Saturday, December 8, 2012

Christmas shopping alert! VIVOBAREFOOT Sale at The Clymb

VIVOBAREFOOT shoes are on sale for 50% off at The Clymb. Of particular interest to me are the (fairly new style) Legacy. Great bowler-esque, semi-formal leather shoe. If you follow this blog at all, you know how much of a fan I am of VIVO. This is a great sale!Click the link below to visit.
The Legacy. Sweet shoe!

Go here. Happy shopping!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Minimalist Casual/Dress Shoe Review: VIVOBAREFOOT Oak

For the first time in nearly five years, I purchased a pair of shoes for work. It had been scoping out the deal sights like LeftLane Sports and The Clymb for months looking to land that deal, and on the rare occasion when VIVOBAREFOOT did go on sale, I was often too late; they sold out of popular sizes with a serious quickness because they were both great sales - up to 50% off! Fast forward to a few weeks ago - BAM! I was on my computer when the email came through for the new sales, and I pounced.

Anyhow, enough of the back story. On with the review!

Clean and understated. I love this company.
Yessir! That little red "V" is a nice touch.
Sebastian, the bandanna dog, says, "These aren't treats!"
At first glance, the Oak is very well constructed. The leather appears to be of the highest quality. The Oak is very understated - a characteristic that VIVOBAREFOOT has perfected. Producing shoes that don't possess the "Look at me!" qualities that seems typical of minimalist shoes is likely much of the reason behind their success. I had pined for a pair of VIVO Oak or Ra shoes for many moons simply for the fact that I wanted comfortable, zero-drop shoe to wear with khakis at work, and the Oaks have not disappointed me.

The sole of the shoe is made of the neat amber, gum-rubber stuff that I really dig and which VIVO puts on all its brown leather wares. The treat pattern is quite flat, and I noticed that it has changed since I first began admiring it online. This review on Running and Rambling shows pictures of the older honey-comb style tread. I like the new one much better from a style standpoint.

The interior of the shoe is made up of a neoprene-like (it may very well be neoprene) sock liner: no tongue or folds to speak of. The shoe appears designed to hug your foot, but therein lies a minor issue. While the Oak has a gloriously roomy toe box, the rear of the shoe is a bit too loose on my heel. I have encountered this with more than one minimalist shoe manufacturer, but sufficient tightening of laces will will typically allow me to stabilize my foot pretty well. 

You can probably see where I'm going with this: only having two lace loops prevents me from really locking the shoe down. I can sufficiently tighten the collar to keep the shoe from flopping, but if I were to take off in a sprint I would feel pretty unstable. If this were a running shoe, that is likely a deal breaker. However, I have worn theses shoes every week day since they arrived in the mail, and I have not thought about the fit once since my initial fit test.

In fact, I rarely think about my feet at all during the day. This is a major departure from what I am typically doing: constantly fantasizing about removing my shoes, massaging my heels or arches, and walking around school unshod (and unashamed!). These shoes replace an old Madden-esque bowler shoe (which I am going to try to save in an upcoming DIY project) and a pair of Doc Martens slip-ons. Needless to say, in almost every way the VIVOs are a major upgrade.

Can your Doc Martens do this?

Removable insole, of course. My feet were swimming without it inserted, though. Make sure you size up if you plan on taking it out.
In conclusion, I don't like spending money unless I am meeting a definite need with exactly the item I am purchasing. The Oak fits that description perfectly. It is everything I want in a semi-dress shoe for daily wear. Keep your eyes peeled on LeftLane Sports and The Clymb for sweet deals. I have no idea when VIVOBAREFOOT shoes will go on sale again, but they have all kinds of great stuff for runners, bicyclists, climbers, and generally active people.

"Thank you, Lord, for minimalist dress shoes. Give us this day our daily treat and belly rub.... and run. Can't forget to run!"

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Top 10 Things I Hate to Encounter on a Run

Staredog lacks any sense of social propriety. Return my greeting, ya filthy animal!
 Every runner has items that totally burn their buscuits. Here are a handful of mine:

10. Rain. Wet runs suck unless it's a light Summer drizzle that hangs around just long enough to cool you and the ground off. Love that stuff.

9. People who try to carry on a conversation with you despite the fact that you obviously have headphones in. I am a very friendly, gregarious person, and I would be more than happy to talk to anybody and everybody, but if my headphones are in I simply cannot hear you... at least not very well.

8. Starers. That is, people who stare and don't so much as return your hello. Which leads me to...

7. Shirtless guys who should not be shirtless.

Darn you, Greg Plitt. Darn you to Heck.
6. Shirtless guys who make me feel bad for going shirtless. >

5. High winds. Feels like you're swimming against the current when it's gusty. This can be especially unpleasant when the temp gets below 50. Cold + wind = exhausting and uncomfortable.

4. Self-important runners or walkers who are so absorbed in their next step that they can't possibly acknowledge you on the road. Perhaps my shoelessness freaks them out? This happens far less to me on the trail (whilst wearing shoes, of course) so maybe that's it.

For illustrative effect. This is not my neighborhood, but about
1/10 of our neighbors park like this. Very inconsiderate.
3. People parking where they block the sidewalk. You have room in your driveway and/or garage for your Dodge Ram Heavy-Horn Maximus Diesel Dually NASCAR Edition with the special pontoon boat towing package to fit without obstructing my run. The sidewalk is public property, and I have to walk or run into the street to avoid colliding with your monstrous ball hitch.

2. Gravel or other construction debris that should have been cleaned up by the road crew who dumped it. You mess it up; you clean it up. Didn't your mother teach you anything?

And the #1 most aggravating thing that I encounter on a run.....

1. Unleashed dogs. Why?!?! Your dog, if he or she is in fact canine, has an instinct to chase after anything that appears to be running from him or her. I am that "anything," and I really don't appreciate your Pommeranian nipping at my heels when I'm out for a relaxing afternoon jaunt. Moreso if said Pomeranian is a large breed. Quadruply so if he or she is a Pit Bull. Use some doggone sense, People!

So what are your running route pet peeves? Post up in the comments below.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Barefoot Running Movie Giveaway Winner!

The winner of my giveaway of the film Barefoot Running by Michael Sandler is user "Chris at Barefoot beginner." Shoot me your shipping information via email, Chris, and I will get it out to you as soon as possible. I hope you learn from and enjoy it.

Thank you to everyone who entered. I hope I can do more of these in the near future.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Minimalist Shoe Hack - Skora Base

I recently posted my review of the Skora Base, a really neat shoe concept with a flaw that made it a real challenge for me to wear and enjoy. This is largely due to my oddly long, skinny feet. I also previewed how I went about solving this problem.

Well, here is the full explanation of how I solved my quandary of the overly loose velcro strap.... in picture form.

Putting my newly-acquired sewing skills into practice. I simply doubled over about 1/2 an inch worth of strap material to shorten its overall length.

The aftermath: you can see my understated handiwork on the portion of the X-strap on the outside of each foot. The shoe fits much, much better now with the tighter range of adjustment.

Close-up. This was the cleaner of the two sewing hacks.

More close-up. Not bad, eh?

The machine tracked a bit off for this side (yeah, it was.... uh.... the machine! that's it, the machine goofed up.). Either way, it still works and is almost unnoticeable.

Good look at both shoes together. You can see the difference.  :(

All buttoned down in "on my foot" mode. Fits perfectly with the velcro portion fully... er, velc'd? Cro'd? With all the hooks on the one part hooked into the loops on the other part. 

Other side.

You can see that tightening the straps did not cause the upper to wrinkle too awful badly. That was a concern when I started, but it is not noticeable during normal wear. 
So there it is. I took my Skora Bases from almost unwearable for running on my skinny foot to delightfully snug. Also, I discovered that these shoes work better with a medium-to-thick sock than they do sockless. They are going to be my winter shoe of choice.

Next up: The thumb holes on my rad Mizuno WP (windproof) soft shell jacket are tiny - apparently designed for tiny Japanese runners. I have fatty American thumbs. How will I go about fixing this one? Maybe then I'l channel my inner Krupicka and start hacking away at my New Balance MT 100s that see no use these days.

Reminder to all readers: my giveaway of Michael Sandler's Barefoot Running movie ends tomorrow evening! Check out this post see how to enter. Stay tuned, and until then, happy running!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Movie Review and Giveaway: Michael Sandler's Barefoot Running

Oh, boy! The "trend" that is barefoot running has officially hit the small screen. The authors of the book Barefoot Running: How to Run Light and Free by Getting in Touch With the Earth are now the stars of the informational movie by the same name. Barefoot Running is available now on DVD from the RunBare website: a fantastic, well-designed resource for all things barefoot.

The movie.
After a representative for Michael Sandler (it may have actually been Michael, I have no idea) touched base with me about the upcoming release of his movie a few weeks ago, I was pretty stoked to see Michael spreading the good news of barefoot running in an other-than-text media. Obviously video can touch a different audience than books can because of the time and effort one must invest into reading. (I teach 7th grade reading and English; I know a thing or two about this.) I was fortunate enough to get a chance to see the film and have a copy to give away!

Here is a preview from the website:

I thought I might give a breakdown of the information you will find in this video with a short review/critique. After all, why would you visit my blog if you didn't care what I thought, right? The list below is a summary of the content of the video. It contains information on:
- Michael and Jessica's personal barefoot running stories: their respective history and how they discovered the joy of running shoeless.
- The biomechanics of barefoot running with practical tips and shoutouts to Barefoot Ted, Christopher MacDougall, and Dr. Daniel Lieberman of the Harvard Biomechanics lab
The instructional portion contained info about:
- Posture
- Core engagement
- "The String" ala Danny Dreyer/Chi Running
- Arm positioning
- The "Controlled fall" idea
- Definite forefoot strike instruction; without heel touching but sometimes "brushing" the ground
- Lots of borrowed/synthesized material from various sources (POSE, etc.)
- Grounding - a bit hokey and hippy-ish, but whatever.
- Pre-run meditation "listening to your body" - "syncing with nature"
- Great foot strengthening and warm-up drills
- Pretty, natural feet, wider forefoot for yoga platform
- Form drills: "pelvis to neutral," etc. - one of the video's biggest strengths
- Err on the easy side - never to the point of blistering
- Foam roller and ball technique (tennis)

Barefoot Running is a great resource that all avid barefooters should take a look at, but it is best as an introduction to running without shoes. Michael and Jessica's personalities are hilarious (they are huge nerds; I identify with that), and the instruction has an overall very hippy-esque taste to it. Regardless, there is a ton of great instruction on how to transition properly to running roads and trails with the least possible separation between you and nature.

Now on to business! Here's how the giveaway will work; you must complete one of these steps for one entry with the possibility of completing all three for a total of three! (confusing, I know).
- Post below in the comments = 1 entry
- Post a link to my blog on Facebook = 1 entry
- Do something creative to get people to visit here and post up (anything goes)= 1 entry

*Update: Tweet a link with the hashtag "#unshod" and consider that an extra entry! Contest ends on Friday, October 14.

Let me know in the comments which you have done. Enjoy, and best of luck.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Minimalist Shoe Review: Skora Base

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about how Skora, a newcomer to the shoe market, is one of the "next big things" in minimalist running. A representative from Skora was kind enough to contact me and ask if I would like to review a pair of their Base model (that's the actual name; it doesn't mean is has roll up windows and no air conditioning), and I was happy to oblige.

I was feeling a bit adventurous when placing my order, so I decided to go for the yellow colorway. Warning: in the pictures on Skora's website and elsewhere, the color is listed simply as yellow, and the pictures look like a pale canary. This is just a tad misleading because this yellow shoe is freaking retina-searing, fluorescent highlighter yellow. This is not a complaint; I needed a high-visibility shoe in my arsenal. It's just something to be mindful of when ordering yours. Note: The color is not accurate in my pictures either. The flash washes them out a bit. They are seriously bright.

First Impressions
Out of the box, the Base looks really well constructed with sharp design and high-quality materials. Putting on the shoe initially proved rather quick and easy - exactly what you would hope for and expect from a shoe that appears to be marketed directly at the triathlon crowd. The interior lining of the shoe is a perforated synthetic material which provides sufficient comfort for sockless wear. The insole is removable, of course, which allows for better ground feel and more room on the interior of the shoe. A bit puzzling is the design of said removable insole with its reverse dimpling. It feels like a golf ball turned inside out which I didn't find especially comfortable, but it was not even noticeable walking around. The upper, overall, is more structured than many of its competitors, but I don't necessarily see this as a negative. Weight is also on par with the competition - slightly better than the Altra Instinct.

Pretty sweet looking shoe.

A laminated toe cap of sorts. I assume this is to prevent excessive wear from toes contacting the roof of the toe box.
Insole in.

Without insole - smooth as butta.

You cannot see the reverse dimpling here, but it's there.

The insole is contoured, but I had no discomfort in my arch from it at all. No support, thank goodness.
One of the most prominent features of the Base is the X-style velcro strap. I like this idea a lot, and it really sets the shoe apart aesthetically from other minimalist offerings. However, as attractive and clever as it may be, this was my first indication that fit issues would plague my experience with Skora's shoe. Full disclosure: I have a long, thin foot except at my toes. I prefer a slim-fitting shoe through the arch with a super-wide toe box. The Base is the exact opposite. While the toe box on the Base is respectable for a traditional shoe, it is not sufficiently roomy for my preferences. I would place it somewhere between my Mizuno Wave Musha 2s and the New Balance Minimus Trail (MT10). The width of the ankle and arch portion of the shoe, however, is crazy wide on my foot - a size 11.5. To make the problem  a bit worse - and this is an issue with many shoes that feature velcro closures - there is not sufficient adjustment to fully tighten the shoe. The velcro strip on the shoe is too short/not low enough to cinch the shoe down.

You can get a good look at the toe box width ratio to the rest of the shoe in this pic.

This is the adjustment strap in the "fully taut" position. I'm not sure why shoe companies do this, but Skora is certainly not the only one.

Here you can see the strap adjusted to the "neutral" position. Notice the slack.

Rear adjustment strap provides a surprising amount of fit modification.
All is not lost, though. There is an elastic adjustment strap on the back of the shoe to allow wearers to tweak the fit a bit, but this didn't fully resolve the issue for me. Instead, I took matters into my own hands.

My handiwork. I will post another pic later.

On the Road and Trail
Running in the Base took a bit of getting used to. The knobby rubber outsole and thin midsole is a bit on the rigid side, but I have noticed a good deal of break-in over the time I've worn them. There was an initial *clip-clop* that worked out of the shoe within the first 20 miles. The fit and construction of the shoe, with my foot shape, make it great for running on hard surfaces and little else. I would be hesitant to suggest the Base for running on technical trails because of the slop in the fit; the shoe moves around a lot on my foot if I have to cut or torque in them. I just can't cinch them down like I would want. For casual wear, the Base is fantastic. The yellow is extremely eye-catching, but I am fine with that. It matches my personality, and I am more confident in low-light out there on the roads. There is also prominent toe spring present in the Base, which may bother some. I have never had a problem with it.

Very well designed sole. The rubber outsole has proven quite durable. The little island in the heel felt a bit annoying initially, though.

Toe spring.

Notice the curvature of the sole. Toe spring does not bother me, but some people don't dig it.

The Verdict
The Base is an excellent first effort from an upstart company with tons of promise. The shoe certainly has its flaws: it's bit traditional in the toe box and wide in the rest of the shoe with limited and flawed adjustability, but its positives certainly outweigh its negatives. If you are a wide-footed runner or triathlete looking for a shoe as a first foray into minimalism, I would definitely recommend the Base. They go for $110. Check them out at Skora's official website.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pull me up, Scotty.

A very popular topic amongst my running friends is cross-training. Crossfit seems to be the flavor du jour, and I believe that is for very good reason. It's built upon what I believe is a solid philosophy of interval circuits, and it is "open source" to meet the needs of the widest possible variety of fitness levels. My local gym, however, is a nearly 30-minute drive from my home and is crazy expensive! What's a lowly barefoot runner living on teacher pay to do?

Well, I have been slowly collecting items and evolving my garage into a training grounds to deal with my lack of overall strength without having to pay outrageous gym fees. My intention is to create a versatile space with the necessary tools for total-body workout of various designs while keeping costs way down and not taking over my parking/workspace. This is my favorite tool.
My hangboard is mounted on 1/2" plywood above the steps down to my garage. It's a perfect location where I can't help but see it every time I leave the house.
Wider shot from the garage entrance. Please ignore the clutter. It's quite a bit better now.
I've had my training board for a while, but I just put it up (with the help my my bro, Wesley) in our house recently. My lovely wife bought it for me for Fathers' Day a couple years ago, and it unfortunately sat after we moved. In the last six or so weeks, I have gone from a feeble two - maybe three - pull ups to a solid twelve dead-hangers. Since starting, I have seen consistent improvement in my overall upper body strength, shoulder development, grip strength, and core stability. Perhaps the area that I have seen the most drastic difference is my recovery: I can do sets of pull ups now where just a few weeks ago I would eek out three or four reps and that was it for the rest of the day...maybe two days. Push ups are also easier which I suspect is a result of both shoulder and core strength.

My training has consisted of simply executing as many good-form pull ups as possible every time I walk out the door. When I reach failure, I just hang there until my grip is exhausted. Sophisticated, I know. Every once in a while, maybe once/week, I have been integrating sets of pull ups into a complete workout. That's it. I have just begun trying some of the more advanced elements on the board: L-hangs and leg raises (core-specific workouts) and some of the smaller holds. I shall have an iron grip and a six pack!!! My goal is 20 pull ups before the Summer is over.

Oh, and I don't kip. Kipping is for losers. :)

Here is the link to the board I have. It goes for about $80 at which is retail. In my opinion, this is a much better tool than a pull up bar. It is more versatile, practical, and real-world applicable. I like it!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Next Big Thing - Products to get excited about: Part 1 - Skora

So, barefoot running as a movement is officially having a serious impact on major shoe design throughout the industry. "Barefoot" and minimalist shoes are now making up a significant percentage of overall running shoe sales in the U.S., and all indications are that the trend is only going to increase. The fact that some of the big boys (New Balance, Merrell, Nike!, etc.) are on board with increasingly minimal footwear is great news for gear junkies like myself, but I get really fired up by the smaller, innovative upstart companies that are pushing the envelope in innovation and design. I most recently reviewed the exquisite, ultra-minimalist Altra Adam and found a new favorite road shoe.

All the pretty colors!

With a market so newly-flooded with intriguing minimalist shoes, one may ask where a smaller company fits into the picture. Skora, a complete newcomer, appears to be aiming at becoming the Apple or Volkswagen of the running shoe world. Their product line, currently consisting of the asymmetrically-laced Form and the criss-crossed-with-velcro-straps Base road running models, boasts high-quality materials, innovative and unique designs, a "connected" running experience, and a fetching aesthetic. For a complete list of features, check out the tech section of Skora's website. The combination of these factors really sets Skora apart from the field, and their prices reflect it ($125-$195). If the shoes are as good as they claim, however, I believe the prices will prove quite reasonable. I would expect the Base to appeal greatly to the triathlon crowd which would put it in direct competition with another boutique-cum-heavy-hitter Newton. The Form is a bit harder to categorize, but its appeal to minimalists is already clear simply based on its zero-drop, proprioception-focused construction, which is still quite rare especially in such a neat looking package. I hope to be able to review one or both of the Skora models in the near future to bring everyone the full picture with a feature-by-feature breakdown. *fingers crossed*
Interesting marketing angle. Oddly enough, Skora's shoe might just be a preview of the future of running shoes - making minimalism the new normal. I dig it.
The two flagships. Note the prices.
One item that Skora has unquestionably gotten 100% right is the educational side of the running equation. Skora seems to have taken cues from the likes of Merrell and VIVOBAREFOOT by rolling out instructional materials that teach good running form. The fact that the majority of runners transitioning to minimalist shoes that have not run barefoot/minimalist before are going to have to drastically change how they run is embraced by Skora. Their method: "The Three Rs." They stand for reconnect, reposition, and rhythm.

Related anecdote: I remember being a teenager watching videos of skateboarders shredding a session down an entire city block and getting completely pumped to go ride my skateboard. As I matured, I recognized in myself a love  of watching videos of athletes doing athletic things athletically because it always motivates the heck out of me. Runners with strong form now top the list (followed by rock climbers/boulderers; I could watch that crap all day!). If you suffer from the same tendencies, here's a bit of motivation from Skora to give you that push off the couch. Enjoy!

For more info on form, products, and pricing, check out or