Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Sweat Collective Workout #4

Some time ago, The Sweat Collective Workout #4 was issued and it’s been sitting on my t0-do list ever since. This one has been a real struggle for me. The introduction for said workout looked like this:

“Imperfection is okay, and often its acceptance is the key to having fun, to innovation, and to recognizing your worth and success.”

I can honestly admit to being accused of being a perfectionist. In fact, Lee Saxby looked right at me during the VIVOBAREFOOT Coaching Program when he said, “For all you perfectionists in the class, the best you can hope to achieve with this level of training is to help 80% of the people out there.” He’s a strong proponent of the 80/20 rule and for very good reasons (which we learned all about during the course).

Melanie Jones faced the challenge of reaching perfection and wrote about it in How to be Better Than Perfect, which I highly recommend reading. This post was also the inspiration behind the latest Sweat Collective Workout, which is:

How have you reacted when you have ventured off the path to perfection? How do you handle the effort to try again? How has this affected you in your training, creativity, in your life?

My struggle with perfection (at the moment) has to do with my running form. For my natural running form clinics, I’ve videoed myself running on a treadmill several times now. I analyze my form the same way that I analyze my clients’ form. It is definitely NOT perfect. I would like it to be perfect. I want to be able to demonstrate what perfect form is to my clients. Sadly, this cannot be the case. It’s hard for me to admit that after two months of running with the new form, it’s still not where I want it to be. I just have to work at it harder.

This assignment, though, made me realize that it’s okay that I’m not perfect (no matter how badly I may want to be). I have something to work towards. I think if I didn’t have details to work on, running might be kind of boring. I currently have the excitement and anticipation of seeing my running form evolve through future videos. Despite the irksome deficient details of my running form, it is FAR superior to what it used to be (thanks Lee!). All I can strive for is to do the best that I can do every time I run out the door. It seems, what is true of running, is also true of life. :)

Thanks Melanie for the eye opener!

By the way, if you are in the Calgary or Cochrane areas, ENDURE is coming to town. For show dates, times and to buy tickets, check out: http://www.runwomanshow.com/dates/. I’ve already bought my tickets and I can’t wait! #ENDURE

Link Updates

I’ve been kind of lax lately in updating my review links but I’ve finally caught up. I’ve updated the ‘Products & Reviews’ page with all the latest product reviews I’ve written and their links. I’ve updated the ‘Barefoot Resources’ page with new videos of Lee Saxby and Dr. Daniel Lieberman. And I’ve updated the ‘Barefoot Blogroll’ page with one of my new favourite bloggers: Caity McCardell who writes RunBarefootGirl.com.

Check out the new link updates via the page links above!

Living Barefoot Coaching coming to Las Vegas

What better way to travel is there than mixing business with pleasure? I’m going to Las Vegas in a few weeks for a friend’s wedding and thought it would be great if I could present a clinic while I’m there. And now it’s going to happen!

Living Barefoot Coaching (yours truly) will be presenting an Introduction to Natural Running clinic at REI Las Vegas-Boca Park on August 1, 2011 from 6:30 – 8:30 PM. For more information (or to register), check out http://www.livingbarefoot.info/coaching/.

I can’t wait!

**Update** The clinic has been added to the REI calendar. You can check out the REI page at: http://www.rei.com/event/28422/session/35035.

OTZShoes OTZ-300GMS Linen Review

A super comfortable casual flat with a traditionally simple design
It is an exciting time to be a minimalist footwear reviewer. Previously unheard of companies are coming out with new and innovative, or downright traditional, minimalist designs. OTZShoes is one of these companies. They offer a wide range of hand-made, simplistically designed footwear based on the footwear found on Oetzi the iceman, a well-preserved mummy, carbon-dated from about 3300 B.C., hence the name of the company. The OTZ-300GMS is a lightweight espadrille, or casual flat, and the review pair is the Black Coarse Linen. I’m amazed at their outstanding comfort as well as their simple materials and design.

Comfort
This is truly the best feature of these shoes, the upper is amazingly comfortable. The linen is luxuriously soft against the skin, despite the word ‘coarse’ in their name. The edges have a slightly rubbery material glued to them to soften the edges further, in addition to providing some structure to the collar of the shoe.

These shoes are, however, slightly modified from their original state. The OTZ-300GMS comes with a rigid CORKlite™ insole, which is an anti-microbial cork footbed with a less than minimalist design including a 5 mm heel rise. Thankfully, it is easily removed and this review will be of the shoe wear-tested without the included insole. Without the insole, the outsole alone has a zero drop between heel and toe, and the shoe functions perfectly well.

I found that the footbed of the shoe is a little hard for my liking, so I scavenged an old foam insole from a different pair of shoes, it minimizes the shoe volume, which is ample considering the size of the original outsole, and adds a little bit of padding. The footbed itself is smooth enough to wear the shoes without an insole but there is a somewhat noticeable seam running along the outside edge and, as mentioned, is very hard.

Width
These shoes are wonderfully wide. The outsole is the only rigid structure of the shoe and is anatomically foot-shaped with a wide toe box and midfoot. They have more than enough space for natural foot movement. 

Sole / Flex
The sole is made of co-molded rubber and jute, a vegetable-derived natural fibre. It is, sadly, not very flexible, despite being relatively thin. A more flexible outsole would definitely improve their minimalist qualities.

Weight
One size 38 OTZ-300GMS weighs 5 ¼ oz (149 g), so together, they weigh unsurprisingly 300 grams, hence the name of the model. They are well under an unacceptable weight for a minimalist shoe but because all the weight is in the outsole and there is no adjustable attachment, the weight is noticeable at the end of your feet.

Support / Insole
There is no support in the design of this shoe, not even in the shoe itself. The insole is regrettably not minimalist but thankfully easily removed and not necessary. Despite the lack of rigidity, I haven’t noticed that the heel part of the shoe slips down at all. This is probably because of the reduced shoe volume due to the scavenged insole I added.

Barefoot Feel
There is, sadly, no ground feel at all in these shoes. Because the outsole is so rigid, there is no ground transmission. However, that does make them great for walking on sharp gravel.

Grip
Although not flexible, the outsole is pretty grippy. On all dry natural and wet or dry man-made surfaces, there has been more than adequate grip. I wouldn’t try them on mud but if you did, you’d probably wreck the uppers anyway. 

Breathability
The linen upper is not breathable, however, because there is ample shoe volume, air easily enters the shoe from the top and collar. I have found up to 24C (75F) quite comfortable for walking.

Quality of Materials / Manufacturing
The quality of the Italian-made coarse linen upper and rubber/jute outsole is great. The manufacturing is all hand-made with the outsole stitched to the upper to reduce the use of glues in their production and is impeccably done. There are no flaws in the review pair in the stitching or construction.

Water Resistance
The outsole height is about 7 mm. If you’re walking in water less than that depth, other than splashes, your feet won’t get wet. Water will go right through the linen, so your feet will get wet if walking on wet surfaces.

Sizing
The OTZ-300GMS fits true to size in length. I usually fit a size women’s U.S. 8 or EU 38 and the test pair sized EU 38 fits perfectly in the length with plenty of room in the width. Despite the lack of attachments, they fit well on my feet and I do not feel like I need to curl my toes at all to keep them on.

Price
At $75 USD on the OTZShoes website, you might think they’re a little on the expensive side but they are individually hand-made out of natural, high-quality materials.

Style
The style of these shoes is simple and yet functional and immensely comfortable. They are based on a traditional, casual flat espadrille design with an anatomically foot-shaped outsole.

Break-in Period
There is no break-in period required for these shoes. The materials will not stretch and should immediately fit comfortably with the right size.

Shoe care
These are not a pair of shoes you want to stick in the washing machine. A wet cloth is probably the most you’ll want to use to get them clean.

Warmth
The coarse linen does not breathe making them a fully-uppered shoe on the warmer side, although air does get inside from the loose fitting collar. For added warmth, you could easily wear socks with these shoes comfortably as there is plenty of shoe volume to accommodate the extra material.

Uses
These shoes are simplistically styled, casual flats that work well with pants or shorts. I’d keep them to urban adventures or easy walking trails due to their lack of secure attachments. I have been on several walks on gravel with no issues at all; the inflexible sole is good for sharp surfaces, at least.

Summary
Although these aren’t the most minimalist shoes, considering the insole and the sole inflexibility, they are wonderfully comfortable and I have already enjoyed much use out of them. The insole is easily removed giving the shoe a zero differential between heel and toe. The style is the definition of simplistic and easily works casually with either pants or shorts. For more information and to check out their other styles, take a look at the OTZShoes website.

Originally posted on LivingBarefoot.info

Jambu Barefoot Vegan Review

A Stylish, vegan casual slip-on for women
It is certainly an exciting time to be a minimalist footwear reviewer. Several new companies are starting to offer minimalist designs with never-before-seen ideas in an ever increasing market. One of these newcomers is Jambu, a division of Vida Shoes International, with their Bare Feet Designs. Jambu offers three models in this line: the Water Ready, the Sport-Sider, and the focus of this review the Barefoot Vegan.  This is a uniquely styled flat suitable for casual spring and summer urban adventures.

Comfort
I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable these shoes turned out to be. The inside of the stretchy upper is soft with unobtrusive seams. The criss-cross lace is designed in such a way that it doesn’t interfere with the movement of the foot or rub in any uncomfortable ways. The Velcro attachments on either side of the lace allow for a customizable fit that should accommodate most foot shapes, even those with very high arches. After walking for over 30minutes, I had no hot spots or uncomfortable rubbing anywhere on my feet.

Width
When the Barefoot Vegan first arrived, I thought they looked a little narrow but the design turned out to be very accommodating for my average width feet. The upper is quite stretchy and the toe box has plenty of room. The laces have plenty of room to allow for high arches while still allowing the shoe to feel securely attached. The arch area of the shoe is a little on the narrow side but the outsole that wraps around the inside of the shoe does not feel obtrusive or supportive. The upper stretches widely enough for my metatarsals to properly splay while walking. This shoe should fit narrow and average width feet well but may be a little snug for extra wide feet.

Sole / Flex
The outsole is made of rice husks and natural rubber. It wraps around the toes and heel a bit to provide added protection from collisions. It is quite flexible under the toes and midfoot but not at all flexible under the heel. I have no way of measuring it, but I feel like there is a bit of a heel to toe differential; I’d guess it’s between 1.5 to 3 mm. I am insanely sensitive to a positive heel and, although I noticed this shoe has one, it’s not that different from the Kigo Curv.

Weight
Each size women’s 8 shoe weighs 5 ¾ ounces or 163 grams. This is definitely acceptable for a minimalist shoe and feels very light indeed while walking.

Support / Insole
The outsole doesn’t provide any support to the arch but does hug the arch, probably in order to provide added structure to the shoe.

The insole is thankfully removable as it is in no way a minimalist design. There is a big padded area in the heel area, which is extremely noticeable and raises the heel even further off the ground. It is attached to the footbed with Velcro, which attaches to an extra piece of fabric sewn into the footbed, and was easily discarded. The Barefoot Vegan is far more suitable as a minimalist shoe without the insole and the footbed is definitely comfortable enough to not need any additional material as the seams all lay flat.

Barefoot Feel
As there is great flexibility in the fore- and midfoot of the outsole, in these areas, there is adequate barefoot feel. However, because the heel is so stiff, there is no ground feel through this part of the shoe.

Grip
The Jambu “All Terra Traction” pattern is a neat and feminine design feature and provides very good grip on man-made and natural surfaces without feeling noticeable underfoot. I find this is a fine line for shoes with grip and the Jambu succeeded well at this challenging aspect of minimalist footwear design. 

Breathability
This is where the Barefoot Vegan shines! These shoes are wonderfully breathable. The mesh upper allows plenty of air to pass through and the rest of the shoe is open. I’ve found these cool enough to wear in warm summer weather (for Alberta that is).

Quality of Materials / Manufacturing
Other than a couple of stitches letting go in the footbed, these shoes are well-made without any obvious defects. The upper materials in the Vegan design are animal friendly, meaning no leathers are used. The outsole is made of 35% natural rubber, 10% rice husks, and the remainder being styrene butadiene (SBR) to add abrasion resistance and durability. After several long walks on concrete with the Jambu shoes, there is little wear in the outsole, mainly in the sharper edges grinding down a bit.

The packaging is advertised as being 100% recycled. The shoes are wrapped inside the box in biodegradable corn bags, which can apparently be compostable in addition to be reused for other purposes.

Sizing
The Jambu shoes fit true to size in length. They should fit narrow to average width feet well but may be a little snug on wider feet in the midfoot area.

Price
Online pricing for the Jambu Barefoot Vegan is about $99 USD. For this uniquely styled, casual shoe, it seems to be a comparable price to their competitors in the Kigo and VIVOBAREFOOT lines.

Style
I like the unique design of the Jambu Barefoot Vegan. The criss-cross laces add a lot of flare to these shoes. They are simple but colourful shoes and come in grey/pistachio, tan/coral, and pink berry. They are attractive flats for shorts, skirts, or pants.

Break-in Period
There is no break-in period required for these shoes. The stretchy upper is soft around all the edges that make contact with skin after several outings, has held it’s shape well.

Shoe care
Like most shoes, they are probably not suited for the washing machine but washing in the sink or with a damp cloth should remove most dirt.

Uses
These are casual flats appropriate for urban walking adventures. I would not recommend them for trails as the low profile upper would easily allow debris in the shoe.

Summary
The Jambu Barefoot Vegan is an exciting new arrival to the casual women’s minimalist shoe market. It has incredibly unique styling with the criss-cross lacing and contrast stitching. When you remove the unnecessary and non-minimalistically designed insole, it has a slight positive heel but probably no more than 3 mm. It should fit a narrow or average width foot well but may be snug on a wide foot. They are tremendously breathable and perfectly suited for hot spring or summer urban adventures.

For more information on the Barefoot Vegan and their other Bare Feet Designs, take a look at the Jambu website.

Originally posted on LivingBarefoot.info