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

 

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)

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.

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!

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.

Review: Tombolo Paperfeet Barefoot Sandals

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

Over the past few weeks I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of the Paperfeet Barefoot Sandals beta testing program. For those of you who haven’t come across them yet, Paperfeet are these fantastic shoes made from recycled billboards. Simple, thin, and durable, these shoes are the brainchild of surfer-turned-cobbler Jimmy Tomczak.

Paperfeet shoes were originally designed as a simple, lightweight, eco-friendly solution to the problem of crossing rough terrain in bare feet. Paperfeet not only solve this problem, but do so with a great design that can be rolled up and put into a pocket.

I was sent a few different pairs of Paperfeet to test, and put them through their paces (pun intended) in a few different environments. These included walking on surfaces ranging from grass to gravel, and running on the same. I didn’t get a chance to test them on the beach unfortunately, but I’ll try to get to that at some point soon and amend my review accordingly.

Construction

Each shoe consists of a single piece of billboard material, cut into a shape that allows it to be folded around your foot. They are attached in 4 places by simple adhesive velcro tabs.

Fitting

Despite the multiple attachment points, the shoes go on very easily and intuitively. The velcro tabs allow for a custom fit, and in extreme cases can be removed and repositioned to get a tighter or looser fit if required.

I did find that on a couple pairs the heel was a bit loose out of the box, though this may be just because of my own weird anatomy. By repositioning the velcro, however, I was able to get a fairly snug fit.

Appearance

I’ll be honest, when I first pulled the shoes from the reusable delivery package they came in, I was dubious. I’ve seen, worn, and tested a fair few pair of shoes over the years, and these were by far the most unusual looking. I think, however that this uniqueness is one of the great traits of these shoes that will set them apart from other shoes.

Walking

At first, the shoes felt a little odd. The toe-strap in particular is a feature that I’ve not seen before. I had only expected to wear them for a few minutes to wander down to the shops but a couple hours later I looked down and was still wearing them.

They really have that ‘barely there’ feeling that a lot of other shoes advertise, but rarely deliver. They are so light, it’s easy to forget you’re wearing shoes at all.

Running

When I first spoke to Jimmy about Paperfeet and told him of my intention of running in them, he reminded me that they are primarily a walking shoe. Being a bit of a risk-taker though, I decided to take them out on the road to see how they went.

I’ve done a few runs in them so far and they went reasonably well. With a couple of small modifications, I think that these shoes will be a real contender in the minimalist running shoe arena. Most notably, the lightweight and easy to carry design would make these perfect for carrying on long barefoot races for those rough gravel patches that have a tendency to slow barefooters down.

Conclusions

Overall, these shoes performed surprisingly well for such a simple design. For their intended purpose of taking the edge off short stretches of gravel, I think they’re remarkable, but there is maybe a little bit of work to be done to bring them into the mainstream.

I’m really impressed at the imagination involved in turning what would otherwise be landfill material into a decent pair of very lightweight, portable shoes.

I’ll definitely be tucking a pair into my bag for my next trip, and might even do a little custom work to make them race-worthy!

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank Jimmy Tomczak and Tombolo for providing
Paperfeet Barefoot Sandals for testing.