French Bloke Runs

Shut up and run!

Tag: Barefoot

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…

My best running memories

August 2015, A Guarda, Galicia, Spain. It had been just over a month since I began running. I was still hating it, but I was very motivated by all the weight I had to lose and also by my very recent read of ‘Born to run‘. This book had a lot of influence on me and even though I was supposed to be on a long weekend dedicated to heavy drinking and drumming, I couldn’t help but thinking about it.

Bare foot on the beach

Barefoot on the beach photo by Alex Tian

After a scrumptious lunch of Galician seafood accompanied by generous quantities of wine (all organised by my favourite Galician couple: Wonder Woman and Superman), we went to the beach for a dip into the water. I don’t know what went through my inebriated mind, influenced by the beauty of the moment and the thoughts of legendary runners in Mexican canyons, but I started running barefoot, like the crazy character of Barefoot Ted in the book. Then I hailed Lanky Pole (when there’s drinking involved, you can be sure he’s around) and we went for a short easy run along the sea. This moment was magical, my memories are befuddled now but I still have these amazing feelings deeply imprinted in me: the true feeling of the ground directly under my feet, the slightly salty breeze through my hair, the gentle caress of the sun on my skin, and the pure joy of running shared with a close friend. We ran for less than 4 km, but this run was a defining moment for me. I think it is the moment when I decided that I would start my quest to barefoot running, and incidentally the moment when I started to love running.

I have to admit that there is a flip side to this golden coin: since I wasn’t used to running barefoot, I had such massive blisters under the sole of my feet that I couldn’t walk for the next couple days. In hindsight, this was total madness but it was really worth it and reliving it is what I’m trying to achieve in slowly transitioning towards barefoot running.

Just a week later, The Quiet Roman came to London and I told him all about it. We drank, and inevitably, at the end of the evening we went for a barefoot run in the streets of Greenwich. This was really fantastic too and it finished convincing me that barefoot running was what I wanted to do. Of course, this time we only ran less than 2 km because my blisters had barely healed and I wanted to be able to walk the following day. Nonetheless, you now know my secret motivation for running: the quest to finding these 2 magical moments again.

Gear: the useful and the useless

After almost a year of running and quite a bit of money spent in various gear and gadgets, I now have a well formed opinion on what is useful and what is useless.

Running top

An absolute essential. Don’t run long distances with cotton t-shirts, definitely buy tops made of a technical fabric such as blends of polyester and elastane. My favourites are the ones from Tribesports (I have no commercial agreement with them, they’re just really good). If cotton is absolutely prohibited, I also recommend against running with the t-shirts given at races because they’re usually very loose. Don’t follow this advice and you’ll risk nipple chafing, you’ll be warned: Jack of all trades learned it the hard way in the Bordeaux half-marathon.

Running bottom

Arguably, it’s not as important to have good running shorts as it is to have good tops but it’s so much better to run with very light shorts and I think they’re worth the extra quid. Then again, cotton will provoke chafing inside your thighs, so avoid at all costs.

On cold winter days,  tights or leggings are really appreciated but I found that even the cheapest ones were good enough.

Socks

Don’t waste your money there. Pricy technical socks are utterly useless. I can’t see the difference between my £2 pair of low-cut Decathlon running socks and my £15 pair of double-walled, padded pair of Mizuno running socks. If you want to avoid blisters and black nails, the solution is in the shoes, not in the socks.

Accessories

I haven’t tried all the accessories yet but I think most of them are useless (ok, maybe a water bottle is a good thing to have during a long run or a trail). The one accessory I bring to all my races is a wrist sweatband to wipe off my forehead and avoid sweat dripping in my eyes.

I don’t have an opinion on compression gear yet. It might be useful, but to recover and avoid muscle pain, I think nothing beats a long session of stretching after running.

Gadgets

Then again, I’m a big fan of gadgets but I have to admit that most of them aren’t really useful. I would say that the watch is the only one that will help improve your running and at a beginner level like mine, it’s mostly about the timer and the pace: the value of a heart-rate monitor is debatable at best. But I think runners definitely don’t need a phone or an mp3 player. Some will argue that if you need music to run, it’s because you don’t like running.

Shoes

I’ll finish with the most important piece of gear: the shoes! Of course they’re useful, it is essential to have shoes that fit you and your running style – as you know I’m a strong advocate of minimalistic shoes and barefoot-style running. My piece of advice is to always buy one size above your real size, it will save you from blisters and black toenails, especially if you have a Greek foot or a Celtic foot like me.

Now, I want to make the case that shoes are actually useless, and I’m slowly making the transition to barefoot running (I’ve tested some pretty minimal stuff already). Hopefully in a few months or years, I’ll be able to race barefoot!

Tired shoes

Tired shoes or why it is important to buy new shoes before they reach 800 km

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.

© 2018 French Bloke Runs

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑