Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole


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Review: VIVOBAREFOOT Evo II

I am a very lucky blogger because, to date, I have tested just about all of VIVOBAREFOOT‘s best offerings. But oddly enough, until recently I hadn’t actually tried the very shoe that put VIVO on the map: the Evo II.

Unique even to its successors, the Evo II embodies the original hexagonal trademark that is VIVO. With its neat all-over hexagon pattern, unique boxed-in lacing system and stylistic outer piping, the Evo makes a pretty cool fashion statement. A bit of a show-stopper in its own right, this is VIVOBAREFOOT’s sportiest looking shoe.

A bit heavier than VIVO’s later offerings (around 6 oz. each), the Evo II is still light enough by my standards. The upper is constructed of what they call a PU Hex Flex Cage (likely a mix of mesh fabric and some form of plasticized rubber), which acts a bit like a semi-rigid shell rather than your typical soft mesh upper. Although my experience was that it seemed rather clunky, I think the firmer material will likely add to the durability of the shoe over time. It’s also probably part of the reason this shoe is marketed for cool weather, and I agree it would be an excellent choice for winter.

So, despite my having to test this shoe in the dead of summer, I think this review comes at a good time — while you’re thinking about shopping for winter running gear.

The 5mm thick, puncture-resistant sole is paired with VIVO’s typical 3mm removable insole, which I left in during my testing. I have concluded in my travels that I prefer a little more padding for longer road distances. I found the ground feel to be superb, like all of VIVO’s offerings. In fact, VIVO remains my pick for the most consistently excellent ground feel throughout its current line of footwear.

The Evo II last is not very wide. It’s probably wide enough for most folks, but it doesn’t have the same excess in width that I’ve enjoyed in some other models like the Neo and the Lucy Lite. The Evo II would be perfect for someone with a narrow foot or finds the other models too wide for their liking. I didn’t exactly feel cramped, but I certainly could have done with more room in the toe box.

The last of the Evo II and my really wide foot.

And speaking of toe box, I didn’t love the way it crinkled where my toes bend while I was running. This is a downside to having that rigid cage design on the upper. It dug into the top of my foot a little when I wasn’t wearing socks. With socks on it wasn’t as noticeable, though. Because of the dark color of my pair, I wasn’t able to get a good picture of the crinkling.

Other than that I found the performance to be as expected. When you test several shoes from a company that puts the same sole on all their road shoes, there really isn’t much that can surprise you. Their product is just remarkably consistent, and this can be a good thing for a company or it can work against them. For example, if you love VIVO’s shoes already, you’ll probably like the Evo II a lot. But if you haven’t been impressed by their road models in the past, then they’re not giving you much more to work with. I’ve yet to see their 2013 offerings, but my hope is that they will decide to take a few more risks and perhaps pull in a wider audience.

Overall, I’m glad I got to test VIVOBAREFOOT‘s earliest road shoe. It’s good to see that their strengths have followed through from their very first brainchild. The Evo II still holds up against its newer counterparts because it does some different things to please different people, namely those with narrower feet and those looking for a durable cold-weather minimalist shoe.

I hope that this review has been helpful. If indeed I have helped along your decision to purchase a pair of VIVOBAREFOOT shoes, please show me some love by entering VIVO’s site via my blog. You can do that by entering any of the links on this article or by clicking the VIVOBAREFOOT banner to the right. Thanks so much and happy running!

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Review: VIVOBAREFOOT Lucy Lite

I have been a VIVOBAREFOOT tester for some time now, I have all of their best shoes in  my closet. Some of them I have loved, some not as much, but overall I have come to know what to expect from them. The Lucy Lite is much the same thing. It was mostly predictable. But that’s not at all a bad thing.

Looks & Features

The Lucy Lite, like a few other styles in VIVO’s line, is a simple, classic shoe with very few bells and whistles. And with its simple mesh upper and very slim 3mm zero-drop TPU sole, I guess you could say that its design is pretty darn minimalist all around.

Like the Neo, the Lucy Lite has a bit of a 70’s retro throwback look to it. In fact it has a lot of the same qualities as the Neo. The Lucy Lite is a tad lighter in weight, though to be honest I couldn’t really tell. And it has a bit more of a “foot-shaped’ last.

But although it seems to be more popular, I actually find the Lucy Lite to be even less feminine-looking than the Neo. Now, I’m not exactly the frilly pink pastel type, but I’ve always thought VIVO could stand to do a little more in the looks department overall when it comes to their women’s shoes.

Comfort

Despite its low-tech materials and super-minimalist profile, the Lucy Lite spares nothing in the way of comfort. I think I can safely say that this is the most comfortable shoe in my entire closet. Yup. It is soft, very wide and roomy, as well as infinitely flexible and cushiony. Now, before you minimalist purists get your panties in a bind, I only mean that the upper is cushiony! The entire collar of the shoe has some very generous padding, and there’s also some on the tongue. All that means is these babies are comfy from the first step you take in them.

It also means that they’re very warm. Not a summer shoe, unless you summer in Antarctica (I hear it’s 31 degrees and snowing today in Base Esperanza). My first run in these was on an 88 degree evening, and my feet all but melted in these shoes. Pick it up for this fall and winter, and I guarantee it’ll be one of your favorites for roads. The jury is out about really icy roads, though. Some have said that VIVO’s road shoes are not great on ice, with their almost nonexistent grip, but they do seem pretty sticky to me.

I don’t wear socks in these, and I have had no rubbing or blisters whatsoever. So the liner works pretty well if you prefer to go sockless in road shoes like me. Just remember to throw them in the washer ever so often, to avoid the notorious barefoot-shoe-stink. I believe the key is to get them clean before they start to stink. I also keep the removable insoles in, because they absorb a lot of sweat and you can replace them down the road.

One other thing to note is they run a tad short like the Neo, so order a half size up.

Performance

Since it boasts the classic VIVOBAREFOOT sole, the Lucy Lite performs exactly as predicted. Excellent ground feel, superior flexibility and lots of room for your piggies to do their thing. Like I often say about VIVO’s shoes, the Lucy Lite fits like it’s just there to protect your foot, but not bind it. It fits more like a slipper than most other brands, many of which try to fit your foot more like a sock. I’m not saying either one is better, but I like to point out the difference because of the wide range of preferences between people. I don’t think this shoe is good for trails because its ground-feel is way high; I prefer more grip and protection against the bruising rocks and roots that line the trails I run. Also I think some people with very narrow feet might find this shoe has too much room, and their feet might knock around inside it, and throw off their form. For someone with a very narrow foot I would recommend going with the Evo II (review forthcoming).

Final Thoughts

  • I really like this shoe. It’s one of the most undeniably comfortable styles of minimalist shoe on the market
  • a true minimalist shoe with zero-drop soles and excellent ground feel
  • extremely wide last and good seamless sock-liner
  • clean, retro styling – but could be more feminine to compete with the rest of what’s out there now
  • a great cool-weather shoe that will keep you warm and relatively dry
  • the perfect minimalist hang-around kick, if you’ve already got enough running shoes
  • Not a bad price point at $100

I hope that this review has been helpful. If indeed I have helped along your decision to purchase a pair of VIVOBAREFOOT shoes, please show me some love by entering VIVO’s site via my blog. You can do that by entering any of the links on this article or by clicking the VIVOBAREFOOT banner to the right. Thanks so much and happy running!


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Review: VIVOBAREFOOT Mary Jane

These are some serious heavy-wearing, every day minimalist shoes.

In the barefoot and minimalist shoe world, we folks spend an awful lot of time talking about shoes that we wear for running. Running shoes, running sandals, shoes specializing in trail running or road running, and so on. And though most of us are absolutely absorbed in running (and some of us run an insane amount of miles each week) we still all do happen to walk a hell of a lot more than we run.

So what about the perfect minimalist shoe for walking? For wearing with a skirt to work? To a wedding?

I’ve always thought it was a little strange that we spend so much time talking about how and why we all run barefoot or in minimalist shoes, but so little time talking about what we wear the rest of the time. I don’t know about you, but since I started recognizing the benefits of running naturally, I feel guilty if I do anything more than simply stare longingly at (or give away) all my old non-minimalist non-running shoes. All those gorgeous stilettos and espadrilles in my closet that I used to wear and love, and that have become nothing less than torture devices to my newly naturalized feet. I miss them, but I don’t ever want to wear them again.

I mean, all the muscles of our feet and lower legs are still being used when we walk, and we can still mess with our mechanics if we do it wrong, so why aren’t we minimalist runners spending at least as much time shaping the casual shoe industry as we are shaping the running shoe industry?

I don’t typically stand a lot at work, but a few times a year I attend trade shows and stand for 10-12 hours a day. After years of testing every kind of gel-filled, support-laden, memory foam gimmick out there, I finally gave up trying and bought a pair of these cheaply-made synthetic leather flats a few years ago (because every other “flat” in the stores still had a heel on it – so annoying). And even though those flats fell apart almost instantly and retained a rather funky odor, my feet felt better in them at the end of the day than in all the gel-laden shoes I’d tried before. It’s amazing what we can learn when we decide to simplify our lives. But I digress.

In steps the VIVOBAREFOOT Mary Jane. Like their Kali shoe that I reviewed last year, the oh-so-classic Mary Jane is made of ultra-soft Napa leather, with VIVO’s signature hexagon-patterned 4.5mm puncture-proof outsole, and a 3mm removable insole. The Mary Jane fits, wears and feels much like the popular Kali, but with some important differences. The strap is closer to the ankle on the Mary Jane, and it’s made of leather instead of elastic, with an easy velcro closure. Other unique features are the Dri-Lex moisture-wicking inner lining and the soft padded heel. The heel is an excellent feature, because it makes the shoe completely wearable and comfortable from the day you pull your pair out of the box. Unlike the Kali (as well as most shoes made of high-quality leather), I didn’t have to deal with “breaking in” the heel – something that usually involves many wears and many bandaids.

Soft fabric heel = NO blisters and bandaids.

Like all of VIVOBAREFOOT’s shoes, the Mary Jane is extremely flexible from heel to toe, has a wide last, roomy toe box and is structurally sound. After over two months of nearly daily wear, there is not so much as a misplaced thread or significant wear spot anywhere (all photos were taken the day this review was posted). I found this to be impressive, as quality-made shoes are increasingly rare to find these days.

Bottoms, after 2+ months of nearly daily wear.

Now let’s talk comfort. Much like the Kali which I also love, the Mary Jane serves as nothing more than a sole protector and a casual fashion item. There are no support structures, arch lifts, no raised heel, no padding, nothing tight, pinching or constricting, nothing at all that would alter your foot from its natural relationship with the ground below it.

And that’s why my feet, my calves and my heels did not hurt at the end of each 12-hour trade show day. Sure, they were tired from walking around for several hours more than I’m used to, but that’s to be expected and will happen in any shoe, regardless of cushioning (or barefoot). This was literally the most comfortable shoe that I have ever worn to a trade show. I felt like the keeper of some dirty little secret that nobody else knew, in their 2 inch-thick cushioned shoes, clutching their lower backs and limping over sore foot pads by 5 p.m. After the show closed, I happily walked 12 New York City blocks back to the hotel while everyone else waited 25 minutes for an empty cab.

It still amazes me when people get to talking about needing more “support” for their sore feet, but again I digress.

As for my personal opinion on the looks and styling of the Mary Jane, I think it is fine but could be better…sexier, maybe? Although I realize each shoe wearer has her own fashion sense, and although I didn’t have much of a problem coordinating this basic black Mary Jane with most of my wardrobe, I am rather picky about shoes. I do wish that VIVO had a larger selection of Women’s casual shoes, one that would aim to please the tastes of a wider and more varied audience.

Other than that, the VIVOBAREFOOT Mary Jane is, without question, the right choice for any woman seeking a comfortable, highly durable and well-crafted shoe for work and play, that embraces the importance of natural walking form and minimalist sensibility. I figure I’ll get at least 2-3 years of heavy wear out of mine, which makes their $110 price point pretty darn reasonable. Way better than those stinky old $40 fall-apart flats that I used to buy. You do the math.


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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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My Favorite Things (so far in 2011)

As you surely know, the runner’s product review blog has become ever so popular over the last couple of years. I hope to continue adding my four or five cents to this phenomenon as time goes on. But I like lists a lot, so I’ve decided to add a quarterly (or at least bi-annual) list of all the running-related things that impress me the most. I expect this list to change and contradict itself over time as I become exposed to new and wonderful products. I also think it’ll be fun.

Because this is my first ever list, it’s going to include everything from January 2011, when I started this blog. I hope some of my readers will agree and disagree, and perhaps even suggest new things for me to try out. By the way, I couldn’t come up with a good order in which to arrange these, so I’m just going to put them in the order I discovered them.

Vibram FiveFingers Bikila LS

Yeah, you read it right. VFF‘s are at the top of my list. My first inclination was to apologize for being stale and unoriginal in this choice, but after some consideration I don’t think I will. Vibrams have lost a lot of popularity among many of my barefoot/minimalist friends and readers, I think partly because of their meteoric rise in popularity over the last 18 months, and partly because some other good (“one-toed”) shoes have moved in and lots of people like them better. I myself feel a little guilty for running out on Vibram. Maybe I was sick of the weird looks, maybe I was tired of dislodging little rocks from between my toes. But mostly I think it was because I wanted to try other stuff too. And I have. Some shoes were great, some not so great. But I’ll tell you this: when I put my Bikilas on my feet last week to walk the dog – I hadn’t worn them in nearly 4 months – they felt awesome, and I couldn’t remember why I ever stopped wearing them. I realize that Vibram has had a few problems with quality control and their newer models have been met with lukewarm response by some of the more die-hard VFF purists. But I still think Vibram gets it the most right.

Let me just clarify my reasoning here. In my observation, there are three different kinds of minimalist shoe: what I call the shoe, the slipper and the sock. The shoe is a piece of semi-rigid protective material that straps to your foot and is somewhat binding, for whatever reason. I put the Merrell Pace Glove and the NewBalance Minimus Trail in this category. The slipper is a softer, roomier contraption that is very flexible and allows more foot movement against ground surfaces. It’s kind of just there, it protects you but also provides an environment of freedom. VIVOBAREFOOT (which I’ll bring up again further down) and SoftStar make this type of shoe. Then there is the sock. An actual sock is stretchy and takes on the exact form of your foot as you move it. A sock wears your foot, instead of the other way around. This is what we’re talking about with Vibrams (and, though I’ve never tried them, Zems seems like another “sock”-like style). You don’t need to worry about width of the shoe, flexibility vs. protection, heel drop…all of that is moot. Because a Vibram FiveFingers shoe is created to wear your foot, to be your foot, in all its five-digited, super-articulated glory. How could it be any closer to barefoot? In the future I may move on from my Vibrams completely, but I challenge other minimalist shoe companies to equal the absolute freedom of that strange sock-like, multi-toed monkey shoe.

Injinji NuWool Toe Sock


Exactly how do you get through a winter of New England outdoor running in VFFs without a good pair of Injinji NuWool socks? I know that I certainly couldn’t have done without them this January, those days when the temps barely reached to the 10’s in the afternoon, the roads were frigid and slushy, and I had a long run ahead of me. NuWool is pretty much the same as the branded SmartWool. It’s very thin, moisture-wicking, and warm. The most amazing thing about these socks, besides the interesting split toes, is that you can prance through all the puddles you want in shoes that are completely non water-resistant and you’ll never get chilly feet. The material seems to soak up the moisture and then allow it to warm to your body temperature, thus drying the sock faster. The only setback, equal to that of the VFF, is the design that separates your toes from each other, so if you start out with chilly piggies it’ll take a little extra mileage before they warm up.

Garmin Forerunner 305


My husband gave me this running watch for Christmas last year. I wasn’t going to buy it because I didn’t think it would be worth the price. And it’s kind of ugly. Okay, it’s really ugly. But it’s got to be one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. Not only does it tell me how far I’ve gone, but it gives me a host of other information on how mediocre of a runner I am. Time, pace, average pace, laps, heart rate, elevation, and a whole lot of other stuff I’ll probably never even use. Plus when you connect it to your computer it gives you this whole analysis of the run, your highs and lows, a map, and stores all the information by date. Now I know it is worth the price. I’d buy it again. The only complaint I have is that on occasion I’ve had to wait forever for it to find the satellites, especially in urban areas with a lot of buildings. And it’s run out of battery on me a few times, mostly because it doesn’t have a battery gauge on the main screen so it’s easier to forget to charge it up.

Nike Pro Combat Thermal Running Tight


I’ll be the first one to admit that most people look silly in running tights, myself included. They’re like slightly shiny leggings – and there some are very strict rules about leggings that all stocky, short girls like me should never stray from (i.e. cover the bum). But anyway, I tried on about 38 pairs of running tights last fall, and just about every one brought me back to that unpleasant afternoon in early 2010 when I decided to try on bikinis at Marshall’s. The Nike Pro Combat tights fit me exactly the right way. I can’t even really tell you what it was about them that made a difference – maybe it’s the rise that actually covers my buttcrack, or just the right amount of stretch, I dunno…either way these babies kept me warm, but not sweaty, all winter long. They’re not cheap – they sell for $55 big ones, but I’ll probably buy another pair.

Polartec Wind Pro Glove by Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS)


There are probably a hundred different pairs of good running gloves out there. I picked these. They were warm enough to block the icy wind, light enough to keep me from taking them off and losing them two miles into my run, moisture-wicking, dark enough to hide my inevitable nose-wiping, and cheaper than the ones NorthFace had. Turns out I really like these gloves for running and for cleaning snow off my car. Who knew?

UnderArmour ColdGear Fitted Mock


Two things: 1. Thank the running gods for this long-sleeve; and 2. I wish I’d bought two instead of one last year while they were on sale. I wore mine during the local Turkey Trot 5-miler last November at 33 degrees, and I wore it under a light jacket when it got colder. And I never needed more than that, even in the dead of winter. The thin, warm material seems to seal in your body heat, but not any of the sweat. It’s nice and long too, it covered my running-tights-clad bum and kept me comfortable without riding up too much. I plan to add another one of these to my stockpile of running clothes this winter.

The GAP Body Pima Cotton Tank Top


Okay, ladies. If you don’t have some of these, go get one. Get two, five. They’re fantastic. They’re usually on sale for something like 2 for $30, or for much less on clearance when the next season’s colors arrive. They are fitted, nice and long, and roomy in the armpit area (for lack of a better description), so no chafing. They are cool in the summer, the perfect first layer in the winter, they’re cut to look good on everyone, and they come in all your favorite colors. I have five. I hope GAP never stops making them.

Running Skirts


There is one official company (RunningSkirts.com) that boasts the invention of the running skirt. Recently I was very generously given one of their skirts and will be reviewing it shortly. But the whole revelation here is just the running skirt in general. I am of French-Canadian and Native American descent, which means I’m short, stout, very muscular, and more importantly I can’t run in shorts. I’ve tried. Short shorts, long shorts, compression shorts, doesn’t matter. I spend more time twisting and adjusting them than actually running. Enter the running skirt. Pretty, girly, mid-thigh coverage in a myriad of different colors and patterns. Some running skirts have compression shorts built in underneath, some have skivvies. I prefer the latter, and not just because they remind me of my cheerleading days. No shorts = no riding up. I love running skirts, I wear them all summer long in lieu of shorts, and they make me happy. I don’t care who invented them, in my opinion they’re the best thing that ever happened to the female runner.

VIVOBAREFOOT Neo


I plan to do a full review of this shoe in the next week or two as well, but I couldn’t help but include it in this list because it really is one of my favorite things. First let me say that if you want a really fantastic minimalist shoe and you don’t like Vibram FiveFingers, VIVOBAREFOOT is the way to go. They have several different running shoes to choose from, but the one I chose was the Neo. It’s lightweight, zero-drop, adorable, comes in several colors and it’s reasonably priced. I just got these babies in the mail a week ago and I really haven’t taken them off since. They feel like nothing I’ve ever run in. They have great ground feel but exceptional protection. They allow my foot to curve and roll but they’re not tight or binding. In every way, the Neo is an exceptional shoe. Also, they seem to have some water resistant properties and definite warmth, so I imagine they will be my winter shoe this year. Don’t worry, I’ll still be wearing my Injinji NuWool socks inside.

So this is my list at the moment. Thanks for reading. Got anything new and fantastic that I should try? Go ahead and leave a comment below – I’d love to hear about it.


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Review: VIVOBAREFOOT Kali

This review was originally posted on Sept. 26, 2011 in The Maple Grove Barefoot Guy‘s blog. Worth a visit if you want to learn about new running shoes and gear – he’s reviewed a ton of things.

My very first real product review. More to come!


Back in January I was looking for a casual minimalist shoe to wear on a business trip. My company sends me to trade shows a few times a year, and I have to stand and talk to people for 10 or 12 hours each day. I love my soft faux-leather flats but they don’t last, and Aldo started putting a kitten heel on the one I always buy, subsequently killing the reason I loved them so. At some point I stumbled upon the Kali on vivobarefoot.com (I think it was actually because Christian was giving away a pair to one of his readers so I checked them out), and ended up ordering them in black (they don’t have black anymore – I wonder why?). I wore them to the show and they were everything I wanted in a work shoe. And SO COMFORTABLE! I left the trade show each night without sore feet/back/legs, which is a lot more than I could say for my work buddies. That was eight months ago, and I have been wearing them two to three days a week since then.

The Look and Feel

I gotta say, these kicks are stinkin’ cute. They are classic without the boring, and the available colors are just darling – I’ve been eyeing the beige/lavender ones for weeks. They are made of high-quality nappa leather that hasn’t broken down at all over these months of wear and weather, and I’ve never used any leather protector products on them. I just have some creasing in the toe area, which impresses me because I tend to beat up shoes pretty quickly. Their simplicity is perfect for everyday wear, with jeans, slacks, skirts, shorts and leggings. I love the look of the wide toe box, very boho-chic, and I’m grateful for the room to accommodate my extra-wide barefoot runnin’ peds. I wouldn’t be quick to recommend these to people with very narrow feet, you might be flopping around in them. But then again that may be the reason for the elastic band over the top. At first I thought I’d have to cut the whole thing off, because I figured it would annoy my very high instep like all other elastic straps. But it didn’t – it’s actually quite supple and has a lot of give. The fit is snug for me but not constricting. I will admit I do get a mark across my midfoot by the end of the day, but it doesn’t cause any real discomfort.

Downside: the first couple of weeks in these guys was a little rough. The leather isn’t soft enough out of the box, so like most good pairs of shoes they need to be broken in. I had a pretty nasty blister on my heel for a while, but now they’ve turned into something like mary-jane-style foot gloves.

Minimal Enough for Ya?

Vivobarefoot’s commitment to the minimalist movement shines through quite well in this product. The Kalis have an exceptionally flexible, zero-drop, 3mm sole and they weigh only 5.5 ounces. I have been tempted to go for a run in them, they feel so much like my minimalist running shoes! The Kali comes with a removable insole (see pictures – sorry for the dirty worn-in shoe pics…but hey at least you know they last!). Leave it in and I have a ground feel similar to my Vibram FiveFingers Bikilas. Take it out and it’s like walking around in my FiveFingers Classics. I chose to leave the insole in because I’m not as much of a stickler for ground-feel as many other folks are. Also, I like to take out the insole and machine-wash it periodically…because I’ll tell ya, running or not, if you don’t wear socks with your shoes you’re eventually going to start wondering what died in them. Or maybe it’s just me. Hm. Either way you can replace the insoles for $15, which I’m thinking of doing soon.

I should mention that although the hexagonal-patterned rubber soles have not worn down at all (!) since I bought them in January, they do make a lot of squeaky noises when I walk on slick surfaces. I sound a bit like a basketball player scuffing my sneakers on a hardwood court. Sort of weird but not a deal breaker. The manufacturer’s details say that the thin sole sacrifices some traction, but I have actually found they have terrific grip – the first month I wore them there was 36” of New England snow and ice on the ground and I had no slippage problems whatsoever.

What’s in a Pricetag

The hardest detail to swallow about the Kali was the price. Sure, I’ve spent $100 on my running shoes and I’d do it again. I’ve spent $250 on a fantastic pair of fashion boots, no problem. But the $120 pricetag on a pair of flats was a little tough for me to swallow. And coupled with the fact that I can’t buy them in stores (they’re sold out of the UK), it was a hefty risk that I wouldn’t like them or they wouldn’t fit. But I took the risk and I found the fit true-to-size (I’m exactly between EU38-39, the 38 is perfect), and I consider the long-lasting quality well worth the sack of change. I may not have to buy another pair of casual minimalist shoes for another couple of years….but I’m not promising anything because that Venus style is looking mighty fine in purple.

I hope that this review has been helpful. If indeed I have helped along your decision to purchase a pair of VIVOBAREFOOT shoes, please show me some love by entering VIVO’s site via my blog. You can do that by entering any of the links on this article or by clicking the VIVOBAREFOOT banner to the right. Thanks so much and happy running!