This post is going to sound very negative and sarcastic, but I am just tired of reading the same crap either intended to hype up barefoot running or make people who run barefoot sound like idiots or band-wagon jumpers. Here is a link to the article that came across my inbox yesterday. http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/07/11/2309625/barefoot-running-it-can-be-great.html
The title seemed encouraging. NOT.
True, running barefoot can be great. The first time you try it tends to be exhilarating. Most have been wearing shoes for years and mention that they can’t even walk across the street barefoot because it hurts. Well, when they kick off their shoes and prance along a smooth sidewalk they tend to smile immediately and mention how proper it feels. They feel like a kid again. But what about the second part of the title, “…but not for everyone”
<Insert puzzled look here>
Excerpt: They call it “barefoot” running, although many fans do it in $100 shoes. It’s based on the almost-mythical cross-country feats of an obscure Mexican Indian tribe, although even many of its members wear sandals.
Excerpt: “The safest running is without shoes,” says the University of Miami’s Sae Yong Lee, who has doctoral degrees in biomechanics and sports science. It causes the runner to stride on the balls of the feet rather than the heels, lessening the shock that runs straight up the skeleton from the heel, Lee says.
Barefoot running does, however, put more stress on the foot itself, increasing the possibility of stress fractures to the foot as well as plantar fasciitis, an irritation of the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot, he adds, so runners with those problems should avoid it.
Excerpt: Mike Letter, co-director of the URun Clinic in the University of Miami Sports Medicine Department, has tried “barefoot” running shoes.“It’s OK for some people, Letter says. “But certain foot types can’t handle the impact. If you have a high arch or a low arch, if you underpronate or overpronate [a situation in which the foot rolls to the side when you step], it could lead to injuries like plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, strained calf muscles.
Certain foot types can’t handle the impact? This is counter logical. If it hurts stop doing it or change the way you are doing it. The amount of impact can be controlled. Running barefoot doesn’t have to hurt. Taken slowly, your soles will strengthen and you won’t be bothered by the fertilizer that your neighbor spread all over the sidewalk. :) Letter then groups people who can’t handle the impact into all inclusive groups. I mean, what really is the right amount of pronation? How high or low of an arch is abnormal? We are all different and our bodies will adapt. Feet work… let them.
These types of articles are similar to blog posts like this one. What is the point? It is just some guy throwing out some thoughts with a few quotes mixed in. So anyhow… I guess this turned into a little rant of sorts… Sorry. My favorite part of the article is this…
“And, of course, the barefoot runner must take care not to step on anything hard or sharp.”
Firstly, I am in NO WAY affiliated with Invisible Shoes and this won’t be a review. I don’t have a pair of these, however, for the first time… I may actually buy a pair of huarache sandals. Invisible Shoes may have NAILED it with the FeelTrue design. The price is low enough, I suppose. Keep in mind, they are not a HUGE shoe company with endless capital. Steve is an entrepreneur and will likely be very successful with this idea of his.
These days, most good ideas are extensions of other good ideas. In this case, we have a modern spin on a centuries old sandal design. A molded rubber outsole with a tread pattern for traction, raised ankle holes to prevent premature lace wear, and a contoured shape to help prevent the “flopping” that can occur with flat, rubber, home-made huarache builds. I like the way these look. I predict COLOR options in the future.
Bare-footing parents out there… Steve is offering kids sizes. This means that you can get your kids into some Huaraches style sandals thus preventing their feet from becoming a mangled mess (like the feet you may see every time you look down) Your feet are shaped like wing-tips or pumps aren’t they? :D
Remember the Silly Band craze? How could you forget… it only just seemed to have ended. I can see elementary age girls LOVING these sandals. Lace them up with some beads and pendants and WOW… they will all be sporting them in no time. Huaraches all around!!! Good Job, Steve.
Let me start by throwing many thanks to Planetshoes.com for providing the Terra-Plana Vivo Barefoot Achilles sandals for my wear-test and review. I would also like to Thank the Barefoot Runners Society and all of it’s membership. I have never had so much fun running until I ditched my shoes.
As many people may have discovered, as well as our ancestors who began making footwear in the first place… barefoot does not always fit the terrain. Footwear becomes a necessity at times. Thus… the Terra Plana Achilles…
“a barefoot multi-terrain running sandal. Suitable for: trail, beachside and urban exploration.” (http://www.vivobarefoot.com/us/mens/achilles-m-3924.html)
As advertised on Terra Plana’s website, some of the bullet points used to describe the sandals are as follows…
• Anatomically neutral outsole and wide footbed
o My comment: the footbed is plenty wide and accommodates my wide foot just fine.
• VB sero-pitch performance last
o My comment: I have no idea what this means… Anyone? Anyone?
• Split toe guard
o My comment: This was supposed to be a good thing… more on this later.
• Medial toe-bridge to maximize ball of the foot balance and response
o My comment: Another overly technical description which means nothing to the average consumer… such as me. Wait… I am average?
• Poly-Urethane insole
o My comment: OK, I can dig this. Contributes to the vegan quality of the sandals.
• VB intergrated 3D upper-outsole
o My comment: Again… I have no idea what this means… Anyone? Anyone?
• Dual-moulded reinforced nylon O-rings
o My comment: Thanks, but what exactly does this do for me?
• Removable and fully adjustable foot strap
o My comment: Adjustable is good… or was supposed to be, but don’t remove this strap! If you do… it’s like some mutant flip-flop.
OK, now on to the real meat of the review. I received these sandals early in May and have been wearing them and running in them all month.
When I saw these sandals, they immediately caught my eye. The colors were nice and the styling made it friendly to look at. When wearing these sandals, the people who do notice them didn’t seem turned off by the appearance. The Achilles are unlike the Vibram Fivefingers… which can sometimes draw odd looks from other people. I was pleasantly surprised by the way these sandals looked on my feet. See here…
What? You want to know how they feel? At first they feel great. I mean, what could be better than running sandals. When you run barefoot, one of the best things about it is the open air. When you wear shoes, your feet become saturated with sweat and you can become prone to a blister here and there once you add a bit of friction. When the Achilles are first placed upon your feet, all you want to do is go out and run. You can give your eyes a bit of a break from studying the ground as you run… helping to prevent that stone bruise that everyone is warning you about. …not to mention that hypodermic needles laying everywhere that you might step on. Just kidding…
The strap is simple to adjust and feels fine wrapped about your ankle. Adjusting the position of the strap and tension of the strap is very simple and doesn’t seem necessary. Once you fit them… you are set. They didn’t come loose when running or walking.
The ground feel was decent. This is an item that I don’t tend to put a lot of weight upon when wearing a shoe. Ground feel, to me, is something that you either have… or you don’t. Let’s face it… when you are wearing a shoe… you don’t have ground feel. Don’t argue… you know it’s true.
These sandals couldn’t be more zero drop. Flat as a pancake… just as they should be.
The Achilles do not add a support structure, which is a very good thing. The foot is allowed to move however it wants. Please note… I said foot.
The toe box? Well, this is where the trouble begins. The width of the toe box is fine. The wedge that fits between the toes… well, that becomes the Achilles heel of the Achilles. It is absolutely uncomfortable. The urethane upper (in this area) does not flex enough and rubs your second toe horribly. This part of the shoe is not flexible and caused me to remove the sandals after the first two miles… every time I ran with these. If you want to appreciate your barefeet… wear these for two miles and take them off.
The Achilles only weigh 6.5 ounces and were not noticeably heavy during use. I was happy with the weight of the sandals.
Oh my… these really look comfortable. But they aren’t. Sorry Terra Plana, but you have work to do in the toe area before these could be recommended for running… in my opinion.
They fit great and are comfortable… until you start walking/running. Then the pesky toe-wedge thing starts to annoy. Do these ever break-in or do my feet have to break-in? I was hoping for the first.
No issues here at all. I enjoyed wonderful traction. The sandals held the road and my feet did not slide around… much. I did find that my feet would find their way smooshed up against the front of the sandal. This added to the discomfort that developed within the first two miles of every run.
The Achilles are well constructed from my experience, however, one of the sandals is developing a stress crack… in the toe-wedge. Like I stated before… that wedge needs to be more flexible. Ouch! At least the sandal is breaking and not my toe.
In summary, I regret that I would not recommend the Achilles for running… or even walking. The toe-wedge is a deal breaker. If that item could be corrected (are you listening Terra Plana?), these sandals could be a very nice option for running. The fit is good but the pain starts almost immediately. I can not run in shoes and will not. However, I do want some footwear at times. A sandal keeps your feet mostly free and breathing; which is why I want a running sandal.
Allow me to give you my version.
- What is Barefoot Running? I refuse to answer this one. If you don’t know, stop reading and click your way out of here. :D
- Why the Interest in Barefoot Running? Simply because it’s interesting. Why the interest in anything? The reasons for actually doing it come later. The interest is just that… interest. Why not?
- What are Some Reported Benefits to Barefoot Running? This one gets more interesting. Some people say it’s more natural. This is a slippery slope IMO. Running is certainly a natural movement, just as is walking. I am just not quite there with this one. Running is natural with or without shoes. Would running naked be more natural. This one may be more about specifics. Let’s see… Barefoot running promotes a natural running gait. This I can agree with. Yeah, I know. I am splitting hairs, but the skeptics need us to be specific. The article cites environmental concerns. Seriously? Are they just trying to come up with stuff to write about. So are they saying that people run barefoot so that one less pair of shoes needs to be manufactured to reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing shoes on the environment? Nobody runs barefoot for this reason. It’s BS. The reason I hear most cited is… to reduce injury. Another crappy reason IMO. If you really want to reduce your chances of injury stop running and walk. Yeah, it will take you longer to get where you are going, but your chances of getting shin splints are almost nil. The reality is that running barefoot will not keep you from getting injured. I like to think that the injuries shod runners face and barefoot runners face come from two different pools. Many barefoot runners report that knee pain disappears and shin splints never return; however the same runners complain about sore calves, pain in the top of the foot, and ankle pain. Don’t get me started on Plantar Fasciitis. Some barefoot runners say that their cleared up since running barefoot and others (like me) got their first case of it from running barefoot. Of course, I am not so gung-ho as to run through it. I let it heal and it has not returned. So, you see. I run barefoot and have been injured; PF while barefoot and shin splints while shod. 1-1. The bottom-line is, if you get hurt running… let it heal before continuing to push yourself.
- What Risks are Associated with Barefoot Running? You might step on something and it might hurt. Open your eyes, pay attention, and watch where you step. Oh heck, you ARE going to step on something. Everyone does it at some point when running barefoot.
- Does Research Label Barefoot Running as Safe or Risky? Since when do we need research to tell us whether something is safe or risky before we do it. It doesn’t take a scientist to tell me that bungee jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge may be risky and isn’t particularly safe. Everything has risks.
- Is Barefoot Running Right for You? Probably not. Don’t try it. If you do and you like it, you may tell your friends. Then they will try it and tell their friends. Pretty soon, everyone is running barefoot. If this happens I won’t be a deviant anymore. Then I will have to change the name of this blog to averagerunner and that would be boring. LOL… I am just kidding. Barefoot running will not be for everyone. At one point, during transition from shoes, I told myself… “Man, you have to really WANT to run barefoot”. It can be a difficult transition. I like to think it was related to the years of being shod and had I grown up without shoes… it would have been simple. Just go run, the rest comes naturally. Wait, does that make it natural?
So, it really doesn’t matter what the answer to these questions are. Barefoot running is subjective. I think it is a lot of fun. This is my reason for doing it. Don’t worry about the pros & cons, whether running barefoot is the next step forward, or even if it’s a good idea. It’s fun. That’s all you need to know. Oh… and it burns a lot of calories. I like to eat at McDonald’s and Taco Bell.
Over the last year, I have been searching for a shoe that is “acceptable” to wear to work and satisfies my desires as a barefoot runner. I am about 14 months into my barefoot running transition. Some might say that I am fully transitioned but I have my doubts. That is for another day however. I need a shoe that isn’t completely uncomfortable and is wide enough not to constrict my foot/toes. This is a sticking point with many barefoot runners. Broad spectrum intolerance for shoes is one side-effect of barefoot running. Your feet simply like to be free.
My employer mandates a business casual environment; which basically means that anything goes from Khakis with golf shirts… all the way up to dress pants and button-up shirts are acceptable for men. Footwear isn’t well defined. One thing is for sure… Vibram Fivefingers are a NO NO at my office. :|
So… Have I found the shoe? It was between the Terra Plana Dharmas and the Patagonia Loulu’s. This is my first impression of the Patagonia since there is absolutely nowhere to try fitting the Terra Planas around here. Here are the pics.
The WIDE Toebox:
First and foremost, this was the number one detail that I was interested in. It drew me to the shoe. In the photos, you can see that my toes stay fairly spread. I don’t know why. My assumption is that muscle development has pushed them apart. These shoes have a nice, wide toe-box. I can not (or will not) tolerate my toes being squeezed together and I can barely tolerate my toes rubbing up against the side of the shoe. These shoes have enough room that I can slightly spread my toes and they do not touch when standing and walking. I have pressed down on the top of the shoe and can feel that the toe spread is intact. There is no compression going on in there. For this I am happy. Thanks Patagonia.
The THIN sole:
OK. Look at the picture of the sole. The sole is made of latex rubber and the honeycomb pattern covers the entire bottom. The only part of the sole that can be considered thin is from the middle forward. The heel is slightly raised and is noticeable. (I know… Boo, Patagonia) I estimate the difference to be about 6-8mm. This is not show stopper IMO and I credit the wide toe box for taking emphasis away from the slightly raised heel. The front of the sole is very thin, but still substantial enough to offer some wear over time. Ground feel isn’t great due to the insole, but I am looking for something to get me through the day, right? As the shoe wears, it should get better. <fingers crossed> The heel will likely thin out (I hope). But, again, it isn’t terrible. Check the pics. One more thing… toe-spring isn’t an issue with this shoe IMO… despite the pics.
OK. Despite Patagonia’s description of the shoe, the insole is not terribly supportive. There is no arch support to speak of, but the heel of the insole is built up a bit and contributes to the raised heel. The insoles are covered in a nice woven wool fabric. Based on reviews on Patagonia’s site, it is susceptible to wearing quickly and tearing. The insole is removable so it can be discarded and replaced later. My only concern regarding replacement would be relative to the height of the upper where your foot goes into the shoe. Without the insole, your foot goes deep enough into the shoe that the upper can rub your ankle bone. I wouldn’t be able to wear these without some type of insole.
The leather is smooth and of decent quality, by my estimation and the inside is lined with woven wool. I envision the upper lasting a lifetime while the latex rubber sole will likely wear through quickly as a daily work shoe. We’ll see. As a complement to the wide toe-box, the lacing system allows the shoe to fit securely to the foot without inhibiting circulation or overly constricting the foot. Basically the shoe can fit without sliding around on the foot. Did I mention that the toe-box is really wide? I love the toe-box.
That’s about it for now. This is my first impression. As the shoe wears, I will report back. If Patagonia wants some suggestions… I have plenty. There are plenty of companies reacting to the “barefoot” running up-tick, but their goal will always be to have us wearing their shoes. This defeats the purpose of running without shoes (obviously). I would like it if some of them focus on making “barefoot” shoes (excuse the oxymoron) for work… this is when we have to wear shoes for social reasons. Tactical terrain is another story… thus Merrell Trail gloves et al. The tough glove may have worked nicely as a work shoe… but it is the same as the trail glove (basically) and I didn’t find them comfy at all. See here.
These shoes will do nicely as an everyday work shoe. Oh yeah… $130 buck at REI (Velvet Brown). Ouch!
Maybe someday I will post about running and write less about shoes. LOL!!!11111
- Shoes make you WALK funny.
Over the past year, I have work many different shoes. I prefer to be barefoot mostly. When I walk barefoot I tend to land on my heel; in the center of my heel. Sometimes, however, I land on my forefoot. I believe the terrain dictates how my body will determine which gait is best. As far as shoes go… My Dr. Marten Wing-tips are probably the most rigid, thick, & restrictive shoe. When I wear these, I seem to have more of that “duck” foot walking gait. I land on the outside corner of the heel and roll inward as my foot rolls forward. The moccasins that I purchased at Target seem to make me slightly pigeon-toed. I still land on my heel, but it seems to be more centrally located rather than the outside corner. I sometimes notice a forefoot landing in these shoes. My flip-flops… well… this walking gait is unique. I mean, any shoe that requires you to grip it to keep it on your foot while you walk can not be encouraging a natural walking gait. I have a pair of Ocean Minded shoes (that is the brand, but no link). These are wider and I like them (probably) the most out of all the shoes I punish my feet with. The sole is thick and isn’t very flexible. In these shoes, my gait seems more robotic than human. I tie them loosely so that my foot can still participate in the action of walking. If tied tighter, my gait… well… robotic. Does this prove my theory even slightly? Shoes make you walk funny.
- Shoes make you RUN funny
When you run barefoot, it is needless to say that landing on the heel is not recommended. A forefoot landing (or midfoot, I won’t argue semantics here), allows your body to take measurements and make adjustments to limit impact. This is all in the interests of minimizing pain. A body doesn’t tend to allow a person to continue doing things that cause pain or injury. So… yes… a forefoot landing. When I wear running shoes (I mean the thick ones here), I tend to land on my heel. I mean, how can you not land on your heel first? Most of these shoes have 1/2″ to 1″ higher heel than the forefoot. It is only (ready of the oxymoron here) natural that a foot shod with the latest high-heeled running shoe will make the person tend toward a heel landing. The impact forces are sudden. This doesn’t immediately hurt, but the theory is that these sudden impact forces cause injury over time. Running without shoes allows your body to make the necessary adjustments to limit pain and prevent injury. If you take off the shoes, your gait will likely change. Doesn’t this prove the theory? Shoes make you run funny.
- Shoes cause foot atrophy
Atrophy? What is that? The context I am referring to is the wasting away of a part of the body due to lack of use. The two pieces of the intricate puzzle we call the foot I am referring to are the plantar skin and fat padding. How can you argue with the adage?… If you don’t use it, you lose it. We have been told this for years by our parents and teachers. Even my drill instructors told me this from time to time. Over the past year, I have been trying to go barefoot as much as possible. In the USA, going completely barefoot is difficult due to the social ramifications. It is quite sad, but many people actually have a problem with bare feet. This can be reserved for another post, but I think this lies within themselves. Anyhow, when I wear shoes all day long at work my feet are bathed in their own sweat. The skin becomes saturated and less leathery. In this state, I believe that it is weaker. It can not adequately perform it’s job and for the first few minutes after freeing the feet for the evening, my feet are a bit over-sensitive to the terrain. I also think that the constant squeezing that a shoe subjects the foot to is contrary to a health fat-pad. Wrap your arm in an Ace bandage and see if it doesn’t appear smaller hours later. Compressed… the water squeezed out of the arm. I think the same thing happens to the foot when wrapped in a shoe. Fat cells… all the water squeezed out of them. (Ok, not all of it). Can this be healthy for your feet? Over time, the fat-pad likely atrophies and is no longer sufficient to perform its purpose should you decide to ditch shoes all together. My feet were subjected to shoes for YEARS. It is fair to say that I don’t have much fat-pad (if any) in the forefoot area. My hope is that continued barefooting will encourage the return of the fat. In my case, I think the plantar skin is trying to take up the slack. Aren’t bodies amazing?
Here… read some of this crap. Most of these people’s problems aren’t foot related… they are shoe related.
Have a great day and take off your shoes. :)
This post summarizes my first impression of the Merrell Trail Glove. See Here.
Describing the shoe would be a waste of time. I am posting pictures and they are worth a thousand words. There are plenty of other reviews out there that have this covered. You will notice the zero-drop design. You will notice the interesting lacing system. You will notice the flexibility (OK, you can’t see the flexibility). You will notice the toe-spring… yuck.
My first time wearing the shoes included Injinji socks. See Here. The shoes were not on my feet 30 seconds before my initial concerns, referred to here came true. Every review I have read to date mentions the roomy toe box. There is plenty of room; just not plenty of width. For the average foot that has been shod for years, these shoes will probably feel wide enough. But, my impression was that these were developed for barefoot runners who are looking for protection when running trails… thus the name Trail Glove. :) Soooo… a little more width would have been nice. That may not have been the case. Read on…
Think of the roominess of the toe-box in terms of high ceilings. If you want to bend your big toe back… you will have plenty of height before it touches the top of the shoe. It is unlikely that you will get a blister on the top of your big toe while wearing these shoes. Anyone who has been running barefoot for any length of time may tell you that their feet have evolved. I mean, muscles you didn’t even know you had have shown up for the game. They may tell you that their feet have grown wider. They may tell you that they are buying larger shoes because their old shoes are too tight now or not wide enough. They may tell you that their toes have spread out and have space between them now. They may sound like fanatics who are in love with their newly developed hobbit feet. Ok, maybe not that last one. :)
My big toe rubs the side of this shoe and I find it very annoying. Sure when you aren’t standing the toe box is fine, but step down and I could immediately tell there was a deficit in width. As of now, this is my biggest problem with the shoe. I had to go run in these things. I wanted to know how these things felt in action. Will the toe spring be an issue?
The kids were in bed and I don’t normally run in the dark, but it was time to take these things for a spin. Running barefoot in the dark is risky. My Lasik tweaked eyes are good… but nobody can see rocks on the road in the dark. Do you want to tell your buddies you are sidelined with an injury?… “I stepped on a rock”. HA! No thanks.
Out the door I went. Merrells on my feet; I ran up the street and took a right. I wouldn’t consider the Merrells ninja shoes, but the first thing I noticed was the sound. For more than a year, I have enjoyed the quietest runs. Bare feet don’t make noise. If you can hear them, you’re doing something wrong. I imagined that I was just like all the other shod runners. Clomp, Clomp, Clomp… My cadence was ok. It may have been slightly slower than normal, but my stride felt comfortable; but something wasn’t right.
The Merrells were tied snugly over the top of my foot, but not too tight. When I used to run in shoes, I liked them tight. So tight that they were actually slightly painful. Only God knows why. Heh… After running barefoot, I think I must have been crazy. Of course, most people think I am crazy NOW. :) My arch began aching only 1/2 mile into this run. Arch pain is not something that I have experienced while running barefoot… so this was new.
I had already noticed a lack of adequate width and fully expected the toe-spring to be uncomfortable. I won’t call it uncomfortable, but it was noticeable immediately. Note to Merrell: Barefoot runners don’t like toespring. If you look at the photo on Merrell’s website, you will notice the lack of significant, if any, toe-spring. Granted, I received these shoes from another runner who had put 24 miles on them… but look at the toe-spring. If they didn’t arrive new like this, then these shoes went through a metamorphosis in no time at all. Does the sole material have a memory? I mean, shoes go through repeated bending as you walk and run. Were these soles flat when they were new? I don’t know.
I must confess that I removed the Merrells after three quarters of a mile. I continued running another 2 miles completely barefoot. While hoping this doesn’t sound mean… I must thank Merrell for a great two miles. After the first three quarters… the last two were a dream. After all, running barefoot and in “barefoot” shoes is all subjective and anecdotal, right?
Ok, so this is my first impression. Please don’t think I hate the shoes. I have been trying on shoes for the past year; searching for the perfect shoe. These are a step in the right direction. I would like to try a size 11 and see if my opinion changes. Before I started running barefoot, I wore a 9.5 shoe. I have read that these shoes are true to size and maybe even a half size big. If that is true, my feet have grown a whole size… possibly one and a half sizes? This one has me scratching my head.
Merrell, if you are reading this… send the the Tough Gloves in black, size 11. My boss won’t let me wear the Trail Gloves. :D
This will sound like an oxymoron, but barefooters need a good shoe to wear to work.