Monthly Archives: June 2011

Run Barefoot Girl Interview

I had the pleasure and honour of being interviewed by Run Barefoot Girl‘s Caity McCardell a little while ago. Caity has completed her editing magic and posted the interview recently. It was definitely weird for me being on the other end of the microphone questions. I probably could have gone on and on, however, as we were talking about my favourite subjects: minimalist footwear and natural running.

Here’s the link to RBG Episode #6.

For those not familiar with Run Barefoot Girl, it’s a website and podcast dedicated to ‘celebrating women who run barefoot.’ It’s DEFINITELY worth checking out!

Ghosting the 5 Peaks Canmore Sport Race

I’ve been volunteering at almost every 5 Peaks Trail Running Series race in Southern Alberta (although the website calls it ‘Central’) for the last 7 years (I took a few races off during ‘the year of pain’ aka 2009). This past weekend was the Canmore Nordic Centre Race #1 and I was volunteering again at the registration table.

Some years I run some races, some races I don’t run any and just volunteer. Although I wasn’t sure about being able to race the almost 6 km loop, I thought I’d ghost the race (run the course without a race number). I’m so glad I did because it was such an awesome course with amazing weather!

I started the course two minutes after the last people passed the start line. I was at registration until after the first wave of runners went through and then I got to use the washroom (finally :) ) and change for the race, hence the late start. I ran in my inov-8 Bare-Grip 200s because I knew the course was muddy in sections (my spouse had set the course markers the day before the race).

I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me when I started so I was all alone in the beginning. After the first dip and corner, I saw my spouse course marshalling, I gave him a quick kiss and went in search of other runners. It wasn’t long before I caught up to some race walkers and passed them. Then it wasn’t long before I caught up to the tail end of the last wave of runners. We were in the trees by this point so I called, “On your left” and passed them, too, and finished with a “Thank you.” Then I repeated these words for a good 10 minutes straight dodging trees and runners. I thought I passed about 50 people during the course of the race but it was closer to 100!

I very recently started wearing a heart-rate monitor again when I’m running. I found that with the new running form, my heart rate goes pretty high and I’ve been trying to keep it between 155-170 BPM on training runs. I wore it for the race for my time and to keep an eye on my heart rate. Sometimes it goes into the 190s when I’m racing and I didn’t want to run THAT hard this time.

Turns out I ran the course in exactly 41 minutes. According to the results, that would have placed me 135th overall out of 238 runners. The only reason why I was curious about where my standing would have been is because when I used to run these races (back in 2008 and earlier), I placed no better than 5th to last EVER. Therefore, my conclusions are thus: either I can run faster now (kudos to Lee Saxby for teaching me the new running form) or the racing crowd at 5 Peaks has grown much bigger and therefore there is a broader range of runner speeds, or both. I don’t care which, really. It was AWESOME to run that course and very motivating passing people as it really hasn’t happened to me that often in my racing experience.

In addition, the Bare-Grips were an AWESOME shoe for the race. I had absolutely NO problems with grip or traction on even the slipperiest, thickest mud. One guy even said to me, “Those like like cleats, they’re performance enhancing.” To which I replied, “No, they’re just shoes.” I saw another racer wearing the same shoes and I asked her how she likes them and she said, “They’re fantastic.” I couldn’t agree more.

So it was an incredible day overall. Long but still incredible. We woke up at 4:30 AM and wasn’t done race stuff until 5:30 PM. It was a great course. Running was amazing fun and I had a smile on my face the whole time!

Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 Review

A Light-weight, Grip-galore, Minimal Off Trail Shoe
This is my first review for the UK-based shoe company inov-8. The Bare-Grip 200 is designed as an off trail shoe, meaning across hills and mountains where there is no beaten path. It is a true zero drop shoe with no midsole. What has been lacking in the minimalist shoe market until now has been a shoe that provides ultimate traction in slick conditions and this shoe delivers! I have previously been fearful of losing grip on snow, slush, and mud and landing on my behind (which has embarrassingly occurred) while wearing other trail-specific minimalist footwear products lacking in the traction department. I am happy to report that in the Bare-Grip 200, there is no need to fear gnarly trails, muddy puddles, or snowy slopes.

Comfort
I wouldn’t say the Bare-Grip 200s are exceptionally comfortable or uncomfortable; they are somewhere in between. My comfort issues with this shoe are with the narrow fit and the abrupt material edges on the inside of the upper. I’ll explain both of these issues further in the following sections. However, I have worn these shoes for over 45-minute runs (with socks) without any discomfort or a wish for more width.

Socklessness
The Bare-Grip 200 is definitely not a sockless-friendly foot product. After less than 20 minutes of running without socks, I had acquired three separate blisters on the top edges of my big toes and two bleeding holes in my medial arches. The holes in my feet were caused by excessive rubbing of the edge of the black lining material in the middle of the midfoot area where it abruptly ends on the inside of the shoe. I was profoundly disappointed as this was my first ever run in them. I was sceptical about wearing them again but decided to give them a try with socks on and am so glad that I did because I did not experience any of these issues while wearing socks and these shoes quickly became a staple in my running shoe toolbox. It’s been a wet, snowy, rainy, spring here and I’m surrounded by muddy trails. I have had absolutely no blister or hotspot issues in these shoes as long as I’m wearing socks, even if they’re soaked through from wet ground or puddles.

Width
The Bare-Grip 200 is built on the inov-8 performance last, which is on the narrower side in order to offer a precise fit ensuring minimal internal movement when running at any angle, which is usually the case when running off trail. As long as the shoe is laced at its widest, I haven’t felt like I needed more room. My toes don’t have wiggle room in the toe box but the sole and upper are flexible enough that they do not feel constricted. There is enough room in the middle of the shoe for my arch. If you have a narrow or average width foot, these should fit well. If you have a wide foot, you will probably feel like you need more room.

Sole
The Bare-Grip 200 sole is specifically designed for loose, soft ground and not hard-packed, solid ground. It has aggressive lugs that dig into soft ground and stick there. While it rained for a full week I was unable to find mud that was too slick for this sole. It is made out of inov-8’s ‘sticky’ compound which is designed to maximize grip in wet conditions and last approximately 600 miles for an average lifespan. If you were to run that 600 miles on the road, however, expect a reduced lifespan. Although you can feel the lugs underfoot when running on concrete, it’s not annoying for short distances.

Flex
This sole is amazingly flexible. It easily flexes in every direction as there is no rigid plating designed in the outsole. The sole easily flexes around ground contours while the height of the lugs protects your foot from small sharp rocks. Running on gravel was neither uncomfortable nor painful.

Weight
inov-8 has a very unsubtle way of advertising the weight of their shoes: it’s in their names. The Bare-Grip 200s weigh 200 grams (7 ounces) for a men’s U.S. size 9 (UK size 8) shoe. My women’s U.S. 8 (UK size 5.5) weigh about the same according to my scale that weighs all the Living Barefoot review shoes.

Support / Insole
Although the rubber outsole of the shoe hugs the medial arch of my foot, I wouldn’t call it supportive. It is no more supportive than the same design feature in the Vibram FiveFingers Trek shoe. It protects the arch from stone bruising or other sharp objects but doesn’t hold the arch up.

The 3 mm insole is removable for easy washing. It is perforated to allow water to run out of the shoe easily. If you needed extra internal volume, you could probably run in this shoe without the insole but I haven’t tried it. I appreciate the modicum of cushioning it provides. The footbed of the shoe without the insole is flat and while wearing socks, you probably wouldn’t feel the seam between the footbed and the upper.

Barefoot Feel
Although you wouldn’t think it based on the height of the lugs, these shoes do have decent ground feel due to the extreme flexibility of the outsole. You will not feel every rock you step on, which is a good thing considering the intended purpose of this shoe, but you will feel every minute ground contour angle because the shoe easily wraps around them giving you a good sense of what you’re stepping on.

Grip
This is where this shoe shines! The grip on these is indescribably amazing. I’ve had trouble in the past trusting the grip of the shoes I have tested on snow, slush and mud, and traction on these soft, slippery surfaces are what these shoes were designed for and excel at. I have not been able to slide on any of these surfaces while wearing these shoes and I have tried! The lugs bite into soft surfaces and hold you there, no matter your speed.

Breathability
The green mesh upper is quite breathable and allows both air and water to pass through easily. The black lining, which covers about half of the inside of the shoe, is not as breathable as it has a closer weave.

Quality of Materials / Manufacturing
The quality of the manufacturing is excellent, there are no flaws in the build of this shoe. The quality of the materials is great as well: the outsole is amazing and the upper is showing no wear at all after 2 months of running in snow and mud.

Water Resistance
This shoe is designed to let water in and let it pass right out again. As is often the case while running on trails (or off of them) there can be a lot of water so this is an intended design feature to reduce weight while running in wet conditions.

Sizing
The Bare-Grip 200s seem to fit true to size; I usually fit a women’s size 8 and these fit well in the length although a little narrow in the width by design. inov-8 shoes come in full and half-sizes and I found there’s quite a difference between the half sizes: the women’s 7 ½ was much too small but the 8 fits well.

Price
The MSRP on the Bare-Grip 200s is $110 USD. These have a very specific purpose intended: off trail running shoes. They are priced similarly to other shoes in their category but at the moment, they are the only minimal, zero drop shoes with this kind of aggressive tread.

Style
In terms of style, these shoes are loud. At the moment, they only come in lime and black for both men and women. If you’re running on terrain that requires a tread as aggressive as these, however, you probably care less about looks than you do about traction.

Break-in Period
There is no break-in period required for these shoes, the upper is extremely soft and flexible. However, I do recommend wearing socks as described above.

Shoe care
These shoes are easily washed in the sink with water and soap if necessary. The insole is removable so there’s no worry about dirt getting trapped underneath.

Uses
There is a very specific intended purpose to these shoes: off trail running. These are not casual nor road running shoes and if you wear them too often on hard surfaces you will most likely ruin the lugs for the softer, slippery terrains for which they are intended. You definitely can run on concrete and asphalt (to get to the softer surfaces) and, although I notice the lugs underfoot, they aren’t annoyingly obvious.

Summary
There is finally a minimal shoe that is perfect for extreme trail terrains full of snow, slush, mud and anything soft and slippery. Although they are a little on the narrow side, the Bare-Grip 200 performs effortlessly with amazing traction on these surfaces. If you are a trail enthusiast and haven’t found a minimal shoe with enough grip for your favourite extreme trails, this new shoe by inov-8 might be just what you’ve been looking for.

For more information about the Bare-Grip 200 shoes, take a look at the inov-8 website.  They also have an extensive research section on their website that shares current and past research on the role of minimal shoes in running.

Originally posted on LivingBarefoot.info

 

Powderface Creek Trail Hike and Run

Yesterday I hiked/ran my first mountain trail of the season. My spouse, my dogs, and I ran the 12 kilometre Prairie Creek and Powderface Creek Trail Loop.

There was a lot of uphill walking but tons of flat and downhill running. I wore my VB Evos with only 4 mm of sole and it was awesome! (I can’t imagine hiking in conventional hiking boots anymore.) The Evos had just enough grip for all the uphills and flats, although a little more might have made me feel better about bombing down some of the steep downhill sections (bring on the Neo Trails coming this fall!). But there were no falls or slips so YAY! There was a ton of mud and creek crossings, too. The trail reminded me of my Death Racing days.

I’m only mildly sore today, mostly in the quads, and not at all in my feet. I’m pleasantly surprised by how strong my feet felt yesterday and how great they feel today.

Here are some pics:

My First Living Barefoot Coaching Clinic

Yesterday, I hosted my first ever Living Barefoot Coaching clinic. It was an Introduction to Natural Running clinic and was held at Trailblazers in Cochrane, Alberta. The format was a two-hour lecture on the biomechanics and skills of running, motor skill milestones for natural running, and exercises to improve the skills of running. I worked on the slides for about a week before I was happy with the presentation. I provided demonstrations of most of the exercises (and I do all of them almost daily) as well as videos of my current running form (it’s not perfect but it’s a good starting point).

I think the clinic went well. My audience seemed enthusiastic at the end about what they’d learned. I was a little nervous at first; it was my first presentation to an audience in six years. I videoed the clinic so that I can work on its delivery for future presentations. I also made a little movie (my first movie ever) of the introduction to the clinic. I’m a little nervous about sharing it but here it is anyway: