Author Archives: Tina

Vibram FiveFingers Vi-B Review

My new all-time favourite Vibram FiveFingers (VFF)
I’ve reviewed over a dozen VFFs in my minimal footwear reviewing career. I can honestly state that the new Vi-B is my new all-time favourite VFF. It is the perfect combination of comfort, function, style, and (finally) breathability in a women-specific, ballet flat-inspired design.

Quick Details
Price: $80.00 USD
Width: Narrow to Extra wide
Sole Thickness: 3.5 mm
Drop: 0 mm
Weight: 3 1/8 oz or 86 g
Insole: None included
Sizing: 36–42; Full sizes only
Category: Minimalist Sandal and Casual

Comfort & Fit
Everything is comfortable about the Vi-B. There are no tight, binding, scratchy, or poking parts. The heel cup fits perfectly and the suede-like material on the inside helps keep the shoe in place without being the least bit obtrusive. The toe pockets fit me perfectly and yielded no blisters after over 30 minutes of walking. The collar is slightly stretchy preventing any binding. The mesh of the upper also has the smallest amount of stretch, maximizing the range of foot widths the shoe can accommodate, in addition to their open design. These shoes will likely work for narrow feet as well as my extra wide ones, and every width in between.

The Vi-B has no removable insole but the footbed is an anti-microbial Drilex sockliner to keep them smelling fresher longer.

Barefoot Feel & Function
There is no cushioning in this shoe, just outsole and sockliner between you and the ground. The sole thickness is 3.5 mm of fantastic flexibility so your feet will feel everything. Natural foot movement is maximized in this shoe with its open design and great ground feel.

Weighing in far under 86 grams, these shoe feel slightly heavier than a thick pair of socks and are just as comfortable.

The grip is approximately 2.5 mm at its deepest providing plenty of traction on any man-made surface as well as dry natural surfaces.

Upper Qualities
The upper is made of a polyester mesh with PLENTY of breathability; in fact, more than any other VFF I’ve reviewed so far. One of my few problems with VFFs in the past has been the lack of breathability, which causes sweaty feet, resulting in chafing and blisters. The Vi-B is so airy that this is definitely NOT an issue.

There is no break-in period required as they were instantly and abundantly comfortable right out of the box. If they do start to smell, which mine have not after plenty of wear, they are easily machine washed and air dried.

Sole Qualities
The outsole is 3.5 mm thick and made of XS-Trek according to the Vibram website. It is a proprietary Vibram rubber compound that “offers 30% more adherence to smooth surfaces than previous formulas” while also having good durability. As Vibram has been making high performance rubber soles for over 70 years, I’ll believe their website claims. I do know that I have had no traction issues whatsoever in all my testing on indoor surfaces.

The outsole is also extremely flexible, easily bending around pretty much everything I’ve stepped on.

There is also no arch support designed in the shoe. The only raised areas of outsole are at the medial and lateral metatarsal joints and they help keep the shoe in place on the foot without feeling obtrusive or limiting splay.

Overall Quality
The quality of the materials appears excellent from the rubber outsole to the polyester mesh upper. As encountered with many a VFF model, there is visible glue marks on the toe pockets but you have to examine the shoes very closely to see them. With casual wear, I suspect these will last many seasons.

Style
The style of the Vi-B is definitely minimalist ballet flat. It would be difficult to be more minimal with such little material and that being of mesh. I adore the elegant, minimalist style and have received numerous compliments from people, even from individuals who have confessed to not liking the toe pocket VFF design in the past.

The Vi-B is currently available in red, blue, and black. The only accents are yellow on all three colourways and they depict the Vibram logo. (I would prefer if they weren’t plastered with logos as I prefer a more purest minimalist look, but I can understand how Vibram might think otherwise.)

Uses
Need a comfortable summer sandal? Elegant minimalist ballet flat, perhaps? Everyday casual shoe that’s barely there? The Vi-B may just be the perfect shoe for you. I know that I’ve worn them quite a bit around town doing errands, walking the dogs, or out for dinner. They are casual shoes so I wouldn’t recommend running or mountain hiking in them, but they’re perfect for warm weather walking around.

Value
At $80.00 USD, they are priced at the low range for VFFs and the high range for a simple ballet flat. There are so few stylish, minimalist women’s shoes on the market that I would be happy to pay this amount for a comfortable, durable, and extremely versatile shoe as the Vi-B.

Summary
I was not exaggerating when I wrote that this is my new all-time favourite VFF, of which I have expansive experience. The Vi-B design and materials solve all the issues I’ve ever had with VFFs including a lack of breathability, sometimes constrictive fit, or the occasional pinching toe pockets. And they look fabulous, too. They have amazing ground feel, great grip, and my feet function as naturally as if I was wearing toe socks. I adore everything about them.

To find out more or to purchase a pair of Vi-Bs, please check out the Vibram website.

Vibram FiveFingers Bikila EVO Review

A medium distance running Vibram FiveFingers (VFF) model
VFF is creating more specialized models with every season. One of their newest models, the Bikila EVO is designed to be a medium distance running shoe. It has a snug fit and a little more cushioning than most models. I think of it as a padded VFF for walking, running, or casual wear.

Quick Details
Price: $120.00 USD
Width: Narrow to Wide
Sole Thickness: 8.5 mm
Drop: 0 mm
Weight: 3 3/8 oz or 94 g
Insole: None included
Sizing: 36–42; Full sizes only
Category: Minimalist Running and Casual

Comfort & Fit
The Bikila EVO fits my wide feet very well with plenty of room for metatarsal splay. The laces make getting them on and off super easy and the lock lace clamps them down in place for a secure fit. They fit very close, sock-like in fact, but have plenty of flexibility allowing my feet to move naturally. They are too close fitting to wear with toe socks for me. The pinky toe pocket in particular is quite snug.

Due to the tight fit and lack of socks, the moisture from my sweaty feet caused a few blisters. While running, my big toe chafes against the inside of the toe pocket and 30 minutes resulted in a huge blister on my left foot. While walking, both feet got blisters in the same spot: on the top of my feet just below my big toes. I’m pretty sure that the walking blisters were caused by the rather large seam on the inside of the shoe at this area where the tongue attaches to the upper. It’s not so much that the seam is bulky because it does lay flat but the junction of materials rubbed my skin raw. Just to wear, I find the Bikila EVOs quite comfortable but functionally, my sensitive skin could not handle the chafing and moisture.

The material on the inside of the shoe is somewhat textured but in an unobtrusive way. The material of the tongue is quite soft and protects the foot excellently from any binding caused by the laces. The throat is thin but cut in such a way that I cannot feel it anywhere around my foot and ankle. The junction between the footbed and the upper is completely flat and absolutely unnoticeable.

Barefoot Feel & Function
I was initially apprehensive about the ground feel of the Bikila EVO with an 8.5 mm sole thickness, but as soon as I started walking in them, I could barely feel a difference between them and some of my much thinner minimalist shoes. The outsole flexibility is excellent, allowing me to feel very small rocks underfoot and easily bends around ground contours. I was pleasantly surprised with the great ground feel and ease of natural foot function.

Weighing in under 100 grams, the Bikila EVOs feel more like socks than shoes and I have never noticeably felt their weight.

They have an excellent grip pattern for more than adequate traction on any man-made surface. They are also grippy enough for dry, natural terrains. I would not, however, recommend them for use running in the mud

Upper Qualities
The upper is made of a polyester mesh (according to the Vibram website) and a faux suede used for the tongue and accents along the top of the shoe. The polyester is woven quite closely and doesn’t breathe all that well, especially considering their use as a running shoe. My feet do get quite sweaty in them and then stay wet. The weave does keep out some water although the seams are not sealed so water will enter the shoe through them.

There is no break-in period required as these shoes feel more like socks with a rubber sole than a regular shoe.

Like most VFF products, they are machine washable in cold and air dried. Because they don’t breathe all that well, I suspect they will eventually acquire some smell but after several walks and runs in them, mine still smell new.

Sole Qualities
The outsole is made of 2.5 mm of rubber, 4 mm of EVA for cushioning, and a 2 mm footbed layer. Although the total 8.5 mm in thickness might seem like a lot compared to most minimalist shoes, the ground feel is still great because of its fantastic flexibility.

Like all VFF products, there is no arch support designed into the shoe. In fact, the medial outsole design doesn’t even rise up and hug the arch like other models have in the past. This change allows the foot arch to flatten out completely and not feel any of the outsole up against it.

Overall Quality
The quality of the materials and manufacturing appears good. There are some visible glue marks at the edges of the toe pockets but all the seams are perfect in the review pair. The material of the upper is thinner than most conventional and even minimal running shoes so I’m not sure they will last more than one season of heavy running use.

Style
The look of the Bikila EVO is very much “minimalist running shoe”. The cut and colour accents of the upper, as well as the tongue and lace design, remind me quite a bit of old school running shoes (before the popularity of the massive heel rise). The raised bumps on the toes and bottom edges of the medial and lateral edges of the upper appear purely esthetic but do give some nice design detail.

The Bikila EVO is currently available in orange/purple, black/yellow/magenta, yellow/pink, and blue/green. Again, the colour choices are very reminiscent of current running shoe colourways with their rather loud combinations. These are certainly not shoes that could be called “subtle”.

Uses
Vibram advertises this model as their medium distance running shoe. They have a bit more cushioning than VFF’s original models (like the KSO or the Classic), in the hopes of allowing runners to run farther with less foot discomfort. I don’t really agree with this philosophy as I think a natural runner should have enough foot strength to run whatever distance they want with minimal shoe cushioning (I realize I’m likely in the minority with this opinion). However, if you want to add some rough terrain that you might want a little extra padding underfoot, I can see how these might be a good option. Although, they don’t have much in the way of traction for good grip on said rough terrain.

Although advertised for medium distance running, if this model fits you well, I think they are a nice option for walking or casual wear as well, if you don’t mind the loud colourways. They don’t have the best ground feel of the VFF models but it is more than adequate for a minimalist shoe due to their great flexibility.

Value
At $120.00 USD, they are priced on the high side of VFFs and the mid-range for running shoes. If they fit you exceptionally well and you’re looking for a running shoe for a season or two with moderate to heavy wear, this is a reasonable price to pay for a minimalist running shoe.

Summary
The Bikila EVO is advertised as a medium distance running shoe. For this purpose, Vibram has added a little extra cushioning underfoot than their more minimal models. Despite their 8.5 mm stack height, they have decent ground feel due to their excellent flexibility. Although I think runners should have enough foot strength in their feet to run any distance they like with very little cushioning, I can understand how some runners might prefer a zero drop with a slightly padded ride for longer runs or those runs on slightly rougher than all road terrains. I do think that a running shoe should be breathable and this model is sadly not.

They have a very snug fit so, at least for my feet, socks are out of the question. If you have a VFF-shaped foot and you prefer to go sockless with a snug fitting shoe, this model may be a good option for you for walking, running, or casual wear.

For more information or to order the Bikila EVO, you can check out the VFF website at: http://www.vibramfivefingers.com.

Two Recently Discovered Resource Websites

Last week, I had a wonderful tea date with a reader who lives in Calgary. Natasha is new to minimal shoes so I brought my collection for her to try some on. It was wonderful watching her excitement and enthusiasm. We shared stories, experiences, and resources. It was great fun and informative for both of us.

Natasha shared with me a website that she enjoys and, after reading quite a few posts myself, I thought I’d share it on the blog for others to enjoy as well:

Katy Bowman writes a blog called Katy Says with the tag line “Alignment Matters!”. She is a biomechanist focused on educating and helping people correct mechanical causes of pelvic floor disorder, bone regeneration, and foot disease. She is a proponent of healthy and strong feet as well as proper body alignment.

Some of my favourite articles of hers include:

She has categories for Feet-N-Footwear and Natural Movement that I particularly liked. She has also published two books and created two videos, which you can find further info about here.

While perusing her blog, I found a link to another helpful blog. Dr. Nick’s Running Blog is written by Dr. Nick Campitelli, a podiatrist with a special interest in helping runners with injuries. I spent a considerable amount of time reading his blog posts on specific running injuries and like that he has categories for plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, and knee pain.

Some of the posts I liked include:

Dr. Nick also writes minimalist running shoe reviews as well as a guide to transitioning to running in a minimalist shoe.

Thank you again, Natasha, for a wonderful day and introducing me to some great new blogs.

 

Rocket Pure Hand & Foot Balm and Anti-chafe Balm Review

Rocket Pure is one of those companies that genuinely cares about the feedback from their customers. They make natural body care products for athletes and I recently had the pleasure of reviewing their Natural Foot Deodorant Spray, which is used quite often in my home. When they offered me the chance to review and provide feedback for their two newest products, I was happy to oblige. Rocket Pure recently launched a Hand & Foot Balm as well as a Friction Therapy Anti-chafe Balm. My spouse and I have both used the products and have reached a number of conclusions.

Hand & Foot Balm

My spouse and I have both thoroughly enjoyed using the Hand & Foot Balm. I adore its smell; sometimes I open the tin just to enjoy its aroma. My spouse prefers unscented products so isn’t as big a fan as I am of the smell.

The balm is made of a number of natural oils and extracts, which are listed on the container and pictured on the bottom of the tin. To apply the product, heat from your hand will melt the solid oils as well as loosen it with thixotropy, which means the more you agitate it, the thinner or less viscous it gets. Basically, the longer you press the product, the more you’re going to be able to apply, which I think is quite cool, scientifically speaking.

As for use, I have never seen a comparable product so I have nothing to compare it to but I find that it works wonderfully! I often get cracked skin on my hands and, with thorough use of this balm, that did not happen this winter. I also used it quite often on my dry heels and it heals them quickly and effectively. The product soaks in quickly and does not leave a greasy feel behind. I would use it on my hands and type on my keyboard shortly after without leaving any residue on the keys . I found that it works best on the leathery skin on the hands and feet and doesn’t soak in as fast or feel like it lasts as long on the tops of my hands and feet compared to the tougher type of skin.I compared using this balm on one hand and a regular moisturizer on the other and found the balm lasted longer and felt less greasy as well as leaving a cleaner feel on my skin.

My spouse has extremely chapped and cracked skin on his feet, a side-effect of his ultrarunning training. He used the balm on his feet and found that it helped heal some of the cracking of his skin. If he used the product every day, I suspect that it would help this condition significantly.

I found that this was my go-to product this winter for dry skin on my hands and heels. I love the smell and found that it worked fast and effectively while leaving my skin with a pleasant aroma and a supple, non-greasy feel.

The Hand & Foot Balm is priced at $12.99 USD for 2 oz/60 grams.

Friction Therapy Anti-chafe Balm

After my spouse and I have both used the Rocket Pure Anti-chafe Balm, we can say that it definitely works. My spouse used it for a 2-hour run and I used it for my usual 20-minute run and neither of us experienced any chafing.

However, we were both surprised to see and smell the peppermint in this product. My skin usually doesn’t react well to mint but it didn’t seem to be bothered by the amount in this product where I applied the balm, for use against chafing from my sports. As a male, my spouse puts anti-chafe balms in different, more sensitive locations, and he said the mint was unpleasantly tingly in those areas. If the product fails or you already have some chafing and need to apply a balm to keep from getting more, this menthol-type ingredient would not feel at all comfortable. One of the reasons for the inclusion of the peppermint oil, the company has told me is that it has natural antiseptic and antimicrobial properties.

Both of us are users of Body Glide Anti-Chafe so have a product to compare this balm to. I prefer the ease of application with the Body Glide stick compared to the Rocket Pure tube. The stick keeps me from having to apply the product with my hands and, therefore, having to wash it off afterwards, which can be problematic out on the trail or at a triathlon transition. And this product definitely needs to be washed off the hands, especially because of the aforementioned mint, which would not feel good if you happen to wipe sweat off your face and transfer it near your eyes or nose.

However, the tube format lends well to quick application of a lot of balm, which is potentially beneficial during race situations.

I found that the product transferred oil onto my merino wool tech shirt, which required a stain remover to get out. I could have used less or waited longer after applying the balm to put my shirt and run but I like to just get going after getting dressed. The company assures me that they have performed extensive testing and they observed no staining of clothes of any kind and that the product washes out easily with warm soapy water. The problem might be that I only wash my clothes in cold water.

Although the appeal of all-natural ingredients is a plus and the product definitely works with no experienced chafing, the tingly mint, the need to wash the product off my hands after application, and the oil transfer to my running clothes are deal breakers for me.

The company has informed me that they are working on producing an Anti-Chafe Balm in stick format that will be available later this year. I believe the oil transfer to clothes and leftover product on my hands issues will be alleviated with this new format.

The Anti-Chafe Balm is priced at $15.99 USD for 4 fl oz/120 ml.

Fore more information about Rocket Pure or to order either of these all-natural body care products, you can check out their website at RocketPure.com.

** For a 10% discount on Rocket Pure products, you can use the coupon code “NatRunnr” on either www.Amazon.com or www.RocketPure.com. **

Lems Shoes Boulder Boot Review

One of the best minimalist products reviewed to date
The Lems Shoes Boulder Boot is a just-above-the-ankle boot available for both men and women. In my over four years of experience writing minimalist footwear reviews, it has not been often that I have nothing to note in the dislike department but I am stumped with the Boulder Boot. They have very quickly become one of my all-time favourite pairs of footwear and I’ve worn them quite often this season already and look forward to many seasons of comfortable, minimalist wear. If you have been looking for a fantastic fitting, cozily comfortable, wonderfully warm and water-resistant boot with great ground feel for a tremendous price, the Boulder Boot is IT!

Quick Details
Price: $115.00 USD
Width: Average to Extra Wide
Sole Thickness: 9.0 mm
Drop: 0 mm
Weight: 7 7/8 oz or 224 grams
Insole: Removable
Sizing: 36–48; Full sizes only; See Lems Size Chart for Sizing
Category: Minimalist Boot

Comfort & Fit
Everything about the Boulder Boot is comfortable from the perfectly padded upper to the wonderful width of the last to the fantastic fit of the lacing system. The boot moves well with my foot and ankle without slipping in the heel or feeling sloppy in the toe box. They feel more like slippers than boots they fit so well.

I fit a size 39 in the Lems Mariner and Sweet Jane, which are both built on the same last as the Boulder Boot, but I chose a size 40 in this product for extra sock room in colder temperatures. The lacing system easily accommodates thin or thick socks without ever feeling loose or too snug.

The Lems 3.0 moisture-wicking insole is removable for extra boot volume but provides a nice thin cushion for the feet as well as additional insulation from freezing ground temperatures.

Barefoot Feel & Function
The LemsRubber™ outsole is fantastically flexible and provides more than enough ground feel for winter conditions. With a 9.0 mm stack height, it is a bit thicker than many of the other minimalist outsoles but it is quite bendy and flexes easily over ground contours while allowing the foot to function naturally inside the boot.

The outsole has a 3.0 mm grip depth which provides sufficient traction for snowy conditions. During this particularly cold and snowy winter, I have not felt the least bit insecure in the grip department while wearing the Boulder Boot.

Weighing in at slightly over 220 grams, these are one of the lightest minimalist products I’ve reviewed and they’re an over-the-ankle boot! Their lightweight is simply amazing.

Upper Qualities
The upper is made of water-resistant nylon with a cotton lining. Water and slush easily beads off the outside but if you step in a puddle that goes up to the laces, your feet will get wet as the water will enter at the junction with the tongue. The non-waterproofness ensures breathability within the boot which keeps sweat from chilling your feet but does limit the depth of puddles one can walk through while keeping dry feet. These boots are wonderfully warm from 0C to -20C (with an additional pair of insulating socks) but also quite comfortable for extended periods at room temperature (with just a thin pair of socks).

There is no break-in period necessary as they were instantly comfortable right out of the box.

The Boulder boot is treated with a water-resistant coating and will wear off over time. A new treatment with a spray of Scotchguard or Nikwax will restore their water-resistance.

Sole Qualities
The outsole is a zero drop, 9.0 mm Lems injection rubber with a 3.0 mm grip depth. They are extremely flexible for this thickness allowing for good ground feel. The last is designed with no arch support at all. The lateral heel features a tougher rubber for enhanced durability in this high-wear area.

Overall Quality
The quality of both the materials and manufacturing is excellent and there are no flaws in the review pair. After many walks in crusty snow, the only sign of wear is that the nylon material along the seam along the top of the boot is just starting to fray. Considering the extreme abrasiveness of this type of use, I can understand this type of wear and am confident that most people will not encounter it in any other season and only if you live in a climate where winter snow crusts significantly.

Style
I adore the styling of the Boulder Boot: functional yet ruggedly fashionable. In fact, they received a completely unsolicited compliment from a friend at a recent outing. They are perfectly suited for a pair of jeans or leggings. They are currently available in black, grey, or brown.

Uses
These boots are the perfect walking companion whether it be around town or around the mountains. They are also comfortable enough for extended standing as I tested them for five continuous hours of standing at a local exhibition. My feet were only the slightest bit tired at the end and perfectly comfortable the entire time.

Value
At $115.00 USD they are priced at the mid-range of minimalist footwear and the ultra-low range of minimalist boots. Considering how comfortable and versatile these are, they are an incredible value!

Summary
Lems Shoes has a colossally winning product with their Boulder Boot. They are amazingly comfortable, fit fantastically, and have great ground feel. They are both water-resistant and breathable allowing them to be useful for a variety of conditions from indoor standing to hiking in extremely cold winter temperatures. And they’re available in three colours! They very quickly became one of my favourite minimalist products of all-time.

For more information about the Boulder Boot, you can check out the Lems Shoes website.