Monthly Archives: March 2010

90 BPM Metronome Run

The other day, I tried running with a metronome beat in my ears while running to try to increase my cadence to 90 steps per minute (from the same foot). The biggest difference I noticed while running at 90 BPM compared to my very consistent 84 BPM is that it is REALLY hard!

Before my little experiment, I thought there wasn’t that big a difference between 84 and 90 BPM, I was incredibly wrong. The faster cadence felt way too fast for my sluggish legs. I made very tiny steps. I felt like I looked really silly. My heart rate felt like it was in the 190s. I also found it really difficult to relax, I was running with a lot of tension in my shoulders and muscles in my upper legs.

Some positive things I noticed were that my arms dropped to a 90 degree angle all by themselves (usually I have to think about it). I also ended up going much farther than usual. I’ve been running 4 minutes and walking 30 seconds times 5 intervals along the same out-and-back route for a while now and end up in about the same place every time, this time I ended up turning around much farther than my usual spot. And I only ran the higher cadence for 3 of the intervals.

Some things I’ll try for next time will be to try and relax my shoulders and quads as much as possible. I’ll also bring a heart rate monitor with me so I know what the difference is between my comfortable cadence and the faster one. I also think the HR monitor will help me track my progress as I practice the new cadence.

I think running at 90 BPM will help my running in the long-term so, although it’s difficult for me now, I know it will get easier with more practice. And who knows, I might even end up getting faster. :)

Soft Star Rambler Review

I am very pleased to review one of Soft Star Shoes’ adult moccasin collection: the Soft Star Rambler. I can honestly say that I wear them almost every day. They are my most comfortable slip-on and walk out the door minimalist shoes. The craftsmanship is excellent and clearly done with care. The leather is comfortable and airy. The sheepskin innersole is great for warm weather and cold. The Vibram sole inspires confidence in walking with its non-slip surface. Overall, the Rambler is a very comfortable, casual moccasin that is a great addition to a minimalist footwear collection.

First Impression
When I first received the Rambler, I was a little surprised by their looks. Some people might think they look odd for a shoe but I think they look great for what they are: a minimalist moccasin. I was a little concerned at first with the inseam running down the forefoot, but after a few wears, I no longer noticed it. The Ramblers were immediately comfortable.

Comfort
The Ramblers are definitely one of the most comfortable pairs of shoes I’ve tested. The leather is supple and smooth all around. The non-removable insole is covered in luxurious sheepskin. It is warm, soft, and comfortable. Soft Star says of the genuine sheepskin that it ‘is a naturally homeostatic material, wicking moisture away and keeping your foot at an even temperature in hot or cold weather’.
The shoe is held in place by an elastic band running loosely under a fold of leather around the topline. The elastic is comfortable and not too tight while allowing the shoe to feel secure on your foot.
The moccasin is not tight on the foot anywhere, so if you like tight shoes, these are probably not for you. Because they are loose, there is plenty of room for toes to wiggle and the foot to bend and move around.

Weight
One size 7A Rambler shoe weighs 5 ¼ ounces or 148 grams. The weight is definitely not noticeable while walking with them on.

Flex / Sole
The Vibram outsole used on the Rambler is 6.5 mm in thickness. It could be a little thinner for an enhanced barefoot feel, but the thickness does improve the durability of the sole. It will probably last a very long time.
The sole is quite flexible and bends in every direction.

Support / Insole
There is no arch support in this shoe. The insole is non-removable and covered in soft, warm sheepskin. The sheepskin makes a perfect material for your bare feet to rest on.

Barefoot Feel
Despite the thickness of the 6.5 mm sole, there is still quite a bit of ground transmission. I have worn these on concrete, asphalt, grass, and gravel and have felt the rocks beneath my feet. However, you cannot feel the temperature of the ground through the sole.
I remember on one walk that my heels started hurting while wearing the Ramblers. I had inadvertently reverted to heel-striking while walking. I quickly changed my gait back to midfoot striking and the pain disappeared. I think that this experience taught that these shoes indeed encourage a barefoot gait despite the apparent thickness of the sole.

Breathability
The Ramblers are designed with two portions of leather: a vamp and a quarter. The vamp and the quarter are not sewn together as with a conventional shoe. The one and a half inches of overlapping material allow for fantastic ventilation without the appearance of any separation between the vamp and quarter. My feet have never been too warm in these shoes.

Quality of Materials / Manufacturing
The leather, sheepskin, and sole used to construct these moccasins look to be great quality (I am, however, not a leather expert.) The stitching is superb. There is even an extra piece of leather glued into the seat to increase the durability and construction of the shoe. The design of the Ramblers may look simple but the manufacturing is done by hand and with obvious care.

Water Resistance
The Vibram sole is water resistant and the leather does keep out some moisture. If you were to step in a puddle that was higher than the sole, your feet would definitely get wet because of the open vents on either side of the shoe between the vamp and quarter. I have walked in dew-covered grass and, although the tops of the leather got wet, my feet did not.

Sizing
The Ramblers come in sizes 6 through 15 and can be made in either a ‘regular’ or ‘wide’ width. The size that I ordered is the usual size of shoe that I wear and fits perfectly.

The wide model that can be ordered is probably great for those barefooters whose feet have spread out from a lack of shoes and increased muscle development in the foot.

Price
The Soft Star Rambler is priced at $75.00 USD on the Soft Star website. Considering the quality of the material, hand-craftsmanship, attention to detail, and durability of these shoes, I believe this to be a reasonable price for this product.

Style
Some people may think that the Rambler looks odd for a shoe. Admittedly, they do not look like conventional shoes.
The design is standard but the color of leather can be chosen from a wide variety of leather color options on the Soft Star website.

Break-in Period
These moccasins did not require any break-in period. The leather and sheepskin were supple and comfortable right from the beginning.

Shoe care
Soft Star recommends that their smooth leather moccasins be treated with any standard leather cleaning or protective product and that they can be surface cleaned easily with these products. Although they mention that their leather shoes and moccasins look and feel best when left unwashed, when necessary, they can be hand washed in cool water and left to air dry.

Warmth
I have worn the Ramblers in temperatures ranging from 10–25C, or 50–77F, and my feet have always been comfortably warm. As these shoes are made of relatively thin leather, with big air vents on either side, they would probably not be warm enough in outdoor winter conditions, even with the sheepskin insole. However, one of the aspects of this shoe that I appreciate the most is being able to wear regular socks with them (toe socks are not required although equally as comfortable as regular socks within these shoes). Therefore, when it’s cold outside, I wear appropriate socks for the temperature with these shoes and my feet are as warm as I choose.

Uses
These shoes are great to wear for walks around the neighbourhood, errands around town, or any other casual outing (where their style would be appreciated). They are probably not appropriate for running or more stylish outings.

Summary
I was very surprised by how much I like these shoes. As mentioned earlier, I wear them almost every day. They are perfect for indoors or outdoors because of their Vibram outsole. The leather and sheepskin is incredibly comfortable against bare feet or socks. They are as warm (with socks) or as cool (without socks) as you want them to be. They may not be the most attractive of shoes but I think their comfort and functionality outweighs their looks. Great work Soft Star!

To purchase these shoes, visit the Soft Star Shoes website and click on the link for the Adult Rambler.

Originally posted on LivingBarefoot.info

VFF Performas = Perfect Tai Chi Shoes

I took up daily Tai Chi exercises again in an effort to help my injured low back and sore SI joints. I remember one of the issues I had with it before was a lack of traction. Tai Chi requires a lot of balance, strength, flexibility, and fluidity in addition to the occasional massive amount of weight on one leg at quite a distance from centre requiring VERY good traction.

I used to do Tai Chi barefoot but found that I didn’t have enough traction to relax into some of the weight-bearing stretching exercises. Then I tried my Classics but found that there wasn’t enough freedom of movement with my toes (I like a lot of toe wiggling while doing Tai Chi) and my toes are a little compressed in the Classics I have now.

This time around, I tried my Performas and they are PERFECT! They have just the right amount of traction on the carpet (where I will be stuck doing Tai Chi until the grass turns green here) and just the right amount of foot freedom. I am so happy that I have finally found the answer to this minimalist footwear dilemma. I can now relax into all my Tai Chi exercises without fear that my feet will slip or holding myself tense in an effort to keep a grip on the floor. Performas are turning out to be my favourite indoor minimalist footwear.

Kigo Star Review

I am very pleased to review the Star from Kigo Footwear. Kigo shoes are advertised as eco-friendly, lightweight, strong, breathable, and totally portable minimalist shoes with a special fold-up design to take them anywhere easily. I agree that the fold-up design is pretty cool when it comes to their portability, and packability, for that matter. They make great traveling shoes. I found them to be incredibly comfortable on every terrain I took them on, from flat marble to rocky trails. They also have great grip on slippery surfaces. I was definitely impressed by the Kigos and look forward to wearing them more in the future.

Comfort
I was absolutely surprised at how comfortable these shoes are. I wore them every day for a solid week (while on vacation in a warmer climate) and found them a relief to wear on concrete, stone, asphalt, and trail. My feet and toes have plenty of wiggle room. The seams along the inside are just okay as there is one sharp area where the stitching meets along the inside of the shoe where the strap joins the upper. The insole, where the foot rests is slightly textured and very comfortable against my bare soles.

Weight
Each size W8 Star weighs 5 ½ ounces or 150 grams. I think any shoe under 6 ounces can be considered lightweight and the Stars definitely fall into that category. They are practically weightless on your feet.

Flex / Sole
The rubber sole is very flexible if bending the shoes in half as they are designed to clip closed this way. The front of the sole is also very flexible but the heel is not as flexible as the forefoot area of shoe. The sole does have a slightly positive heel, probably 1–2 mm. I have an incredibly sensitive back to shoes with higher heels and I did not notice the raised heel in these shoes (and I haven’t walked in shoes with a raised heel in over a year).

Support / Insole
The insole is completely removable although I did not walk around with the shoes without it. The insole is a thin, black material with slightly more padding on the arch and the toes. It is very thin at the ball of the foot and the heel, which may be why I did not notice the rise in the heel. It is not supportive in any way and there is no arch support designed into it. The insole is very comfortable to walk on with only a slight cushion to it, which I only really felt under my toes and not under my arch.

Barefoot Feel
The Kigos do not have a comparable barefoot feel to other minimalist footwear brands with thinner soles. The sole is definitely thicker than most minimalist footwear, reducing their barefoot feel. You can, however, feel some rocks underfoot. Although they don’t compare to most other minimalist footwear brands in this department (including Vibram and Vivo Barefoot), they are far better than the conventional shoe.

The barefoot feel can be improved by removing the insole from the shoe. I found that the shoe was much too loose on my foot and that the stitching on the footbed was too uncomfortable for me to walk around without the insole. I have no doubt that it can be done and that it would improve the barefoot feel but I can’t comment on this directly as I didn’t like the feeling and chose not to wear them as such.

Grip
I was pleasantly surprised at the grip these shoes have, even on wet surfaces. The bottom of the sole is patterned in a fingerprint design with deep grooves. I had no trouble on smooth, wet, marble surfaces, nor on any other slippery surface.

Breathability
The climate that I was in while testing these shoes was around 30C or 86F in high humidity and these shoes, where they cover the foot, did not breathe well. My feet did get hot in these shoes under these conditions. I am happy to report, though, that even without the breathability, my shoes still don’t smell at all (and my feet were quite sweaty at times).

Quality of Materials / Manufacturing
The manufacturing and materials could probably use some improvement. There are visible glue marks along the top of the upper where the sole meets the material in many places. The stitching is okay, but as mentioned, there are some sharp areas where the strap along the top is sewn to the sides of the shoe. After a week of constant wear, the shoe has held its shape pretty well, however.

Sizing
The sizing of the Kigo Star definitely runs short. I am usually a size US 8 or EUR 38 but I found the W8 Star too tight. Fortunately, the W9 is quite comfortable with plenty of room both along the length and width.

Price
The Star is sold on the Kigo footwear website for $49.99 USD. For a versatile and comfortable shoe, that’s an acceptable price.

Style
If you can get over the hook on the top of the shoe and the Velcro-attached strap on the back, the Star is a pretty stylish shoe. The contrast stitching and simple design really appeals to me and they come in six different color combinations on the Kigo website.

Break-in Period
The upper material of the Star does stretch a little with wear as well as become softer and more pliable; because of this, they became easier to put on, but other than that, I did not notice any other aspects of a break-in period.

Shoe care
The material comes stain resistant (although I don’t know with what technique) and the sole is rubber, therefore, the shoes do not require any kind of shoe protector treatment before wear.

Uses
Kigo Stars can be used from anything to errands, shopping, commuting, driving, or just about any activity you would wear a casual, Mary Jane-style shoe.  They are probably not an appropriate shoe for running or hiking, but for any activity that includes walking, the Star is an incredibly comfortable shoe to wear. In addition, if you are the type of barefooter who carries around a pair of shoes in a bag for occasions where bare feet are not appropriate, the fold-up design makes the Star convenient and small to pack around.

Summary
I was pleasantly surprised at how much I like the Kigo Star shoes. The comfort of these shoes is what truly makes them excellent shoes for any type of walking activity. I love the contrast stitching design and, besides the hook on the toe, find the upper design stylish as well. The fold-up design makes portability easy and convenient. I truly appreciate the grippiness of the flexible sole, too, especially on wet or slippery surfaces. Although they do not have the best barefoot feel for a minimalist shoe, their other qualities more than make up for the thickness of the sole.

To purchase these shoes, visit the Kigo footwear website at http://kigofootwear.com.

Originally posted on LivingBarefoot.info

Vivo Barefoot Dundan Boot Review

My detailed review of the Vivo Barefoot Dundan Boot went online on the Living Barefoot site yesterday.

You can check it out at: http://www.livingbarefoot.info/2010/03/review-vivo-barefoot-dundan-boot/

In short, I absolutely love these boots. They are incredibly comfortable and so easy to put on and take off. I think they look fabulous. I can wear them in a wide range of temperatures: for extreme cold, I wear the insole and for mild cold to normal Alberta winter/spring temperatures, I don’t wear the insole. Their grip is great, even on snow (maybe not so much on ice when it’s really cold as the nubs on the sole get stiff).

I’ve worn these boots pretty much all winter. There’s practically no wear on them. The sole shows no wear and is still wonderfully flexible. The only wear marks are a few scratch marks on the leather where I walked in crusty snow one day.

They are my favourite boots to run errands when walking on concrete or asphalt because of their warmth, comfort, grip, and ease of getting on and off.

Here are some pictures I recently took of my Dundans. The photos aren’t as good as Al’s in the review, but I’m still working on my photography skills. :)