Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Some experiments with minimal footwear.

We took our vacation in my home state of New Mexico. First time I've been Stateside in six years and first time my son has ever been in the U.S. We bought a lot of clothes and shoes and I bought mostly minimal footwear, some cheap, and some not so cheap.

I've been experimenting with running barefoot and it's a piece of cake. If one is sprinting on grass that is. When sprinting, I don't notice much difference between wearing shoes or not on grass. I guess since sprinting is done on the toes anyway, there is little correction to be made. I wanted to be able to sprint in my parents backyard, which has grass, paving stones and some lava rock. There's no way I'm sprinting on lava rock in my bare feet. I'll leave that to the serious guys like Matt Metzgar. So when I came across some aqua shoes for 7 bucks I immediately snapped them up. My plan was to try them out and if they worked well bring back four or five pairs to Prague. If you've never seen these things, they are just a thin layer of rubber with a sort of elastic nylon top.

Then I did some sprinting on the pavement and lava rocks and they felt great. I could feel the rocks but not enough to be painful. I even wore them to the mall, which was a mistake because they don't breath at all so my feet got pretty hot and sweaty. But screw the mall, they were great for running and cheap as hell. I had come up with a solution that was cheaper than Vibrams, a lot cheaper, more minimal, and didn't make me look like this.

So did I bring back 10 pairs with me?

Unfortunately, no, there was trouble in paradise. Just like the rubber on a Formula 1 racing tire, these things were too soft for normal use.

Here's what they look like after a couple sprint sessions (and some walking around). There's no way they'd last through a 5k race (not that I'm planning on doing one of those in the near future). Oh well, it was in interesting experiment nonetheless.

Onwards and upwards, I also picked up a pair of Nike Free Runs.

I'm under no illusion that these are even close to running barefoot, but they are really comfortable shoes. Super comfortable. They weigh something like -1 grams. And they look pretty cool, too. I even wore them on the flight back to Europe and I usually go out of my way NOT to dress like an American, especially wearing trainers.

One other pair of somewhat minimal shoes I got were some Keen hiking sandals.

Unfortunately, I bought these right before we came back so I didn't have a chance to do any actual hiking in them. But they feel about ten times better than any other sandal I've owned. And my father loved them when he hiked the Chilkoot Trail.

And while the aqua shoes weren't so great for running, I did get a chance to use them for their intended purpose, walking through rocky streams (in the Gila Wilderness) and for that they were great.


  1. Howdy, found your site through At Darwin's Table and wanted to comment on the minimalist footwear. I have the Nike Free Run shoes as well and they are very cool but not so minimalist for running like you pointed out. One thing you might think about is making Tarahumara running huaraches. I made a trial pair with tooling leather as the soles and posted am image of them here: http://texasprimalsurfwahine.blogspot.com/2010/08/81610-image-of-tarahumara-huarache.html . You can order kits from www.invisibleshoe.com but I wanted to make sure I like them first. I used an alternate lacing that is demonstrated in a video on their website. I love them but have now worn through the leather so I went and bought a sheet of the vibram cherry sole material to make pairs for myself and other friends & family. They are really easy to make and I find them to really help my knees when running. They really do facilitate true barefoot running form without destroying the soles of your feet.
    Hope you enjoy barefoot running as much as I do! Regards, TPSW

  2. Hi TPSW.

    Those look really cool. I really like the idea of making them yourself. About as minimalist as one can get without being barefoot.