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.