Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Sandal Reviews - The Bedrock Gabbro

I've had the opportunity to road and trail test some of the best running sandals on the market over the past 18-months.  I started my journey with running sandals at a time when I was having a lot of trouble with shoes.  I am sure many runners can relate.  Turns out I just needed to let my foot be a foot and nothing does that quite like a running sandal.

Instead of back-tracking to some of the sandals I have been using for a longer period of time, I really wanted to shine a spotlight on a newer pair of trail-running sandals which has seemed to outperform them all.

Introducing the Bedrock Gabbro

The Bedrock Sandal company was started by two geologists in Northern California just a few years ago.  They came from humble beginnings (kickstarter) with a simple goal of creating footwear that harnesses the innate power of the human foot.  Today they make four different types of sandals to meet a multitude of outdoor adventures.  Notably, all of their sandals come with their ROCK SOLID WARRANTY.  As long as you have at least 1mm of Vibram sole remaining under the ball of the foot of your sandal, they'll fix any sole or strap issues for free and cover the cost of shipping both ways.

Their lineup includes:

7mm thick, 4.2 oz (size 9)

9mm thick, 4.5 oz

11mm thick, 4.3 oz

14mm thick, 7.8 oz

Comparison chart from the Bedrock website.

The Bedrock Gabbro will set you back $84, which isn't the absolute cheapest running sandal on the market.  That said, I challenge you to find a running shoe that lasts longer or offers a better warranty.  The chances of your sandal outliving your typical running shoe is...nearly 100% guaranteed.  Thus far I've had the opportunity to run about 116 miles in the Gabbros over the past couple weeks.  I'll break down their performance in no particular format (that's just my style).  Feel free to leave questions for me if there's something I missed you would like to know more about.

The Sandal Rating System:





Holy Shit Amazing

Trail Capability

The Gabbro really shines as a trail minimalist shoe, providing enough protection for highly rocky terrain while still allowing the foot to be a foot.  With a weight of only 4.3oz, it feels as though you are wearing nothing at all.  The strapping system on the current version of the Gabbro is the same strapping system as the Earthquake and Syncline versions.  I have found for mountain running, the sandal is secured to the foot except in the most extreme conditions (primarily if your foot is muddy or soaking wet AND you're descending a steep hill).

To be fair.  The Gabbro's trail capability is the best I have had on my feet to date.  I am withholding the holy shit amazing 5-sandal rating simply because Bedrock will be shipping their all new Cairn Adventure-Minimal Sandal soon and it promises to be even more amazing on rugged trails.  I have to save a rating for it, obviously.  Perhaps the Cairn will be good enough to run Montana's infamous THE RUT 50K?

My beautiful pair of Gabbros ("gently" used).
A nice shot of the Vibram tread.  This Vibram tread is not unique to Bedrock and can be found on other sandals. 

(holy shit amazing)

I wish I had the Gabbros for all of my previous ultra-marathon trail races.  They have now become my go-to shoe for their comfort, especially in the toe post region.  There are many methods and materials to use as a toe post between your first and second toe.  On longer runs over uneven terrain I have found that some of my previous sandals (Luna, Shamma, Xero brands) would cause some discomfort at my web space.  Many of us in the sandal world like to refer to this condition as "toe wedgie" and it can be quite painful.

All of the bedrock sandals (excluding the Cairn which I will be testing soon) have the same comfortable and grippy footbed.  In the running shoe world, we only think about the outsole of the shoe and how well it might grip the earth.  In the sandal world we also have to consider the footbed of the sandal.  I think Bedrock has done an holy shit amazing job at creating a strapping system, footbed, and toe post that are amazingly comfortable in all but the harshest conditions.  For a lightweight and minimal sandal, they do an exceptional job at staying in place and keeping my foot centered on the sole.

Also nice to note, once you have your sandal lacing system adjusted well, they can be easily slipped on/off without further adjustments.  The heel strap includes a small elastic section that aids with this and yet the heel strap itself is quite secure and does not slide down when running.  Bedrock also sends you a small set of instructions on how to adjust the laces to fit your feet.  It took me just a few minutes to get right and I haven't needed to adjust them since.

Bedrock's toe post design is unique in the running sandal world and has proven thus far to be the most comfortable for long runs over uneven terrain.  My guess is the double thread system offsets the load so not all of the pressure is placed in one area of the foot webbing.  The stitching you see (footbed attached to the sole) is comfortable and has not cause any rubbing.



We may need to consider that the durability of a running sandal (and minimalist shoe) will naturally be better than a regular shoe with cushioning and support.  Basically once the cushioning wears out and people start to feel more discomfort, they feel they need a new shoe.  This can happen with as little as 300-500 miles on a shoe.  In theory, a minimal shoe will last hundreds of additional miles so long as the outsole is durable.  For example, my Soft Star trail running shoes have lasted over 700 miles and by looking at the sole I would guess they'll go at least 2,000 additional miles.

The sole used for the Gabbro is thick enough that you should expect to get 1,000 miles or more out of the sandal (unless you're dragging your feet, then you have other problems).  It is likely that you will wear down the forefoot area more quickly and eventually render the tread pattern useless in that part of the sandal.  Still, the sandal itself should last awhile.  Also remember Bedrock's Rock Solid Warranty is far better than almost everything else on the market (Xero shoes also has an excellent warranty).

Also important to note when looking at the bottom of the sandal...the lacing system is reinforced with a rubber strip so that your laces have excellent protection where they might come into contact with the ground.  This is the first lacing system I have seen with this feature.  After >100miles on the trail the laces are like new and I have no concern of them fraying part way through the Leadville 100 trail run this year.

(holy shit amazing)

When I rate minimalism, I hope to stress how true the sandal stays to the ideals of not interfering with the function of the foot.  Despite the thickness of the sole, the Gabbro offers amazing protection to the foot without any real downsides.  I have found that I can still feel an excellent sense of the terrain I am running and adjust my stride and movements to that terrain while enjoying protection from sharp rocks underneath.  The Gabbro compliments the function of the foot by remaining highly flexible, extremely lightweight, and sturdy against the foot when in motion.  It feels more a part of you than something you're wearing on your foot.  Sandals especially shine because they are the perfect footwear to allow your toes to splay as much as they desire.  And I must confess, there is nothing quite like the open air on your feet...total freedom!

Flexible footwear allows the foot and ankle to act as the natural spring they are.
Despite the excellent protection (11mm), the Gabbro is still very flexible and allows natural loading.


It's possible to give the Gabbros a lifestyle rating of 5-sandals, but I'm withholding that rating simply because the sandal is so darn simple.  Personally I love the classic look, but there may be folks out there who wish to personalize and snaz-out their sandals a bit.  For fashionistas, Xero shoes offers a DIY kit where you can easily add beads or other lacing styles to give your sandal a different look.  Luna sandals also offers a variety of sandals that are as appropriate for jeans as they are your running shorts.

I love the simple and clean look of the Gabbro sandals for every day wear.

Who are they for?

I would recommend the Bedrock Gabbro sandal to anyone looking for a durable, lightweight, and comfortable sandal for the trails.  I think the sandal especially shines for runners because it is so light and still manages to offer excellent protection over a wide range of terrain types.  I suspect the Cairn will be the ideal sandal for runners over the toughest terrain (sharp rock) and for hikers carrying heavier backpacks for long distances.

If the Gabbro is a Jeep Wrangler, the Cairn will be an M1-Abrams Tank.

Stay tuned for a future review of the Bedrock Cairn sandal.

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