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The Cheap Minimal Shoe / Cheap "Barefoot Shoe" Review Roundup
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September 7, 2012
9:44 am
Danny J Albers
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For the picture, it was in "Born to Run" and I remember thinking it odd the author described Arnulfo and Scott as having grown up so far apart and yet having developed identical running form.

Obviously the picture gave me pause when I read that. Perhaps literary license was taken.

September 7, 2012
12:03 pm
Diane
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I've tried water shoes but the neoprene is uncomfortably hot and sweaty. Chuck Taylors, Vans and other skate shoes are too narrow for me. The Invisible Shoes are hard to get tied right, so I also invented a different method with a lot more holes. If my feet get wet or super sweaty Invisible Shoes are too slippery. In the end, the best for me has been a type of sandal called a "two tab" sandal, such as the Sedona sandals sold by Native Earth. I made my own just copying their design using leather and flip-flop soles. I just sew the leather sandal together and then sew the whole thing right to the flip-flop soles, cutting a shallow trench in the sole to hide the stitches from contact with the ground.

September 7, 2012
12:24 pm
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EC:

Water shoes are perfect for low-impact work.

Phocion Timon:

The problem with the rock-bottom cheap skate shoes is that each production run is different...so if you find a pair you like, it's a guarantee that they won't be around next year, or maybe even next month.  It's probably a good idea to pick up a second pair if you like the first!

The Leming shoes look quite nice...so do the TRUE Linkswear golf shoes, neither of which I've tried.  I'm sure that the competition will cause prices to continue slowly dropping.

Danny:

That's why I wear the water shoes: better ground feel than the expensive shoes!  Of course, this comes at the price of quick sole wear, but for $20 I don't mind so much.

Alex:

All the shoes you listed are (by all reports) excellent.  However, the only minimal shoe I've found that doesn't look like a weird sneaker to me is the Merrell Tough Glove...and it fits differently than the other Merrells, to the point that I can't wear it!

Dave:

The Vibram sizing chart is definitely a bit off.  You have to try them on in person.  And yes, sometimes the $12 shoes don't last very long...you don't get solid quality control for that price.

Jamie:

I didn't know there was an outdoor version of tabi shoes!  Unfortunately, my giant gaijin feet are off the end of the sizing charts, so I'll have to leave the testing to you and others.

Sue:

I looked, but I didn't see any men's jazz shoes.  Do they exist?

More soon!

JS

September 7, 2012
1:50 pm
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Ruby:

I used to go backpacking in Chuck Taylors, but that was because I was young and poor (and Chucks were still cheap, not the hipster thing they are now).  They're definitely less padded than regular shoes, with either zero drop or close to it...but there's still enough of a padded insole that I wouldn't quite call them a minimal shoe.  And maybe the smaller sizes are wider, but they're actually relatively narrow for my own giant feet.

That being said, I agree that they're still far better for your feet than a traditional shoe.

Kerstin:

People speak highly of the SoftStars, but as you said, they're not cheap.

The neoprene dive booties are a workable option for winter...but at some point I just say "the heck with it" and throw on some work boots.  It won't kill my feet to wear regular shoes while shoveling the driveway or driving to the ski lifts.

Asclepius:

Good point about deck shoes: most of them are either flat or have a very minimal raised heel.  And it's not like there's any padding or arch in a pair of Docksiders, last I checked.

Chris B:

I'll let you know when I get a "how-to" done for them.  They look great, too!

Sue:

Suede moccasins would be great in dry weather, but I can't imagine they'd be much help once things get damp or wet.

JL:

The point of minimal shoes is to let your foot and arch work as intended.  If you have fallen arches or flat feet already and lack of arch support causes pain, you need to address that before you can wear a minimal shoe.  Some ideas for strengthening the foot can be found here and here, though I can't say if they'll work for you.

Patrick:

I've heard good things about wrestling shoes as minimal shoes, but I haven't tried them yet.  Thanks for the reminder!

pam:

You probably tie your Invisible Shoes a similar way to mine.  And yes, I think they'd be improved if the sole were slightly more rigid at the toes to minimize the flopping/slapping.  I've never tried Luna sandals, as I'm much more of a shoe person than a sandal person. 

Dave:

Here's another picture which seems to suggest that yes, that's Jurek's normal running form.  (And another.)  Remember, he's only 38...those sorts of injuries usually only pile up after age 40, where hGH and testosterone levels usually fall off a cliff.  (Going vegan won't help him with that, either.)

Brendan:

$40 is a great deal for the Merrell Barefoot shoes...they retail for $100-110.

Marisa H:

Retail seems to still be $75, even for the Sprint and Classic, but they are starting to appear on closeout here and there.

Danny:

I haven't read it yet, but I suspect that "Born to Run" takes quite a bit of literary license.  When one of the main subjects dies at 58 of a heart attack -- while running -- it kind of throws a wrench into the thesis.

And you're absolutely right: Arnulfo and Scott don't have anywhere near the same stride.  Scott has a traditional heel-striking gait, Arnulfo is a forefoot-striker (as you'd expect from their respective footwear).

Diane:

I finally concluded that I'm not a huge fan of sandals for anything but low-impact walking around or beach/water use.  Even with something heavier-duty like Tevas or Chacos, the sole simply doesn't stay attached to my feet like it does with enclosed shoes -- especially water shoes, because the soles are so thin and flexible that they're basically glued to the bottom of my foot.  Sandals always seem to catch my toes on things.

 

Thanks, everyone, for your contributions.  It's good to be back!

JS

September 7, 2012
9:52 pm
Serveandvolley
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For trail running, cross country shoes that are "spikeless" look more like a normal athletic shoe and much less expensive than the other trail shoes. Great for trail running and recommended by the guy that wins all the Spartan races. Happy running!

September 8, 2012
6:27 am
Dave
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JS, you should definitely read BORN TO RUN. Yes, I think Chris took some liberties with facts, but it is an enjoyable read. I think it has done a good service in reviving the desire to run, especially among those of us who suffered injuries despite years of searching for the perfect shoe.

Ignore anything Chris wrote about diet. "Eat like a poor person"? Sure, the Tarahumara are poor, but they are not even vegetarian, much less Vegan. They eat rodents, keep goats and chickens, and hunt deer. They may not eat a lot of meat because of poverty, but they also don't eat a ton of refined sugar or other displacing foods of modern civilization, yet. Chris and others who look at the diet of the Tarahumara do so from the typical modern perspective of finding secret superfoods that allow these tribal peoples to run very long distances without the use of sports drinks and gels.

The simple fact is that Tarahumara runners have well developed aerobic systems. In other words, they are able to access their body fat stores to a much greater degree than typical American carb burners who bonk after ninety minutes without a gel. How is that possible? From the dietary perspective, it likely has more to do with what ISN'T in their diet (refined sugars) than what is.

On a brighter note, it is good to see that Chris has since endorsed the Maffetone Method (definitely not Vegan).

September 8, 2012
7:33 am
Dave
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Chris mentioned the Western States ultramarathon in BORN TO RUN.

Low Carber Wins Ultramarathon

September 8, 2012
9:23 am
David I
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Wal-Mart water shoes can be a good deal...or a disaster. They change design and manufacturer all the time. I suspect stores in different parts of the country may even carry different types in the same year.

So, if you try them and find a pair you like, go back to the store and buy a couple more pairs.

None of them tend to be very durable. I've had some unworn pairs fall apart from apparent "old age"--just degeneration of the rubber/plastic.

I tend to wear these as around-town shoes. I stick with VFF KSOs for hiking and running. My current pair of KSOs has lasted three years so far and are still going strong, so the cost per year or per mile hasn't been all that high...

September 8, 2012
7:17 pm
Lisa
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I have been buying higher end shoes for us. Will purchase one sandal, one runner for each child and myself. Recently I had a child lose the one pair of sandals and needed a quick fix. Being in the place of wanting to find a minimalist style I found a pair of water shoes while in emergency mode (no shoes, car free in small community.)My thoughts were these feel light and barefoot like. They only lasted him a week before the toes ripped due to running, playing:( I just realized last week my one an only sandals split. Perfect timing for your article because it is shoe time. What about moccasins? I am surprised that there is no mention of moccasins in the minimalist shoe talk. That is my consideration for the coming season. Any suggestions for those who are looking for winter minimalist options on a budget? thx for sharing!
_

September 8, 2012
7:22 pm
Lisa
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the other thing I meant to mention was odor. My sons feet sweat so intensely in the water shoes..nasty sweaty feet smell. Have any of you dealt with this issue?
.

September 9, 2012
12:08 pm
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Serveandvolley:

I looked at spikeless cross-country shoes, and they all seem to have heel lift and substantial padding.  Am I looking at the wrong kind?

Dave:

"Chris and others who look at the diet of the Tarahumara do so from the typical modern perspective of finding secret superfoods that allow these tribal peoples to run very long distances without the use of sports drinks and gels."

Exactly.  It's not the corn.  It's the fact that they're used to going hungry and therefore have excellent metabolic flexibility.  They have to!  They're not "running all day on a few handfuls of corn"...they're running all day on their own body fat.  The ones that couldn't died out a long time ago.

David I:

Exactly.  However, the most recent "OP" brand seem to be a big step up in quality from previous kinds.  If they actually made them in every size (not every other size) they'd probably sell a lot more.

Lisa:

Like I said above, moccasins probably work great when it's dry out...but I can't imagine they'd be very functional on damp ground, or even dewy morning grass.  And yes, water shoes vary dramatically in durability...some of them are very cheaply made.

Cheap winter options are limited.  I like Jamie's suggestion of Japanese jikatabi (outdoor tabi), even though my feet are too big to wear them.  I've heard of people wearing neoprene dive socks (or other waterproof socks) under their water shoes.  But my guess is that cheap skate shoes and a can of Sno-Seal are your best bet.

Re: sweaty feet, I have to wear all my shoes with socks, for precisely that reason.

JS

September 11, 2012
3:52 pm
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I've been barefoot for a lot of my life. Only recently have I reconsidered being barefoot outside. When I jumped on my "you've abused your body for a decade and now it's time to get back to where you were", I started walking and immediately jumped to minimalist footwear.

I have a good few shoes which are minimalist, a nice pair of white leather training shoes with zero drop, which I use for fencing and casual. They were cheap. I like 'em.

I did buy some VFF Treksports and do love 'em, but the walking I do is far too muddy and even dangerous for them. Sink into mud and onto a bottle, sharp rock, rusted metal fence post ... it's not fun. I busted some minimal sole running boots on a rusted fence spike. And my foot. I walk with very lightweight Brasher/Rohan boots now and save my beloved VFFs for good days on well maintained trails.

I've got some Invisible Shoe Contacts, which I love. I also have some home brew huaraches. Several, in fact. Love 'em. I use these more and more for road walking.

Beyond that, I just kick off my shoes and go barefoot.

I'm mad keen on car detailing. I've used water shoes a lot for that, but find the cheap ones slip around and the insoles detach. After kicking off more than one set, I just go barefoot now. Winter is different.

Coming down from traditional trainers/sneakers to minimalist footwear, the ground feel is awakening! Take that one step further and go barefoot. Slow down and savour the land you walk over.

Living in the Ice Age
http://livingintheiceage.pjgh.co.uk

September 11, 2012
7:39 pm
Lisa
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One other thing I wanted to share was after my son used minimalist shoes and spent a lot of time barefoot he could not wear runners. He tried on his runners and within minutes had leg/foot cramps.He cried in pain and took them off.That was the end.

September 12, 2012
12:42 pm
Paul N
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Lisa,

That has been my experience when I put on runners after a summer of wearing docksiders!

Have bought some VFF's and am loving them. I do particularly like the toe independence - when walking over rocks and logs at the beach (west coast Canadian beaches don't have much sand!) the feel is just great. Wearing my Chacos feels like planks in comparison.

After a month of the vff's i tried on my trusty old Meindl hiking boots and thought I was wearing ski boots!

There are some situations where I have to wear steel toe capped boots, and these now feel like bricks after the vff's. But in those work situations, to use Paul H's line, I am not tryng to savour the ground. But for recreational wearing, absolutely.

I have also noticed with my vffs, wearing around town, that I actively look to walk not on the sidewalk, but on any real ground - a increasingly scarce commodity!

September 12, 2012
5:18 pm
Diane
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I'm totally a sandal person. I now hike and backpack in sandals as much as I possibly can. But I like sandals to have some padding, not be too thin. I don't like the Tarahumara-style lacing between the toes of huaraches. I don't wear sandals if the trails are really overgrown, though.

September 12, 2012
10:46 pm
neal matheson
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Brilliant, something wierd deleted my reply. Anyhow after about three or so years in barefoot shoes (I wear vivo shoes) I have found that going back to raised heels and especially hiking boots leaves me feeling completely disconected with the ground and like I am tottering about. I tried to get people out of their boots on my primitive skills courses this summer I sue the analogy of trying to carve a stick wearing boxing gloves.
I would wear VFF if they were stocked in more places but it's alot of money to lay out on shoes that look so garish. My vivo shoes feel as comfortable as my moccasins. There is a discount outlet in the nearest city so I can just about afford to outfit my whole family in barefoot shoes bit feel very strongly about having my little girl in minimalist shoes but I wish someone would make barefoot "wellies"
I don't really buy (long distance) running as an evolutionary activity but I do wear trail gloves when running. Luckily I can avoid running on concrete for much of the year and my sprinting area is kept litter and glass free so I can really run barefoot. Funnily running actually barefoot is a markedly different experience to minimalist shoe running.
I have noticed that most (in fact all that I have seen)fossil trackways from the mesolithic and paleolithic were made by people with barefeet, even here in cold Europe. Highland Scots famously went barefoot except in the coldest weather.
When will your AHS talk be online?

September 13, 2012
12:47 am
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Paul:

I'd love to go barefoot more often, but most businesses frown on that...and the main path near my house is gravel, which is unpleasant in bare feet.  As you've found, there are many intermediate steps between "barefoot" and "work boots", each with its uses depending on the terrain and its propensity to hide the debris of civilization.

Lisa:

Once your feet "wake up", it's difficult to go back.  I think it's a combination of proprioception and developing the necessary muscles.  After that, regular shoes feel like wearing a cast.

Paul N:

I had the same experience: my "regular" sandals felt like 2x4s after going minimal for so long.

Diane:

I agree on the toe lacing: it gives me blisters no matter what.  I came up with my own lacing: maybe I'll post it at some point.

neal matheson:

Shoes are a recent development: the earliest evidence we have of them is appx. 10 KYa.  However, there is indirect evidence that our ancestors may have started using them perhaps 30 KYa, as our toe bones started shrinking around that time.  That's still very recent...and it means that there was a lot of barefoot walking through snow going on in Europe!

JS

September 13, 2012
8:02 am
Danny J Albers
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Some points made:

J said "Exactly. It's not the corn. It's the fact that they're used to going hungry and therefore have excellent metabolic flexibility. They have to! They're not “running all day on a few handfuls of corn”…they're running all day on their own body fat. The ones that couldn't died out a long time ago."

I remember a scene in Born To Run right before the final huge race that evolved into the Urique Ultra, all the competitors from all over carb loaded like crazy. Arnulfo and company sat down and ordered "A rich beef broth", I took that to mean rich with marrow and fat. We also now know that a pre-workout drink of FAT with CARB is superior to CARB alone. Ultra has known this for a while now. The Tarahumara have to apparently.

I took great pride in that moment after 200 pages or so of vegan spin that the stars of the books started the race with beef not corn, especially after all the touting corn and chia got.

As for the premature death of Caballo Blanco, very sad as his story really affected me, and I run now always wearing a hat like his in his honor.

I am glad that critism of his vegan diet was sparred as the cause of death, however saddened that running was blamed in its stead. Running, as practiced by the Tarahumara and even ultra runners is VERY different from running practiced by marathoners. Tim Noakes wrote an excellent book called Water Logged that outlines the real reason runners keep dropping. But like red meat, running has a correlation vs causation image issue and all this fear mongering about chronic cardio does not help. I maintain their is no chronic cardio, only chronic attitude. Running can be very relaxing and invigorating, or it can be a relentless painful grind. The Tarahumara and Micah True chose the later approach, and so do I.

September 14, 2012
6:55 am
Dave
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Danny, yes it was sad to hear of Micah's death. Technically, it was 'cardiac arrest' that killed him. There are unfortunately many ways to stop a heart. Remember that Chris wrote about Micah's fainting spells in the book. To paraphrase Phil Maffetone, one can be fit enough to run a marathon, but that does not mean one is healthy.

Danny, on your last sentence, I take it that you meant to say that you choose the approach of "relaxing and invigorating," the latter approach being "a relentless painful grind." 🙂

September 14, 2012
11:58 am
Danny J Albers
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Dave you are correct 😉

Every time I run for distance I think to myself "How fast would I run if I had no idea how far I would be forced to run today" as such is the life for the Tarahumara, the !Kalahari, and many others and certainly my fore fathers the Chippewa Indians who had mocassin and canoe and snow shoe.

We today have a great luxury, we can decide to do 5 miles. But when we do not know how far we would travel to acquire spore or food... we would run more conservatively, with a greater awareness of our surroundings instead of our pulse.

I have found this mindset of running, combined with nutritional ketosis, to be incredibly euphoric. I think running on fat and running on sugar results in two very different health outcomes.

Anyway I am rambling.

You are correct regarding the fainting spells. I do remember finding that interesting.

When I read the book I was unaware of Micah's death, I found out at the end of the book in the revision notes. I had seen several videos of him by then. It really rocked me actually. Sometimes we can feel a real kindred for someone we never met.

Anyway I found a good summary of his autopsy findings.

http://tinyurl.com/8durc2t

Korima my friend.

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