Friday, September 2, 2011

Barefoot Training Sandals: A first impression review

I suppose you know that you're a full-on running/shoe/barefoot running geek when your history professor drops you a newspaper article about barefoot running on your desk . . .during class.

Les Waddell is a local chiropractor who has been running for quite some time.  Obviously an advocate for the minimal style, he decided to create a sandal that would allow for the proper transition, without the risk of splitting your foot open on a rock.  Let's face it, Vibrams aren't for everyone.  This sandal is designed to fill that gap.  So I headed over to Doc's place to check it out and give it a test-drive.

For anyone remotely interested in barefoot running, Born to Run has become mandatory reading and a meaningful part of the book is the discussion of the huarache running sandal worn by the Tahuramara.  This sandal is designed in a similar vein but without the potential annoyance of the string in-between the first and second toe.

Essentially, what we have here is a running specific "Teva" sandal.  Overall the construction is pretty simple.  A Vibram sole for durability, a half-inch of semi-hard foam, and a thin layer of leather or faux leather (which is the part that contacts your feet).  The idea is that the sole provides a small amount of cushioning but compresses over time to the point where it keeps up with your movement "downward" towards less shoe.

I like this philosophy.

The challenge of barefoot running and the misnomer of "transitioning", is that it's very difficult to slowly scale down to nothing on your feet.  In order to truly get the muscle memory into your feet, there is simply no substitute for getting out there and doing it.  And by "it" I mean straight up taking off your shoes.  The issue is that it's not always feasible and something like the Vibrams gives you very little margin for error.

The sandal compresses over time, giving you an adjustment period.  You still need to take it easy of course, and Doc Waddell totally understands this.  Which is why his shoe is built this way.

For those of you wondering (like I did) whether or not there are friction points, I can tell you that from my short run in them, it seems evident that if they are fitted properly, you won't have an issue.  (That being said, I haven't pounded them for a 20 mile run either.)  The upper strap is resting on a thin piece of neoprene while the rest of the straps are a very pliable and comfy nylon webbing.  They felt secure and stable, and honestly, downright enjoyable.  I could easily sport these all day (and for those that care about such things, you could wear them without a second look from your spouse).

According to Doc, you can get 800 miles out of a pair too.  I believe it given the durability of the sole, but I haven't run in them long enough to verify that.

In sum, these things are pretty cool and I hope to pick up a pair at some point.  The Jackalope Running shoe budget is in a rebuilding phase right now and I'm afraid if I add one more pair to the rotation, Mrs. Jackalope is going to making clandestine runs to the Goodwill store.  If you're looking to "transition" downward, and need a shoe to do it, these might be just the ticket.

For what it's worth:  No I wasn't paid for the advertisement, I wasn't given a pair, and I don't know Doc outside of our 30 minute conversation.  Though I do think he's pretty cool.

By Marcus with 4 comments


Thanks Jackalope! Nice review. When you came back from the run with a big smile on your face I knew you liked them!

Whoops! I put a bad link on my name above... try this one:

Do they only come with the purple strap? Because I don't want to look like I'm running in the gay pride parade when I'm doing my nightly run.

No, he has a nice shiny Golden Lemay strap too.

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