Xeroshoes Amuri Cloud Launches Today

Well, today’s the day!

As many of you who follow my Twitter and/or Facebook accounts may already know, Xeroshoes have been hinting at the release of a brand new shoe. After much speculation, it’s finally been released, and is on sale now.

It’s called the Amuri Cloud, and is a thinner, lighter, prettier version of the Sensori Venture (now renamed as the ‘Amuri’ Venture).

Have a look at the launch video and tell me these don’t look fantastic:

I can’t wait to review them! (shoes are on their way, so watch this space)

In the meantime, if you’re quick, you can grab a pair at 20% off by following this link

Just a heads-up: Beginning Barefoot is a Xeroshoes affiliate, but we’d still link to these shoes even if we weren’t! Don’t worry, it won’t cost you any more, and buy via our site helps keep the great barefoot running articles coming!

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Ankle Mobility And The Floppy Foot Cooldown

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

I’ve been seeing a lot of chatter in the barefoot underground lately about ankle mobility. It may be one aspect of your running that you have not spent much time thinking about, but in truth, it’s something well worth paying attention to. This is especially true for barefooters.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned in the past, when we trade in our sneakers for bare feet, it transfers some of the impact created during running to other parts of our legs, especially the ankles and knees. Having nice, deep bent knees can help absorb this impact, and make for a smooth ride. When we bend our knees, naturally our ankles bend as well, to take their share of the strain.

What can happen, however, especially on longer runs, is that we run the danger of keeping our feet in a dorsiflexed (toes up, making an acute angle of our feet and leg) position for a long time. Habitually running this way can cause your ankles to tighten up, which will reduce their mobility and ability to respond to impact. This in turn can lead to all sorts of problems down the track. (I’m not a doctor or physio, but I have been affected by this in the past, so I’m speaking from personal experience. If you are experiencing pain that worries you, contact your doctor).

With a little bit of management, this condition can be easily avoided and needn’t stop you from enjoying nice, long, barefoot runs. The fix is something I call the Floppy Foot Cooldown (yes, I did just make that name up).

Basically what it involves is, once you’re finished your run, slow down to a walk. Now, as you’re walking, point the toes on one foot downwards, and give your foott a flick. The motion is something like flipping over a toy car with the top of your foot.

While you’re doing this, consciously relax your ankles, and try to feel the stretch where your foot meets the front your ankle. Keep doing this every step for about 100-200m and by the time you’re done, your ankles should be feeling nice and loose.

And that’s it! If you’re already cooling down after your runs, this is a simple little thing to add to it. If you’re not doing a cooldown walk, I strongly encourage you to do so, as it will help with all manner of ailments.

So how about you? Got any neat tricks that you do to stay fit and flexible? Any cooldown hacks that you want to share? Let us know in the comments, or post to our Facebook wall, or send me a Tweet!

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What Ever Happened to Invisible Shoes?

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

Invisible ShoesjpgOne of my first ever shoe reviews on this site was for the ultra-minimal running sandal “Invisible Shoes“. Back in the day, this start-up was trying to change the world, one shoe at a time, by selling DIY sandal kits with incredibly thin soles. What ever happened to these guys?

A Brief History

Back in 2009, sprinter Steven Sashen and his wife Lena had the crazy idea of bringing a high-tech version of the centuries-old running sandal, the huarache, to market. Steven had become a recent barefoot convert, and was looking for a way to help people find out about and begin to enjoy it as well. Having heard about the Tarahumara in Mexico, and their amazing sandals, made of old tyres and rope,  he found a terrific vehicle to do this.

Xero-Shoes - Promo

Not long afterwards, with a lot of R&D, and testing, the Invisible Shoe was born. It featured a simple nylon rope tying system atop a very thin, very flexible, and very durable Vibram sole. They were inexpensive, comfortable, and soon became a favourite within the barefoot running community. One of the big reasons for their popularity was the availability of a DIY kit that let you build your own shoes for a few bucks (you can still get them!)

XeroShoesLogo

Fast-forward a couple years, and Invisible Shoes took a major step forward. Due to the ever-growing popularity of the DIY huaraches, Invisible Shoe as a company decided to expand. They changed their name to Xero Shoes and began to update their existing line and launch new products, such as coloured soles and accessories. This culminated in the February 2013 appearance of Steven and Lena on the television series The Shark Tank.

Though they didn’t get the funding they were after, the exposure from appearing on the show was a turning point for the company. It wasn’t long before they announced a new product, the Sensori Venture, which has turned this small company into an up-and-coming competitor of even the big shoe companies.

So Why Am I Telling You This?

The minimal shoe revolution, which has in many ways boosted the barefoot running revolution, was largely started as a backlash to shoe companies selling us over-engineered, over-priced shoes. The original idea was to go back to basics and wear less shoe, allowing your feet to move as they were designed.

There are some incredible new shoes on the market, and I’ve reviewed many of them, but on average, these shoes are over a hundred dollars a pair, and here in Australia, finding a decent pair for less than $200 is getting harder and harder.

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Xero Shoes, in contrast, have always done the right thing by barefooters. Of the truly viable and durable minimal shoes out there, theirs are by far the cheapest, with their priciest shoes coming in at less than $40! I still run in my original 4mm Connects that I paid $20 for 2 years ago.

On top of this, Xero Shoes have always been big supporters of the barefoot running community. This year, they’ll be sponsoring the Barefoot Runners Society’s International Barefoot Running Day (May 4th, 2014).

Full Disclosure

Invisible Shoes/Xero Shoes have been a favourite of Beginning Barefoot since the beginning. Steven was the first prominent barefooter I ever interviewed, and we have collaborated several times in the past with giveaways and contests.

We have been a part of their affiliate program for years, and yes, we do get a small commission on sales referred from this site. Despite this, I still think that Xero Shoes are the perfect first shoe for anyone interested in trying minimal shoes/running sandals out for the first time. Our affiliate status is merely a reflection of this.

More To Come

Xero Shoes is an exciting, young company that is doing great things for barefoot/minimal running. We’ll be reviewing many of their products in detail this year, so if you’re interested in finding out more about Xero Shoes, be sure to click the follow button, or find us on Facebook and Twitter!

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The Embarassing State Of Barefoot/Minimal Running

By Barefoot Dawsy

I’ve been running barefoot now for four years, and blogging about it for two. I admit that I started out, alongside many others, after reading the now famous book ‘Born To Run’.

At that time, the barefoot running resurgence was just starting out, amid criticism of the large shoe companies. The majority of this criticism was centred on the question of whether or not they were misleading the public as to the safety that their shoes provided.

There was an interesting study that came out of Newcastle University[1], in Australia, which basically stated that despite a huge and time-consuming search, there was no evidence that the pronation and motion control features of modern running shoes had any benefit at all.

This questioning of a hitherto nearly universally accepted truth was one of the fundamental drivers for the barefoot/minimal revolution, which saw the exponential rise of the minimal shoe, and the unprecedented uptake of barefoot/minimal running.

Here was our chance. There was a vacuum of useful, relevant data and proper studies, which was damning in its absence. The shoe companies were lying to us, and we were all being played for fools.

I, like many others, embraced the new style of running, and waited impatiently for the inevitable mountain of studies and evidence demonstrating the superiority of barefoot running.

It never came.

In fact, just recently a new study did come out[2], and it was woefully reminiscent of the Newcastle study. This one, however, tells the story of a lack of evidence that barefoot running has any benefits at all. It points to the few studies that exist, most (all?) of which are poorly crafted, and even unscientific.

Barefoot had a chance to become something more than a fad, and become the next big thing in running. Instead, its legacy is more overpriced shoes with questionable usefulness in injury prevention.

So, what do we do now? We can’t sit back and hope that somebody, somewhere manages to get the funding together to put together a clever, well-crafted study. Or hope that someone publishes one that proves conclusively, one way or the other, which style is better. 

What we can do is to take responsibility for our own testing and assessment of whichever style of shoe, or lack thereof that, we choose. We need to stop looking to major corporations to hand us the magic pill that will stop us getting injured. We need to take the time to learn how our own bodies want to move, and what style of running feels right, whether shod or unshod.

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions in running. Each of us has slightly different styles, preferences, pain thresholds, etc, so it’s on us as individuals to intelligently weigh up the options and make the best choice for ourselves.

What brought you to try barefoot running? Have you got any views on how the scientific community or running shoe industry are handling things? Let us know in the comments!


[1] C E Richards, P J Magin and R Callister. 2008. Is your prescription of distance running shoes evidence-based?, Br J Sports Med 2009 43: 159-162 originally published online April 18, 2008 (doi:10.1136/bjsm.2008.046680)

[2] Hall JP, Barton C, Jones PR, Morrissey D., 2013. The biomechanical differences between barefoot and shod distance running: a systematic review and preliminary meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2013 Dec;43(12):1335-53. (doi: 10.1007/s40279-013-0084-3)(Pubmed: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23996137)

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Review: Vivobarefoot Stealth

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

VivoBarefoot StealthVivobarefoot have been one of the best kept secrets in minimalist running circles since the early days. They have been very consistent in producing high quality, thin-soled, lightweight shoes, and it’s amazing that they are not more commonly seen in running shoe stores around the globe.

Vivobarefoot have produced some fantastic shoes over the past few years. I use their Gobi boots for most smart-casual engagements, and completed the 100km Oxfam Trailwalker earlier this year in a pair of Breatho Trails with nary a blister. With their latest offering, the Stealth, however, they are approaching perfection.

Vivobarefoot Sole

 

Like all Vivobarefoot shoes, the Stealth’s best feature is its puncture-resistant sole. For those of you who haven’t seen these yet, they are truly a marvel of shoe engineering. Coming it at a mere 3mm, these soles provide marvelous ground-feel, and are so flexible that they move with your foot like a second skin.

 

 

 

toeboxThe wide toe boxes that feature prominently on Vivobarefoot shoes are also present in the Stealth. Unlike many other shoes with this feature, the Stealth don’t give you the Clown Shoe appearance (you’ll know it when you see it).Instead, they look sleek and fitted, while giving your little pigges all the room they need to wiggle around in.

 

 

 

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My favourite part of these shoes, however, is without doubt the uppers. They’re made of a very fine mesh that weighs next to nothing. They aren’t waterproof, but have more than adequate airflow to dry out wet feet.

 

 

The Stealth fall into that wonderful new class of minimal shoes that are stylish, functional, and hard-wearing. I’ve had several runs in them, and each time, I’m amazed at just how well they perform.

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I’ll definitely be adding the Stealth to my usual shoe rotation, and look forward to racing in them this summer.

Beginning Barefoot would like to thanks Vivobarefoot Australia/NZ for providing sample shoes for testing. If you’re interested in tryin pair for yourself, be sure to check out one of your local retails (here’s the list), and be sure to check out their Facebook page for news and giveaways.

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Review: Merrell Vapor Glove

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

Merrell6Over the years, I’ve tried out a lot of minimalist shoes. They’ve varied wildly, from shoes made of paper, to sandals, to shoes with ‘fingers’, all the way up to shoes that are called minimal but really aren’t.

All this time, I’ve been looking for a shoe that strikes the balance between weight, comfort, style, and performance. After years of searching, I honestly think I may have found it.

Merrell2Enter the Merrell Vapor Glove.

When picked up the parcel from my front porch, I thought there was some mistake. When I lifted it up, all I could feel was the weight of the box. Surely they wouldn’t have accidentally forgot to put shoes in it, right?

I have to say, I was honestly shocked to see that there were indeed shoes in the box. When I pulled them out, it was clear why. These babies weigh next to nothing (well, 283g, actually, but they somehow feel even lighter).

Merrell12I couldn’t resist putting them on, and having a cheeky run up the block. They were comfortable too. I’ve had issues in the past with Merrells pinching a bit, and fitting a bit too tight around my forefoot, but not with these. The airy, flexible uppers were stretchy enough to give a little as my feet moved, but sturdy enough to hold their shape.

As for groundfeel, the 3.5mm sole (plus 2mm of cushion) was enough to give me a little bit of feedback, while taking the edge of the rough stuff. The soles are very flexible, and can be folded over both ways with ease.

Merrell13The next day, I took them to the next Curl Curl parkrun to take them for a spin. The course is a combination of trails, footpaths, grass fields, and gravel. It’s a great testing ground for this type of shoe. They performed immaculately, and I came home with happy feet and a smile on my face.

I suppose the only criticism I have is that they aren’t waterproof. There is always a trade-off between airiness and waterproofing, however, so this is neither unexpected, nor surprising. Maybe one day, NASA will give us some cool material to solve this problem, but until then, I’m happy to watch out for puddles.

Merrell11If you haven’t noticed already, I love these shoes. They are hands-down my favourite shoes since the Vibram SeeYa, and represent a new, more minimal, more comfortable direction for the Merrell Barefoot series. I highly recommend grabbing a pair if you see them, as you won’t be disappointed.

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank Merrell for providing us with samples for testing. If you’re interested in buying a pair of your own, check out their website or visit your local retailer.

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Review – Earth Runners Circadian

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

EarthRunners_logoA couple of weeks ago, I very excitedly opened up a package containing my first pair of Earth Runners sandals. Since hearing about Earth Runners last year, I’ve wanted to try out a pair and see if all the fuss was merited. Lucky me, got to try out a pair of the brand new Circadian sandals, which are being launched this year.

For those of you who haven’t heard of them, Earth Runners is a company that got its start hand-making sandals, using funding from Kickstarer.

They make lovely sandals that are designed with the concept of Earthing in mind. What this means is that they contain features that help you feel connected to the ground, in a similar way to how you would when walking and running completely barefoot.

Construction

Custom-molded-600x450The model that I tried out is called the Circadian, and features a thin, but tough, 6mm Vibram sole, with a tread comprised of dozens of small, circular bumps.

The strapping system is very simple, and comprises a single piece of material (nylon?) and a sturdy plastic cinch for tightening and loosening.

Joining the uppers and lowers are several metal rivets, which not only create a firm connection between the materials, but are also an integral part of the earthing experience (they are electrically conductive).

Aesthetics

circadian-sandals2I like the way these sandals look. It’s as simple as that. The durable materials give a substantial appearance to these sandals, yet they strap so nicely to the contours of your feet that they look like they truly belong there.

In a lot of ways, they remind me of Luna sandals, which are one of the most popular running sandals out there, yet they are a little bit simpler in design, which gives them a slightly more traditional look.

Performance

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in my new Cicadians now, and am pleased to report that they get more comfortable by the day. The footbed, which at first seemed a little bit stiff, has softened somewhat, but has retained its overall shape and strength.

Earth Runners have struck an excellent balance between keeping the weight of the Circadians down, while also providing ample stiffness to the sole to enable good running performance over a variety of terrains.

I’ve worn my pair on roads, footpaths, trails and fields, and so far I’m very happy with their performance.

If there is one drawback that comes to mind, it’s that when I first started wearing them, these sandals were a little bit slippery. The new rubber of the sole, and even the rivets did tend to make things a bit slippery underfoot in wet weather. The amount of slippage seems to be reducing as I rough up the soles a bit, and I hardly notice any slipping now after 3-4 weeks of wear. An interesting side-note to this is is that it has led to me improving the way that I step, to give me a more solid base.

Conclusion

All-in-all, I really enjoy the new Circadians. I love that they are produced by a small company that has cleverly used crowd-sourced funding to produce a shoe that rivals some of the major players.

I’d love to be able to go into more depth about earthing and how these shoes work in this regards, but I just haven’t got the vocabulary or familiarity with this subject to be able to discuss it properly. I’d, however, highly recommend getting in touch with Earth Runners, or checking out their website, and/or YouTube videos, as they have a wealth of knowledge in this area.

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank Earth Runners for providing shoes for testing. Please support them by visiting their website and seeing if a pair of their sandals is right for you.

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