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May 1, 2012

Sanuk Hemp Shoe Review

"Herb the gift from the earth -
And what's from the earth is of the greatest worth -
So before you knock it try it first -
You'll see it's a blessing and it's not a curse

If you don't like my fire then don't come around -
'Cause I'm gonna burn one down -
Yes I'm gonna burn one down."
- Ben Harper, "Burn One Down" (video after post)

Before I carved this little niche for myself in minimalist footwear, I dabbled in reviewing footwear that was environmentally friendly.  Today's product is something of a hybrid of those two genres, featuring a shoe that offers many biomechanical benefits of natural footwear, while using eco-friendly material for its upper construction. 

Sanuk Hemp shoe

The only downside is that the material in question isn't exactly legal to grow in the United States - although that's a larger discussion for another time (but if you want a synopsis, I'll have a short discussion here momentarily.)  However, when you have a finished product like Sanuk's Hemp shoe, it's tough to see a rational objection to using hemp for industrial purposes.  If you think of the plant as a gift from the Earth, think of the Hemp shoe as a gift to your feet, providing a great combination of high comfort and high fashion - and like the plant, it's well-suited for a variety of uses.

Here's the quick rundown of using hemp, a low-THC (the stuff that gets you high) strain of the notorious Cannabis plant that is among the earliest farmed plants known to man: It's one of the fastest-growing crops in the world, and can be used for food, fuel, paper products, textiles, furnishings, and multiple other applications.  It requires almost no pesticides or herbicides to thrive, and is responsibly farmed in multiple countries around the world. 

It also comprises the entire upper of Sanuk's Hemp shoe, a 100% vegan option that is probably one of the most versatile styles in the company's lineup.  The shoe is nice looking enough to wear in a casual work or social setting, but it's got enough of a laid-back vibe - especially thanks to the frayed edge seam detail - to fit right in with a tank top and cutoff shorts.

Wearing them sockless is no problem, thanks to a liner made in the classic beach poncho style.  Between the liner and the soft molded EVA midsole, your feet have mellow comfort no matter what environment you use them in.

In previous Sanuk reviews I've described the construction specs that make their footwear fairly friendly for barefoot or natural shoe fans.  They're not perfect - primarily because at 15mm they're a little too high off the ground ...

... but there's no question that your feet maintain full flexibility and natural biomechanics when wearing the Hemp shoe.  You can roll it ... you just can't smoke it.

Another recurring construction point with Sanuk shoes is the outsoles, which provide very little traction at all.  On the Hemp shoe, the regular Happy U pattern is overlain with a sheer, very thin fabric of some sort, which actually makes them even less grippy.  I'm not sure what Sanuk is doing here, but it's the one clear drawback of the company's shoes.

Otherwise, the Hemp is a crazy-comfortable, highly versatile sidewalk sandal that demonstrates an effective and responsible use of the plant in question - even if the DEA won't hear of it.  Sanuk's Hemp shoe retails for $50 from Amazon.com.

Quite fitting with a simple and remarkably effective plant is this Ben Harper gem, featuring one of the simplest and most remarkably effective riffs in his entire catalog.

Ben Harper, "Burn One Down" (click to play):

*Product provided by Sanuk.  Affiliate sales support Running and Rambling.
**If you have a product you'd like reviewed, contact me at info@runningandrambling.com.

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mtnrunner2 5/1/12, 11:32 PM  

I have to say all of Sanuk's shoes look pretty comfy. As for hemp: give me a break, DEA.

RD Jim 5/2/12, 9:12 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
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