Official Shoe Review: Earth Runners

Earth Runners.  It just sounds like music to your ears doesn’t it? What a great name for a shoe.  There is no shoe I wear more often than my Earth Runners.  Earth Runners win the award for “Best All Around,” “Best in Show,” or “Most Well Rounded.”  How many times in this post can I say Earth Runners? 🙂  Find ’em at http://www.earthrunners.com.

About:

Way back in the day, in December, I became intrigued by a company called Earth Runners, and made contact with the creator, Michael Dally.  I was fortunate enough to receive a pair for review, the Ultralight model.  Unfortunately, I was unable to run in them right away, because I faced my medical crisis shortly after the arrival of these good looking friends.

Nevertheless, I became a big fan of this small company, which was launched on Kickstarter.  Michael Dally is a smart, active mechanical engineer, who honed his skills at San Diego State University.  He’s also a trail runner who cares about the powerful connection we have to the earth and others.  He further exemplifies this connection by pledging to donate a pair of sandals to Seva Sandals, a nonprofit that donates protective footwear to children in India.

Earthing:

I really can’t review these sandals without discussing the concept of Earthing.  I still don’t really “get it.”  Good description right?  All I know for sure is that the Earth has a rhythm (Schumann Resonance) which I attempt to describe here and here. Barefoot runners often describe a feeling of ultimate connection to the Earth and their surroundings, gathering energy from the ground and those around them.  Additionally, decreasing inflammation in their body because of their soft landing and the neutralization of positively charged free radicals when in contact with the negatively charged electrons on the earth. I totally get that.  Well, the first part of that sentence anyway.  But I know there’s no feeling like running barefoot.  Except now, I get that feeling in Earth Runners too.

See here’s the deal:  Michael has taken his love of trail running and Earthing and put that concept into the perfect minimalist running sandal.  He has placed copper inserts (flush with the bottom of the shoe I might add) in attempt to ground the wearer and connect them to the earth again.  Like running barefoot.  Does it work? I think so.  I find myself getting that same euphoric feeling I experience when running barefoot.  But, I might add that for some reason I don’t notice that feeling until I’m about 10 minutes into my run.  I honestly can’t explain that except maybe it takes me a little while to become “one with the shoe” or perhaps it takes a little while for that connection to register.  Who knows?  Michael created a really cool video I will share here, in which he does an experiment to compare the difference between being grounded with bare feet and then with a pair of his Earth Runners.

The Running Experience:

Admittedly, it wasn’t love at first run.  In fact, I could only go about 2 miles running in them and 4ish miles of walking in them before ripping them off due to an excruciating middle toe blister.  And, I’m an idiot and maybe a little strap OCD, so I couldn’t get the straps where I wanted them.  I probably went on like this for a couple of months before I was smart enough to contact Michael to figure out how to help myself.  Michael kindly told me that he had a Support section of his website with FAQ’s.  Luckily, he told me right away what the problem was and I was able to fix it.  On the first try.  What a difference that made and all I had to do was ask…

After I fixed the straps just by rotating them a little bit, I was able to increase my running distance substantially.  My longest run in Earth Runners has been 10 miles, and they were enjoyable miles on the road. I must admit that I am used to running in a lighter shoe, so the 8 oz. feels a little heavy to me after that distance.  On a personal level, I really enjoy the Earth Runners for my shorter, recovery runs.  Possibly because of the Earthing effect?  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

For this particular model, I  prefer road running.  The tread on the bottom of the Ultralights is not the best for trails as I tend to slip often in dirt/rocks/mud.  I did attempt several times to go for longer trail runs in them, but I ended up changing after a couple of miles due to the slippage.  To give them some credit though, I did try to take them on the steepest, loose rockiest trails in Ventura and Santa Barbara County.  Like, you should probably go down on your butt, if you catch my drift.  If you want to trail run in your Earth Runners, I might suggest another model (he has quite a few to pick from now!) with better tread on the bottom for rugged terrain, like the Circadian model.  And to finish that thought, I prefer to not run trails in huaraches anyway because I am a total accident waiting to happen on a trail, especially now that I live in California.  These trails are rocky and I’m liable to lose a toe.

Once I am running in these, I feel like the shoe becomes a part of my body and I forget I’m wearing them. I really enjoy running in Earth Runners, not only for the feeling, but for the looks I get.  I can only imagine they are thinking how good looking my shoes are 🙂 Below, I’ve marked the ground feel as fair, but this likely has to do with the 6mm sole vs the 4mm sole which is the max I’m used to running in.  The 6 mm sole is quite flexible, and I’ve read reviews that say that if you choose to have a naked footbed (who doesn’t want a naked footbed??) then the ground feel and flexibility is comparable to the Xero Shoes, which have the best ground feel I’ve experienced in a minimal shoe.

Life Experience:

I wear these shoes all the time.  Period.  The only time I’m not wearing them is at work.  But I would, if I could wear open toed shoes.  If I go out on the weekend, I’m wearing Earth Runners.  San Diego trip with my sister? Earth Runners at the zoo, out to eat, all day every day.  Newport Beach to see my hubby’s best friend? Earth Runners out to the bar, Earth Runners to the beach, and everywhere.  I think you get the picture, I’m obsessed with these things, it’s almost like an addiction.  My husband is thinking about getting some because of my borderline attachment.

Techie Stuff:

  • Stack height: 6 mm
  • Weight per sandal: 8 oz as tested (this would likely be different depending on how large your foot is, what type of laces and footbed you choose.)
  • Choice of leather footbed or naked footbed (tested leather footbed)
  • Choice of laces: Nylon with sturdy buckle, leather, or newly offered conductive laces
  • Sizing from chart or custom foot tracing
  • Zero drop (obv)
  • Foot bed forms to your feet
  • Don’t wear them in a thunder/lightning storm (ZAP!)

Pros:

  • Earthing: Come on, what other shoe can you say this about?
  • Comfort during walking/running
  • Easy strapping system (A big plus for a strap illiterate human)
  • THEY LOOK FANTASTIC. Raw, genuine huarache appearance (A plus for my street credit)
  • Versatility (I can go run, hike, or go to a bar in these.)
  • Favorite “recovery run” shoe. These things suck the inflammation right out of my little legs after a long trail run. Ok, I’m not certain that they really do this, but I do feel somehow more rested after going for a quick run or walk in these.
  • The company you’re dealing with stands by their product and is prompt to answer questions (no matter how silly)
  • For every 10 pairs sold, Michael donates a pair to charity

Cons:

  • Fair ground feel
  • Foot slippage in strapping on trails
  • Ultralights: Not the best choice for trails as tread does not accommodate steep, rocky California trails (Try another model?)
  • Barely a con: Straps take some adjusting, breaking in time needed. (Likely the case for all huaraches)
  • Not my first choice for a long distance (10+ mile run) due to strap rubbing over time.

Some pictures for your enjoyment:  Head on over to http://www.earthrunners.com and get yourself a pair.  And tell Michael I sent ya 🙂

Earth Runners hiking
Earth Runners hiking
fresh dirt after a hike
fresh dirt after a hike

IMG_0493

side view
side view
bottom: Sorry about the blue paint, I painted my front door. In Earth Runners of course
bottom: Sorry about the blue paint, I painted my front door. In Earth Runners of course
Earth Runners out and about in Ventura
Earth Runners out and about in Ventura
Earth Runners in my yard :)
Earth Runners in my yard 🙂
Earth Runners at the San Diego Zoo
Earth Runners at the San Diego Zoo
Earth Runners out in Newport Beach
Earth Runners out in Newport Beach
Earth Runners to assist with recovery after BTR Ultramarathon
Earth Runners to assist with recovery after BTR Ultramarathon

Running Free? Or Running Bound? And Earth Runner Huaraches!

The past few days, I’ve been celebrating learning how to run again after about a month off, including surgery on January 21st.  I have had a series of short, barefoot, giddy runs that have left me wondering why some people don’t run.  And on the other hand, I saw a runner that have left me wondering why some do.  During my brief, restorative runs, I have felt so completely free that I theorized that perhaps I am actually becoming more bound.  More bound to the sport, more bound to the love of running, more bound to the earth and its healing qualities, and most importantly, more bound to myself.  

Admittedly, I struggle with resting and allowing my body to heal.  The thing is, while I was sitting around doing all that healing stuff, my mind was lacking its usual outlet, which of course, is running.  All that sitting around can do funny things to a person, and that’s why I decided to head out the door and try to find some peace and quiet for my mind, which was consequently running amok.

So, I started with walking, which I did for a couple of days.  The next day, I walked again with Mike and was able to run four times for about 1 minute each time.  Now, I don’t mean really running exactly, more of a funny little skip/waddle combo that felt just perfect with the healing incisions in my belly.  Not to mention, I looked good, which is what really matters.  A few days later, I was up to my gentle skip/waddle for up to a half mile, which I did a couple of times, and I was starting to resemble a wannabe runner. Two days ago however, I had a real breakthrough.  I put on real running clothes, including my brand new huaraches, courtesy of www.earthrunners.com.  Thank you Earth Runners!   I will do a review of these guys once I’ve had more experience with them, but in the meantime, check out their website and what they have to offer.  I had a great first impression.

 

Earth Runners

 

Anyway, I went out for a run, and decided to start out very slowly, go until it felt right, then go back.  I gently plugged along for about a mile, then decided to turn around.  I took off the Earth Runners because I wanted to really feel the ground, and continued along barefoot.  I was going REALLY slow. And I felt REALLY good. Nothing hurt, and my body felt like it was drinking in the gentle movement and energy I was collecting along the way.  Afterall, that’s what healing is all about! Collecting energy vs. expending energy.  Whether I was barefoot or wearing the Earth Runners, I really felt connected, or bound to my surroundings.  This is good, Earth Runners nailed that part of it!

Last night, I decided to try that same 2 mile jaunt again, with the same choice in footwear.  Half in Earth Runners, half barefoot.  I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was meant to be running and finding happiness again.  Now, I know that recovering from ectopic pregnancy and surgery takes a toll on the whole person.  While the people around me have been instrumental in my recovery, it was as if I was in need of an old friend in the way of running outdoors.  So on I went last night, again slower than heck, but happy.  I was even whistling my new jam, Justin Timberlake’s “Suit and Tie.”  Don’t judge me, you know you love that song!

Anyway, I was whistling and shuffling along when I heard chaos behind me.  What the… I turned around, and I was about to get passed by another runner!  She was stomping towards me, with a look on her face that read, “GET OUT THE WAY!” and she had headphones on, but there wasn’t much point because I could hear her music blasting.  It was something I didn’t recognize, but I remember thinking it was hilarious because it was a bubbly, poppy tune with a fast beat.  It was a funny paradox because the girl attached to the tunes looked like she would sooner die than try to have a bubbly conversation with me.  She actually looked like she might die if she had to take one step around me, so I decided to give her some leeway and hop onto the grass next to the sidewalk so she could charge by. As she passed, I turned and gave her a lopsided smile and a cheerful wave, but she just glared and stampeded on.  I wanted to ask her if she was enjoying herself, but I figured she a) couldn’t hear me b) might kill me and c)I already knew the answer.

So, while I was pondering why some people don’t run, I found my answer through Miss I’d Sooner Die.  Unfortunately, instead of enjoying ourselves, feeling the chill in the air, experiencing the ground beneath our feet, and drinking in our surroundings, we blast music in our ears, lock our feet up, put on an “eat shit” face and try to barrel through a 3 mile run and hope to experience none of it.  Other times, maybe we hop on the treadmill to avoid the elements and put on a TV show and let the machine think for us.  My intent is not to criticize these runners, because I have absolute respect for anyone who is getting out there and putting their health first.  But, I do think that we’ve become a society that is much more bound to technology and distraction than bound to ourselves and relationships.  Relationships involving each other as well as relationships with our surroundings.  I’m guilty of this as well, when I’m networking on social media or sitting here on this blog instead of talking with my husband. But taking the time to escape those vices is valuable, and well worth the time.

Running has to be one of the purest forms of exercise, because you really don’t need any equipment.  We could even run nude if we weren’t risking getting arrested!  Now that would be entertaining… anyway,what was I talking about?  Oh, right, running is pure.  Yes, so the question is, are you running free?  Or are you running bound?  Both? And if you’re running bound, what are you bound to?  Maybe the best answer is to run free to find yourself bound to your heart, the earth, and your surroundings.

 

 

Final Thoughts on Vivobarefoot Achilles and a Sad Farewell

Well, my toes are officially abnormal.  I was so excited about the Vivobarefoot Achilles, but sadly I had to put them back in the cute little bag they came in and send them home.  Away from my crazy middle toe that cannot be tamed.  My overall impression was good other than my toe issue.  But unfortunately, because of my whacky anatomy, I really couldn’t run over a mile in these little cutie pies.  Take home message for these shoes: Try them on before you buy!

 

Pros: Ground feel, appearance, easy peasy strapping system (somewhat uncommon in running sandals!), zero drop, 3.5 mm stack height, high quality materials, 4.2 oz weight, vegan.  Love the furry friends!  Split toe design provides good stability, no slippage when running.

Cons: Split toe design is not for everyone.  Case in point, check out my misbehavin’ toe below.  Split toe design will take some getting used to for all you folks with a smaller space between big toe and middle toe and will require a period of breaking in.  Blisters could result during the break in time.

 

HAS ANYONE ELSE HAD TROUBLE WITH THE SPLIT TOE/CAGE DESIGN?  I’D LOVE TO HEAR!  PLEASE TELL ME I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE WITH WHACKY FEET…

 

Bad toe!
Bad toe!

Barefoot Running in the Cold on Gravel + Getting Kicked off the Nike Campus

Portland fall/winter weather has officially arrived, bringing with it a sense of calm, stillness, and quiet solitude.  Yes, it’s cold as hell, but with cozy cold weather running gear, lots of blinky things and a trusty head lamp, the exploring doesn’t stop when the darkness descends upon us.  Just to be clear, the darkness descends upon us in this part of the country around 4:00 PM in the winter time. 

It’s also that time of year when the running questions shift from, “What if you step on broken glass/needles/ebola virus/poop”  to, “Don’t you get cold, what if your toes freeze off your foot, can you really wear VFF’s in snow?”

Earlier this year in March, Portland got a light dusting of snow, resulting in a couple of inches sticking to the ground at higher elevations.  I decided to take the Prius up to Forest Park and run a nice 18 mile training run through the mud and snow in preparation for the Eugene Marathon.  I bundled myself up, strapped on my Injinji socks and Vibram Bikilas, and set off down the Birch Trail to connect to Wildwood.  I got about 30 seconds into the snow and muck, and decided this was a dumb idea.  My toes were already numb and uncomfortable and I was COLD!  While I was used to running in the cold mud in Forest Park, I’d never added snow to the equation. 

Well, I take that back.  There was one time when I was visiting my in-laws just outside of Boston in December, 2010 when I ran in the snow in my Vibram TrekSports.  But that was when I was just starting this journey, and I could run only about 30 minutes at a time.  The snow was just perfect there too, a cute, soft little squeak as I gently caressed the surface and sunk down just a little.  It was more like running on hard packed sand, a perfect running surface.

Back to the slop fest in Forest Park last March.  The running surface I was dealing with that day was nothing like the perfect, white, flawless festival beneath my feet in Boston.  We’re talking muck and snow up to my ankles with every frosty step.  Yep, 18 miles to go.  Something told me to keep going, but I was honestly thinking that I might have black, frost-bitten nubs for feet by the end of this. Surprisingly, about 5 minutes after starting, my feet sprang to life.  Hello again feet!  They nearly felt alien, as I slowly became aware of each little appendage reaching out and gripping the rocks and roots as they normally do.  “Don’t worry mom, we’re fine!”  That’s what I imagined they were saying as they yawned back to life. 

That 18 mile training run is to date, one of the best runs I’ve ever had.  The snow no longer strangled my foot with each step.  Instead, it became a welcome houseguest in Forest Park, decorating the trees and logs, adding beauty and diversity to the normally green trail.  Remember the joy of jumping in puddles?  I came up with a new word that day, “smuddles” which is a snow and mud puddle.  I know, I’m a total cheeseball.  The people on the trail that day were few, but they were also some of the most fun, outrageous folks I’ve seen.  “GREAT DAY FOR A RUN!!” one man shouted, throwing his head back and laughing hysterically.  “It’s so beautiful!!” said a sweet lady with a dog that was covered in mud and snow as he bounded along.

That day was truly an awakening, because I realized that running barefoot or in VFF’s (or any other minimalist shoes) probably didn’t have many limits.  If I can run in snow/slush for 18 miles and keep all 10 of my toes toasty warm, anything is possible.

Fast forward to the first cold snap this season.  Now, I consider myself somewhat of an expert minimalist footwear runner, and an amateur barefoot runner.  The best way I’ve found to ward off those feelings of anxiety about your feet hitting the cold ground is to start with the shoes on.  Whatever your preferred footwear, (mine are my VFF SeeYas or my new Invisible Shoes) run with these on for about the first 0.5 mile, then go ahead and take them off and carry them along as “hand weights.”  Your feet should be sufficiently warm by this time to go ahead and go bare.  To date, I’m up to 7 barefoot miles on pavement without any discomfort.  I still feel amateur however because I’m not great on rougher surfaces like trails, woodchip paths, and especially gravel.  So my new goal is to build up the soles of my feet in order to be comfortable running barefoot on any surface.  Sounds easy, right?  Well, not so much when you live in the suburbs with lots of buttery smooth sidewalks to run on.

However, it just so happens that I live about one mile away from the World Nike Campus.  That’s right, the nucleus, the brain, the empire of Nike is spittin’ distance from my doorstep.  Nike’s campus is nothing short of beautiful, with it’s glittery, shiny buildings, duck ponds, waterfalls, and other man-made marvels.  Fortunately for me, Nike has a beautiful woodchip trail winding through it that’s at least a couple of miles long.  They also have a brand spankin’ new path that winds through the woods behind me that is a fine gravel surface.  Unfortunately for Nike, they have a wannabe barefooter that frequently trespasses on their pretty little trails barefoot, wearing running sandals, or Vibram Five Fingers.  Muahahahaha….  You see, they put these little signs up that nonchalantly say, “Use for Nike Employees Only.”  So even though they have these wonderful trails, they are supposedly to be used only by Nike employees?  Nah, seems like all of the community should be able to use them.  Afterall, they’re so awesome! Right? 

So the other day, on my second or third run out in my new Invisible Shoes huaraches, I decided that I was going to run over to Nike and try them out on the wood chip trail.  I’ve never actually been stopped by a security guard on the campus, so I didn’t think anything of it when I turned into the waterfall entrance and ran past the barriers.  “M’am?  I need to see your Nike employee ID please?”  Huh? A very serious looking security guard was looking me up and down, but mostly down at my naked feet in my Invisible Shoes.

Look how cute my pendant is!

“Um, I don’t have that.”  I said, trying to keep a straight face although a smile was creeping up before I could stop it.

“What in the heck are you wearing?”  He managed, before beginning to laugh himself.

“Huaraches!” I said proudly, working on my pronunciation.  “They’re running sandals.”  It was quite obvious at this point that I didn’t work for Nike.

“Well I’ve never seen those before!  I’m sorry, but I can’t let you in.”

“Ok thanks anyway!!” I tried to say cheerfully.

“Be careful in those,” he said, sounding genuinely concerned for both my safety and my mental state.

I happily ran off back toward the road, and then proceeded to cut through the trees and onto the wood chip path that I knew was there.  Woohoo!  Success.  While I don’t encourage trespassing, it’s sort of known that even though you’re supposed to be a Nike employee to run on the trail, many people in the community use it as a running trail, and I think it’s great that they’re usually pretty flexible.  I suppose it was just pretty obvious that I wasn’t an employee on this particular day.  I also have to admit, it’s a bit thrilling to run injury free and barefoot or almost barefoot in the lap of the running shoe giant.  A giant which I consider to be the main creator and distributor of a thick, padded, heeled shoe and therefore the cause of many running injuries, including all of mine.  That’s over a decade of running injured that I didn’t really need, but was manipulated by the ideals that Nike created for a profit.  However, Nike probably also increased the popularity of running and fitness in general ten-fold, so you win some, you lose some.  But now, as a physical therapist, I’m trying to undo a lot of the brainwashing that has been ingrained for so long.  And people think I’m the nutty one!  🙂  Well, maybe I am, a little.

 I was very happy that my sandals held up wonderfully on the wood chips, and the sensation of the chips brushing my toes was uplifting.  So much so, that I got the courage to take my shoes off and run barefoot along the wood chips which was even more exciting.  Let’s just say, I still have work to do in this department.

Last night, I had another Nike encounter.  I was just finishing up a delightful 7 mile run in my new Invisible Shoes, and turned on to my street to head home.  I’m really beginning to like those shoes!  Again, my toes were a little cold in the beginning of my run in the 38 degree weather, but quickly warmed up.  I spied the fine gravel Nike path winding through the darkness into the woods, and couldn’t resist taking my shoes off and trying another go at it.  The other night, I tried this and could only manage to walk gingerly over the gravel for about 3 minutes.  That stuff’s no joke, sharp little boogers digging into all the spots on my feet that don’t normally hit the ground.  So I whipped off my shoes and began carefully walking over the gravel.  I decided to start channeling Jessica Lee from the Barefoot Runnning movie with Michael Sandler.  They say that when running over a rough surface, try to bend your knees and get low, closer to the ground.  Straighten out your arms and swing them like a monkey to try to land as light as possible, increasing the surface area that is hitting the ground to try to distribute the forces coming into your feet.

So, with a burst of confidence, I began swinging my arms like the best of apes and off I went, running lightly, low to the ground through the darkness with my headlamp switched on. It was pretty dark in there, but note that I was actually only about 10 feet away from the brightly lit sidewalk, an important safety consideration.  I was doing pretty well actually!  I let a couple of “ooh ouch eeks” slip out as a few gravel pieces were really hitting where it hurts.  Running on gravel is supposed to be one of the best surfaces for pad development though, so I was determined.  I was really starting to do my best monkey impression and might’ve let out a few “ooh ooh ah ahs” when one of the hazards of cold weather running hit me.  You know what I’m talking about.  Snot.  Yep, when it’s cold outside,  let’s face it y’all, we have to let the snot fly.  My husband, Mike, taught me how to blow an expert snot rocket, so I wasn’t too worried.  As I monkey waddled along, I turned my head to let the snot rocket fly.  I must have really been into this moment, because I didn’t even hear the head to toe dressed Nike employee or perhaps sponsored runner flying towards me to pass by.  I looked up just as the snot flew, mid monkey stance, mid “ooh ooh ah ah”.  My headlamp shined across his face just in time to see his horrified, confused look.  What?  I wondered.  Oh, right.  I’m barefoot running on the Nike trail, like  a monkey, blowing snot rockets, while this guy is dressed to a T in his neon Nike running jacket and neon Nike shoes as he blew past me.  I listened to his jacket flapping as he ran off, then started cracking up as I began to put myself in his shoes.  Well, at least I was having fun!!  He looked a little too uptight for a Friday night run.  I was actually quite pleased that I could run like this on the gravel!  Thanks Jessica Lee, for your perfect monkey running demo in the movie.  I was able to do a 3 minute gravel run versus a 3 minute gravel walk from the other night.

To sum up this post, cold weather barefoot and minimalist running is possible and quite enjoyable.  If you’re not having fun, it’s not worth it!  Be prepared to have some cold feet during your initial warm up, but realize that as your core temperature heats up, vasodilation occurs and you will enjoy warm blood coming into your toes and feet as they work hard to capture the ground.  Additionally, try playing with varied surfaces including concrete, asphault, wood chips, gravel, and best of all, natural trails to encourage pad development.  Even if you’re running in shoes, the different surfaces will help to prepare your muscles for anything.  Trail running will encourage lateral movements which we don’t encounter very often running on pavement.  In turn, we are stronger, happier runners by increasing our strength and changing the scene every so often.  And light yourself up in the dark so you can be seen!

Initial Review of My New Huaraches From Invisibleshoe.com

The other day, I watched a video on YouTube called “Sh*t Barefoot Runners Say,” which I of course thought was hysterical, in case you didn’t see my Facebook status, tweet or last blog post that I put the video in.  Here is the video, yet again, in case you missed it:

Apparently, the mastermind behind this video is Steve Sashen out of Boulder, CO who is CEO of the shoe company Invisible Shoes at invisibleshoes.com.  Invisible shoes are also known as huaraches, or the running sandals of the Tarahumara Indians.  These cute little shoes were made famous by Christopher McDougall’s earth shattering book, Born To Run.  Half asleep the other morning and procrastinating on doing my patient paperwork from the day before, I decided I HAD TO HAVE a pair.  Steve was so likeable in his video, I thought to myself, I want to do what this guy’s doing! So I finally ordered my very first pair of huaraches  after being such a loyal Vibrams wearer for two years now. 

The shoes are custom fit, so I had to send in a tracing of my foot, which I found very exciting.  My very own custom shoes, we’re gettin’ fancy now.  They have a video on the website that gave me step my step instructions, so I didn’t mess it up too terribly.  I also decided to splurge and so I ordered a custom charm of a tribal sun to adorn my ever so beautiful Tarahumara feet.  When I say splurge, I should mention that these are actually the cheapest shoes I’ve probably ever bought.  $39.95 for the shoes, plus $4.50 for the ever necessary decorative pendant.  I picked blue cord for the shoes and opted to have them go ahead and make them for me, tied and all.  You also have a choice to buy a kit and make them on your own, but I would surely destroy them so I decided to take full advantage of the custom services.

Two days later, literally, I received my shoes in the mail.  Holy hell, that was fast!  I didn’t believe it was the shoes at first, because they just came in a thin envelope that weighed about as much as a few pieces of paper in there.  With the help of the “Tying” section of the website, I got my laces adjusted and started wondering around in the shoes.  What I immediately noticed was that I would probably have to fiddle around with the lacing a bit to get the fit just right.  I realized that I probably tied them too tight, but decided to go out for a “short” run anyway. 

Six miles later, I realized I should probably call it a night in my new friends, considering it was my first go round with them.  I was having a blast!  The laces were definitely too tight and left little indentations around my heel and top of my foot, but otherwise I didn’t even notice the straps.  I was really surprised that the strap between my toes didn’t bother me at all. 

As far as ground feel, you could almost feel the stems of the leaves through the soles, which are 4mm thick.  Or 4mm thin, to be more accurate.  Invisible Shoes does sell 6mm thick soles as well if you want a bit more protection.  The ground feel was different compared to Vibrams, not necessarily in a good or bad way.  The difference was that when I stepped on a stick for example, the whole sole bends a bit to form around the stick whereas when barefoot or in Vibrams, I feel my foot forming to the stick a bit more.  My feet also seemed a bit wider and longer in these shoes, probably because the soles extend slightly beyond the parameter of your foot just like any sandal would.  Again, I think that this was neither good or bad, but probably something that would take some getting used to.

They probably weigh about 3.2 ish oz, as Steve has on his website that a men’s size 9 weighs 3.4 oz.  I wear a women’s size 6, so you get what I’m saying.  They felt very light, and I felt myself running more aware, similar to the awareness when I’m barefoot running.  When I’m in Vibrams, I think I tend to sleep-run a bit more because I know that I’m still protected if I hit my toe…while this is good for sleeping, it can lead to form deterioration, which of course is not good for healthy running.

I also felt the muscles in my legs and core were really activating as in barefoot while running in my new huaraches.  It’s amazing how just that little tiny bit of flexible material on the VFF soles does support your foot and arches just enough to where you do not get the same strengthening benefit of being totally bare.  I will say that I think these new huaraches will be a great addition to my “barefoot footwear,” which is of course, ridiculous to have as much minimalist footwear as I do!!  They really did feel as if they were a part of my foot by the end of the run, which is what I was hoping for.  In the beginning, they felt a bit awkward because my foot felt overall larger hitting the ground, but it didn’t take long to get in the groove.  I should mention this was a road run, I’ve yet to try them on the trails.  I’ll try to hit the trails with them this weekend and provide an update after that magic happens.

I felt very native and wild in my new huaraches, which was totally exciting. I considered doing a few tribal yells or maybe some dancing, but figured that would be overkill in suburbia.  Of course, everyone passing was staring at me anyway.  I wore my Portland Marathon Finisher shirt just to prove I was hardcore and not just some crazy banshee running around.  Afterall, looks are the most important thing right?  At least I looked good. 

This is day two with my new huaraches, and I’m wearing them now as I sit here and write this.  I spent some time loosening the straps today and they feel so much better already.  I’m so excited, I think I’ll go out for another 5 mile run now.  But not before I share some pictures with you!  Behold, my beautiful feet and caveman huaraches.  Er, please ignore the dirt/mud, I can’t ever seem to get all of it out from under my toe nails during Portland mud season.  I know, I know. 

SO WHAT DO YOU THINK?  HAVE YOU EVER WORN HUARACHES, OR DO YOU WANT TO TRY THEM?   

Look how cute my pendant is!