Monthly Archives: July 2012

Coaching Tour of Ontario & Quebec

Last week I was away on an epic, whirlwind Natural Running Coaching tour of Ontario & Quebec. The trip was awesome and entailed A LOT of talking. I coached staff from VIVOBAREFOOT retailers and minimalist shoe consumers in addition to having LONG conversations about the different offerings on the minimalist footwear market. I was hoarse for a good three days after the trip.

For more details, you can check out my recap at: http://naturalrunningcoaching.com/2012/07/nrc-in-ontario-quebec-recap/.

And here’s a map of the route we took:

Jambu Bath-Barefoot Review

Quick Details
Price: $99.00 USD
Width: Average to Wide
Sole Thickness: Forefoot = ~5 mm, Heel = ~7 mm
Drop: ~2 mm
Weight: 7 oz or 200 grams (plus ½ oz or 14 grams with insole)
Insole: Removable
Sizing: 6–11, available in full and half sizes, fits true to size
Category: Sandal

Overview – An attractive, comfortable, casual leather sandal
As a minimalist shoe reviewer, it is wonderful when we’re given the opportunity to review multiple products from the same manufacturer and extremely validating when the shoes improve over time. This is the case with Jambu products. The first Jambu shoe I reviewed was the Barefoot Vegan and I found it to be somewhat narrow in design and included a truly non-minimalist insole. The latest Jambu shoe provided for review has a much wider, more comfortable fit and the insole design has been updated and improved as well. The result is that the Jambu Bath-Barefoot is an attractive and comfortable leather casual sandal fit for any spring or summer urban adventure.

Comfort & Fit
The Jambu Bath-Barefoot has proven to be extremely comfortable for me. The forefoot is wide enough to accommodate my average to wide width feet and the elastic lock-lace allows for a personal fit. The leather is very soft against the skin and despite the strappy design, I find the edges of the straps smooth and not binding in any way. They fit true to size and are available in a wide range of sizes from 6 through 11 in full and half sizes.

The memory foam insole provides a little bit of cushion, if desired, and if not desired is easily removed as it is held in place with a bit of round Velcro at the heel. The insole itself is mostly flat, however, the Velcro attachment does add some height at the heel. If you prefer the insole attached but do not want the added height, the Velcro is attached to the insole with a single stitch and can be easily removed with a little scissor effort. I prefer the shoe without the insole at all, and the footbed is perfectly comfortable without it.

Barefoot Feel & Function
The ground feel of the Bath-Barefoot is not the greatest compared to some of the truly minimal sandals we’ve reviewed (for example, the Invisible Shoe Huaraches) because the combination rice husk and natural rubber outsole is a bit thick and stiff. There is some ground feel at the fore- and mid-foot, despite being thick, as the outsole is quite flexible in these areas. There is no ground feel at the heel, as this area of the outsole is particularly dense, but this aspect of the design will provide better durability as most people land with a heel-strike while walking.

The heel has a very small rise from the forefoot, probably of 2 mm, which won’t bother most people but I can feel the difference in forefoot and heel height as I’m particularly sensitive to it. Although I did notice the difference, it didn’t affect my gait enough to be overly distracting.

The Bath-Barefoot is a little heavier than most of the minimal shoes we’ve reviewed and while wearing, did feel a bit heavy for a summer shoe. Most of the weight is in the outsole with a little more weight in the heel area than the rest of the shoe. Again, it was noticeable, but not overly distracting.

There is more than adequate grip in the design of the outsole for any urban adventure and any dry, light trail you might want to explore this spring and summer.

Upper Qualities
The upper is made of a 3 mm thick, colored burnished leather on the outside and a much thinner, softer, 1 mm leather on the inside stitched together with a soft, inlaid thread. The footbed is a woven cotton fabric overtop of the outsole, with no added cushioning in between. The heel area has a closer-knit cotton on top for the Velcro attachment in the heel of the removable outsole to attach to. The stitching is flat throughout the inside of the shoe and the seams are not noticeable to my skin. I found that this shoe needed no break-in period and was comfortable right out of the box.

The strappy design provides plenty of breathability for hot summer excursions. If they get a little dirty, a damp cloth should easily clean them up quickly. As this is a leather product, you could protect them with a leather shoe protector for longer durability but I didn’t find the need as this will primarily be a fair weather sandal for me.

Sole Qualities
The outsole is made of a blend of rice husks and natural rubber stated by the manufacturer to be eco-friendly and sustainable. The attractive grip design is 3 mm in depth and the outsole approximately 2 mm for a total of 5 mm at the forefoot. The heel area feels a little bit thicker for an approximate thickness of 7 mm. The fore- and midfoot area is quite flexible where the heel is not. There is no arch support included in the design of the Bath-Barefoot.

Overall Quality
The quality of the materials and manufacturing appear excellent. There were no defects in the pair provided for review. I anticipate this sandal lasting a long time while maintaining its attractive appearance.

Style
The Jambu Bath-Barefoot is probably the most attractive minimalist sandal I’ve reviewed to date. The burnished leather, gladiator-style exterior is lovely and the contrast stitching adds beautiful detail. There is even a handy heel tab to help slide it on. The elastic lock-lace does not detract from the attractive design and allows for a personal fit that helps the shoe stay in place nicely without being binding. The sandal is available in three colors: black, sage, and taupe.

Uses
The Bath-Barefoot is an attractive, leather sandal perfect for any casual spring or summer urban adventure. They will nicely compliment any casual outfit from jeans, capris, shorts, or skirts. As they look a little dressier than most of the minimal sandals I’ve reviewed, they will be my summer shoes for fancier outfits this season. Probably not appropriate for formal occasions but they do look very stylish for a casual sandal.

Value
Priced at $99 on most online purchase websites, the Bath-Barefoot is priced at the top end of the leather sandal products on the market. They are more expensive than most minimal sandals as well but they are going to last a long time while maintaining their attractive appearance if treated well. There are few attractive minimal sandal options on the market for women so it depends how much you want to pay for the added style.

Summary
The Jambu Bath-Barefoot sandal is an attractive leather sandal stylish enough to compliment any casual spring or summer outfit for urban adventures. They are wide enough to accommodate an average to wide foot with a simple, elastic lock-lace for personal fit. The strappy, gladiator-style design is surprisingly comfortable with a soft leather interior. The removable memory-foam insole is flat and adds a little bit of cushiony comfort for those who want it and is easily detached for those who do not with a comfortable footbed even without. The blend of rice husk and natural rubber outsole is extremely grippy with an attractive design. There is some flexibility in the fore- and midfoot but very little in the slightly raised heel. Although the ground feel is not the greatest for a minimalist footwear product, they are quite stylish for a women’s sandal filling a niche in the sparsely populated corner of the minimalist market. Priced at $99, some may find it a little expensive. For more information about the Jambu Bath-Barefoot, you can check out the product website here and for more women’s minimalist Jambu styles you can check out their Bare Feet Designs page.

Originally posted on LivingBarefoot.info

Swiss Protection Sockette Review

Quick Details
Price: 55 EUR ($70 USD) plus shipping from Europe
Width: Stretch in fabric would accommodate narrow to wide feet
Sole Thickness: 2 mm (at the most)
Drop: Zero
Weight: 1.25 ounces or 34 grams
Insole: Not applicable
Sizing: 38-39 and 42-43
Category: Toe sock suitable for outdoors

Kevlar Toe Socks for the Outdoors
Have you ever wanted to be as close to barefoot as you could get but still have a little bit of cut-resistance for sole of your feet? The solution to that problem is the Swiss Barefoot Company’s Swiss Protection Sock or Sockette (SPS), depending on the height of the sock you prefer. The SPS is a Kevlar-knit sock with a welded polyester bobble sole, for added grip suitable for most outdoor terrains. They feel as close to barefooting as you can get, because you’re not wearing a shoe, with just a bit of protection from sharp edges. They’re pretty much perfect for people who wish they could go barefoot but are afraid of getting cut or are working on toughening their tender soles.

Comfort & Fit
The SPS is one of the most comfortable outdoor footwear options I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing yet. I do love the feeling of toe socks, so this was no surprise to me. The Kevlar knit is a little thicker than your average toe sock (ie, Injinji) but still smooth against the skin. The polyester grip on the sole is completely unobtrusive to the feel of the sock other than the added grip on surfaces. The material stretches just enough for a form-fitting, not bunching feeling all around my foot and between my toes. The articulated heel makes for a close fit around the heel area and around the ankle. As the SPS is made of stretchy material, they will fit a wide range of foot widths from narrow to wide. There is limited sizing at the moment but they stretch up to 2 cm so will still fit most small to average feet. Larger sizes are rumoured to become available in the near future.

You probably wouldn’t want to try to fit these into a shoe, but that would totally defeat the purpose of the SPS. These are, after all, toe socks for the outdoors.

Barefoot Feel & Function
There is no better barefoot feel while wearing the SPS but barefoot itself. While test wearing them, I tried one bare foot and one with the SPS and found the only difference in feeling was that the SPS-wearing foot felt less sharp edges than the bare foot. Outside, I walked on grass, 1” gravel, concrete, asphalt, wood chips, shale, and dirt and found that I was much more comfortable with the SPS-protected foot than with my tender bare foot. Inside, I walked on tile, wood, carpet, and linoleum and enjoyed the added grip the PVC laminated sole provided. My foot can function as naturally as it does bare but with just a bit of protection from sharp edges. These are particularly ideal for me as I would love to spend more time barefoot outdoors but don’t want to spend a considerably long time toughening up my tender soles during the 3-4 months of barefoot-friendly weather we have here in Canada.

Upper Qualities
The SPS is made of a combination of Kevlar (50%), polyester (32%), cotton (10%), and spandex (8%). The material breathes quite well and my feet were never hot in them, even indoors, while providing some warmth from the outdoor elements. Water did go right through the material but after stepping on wet ground, they dried very quickly. They are easily cleaned in cold water through the washing machine (I’d recommend a gentle cycle) and air dried.

Sole Qualities
The sole of the SPS is reinforced with PVC laminated to the bottom of the sock. The PVC provides a considerable amount of grip for the sock, especially compared the thread alone. The total thickness of the outsole is probably close to 2 mm. There is considerable stretch in the material allowing the foot to move and function naturally. As the SPS is a sock and not a shoe, there is obviously no arch support.

Overall Quality
There were no manufacturing defects in the review pair of socks. There was the odd long thread that was easily shortened with scissors. For a sock, this product is going to be extremely durable as the material is thick and made of a Kevlar, polyester, cotton blend. If you use the sock as intended by the manufacturer, meaning “outdoors on soft ground”, the SPS should last quite a while. If you use the SPS on surfaces not intended for their use, including tarmac, you will reduce the life of the sock and wear the PVC reinforcement of the sole area.

Style
The SPS is currently available in a short Sockette version and a long Sock version (review coming soon by a guest reviewer). Both are currently available in a yellow and black thread, which is mentioned on the manufacturer’s website as a production limitation with the use of Kevlar because it is difficult to dye. However, in the latest newsletter from The Swiss Barefoot Company (link provided here), the manufacturer mentions that they are working on an all black version as well as some new colours, as a new Kevlar dyeing process has been discovered, which may be coming soon in 2013.

While walking in my Sockettes, my neighbour immediately noticed that I was walking around in ‘stocking feet’ so your lack of shoes may get noticed, although, probably as much as if you were actually barefoot.

Uses
The SPS is the perfect product for people who want the best barefoot feel but could use the reassurance of a little bit of cut-resistance and feel a minimal shoe is too much protection. The SPS is designed for outdoor use on soft ground including grass, sand, and dirt and not for hard surfaces including tarmac or especially sharp and rocky terrain. The SPS is advertised as ‘cut-resistant’ not ‘cut-proof’. They will provide protection from feeling sharp objects and cuts on the bottom of your feet compared to shoes but they are not shoes, so it is unrealistic to expect them to behave like shoes. They are perfectly suitable for walking on sandy beaches, forest paths, gardens, and water sports. I think they would be an excellent product for those hardcore barefooters who could use a little bit of foot protection from snow, ice, and colder temperatures in the winter as well.

Value
If comparing the price of the SPS to a regular sock, they are wildly expensive at $70 USD (not including shipping). Compared to most minimal shoes, however, they are priced at the low end of most brands. The SPS is far more than a sock but not a minimal shoe. Price is definitely a limiting factor with regard to the SPS.

Summary
In the time I’ve been wear-testing the SPS, I’ve really come to appreciate their uniqueness and benefits as a minimal shoe reviewer and want-to-spend-more-time barefooter. Living in Canada, there is such a short barefoot season that the soles of my feet are quite tender. I’ve often wished there was a product that was more than a sock but less than a shoe and the SPS exactly fits that description. They are comfortable, form-fitting, breathable, easy to care for socks but offer far more protection than a regular sock with their Kevlar, cut-resistant thread and PVC laminated sole. This product will appeal to people who want to spend more time barefoot but are afraid of cutting the bottoms of their feet and for those hardcore barefooters who might want the smallest amount of protection from sharper terrains or colder/hotter surface temperatures. The SPS has far better ground feel than any minimal shoe with a true outsole because the outsole is fabric with tiny plastic nubs melded to it. The only difference I felt between barefoot and the SPS, is that sharp objects were far more comfortable to manage.

For more information about The Swiss Barefoot Company’s Swiss Protection Sockette, you can check out their website.

Originally posted on LivingBarefoot.info