Branca Barefoot recently sent me a complimentary pair of their Leather Branca sandals to test out and review for the SockDoc site. Over the last several weeks I have actually ditched my footwear almost entirely, staying barefoot almost the entire day, with the exception of a couple runs a week in minimalist shoes. So my feet are not used to much on them anymore. I leave the house barefoot, drive barefoot, and now the Sock Doc is sock-less even in the office with patients. But alas I must venture into places such as the airport and grocery stores where some form of footwear is required, and therefore have been able to give the Brancas a good test over the last month.
The Brancas are very comfortable and easy to slip on and off. Unlike some other huarache sandals I’ve worn, the heal strap is very comfortable and keeps the foot secure as do the thick laces (which are a bit long and you’ll most likely want to cut). The pair I am wearing has a rubber heel strap, but you can get a leather heel strap (brown or black) as an option, making it a bit more rigid, the Branca guys say.
The thin sole is made up of leather and rubber, and allows you to feel the ground very well, though I’d assume that the new Vibram model is even better with allowing the foot to develop its kinesthetic sense. This new upgraded model with Vibram Newflex soles is also made via a method to curve the soles so that they don’t flap and bend under the toes. Another one of their models (limited edition) uses a perforated sole that allows for increased breathability and traction between the foot and the sandal. So overall, there are three models.
I did not run in the Brancas more than about ½ mile or so with my kids. They were comfortable but I’d rather run barefoot or in my minimalist shoes. I did walk on them on the road and on trails a few times to test them out and they performed well. There are only two things I would recommend to any new Branca Barefoot wearer. First is to be ready when you open the package. The adhesive they use to attach the leather to the rubber sole has a powerful smell. I left mine outside for two days to air them out and then they were fine. Second, when you follow the directions to cut your Brancas, I’d recommend walking in them a bit to see where your foot “falls” on the sole and then use that placement to outline and cut. Not everybody’s foot goes perfectly straight (mine don’t). So if you walk, then outline, then cut you’ll be more accurate with your sizing rather than just stepping in them with your foot perfectly forward and possibly ending up wishing you had cut less.