Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole


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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.

burrito

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: 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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Building a Better Toolbox

Photo blatantly stolen from competitor.com. Click on image for source.

Barefoot and minimalist running is growing in popularity by day, but right now it’s definitely still a lifestyle niche. As with any niche and the folks involved in it, differing opinions fly, people get segmented into this group or that, and elitists are born.

Personally, I try to stay clear of all that. When the debate over shoes versus barefoot circles again as it always does, I just roll my eyes and wait it out. I don’t like to pigeonhole myself into any one role in life. When it comes to this topic, mostly I just identify as a runner and leave the barefoot part out unless it’s pertinent. Frankly, the barefoot part is only a small fraction of what my running life is about. Obviously, I prefer running with much less on my feet than most people, but that’s because to me it means good form with less injury, and it feels more natural. And I enjoy running much more when it feels natural to me.

My opinion on the whole barefoot vs. minimalist shoes debate is that there should be no debate. I feel strongly that it’s important to embrace all aspects of something important to you, or else you’ll never see the whole picture. I agree that barefoot is your best learning tool. I agree that shoes are tools. I agree that good running form requires a mid-foot strike, straight posture and high cadence. I agree that minimalist trail shoes are good for trails, and that you can go barefoot on trails. You can call me wishy-washy, but I believe that to truly understand something you must welcome all facets into your study of it, not just one or two specific ideas.

People who go barefoot 100 percent of the time arrive at limitations when it comes to extreme temperatures and certain aggressive terrains, and there may be some experiences they will have to avoid because of it. People who never go barefoot remain numb and consequently miss out on the glorious wealth of the world that can be experienced through the soles of their feet. Only those of us who fling aside the puritanical garble from both far ends of the spectrum can really gain the benefits of both worlds.

Like I said, I am a runner first, and a barefoot/minimalist second. Like the rest of the folks in the minimalist niche, I use my choice of footwear (or lack thereof) as a tool to allow good technique and improve my joy in running. I am also a bit of a minimalist shoe geek. I love to test and review all kinds of minimalist shoes for running and casual wear. I believe in minimal footwear and enjoy promoting it over shoes that alter or try to “fix” one’s gait. It makes me happy to think that even in some miniscule way I am serving to shape the future of the sport through the quality of its products.

No shoe company has ever paid me to write a review of their shoes, good or bad, but most of the time the products I write about are given to me free of charge. On occasion, if I want to try out a certain shoe badly enough, I will purchase it myself if the company’s PR department is unresponsive. Some people will tease me by calling me a “shoe whore,” and well, I suppose that’s partially true. I relish in my growing choice of footwear each time I head out for a run (and likewise, in giving some away to others who will enjoy them more). But my intentions are pure: my childlike curiosity and desire to be as involved as I can in this sport are my driving forces.

But I am most certainly not without a canyon of flaws. For the last two years I have run almost exclusively in minimalist shoes. Yes, you read that right. Except for on rare occasions and really good moods, I all but avoided running barefoot out of a fear of nasty blisters and uncorrectable form issues. And the few times I tried to run bare, it felt too difficult and had some less than desirable outcomes. For the longest time I lived by the resolve that it would take too long for my feet to adapt, and in the meantime I want to bank mileage at every run, not limp around over tiny stones that my baby-soft feet can’t handle.

But in the last couple of weeks I have finally taken the opportunity to set aside my hesitations about running barefoot, and just started doing it. I guess you could say I’d finally had enough of hearing myself talk. One night I came home from work, got into my running skirt and sport bra, leashed up the pooch and left the toolbox of shoes at home. I didn’t take a pair with me as a back-up, just in case, like I’d always done (and invariably put them on half a mile later). I left my front door just as barefoot as my beloved dog Oscar, and I found out that it wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be. I ran a mile around the neighborhood and I didn’t get any blisters. So I did it again a few days later and it was a little bit easier. Last night I ran two full miles completely barefoot, for the first time ever. I came home, washed my feet off and started dinner like it was no big deal. Because it wasn’t, not anymore. What a triumph to know such simplicity! In a few weeks my feet will be tougher and I’ll take on more challenges. I am thrilled that I’ve finally overcome my fears and feelings of inexperience related to running barefoot.

So I guess you could say that I am finally coming to a point in my experience where I can make an argument for or against running totally barefoot, because I’m actually dedicated to the use of both toolboxes. But I actually have less of a need to argue about it now than ever before. Why? Because there’s really no point.

Many barefoot purists have felt the glow of enlightenment as they shunned those who choose to wear shoes in their daily life. Many shod runners have felt smart in their cushioned shoes while they shook their heads at those weird barefoot hippies. But I have never felt more enlightened than I did the day I realized that I don’t have to make a choice. I can have the whole toolbox for myself, and I can be ready for anything.


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Heel Striking: The Bad Idea that Won’t Die.

I just came across a recent article that my friend and favorite barefoot/minimalist guru, Jason Robillard, wrote in his blog, called “The Heel Striking Experiment: Why Bad Form is Stupid.” In it, he addresses the very same topic that I struggle with all the time: how consistently reluctant heel-striking runners are about improving their form. The refusal to even attempt the change is astounding, even if they’ve heard over and over again how important it is, how good form can whittle away many nagging injuries, how it can keep them running longer and happier. In his well-written article, Jason asks us:

“WHY WOULD YOU RUN IN A WAY THAT ENGAGES THE BRAKES WITH EACH STEP?!?”

Well, I think I know the answer to that.

You see, people in general like to do what they are told. We live the course of our lives based on what we are expected to do. Grow up, go to college, get a day job, get married, have kids, buy a house, buy a practical car, get credit cards, drink milk, and the list goes on. And if you decide you’re going to be a runner? You’re supposed to walk into a running shoe store at the mall and have a 19 year old part-time employee (who probably doesn’t run) “fit” you for the “right” stability shoe for your level of “pronation.” Then, and only then, can you attempt to run. Right?

Wrong. So, so very wrong.

But hey, we can’t help it. We humans are essentially pack animals. The strongest perceived leader gets all the loyalty. In this case, it’s Nike. Asics. Brooks. Whatever brand the sales guy thinks we should be wearing this year. And that’s why sales people do so well in our society. So if you’re a new runner, the running shoe sales guy is the precious link to your perceived leader, he knows what you should be wearing on your feet. So you listen to him. You do what you’re told, like a good consumer. And you are never told by your leader that you need to learn good form. Instead, you are told that if you buy this magical $180 gel-stuffed, super-stability heel lift, it will miraculously bypass any and all flaws in your poor running form and make you run injury-free. Of course the biggest hole in this theory begins with the notion alone that you are flawed. You are flawed because you have flat feet. Weak ankles. Bad knees. Bunions. You overpronate, underpronate.

Almost everyone who walks into a running shoe store is convinced (by their “leader”) that there is something wrong with them that would prohibit running, unless of course they purchase their very own miracle shoe before they leave the store. So many runners fail to ever pick up on the idea that maybe it’s been the shoes that have given them all these problems to begin with. Or at least that perhaps, just maybe, the feet they were born with are just fine on their own.

Barefoot and minimalist running has grown a lot over the past few years. I have faith that it will grow exponentially in the next few. But the crucial ideation about form and footwear will never truly take off for the lot of us pack animals unless it becomes the “leader” that the masses will follow. And what leader? Christopher McDougall? Nah. The medical field? Yeah right. No, it’s going to have to be someone like Nike, Asics or Brooks. Someone who feeds the consumer pack its shovelfuls of good authority and celebrity endorsements. Sorry to be such a cynic, but it’s true. The big boys are going to have to start selling minimalist shoes, in order for the masses to decide the theories about good running form are true.

But in the meantime, I will be spreading as many kernels of knowledge as I can to those around me who like to run. Help them realize that there is something to wearing less shoe, to learning about good form. Perhaps even convince them that they’re not broken, and they can run after all…and love it. And most importantly, that they don’t have to conform to some arbitrary authority over their footwear. Maybe one or two of them might actually listen.


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The Runner I Am

It’s Thanksgiving night. As I sit in a quiet house, belly still full from pounds of comfort food lovingly prepared by family, head still spinning from those hours of catch-up conversation and several glasses of wine…I’m remembering how just before this day last year, I decided to train for my first half marathon.

I think last winter, the project of training for such a long distance (for me) was the most memorable and fulfilling thing I accomplished all year. And I have decided that I am going to do it again, and I am going to start training tomorrow. Now, when I say I’m training for “the half marathon”, I don’t mean that I have signed up for any races yet (I have one or two in mind, sure, but that’s beside the point). Nor do I mean that I have printed out any sort of training program with the ridiculous intention of starting it four months before spring race season (though I do find training programs mildly helpful as a guide for safely ramping up mileage). What I mean is I want to get myself mentally and physically back there again — to the place of running in the cold winter days and loving it, piling on the mileage and being thrilled about my ability to complete it. But this year, naturally, I want to improve my outcome. I want to have a better race. I want to pay closer attention to my eating habits and be lighter come race season. I want to improve my form. And most importantly, I want to enjoy it even more than last year. This year my resolution will be to quit all my whining and run smiley, even if it kills me. Okay…that was a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

Because, someday, I want to be an ultra-marathoner, and hopefully by then I will have become the runner I want to be.

And what is that?…the runner I want to be. What kind of runner am I now? Do I even qualify as a runner? These questions have been spinning through my mind for a very long time now. Then just the other day I read an article* by Kate Kift (the creator of the Run Smiley Collective) called “What is a Runner?” And it had a bit of an effect on me. Not too much of what she said surprised me, she and I are on the same page about most running-related topics – many barefoot and minimalist runners are. But she concentrated quite a lot on how others label us, and to me she seemed to paint the “runner” label as sort of trite and one-dimensional. But that’s probably because she has so many other hats, occupations that fill out her life, that she’d much rather be associated with them instead. And that’s totally cool.

But lots of people think of Kate Kift as a runner, myself included. Doesn’t she think of me as one? What about all these other runner people that we consort with?

Perhaps some of these amazing barefoot runner personalities don’t think of me as much of a runner. I can’t run fast – my fastest mile ever is barely under 9 minutes (and that was just a one mile run, no hills, on a really good day). I’m neither a Vegan nor a Paleo dieter. I’ve never run farther than 13 miles, nor have I run more than 21 miles in a week. I don’t have a slim runner’s body. Up-and-coming minimalist shoe companies aren’t tossing any free trial pairs into my mailbox. I don’t write books about running, and my blog doesn’t usually generate more than 50-60 hits a day. Being the fence-gazing, super-ambitious chick that I am, I think I’ve been stuck on all of this a little too much lately. I’ve got all this useless anxiety about my place in the world of barefoot and minimalist running. I can’t stop wondering: should I even be calling myself a runner, counting myself amongst these crazy badass barefooters, writing articles on the subject as if I’m some kind of authority? What do I even have to contribute, that one of these guys can’t bring a hundred times better?

But many of my friends, coworkers and my loving husband (i.e. people who don’t run) call me a runner. Some are even generous enough to say I’m a good one. I relish in the label. Know why? It gives me an identity. A place to exist in the world of my peers. And their role for me doesn’t include parameters like speed, distance or miles per week. They just see that I do something I enjoy, and they applaud and appreciate me. When they hear I ran 8 miles on Saturday their eyes get big and it makes me feel like a rockstar. It brings me back to the first days of my long training runs last winter, and how big my eyes got when I saw the mileage on my Garmin. “Yes, I really did it, and I am awesome!” I would gush at myself. I was proud. It was enough then. Why shouldn’t it be enough today?

So when it comes to whether I’m a runner or not, whether you are a runner or not, it really is just about perspective. A runner isn’t a person who gets endorsed by shoe companies, or who is an authority on the subject of good form. It isn’t the woman who ran the longest ultra marathon, or the dude with the fastest 10k time. A runner is simply a person who runs. But I’d like to add: a runner is a person who loves to run. This is the runner I am. I shouldn’t forget that this year.

*Also read Kate’s follow up article on Jason Robillard’s site: “Definition of a Perfect Runner


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Review: VIVOBAREFOOT Neo

I realize I’m a little late in the game to review the Neo, it’s been out for a few months now and lots of people have reviewed it already. But that’s okay, because I don’t mind playing catch-up and I have a few things to say about this shoe.

Let me start off by saying this is going to be a pretty good review. In the past I’ve been asked to write reviews for different kinds of products, and I’ve never been the type to crank out fluff articles just to make suppliers happy. I have tried stuff I don’t like and I’m happy to say so, but so far I haven’t had much opportunity to write proper reviews before every other minimalist blogger already had them covered like grass on a golf course. And I won’t write about anything until I’ve tried it out sufficiently enough to give it a fair shake, this being why no review exists yet for my InvisibleShoes.

But enough of that blather, on to the review.

Well hello, there. Cutest minimalist running shoes I've worn so far.

I want to start with a point of reference: I love my Vibrams. They’re a fantastic minimalist running shoe. Until I met the Neos, I never thought I’d find something to replace them. But since I got these babies in the mail three weeks ago, my Vibrams haven’t seen the outside of my closet. It wasn’t something that happened right away, though. The first couple of times I wore them just around the office for the day, and while running errands. Like my Kalis, they were a little stiff to begin with. But after a bit they became molds of my feet and I’m not sure I’ll be wearing anything else running for awhile. Or at least until VIVO comes out with something even more genius.

Physical Details

Made of soft Microfiber and Airmesh, the VIVOBAREFOOT Neo is 100% vegan (if you care about that stuff), and eco-friendly with its recycled insole. The materials of the upper seem to have a water-resistant quality, so my foot stays dry longer. The flexible, zero-drop rubber sole is 4mm thick and puncture-resistant. These puppies are lightweight, too. Weight with insoles is 5.7 ounces, 5.2 without. I left the insoles in, mostly because I can’t really tell the difference, and because I like the idea of stinking up a removable insole and then replacing it later. The Neo is designed to be worn with or without socks. I have worn mine both ways – there were no seams to bother with, but the shoe is roomy (more on that later) and very warm for running so I prefer wearing socks to protect against chafing from moisture. The design and construction of this shoe is exceptional in quality, and absolutely adheres to the minimalist runner’s ideals for a running shoe.

The Neo has a durable, yet exceptionally flexible sole.

Looks

When I was given the generous discount by VIVO to snag a pair for review, I went first for the Evo II. And why not? It’s the most popular running shoe they offer. But I will admit I’m not totally in love with the look of them. The Neo is more my taste, it’s simpler, cleaner. It doesn’t even look like a running shoe to me, so I’m happy to get more wear out of my pair for non-running related stuff. The Neo is built on basically the same platform as the Evo II, but it’s a little lighter and the upper is made differently. Also the price was a bit more feasible for me.

A view from both sides.

The shoe comes in a bunch of colorways, which is pretty rare I think, especially for women’s athletic shoes. I chose the gray and red. When they came in the mail I thought they were really cute, and I got a ton of compliments. The only setback to their look is the lack of normal shoe-contour. When I put them on and looked down they looked sort of lumpy and shapeless, because they don’t tuck in at all where the natural arch narrows my foot. This is unusual for a shoe, but I don’t know that it hurts the Neo’s actual performance for me.

Fit and Feel

VIVOBAREFOOT doesn’t make shoes like Vibram or Merrell does. The Neo doesn’t hold tight to your foot like a sock. For a long time it seemed to me that was the only way to make a great minimalist shoe. But the Neo is a great minimalist shoe, probably one of the greatest, and in a completely different and unexpected way.

Like I said in a past article  “My Favorite Things (So Far in 2011)“, the VIVOBAREFOOT Neo fits like a slipper. It fits snugly and has traditional laces for adjusting, but there’s a good amount of room in there to move and flex. It doesn’t pinch or constrain my foot in any way, which is a downright miracle for someone with feet as wide as mine. The shoe and sole is soft, pliable (especially after a few wears). I can feel the ground in a spectacular way: brick sidewalks feel like brick, trails feel like rocks and leaves, the ground feel is there but in a different way than other minimalist shoes. The shoe is so pliable that it just seems to bend around surface texture. Not only does it curve upward with your toes, it curves downward and sideways as well, all while not having to conform to your foot. It truly is like running inside a soft, comfy slipper.

The Neo fits like a slipper, roomy and soft.

That point about not conforming to your foot does two more great things: 1. it keeps your feet warm. These will be my winter running shoes, I have no doubt about that; and 2. it will fit more people. You don’t have to compromise a good fit for your gnarly long toes or your beastly wide foot.

The only downside I can think of for the roomy fit is for someone with a very narrow foot. The laces are pretty adjustable, but I bet if you’ve got an exceptionally narrow stomper then you might find yourself floating around in these. I’ve met some minimalist shoes that would be well-suited for the narrower foot, like the Merrell Pace Glove and the NewBalance Minimus, both of those are made way too narrow for me (at least the 2011 models). So I guess there’s something for everyone, right?

Conclusions

  • construction is sound; this is an exceptionally well-made shoe
  • completely zero-drop
  • made of light, flexible eco-friendly materials
  • stylish and retro, not at all garish or strange-looking
  • a good alternative for VFFs, if you don’t like getting weird looks from people
  • excellent ground-feel, as compared to most minimalist running shoes
  • fit is roomy, made more for people with normal to wide-width feet
  • more suitable for cool weather months
  • hands-down, one of the best minimalist shoes on the market

If you’ve got a pair of Neos, let me know how you feel about them, I’d love to hear. And for the rest of you, I hope this review was helpful. Thanks for reading!


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A Better Resolution

Well, well, well…here we are. The third day of January, in the year twenty-eleven. Half a week into those lofty, ever-looming New Year’s resolutions. You know, those well-intentioned promises we declare out loud, as if just by voicing them we are re-inventing ourselves for the next three hundred sixty-five days. It’s unfortunate that most of these promises are swiftly abandoned, leaving diet plans unrealized and fitness centers empty all over the country by mid-February.

I don’t typically make New Year’s resolutions. I avoid the expectations altogether by admitting to myself that a date on a calendar is just not enough to motivate me to lose 30 pounds or to clean my closet more often. I do, however, have some goals for the year 2011. One of them is to start a blog (done). And the other is to start training for a half marathon (done). It’s a win-win when all you have to do is promise to continue something you’ve already begun, right? To me, that’s better than making some stinkin’ resolution.

It feels good to have started a blog. I don’t know why I didn’t have one before – perhaps it was laziness, fear of failure or lack of motivation. Or maybe it was the realization that the internet doesn’t need another self-important, nameless American blathering on about their preference for wet-wipes over regular toilet paper. At any rate, I’m disappointed in myself at how little I’ve written over the past few years. I was born a writer. And by that I mean I had a deplorable, tragic childhood, which is the perfect canvas for a brilliant writing career. I’ve always planned to write at least one book in my lifetime. A seamstress in a school uniform store once told me, after having been briefed by my aunt on the events of my childhood, that I should write a memoir someday. I’m not sure many people would be interested in a memoir about me – maybe only about as many as I expect to read this blog, if that. And even if my life story were compelling enough to land on Oprah’s Book Club list, I still haven’t written it. I haven’t even decided whether to write it, or to write fiction instead, or something in between. “Write what you know,” mentors advise, “find your voice.” But maybe that’s just it: I haven’t yet found my voice. I guess my hope is that having a blog will tease that voice out of me. I have some ideas; but whether they work or not, at least I’m finally writing again.

The half-marathon (or “Pikermi,” as it’s been affectionately nick-named, after the city which falls mid-point between the Grecian cities of Marathon and Athens, in the historical 26.2 mile race) is a new ambition of mine, even though I have been a “runner” for several years. I put the term in parentheses because for about 8 years I only ran for the sake of punching out 30 minutes of cardio on the dreadmill twice a week, in an effort to aid my Weight Watchers diet plan. There was no attention to form, distance, footwear, no attempt at improvement or acquisition of skill. I didn’t love doing it, and I injured myself a lot. It wasn’t really running. It took me until last June to understand how much I do love to run. I won’t go into minute detail here, but one day I discovered the joy and freedom of running without “shoes” (i.e. heavily padded, rubberized, motion-controlled foot coffins known as the modern running sneaker). Since then I’ve learned how to be a runner. Now I run because I want to be a better runner, and being a better runner requires physical fitness and a healthy body weight. Which brings me to the core of my running goal: to train, and eat, in such a way that I can complete at least one half-marathon in the year 2011 (and, hopefully, beyond). My endeavor officially began on New Years morning with a 10 kilometer race, and I’m well on my way, as they say, with a stack of celery on my desk and a 9-mile long run planned for this weekend.

So there’s my introduction to this blog, and to the year 2011. Now let’s get down to work.