XeroShoes Do It Again With The New Prio

They’re here, They’re finally here! 

Ever since I saw my first glimpse of the new XeroShoes Prio, I knew I had to have them. Their sleek design and barefoot pedigree made them shoes to be sought after, and now, here I sit, with the box open on my lap, and I have to say – I’m not disappointed.

I expected the Prio to be light, and they are. I expected them to be flexible, and they are. I expected them to be breathable, comfortable, and affordable. Tick, tick, tick.

What I didn’t expect was that these shoes would be so much better than the competition.

Here’s a company that has been around since the beginning of the minimalist/barefoot running movement. They started with a very basic, DIY sandal, with a sole that was designed to be lighter than a car tyre. Basically it was a slight modernisation of the Huarache sandals famously described in the barefoot running classic Born to Run.

Fast forward a little less than a decade, and this tiny operation has grown up and is now producing shoes that other companies would charge upwards of $400 for (I’m looking at you Vivobarefoot).

 

Designed by barefoot runners, for barefoot runners, the Prio is an engineering marvel. It still follows the basic design of a huarache sandal, with the strapping cradling the shoe in a familiar crisscross pattern. But within that layer of strapping is now a lightweight mesh upper, which provides comfort and protection while still allowing maximum airflow across the foot. Most minimalist shoes these days have mesh uppers, but somehow, the Prio manages to get it just right, to the point where it’s easy to forget that the mesh is even there.

The protective covering doesn’t just stop at the upper however. Underfoot, there is a soft, yet thin fabric layer, covering the wafer-thin FeelTrue rubber sole. Unlike its sister shoe, the Hana, this soft inner sole features hidden stitching, which makes them more aesthetically appealing, and much more comfortable, even without the optional insole which is included in the box.

To top it all off, the Prio features one of the nicest toe boxes on the market. It is spacious enough for a full range of motion, even for wider feet, but doesn’t have the “clown shoe” effect that many wide-box shoes have.

With all of the new features in the Prio, it’s also comforting to see many of the building blocks that make XeroShoes sandals and shoes so great. The simple, yet effective grip underfoot, and the sensible lacing system make for a shoe that can be taken anywhere – off-road or on the streets.

Performance-wise, I can’t fault these shoes. I admit, I haven’t done much running in them yet (damn you, Cyclone Debbie), but the few K’s I’ve clocked up have been very pleasant, both at running and walking pace. I was very surprised at how much of a marked difference they made in running as compared to the Hana, which until now has been my go-to walking shoe.

When running in the Prio, you can literally feel the breeze blowing across your feet, and the ground underfoot, but with the security of knowing you’re not going to come to harm by the occasional rogue thorn or sharp rock.

As you can probably tell, the Prio has done more than impress, and is hands down the best minimalist shoe I have worn to date. I’m hoping they wear out soon so that I can buy another pair!

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank XeroShoes for providing us with sample shoes for testing. to purchase your own pair, and show your support, please visit their site at xeroshoes.com

 

Sun Run Race Report and Luongo Footwear Review

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

Race Report

This past weekend saw the third running of the Dee Why to Manly “Sun Run“. This 7km course takes in some of Sydney’s most picturesque beaches as the sun rises over the water.

SunRunBibUnfortunately for myself and several thousand other racers, the ideal was a bit removed from the reality. Arriving just before dawn, we sat huddled at the start line, waiting for the sun to come up and the torrential rain to cease.

In truth, however, the rain only seemed to add to the sense of enjoyment of the assembled runners, as we slogged our way together from once headland to the next.

Photo credit: Sydney Morning Herald

Photo credit: Sydney Morning Herald

This was my first race since injuring my ankle back in October, and it was also a great opportunity to test out my pair of Luongo Footwear (more on this later). As such, I wasn’t out for any PRs, and had the chance to take it easy and enjoy the run.

To my surprise, there were several minimal shoe wearers out there. I counted 4 all up! Each was sporting a version of Vibram Five Fingers, (2 Spyridons, a Bikila and a KSO). With the Sun Run being a relatively small race, this was a surprisingly large showing, and I’m certain there were others that I didn’t get a chance to see.

I even ran into another barefooter, who I had a chance to chat with briefly. I get pretty excited when I see other barefooters at a race, and think it’s great to see that this ‘fad’ is carrying on, with new blood injected at every race.

As for the course itself, it was pretty barefoot friendly. It was run entirely on regular roads, most of which were nice and smooth. There were a few rough sections that beginners might find troublesome, but with white lines and footpaths close by, these were relatively minor annoyances.

My one gripe for the race was that there was limited information on public transport options, and a lot of the parking facilities were closed due to the hour and street closures for the race itself. I hope that this gets rectified in time for next year’s run.

I look forward to doing this race again next year – hopefully in the sun!

Luongo Footwear Review

Luongo_logoOne of the main reasons I chose to sign up for this year’s Sun Run was to get a chance to test out Luongo Footwear in race conditions. As far as I know, I’m the first person ever to review these shoes for use in racing, and want to thank the guys at Luongo for giving me the opportunity.

Before I talk about performance, I think it’s a good idea to talk a bit about the shoes.

Luongo1

Luongo Footwear are unlike any shoes I’ve worn for running before. Made from neoprene and nylon, they are incredibly light and breathable. They are snug-fitting and conform nicely to the shape of your foot.

They are up there with some of the most minimal shoes I’ve worn, to the point that, honestly at first, I thought they would simply fall apart on my feet. Luckily they have proven to be surprisingly resilient, and very comfortable.

Luongo3

I managed to get a few short training runs in the Luongos before the race, and each time, I was surprised at how well they would go. When standing around, getting ready, I found them a bit on the warm side, and was aware of my feet sweating a little. This initially had me worried about overheating when running, but once I was out on the road, the shoes really came into their own. The porous material and minimal design allow the breeze to flow through the shoes and surround your feet, which keeps them nice and cool.

When I saw the sheets of rain coming down as I set out for the race, I had second thoughts about bringing the Luongos. They’re porous shoes, and would instantly be soaked through once I stepped outside.

Instead, what happened was that the water actually helped the shoes conform to my feet. They stayed warm and comfortable, despite the frigid rain. Who’d have thought that wet  shoes could be comfortable?

Luongo2

They didn’t have the flopping feeling that a lot of really minimal shoes have, and honestly, I pretty much forgot about them for most of the time I was wearing them.

Around the halfway mark of the race, I did end up taking them off, but this was not a comment on the shoes themselves, more that I still prefer full barefoot, and love the feeling of the wet ground beneath my feet. This is one area that no shoe will be able to truly match, no matter how minimal. Of course, protection and reduced sensation are the main reasons why people wear shoes in the first place, so this isn’t really a problem.

If I had to find one negative aspect of the shoes, it would probably be their conventional toe shape. I found when running in the wet, that this pulled my toes together just a little bit. I’m really sensitive to this as I splay my toes significantly when running. Personally I’d love to see a split-toe version or a wide toebox version of this shoe down the track.

Luongo4

All in all, I really enjoyed wearing and racing in the Luongos. They were lightweight, comfortable, and most importantly, didn’t get in the way! I would recommend them for outdoor use for experienced barefoot runners, since they are so minimal, or else for inside work, such as at gyms, where bare feet may not be allowed.

It’s really exciting to see more and more interesting and innovative designs like these coming out of small companies like Luongo. If their first shoe is any indication of things to come, I think we’ll see some amazing products in the future!

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank Luongo Footwear for providing samples for testing. Visit their website or follow them on Facebook or Twitter for some great barefooting insights, or better yet, pick up a pair for yourself!

Micro-runs…A Better Way To Transition To Barefoot?

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

Arguably the hardest part of transitioning from shod to barefoot running is not the discomfort, or form changes, or any of the usual worries that new runners have. No, the hardest part is keeping your mileage low and easing into it. It is so hard to keep to a low-mileage regime, since barefoot running just feels so good and right, and makes you want to keep going!

The trouble with overdoing it is that if your body’s not used to barefoot running, you can run into some trouble, and in some cases may even get injured. There are a lot of tips and tricks out there on how to ease into it gently, but we all know that the reality is most people will just get out there and run too far too soon. It’s human nature.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and having recently recovered from a trampoline-related stress fracture, I’ve had a unique opportunity to re-transition to barefoot running from scratch. After a bit of experimentation, I think I’ve come up with the ultimate solution to the problem.

I call them Micro-runs.

Micro-runs are very short, very easy runs that you do wearing your everyday clothes. All you need to do is take off your shoes and run 50-200m. You don’t need to sprint or break any records. Just do a quick out-and-back at a leisurely pace, staying nice and relaxed, and listening to your body.

It’s that simple.

Don’t get into your workout gear, don’t worry about planning routes, and don’t worry about time or pace, or any of the usual distractions that tend to come with most running programs. Just do this once or twice every day for a few weeks, and reap the benefits.

There are several reasons why the micro-run approach is different to most other transitioning techniques, and why this makes them so much more effective while reducing the chance of injuries from doing too much too soon.

The first is that very few people feel comfortable sweating a lot in their non-workout clothes. Going out in your regular clothes will help you keep your sessions short and relaxed, which is exactly what you want to do when transitioning.

The second is that you can literally do them anywhere: on your commute home, on the way to the shops. Even on the way to the car (my favourite). Just nip up to the end of the block and back again before you head out!

Lastly, it lets you fit in more exercises than you probably otherwise would, since you don’t have the time overhead of getting your running gear together, or the pressure to stay out longer once you are fully dressed. You can even do more than one a day if your feet are up to it!

Micro-runs are a great way to supplement your existing training, and can give you a great indication of how well your feet are acclimating to being barefoot. After each run, pay attention to how your feet feel. At first they may feel a bit raw or tender. Wait for this feeling to subside before doing another micro-run.

I found that doing these, in conjunction with being barefoot at home, and elsewhere as often as possible, made the transition nearly painless and a lot more comfortable. Within a few weeks, I was ready to start running a kilometre or two a couple times per week, and have built up from there.

I’d highly recommend giving micro-runs a go if you’re new to barefoot running, or if you suspect you might be susceptible to overdoing it. I’d love to hear how you go, so if you try it, be sure to leave a comment and let me know how you’ve found it!

Happy running!

Review: Merrell Trail Glove

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

Merrell1As far as I’m concerned, 2013 is the year of trail running. Trails offer such a great opportunity to improve your technique and become a better, stronger runner.

One thing I have discovered along the way, however, is that some trails are better tackled with some footwear. Where I live, there are a lot of trails, and many of them are barefoot-friendly. However, there are certain tracks that, unless I want to pick my way slowly and painfully, I prefer to do in minimal footwear.

With this in mind, I jumped at the chance to try out a pair of Merrell’s Trail Glove.

Merrell2The Trail Glove is part of the Barefoot series of shoes that Merrell have become famous for over the past couple of years. Unlike some of the other shoes in the line however, the Trail Glove includes several features that make trail running a little bit easier on the soles, even if they do sacrifice some of the barefoot feel that the other shoes offer.

 

Looks

Merrell3One thing that I noticed straight out of the box is that these are some nice-looking shoes. They have a well-put-together appearance, and there’s no question that the design team spent a lot of time thinking about this aspect of the shoes.

Merrell4

 

 

What I really liked is that despite having a large toe box, the shoes don’t have the ‘clown shoe’ appearance of some other shoes I’ve tried out with the same feature. This is a real plus.

 

 

 

Construction

Merrell5The Trail Glove’s uppers are made of a very lightweight, breathable mesh, which is attractive and functional. It is one of my favourite features of the shoe as it is very comfortable and allows ample air to flow in and out of the shoe (a necessity when going sockless).

Merrell6The soles of these shoes are a little bit thicker, creeping in towards the 10mm mark. This is the upper end of thickness that I prefer in a shoe, but it is a huge help on the tough trails. Made by Vibram, they feature a reasonably aggressive tread, and a contoured design.

Merrell10Merrell9With the thicker sole usually comes rigidity, however these soles have been designed in such a way as to allow a fair bit of flexibility. This flexibility is mainly uni-directional however. I could lift my toes up without any trouble, though bending downwards meets a bit of resistance. For a road shoe, this is not normally a problem, however I did find it a little bit restrictive on some trails.

The shoe does not contain any insole. Instead, the interior of the shoe is seamless and very foot-friendly. This was a nice surprise, and is typically a sign of good design and construction.

Performance

We’ve had some pretty variable weather here in Sydney lately, so my poor Trail Gloves have been through a bit of everything. On the whole, I was very pleased with their performance.

Merrell7Where the Trail Glove shone, in my opinion, is wet weather. The tread pattern is medium-aggressive, and held on well, even in slick conditions. The mesh uppers allow water to flow in and out without much trouble, allowing my feet to dry out pretty well.

I found that I needed to take them off ever half hour or so to let me feet dry out a bit, but I never got any blisters from them, which is a good sign.

The wide toe box was a pleasure and went a long way to providing a comfortable ride.

Merrell8If there was one aspect of the shoe that I didn’t like, it was the sole’s built-in arch. It’s quite rigid, and I was aware of it the whole time I was running. I felt that it was a bit too long for my foot, and caused a little bit of discomfort. I’d love to see this feature removed in future versions of the shoe, as it did detract from the overall enjoyment of wearing these shoes.

That being said, I did have a good time testing these shoes out, and it’s always a big plus when a pair of minimal shoes is socially acceptable in the looks department. I’ve had several strangers comment on them, and they have been included in my ‘going-out’ pile of shoes, as well as having a place in my trail running kit.

It’s great to see high-quality minimal shoes finally start to take off in Australia, and I look forward to seeing what Merrell will be coming up with down the track.

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank Merrell for providing a pair of Trail Gloves for review. To find out more, visit the Merrell website, download the Barefoot Challenge app, and/or visit your local retailer!

Is It Time To Start Running In A Sport Kilt?

Written by BarefootDawsy

Sport KiltIf you’re like most people, then chances are you’ve never had the opportunity, nor the inclination, to run without pants on. I was in the same boat only a few short weeks ago, before the opportunity presented itself, and I was able to try it for myself.

Luckily for the general public, this came in the form of a pleated length of plaid fabric, otherwise know as a kilt! Or, in my case, a Sport Kilt.

When I first heard about kilted running, I thought that the idea was a bit
crazy. I’ve worn kilts before, and the idea of running around with a couple kilos of
heavy wool around my waist was far from appealing. But when I heard that a
US company was making lightweight, sweat-wicking kilts as activewear, I knew
I had to try one out.

The Works Sport KiltAs a barefoot runner, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m a bit different to most people. I take my running very seriously and came to barefooting as a way to improve performance and stay healthy.

It took a bit of a leap to make the transition to barefoot running, but in the end, it has been rewarding and exhilarating. I’m finding the same thing with wearing a kilt.

I live in Australia, where the summers are hot, and winter is only a mild improvement. Finding ways to stay cool is a constant challenge, especially when coupled with the need to stay protected from UV rays, etc. Sport Kilt has given me a great new tool in my arsenal to help with this.

I’ve been lucky enough to have the chance to review 2 different styles of kilt: A Hiking kilt and a ‘The Works’ kilt.

Sport Kilt - Hiking KiltThe Hiking kilt is a lightweight, athletic kilt that’s as minimal as a kilt can be. It’s essentially a piece of pleated fabric that wraps around you and is secured with thick velcro around the waist. The velcro makes it really easy to get on and off, and will come in handy when I have to let it out over the holidays!

Sport Kilt - The WorksThe Works kilt is a slightly thicker, dressier version of the hiking kilt. It has sewn-down pleats which improve the way the kilt hangs, and lend it a more fancy feel. It has lovely leather straps and metal buckles, as well as the hidden velcro fasteners, that make it look more authentic and dressy. On top of all this, it even has nice hidden pocket! I would wear my Works kilt to a wedding or formal occasion just as easily as I’d go hiking in it.

For testing, I’ve worn both, mainly for trail hiking and running, and usually in warm weather.

I found that performance-wise, the hiking kilt was much better for trail running. It’s very lightweight and super comfortable. The only real drawback I’ve found is that I’m reluctant to sit down in it, as I don’t want to get it dirty…though this makes me run more, so may not be a bad thing.

The Works Sport Kilt BucklesThe Works kilt is a more formal, yet still rugged kilt, that would be well suited to tournaments and spectator sports. I can see highland gamers wearing these, for example. As the weather cools off, I can see myself wearing my Works kilt more and more for hikes as it sits a bit nicer and is slightly heavier than the Hiking kilt.

Running in a kilt is to running in pants what running barefoot is to wearing shoes. It’s cool, and airy and makes you feel alive and in touch with the elements. I’ve yet to try it in the cold, so I can’t comment on the inverse conditions, but for the heat, it’s been a godsend.

There is a perception that wearing a kilt comes with a lot of baggage that may put you off. What if you’re not Scottish, or want to wear something underneath?

The truth is that this stuff is only an issue if you choose to make it one. If you’re Scottish and want to show off your heritage, then go for it, if not, there’s nothing stopping you from picking a pattern you like and running with it. You don’t even need to go plaid, as Sport Kilt also have a bunch of camouflage kilts too. As for what to wear underneath, that’s up to you, and regardless of what you do or don’t wear, it won’t stop people from trying to guess!

The thing is, a Sport Kilt is just like any other piece of running gear. You put it on, and go do your thing. It doesn’t matter if you want to wear compression tights underneath, or if you don’t have a family tartan. If it feels good and you like how it looks, then just wear it!

Sport Kilt Tartan Black Stewart

Altogether, I was really surprised at how well the Sport Kilts felt. They were light and airy, and did the job of keeping me cool beautifully.

Despite being made of high-tech materials, these kilts come in at a fraction of the cost of a traditional kilt (starting from ~$80). If you’re a barefoot runner, the money you’re saving on shoes would be well spent on one of these.

Will I wear it for every training run? Probably not, but it’s become one of my go-to trail running outfits, and will certainly feature prominently in future races!

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank Sport Kilt for providing sample kilts for review. If you’re interested in trying one out yourself, head over to SportKilt.com and check them out! 

All photos taken by Sam Dumworth

Product Review: The Handana

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

handanaEvery now and then a new product comes along that makes you think “why didn’t I think of that?”. Such is the case with Handana – the bandana that you wear on your hand.

Handana is the brainchild of marathon runner Katie Niemeyer. The idea came to her after making it through a battle with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a painful and potentially disfiguring condition that was brought on by a reaction to medication.

As soon as I heard Katie’s story and saw what she had created, I knew that I had to try one out!

Handanas are pretty simple in their concept, but the delivery is beautifully handled. At their most basic, a Handana is a length of material that gets wrapped around a hand. Katie’s design takes this to the next level with perfectly selected materials and high quality craftsmanship.

They are made of supplex Lycra, which makes them feel like stretchy cotton, and not surprisingly, they are excellent for mopping up sweat. They also have the benefit of contouring nicely to your hand without being restrictive or uncomfortable.

The high-quality stitching is for the most part hidden due to the clever way in which the Handana is constructed. This is not only aesthetically pleasing, but I imagine, will greatly increase the Handana’s serviceable life.

They look good, and are well designed and constructed, but how well do they perform? I had a number of great chances to test mine out with the high-humidity weather we’ve been having here lately. After several sweaty outings, I can honestly say that it works beautifully. It holds quite a lot of moisture and even dries out a bit as I run, allowing me to keep using it, even over long distances.

Being a baldy, sweat getting into my eyes has always been a problem. I normally carry a handkerchief in my pocket when running, as I’m not a big fan of headbands or wristbands (I always feel like John McEnroe when I wear them!). From now on, I’ll be grabbing my Handana on the way out for any future hot runs.

I haven’t got enough nice things to say about this product. It’s clever, well-executed, works well, and at $15USD, very reasonably priced.

If you’d like to get your hand inside a Handana, now’s a great time. A new batch have just been made up and are available on the myhandana website. They’re basically the perfect stocking-stuffer for that runner in your life (seriously, I don’t get a kick-back for saying that or anything!)

Insider tip: be sure to check out the Handana Facebook page – rumour has it that there will be some great specials showing up there during the lead-up to the holidays!

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank MyHandana.com for providing samples for review. Help keep us ad-free by visiting/following Handana on Facebook and/or Twitter (@MyHandana).

Review: Vivobarefoot Gobi – The Casual Minimal Shoe

Written by BarefootDawsy

Vivo Barefoot Gobi Dark Brown LeatherLike many barefoot/minimalist runners, I’ve found myself in the position of owning way
more shoes than I ever used to. One thing that most of them have in common is that they are all sport shoes. In fact, most shoe companies that make minimal shoes seem to be geared towards the running end of the spectrum.

This has always been a bit of a problem for us minimal shoe wearers. As much as I love
my Vibram SeeYas, I’m not going to wear them to my next client visit. I’ve got nothing
against the shoes, and personally love how they look, but the fact remains that for
most people today, shoes with toes are not an expected sight in the office.

Gobi SideviewIt’s for this reason that I’ve been so excited to try out the Vivobarefoot Gobi. The
Gobi is a minimal version of a low-cut boot, much like an Australian Desert Boot. They
are made of high quality leather (or suede), and feature the signature puncture-proof
sole of a Vivobarefoot shoe.

As a casual shoe, the Gobi has everything you need. The soft leather uppers look and
feel great. They come in tan, brown and black, so coordinating with your favourite pants shouldn’t be a problem. The high cut lets you get away with wearing either socks or bare feet inside them without looking out-of-place.

Gobi SolesOn top of good looks, these shoes can dance! I’ve had them on my feet for the past couple weeks and have put some solid walking miles on them. So far, they’ve performed admirably. For comfort and ground-feel, they rival my Invisible Shoes (Xeroshoes)
Huaraches, but also have the benefit of a closed toe.

Gobi Top DownThe extra wide toebox really lets you wiggle your toes and get as close to a true
barefoot stride going as is possible in enclosed shoes.

If there is one downside, I’d say it’s the fact that there is no lining inside the
shoe’s upper. This means that your feet are directly in contact with the single layer
of leather that makes up the bulk of the shoe. This is actually really comfy, but it’s worthwhile taking some precautions to avoid getting stinky feet/shoes (don’t worry, the Art Of Manliness has you covered).

All-in-all, I’m really pleased to have finally come across a good-looking pair of minimal shoes that I can wear to work without getting a myriad questions and disapproving looks. The final piece to the barefoot/minimalist puzzle is finally in place, and my feet have
never been happier!

BeginningBarefoot.com would like to thank Vivobarefoot Australia/NZ[LINK] for providing shoes for testing. Check out Amazon.com for regular deals, and please visit their Facebook page, and give them a ‘Like’ if you
enjoyed this review.