Over the past 4-6 weeks I’ve been giving the new Earth Runners Cadence Adventure sandal a thorough test. The Cadence Adventure is the newest creation in their Earth Runners comprehensive range of sandals.
Earth Runners are a US brand that manufacture a comprehensive range of minimal sandals. Their sandals are have an earth connected lug built into the laces that aspire to restore our relationship with nature.
The Cadence Adventure sandal is an evolution in running sandal industry and wildly different to the sandals I’ve been running in over the past five years. The first noticeable difference is the Cadence Adventure has a stack height of 18 mm. At USD $99 they are at the upper price point for most running sandals. While still half that of most brand running shoes.
Other features include;
- All terrain Earth grip wicking footbed
- High rebound/ energy return midsole
- Earth Rock plate
- BioGrip Vibram Outsole.
This test was my first foray running in Earth Runners sandals and first thoughts of the Cadence Adventure were very positive. They have a highly aggressive sole pattern that is very deliberately aimed to the trails. They have a very comfortable footbed with the ‘Earth Grip’ covering. The lacing design is easy to adjust and overall looks a very impressive sandal design.
With a stack height of 18 mm the initial reaction on first run possibly takes this sandal out of the minimal footwear category. Although with a zero drop heel to toe ratio keeps it in the minimal category, I as intrigued to see how Earth Runners balanced the performance and protection of the greater stack height with the ground feel and barefoot running experience that most sandal runners crave and expect.
With all running sandals it is highly important to have the lacing adjusted to be comfortable and secure. Earth Runners have quite a thick lace, however an easy to manage lacing system. There are three adjustments that can be made to the thong, heel and ankle strap. These adjustments are easy to make but important to get right, particularly on the thong and heel strap. It took me a bit of time to get used to the thong strap being thicker than I’m used to. I had a short period of discomfort until I had the adjustment correct and I my skin become used to the thicker lace. The heel strap on all sandals needs to be quite tight, this is to keep the sandal secure on the foot and avoid the sandal slipping. Take the time to get these right before you attempt to run too far.
During my time in the Cadence Adventure sandal I’ve given these sandals a real test on many varying terrains over approx. 200km of running. I’ve given them a test both on road and off roads. On the trails they’ve been taken over dry packed dusty single trail, rocky trails, muddy trails, beach and coastal sandy trails. They also been given a thorough test both over uphill and downhill trail terrains. I’ve completed a variety of runs in these sandals at all speeds from aerobic paces through to workouts at threshold paces.
On the first run in the Cadence Adventure I was both surprised and impressed by the overall running ride. The run was only a short run on the road and the initial feeling highlighted a very responsive running experience. There is a great energy return experienced from the higher stack height and midsole on the sandal. While most minimal sandals are designed to be thin and flexible the Cadence Adventure deliberately moves away from this and provides a midsole that gives good shock absorption and a surprising amount of energy return for a sandal. The last time I felt this type of running experience was in a traditional shoe with an EVA midsole.
My other initial thought was the difference compared to more minimal footwear does take away some of the ground feel I’ve been used to in a sandal. The Earth Rock plate in the Cadence Adventure gives additional stiffness and a more rigid sandal under foot. As a result, flexibility of the overall sandal is reduced. This reduction in ground feel will be noticed by those who really are after a natural barefoot experience with the sandal just offering protection. However, there is a genuine balance between protection, performance and natural ground feel of the sandal. There is still a level of barefoot ground feel, you still have some awareness of what is underfoot which allows for confidence when running on all surfaces.
My immediate reaction once hitting the trails in the Cadence Adventure was of pure joy. These sandals truly come alive when they hit the trails. The aggressive outsole offers deep spaced lugs to provide an impressive amount of grip and traction on any surface. This gives the runner a high level of assurity under foot when running on even the loosest trail surface. With the extra sandal under foot these sandals offer comfort not seen before in a sandal, they are a paradigm shift in the performance trail runners can expect from sandals.
At just 9.35 oz or 265 grams for the size 9 sandals they are surprisingly light. For a sandal with such a generous amount of material underfoot they are extremely light weight. This is very noticeable on the trails and allows for a responsive performance on the most technical trails. The grip and responsiveness allow the runner to really push the pace on technical trails and downhill sections with confidence. There feels like there is very little underfoot which belies the feeling of confidence with the traction and stability these sandals possess.
The increased stack height and reduced flexibility came as my only concern on the trails. With a reduced flexibility they didn’t quite have the give on rocky trails that I’m used to. This came simply from a reduced awareness under foot and is impossible to avoid. The more minimal the footwear the more awareness you have, and on the flip side to this is more protection and security. Whether you prefer protection or awareness is a personal decision. If you are using the sandal in longer trail races it is likely a game changer for you running performance.
Over the course of running in the Cadence Adventure I have completed further runs on the road and become very comfortable with the feel of the sandal on the road. Even with the aggressive tread pattern they give a smooth comfortable experience over roads. With responsive midsole and higher stack height the cadence Adventure would be a suitable sandal to use over longer road runs.
Longevity of the Cadence Adventure seems very impressive. While I’ve now run about 200km in these sandals there is no noticeable wear on the outsole. Neither is there any deterioration of the midsole or footbed. With the deep lugs on the outsole of the sandal they offer the sandal laces protection from the ground as they wrap under the sandal. This is sometimes an issue with many types of huarache style running sandals as the laces can wear over time and can need replacing. This is virtually eliminated on the Cadence Adventure. I’d estimate you’re likely to expect upwards of 1000km in the Cadence Adventure, which is great mileage from any type of running footwear.
Overall I’m very impressed with the performance this sandal offers over all terrains. Equally impressive is the comfort and running experience. The quality of the sandal material is very impressive and mileage you’d expect from this sandal makes it good value for money.
While ground feel is reduced there is a nice balance in performance gain with the increase in energy return, particularly on the trails. It’s a trade-off that will ultimately be a personal choice. If you are looking for a pure natural barefoot running experience, there are probably other sandals in the Earth Runners range that suit you better. If you are looking for a sandal to allow you to perform your best in trail races than the Cadence Adventure is a sandal worth serious consideration.
These sandals are a truly beautiful running experience on the trails. They offer the performance equal to most running shoes with the benefits of a minimal sandal. They are very comfortable for longer runs over either the road or trails. The Cadence Adventure is a very exciting addition to the Earth Runners range and could be a game changer in the sandal running space.
While there are times when I’d prefer a more minimal sandal for a more natural barefoot experience these sandals are a great addition to the arsenal of any runner. They are truly a great sandal to bring out for your long runs and longer trail races. The overall quality of the Cadence Adventure coupled with a great running experience and expected longevity they certainly justify their price tag and represent very good value for money. I’m really looking forward to bringing the Cadence Adventures to my next ultra-distance trail race hopefully in the near future.
If you are interested in the Cadence Adventure or are looking to transition to a barefoot sandal Earth Runners have a great range to choose from. You can find more out about Earth Runners here.
Disclaimer: Earth Runners supplied a pair of the Cadence Adventure for the purpose of an honest review of their product.