Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Message Henning Mule & Mullen Slide Review

Article by Michael Ellenberger

Henning Mule ($175), Mullen Slide ($165)


It goes without saying that, on a site dedicated to running shoes (and gear), the majority of what we review is, well, just that. But even on those big mileage weeks, churning out long hours on the roads, trails, track treadmill, whatever… you’re still spending much more time not running than running. This is all of course a big lead-up to - recovery shoes! Shoes for the other hours of the day, when you’re not choosing between high-stack trainer and carbon-plated racer. 

I was lucky enough to receive the Henning mule (clog) and Mullen slide from new startup brand Message. Message has been making moves, pushing these as post-run and post-workout recovery shoes, and for good reason - and I’ll explain below, they’re extremely comfortable and enjoyable to wear and (as I’ll also belabor, below) since clogs are an ideal post-run option, it’s sort of a no-brainer to market these to runners. There’s a lot to like here, and while this won’t follow our traditional running shoe review format, I will give my usual spoiler that - yeah, I love these, and have been wearing them basically non-stop since I got them (indoors and out!).

I’ll give the additional context that, for as long as I’ve been running (and probably before!), I’ve been wearing the Birkenstock Boston clog, so I was really keen to compare the two - they’re similarly priced (for Birk’s leather models, anyway) and of course, comparable styles (clogs/mules), so it’s sort of a no-brainer for me to pick apart their similarities and differences - since the Boston (and Birkenstock, generally) is the sandal I’m most familiar with, I’ll also use that as the basis for some review points, below. 


Fit and Comfort

Both the Henning and Mullen are pretty simple - cork footbed, Hugflex upper. Each part is sort of the “stars” of the shoe, to be honest - the cork is obviously similar to Birkenstock (among others) and drives the comfort of the shoe, but the upper here is something really unique. 

It’s a knit upper, but unlike anything we see on running shoes - namely, because it’s so snug. And of course, while both the Message sandals (Henning and Mullen alike) use a cork footbed - manufactured in Portugal, and really comfortable, even before you’ve fully broken them in! - the layout is not exactly the same as on a Birkenstock. 

On the upper, first - Message calls this material Hugflex, which I thought was just a cute piece of marketing, but in fact - this upper is, well, like a hug. It’s really tight, and indeed that’s how the shoe holds you in place - not from a grippy toebar, like Birks, but instead from compression of the upper.

It’s weird, at first, and is a noticeably different approach, but I came to really enjoy it. I don’t know that the upper is compressive enough to provide the “usual” compression benefits (improved blood flow, muscle recovery, etc.) like we’d find on a pair of compression socks, but it’s undoubtedly comfortable and therapeutic. 

On the Henning, the effect is a little more pronounced than on the Mullen (likely since slide sandals like this often use the tightness of the upper to hold onto your foot, so it reads as more traditional), but it works extremely well in both cases.

I had a number of questions about the arch, and how it compared to a Birkenstock footpod, and while visually I didn’t notice the arch to be as pronounced as on the Birkenstock, I did find them pretty similar in feel. The Message arch is probably a little more subtle (the whole footbed on the Message shoes is less dynamic than on the Birkenstocks - a little flatter profiled overall, I think) but it still provided a ton of post-run comfort.

The outsole is nothing flashy (though visually, I like the pop). 

There is some mild grooving in the forefoot to provide some flexibility, and they feel as you’d expect walking. I have had quite bad luck wearing my Birkenstocks in winter conditions (those outsoles, especially when worn, are very nearly useless) and while I don’t think the Message options are doing to be hyper-grippy, I did find them to provide solid footing even on some slick, slushy days (thanks, midwest spring, for providing so many testing conditions!).

And then there’s durability and - gasp! - cleanability. Because yes, while Birks are terrific shoes, they can get quite gross from repeated wear, especially in the warm summer months. Message has designed their shoes to be machine washable, which is, in my book, extremely useful - and, frankly, surprising, given what I thought I knew about water and cork. But, having washed my pair of Hennings once… I have no complaints! It works great, looks like new… recommended! 


The biggest surprise for me - and ultimately, my biggest like about the shoe - is the upper! Message’s slogan is “Like a hug for your feet,” which I assumed alluded generally to comfort. 

Not so. The Hugflex upper is really snug, and in fact is the mechanism which holds your foot in place - a distinct change from Birkenstock, but really a nice one! The upper takes some getting used to, but is ultimately really comfortable, breathable, and in many ways superior to Birkenstock (I don’t recommend running in clogs, even down the block, but I bet Message provides a superior lockdown here).

Moreover, the overall utility of both the Henning and the Mullen is greatly increased by the durability and washability. A machine wash option (don’t dry!) is terrific, and the shoes - free of animal products - just feel premium. I’m partial to the Henning - I spent maybe 70% of my review hours in them, including a long tenure in them as house shoes, before I even broke them out outside - but both shoes just feel so…deluxe! 

Plus, there’s sustainability! We are trying to talk more and more about this at RTR (partially because I’m just not that informed on the “usual” ways shoes are made, which means I can’t really suss out which claims are valid and which are marketing!), but Message does make a big point on their commitment to prioritizing multigenerational manufacturing partners, short supply chains, renewable materials, and (in their words) “very kind people.” My experience matches that last part - they’re super friendly folks, and I think their products 100% back-up their message (no pun intended).


I don’t have many (or perhaps any!) “big” negatives, but I did encounter some quirks that are perhaps worth noting here. First, and least important - the black upper on the Henning turned my toes black with every wear (and correspondingly stained - not permanently - socks). I assume this is some dye transfer, and it did seem to lessen over time, but on warm days, it kicked back in when I was barefoot. Just something to consider.

Another negative in my eyes is the ease of “entry” - because the Hugflex material is so snug, I often was unable to just kick/slide them on with my foot (especially if I was wearing socks) and go. I often had to use a hand to hold up the upper, or really wriggle my foot to get it where I wanted it. This is a similar, but distinct problem from Birkenstock (which I find hard to put on because the upper is so floppy and often needs to be held up), so it’s not really worth stressing over, but there it is. It bunches slightly at first wear, too, but evens out over time.


I can attest that, after a hard run, kicking off your running shoes and sliding on a pair of Mission sandals is the ideal way to begin your recovery towards the next one. It really comes back to that Hugflex upper which, like I said, is not just fabric to generally keep you in place - it’s tight-knitted, form-fitted material… almost a compression sock, defining the shape of the shoe. And it works superbly. Coupled with the soft, durable, and (over time) custom-shaped cork footbed, this shoe just oozes comfort and recovery. 

Leaving out the buckles and leather of the Birkenstock, the light simplicity of the Message sandals make them feel breezier, more fun, and just more enjoyable to slip on when your feet are still reeling from milage. My current pair of Birkenstocks has lasted me upwards of a decade, and I think the lovely options from Message can similarly go the distance - after you do!

Shop for Message Henning Mule & Mullen

Henning Mule (Black, $175)

Mullen Slide ($165)

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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1 comment:

scratch geometry dash said...

It's look so nice but I dont like it much =((