Chuck Perry. He and I have been working for a while on a minimalist running moc. All I can say is "Wow! His craftsmanship really comes through." We're in the final stages of prototyping this one, so here are some pics and my review of them.
Brief description: custom sized, hand stitched, Vibram Cherry sole (prototype has a different sole), resoleable, all leather. Anticipated price: $180.
Putting them on is amazing. The uppers feel like they were made for my foot (they were!). Toes have wiggle room and aren't squeezed, like they are in shoes and to a lesser extent in VFFs. I had mine sized for thick wool socks, as I want to be able to wear them through the winter.
There are no seams in the lower part of the moc. It's all one piece of leather. Beautiful! The heel cups in and is a perfect fit (according to Chuck both of these are possible because of the way he hand stitches it). Not once in my run did it slip or feel too tight.
First, I ran with no sock for about 1.5 miles at 36 degrees F. Feel of the ground was nearly identical to VFF Sprints, but the feel of the moc on my foot was much better. Like with the Sprints, my foot was on the verge of being too cold. I put on my medium weight wool socks. This takes a bit of practice, as I leave some extra sock in the toe to keep it from being too tight on my foot, but I have to wiggle it into the moc so the sock doesn't snug up. Feels incredible and still plenty of toe room to wiggle!
With the sock on, the feel of the ground on rough trail is about halfway between the Vibram Sprint and Trek. The sock definitely adds some cushion. (these can be ordered with a custom thickness to the sole, so if you want Sprint equivalent or Trek equivalent, that can be done. Adding a sock adds cushion, so there is some inherent flexibility there.
Climbing up 1,500 feet in altitude, the temp dropped to around 25 F. I ran on clear rocky trail, snow pack, and ice. My foot temperature remained comfy cosy (but not too hot) through the entire run. Leather tends to breath well and have a wide comfort zone range, especially with a wool sock on.
I tested the ICEtrekkers chains with the Primal Running Moc. By their chart I should use a L for my foot size. I'm inclined to agree, as the Mediums were a bit snug. I'll try the large next. Even too snug, the chains did great an weren't too uncomfortable and did not cause bruising (as they did with the VFFs between my toes).
We hope to make these available to you very soon!
UPDATE (late November, 2009):
We have the double soled leather running mocs ready. If you agree with the running addage that the best pair of running shoes is a leather ballet shoe -- this is the way to go. What are they like to run in? On anything dry, they're phenomenal. On snow and ice, they are slippery (not surprisingly). I simply slid on my chains and go for miles in powder, snow pack, and ice. Because there isn't really any wet grass I haven't tested that or wet rock. I'd bet they would be slippery on smooth wet rock, find on textured wet rock. They wear beautifully and have a replaceable sole (and you could always pray on rubber from the hardware store if you wanted to -- doesn't really help with the grip unless you add some fine sand bits in with it).
We're still doing R&D on the Cherry sole. The question at this point is if/how to make it so it works at least as well as the leather (wear, fit, longevity, durability) because if so, it will address the slippery when wet challenge of just the leather.
To order, contact Chuck Perry at Mountain People Footwear.
Traction Update, December 28, 2009:
I'm finding I much prefer the leather sole and get a lot more traction from it than I expected, especially in snow 25F or colder. For traction I now use Stableicers Lite with velcro over the forefoot to help keep it on, but only when absolutely necessary (which isn't as often as I'd've thought). See the Traction Tag for the latest.
Plus 8.5 miles