of time, I would treat the boots with a waterproof spray beforehand and/or wear waterproof socks.
The sole is protected by a rubber cover, that goes right around boot and up and over the toe area. This gives it a bit of a look of a steel toe capped work boot, albeit a lot more stylish and comfortable. This will also help the boot with being water-repellent, as very shallow puddles and mud will not get over the rubber section.
I really like the lacing. They use loops instead of eyelets, which again will help with water protection. It also give the boot a military look I think, not sure why but I think it is a nice touch. I must also note that the one pull lacing system is awesome, literally one single pull and the entire boot closes around your foot and ankle. This is a great feature, and normal hiking boots are usually a bit of a chew on to get on and off quickly. Which can be really annoying if you are away camping.
The Toe Box
As mentioned above the toe box is “hard rubber”, some minimalist purists may not like this. I do not mind it, I have other barefoot shoes that have hard toe boxes. This boot is designed to be an all year round boot for all occasions, the positives of having a bit of toe protection outweighs any perceived lack of natural feel. Plus I am a bit clumsy, so any help in not stubbing a toe on a rock is welcome indeed.
They class these shoes as extra wide, which they may be for their range. However in comparison to other minimalist shoes, I would not class them as extra wide. They are wide though, and my feet had loads of space to splay. Also if I was been picky, the toe box might be a little shallow for some. They actually fit me great and they are well shaped for my feet. However some people may prefer a slightly higher toe box. However that might then throw out the look of the boot, or effect something I haven’t considered.
The rubber is textured, rather than smooth. This makes them look cool, but it does make them harder to clean. The mud does come off with a damp cloth, but the mud can get “stuck” in the indentations a little. So it a little harder to clean than it could be.
I love the look of these boots. Sometimes minimalist shoes can look a bit weird or “grandady”. I quite like my shoes to be a bit weird to be honest, I do like to stand out from the crowd. However I don’t want them to look old fashioned for example.
I think these have a bit of a military boot look to them, I can imagine seeing someone running past me, with a military pack on, scaling a fell I am on. They look sturdy, and would fit the type of attire you wear on long cold walks. However I could quite happily wear them to the pub or a restaurant without feeling like I am under or overdressed. This is important as they are marketed as a 365 day all year round footwear.
I don’t think people would immediately notice these were barefoot shoes, unless you have an eye for them. I could spot them a mile away, but I think a regular person would just presume they were a normal boot.
I am a UK 9, so I googled what that is in a EU size. It was a 43. However I thought it was wise to use their size guide to double check. Turns out I was only just a 42. However, I weighed it up and thought I could be wearing them with thick thermal walking socks a lot. So I took a bit of a risk and ordered the 43.
This was a good choice, they are nice an snug with thick socks on and nice an roomy with thin socks on…. perfect!
When ordering from Sole Runner as with any barefoot company, always follow their size guides. They are often independent companies and will often have their own quirks with sizing.
I have worn these everyday for a couple of weeks, this is a minimum of 2 miles of dog walking a day. It has been wet and windy pretty much all of the time. I have found these boots to be extremely comfortable, and my feet have remained dry.
You do not have to ease yourself into these aka the breaking in period. In fact if you have to break in a minimalist shoe…. then is it even a minimalist shoe.
I have worn these on roads, paths, dirt paths, woods, forests, farmers fields, flat ground and hills. There has been zero issues with them. They provide protection from the elements, feel “safe”, durable, yet have that classic barefoot connection to the earth that you want. Where you can feel the ground, but you are not worried about what you are going to find on each step.
You can often tell if a shoe is cheaply made and can guess that they will not last long. I have the complete opposite feeling about these. They have a look and and feel of quality and attention to detail.
I am looking forward to trying out more from the Sole Runner range.
I will add an additional edit to this review in 12 months time, to see how the wear and tear actually was.
Goodbye, and happy barefooting!