RunAmoc Shoes and The Uneven Floor

The RunAmoc shoes from Soft Star arrived just as we were setting off for our weekend adventure in the Peak District. I whipped off my Nike Frees and socks, slung them into the back of the car and slipped on the moccasins instead.

Apart from a brief interlude where I had to review some hiking shoes, the RunAmocs became a bit of a permanent feature – much to Lynn’s disappointment – I’m not sure she approves of my new obsession and it’s associated crusty geography teacher fashion accessories.

My initial thought on the sizing was that perhaps they were too big. There was a very big gap, lets say an inch, between my big toe and the end of the shoe but I’d measured my foot according to the guidelines on the website so decided to try them out. Despite having loads of room in the toe area they didn’t slosh around my foot and felt generally very comfortable.

It’s normally my toes that suffer the most in standard shoes so it was quite a blessing to leave them feeling so free. The roomy toe box creates an obvious point of difference between the feeling of running in the RunAmoc vs the Vibram Five Fingers. Although there is a huge degree of movement available with the Five Fingers, I still feel constrained by the toe compartments while the RunAmocs left me feeling as though I had only a very light drape across the top of my foot.

I ordered the RunAmoc with the slightly thicker sole. At 5mm it is not huge but it is designed to give maximal protection for trail running while still enabling you to feel in-touch with the ground surface.

On Sunday we were running along the Manifold River in Ilam and the tracks varied between limestone paths and root laden trail runs. I was grateful for the protection and managed to run amongst the pebbles without too many exclamations of pain. These soles are thicker than on my Vibram Sprint Five Fingers and were noticeably more comfortable on the rougher surface but I didn’t lose any of the barefoot feel.

As I was running up the limestone steps built into the side of the valley I was aware of my feet bending and hugging the surface. It was a huge contrast to the previous days hike in the solid Merrel Walking Shoes.

Barefoot or minimal running can become almost a spiritual experience where you begin to feel part of the landscape and the track you are running along. It’s a much more involved and gentle way to interact with the trail.

All this barefoot running is reminding me of a trip to Vienna.

At Kunsthauswein I tuned in to the amazing architecture of Hundertwasser and tried to scribble down his writings on the uneven floor.

It seems that Hundertwasser may have been an early adopter of the barfoot movement, this photo shows him wearing a pair of his handmade shoes (summer & winter) – very minimal.

The Uneven Floor

The flat floor is an invention of the architects. It fits engines – not human beings.

People not only have eyes to enjoy the beauty they see and ears to hear melodies and noses to smell nice scents. People also have a sense of touch in their hands and feet.

If modern man is forced to walk on flat asphalt and concrete floors as they were planned thoughtlessly in designers’ offices, estranged from man’s age-old relationship and contact to earth, a crucial part of man withers and dies. This has catastrophic consequences for the soul, the equilibrium, the well being and the health of man. Man forgets how to experience things and becomes emotionally ill.

An uneven and animated floor is the recovery of man’s mental equilibrium, of the dignity of man which has been violated in our levelling, unnatural and hostile urban grid system.

The uneven floor becomes a symphony, a melody for the feet and brings back natural vibrations to man. Architecture should elevate and not subdue man. It is good to walk on uneven floors and regain our human balance.

Hundertwasser, April, 1991

Views on Nike Free 3.0 as a Transition Shoe

Somewhere along the line I seem to have developed a shoe fetish. I started off in life with a classic shoe phobia and made it into adulthood with a pair of red wellies and a work shoe.

An interest in sport increased my repertoire but even then I managed to live in a pair of Specialized Sonoma cycling shoes throughout my student days.

I blame running.

It must have ticked disturbing boxes in my psyche. I have now commandeered the shoe rack that spans the length of our hall and still have an overspill. I still only have one pair of work shoes but there is a tremendous glut of running shoes and my stockpile is set to increase.

Hiking shoes arrived last week, Nike Free 3.0 trainers yesterday, I’m awaiting stock of a pair of Vibram Five Finger Bikilas and my Soft Star Run Amoc moccasins are slowly winging their way across the Atlantic as we speak. We have a romantic weekend booked away and my only packing demand after spare pants was a selection of running shoes. I may have to hunt out an appropriate 12 step program when we get back.

In the mean time, here are my thoughts on the Nike Free 3.0

I’ve pinned a lot of hopes on minimal running shoes and expect them to revolutionise my mornings and long runs by removing the crippling pains of plantar fasciitis. With this in mind I’ve been diligently introducing Vibram Five Finger runs in to my schedule but reverting to my standard shoe for long runs.

My standard shoe is a heavy duty, cushioned, supported, mega structure so I started looking around for a suitable transition shoe. RunBlogger provided me with some much appreciated advice and Donald from Running and Rambling has written an excellent overview of the options.

Hence the arrival of the Nike Free 3.0

It’s not a truly barefoot experience or even an almost-barefoot-best-described-as-minimal experience but its half way there and a half-way house was just what I needed.

The shoe is incredibly flexible, in fact you want to pick it up and mould it like playdoh. It has a peculiarly innovative sole, made up of little cubes of rubber that enable it to flex freely, this way and that.

We were at Waterloo Station last night picking up one of the kids of Railway Children fame. We were waiting patiently on the platform when I leapt up onto my toes and declared: “Tadaaaa….bet you can’t do that!”

Well it seems they all could but I maintain that it means something that I was the only one who felt suitably empowered by my footwear to display such idiocy in public.

These are flexible shoes.

The uppers are fairly minimal, a little padding around the ankle but in the main these are made of a lightweight waffle fabric. I’m used to shoes with rigid plates in the heel and all this floppiness comes as a bit of a shock. It makes for an incredibly comfortable shoe though. Regardless of your views of Nike and the position of the Free 3.0 on the barefoot-standard shoe scale, you can’t deny that the word on the block is “comfort”.

We went for quick midnight run when we got back from the station and it was such a joy. It was only a short one so I need to test this further with a weekend long run but the first impressions were great. No pain from my feet at all. When I wear standard shoes I get the impression that my second toe nail is being ripped from its bed but there was no discomfort at all with the Nike Free 3.0

The run was silent and fast – at least by my standards. The sole felt as though it had a strange stickiness to it but it didn’t seem to hold me back as we knocked a minute off our usual mile pace.

I think I might have found my half marathon shoe.