Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole


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Review: The Summit Seeker, by Vanessa Runs

summitseeker

Vanessa Rodriguez doesn’t look like your typical 100-mile ultra marathon runner. She isn’t wiry-thin and excitable. She is quiet and diminutive, with dark Central-American skin, muscular legs and black hair that falls lazily into several small, still-kinky dreadlocks. Sometimes she runs 100 miles in a week, sometimes maybe twelve, and sometimes she walks her dog Ginger or does yoga instead. She doesn’t use training plans. She doesn’t monitor her heart rate or record her running splits. Vanessa does not run with the front of the pack. Often, she doesn’t even know for sure how far she ran or how long it took her to finish. For these and many other reasons, Vanessa is not only a dear friend of mine, she is also my favorite ultra runner of all time.

The Summit Seeker is a story about this incredible runner. It is comprised of several snippets that, when bound together, open a wide window on the life, love, pain, joy, grit and heart of this woman who has grown from a lonely, introverted child into an inspiration for all those who cross her path. Its title is derived from the nickname she has given to the home she now shares with her boyfriend Shacky, a punchy little Rialta RV. It is also a rather tidy definition of Vanessa’s mantra for life: always seeking the highest point, always looking up and traveling toward a better, wider and more beautiful view on things from above. A view that one can only enjoy after overcoming the most difficult of climbs.

The best thing about this book is that it is so frank in its storytelling, so raw in its honesty that you will undoubtedly find yourself somewhere in its pages. Maybe it’s the neglected grade school aged girl charged with feeding and caring for her younger siblings, or the young woman whose first months living on her own found her lost in an unexpectedly stifling marriage. You might see yourself running all the many miles it took her to gain enough distance from her own inner darkness so that she could finally see the light of change. The story of The Summit Seeker is in all of us, and that is why it will inspire you, challenge you and perhaps even change you, as much as it did for me.

You don’t have to be an ultra runner, or even a runner at all, to gain something from Vanessa’s story. But who knows? You might just want to become one when you’re done reading.

The Summit Seeker by Vanessa Rodriguez is currently available from Amazon.com in several formats: Paperback Edition Kindle Edition, for Kindle/Kindle App or Smashwords version for Nook and other eReaders. You can also request a digital signed copy from Authorgraph.com.

What are you waiting for? Pick up your copy today and help support Vanessa Runs as she takes on her next adventure!


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Review: What Should I Put on My Feet to Go Run? by John McClung

johnbook

Because I don’t have kids of my own, I spend all my time sharing my perspective on healthy running and minimalism with other adults. Not that I mind, of course. Kids mostly scare the crap out of me. But one thing I’ve always known is that my road to proper form and barefoot/minimalist running was made much longer because I didn’t learn it as a child. No, instead I was always told to wear shoes when I go outside, and was reprimanded when I tried to sneak out of the house with bare feet in the winter (which I did often). I did spend a lot of my childhood sans shoes, though, but like most kids I was taught early on to rely on the protection, cushiness and comfort of today’s typical athletic shoe.

We adults of today had to learn late and re-train our bodies, but our kids don’t have to.

Now that many of us have discovered the importance of strong feet and legs, and remembered the joy of feeling the ground with our naked toes, we would do well to pass that knowledge on to our future generations.

Thanks to my friend John McClung, children’s literature has now begun the dive into that concept. What Should I Put on My Feet to Go Run? is a sweet little children’s story about a baby bear whose momma teaches him that he needs nothing but his two four little feet to enjoy the outdoors.

john2

Illustrated brilliantly by Laura Hollingsworth (and I’m an art director so I’d know), What Should I Put on My Feet to Go Run? is a rather ingenious learning tool for kids and their parents. It asks us to shed the idea that we need to protect our kids from every germ, every puddle, every boo-boo. Momma Bear teaches Baby Bear to be a kid, to run around carefree, to feel the earth below his feet and to love being outside. And lucky for kids, these things don’t require shoes. It’s a message I wish I was taught, but I’m glad I re-learned as an adult.

If you have young children in your family or have some friends with kids, pick this little book up. Not only will you be giving a thoughtful gift, but you’ll be supporting some as yet undiscovered talent. It’s for sale at Amazon for about $13 paperback or $9 on a Kindle.


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Review: Your New Favorite Running Accessories

Running bloggers write a lot of reviews on running shoes. I do too. Trail shoes, road shoes, minimalist shoes, sandals, et cetera. Shoes are great tools for running, but shoes are just one of the tools in the toolbox.

So I thought I’d do a little compilation review to show my appreciation for some of the more useful non-shoe running items that I’ve come across recently. I’d like to do one of these reviews every so often, because I’m always looking to discover great new running gear.

Injinji Performance Toe Socks

Injinjis aren’t news for most minimalist runners; I’ve been wearing them for years now (when, that is, I wear socks running). But I’ve always bought the same kind, the regular performance micro-crew sock. I have about seven pairs (all permanently trail-stained, might I add). Recently I noticed on their site that they have a few newer styles that I hadn’t seen before, so I snagged a few samples. My favorite of them were the Performance Mid-weight No-Show sock, and the Performance Ultra-thin Lightweight No-Show sock.

The mid-weight sock was interesting because it’s kind of a wonder of design. To be honest, I’ve never really paid much attention to how socks are made until I had to review these. They seem to be made of different materials at once: a super-stretchy top and slightly cushy at the bottom. The slight thickness of the material is very useful if you get hot feet like me. These guys soak up sweat like a pro, and I like to wear mine on long runs. I dig the no-show tops too, they are actually no-show, as opposed to the other socks I’ve bought in this style that end up being way too long and are more like “extra-show.” The sizing is always pretty good for me with Injinji.

The lightweight sock was also great (mine were black so I couldn’t get them to photograph well – thus the stock image above), it was very, very thin so it fit comfortably with my most snug-fitting shoes, unlike the mid-weight pair. Some have said the really lightweight socks get damp too quickly and allow blisters to form, but I didn’t seem to have that problem. If you’re a chronic sock-wearer, they are a great option on a hot day.

So if you’re a distance runner and you’ve never tried Injinji toe socks (I’m thinking of a few friends of mine), I suggest you try them. Having a sock with toe pockets to buffer every surface of skin on your feet is an excellent way to keep away blistering for a long time. Also you never have to worry about your socks twisting inside your shoe, or that annoying seem-on-the-toe issue that always bothered me about wearing traditional socks.

AYG All Year Gear – Women’s Brief and Crewneck

If you’re a reader of Jason Robillard’s running blog, you may have read his thoughts on thermo-regulation and moisture-wicking fabrics. I did too, and it really got me thinking about the role that fabrics play in my running here in SoCal. I hail from a very humid, cool climate where overheating and dehydration is almost a non-issue throughout most of the year. But here, I can’t do things like wear two layers of t-shirt or don any kind of heavy wicking fabric.

I was impressed by the samples I got from this company called All Year Gear (AYG). They specialize in performance underwear for women and men, out of this exceptionally-stretchy, mostly cotton fabric (they call it XTRdry cotton), but they offer t-shirts and other items as well. It’s the most amazing fabric. The first time I went running in the briefs and crewneck tee was pretty hot and dry outside. I came back with a damp shirt. And this is an excellent thing because when the fabric is slightly damp, it’s cooling me off. Most moisture-wicking shirts pull moisture away from your skin and dry immediately, which is excellent in a humid climate but can help you to overheat in a dry one, because sweat is your body’s only cooling mechanism.

Why not just wear cotton then, you ask? Well, I don’t like how cotton feels when I’m running. I find it absorbs too much moisture, gets heavy and feels sort of gross. The AYG cotton is much lighter than your typical t-shirt cotton, and the stretch in the fabric ensures that it’ll keep its shape after miles of sweaty running.

As for the undies (there will be no live photos of those, thanks), I don’t typically wear underwear when I’m running. I don’t like the extra layer. But there are a couple of down sides to going commando, one of them is having to wash your bottoms between each use. That can get annoying and seem wasteful over time, so I like that I have the option of wearing these bikini briefs to stretch out the wears of my favorite running clothes. And the fabric is lightweight enough to not feel like much of an extra layer.

Buff Headwear

I love Buffs! I only wish I discovered them earlier than this. My friend Vanessa wears these things all the time, and I recently inquired as to where she got them. When I looked into the company I loved the whole idea. Way more than just a sweatband, the Buff is an ingenius, multi-use fat band of fabric (they make them in everything from lightweight stretchy cotton to Polartec fleece) that can be worn in dozens of different ways.

I like to wear my Buff as a wide headband for running and for whenever (i.e. lazy bad-hair day). I have a small head so I have a lot of trouble finding a headband that won’t slide off in five minutes. The Buff has a lot of fabric so it doesn’t move around much, especially if I wear it with pigtails – then it won’t move at all. I absolutely hate the idea of wearing a hat while running, so the Buff is a good alternative for keeping the sun off my head (especially my part, which is particularly prone to sunburn), and for keeping sweat out of my eyes. I also find it works well when there’s a bite of cold in the air – I slide the Buff down over my ears a bit and it’s pretty toasty warm.

You can wear your buff like I do or you can wear it in dozens of different ways. Check out this video on their site where they show you how to wear it like a scarf, a beeny hat, and various other fashions.

Here is one way you should not wear your buff:

This is my friend Shacky. He didn’t get the memo.

That’s what I have for now…as always, thanks for reading! Hope this helps you discover something new for your running toolbox. Do you have a favorite non-shoe running accessory that totally rocks? I’d love to hear about it.


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Review: INKnBURN Women’s Athletic Clothing

I just counted, and I actually own eight (yes, that’s 8) pieces of clothing from INKnBURN. Wow. I’m a total addict. It seems like I’ve been contemplating putting this review together forever. But now I think it’s high time that I take a few moments and talk about my absolute favorite clothing line. Ever.

Several months ago lovely INKnBURN owner, Megan, contacted me to ask if I would test a couple of their new running skirts. At the time I’d all but given up on running skirts because they fit me weird and caused chafing problems that I don’t want to talk about. Don’t ask. But I said yes because…well…it is INKnBURN – the one and only premier ultra-marathon runner clothing company. Plus I’d already heard great things about their skirts and still had high hopes of finding a good one.

Well I found two, actually. Megan sent me the “Peacock” skirt and the “Lust” skirt, both gorgeously colorful and fashion-statement-y in their own completely different ways. I reviewed them here. Since then I’ve become a totally nerdy INKnBURN super-fan, and the more I wear their clothes the more I love them. Now that I work from home, I wear something from INKnBURN almost every day of the week, whether I’m running or not. I’ve also been lucky enough to befriend Megan and her awesome husband, co-owner Rob, go see their amazing shop, and let them unknowingly half-support my addiction to high quality athletic clothing. (I say half-support because I’ve definitely made a few purchases of my own along the way. Don’t tell my husband how many.)

I don’t have every item INKnBURN makes, but I’ve made an effort to gather most of their warm-weather items to make one big compilation review (my hoarding is for a good cause after all…see?). And for the sake of this review I even had hubby photograph me wearing the clothes. Oh, the sacrifices I make for my blog. Sigh.

I’d apologize about the photos, but you’ve had fair warning.

Why I Love Them

Before I get in to the meat of the review, I want to talk briefly about this company’s uniqueness. One of the major reasons I love INKnBURN is because of their pursuit of quality in both craftsmanship and design. Every single item of clothing that is sold to you from INKnBURN comes from their little manufacturing office right here in southern California. They buy bolts of expensive, high-quality fabrics and painstakingly press the designs onto each and every section of each shirt, skirt and short, through a process called dye sublimation.

The time it takes to create each piece is nothing like what you’d see in a typical large-yield manufacturing plant, and the end result is a truly well-made article of clothing with a design on it that was made to fit your shirt, in your size. Not to mention the design is “burned” into the fabric, so there’s nothing blocking the moisture-wicking effect or chafing against your skin.

Another great thing is that the care made to fit these articles is bar-none. It’s like they measured me for some of these clothes, particularly the skirts. Ever try on clothes at a mall store and wonder who the hell they were trying to fit? The proportions of some jeans are all wrong or you can’t get your arms through the sleeves of a t-shirt that should be your size? I hate that.

I also adore the energy and audaciousness INKnBURN puts into the artwork for their clothing. It’s nothing you’ve seen anywhere else (well, except maybe at a trail race, where you can pick out an INKnBURN fan by their richly colorful attire). They’ve got an amazingly talented in-house designer and a seemingly continuous string of new ideas to keep them going, so I’m pretty sure I’ll never get tired of seeing what they’ll come out with next.

I mean, for example: steam-punk t-shirts. Come on! Freaking awesome.

Tech Shirt

Living in New England, I pretty much never had any use for a short-sleeved shirt. Anywhere, really. I mean, it was either freezing and you were buried under seven layers of fabric, or stifling hot and you wished you were naked. Short-sleeve shirts never had much of a place because, especially when running, they contained just enough fabric to drive me nuts. If I ever wore a t-shirt running, I could be found stuffing the sleeves into the straps of my sports bra after about three minutes. Hated them.

But then again whenever I look at photos of people I know running, they’re usually wearing a t-shirt. So maybe I’m just a weirdo.

But the climate in SoCal is warm (not hot) and dry enough for me to appreciate the sleeved t-shirt again. Like a normal person. So I took the INKnBURN tech shirt out for a spin. The fabric is super light, you can’t even feel much on your shoulders. But it’s there, and it’s providing just that much more sun protection, which is nice for those afternoon runs when the sun is just leaning on you.

The cut on this shirt is very basic. Crew neck, regular sleeve length, cut to mid-hip. I felt the shirt was too short for my taste. Because I tend to wear tight-fitting bottoms running, I feel more comfortable in a top that’s long enough to hit the top of my thighs and cover most of my bum. So, unfortunately I was wearing a tank top under the t-shirt, so I overheated a bit from the extra layers. Might work fine in the winter, but not on a sunny 75 degree afternoon.

I hadn’t even mentioned this to Megan, because it’s just how most tech shirts are made, even all my race-acquired tech shirts are cut shorter than I like. But just this week I headed up to the INKnBURN office for lunch and lo-and-behold…they’ve changed the cut of their women’s tech shirts!

It was like some creepy magic ESP stuff was going on, or something.

Upper Left: old cut. Lower left and right: new, longer cut.

As if reading my mind, they made the shirt a few inches longer than it was before, so now it falls exactly where all my favorite tank tops do. Also they widened the neckline, giving it a more feminine look. I dig the improvement, and the new cut will shortly be replacing the previous one.

Yellow shirt shows the new, wider crewneck opening.

Megan didn’t have a sample of the new cut in my size, but I took home one that was a size up and I’ve been wearing it all day. I am recovering from a sprain so I haven’t run in this shirt yet, but I can tell you that I already know the new cut solves my wear-ability problem, one hundred percent. And not having to wear an under-shirt brings a huge improvement on the breatheability of the shirt. It seems much lighter than most cotton t-shirts I wear.

The old cut on top, new cut underneath.

Tank Top

The women’s tank top is made of the same material as the tech shirt, which is a super light-weight, stretchy micro-mesh. Megan gave me the tank with the iconic “Run or Die” graphic on it, which is pretty much the design that originally put them on the map. So bad-ass. Anyway, the tank is cut with a wide scoop neck and racer-back style. I’d say there’s probably a little more shoulder and back coverage than I’m used to for a tank top, and also it’s shorter, which I already talked about (at time of writing this I don’t know if they’re planning to lengthen the tank top as well). But the shirt still looks great over a running skirt and it kept me cool on a few great beach runs.

I respectfully dislike all the photos hubby took of me in the tank top, so instead I put in the Instagram I took of myself in the (embarrassingly filthy) mirror the day I wore it running at the beach.

Running Skirt

I can’t say enough about the INKnBURN running skirt. I have three now. I wear these things around the house, to the grocery store, to the mall, and on just about every run I go on, ever. After hanging out with me a few times, my friend Kate asked me if I ever wear anything but a running skirt.

The fabric of the skirt itself is a sort of criss-cross mesh, a little sturdier than the shirts. The compression shorts underneath are made of a slightly thicker spandex material, the kind of fabric that really holds on to you. If, like me, you’re not a stick figure, you’re probably wondering about the chafing factor. In the beginning of my run I will have to adjust the hem of the shorts here and there, but once I get going and start to sweat, the fabric stays put. In fact I ran a 50K in my INKnBURN Peacock skirt and had absolutely no chafing. The waistband is a nice, wide panel with a built-in elastic band that you can pull and tie tighter if necessary. This skirt tends to run a size large, so order down.

The new “Rock’n’Roll” style skirt I bought myself for a recent race.

The skirt is a lot more substantial than all the others I’ve seen out there, with bigger pockets and more complex fabrics. Some have found the skirt to be warm, but truthfully I’ve never thought that.

Here’s a detail shot of the fabric on the skirt and shorts.

Like their other clothing items, the INKnBURN running skirt costs more than most ($75). But I’m telling you, it’s worth it. After having spent so much time practically living in my INKnBURN running skirts, I have absolutely no problem spending the money on more. I feel this way about most items they offer, but more so with the skirt. You’re just not going to find anything more comfortable out there.

Women’s Shorts

I almost didn’t try the shorts because I really don’t like running in shorts. I don’t like how they ride up and look bad, and I especially dislike the chafing. Well, these shorts are very short so you can’t avoid chafing. But if you’re good with the BodyGlide or have legs like a Barbie Doll then these shorts are pretty darn fantastic.

My first thoughts on these shorts is that they’re so light. So cool. It feels like there’s just nothing to them (probably because there isn’t – they’re very short!). But I don’t feel naked in them, either. The shorts are made of a similar material as the running skirt (although it feels a little lighter so perhaps it is), and they have a built in skivvy so you don’t have to wear underwear. They have the same wide, fold-over-able waistband that the skirt does, too. I prefer to leave the waistband up because I like my running bottoms to go right up to my waist. It’s good to have that versatility, though. I like the curved stripe design on the back of the shorts, too, it’s quite cool and flattering.

And for your information, the shorts do not run large like the skirt, so go ahead and order your regular size.

In case you’re wondering, yes I did rub some of the black dye off the back of these. That would be from sliding down ten feet of sheer rock on my bum. I can’t recommend doing that, in any type of clothing.

Denim Capris

The newest craze over at INKnBURN is their “denim” line. They’ve got shorts, skirts, pants and capris now that have a denim print on them, which is pretty cool and truly convincing. Megan gave me a pair of the capris and they’re wonderful. They’re made of the same stretch fabric as the compression shorts they put under the running skirts. Same foldover waistband. But they look like jeans so if I wear them to run errands I don’t look like I just threw on a pair of yoga pants like a lazy ass. Even though I did.

The capris have a cool Asian-inspired design on them that’s in the same vein as their “Lust” design, as well as “pockets” in the back and front. There’s even a “button fly” at the front, which is so cute. There’s two generous (real) pockets in front for carrying stuff.

I found these pants to be longer than I’d expected. Most of the capri pants I like to run in stop just below my knee. As a result these feel more like running tights than capris, so they might be great for winter running. But right now I’ve mostly been wearing them to do things other than running, such as yoga, shopping, and paired with a cotton tee while I work all day at home and want to be comfortable. I look forward to running in them when the weather cools a bit. My friend Vanessa loves hers, and has even run a couple of ultras in them.

Again these also come true to size. You may find the waist band to be a little snug like I do, especially if you don’t have one of those tiny waists, so order the size you usually wear.

Final Thoughts

I’m not sure what else I can say about these athletic clothes. The cool people over at INKnBURN have gifted me with many of the items I talked about today, but I have been back to purchase more because I simply love them. I do want to point out that besides some test samples, I’m not being paid, befriended or otherwise coerced (not even with chocolate!) to write a falsely positive review. I walk around San Diego looking like an INKnBURN ad because I’m just a die-hard fan and I want to wear their clothes. The quality is there, the styles are growing by the minute, and I appreciate feeling like my hard-earned cash is going toward something that will last awhile. And I truly believe that a wider audience of runners and athletes deserve to hear about this company.

So get out there and wear some INKnBURN!


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Barefoot Running – The Movie: Giveaway Winner

Hey guys, sorry this is a day later than I promised. I spent yesterday sulking, after an ankle sprain during my half marathon. Boo.

Anyway, Random.org selected a winner for the Barefoot Running movie, and that winner is:

Barefoot Dawsy

Congrats, Barefoot Dawsy. Please email me at trishalreeves@gmail.com with your mailing address and I’ll get the DVD out to you in a day or two. Although I  may send Hubby out to mail it, considering that I’m still in sulk-mode.

If you’re interested in getting a visual lesson in how to run more naturally with better form, you can purchase this DVD from the RunBare website, or on Amazon.

Happy running!


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Review: Skora Form

I started following the Skora bandwagon well over a year ago now, before they’d even released any of their shoes. Heck, they probably weren’t even close to having designed one yet. For months, with their mysterious, snippety teaser ads, Skora promised me the World’s Best Minimalist Running Shoe. I was so enthralled by the idea of a brand new shoe company starting their entire business on the platform of minimalist running, that I immediately inquired as to whether I could test a pair. It took an excruciatingly long time for that package to finally come, but it was worth the wait (pretty packaging, too, I might add – I kept the magnetic-closure box for storage). I imagine that’s a little like how the owners of Skora also felt earlier this year, on the day they released the first two models of the line.

Those two models are the Base and the Form, released early in Spring for men, and followed too much later by the women’s models over the Summer. The Base model features a stretch mesh upper and cross-over strap closure, while the Form features asymmetrical lacing and is made of goatskin leather.

I chose the Form model because it was the only modern-day running shoe I’d ever heard of that was made of leather, and I was curious about how the material would mix with running. I mean, not only does it have this goatskin upper, but the liner inside the shoe is leather as well, sheep skin. It’s like running inside of a wooly goat. Too macabre? Sorry. But still…leather liner? That’s crazy talk!

As I talk more about in a minute, the goatskin was one of the many things about this shoe that I thought I could predict as soon as I saw a photo, but that definitely surprised me in the end.

The color of this shoe reminded me of an Easter bunny so I photographed it in the grass to entertain myself.

First Expection: This shoe is way too freaking narrow

You’ve read some of my other interviews. My feet are like blocks of wood. They’re built wide and strong, and they only got wider once I started running barefoot (which is the way it’s supposed to be). Any shoe that wants to rightfully call itself “minimalist” absolutely, positively MUST nurture your foot at its very widest, and leave room for a runner’s toes to do their job.

Please try to ignore the weird pattern pressed into my leg. I took this photo right after kneeling in the grass to take the photos above. And also I’m really pasty.

When I took one look at this shoe I thought for sure I was going to waste five paragraphs of this review in lecture-mode about proper shoe width. But the shoe was not too narrow for my foot. And over time, the upper got all buttery-soft and adapted to the shape of my foot, in the awesome way that…wait for it…only leather can. Sorry, vegan friends.

I think there’s still a little room for improvement in this avenue, though. Even though the width of this shoe isn’t much different than a lot of my other road shoes (i.e. the NB Minimus 00 Road, or the Merrell Dash Glove), the Form, like these others, could do with a wide-width version and give a little more toe room to us runners with naturally wide feet.

Second Expectation: The goatskin leather is going to be way too hot

Yeah, total surprise here.  Even though there’s tons of little holes all over the upper, I thought for sure my feet were going to die in these shoes. I hate having hot feet. Not to mention that leather liner that’s sure to be impossible to get my sweaty foot out of at the end of a run. I was actually shocked to find out that the leather is no stuffier than any other typical running shoe. In fact, the leather actually absorbs sweat and keeps your feet from getting nasty and blistery inside. And even after about 30-40 sweaty summer miles in these things, the shoes still smell like a new leather couch. My Vibrams never smelled so sweet after even half that mileage!

The only down side to the upper construction is the tongue. I love the burrito-style, asymmetrical look and function of the overlapping tongue. Only problem is that the overlapped part digs into my foot where it connects near the base of my pinky toe. This is the only part of the shoe that isn’t 110% comfy. And I don’t wear socks with this shoe because it feels too tight. To be fair, the same thing happens with the NB 00 Road. It is what it is.

Third Expectation: After all that waiting, there is sure to be something differently great about this shoe

Not really. This is a review so I have to be honest…aside from the pretty freaking cool properties of the leather upper, there isn’t a whole lot that’s different about this shoe, as compared to its competitors in the marketplace. There are some things it does great, and others that it just toes the line on.

For example, the sole: it’s pretty darn good. It’s more flexible than the NB 00 Road and the Dash Glove, for sure. But I guess I had hoped for something even more bendy, something closer to what VIVOBAREFOOT puts out. There isn’t a ton of stack height on this shoe, comparatively, but the sole curves up toward the upper on the outsides. When I’m running on roads I can really feel the outside edge of this sole digging into my 5th metatarsal. Sometimes it doesn’t bother me, but other times, my feet feel sore afterward. Could be a possible downside to having a wider foot.

I should also mention here that the second I got these I ripped the insole out. If there is a removable insole on a shoe, I almost always do this. It fit me better that way, and I could actually feel the ground. Could be that if the insole was in I would feel the edges less.

The Form is touted as a zero-drop shoe, and I certainly don’t doubt it. But there’s this “feature” of the sole, if you will, where the center of the heel has a separated pod that gives it this feel of being “lifted.” I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s curious to me, and I’m not sure what it’s there for. Perhaps it is to add to the rounded feel of the sole, and to make it more flexible. But I guess it’s neither here nor there, because the heel of any zero-drop shoe means nothing to me once I’m running.

What Didn’t Surprise Me

What didn’t surprise me about this shoe was its performance. As promised, Skora put out a solid minimalist road shoe on the first try, and I gotta respect that. Sticky and protective, the Form lets me feel the ground but gives me enough of a buffer to stave off fatigue for awhile during a long run. If you’re looking for superior ground-feel, this is no Luna Sandal or Vibram SeeYa. But I would probably bring this shoe to a distance road race. It’s decent on trail too, if you find yourself on one, as long as it doesn’t require a ton of traction.

For obvious reasons, I didn’t love that Skora made the decision to release the men’s models for six months before the women’s. Additionally, the women’s model release came with an addition to men’s colors, so they have four cool colorways to the women’s two. I can’t even tell the difference between the men’s and women’s shoe, except the men’s are probably wider, so in hindsight I suppose I could have just requested a pair of them instead. I didn’t love the color choices on the women’s side – as is often true, we only get to choose between pink and blue. But in this case the pink choice is actually mostly white, and somewhat takes on the look of a 1970’s bowling shoe. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, really – retro is in, baby! But I’ve never really been a fan of white shoes, so I actually had trouble figuring out what to wear with these.

Yeah, I wrote that. Deal with it.

Final Thoughts

The long-awaited Skora Form is truly a beautiful specimen of the minimalist road shoe, by a brave newborn company that was willing to take risks to offer something just a little different. I’m definitely a fan. With its buttery goatskin leather and slick design, the shoe can be taken to a marathon in the morning, and out for beers under some jeans later. The Form leaves a little room for improvement with its slightly narrow toe box, but it covers all the other minimalist shoe basics by being flexible, zero-drop and anatomically designed. It is a solid shoe that will hold up well to the demands of many minimalist runners.

I should also mention that the Skora Form comes pretty true to size, or possibly a little large, comparatively. A size 8 fit me great, where with most shoes I’m more comfortable jumping to an 8.5.

If you’ve clicked on any of my links you probably noticed the price is higher than you might be used to  – $185 – but that’s all because of the goatskin leather. If you like this shoe, the added durability of the high quality material will, in all probability, pay for itself in the end.

For those of you who do not wear leather shoes, the Base model is designed on the same sole as the Form, but it uses vegan-friendly mesh fabrics instead of goatskin.


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Review and Giveaway: Barefoot Running – The Movie

Right about now in the barefoot running world, just about every expert is writing books on the topic. I mean, it’s not going to be long before there’s a “barefoot running” aisle rivaling the Cookbook section in every book store. That’s not a bad thing, mind you. If you like to read.

I myself learned to run barefoot by reading books. I read thorough descriptions of how you’re supposed to land and what your posture should look like. I read just about everything there is to know about the history of barefoot running, and about heel striking vs. fore-foot striking vs. mid-foot striking. I know all about persistence hunting, Caballo Blanco and the great Tarahumara. I am well versed in the art of bending my knees, leading with my chest instead of my forehead, not pushing off. So I guess you could say that when it comes to barefoot running, I was pretty darn book-smart even before I took a single barefoot step.

But what about road-smarts? Just because I read a few books and knew what zero-drop meant, did that mean I knew if I was doing anything right when I got out there for a run?

The reality is, we learn by doing, and by watching others do. We learn language by listening, we learn to walk by watching our parents do the same. Barefoot running, for most of us, is a process of learning much like that of a child starting from scratch, because we all spent most of our lives doing it wrong.

Michael Sandler and Jessica Lee of RunBare, a barefoot wellness school that hosts events and clinics all over the country teaching us how to do find our grounding again, wrote a book on the subject back in 2010 called Barefoot Running: How to Run Light and Free by Getting in Touch with the Earth. The book helped to launch their tour and got them onto the map. Coincidentally, their book came out right around the time I started running barefoot, and I found it to be a good source guide for my learning. But again, it was just a book, thus it could only teach me in theory.

Which is probably why Michael and Jessica decided to make a DVD as well.

Released earlier this month, their DVD is aptly named after their book and makes an excellent companion to it. The genre is a smart mix of documentary and teaching tool, aimed at the beginner barefoot runner. In the first sections, both Michael and Jessica talk a little bit about why it’s so important to go barefoot every day in order to get your, as they call it, “Vitamin-G.” A little hokey, sure, but I dug it. They also talk about why they themselves decided to go barefoot and why it’s been such a positive change in their lives. I found this section to be interesting, and I liked hearing Michael’s story in particular.

The whole movie has a serene, yogi-style feel that seems reflective of their personalities. I’ve only ever met Michael once and he seemed like a pretty centered dude who probably spends a lot of time meditating, so it fits. There might be a little too much canned docu-music in there, but I guess you can’t exactly expect high-quality original film scores from a couple of barefoot coaches. If nothing else the bad music was rather entertaining in a cheesy sort of way. There might have been a little head-bopping between Shawn and me. I said might.

The rest of the DVD is divided into different instructional topics aimed at teaching beginner techniques such as foot positioning and posture, core and balance exercises, recovery, et cetera. What I liked about this part is that having a visual representation of the instruction is so much more helpful than reading and trying to retain it for later when you’re trying to run on your own. Most of us aren’t lucky enough to be able to learn proper technique from a live barefoot coach, so we really have no idea what proper form looks like.

I wouldn’t say there’s a whole lot on this DVD for someone who is already very experienced in barefoot or minimalist running; you’re not going to learn anything new here. But it could be a nice refresher on technique, or a good visual if you’re still not sure if you’re doing it right. Also some of the strengthening exercises that are demonstrated in the video are actually pretty good (despite the fact that at one point, Michael demonstrates a balance exercise standing on a ball, on the edge of a cliff, and I pretty much couldn’t watch). And if nothing else, it’s good to support your fellow barefoot runners trying to make a living from spreading the word. I know we barefooters are a supportive bunch.

If you are ready to learn how to run barefoot, buy someone an awesome Christmas gift, or just to support RunBare and watch their movie, you can purchase a copy online here.

If you want a FREE copy, well then you’re in luck because I’m giving one away today, right here, on my blog! Woohoo!

Entering is simple and just like most of the other blog giveaways you’ve seen. Each of the actions listed below will earn you an entry. Spread the word, readers!

  • Write a comment below this blog post, telling me why you love barefoot running (or why you want to learn barefoot running)
  • Follow my blog by clicking on the “Sign Me Up” button to the right of this post. If you are already one of my followers, mention is in your comment for an automatic entry.
  • Post about this giveaway. Facebook, Twitter, your own blog, anything works.
  • Like RunBare on Facebook.

I’ll give this contest about a week, and draw the winner randomly on Friday, October 12th.

Good luck, and Happy Running!


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Review: New Balance Minimus Zero Trail

You guys have all heard of that brassy-haired, thieving little spoiled brat, Goldilocks, right? “This porridge is too hot, this one is too cold, this bed is too soft…” Make up your mind already, little girl! And while we’re at it, how dare you complain about the quality of the stuff you’re stealing from that poor family of bears?! I hated Goldilocks, she was such a bitch.

Unfortunately for you, today I’m going to sound a little bit like her. But without all that thieving stuff, of course.

See, the thing is, if you’re a minimalist runner like me who likes to go out and explore a lot of different terrains – along sandy beaches, out in the woods, up rocky mountain trails, and on plenty of smooth roads as well – then you know it’s next to impossible to find that one “just right” go-to shoe that fits every run. Most of the shoes you’ll find out there are either too smooth for trails, too rugged for roads, or too heavy for summer, and so on. Eventually you end up spending a crap load of money on a closet full of shoes for every occasion. That’s no big deal if you’re rich, or lucky enough to be an imposter a shoe tester like me. So I suppose this is where my Goldilocks comes out.

I really wanted the New Balance Minimus Zero Trail to be my “just right” shoe. The one I could take on every run, no matter where I was going. Maybe I was expecting too much from it, but from all the incredible talk and build-up it got prior to release, this shoe just had so much promise!

The Details

The Minimus Zero Trail is New Balance’s answer to last year’s original Minimus Trail shoe (now renamed the MT10). To those who wore and loved that shoe, the original Minimus really was the every-shoe. I had friends who wore it running trails, then roads, then to a Crossfit workout. But at the time, many minimalist and barefoot runners dismissed the shoe because of its 4mm heel height and its relatively inflexible sole. Some complained that the toe had too much spring and the sole’s rubber pods were placed inaccurately so the shoe wore out too fast. Even still, I loved the design of that shoe. But it was built way too narrow for my wide foot and high instep (although they do make a wide version now, go figure). So in other words, to many in its actual target audience, last year’s Minimus shoe wasn’t quite “just right.”

To answer the collective desires of the minimalist world, this year’s model, the Minimus Zero Trail, touts a zero drop heel, an extremely lightweight, strategically-designed Vibram outsole, no toe-spring, seam-free construction and an exceptionally breathable upper with drying speeds that will blow your mind. This shoe doesn’t look or act like anything else out there. The semi-transparent fabric of the upper seems papery and course at first, but once you’re wearing it the shoe becomes a surprisingly light and comfy home for your foot. There’s no more rubber binding across the mid-foot like in the earlier version, so it is a much roomier shoe overall.

Speaking of roomy, this model does come in regular width (B) and wide width (D). My amazingly generous contact at New Balance sent me one of each to try, and they were both comfortable and wearable for me. If you typically find yourself buying wide-width shoes, you may be happier wearing the D-width version, as it is exceptionally roomy and cozy. However, if you prefer your shoe to fit a little more snug and secure, go with the B-width because it’s slightly tighter across the toes without being too uncomfortable, and since the tongue is not attached, there is a good amount of room to adjust the laces. You can see in the picture below that I’m wearing both, and the B-width (left) still fits but the lacing is much wider.

Just a little FYI, the first day I wore the B-width version I took them out sans-socks for ten miles in the rain, and I did get some chafing on the outside of both feet, above my pinky toes.

The Profile

One thing I don’t have to complain about with the New Balance Zero Trail is its looks and style. It is really super cool looking! Right now the shoe comes in five bold and bright colors for men, six for women. I think testers automatically get the boring colors, which is fine, but I am in love with every colorway they show on the site, especially the yellow and turquoise blue. The overall design is sporty, clean and just a little bit flashy. And I kind of like that I can see my toes through the material.

The Test

The New Balance Minimus Zero Trail is truly and absolutely the embodiment of a minimalist trail shoe. It has every feature (or lack thereof) that you would expect from one:

  • exceptionally lightweight at 3.5oz each (which is nearly non-existent)
  • highly breathable upper that can be worn without socks
  • zero-drop
  • super flexible, paper-thin sole
  • foot-shaped last with a roomy toe-box

But what maybe some of us didn’t expect is that…well, getting what we expected might not give us the results we expected. Yep, I just wrote that sentence, and I’m leaving it.

I want to mention that I have not actually read a lot of other reviews about this shoe, because I didn’t want anyone else’s opinions to influence mine. So I don’t actually know if other testers feel the way I do. But how I feel is this: the Zero Trail is not “just right” for every trail. In fact, it sort of sucks on most of the trails I’ve run.

Okay, that was a big statement. Let me clarify before the media people at New Balance black-list me forever.

The first handful of runs I did in this shoe were on hard-packed soil in the wooded trails of New England. Those trails are pretty easy on the feet but there are a lot of lumpy rocks and roots to contend with. I loved this shoe on those trails because, as I’ve mentioned in other reviews, I need to feel the ground below me so I can respond to it quickly and keep myself upright. This shoe allowed me to make all of those minute adjustments to the uneven surface of those trails, and it gave me an amazing feeling of control.

Once I moved out to southern California, I was in for some much more unpredictable trail surfaces. Around here you could end up on loose sand, chunky rocks, steep hills, patchy weeds, pavement, just about anything. And sometimes, all in the same run. But because I loved this shoe so far, I wore it out to the trails by Lake Hodges with a friend of mine. We started along the loose sand paths for a bit, and then headed for the rocky hills. The rocks were sharp and replete, and I came home with several bruises on the arches of my feet because the Zero provided absolutely no protection against them. Moreover, every time we came upon a sandy incline, I was sliding all over the place and had some serious trouble getting my footing down. The rubber pods of the sole have surprisingly little traction for a trail shoe, so it’s really no match for those slide-worthy surfaces.

Another thing that kills me about this shoe is that they chose not to attach the tongue to the upper. I’m really not sure why they made the choice on this model even though just about all their other trail models have an attached tongue. And although I think it serves well to add adjustability to the shoe’s width at the laces, it’s a really flimsy tongue that does absolutely nothing to keep debris out of the shoe. I’ll run 50 feet in these and already have rocks digging into my toes. It’s a total bummer.

Because of the reasons I said above, I am probably going to be the first to say this shoe is really at its best on roads. Yes, roads. If you think about it, all of its best qualities fare well on paved surfaces, and all of its drawbacks are minimized by them. Right before I started writing this review I went out for a 4 miler in this shoe, half on sandy, rock-free trail and half on road. Once I emptied the handful of sand out of them and got onto the pavement, I felt great and the transition was pretty seamless. I’m not really sure how long this shoe will last if I keep using them on pavement, because the Vibram rubber is only molded to certain parts of the outsole, and the rest is all EVA foam, which tends to break down pretty quickly on road surfaces. The shoe is already starting to show some signs of wear. But then again, a minimalist runner can’t exactly fault a shoe for becoming even more minimalist, right?

The Final Word

I definitely like this shoe, but I really wanted to like it more. I wanted the NB Minimus Zero to be my every-shoe, my “just right” fit for all my trail running, from the woods of New England to the mountains of SoCal. But it turned out to be only another single-purpose addition to my closet. I’ll continue to take the Zero Trail out when the right run calls for it, and I will absolutely recommend it to runners whom I feel will benefit from its best qualities. But it’s really not the all-around super star that some have made it out to be.

And it’s funny that this is how this review turned out, too…because wasn’t it just a week or so ago that I was telling you I wasn’t sure the New Balance WT1010 was exactly right for me? Well, that porridge was too hot, and this one…well, it’s too cold. Go figure.

I’m now wondering if the runner who wants a “just-right” shoe to bring out to every trail should be running in the New Balance Minimus Trail 20. It seems like a good happy medium. Ya think they’d even bother to let this picky little Goldilocks test it now? :p


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Review: Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon and Spyridon LS

Take a look at all that California dirt. 🙂

Just the other night I went for my first trail run at Torrey Pines State Park, near my new home in San Diego. My friend Vanessa has talked about this place enough for it to have become a place of legend in my mind, and once I arrived I could see just why it deserves such legend. Lining the shores of the Pacific, several windy, sandy paths cut through the brush and tan-colored cliffs, every one of them elevating and descending at whim toward the golden sands of the state beach.

My new running buddy Kate took me here, and after run-walk-climbing the first big hill toward the bluffs, we bounded up, down and through the trails at ankle neck-breaking speeds (well…not really, but it seemed like it, anyway). Sometimes the ground was hard-packed, and sometimes the sand slid under our feet, revealing all the loose stones hidden beneath. Ever so often we came upon a sharp downward turn that merely avoided a 20-foot cliff. The air was thick with salt, the ocean view was simply vast, and the setting sun grew heavy under the thick marine layer that was blanketing itself over the land and sea.

Yesterday’s run rivaled that of any run I’ve ever done, in beauty and in sheer enjoyment, with a person I’d just barely met but already felt bonded to. We ran four quick miles before it got dark, and by the time we were done my face ached from smiling.

And luckily for this review, I had chosen to wear my Vibram FiveFinger Spyridons.

I wore the Spyridons for this run because it was a new trail for me that could have had anything on it, and there’s just something so rugged and so sure-footed about this shoe (which I will of course explain shortly) that it felt like my safest choice among the many which populate my closet.

I’ve been running in the Spyridon trail shoe for several weeks now, most of them while I was still living my previous life in New England. I loved the trails there, because they were mostly made of hard soil with rocks and roots all over (easier to trip you with, my dear). With experience I have learned that I am very picky about a trail shoe. I need it to be lightweight of course, but also supremely flexible and grippy (the WordPress dictionary tells me “grippy” is not a word, nonetheless I’m using it; to hell with proper grammar usage).

I have learned that I must have a feeling of control over my feet when I am running trails; the notion that I can sense and respond to everything beneath me in a split second. That my feet are part of the trail floor. And if you feel the same way about a trail shoe, then you are probably going to like the Spyridon as much as I do.

Specs and Tech

Top: original Spyridon LS (laces)
Bottom: new Spyridon with hook-and-loop closure

So, what I’m really reviewing today is two shoe models, the Spyridon LS, which came out earlier this year, and the Spyridon (sans laces) that just hit the market sometime in July.

Both of these shoes are pretty much the same, but the Spyridon LS is essentially just the model with laces. I received a pair back in May, but the upper is made to fit so precisely along the mid-foot that I quite literally couldn’t get into them without some major discomfort. It was just too tight for me. So, despite the laces being there, the shoe is just not made for someone with a wider foot. I never ran in the shoe, so really the only things I can write about here are width pitfall (which shouldn’t be a problem for people who don’t normally have width issues) and the overall look, which is earthy and tonal for both the men’s and women’s models. Oh, and I also took some pictures before sending them back. 🙂

So you can imagine how thankful I was that my contact over at Vibram was feeling charitable enough to send me out a pair of the non-lace model to test once it was available. It fit me so much better! The lace-less Spyridon is made with an upper very similar to the KSO and Treksport, with the same hook-and-loop closure that runs around the back of the heel. But of course everything else is different about this shoe, from its Coconut Active Carbon upper and 3.5mm Vibram rubber sole, to its super deep, aggressive lugs and tough mesh “rock-block” layer molded into the center of the sole to your feet from trail debris. Not to mention it’s altogether pretty spiffy-looking, with its fuchsia, black and lime green colorway (the men’s shoe has two colorways: orange/ black and green/black).

Here, you can see the width of my foot as compared to the Spyridon LS. The tightness occurs where the laces are, although it’s not just the laces that make it tight – it’s the whole upper. Sorry about the bad manicure.

Fit and Feel

The rest of this review is going to be based on the hook-and-closure model, since it is the only one I really used.

Like the historically popular KSO, the Spyridon also has an elasticized collar that grips tight to your ankle and…well, KSO (Keeps Stuff Out). I appreciate that aspect of this shoe because there’s nothing more annoying than feeling a tiny rock digging at you inside your shoe while you’re trying to enjoy a trail run.

Elastic collar keeps stuff out.

I like the ground feel on this shoe despite its aggressive tread, and I’ll tell you why. To me, there’s just something about the basic structure of a FiveFinger sole is just perfect for trails, so I was psyched when I found out Vibram was developing a trail-specific shoe (finally, no more having to make do with the Bikila). Like I mentioned earlier, I base a lot of importance on having a trail shoe that is flexible and pliable. I need my foot to sense and react to rocks and bumps and debris, to curve around objects and make minute and immediate corrections to my balance at all times. A thick-soled or stiff shoe doesn’t do well for me, I just tip over and injure myself. But in the Spyridon, with its infinitely pliable sole, I feel extremely sure-footed and confident on trails. I can feel the rocks and bumps and respond to them, without getting as many dings and bruises. The molded mesh rock plate does a pretty okay job.

My one complaint with the fit is, believe it or not, the hook-and-loop closure. It’s actually the one reason I never bought a pair of KSO’s. The fabric of the upper stretches over my foot just fine, but the closure has no give at all and when I close the velcro strap at its widest point, I can still feel the nylon strap digging into my heel. I’ve thought about just cutting out the whole strap contraption altogether. But strangely enough, it doesn’t actually bother me at all when I’m running (a similar outcome as with the SeeYa and its droopy heel cup – review here), so I just left it. I know that seems weird, and well yeah…it is. Can’t explain it. It is what it is.

Performance

I have a lot of darlings on the trail side of my running shoe collection, and they’re some mighty fine players. I’ll be honest: I didn’t think the Spyridon was going to fare well amongst them. I mean, I’m talking Merrell Pace Gloves and New Balance Minimus 00’s here. Some mighty fine minimalist trail shoes. But the Spyridon really  stacks well up to them, believe it or not (and I know there are some non-believers out there). The two biggest factors are the excellent tread that really lets me tear up some trail without sliding around like a cat on ice skates, and (again, believe it or not) the benefit of separated toes, for that added feeling of control in the front of my foot. Our feet were built with those digits on the end for a reason, folks. And putting them in an anatomy-driven shoe that allows them to work independently of each other is really beneficial for balance and proprioception. Which I, for one, really need…because I am remarkably accident-prone by nature (see left-handedness).

Lots of important movement in these.

You can still decide to knock a five-finger shoe if you want; but the Spyridon impresses me. It serves me well and does it silently, no bells, whistles or cushioning needed. If you’re looking for a lightweight or minimalist shoe that will give you back some control on the trails, I’d say this one’s definitely worth a try.

So to wrap up, here’s the quick-reference rundown:

Pros

  • unique tread pattern and mesh “rock plate” provide excellent traction without taking away too much ground feel
  • still a relatively lightweight shoe at around 6 ounces each
  • separate toe pockets add to your control over tricky terrain
  • two options, lace closure or traditional KSO hook-and-loop
  • stink resistant coconut active carbon upper
  • no-seem liner for sock-free wear
  • gnarly color ways for the Spyridon, earthy ones for the Spyridon LS

Cons

  • the LS model might be too tight in the mid-foot if you typically fall into the “wide” category with your other shoes
  • hook-and-loop closure was pretty much a non-necessity for me (similar to the SeeYa)
  • would have liked to see one or two more color ways in both models

Have you tried the Spyridon yet? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 


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Review: New Balance Women’s 1010 Trail

Hello readers! Man, it’s good to be back! I am thrilled to mention that this is the very first review posted from my new home in sunny San Diego. I’m so thankful to the PR chick over at New Balance for her patience in waiting for this review, while I took a bunch of time off to pack up my life and move it clear across the country.

The first shoe that New Balance asked me to try out was the Women’s 1010 trail shoe. I got it a week or two before the release date so I had no idea what it would be like. The 1010 is a transitional minimalist shoe, or for you hardcore mountain trail runners, it’s a lightweight-but-protective trail shoe. I say it that way because I feel it’s a good choice for those two types of runners (just to clarify, I don’t necessarily encourage transitioning to barefoot or minimalist running through transitional shoes, but if that’s the way you’re going to go, then this would be a more than reasonable shoe to do it in). I’m not really either of those types of runner, but that’s okay because I am rather good at being objective.

Weight and Structure

Even though the WT1010 is not even close to being the lightest shoe I’ve run in, at around 6 ounces each it’s not totally out of the ballpark. This shoe is rather rugged, compared to what I’ve usually got on my feet, and it looks like it could take a lot of hard miles. As to be expected, there is a rock plate in this shoe and some aggressive tread, too.

Interestingly enough, the multi-circular Vibram sole pattern is reminiscent of the one on the bottom of the latest Trail 00’s, only with some heavy duty 2-directional ribbing that looks like it would give you amazing grip in the snow. I didn’t try these in the snow, but they felt really sticky in the rock and dirt trails I ran them through. Pretty solid, I’d say.

As for the drop, it’s 4mm on this model. Now, I realize there’s a bit of controversy among minimalist runners about putting a drop in shoes like these. I personally don’t see much of a reason in bothering with 4mm, when you could just drop it to zero and call it a day. I kind of see it as the worst of both worlds. Four millimeters isn’t significant enough to provide much lift to those who want it; and for some of those who prefer zero drop, four millimeters can be just enough to throw off their form. All conjecture aside, I barely noticed the drop. Could be I haven’t put enough miles on these to reap any ill effects from the drop, or perhaps my form is good enough to circumvent any issues, who knows. But maybe it’s because all I could feel was how cushiony these were!

Fit and Comfort

Wow. I had forgotten what it was like to wear a shoe with a mushy sole. It was like running inside marshmallows. Of course that has its disadvantages (i.e. harder landing, lost of proprioception, etc.), but let me enjoy this soft and heavenly feeling for a moment, okay? Yeesh.

I think the best advantage to the cushiony shoe for a runner like me (100% minimalist/barefooter who runs on roads and easy-to-moderate trails) is rest and healing. I have enjoyed taking these shoes out for short, easy trail jaunts between difficult runs, running errands and for walking with my dog. I believe a cushiony shoe definitely has a place in my lineup, because sometimes my feet need a rest. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

Some of the other good features of this shoe are the super comfortable blister-free liner (thank you NB!), the attached tongue that keeps out a lot of head-on debris (I hate pulling loose stones out of my shoes mid-run), and the generous toe box. The wider toe box is especially something I want to talk about because in the past I have had some width complaints in general with New Balance’s minimalist shoe lineup. For example, the original NB Minimus Trail (which has been renamed WT10) was so low and narrow I couldn’t even get my foot into it. Also, I had to go with the wide-width version of the 00 Road shoe (see review here) for the same reason. I expected the same problem with this shoe so I asked my contact to send me the wide (D) width of the 1010, as well as the regular (B) width. Turns out, it was totally unnecessary. In fact, I wouldn’t even recommend getting the wide width unless you have an exceptionally wide foot, as in, a very good deal wider than mine:

My foot is wider than most people’s, as compared to its length (size 8.5). The regular (B) width was more than adequate in this shoe.

Just walking around in the D-width, the shoe was literally falling off my feet. Now, just as an FYI, they’re also offering a narrower width (2A), for all you ladies with slimmer peds. Oh, and I hate you. 🙂

I have found there is one big drawback to the comfort of this shoe: the heel. Like many newer models in the Minimus line, the heel cup is quite high and somewhat unforgiving for the first few wears. It did soften up after awhile, but not before taking a chunk of skin from my achilles with it. I’m really not sure why New Balance chose this route with the heel. Maybe it’s less of a problem for taller people with higher heel bones. I’d be interested to hear of anybody who didn’t have this issue, and if they’re also taller than me (5’3″).

Performance

I’ll admit I didn’t do any long trail runs in these (greater than 4 miles). Why? Well, because these shoes are too much like a traditional shoe for me, and the last time I wore a shoe like this on trails I sprained my ankle pretty badly. When I run I often supinate, which is to say that I lean toward the outside of my foot (the opposite of about half of all runners, who pronate). In a cushioned shoe with stiffer soles and lowered proprioception, I have a greater chance of landing badly on a rock and injuring my ankles. Since going barefoot and minimalist my ankles have certainly strengthened a lot, but I am still cautious about hitting the rocky trails on any shoe with that stacked sole. I prefer a shoe with a much more pliable sole. This could perceivably change in the future if I start to run very long races and find a need for a shoe with more cushioning, but for now I prefer to avoid the risk of tipping on a rock and hurting myself.

To expound on my point about the stiffer sole, I want to say that I felt a lack of control in this shoe, especially going downhill. The grip is nice and sticky, sure, but I still want better perceptual control over my foot landings. A shoe like this doesn’t allow my foot to curl downward at all, and the rock plate keeps me from forming my sole around the rocks and debris like it would naturally. So for me, overall this shoe didn’t feel safe as I got more tired (and sloppy) several miles into a run.

That said, I know a few ultra-runners who would benefit from a shoe like this. During those long 50 and 100-mile races, they have reported a need for a shoe that offers more protection, while still remaining light and relatively flexible. The WT1010 is both of those things.

Overall Pros and Cons

While I don’t think this shoe is perfect for everyone, and perhaps not me, I would recommend it to the strong and seasoned minimalist trail runner who wants less exposure to the elements over a long run, as well as someone who does just fine in a traditional trail shoe but wants something lighter and more foot-friendly. So, below is the quick list of pros and cons that I found with the WT1010:

PROS

  • great example of a lightweight, transitional trail running shoe
  • dense, somewhat cushiony sole with rock plate that provides prolonged comfort and protection against rocks and debris while remaining relatively light
  • aggressive, sticky tread provides amazing grip
  • soft and comfortable upper can be worn without socks
  • attached tongue keeps a lot of dirt out
  • generous toe box, with three levels of width to choose from
  • relatively all-weather
  • on-trend color ways

CONS

  • stiffer sole cuts off a fair amount of proprioception, giving less control to your foot
  • heel cup lacks comfort
  • 4mm heel-to-toe drop is somewhat unnecessary and may not be all that conducive to proper running form, especially for anyone who still needs practice (although one could argue that transitioning to lighter shoes over time is easier if you absolutely can’t start your mileage over from scratch).

Happy running!