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Tag: Shoe

Test: Vivo Barefoot Primus

On my way towards barefoot running, I’m willing to try a lot of different kinds of minimalistic shoes. My latest finding is the Primus, by UK company Vivobarefoot. I’ve immediately been seduced by the looks of this shoe but also because the company says it ‘lets your feet do their thing’ and because I had a 30% discount thanks to Running Heroes, which brought the price to a mere 60-odd quid instead of the hefty £90 announced on the online store.

Vivobarefoot Primus

Vivobarefoot Primus (all rights reserved)

When I unboxed the shoes, I was pretty excited: they really look awesome and they are very VERY light and flexible. I immediately tried them on and they felt really comfortable. They have a really wide toe box and that’s really good for my boat-sized feet. They come with a big warning saying “Don’t run with our shoes” then explaining that if you want to run with these shoes you have to know what you’re doing and make sure that you use proper mid-foot strike form. I think it’s a good thing that they put this warning on because if you heel strike with these shoes, you’re on for a proper knee destroying party.

After 100 km of running with them, they’re still the most comfortable I’ve owned but like most other shoes I’ve worn, they start showing traces of wear and tear on the sides (see the photos of my Altra and my Merrell after a few hundred Ks). I have a very thick instep and this just kills all my shoes, these ones are no exception and I’m sure they’ll crack pretty soon. I’m still looking for shoes resistant enough for my monster feet.

Another thing that annoys me with these shoes is how bad are their laces: they’re so slippery that they often untie by themselves and they’re just too short to allow for a double knot.

Finally, if you buy them to feel like you’re really running barefoot you’ll be disappointed. Of course, the ground feeling is much better than with cushioned shoes (these ones simply have no cushioning at all) and you feel every stone you run on, but the sole is too rigid for my taste and it’s nowhere close to actually running barefoot or even running with the FYF. But no worries, I still have another bunch of minimal shoes to try, like some Vibram FiveFingers or the Soft Star RunAmoc, so my quest for the perfect shoe is not over. To be continued…

Test: Free Your Feet (FYF)

On my path towards barefoot running, I think I have found the most minimalistic footwear one can imagine. It started as a Kickstarter campaign last year and I felt immediately attracted to those. I had read Born to Run not long before and I had ran completely barefoot a couple of times and loved it. I could only be seduced by the promise of the closest feeling to actual barefoot running ever (even better than Vibram’ FiveFingers) with the added safety and peace of mind of running with shoes.

Free your feet (FYF)

Free your feet (FYF) by the Swiss Barefoot Company

The FYF are some kind of super socks made of an extraordinarily strong fibre called Dyneema®. The Swiss Barefoot Company claims it is 15 times stronger than steel and I’m inclined to believe them. These super-socks are cut resistant (so no fear of glass shards), super resistant to stretching and they have some kind of grippy material under the sole. Unfortunately they are not really abrasion resistant (more on that later) and they are not puncture resistant (a stingy nail or a sea-urchin could still hurt you). Like the Vibram FiveFingers, they have 5 fingers allowing your feet and toes to fit snugly in them.

So even though they are not specifically for running, I backed the project. Despite the fact that the maker recommends the full size FYF, I couldn’t bring myself to buy those and become a live Swiss Flag so I bought the low-cut FYF. A good thing is that they promise other designs in the future, but I guess they have to fulfil their Kickstarter orders first, as well as the pre-orders they have received since, which could take a while considering they’re already 2 months behind their schedule (I was supposed to receive my pair in February but I only received it in April).

The day I received my FYF, I was so excited that I tried them on immediately. I ignored the recommendation against using them on the road and went off running. My first impression was that the feeling is great, very close to actual barefoot running, much better than any pair of shoes I had ever tried before, including all my minimalistic Merrell Road Gloves.

Freeing my feet with FYF

Freeing my feet with FYF

Of course I started running short distances to get used to them, as barefoot running uses slightly different muscles than running with shoes, even when running with the proper technique, but very quickly I could run up to 6 kilometres at an easy pace without any issue.

OK, I may be overly enthusiastic with these and there are some negative aspects to the FYF:

  • They are socks, so it’s not great running in them when the ground is wet (I actually hate the feeling of wearing wet socks)
  • They are not resistant to abrasion and the Swiss Barefoot Company is right: you should not use them on the road. My pair started having tiny holes after only 30 km. This is a lot compared to normal socks (which would probably be ruined after 500m) but some people have been using them for hundreds of kilometres on natural surfaces

Overall, I’m quite satisfied with them, even though I can’t use them on the roads (which accounts for most of my running), but once they have new designs, I’ll definitely buy a pair for trails or simply to run in parks.

Test: Merrell Road Glove 3

For the first time, I’m writing a review for the pair of shoes I’m currently running with, but for the first time, I’m also reviewing a pair of shoes that aren’t available any more (Merrell actually discontinued the whole “Road Glove” range). That’s useful, innit? And for a change, they were recommended by my favourite shoe god: the Quiet Roman, so you already know the outcome of the test.

OK, after this promise of a boring review. Let’s go to the nitty gritty.

ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzz

What? You want a real article? You’re kidding me!

OK, here’s a nice pic:

Merrell Road Glove 3

Merrell Road Glove 3 – Courtesy of Merrell

And here’s what I think of it in a few bullet points:

  • It’s a very good, incredibly light and comfortable shoe
  • It’s even more minimalist than the Merrell Bare Access 4 (no shit Sherlock, it’s all in the name) and gives even better sensations, but unfortunately it’s not red
  • It isn’t as resistant as the aforementioned Bare Access and already shows serious traces of wear and tear after 500k (I think seeing my socksthrough some holes on the side counts as wear and tear) but it hasn’t cracked after 200k like my Altra
  • It gave me a PB on a half marathon

As a conclusion, I definitely recommend that you should buy that shoe. Ha, ha, what a pathetic joke. What did you expect? A real review? By now, you should know that it’s not my game bruv’.

Test: Merrell Bare Access 4

Just a week before my first official 10k race, my Altra One 2, the only pair of shoes I had at the time, split apart after only 200 kilometres of running. I really liked them, but I didn’t want to buy the same pair and risk ripping them apart again after a month. Also, I wanted to go down the route of minimalistic shoes but not too fast. So I turned to my favourite running shoe encyclopedia: the Quiet Roman.

He’s a big fan of Merrell shoes and, as a first step to barefoot running (no pun intended), he recommended the Merrell Bare Access 4 for transitioning. They’re zero-drop (no difference in height between the heel and the toes), weight only 181g per shoe, have a 13.2mm stack (half the stack of the Altra One 2) and reasonable cushioning (8mm) for a runner who’s new to minimalistic shoes. But most importantly they’re red and they look awesome! Even more awesome, the colour is called “Molten Lava”, you’re welcome Anakin Skywalker. And they look equally badass in black (here come the M.I.B.’s).

I had only one week to get used to these shoes before my race, which is not a good thing. On the first try, they were very comfortable and even though they felt a bit narrow for my very wide feet, I really loved them. To my greatest surprise, I also loved the fact that there isn’t too much cushioning, that I could feel the ground better than with my previous pair. Also, they’re red.

But I was still a bit scared for the race, because after my first try on 5 kilometres, I could feel my calves much more than with the Altra. This was because these shoes forced me into a proper form. This worried me because I wasn’t sure I would be able to run 10k like this without feeling excruciating pain in my calves. But my worries faded after my second run (5k) and went completely away on the third run: I went for 11k without any pain. Did I mention that these shoes are awesome because they’re red?

On race day, I was all chuffed (having new gear is a great motivator) and I didn’t feel any pain. I also set my first PB for the distance at 47m 01s, which I reckon is pretty good for a first race. I’m pretty sure I made a good time thanks to these awesome red shoes (yes, they’re red).

Now I’ve moved onto other, more minimalistic, shoes. But I still remember these Bare Access fondly. They’re really comfortable, I don’t recall having had black toes with them, they’re much more resistant than the Altra, and just in case you haven’t understood what is really important in a pair of shoes: the best thing about them is that they’re red.

Test: Altra One 2

Altra One Two? Altra One squared? Whatever. Altra’s marketing department screwed up big time when they came up with the name for the successor of the Altra One. It’s hard to find in Google or in online shops, and you’ll find completely different results depending on whether you type one name or the other. In the end, I bought it in a nice running shop in the City, even though I had to pay an extra 20 quid.


Altra One Squared Mens

Yeah, I have to admit, this shoe is rather ugly, but it came highly recommended by the Quiet Roman. This was my first zero-drop shoe (i.e. no height difference between heel and toes) and it has a 23mm stack. This amount of cushioning may seem a lot to a barefoot runner, but to me it was reassuring to start my journey towards minimalistic shoes.

My first impression was something like “Feck, this shoe is light!”. I checked, that’s about 210 grammes per shoe: this is about the same weight as an iPhone 6 plus, and it’s much cheaper. Also, it’s much easier to strap on your feet. Altra 1 – iPhone 0.

The next thing that struck me was that this shoe is very comfortable (23mm of flexible foam has to be more comfy than the 7.1mm of an iPhone 6 Plus, even if it’s famous for bending easily). I have very wide feet and this shoe has a very wide toe box, which felt great right from the first time I tried them on. Though some people have reported that the toe box is somewhat low and their toes hit the top at every step (not the case for me, and it seems to have been fixed in the next model). Altra 2 – iPhone 0.

The main reproach I have for this shoe is the longevity. After 200 km of running, the fabric cracked. My guess is that this happened because my feet are really oddly shaped and I almost run on the side of them, which puts a lot of strain on the top of the shoes. Add to that the fact that for whatever reason, I mostly ran on wet days with them, this may have weakened the fabric. Anyway, even an iPhone lasts longer than that. Altra 2 – iPhone 1.

Altra One 2 cracked

In the end, I’d probably recommend this shoe despite my misfortune. It’s still better than the iPhone. The Quiet Roman has a pair of them and he’s really happy with them, so is the Mad Cook. It seems to have been replaced by the Altra One 2.5 which settles the name issue, and supposedly, the toe box size (which might or might not have prevented my shoe to crack). Anyway, if I have convinced you to buy this shoe (I doubt that) you can buy it here for men here for men and here for women. Thanks for your generosity!

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