FitBit Charge HR – Worth The Price?

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

The FitBit. I’ve wanted to try out one of these since they first came out on the market a few years back, but let’s be honest, they seem like very expensive pedometers, right? As luck would have it, I recently got the chance to try out a FitBit Charge HR free of charge, and see if they’re truly worth the money that could otherwise be spent on race entries and minimal shoes.

Initial Impressions

Before even trying it on, I had to admit that this is an attractive bit of kit. I really love the minimal styling of the FitBit Charge HR, and can understand why this particular model seems to be the current most popular style.

I couldn’t help trying it on before charging it up, and with a nice wide band, and plenty of notches, it was easy to adjust and very comfortable on my wrist.

I even liked the colour tone on the device. I was given the blue band, but there are five colours to choose from (black, plum, blue, tangerine and teal).

Actually setting up the FitBit was pretty straight-forward. I simply plugged it in and followed the instructions to download the client software to my computer (via a web link), and to my Android smartphone (via the Google Play store).

I left it to charge while the software installed and let it get fully charged before giving it the initial obligatory run-in-place test.

To my chagrin, none of my steps were being counted initially and my heart rate was in the mid hundreds. Sure I haven’t been exercising much recently, but that seemed like a very high resting heart rate. In retrospect, this issue may have been related to my device being a testing sample, and was likely refurbished or at least tried and returned at some point.

Others that I have spoken to had no such issues and their FitBit Charge HR just worked.

I admit it was a bit disappointing to have issues right out of the box, but at the same time it gave me an opportunity to test out the FitBit help resources. A quick Google search led me to the FitBit help pages, which are pretty comprehensive and very helpful. Within minutes I had learned how to reset my device, and my problems were resolved.

Features

For such a small, and minimally styled device, the FitBit Charge HR packs quite a lot of features into a small package:

Heart Rate Monitor

The heart rate monitor is arguably the most high-tech feature on the Charge HR. It uses LED lights on the bottom of the device to track changes in the blood flow in the veins of your wrist. I was expecting it to need to be worn on the underside of my wrist, however it works fine in the regular watch position.

The FitBit lets you check your heart rate via a menu option accessed by the small button on the side of the display. I’m not sure why, but my heart rate usually appears elevated when I try to view it this way, though the recorded stats, viewable via the FitBit site or mobile app, seem about right. This is a bit annoying, and I wouldn’t use the device as a dedicated HR monitor because of it. I do find the historical tracking interesting though.

Other users have reported the same issue, so it may be fixed in a later update. Many users, however, report no such problems, so YMMV. Post your experiences in the comments section as I’d love to know if any of you have a similar issue.

Pedometer

The core function of all FitBits is the built-in accelerometer that is used primarily as a smart pedometer. The Charge HR is no different, and it does a great job. Like any off-the shelf pedometer, the device can count your steps as you walk around or engage in exercise. What makes the FitBit different is that it can work out when you’re driving or riding in an elevator, and stop recording your steps appropriately.

Of course, the pedometer isn’t foolproof and there will be times when it doesn’t record, or over-records your steps. Try to keep the air-drumming to a minimum though, and the differences should just about average out.

There is a default 10,000 steps goal programmed into the device which causes the device to vibrate and alert you that you’ve reached the goal. The amount of steps can be changed via the settings panel.

Sleep tracking

Sleep tracking is the killer app that you didn’t know you were missing. The data received from your device is compiled onto your FitBit account, where funky algorithms are applied, and the quality of your sleep is assessed.

It shows the duration of your sleep, periods of restfulness, and periods of wakefulness, measured based on the movements of your arm and what, if any, major movements or steps you’ve taken during the sleeping period.

As a parent with 2 sleep deprivation-inducing kids, I’ve found tracking this a morbidly fascinating experience.

From what I can tell, it’s pretty accurate, though it only records sleeps of more than an hour – power nappers and polyphasic sleepers, you have been warned.

Stairs

On top of the built-in accelerometer, the Charge HR also has an altimeter, allowing it to measure distance travelled vertically. Like the pedometer, it has built-in smarts to avoid recording elevator or plane trips.

Clock

I know, right, a watch with a clock in it – how novel. Actually the only reason I mention it here is that the FitBit Charge HR has a neat feature whereby it turns off the display when you’re not looking at it. To activate it, just lift your wrist and turn the watch face towards you, and it lights up , showing you the time (or one of the other metrics if you choose to change the defaults via the FitBit site).

It’s a cool, futuristic-feeling feature that I like, though there have been many phantom wrist-lifts where it didn’t turn on, requiring a press of the button to light it up, or else a repeated arm movement (a sure-fire way to spot another FitBit user by the way!)

Calculated metrics

All of your stats are compiled instantly as your device is synced with your FitBit account via the included WiFi dongle, or bluetooth-enable device. A couple of these are also calculated and shown directly on the device.

These include Calories Burned, and Distance travelled. Calories Burned is calculated based on your basal metabolic rate using your provided height and weight, and factors in periods of activity and rest. It’s hard to say how accurate it is, though FitBit insists that it’s very accurate.

Distance travelled is also calculated based on your height and activity, though is not as accurate as a GPS would be, and as a barefoot runner with a short stride, I’ve found it pretty unreliable.

Field Testing

The FitBit Charge HR is designed to be worn as often as possible, during the waking and sleeping hours. It has a great battery life, allowing it to function continuously for several days.

I’ve found that taking it off and charging when showering (it’s not waterproof), gives it enough of a boost to keep it fully charged without losing too many tracked steps.

And that’s my next point. Wearing a FitBit really focuses you onto the number of steps per day you’re taking. I’ve never really given it much thought before, but now I find myself pacing, or taking the longer route home, or looking forward to forgetting something.

It’s a really strange and subtle change, but does make an impact. I’ve struggled for years to get back into a regular training routine. Being focused on steps has encouraged me to move more, which has in turn helped with setting up a training schedule.

With regards to accuracy, the FitBit pretty much behaves as you would expect. Steps counted seems reasonably accurate, barring jarring hand movements, etc.

As described above, the heart rate monitor seems accurate on the app, but not on the device. I suspect that there may be some extra noise filtering going on once the data gets online, which is why there is an apparent difference. I’m guessing here though, and don’t know for sure.

The sleep tracking has been a lot of fun to look at. It’s really fascinating to see just how well/poorly you slept, and how that is affected by external factors, such as late nights, big runs, alcohol, or kids. It’s one of my favourite features, and I hope they expand this metric in future iterations.

Another cool feature that I hadn’t realised was even on there until a spoke with a friend who has one is the Friends list. This lets you create a community of FitBit wearing friends, allowing you to compare steps taken (basic default), or else challenging each other to various missions involving activity within specified timeframes. It’s surprisingly motivating if you have competitive friends.

Conclusions

I’ve been using my FitBit Charge HR for a month now, and am honestly quite surprised at the results. Since week 1, I’ve increased my weekly mileage significantly, am sleeping longer, and am now consistently taking over 10,000 steps per day.

As a tracking device, it does a fair job of reporting metrics.  Sure there could be some improvements in accuracy, but in all honesty, a minor improvement in accuracy wouldn’t change how I use the device, or give me much more useful information.

I was lucky enough to receive a testing device without charge, but knowing what I know now, the price tag (be sure to look around for deals as price can vary tremendously) seems more reasonable than it did at first, and if that’s all it costs to encourage me off the couch and onto the trails more often, then it’s money well spent.

Where the FitBit excels is as a conduit to more exercise. Its very presence encourages you to move more and pay more attention to your habits. I’m really looking forward to the next generations of these devices, to allow tracking of weight, food intake, etc. If they can do for those areas what they’ve done for movement, FitBit will be unstoppable.

Beginning barefoot would like to thank the fine folks at FitBit Australia for providing a device for testing. Have a look on Amazon.com or at a local retailer to try one of their devices out.

Review: Xero Shoes Takes On The Mainstream With The Amuri Z-Trek

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

AmuriZTrek
Since appearing on the show Shark Tank 2 years ago, Xero Shoes have been working hard to bring their unique sandals to a larger, more mainstream audience. They came out running, with the launch of not one, but 2 new huarache-style sandals – the Amuri Venture and Amuri Cloud. These represented a major departure from their original, simple designs, and were heartily embraced by the mainstream and barefoot running communities.

Now in 2015, on the back of increasing success, the pressure has been on to come up with more new and innovative designs, and this they have done with their latest offering, the Amuri Z-Trek Sport Sandal.

Overview

Unlike all of their previous models, the Z-T2015-08-22 14.23.05rek has a more mainstream-recognisable, postless sandal style. This departure from the huarache style is a big surprise, and has opened up the market to include those of us who don’t like the rubbing and chafing often caused by sandals that split the toes.

Not ones to simply copy existing footwear, Xero Shoes have done some significant tinkering with the Z-Trek, that sets it apart from other, similar sandals.

2015-08-22 14.22.56The first difference is the near weightlessness of the Z-Trek. Unlike the thick slab of rubber featuring in most postless sandals, the Z-Trek has a sole that is just 5.5mm thick. Going this thin is something that most manufacturers have avoided as it has the tendency to increase ‘sandal slap’, and make the shoes clumsy to wear.

This is where the second feature of the Z-Trek comes into play. One look at the strapping system and it’s clear that a lot of thought and effort has gone into it. In practice, the clever use of fixed and adjustable straps significantly reduces slapping, and helps maintain the sandal’s shape when running or walking.

2015-08-22 14.23.28-1Unlike with their huarache style sandals, the Z-Trek has a custom shaped sole, which allows the straps to be threaded in without contacting the ground. This makes for a nice, clean interface between the straps and the sole, which reduces wear and is aesthetically pleasing.

There are 2 straps that form the upper of the sandal, which are permanently stitched to the sole. A sturdy plastic buckle and Velcro heel strap, however, allow for a surprisingly large ability to tighten and adjust them so that they fit just right.

Though the adjustment of the straps can take a little bit of time initially, once they have been correctly fitted, the sandals are extremely easy to take on and off, by either pushing down the heel strap, or using the quick release feature of the main buckle.

Performance

2015-08-22 14.22.37In terms of performance, the Amuri Z-Trek fits roughly in between the Venture and Cloud. They are rugged enough for trail work, but comfy enough for day-to-day walking.

On the trails, the Z-Treks fare quite well. The chevron grip system allows for solid foot placement when running on flats and uphill, and the reverse pattern on the heel does a surprisingly good job of helping stability on the downhills.

The heel cup has a slight tendency to collect a small amount of debris on the trail, which can require the odd shake or a quick finger scrape to clear out. At first I questioned whether it was needed or not, but it does seem to add to the structural integrity of the sole, and I suspect that this was why it was added.

As with the other Xero Shoes sandals, a lot of the performance and comfort gains of the shoes are gleaned when correctly adjusting the straps. This can take a few goes, and some adjustments are needed when conditions change, especially in the wet. Fortunately, this is relatively easy to do, and once done, the solid strapping system doesn’t slip and loosen, even when running.

Conclusion

The Amuri Z-Trek is a very strong effort for a first attempt at a postless sandal. There has been a lot of thought put into the design and appearance of the sandals, and they seem to have a good chance of getting picked up by more mainstream shoppers.

I look forward to seeing how these sandals evolve over time, as there is still a little wiggle-room in terms of ease of adjustment, and possibly with initial fitting. I’d really love to see more Xero Shoes in the shops where these hurdles could be easily overcome by retail staff.

Under The Lems: We Review The Primal2

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

lems-logoIt’s been a while since we did a shoe review. Mainly this is because, by and large we’d seen them all up to this point: sandals, boots, running shoes, trail shoes, and even earthing sandals.

But the one type of shoe we haven’t really explored in depth is simple casual walking shoes. One of the main reasons for this was that of the few that I had tried, nothing really called out to me. I tend to avoid doing reviews of shoes that I don’t like, since it’s far more fun to test out the good ones.

2015-06-13 11.59.10Well, I’ve finally found the good ones – Lems’ Primal 2!

The Primal2 is a lovely, lightweight, flexible walking shoe with a comfortable foot-shaped sole. It’s not waterproof, but has a great breathable upper, which allows you to wear them all day without getting sweaty, uncomfortable feet.

primal2-rolled

Construction

The Primal 2 features an 8mm, air-injected rubber outsole, which is at the same time lightweight and durable, and comes in various colours depending on the style you choose. Despite it’s durable feeling, it is also highly flexible.
Primal2_4The soles include thin 1mm insoles, which are just simple fabric boards, and an optional 3mm removable footbed which adds a nice level of comfort. I normally toss the removable ones, but in this case they really seem to add to the comfort of the shoe, which I’ve been really enjoying.

So with a total drop of 9mm (or 12mm with footbed), these shoes come in at the higher end of the minimal scale, but it has been put to good use, with the extra height really adding to the sense of quality construction that the Primal2 convey without taking away the minimalist feel of the shoe.

2015-06-13 11.58.28Above the soles, there is a microfiber/open weave upper, which again, is lightweight and airy. The mesh construction allows plenty of air to circulate the foot, and with a properly designed toe box, this makes the shoes comfortable to wear in the warmest of conditions.

In all the reviews I’ve done over the years, I don’t remember ever mentioning a shoe’s tongue. They generally go without being noticed, but on the Primal2, they are padded and nicely fitted, which really lends the shoes a comfortable, slipper-like feel.

The only thing I can nitpick on the construction side of things with the Primal2 is the lacing. I’ve found them just a bit too short, and prone to coming undone. After a couple of weeks, I’ve just ended up tying the ends together in a knot and leaving the lacing loose to allow me to take them on and off easily. Surprisingly, this hasn’t caused any extra foot movement and, with them being tied like this when the arrived in the box, I wonder if this is the ‘correct’ way to wear them anyways.

Performance

2015-06-13 11.58.25My Primal2’s have come at the perfect time, with winter creeping up slowly here in Australia. I wouldn’t call them winter shoes necessarily, but they have been welcome on my poor cold soles on those early morning runs to the mailbox to get the newspaper.

I’m actually surprised at how much I’ve been wearing them. I usually will kick any shoes off at the door if I’m wearing them to the shops, etc, but with the Lems, I’m finding myself wearing them nearly all day long. I think this is due to a combination of their light weight, great airflow, and comfortable fit.

All in all, I’m really impressed with the quality and thought that have gone into the Primal2. They have definitely taken up residence on my usually bare feet, and I expect them to stay there for some time yet. I’m looking forward to seeing how they fare in the long run, but I have high hopes.

 

How about you? Have you tried out Lems shoes before? What did you think? Wed love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

 

Beginning barefoot would like to thank Lems shoes for providing shoes for testing purposes. If you liked this review, please show your support to them by purchasing a pair from their website, or following them on Twitter (@LemsShoes), or Facebook.

Review – Shamma Mountain Goats

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

ShammaLogoCompetition in the running sandal arena is steadily becoming more intense, with a lot of new companies coming on board with offerings ranging from the ultra thin to the ultra comfortable.

Some companies, however are pushing to the head of the pack with shoes that bring the best of all features together to create incredible footwear. One of these companies is Shamma Sandals.
Shamma3One of the many companies that sprung up in the post Born To Run craze, Shamma has been steadily adding to its range of comfortable sandals, slowly eating into the trail running area, held for several years by Luna.

With their latest offering, The Mountain Goat, Shamma have moved to take even more ground by delving feet first into the lucrative hiking and trail running market.

Construction

The Mountain Goats are sturdily built, featuring an 11m thick Vibram sole. This can be topped with either, black goatskin, yellow sheep skin, or for a saving of about 1mm, no top at all. For a sole that’s on the thick side, these sandals are surprisingly light at ~170g (6oz).

Shamma2

Strapped to the ample footbed is the remarkable Shamma lacing system. It comprises one continuous strap, huarache-style. Where it differs from other strapping systems out there is the placement of the buckles, the lack of a toe-post (a good thing IMO), and the super-comfortable leather heel strap.

Shamma4The shoes arrive effectively untied, so that you can lace to fit your foot comfortably. I really like this approach, but was a little surprised at how tricky the initial setup was. I won’t deny that I had to have a few looks at the lacing instructions (check out the Shamma lacing page here if you need help) before I got it right. In the end though, I found myself literally sighing at the comfort of the fit, and lack of any irritating rubbing.

Performance

The Mountain Goats use a fairly common aggressive tread, which can be seen on several other Vibram-soled sandals. It’s a really grippy design that holds well on the trails. Past experience with this tread have shown that they do wear down pretty quickly if used on the roads, however this can be mitigated by keeping them as dedicated trail shoes.

Shamma5My first trail run in my new Mountain Goats ended up being a wet one, and I’m happy to report that they performed admirably. Leaving them to dry in a sunny spot afterwards left them in pristine condition, with no bad smells (another big plus for a minimal shoe!).

The lacing system held up well under running conditions, with only one minor adjustment being needed to tighten them up a bit at the beginning of the run. Once they were dialed in, however, the lacing held its position well, and kept my foot firmly planted on the footbed. So far I haven’t had any blisters, most notably on my heel, which was nicely protected by the leather heel strap.

Impressions

Overall, I’m very pleased with my new Mountain Goats and with summer coming on, am extremely happy to have a new go-to trail shoe. I’m finding myself wearing them around town a fair bit, which is taking a bit of a toll on the tread, but that’s my own fault, since I know better. I’m really looking forward to doing some long runs in them, as I think they will work well as a long distance trail shoe.

Ultimately I think that if you’re in the market for a nice set of trail running sandals, you could do a lot worse than to invest in a pair of Shammas.

Have you tried Shammas before? What were your impressions? Let us know in the comments!
Beginning Barefoot would like to thanks Shamma Sandals for providing sample shoes for testing. if you’re interested in purchasing a pair of your own, please visit their website (shammasandals.com), and don’f forget to follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

Review: Xero Shoes Amuri Cloud vs Amuri Venture

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

XeroShoesLogoMinimal shoes have come a long way since the publication of the now famous (or infamous) book Born to Run. They are now available in most mainstream shoe stores, and come in a huge variety of shapes, styles, weights and designs.

Despite the huge selection of shoes available, there are precious few that combine function, style, and a low price tag. With their new line of premium huarache-style sandals, Xero Shoes are aiming for the trifecta.

Xero Shoes was one of the first companies to capitalise on the barefoot/minimalist running boom, and their experience in this niche industry has been put to good use. Their first shoes were very simple huarache sandals that could be assembled at home. The latest offerings come ready-assembled and include several new features that vastly improve their looks and performance.

Cloud vs Venture

The first of the new sandals, now called the Amuri Venture (formerly the Sensori Venture), in many ways resembles the original shoes. It is made of durable FeelTrue rubber soles and nylon cords, however, they now also sport a nicely shaped heel cup, a flexible toe post, a well designed lacing system, and improved anchoring on the sides.

The second is the Amuri Cloud, a new offering from Xero Shoes. It is essentially the same shoe as the Venture, with the exception that the sole is scooped out and a 3mm BareFoam pad has been inserted. This small amount of cushioning is intended to provide added comfort, while keeping the sole thin and light.

Before discussing how the shoes performed, let’s take a look at some of the features that make the new Xero Shoes sandals unique.

Features

Venture1The Amuri Cloud and Venture have many features in common:

1. New Lacing System
2. Toe Post
3. Ankle Mounting Points
4. Silicone Heel Pad
5. A variety of colours

 

Apart from this, the two models differ in several key ways:

Amuri Cloud:Cloud2
1. Uses a 3mm BareFoam insert, inset into the 6mm FeelTrue rubber soles
– Improved Comfort
– Reduces Weight
– Increased Flexibility

Venture:Venture2
1. 5mm FeelTrue sole
2. Better ground transmission
3. Available in camouflage

Performance

As you can see, both shoes sport very similar specs, however performance-wise, the small differences make these sandals feel like totally different animals.

Amuri Cloud:

The first thing I noticed when slipping on my Amuri Clouds was that for the first time ever, I was wearing sandals that felt comfortable! Believe me, this came as a real shock, as I wear sandals nearly every day, and hadn’t realised I was in any way uncomfortable before.

Cloud3

The layer of BareFoam on the forefoot section of the shoes may be thin, but it really is all you need to take the edges off gravel and give you the sensation of walking on a cloud (see what I did there?).

I found that prolonged walking in the Clouds was very comfortable, and not a problem at all. I did experience a bit of rubbing initially on the polyurethane toe post, however after a day or two, I completely stopped noticing it.

Normally in sandals, my feet do tend to get a bit tired after several hours. With the Clouds, however, this was not a problem, and I’ve spent many hours in them without the slightest soreness on my soles.

Running in the Amuri Clouds, while still a pleasant experience, was for me less enjoyable than I had hoped. One thing I love about running in sandals is that the (usually) hard rubber underfoot transmits sensations from the ground fairly effectively.

Adding the foam layer dulls this sensation a bit, which I’ve found a bit off-putting. I had assumed that with less rubber underfoot, that the groundfeel would be more pronounced, but the BareFoam does a surprisingly good job of smoothing out the ride. For experienced barefooters, this may not be ideal, but for those transitioning, or looking for a more comfortable experience, this is a real plus.

I also found that with the thinner rubber underfoot, there was a slightly higher tendency for flapping. I needed to make sure that I tightened my lacing a bit before running to minimise this. With slightly tighter lacing, it was no longer a problem.

On this point, I have to commend the Xero Shoes team for putting together a clever lacing system. It’s very easy to tweak and fine-tune, and switching from walking to running modes on the Clouds is fairly trivial.

Amuri Venture:

Venture3Trying on the Ventures after wearing the Clouds for a couple weeks felt like strapping a pair of planks to my feet. The rubber feels so much harder. This is definitely not a bad thing, however, as the thicker, harder feeling rubber give the sandals a much more solid feel.

I found the Ventures to be a big improvement over the older-style Connect series. The new lacing systems, as mentioned above, is excellent and well thought-out.

I use a slip-on/slip-off tying method for my Connect sandals, which causes my heel to be a little more free-moving than with traditional huarache tying. The addition of a heel scoop to the Ventures allows for a slip-on tying method without the heel movement. A big improvement in my books.

Walking in the Ventures is fine, with the sandals staying comfortably on my feet. They are nice and thin, which allows for good ground feel, but when walking, I found that the Clouds were far superior.

Where the Ventures come into their own is with running. I strapped these on, and just wanted to keep running and running. They have a brilliant combination of thin, yet rigid rubber, which is somehow still flexible enough to allow excellent foot movement. The lacing system is solid and flexible at the same time, allowing me to tweak the fit slightly to sit right on my uneven feet.

On top of all this, they of course have all the features tha make running in sandals so much fun: they’re lightweight, airy, and inexpensive.

I normally do my sandal running in Luna Sandals, and may still do so for rougher trials, but for everyday running and light, local trails, I think it will be hard to find a sandal that will beat the Venture.

Conclusions

When the Amuri Cloud was first released, I was shown a preview where Steven Sashen, the company’s founder, said that they were to be a comfortable ‘everyday’ sandal, where the Venture would remain a solid trail sandal.

I couldn’t agree more. I’m quite happy wearing my  Clouds pretty much everywhere, and have no qualms taking them for the odd run. At the same time, when I know I’m going to head out the door and hit the trails, I’ve been looking first to my Ventures lately.

VennAll in all, I think that the new line of sandals on offer from Xero Shoes are a huge improvement over the original DIY kits (which are still awesome IMHO), and bring the company a huge step towards the mainstream. I look forward to the day that I see a pair in stores here in Australia!

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank Xero Shoes and Stepping Out Footwear for providing sandals for review. Please show your support by purchasing a pair for yourself at xeroshoes.com!

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.

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.