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Work Shoe for Barefooters?

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.

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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.

The INSOLE:

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 UPPER:

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.

Summation:

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

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