Barefoot in Bedrock Sandals.
In June 2011, two AmeriCorps volunteers—one, a Virginian and the other from Connecticut—kicked off their boots, went nomad and started Bedrock Sandals to make super-minimalist running sandals.
Dan Opalacz and co-founder Nick Pence, a Charlottesville native, took inspiration from Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run, the story of Mexico’s Tarahumara Indians, who run marathon distances in huaraches made of tire-tread without suffering typical runner’s injuries. “We got nylon paracord and some Vibram [branded rubber] sheets from a local cobbler,” Opalacz says. “We diced up a really haggard pair. You really had to be a Boy Scout to actually tie these up to get them to stay on your feet.”
They soon replaced leather and knots with outdoor-grade nylon webbing and a backpack buckle, used a 6mm Vibram sole, and the Bedrock Earthquake was born. They raised over $10,000 in a Kickstarter campaign and set up their base of operations in Opalacz’s Subaru-powered ’86 VW van before moving to their current digs in downtown Charlottesville in spring 2013.
Bedrock sold about 4,500 pairs of sandals in 2013, about three-and-a-half times what they sold in 2012, mostly online. They also sell through a limited number of boutiques, including some in Japan. Plans are in development, says Opalacz, for a California operation in West Oakland, a physical presence in their biggest market.
“I think running barefoot brings back the pure, primal joy of running,” says friend and ultra marathoner Naresh Kumar, who discovered Bedrock sandals after he saw a friend wearing a pair.
Opalacz says that he and Pence plan to collaborate with sponsor Vibram to film Kumar as he runs 600km across Ireland in June 2014 ... in Bedrocks, of course.