Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole


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Review and Giveaway: Earth Runners Circadian Sandal

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A few weeks back I was approached by Earth Runners to review the newest in their line of minimalist sandals. Until that point I had only peripherally heard of the company, and didn’t really know much about their brand of sandals. But I said yes because the more I looked into them, I realized the Earth Runner sandal is different from a lot of the other Tahuramara-inspired minimalist sandals out there, in two big ways:

The Lacing

It looks a lot like the kind of lacing that you’ve seen in other huarache-style sandals, but the system is a little different. The sturdy toe strap slides between your first and second toe and goes on to create the heel strap much like all the others, but then it comes across your ankle just once and is then strapped in by a nifty push buckle on the outside. It makes for a very clean look that is easily adjustable and very secure. No sliding, no pinching, no tying. And best of all, the closure system assures that the heel strap never slides off my heel: bonus!

buckle

The Copper

Earth Runners subscribes to the concept of earthing, which is the idea that utilizing the ground’s electrical energy can help maintain our health and well-being.  To keep us connected to the earth below us, Earth Runners has installed special conductive copper plugs into the rubber soles and laces of their sandals, and has even “impregnated” the straps themselves with conductive material.

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I’m not really sure where I stand on the whole earthing concept, but I would have to say that it can’t be bad for me, so why not? If nothing else, a little placebo never hurt anybody. That aside, I like my Earth Runners a lot more than I expected to, and I really do find myself wearing them everywhere. I definitely wear them least as often as my favorite Lunas, and that’s saying something. The Circadian model, which is the one I received, has a distinctively feminine vibe to my eyes (although, yes, they are unisex). Most other huarache-style sandals can tend to feel masculine or utilitarian to me. When I walk around in my Circadians, I feel like I’m wearing a regular sandal that goes quite well, fashion-wise, with the casual summer skirts and dresses I like to wear. And the best part is I’m still getting the benefits of a great minimalist, zero-drop huarache. And the benefits of grounding, as well.

I haven’t run in these sandals (they’re just too pretty!), although I know that many people do, and they’re built well enough for running. They have a 6mm thick, really grippy Vibram rubber sole that comes out of the box already partly molded to the natural shape of your foot. I really liked that, because flat rubber sandals can sometimes feel floppy and wobbly (which is why I usually prefer sandals with suede or leather over the rubber), but the gentle curvature in the sole of the Circadian gives my foot a nice seat.

sole

I’ve taken my dog for several road and trail walks in these and I like the ground feel and the sticky slip protection they provide. The guys over at Earth Runners was also more than happy to cut the sole to a drawing I had of my feet, so they fit just perfectly, which is such a bonus for me and my monkey feet!

The Earth Runners Circadian model (and the Birkenstock-soled Alpha, too) is available currently on Kickstarter.com. Support the startup, y’all! It’s only there until June 2! A few weeks after the kickstarter campaign is over, the two new models will be available for sale on the Earth Runners website.

earthrunnersClick on the image above to head over to the Kickstarter site!

And just to get you all excited about these fantastic sandals, I’m going to give away a pair of Circadians OR Alphas to one lucky reader. Yay! We all love giveaways, don’t we?

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This contest will run until Friday, May 31st. There are five ways to enter:

  • 1 ENTRY for posting a comment: tell me why you want a pair of Earth Runners, and where you’ll take them! Or ask a question if you’ve got one.
  • 1 ENTRY PER DAY for sharing this giveaway on Facebook (please leave a separate comment with the URL to the FB page). You may share it more than once and earn a separate entry.
  • 1 ENTRY PER DAY for tweeting about this giveaway (please leave a separate comment with the URL to your tweet). You may tweet more than once and earn a separate entry.
  • 1 ENTRY for liking the Earth Runners page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EarthRunners (leave a separate comment to tell me you’ve done this)
  • 1 ENTRY for following my blog (please leave a separate comment to tell me you’ve done this so I can verify)

On Friday I will tally up the comments by number and let random.org choose the winner for me. The lucky winner can choose one pair of either the Circadian or Alpha sandal (pictured above). Winner should email me at trishalreeves@gmail.com and I’ll get you all set up!

Thanks for reading, and good luck!

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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: 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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Adventure Packing

I haven’t had much time to write this week because I was in NYC for work. But now I’m back and I’m exhausted, and hoping I can stuff enough hours of sleep into the days and nights leading up to the race so that I can actually finish without conking out on the side of the trail.

And speaking of stuffing, I have been spending just about the whole day thinking about what the hell I’m going to pack for the weekend. My friend Jason Robillard says that the amount of stuff a runner packs for an ultra is directly proportionate to the runner’s experience. And since I’m a complete noob, I pretty much plan to pack half my home. The list includes:

  • Running tanks
  • Capri-length running tights
  • Running skirts (INKnBURN, baby!)
  • Zensah calf sleeves
  • Invisible Shoes (re-laced and cut shorter to better match the shape of my foot)
  • Merrell Pace Gloves
  • VIVO Breathos
  • Merrell Dash Gloves or Vibram SeeYas
  • at least 2 pairs of Injinjis
  • sports bras
  • albuterol inhaler
  • my handheld water bottle
  • my Nathan hydration vest (even though I’m 99% sure I won’t use it)
  • tons of snacks
  • at least 2 gallons of water
  • Body Glide
  • my Garmin watch
  • Nuun
  • a cooler
  • almond milk
  • bananas
  • chia seeds
  • dried mangos
  • dates
  • whey protein
  • homemade potato salad (the race director requested a food donation)
  • my blender

You should notice two things here: 1. I did not list underwear.  2. yes, I said I’m bringing a blender. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

The things I hope to learn from this weekend’s adventure are the following:

  • whether I am able to run 31 miles without dropping dead or injuring myself
  • what I don’t need to pack next time
  • how well I can function after a week’s worth of sleep deprivation and high alcohol consumption
  • why Jason Robillard insists on wearing such short shorts

The race is in three short days, readers. Wish me luck!