Category Archives: Gear

Top ten most gimmicky shoes…

… acccording to BirthdayShoes.com. I had some good laughs here, especially at some of the commercials and slogans. I think KangaROOS should have made the list. Shoes with pockets, how great is  that! And how extremely gimmicky! And the ones with the blinking lights! But I guess those are HONEST gimmicks, and not as fun as the one below.

Nevermind how they look: That shoe is unstable and harmful. I would never let my granddad wear them,  for safety reasons. Actually the common factor in most of the shoes on the list, is that they are unstable. Which in my opinion is a bad thing for a shoe. Reebook  says it flat out in this commmercial for EasyTone: “There’s actually a little instability built into the shoe.” At least it’s being marketed to healthy women.

Read the whole list here:

http://birthdayshoes.com/top-10-most-gimmicky-shoes

I’m forgiving when it comes to gimmicks. All sports gear is is peppered with technology and most of it is… well gimmicky. It adds to the hype, and possibly the pleasure of the wearer to know there is something special and new about their garment or shoes. It gives us something to talk about.

Were I’m more worried is when these are sold as a way to cure conditions, to people looking for e.g. pain relief. For example, I know several people who had to stop wearing their expensive MBT shoes, because their back pain got worse. The only thing that shoe did was force them to walk heavily on their heels. Try to notice if you see anyone wearing these, they probably have lousy posture.

That kind of gimmick can make me angry. When did we start taking medical advice from salesmen?

My addition to the list:

Actually, a pocket for money isn’t a terrible idea. I’m more skeptical to the Dynacoil that returns the energy you  put into the ground. Wow, does that mean that actually NO energy is spent on shock absorption? Anyway I can see why kids would want this shoe in 1986. It looks awesome, and has NASA technology, and a pocket. Who can argue with that?

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Investments

We are expecting a baby soon, so I think twice before making any investment. I customized my own hip bag into a fuel belt for the neat price of 15 Danish Kroner. That’s about 5% of what a fuel belt would cost. I may add more flasks later on if I need to. Can’t wait to try it out. I also bought a jump rope for about the same price.

This totally justifies buying a pair of NB Minimus Zero for the next race, right?

Home made fuelbelt

My needlework, just to show that anyone could do it.

Supposedly good warm up.

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My metatarsals just want to be free.

Fifth metatarsus on the middle left.

OK, this is getting nerdy.

I used to be a bit ashamed of my wide feet. Most shoes squeeze the outside of my foot. The little toe sticks out, sometimes making a whole in the fabric, like the first (and last) time I bought All Stars. Lately I’ve been thinking a bit about feet and running gait, and I’ve started looking at people’s feet. Turns out almost everyone’s got the same problem. Simply put we buy shoes that cripple our feet. Not a lot, but a little.

Now, minimal running shoes often sport a wide toe box. That means there is space for the toes to move freely. Problem solved. So why does it still feel like some shoes are squeezing my little toe?

It seems the little toe that we see is just the tip of the iceberg. The fifth metatarsal is a bone running along the outside of your foot, protruding just in front of the ankle. (See the anatomical drawing above for visual reference.) Which brings me to my pet peeve in running shoes; the dreaded “outside arch”. Right at the point where the fifth metatarsal protrudes, a lot of shoe makers have chosen to make the sole narrower and higher. Not wider, like you should think. My impression is that this pushes the bone in and up, creating too much pronation, messing up my gait.

Notice the difference in shape here. A quick Google search tells me this is a pretty common foot shape.

The foot in the illustration is not mine, but basically it’s the same shape. Many people have narrower feet, but according to my totally unscientific research (a quick google search) most feet have the fifth metatarsal sticking out at the same place. The image of a foot below is one of the first that show up in an image search for “sole foot”.

I feel a bit guilty for using the Merrell Trail Glove as an example. After all people have run ultra-marathons in them without experiencing any pain. I have never even run a marathon. It’s not the worst example in any way. It’s a soft shoe, so it gives a bit. Traditional running shoes have the same feature, often to a much worse degree, since they are stiff and “supportive”.

Again, with the Nike Free, this is not the worst example of a weird arch. Quite the opposite. It just shows that this shoe shape is industry standard.

But the trail glove gives a very clear visual reference for the “outside arch”. If you have narrow feet, this may not be a problem. But if you fifth metatarsal hurts when running in shoes, you could give this a thought. A wide toe box doesn’t automatically mean your foot is free.

PS: Although the Merrell shoe did not fit me, it might be the right one for you. Click the Image for a review of the shoe from birthdayshoes.com.

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Review: Vivobarefoot Neo Trail shoe

"Outdoorsy" styling.

So, Iv’e finally gotten myself a pair of Vivobarefoot Neo Trails. I went for a test run today, trying to run on as many different surfaces as possible.

They are actually good on pavement, surprisingly. The lugs are so thick that they don’t bend much, making a pretty stable sole. It’s a sole with lugs but feel more like a thicker sole with some holes in it. About that: The lugs also give some cushioning. I’m used to the slightly thinner Evo/Neo sole, so this sole feels a bit softer, which I don’t mind. There’s still very little chance of heelstriking in these, thus it deserves the “minimal” label. Zero drop of course.

I tried the shoes in some muddy hills and some grass, and the grip is excellent. I’m glad I photographed the shoes before I ran, because the soles are full of mud now, and some dog turds as well.

I’ve read some reviews saying the shoe is much too warm, and that the watertightness is of no use, as many reviewers prefer a shoe that drained faster. My answer is, that it depends who you are and where you live. I live far north.

When running in temperatures well below zero degrees (30 F) I want dry feet if possible. If I get wet, I don’t want the shoe to let the heat out. I’d rather have a bit of lukewarm water in my shoe than solid ice. Overheating is not really a problem. The fact that they are waterproof and the overly aggressive sole make them excellent for conditions with slippery snow and freezing temperatures. I imagine I will be dry and comfortable all the way to april, when I will stow these away with the rest of my winter boots.

The midfoot is a bit stiffer than the other Vivobarefoot models, due to a protecting plastic piece under the arch. (I had to take two weeks off a while back after stepping on a rock, so I appreciate its usefulness.) This would be a problem if the midfoot wasn’t so roomy. My foot is allowed to move freely inside and doesn’t feel trapped in any way. The Neo Trail has a stiff midfoot, but that it does not inhibit my foot because it is wider than most shoes.

The upper on these shoes is a bit over-engineered; a bit bulky, but protecting you from roots and rocks. Vivobarefoot have another model of the regular Neo with watertight mesh on top, which should be an excellent trail shoe if you want something lighter for a race. These are made for comfort or extra gritty terrain.

This shoe is not a good all-round shoe, but rather a shoe that is perfect for certain conditions: if you usually have cold winters, or snow, or if you like to run on rough trails or where there’s no trail, this shoe is perfect. There are lots of shoes for light trail (e.g. Vivobarefoot Neo, Merrell trail glove,  New Balance Minimus Trail, Altra Lone Peak), this shoe is for all the other trails. Also, if you live further south, there’s a more breathable version, called Breatho Trail, coming out next year, also for the tough trails.

Second opinions:

  1. Maple grove barefoot guy
  2. Running and Rambling
  3. Birthday shoes

Scroll down for some more photos.

Update

And I must add the Neo Trails are simply amazing when it comes to grip on icy surfaces. Running on a wet icy wooden pier is generally considered dangerous, and I wouldn’t attempt it in any other shoe. I was a bit skeptic to this shoe after reading some mixed reviews, but I know for certain than none of the reviewers had tried the shoe in winter, as it only came out in summer 2011. Also it seems that people who live in warmer countries tend to conclude “too warm, doesn’t drain: Dealbreaker” or “No rockplate, overly aggressive grip”, while I’ve read reviews from Denmark and Britain stating “This is THE shoe for winter conditions”. I guess the same  things that makes it good also makes it not suitable for hot weather. Anyway, amazing shoe.

Very grippy sole, rock protection piece to the right.

Stiffness in the midfoot area.

Comfy lining, removable insole

Rounded heel. No heelstrike.

Discrete branding

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Good ol’ shue.

As an experiment I ran in my old Nike Dart 8s again. They are made of canvas, and not really ideal for running. They are, however, a lot better than my old “fat man’s Asics”, in that the sole is not several centimeters thick. I would recommend them for anyone who wants a decent running shoe for very little money. Not the canvas one though…

I had no problem finding my forefoot today, and it turned out to be a very pleasant run, comfortable and fast.

Runkeeper

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Minimus zero Road Review )@BarefootRunningUniversity(

Good looking shoe IMO, I’m seeing it as a likely candidate for a marathon shoe. After reading a good review at Barefoot Running University, it seems this shoe has all i need. Like a zero drop version of the Mizuno Universe. Very light and well cushioned. Can’t wait to try it.

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The value of cheap sneakers

My old H&M sneakers have a similar last to the Vivobarefoot Neos.

When I started reading about barefoot running on the web I ran in a few different pairs of very cheap sneakers from the supermarket or H&M. I have always preferred shoes that are flat and not too tight, so it turned out I had a lot of “minimal running shoes” in my closet. I would advice anyone wanting to try minimal running to run a bit in normal sneakers before buying minimal running shoes. Preferably they should be “lowtops” (with a low heel cap), and a bit wider than Chuck Taylors (just for reference).

Four reasons to buy real minimal running shoes later on:

  1. Durability. Cheap shoes wear out quickly.
  2. Sneaker soles usually have less grip.
  3. Cheap rubber is heavy.
  4. Cheap shoes usually breathe very little.

In other words all the things that make running shoes different from other shoes: Durability, traction, weight, breathability. What cheap sneakers do well, on the other hand, is NOT supporting your foot too much, and NOT having a padded heel. In terms of biomechanics they are far better than ordinary running shoes, if you want to run natural-style, that is.

My old sneaker easily passes the ball-test.

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A perfect fit – Vivobarefoot Neo

Vivobarefoot Neo

The right fit.

I think I’m in love with a shoe. This is the best fit I’ve ever had in a shoe. I originally bought the EVO (the previous model), because it is a little bit lighter. Some barefoot running bloggers complained the Neo was too heavy. For my taste, that’s not the case. The Neo actually feels lighter than the Evo, probably because it hugs my foot like a racing flat. It feels snugger around the midfoot, but with even more room in the toe box. It also feels a bit more like an ordinary shoe. I really like them a lot.

Different kinds of mesh.

Be aware there is a newer model of the Neo with a lighter, watertight (but less breathable) upper. The material is called “hydrophobic” on their website. Actually the new Neo is supposedly even lighter than the original Evo. I am thinking of getting it as trail shoe. It does not look as awesome as the Neo Trail, but I think it works better for road, and is therefore more versatile. But then again winters are long here in Denmark; The Neo trail might be good for running in snow and ice. And then there’s also the Breatho Trail, due in spring. God, I’ve become a shopaholic.

The black lining is soft and breathable. The yellow "suede" around the heel is for increased durability.

Vey breathable mesh.

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Running in the dark.

Suddenly realized all my running clothes are black. Even my shoes are black. I need to get a white top, ideally with reflectors… Suddenly made my wonder: Why on earth are running clothes mostly sold in black? They’re too hot  in the summer, and can’t be seen in the winter. Seems like a bad idea. Come to think of it they have a nice yellow jacket at my local shop…

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Minimus Disappointment


Finally went and pestered my local running shop to try the Minimus Road shoe. I figured I’d use it as a casual shoe which I could occasionally run in. I love the look of the shoe, but it was pretty clear as soon as I put it on: This shoe is not for me. They felt clunky even walking around with, like having a rope under the midfoot. I was sort of disappointed, probably because this was the first minimal, or “reduced” running shoe I read about on the web.

I have never understood why most running shoes have “arch support” also on the outside of the foot, opposite side of the actual arch. At least I don’t have an arch there, I would like a good groove along the outside of the foot, all the way from the heel to the ball of the foot, with no bumps or “support”. But don’t take it from me, I have weird hobbit feet. Just know that the Minimus is not exactly minimal: It has some kind of “midfoot support”, probably to encourage landing midfoot.

I look forward to trying the new zero-drop version next spring, hopefully it’s a better fit for me.

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My favourite piece of equipment.

My way back to civilization.

For some reason most of my running clothes don’t have pockets. I have a jacket with a pocket that can hold one key and one credit card, but in the summer I don’t use a jacket. Still I always need a pocket, which means I have to spend time planning what to wear, as I need at least one piece of clothing with a decent pocket. I don’t know who these targeted consumers are who don’t need to bring their keys when running.

I complained about it in an earlier post. Now I finally went and did something about it. Voilà, a portable pocket! It seems the fanny pack is not dead, just expelled to the back of the store with the hiking equipment. I look forward to stuffing it with biscuits, chocolate, camera, phone, ID, money, maps, chewing gum and other things I might need.

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Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail

Vivobarefoot Breath O Trail

Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail, coming spring 2012.


I just found this on RunnersWorlds Facebook page. Apparently it’s next year’s Vivobarefoot trail shoe. I had a look at the current Neo Trail in the shop a couple of weeks ago, and they felt really nice, I imagine thay are awesome out in the woods. (Maple Grove Barefoot Guy’s review of the original Neo Trail here.)

But my feet are warm even when it’s freezing, so I’m afraid that the tight mesh is not for me. Besides, I don’t mind getting wet so much. It might be a good winter shoe, but definitely too warm for summer, at least for me. This is a more breathable (and hopefully lighter) version of the trail shoe. I love the look.

Update: I found this image while surfing today. I just can’t wait!

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Minimus Zero

MInimus Zero Trail

A preview of the NB Minimus Zero Trail

It seems New Balance are launching a zero-drop Minimus next year. It will be called Minumus Zero and there is some information at the NB website. Pictured above is the trail shoe. I’m hoping to try out both the road- and trail version. Though they are true zero-drop shoes, they have thicker soles than my EVOs. I’m thinking it might be nice for a longer race.

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Where did the fanny pack go?

Illustration by BGM Illustrations

Traditional fanny pack.

Back in 1990 I was sporting a fanny pack, listening to Snap, and generally being a very hip ten year old boy. Then the fanny pack disappeared. Only homeless people would be seen wearing one. When it came back around it was more or less as a practical joke. People would wear it as an edgy fashion accessory, most likely empty.

I want to bring a minimal water bottle, a cellphone, biscuits, and my keys for my run, all strapped around my waist, preferably locked as tight as possible. Sometimes I even want to bring my camera. All they offer at my running shop are belts with specialized compartments for energy gels (I’ll never eat that) and water bottles big enough for a double marathon, and a compartment with room for one key. I realize running with a camera is a weird thing to do, but am I really the only one?

In my humble opinion, the fanny pack is due for a comeback. Maybe not as a fashion item, but at least on the trail.

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VivoBarefoot Evo

EVO II - Flat as a pancake!

EVO - Flat as a pancake!

Just got these babies yesterday! I got to spend 30 minutes on the treadmill in my local shop. I tried some different models, and these where the most comfortable ones. I have a flat right foot, so I overpronate a great deal. I also tried a few other models: The Nike Lunaracers were nice but too narrow for my feet, and the Brooks Green Silence made me overpronate more for some reason. As soon as i put the Vivobarefoot on I cranked the treadmill up to 15km/h, which is fast for me, so I take that as a good sign. The plan is to use these frequently in my training, and hopefully their complete flatness will improve my technique also with padded shoes.

EDIT: After a few months of use I am very pleased with the shoes. There’s no way to heelstrike in them, even if you try. These first generation* Evo’s are extremely breathable. Actually the wind blows right through them. It’s definitely a summer shoe, despite looking warm and black. I use it as a road shoe. The soles traction is excellent for light trails too, but both the sole and the upper are very pliable, so if you kick a root or step on a hard stone, you might as well have been barefoot. Ouch. Of course water also runs right through the mesh.

The later model “Neo” is also a good shoe, slightly more comfortable, but also heavier and warmer. More suited for colder weather or trails I’d say . Both shoes are pretty minimal as running shoes go.

(*Second generation, the Evo II has a tighter mesh.)

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