Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole


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Review: Merrell Vapor Glove

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Let me start off by saying that I really hate being the only reviewer to give a beloved new shoe model a less than stellar review. It stinks. I feel like a jerk. But I have integrity, dammit! I’m just reporting the facts, here, folks. Okay…that’s a lie – mostly everything in this blog is heresay and opinion – but hey, a fact or two does slip in ever so often.

Back to the review. I wanted to love this shoe. I really did. The Merrell Vapor Glove was fabled to be the second coming of the almighty KSO. This model was supposed to become the next new be-all, end-all of the minimalist road shoe. I was ready to love this baby for as long as it held together, or at least until Merrell made something even better to replace it.

Well, as it turns out, the first thing happened a lot sooner than expected. But let’s tell the story from the beginning.

I got my pair in the mail a couple of weeks ago. I rejoiced. I thanked my Merrell contact profusely. I put them on. They felt awesome. They looked awesome. I rejoiced even more. And then I took them out for a seven mile run, without socks.

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Here is where I’ll pause to applaud the greatest thing about this shoe: the sole. Zero drop, 5mm of flexible Vibram TC1 rubber, the only thing between you and the earth. By feel alone, this shoe is as flexible and light as my reigning favorite, the Vibram See-Ya. The Vapor Glove sole just rocks. It’s just the right thing. And then there’s the upper. It is gorgeous and colorful, and at first glance it really seems quite open, spacious. I mean, the whole shoe has this pleasant, slipper-like feel, reminiscent of what VIVOBAREFOOT usually does. My kind of shoe, right?

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Well, about two miles into that run I started to feel some rubbing at my toes, from the upper crinkling in as my feet bent and flexed. At first I suspected sloppy form, since I was headed up a hill at the time. But soon I realized I’m feeling it in both feet, which is usually not a form issue for me. A mile later I stopped to take them off and wrap tissues around my chafed toes (I always have something with me that can double as toilet paper). Eventually the paper rubbed away and the toe chafing got worse, until it eventually became numb. That’s usually not a great sign. I stopped the run at 7 instead of 10 and by the time I got home I had three abrasions on my toes that needed significant wrapping every time I wore shoes again for the following week.

Figuring that the issue was probably just a combination of my soft sock feet (I wore socks all winter) and the unfortunate placement of my toes in the shoe, I waited a couple weeks and then took the Vapor Gloves out for another four-mile spin by the beach. This time I wore socks. The run was fabulous. But, I didn’t notice until I got home that I had managed to rub off part the upper, on the outside of the shoe just below the bones of my pinky toe. Where there should have been bright green mesh attached to rubber, all I could see was my black Injinji sock. What the hell.

Boo :(

Boo 😦

As I stood there in disbelief, I shifted my foot around in the shoe. At first glance there seemed to be plenty of room on the sole for my foot. There was even a quarter inch of space between my big toes and the inside edge of the sole. What gives? So then I took a few steps, and I realized that the way the last is shaped, it forces my foot to shift so that the lateral side pushes out. Result: I spent 11 miles running on the upper of my shoe. Bam.

A possible added issue: the sole is really razor-thin and doesn’t continue very far up the sides, like you’d see on most shoes. By this regard, the super- thin sole has a slight disadvantage: it’s so flexible that instead of my foot being cradled in, it is allowed to move around the shoe and land in the wrong spot.

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I’ve been reviewing shoes for a few years now, but I’ve never broken one before. This is a first. And I will say that I’m super bummed about it because, as I said before, I really wanted Merrell to come out with my next big, favorite minimalist road shoe. Not many minimalist companies have really nailed the road shoe so far, at least as compared to the variety of exceptional trail offerings out there.

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All that said, I still believe Merrell is headed in the right direction. It’s really refreshing to see them take a plunge into the world of true “barefoot-like” footwear. The Vapor Glove has just the right sole: one that feels more like a light rock-and-dirt barrier than a shoe. The design is glossy, colorful and more on-trend than most of the stuff they make. But I can’t recommend this shoe to anyone with wide feet, unless you like dropping $80 on gorgeous running shoes that might only make it 10 miles.

I’ll admit my foot is probably not exactly typical, and the Vapor Glove won’t be a fit problem for most folks with very straight, average feet. But I want to point out that a wider foot is at least somewhat typical for minimalist runners who spend all their time barefoot or in shoes that let their bones splay to their full potential. My feet have been the same width even as I’ve gained and lost weight through the years – but since I started running barefoot my feet have become even wider and longer. I hope the guys over at Merrell will think about coming out with a wide version of the Vapor Glove, or at least take this feedback on toward planning small changes to the next model.

And if so, my Hawaiian feet and I will be waiting.

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Review: Merrell Pace Glove 2

bothOf all the shoes I have reviewed on this blog, the Merrell Pace Glove 2 has received by far the most rigorous testing, and in the least amount of time. That is, indeed, if you can call what I do “testing.” Some might consider it more like beating the hell out of a new pair of shoes, and then waxing poetic about what happened. Either way, prior to throwing them in the washing machine for proper review photos, my pair of Pace Glove 2s were “tested” out on pavement, dirt, sand, mud, run through puddles  and have been completely submerged in waist-deep streams. They have run on endless flat ground, run uphill, run downhill, run sideways, climbed on sheer rock and skidded across beds of algae. I’ve worn them to the beach, to the grocery store, to a hair appointment, to clean my dog’s poop in the backyard, to walk said dog, and yes, I’ve even worn them running.

sideviewBecause of my positive history with the original Pace Glove, I had a feeling that this second incarnation was also going to become one of my go-to trail kicks. And for the most part, it has. There are many things about the PG2 that will make it one of 2013’s best minimalist trail shoes, and a few things that might have been better off left unchanged.

This Shoe Has Some Sole

bottomtopFirst, I want to talk bits and parts. The PG2 has kept a lot of the same great features as the original, and left a few behind.  So what’s the same? First and foremost, the amazing zero-drop, 4mm Vibram sole. You know, the sole that earned this shoe the Runner’s World Best Debut award, and Shape Magazine’s Best Shoe in 2011. You may not have ever heard of such accolades, but that sort of stuff is a big deal to shoe manufacturers…probably a lot like the Motor Trend award is to car makers. But, I digress. The sole is exactly the same, except the update has just a tad bit more cushion and stack height, at 9.5mm. The original had somewhere around 5mm with the rock plate, if I remember correctly. Anyway I don’t notice a difference, so really it’s neither here nor there.

One interesting aside I have about the sole of this shoe is its amazing traction. This shoe is made for trails so naturally it’s going to do well at grabbing onto dirt and soil. But in my travels I have come across a few giant boulders that just needed to be scaled (Hey, I like views. I also like pretending I’m 8 years old), and I really didn’t expect the PG sole to be so insanely sticky. Climbing rocks in these shoes is akin to sticking suction cups onto a car window. It felt like cheating! After my first rock-playground encounter in this shoe, I decided that I would have to make a note of it in my review.

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The upper of the PG2 is also made of the same breathable mesh, which is excellent for escaping heat…and also for draining rain puddles, slush or stream water, if necessary. And for those who cared, they also use the same anti-slip laces as before.

What’s the Difference

Now I’ll talk about what Merrell changed in this model. Superficially, they made the shoe look a hell of a lot cooler. They gave it a sportier look, more reminiscent of what they did with the Dash Glove (and less like a typical Merrell-brand hiking shoe). So far there are only two colorways up on the site, green/blue and gray/pink, but I’m guessing that they’ll add more as the model gains traction. They’ve also added a membrane-like rubbery material over parts of the upper. I’m not sure if there’s any practical use for this material, but either way I’ve managed to rub some of it off on the outside edge.

One of the biggest and most questionable changes in this shoe is the heel cup. Due to popular demand (my source at Merrell tells me), the elastic has been taken out of the heel cup on the Pace Glove 2, so that now it mimics that of the Men’s Trail Glove. I will admit that as I’ve started running harder trails, I’ve come to have mixed feelings about the original Pace Glove because of this very feature. The elastic heel would occasionally force my foot forward and squish my toes against the front of the shoe. I earned many a black toenail from the original Pace Glove, and as a result I wished I had ordered a half size larger. Without the elastic on the PG2, My heel doesn’t slide forward anymore, and I don’t foresee any more toenail injuries. Problem solved. However, I am going to admit that I actually do miss the elastic now because the PG2 feels looser, and somewhat less secure, than the original Pace Glove. But this feeling could also be due to the other big change: the lacing system.

The purple and gray shoe in this comparison is the Wide-Width Pace Glove that I reviewed last year.

The purple and gray shoe in this comparison is the Wide-Width Pace Glove that I reviewed last year.

Merrell does pretty well with its patented “Omni-Fit” lacing system, which is fancy talk for lacing that is integrated into the tongue and upper, to give you a more adjustable and secure fit. In the original Pace Glove and Trail Glove, the Omni-Fit parts were made of heavy-duty non-stretch nylon webbing. But on the TG2 they included some elastic. The really great thing that this addition does: it makes offering a Wide-width version of the shoe’s last (which is what I needed in the original PG) pretty much unnecessary. The really not good thing that it does: it makes the shoe never, ever, ever feel like it’s tight enough.

Elastic in the Omni-Fit.

Elastic in the Omni-Fit.

Being that I have wide feet, the added elastic inside the lacing system lends the upper a lot more give. I no longer have that lateral “crunched” feeling that I used to get with the regular-width original Pace Glove. Basic foot space is a lot less limited in the new model. However, the longer I wore the PG2, the tighter I found myself lacing them. Combine that with the new looser heel cup, and my feet are moving around inside this shoe like a hamster on a flatbed truck. Now, that’s not really a problem if I’m running on some semi-flat trails (like a normal person would do), but when faced with some of the crazy-steep, loose-dirt-and-rock descents I regularly encounter out here in the hills of San Diego, a secure shoe fit means better traction and balance for me. It may just be a preference or terrain thing, or because I tend to wear socks on trails to keep out debris, but for me this was a sticking point with the Pace Glove 2.

In Conclusion

By most every count, the new Pace Glove 2 (and men’s Trail Glove 2) is an excellent, well-made minimalist shoe, as was anticipated by us minimalist shoe nerds. Being one of those nerds, I will admit that I expect and demand more from Merrell than from any other minimalist shoe brand, because in a lot of ways I’m more emotionally invested in their success. Kind of like the teacher being harder on her own kid than on the other students in her class.

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The now-archaic burrito-in-the-shoe demonstration. It’s still fun.

But really, as far as cons go, that’s really it. Merrell was smart not to change any of the stuff that made this shoe one of the best out there. The zero-drop, the great last, the excellent ground feel, durability and trail performance. The shoe is attractive, extremely well-made and even with its aforementioned drawbacks, it still outperforms every other minimalist trail shoe I have tried so far. This is true because Merrell knows feet, and also because they do an excellent job of hearing the needs of their target audience and giving them what they ask for. And what more, I dare say, could you ask for?

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Review: Bedrock Sandals

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Bedrock sent me a pair of their Earthquake sandals over the winter, and even though I live in warm, sunny San Diego now, I had a feeling that my review would fall on deaf ears if it came out in mid-January. So I have been waiting until the springtime new-shoe-buying extravaganza to pen my review.

The Earthquake Sandal seems to be getting continually improved upon by this little shoe-making factory down in Virgina, USA. Similar to many of the other huarache sandals that you can find out in the minimalist shoe marketplace, Bedrock Sandals feature a thin Vibram rubber sole (mine is 4mm), with a slip on lacing system and adjustable buckle closure. Like many other huarache companies, Bedrock offers a great sizing system to find out which pair to get, or they can customize the size and shape of your shoe sole to the shape of your foot. This is a great thing if you’ve got a weirdly-shaped foot like I do. Bedrock did a fair job of matching my foot shape, but I have seen better.

They’ve also made some recent developments in their sandal, adding some elasticized rubber in the heel, and a new optional rubber webbing material up front to assist the ease of fit adjustment in the buckle (this feature is not on my pair).

Having tried out a few other running sandals in my day, I felt this one was probably the lightest-feeling of all of them. The rubber sole wasn’t covered with any leather like a few other brands have, so it lacks in the whole “mold to your foot” aspect that I love about my Lunas. But the Hurricane sandal’s leather-less vegan sole didn’t feel floppy or heavy, as some plain rubber soles do. That could be in part because they’re made with Vibram rubber, and Vibram is pretty good at the whole minimalist shoe thing. J Another thing I dig about the sole is its surprising grip on the trails. Upon first glance the tread seems pretty basic – it’s not all high-tech and multi-directional like a lot of trail shoes, but it got me up and down the steep trail hills near my house without any slipping. Definitely a trail runner win.

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As far as the straps go, they’re not bad, not the best. I found them to be placed well enough to hold onto my foot and the buckle closure is really quite snug. I did like the addition of the elasticized rubber piece on the heel. It kept the shoe on my foot more snugly, which made it possible for me to run more miles without having to stop and make the usual adjustments to the heel. With some other huarache brands, the heel strap tends to fall off.

Once you get strapped in to the Hurricane sandal, you’re pretty much good to go, not a whole lot of loosening or movement. There is a trade-off, though: the parachute-fabric strap is really stiff and kind of uncomfortable between my toes. Every time I wear these I come away with red marks across my foot and between my toes. After ten or so wears the straps have softened up a bit, but not a whole lot.

Overall the Hurricane sandal is only a fairly good, but less expensive running huarache. I really wasn’t blown away by the shoe, but I still use it occasionally for running errands or to do hill repeats on a hot day. I recommend them if you are just getting into minimalist running and want to try a simple sandal without spending bank.


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Review: The Summit Seeker, by Vanessa Runs

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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

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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.

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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!