Hitting the Trails with Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon LS

Vibram FiveFingers SpyridonI’ve been meaning to review my new trail specific Vibram FiveFingers for some time now. Unfortunately my opportunities for trying out the Spyridon and putting them to the test have been seriously curtailed by the opprobrium with which they are viewed by the family. If I venture within 5 yards of the “frog shoes” I am met with screams of disgust and ultimatums are laid down which make it clear that if I dare put those on my feet, I will be going out alone.

I thought I was a little hard done to, in my mind the Spyridon has a fantastically exciting design, admittedly I would have preferred the orange version but the green camouflage styling has its merits.

Capturing the Vibram FiveFingers ZeitgeistI put it to the great zeitgeist monitor, Facebook, and was alarmed by the horror expressed in the comments. The world apparently shuns my new shoes.

As the summer holiday approached, I seized my opportunity and snuck them in the suitcase, I might not have been allowed to wear them in public but I thought if the public was entirely foreign and never to be seen again, I may just get away with it. Add to the fact that the only other shoes packed were the barefoot earthing sandles and a pair of hideous blue swim slippers, I was on to a winner.

I had intended to run while I was away but it was hot, hot beyond compare.
If I wasn’t moaning about the heat, I either had an ice cool Mythos in my hand or I was bathing up to my waist in the refreshing Aegean. There just didn’t seem to be a good time to jog off into the sunset.

We did walk though and I took the opportunity to try the Spyridon LS shoes in a mountain scramble to an isolated chapel. It was a good test for a trail shoe, it involved navigating the stony bottom of a desiccated river bed, tearing through savage, dehydrated monster thistles and scrabbling up scree and a sharp rock face. Not a typical terrain choice for a pair of barefoot shoes but they fared well.

As the only trail focussed shoe in the Vibram FiveFingers range there has been plenty of time to design and construct an outstanding model. To my mind Vibram have managed to deliver an excellent shoe with the Spyridon. The sole is thicker and grippier than my Vibram FiveFingers Speed and very importantly the sole moves up and over the tip of the toes, thereby providing toe stubbing protection which was really appreciated on my Greek scramble.

I’ve just noticed that at 3.5mm thick, the sole is only 0.5mm thicker than the sole on the Speed but they look far more aggressive. Despite the apparent thickness, I didn’t lose ground feel through the soles, I was very much aware of the terrain underfoot and although it didn’t exactly hurt I was quite careful about foot placement especially on the riverbed section. When we moved into the steeper climbs I felt much more comfortable and appreciated the freedom to grip the ground with my toes.

If you’re tempted to buy a pair I would recommend getting these and other Vibram FiveFingers properly sized up. Mine are a tiny bit too big which means that my little toe regularly pops out, especially on uphill climbs, which is a bit annoying, they were very snug on the way back down though and a snug pair feel so much more comfortable.

Overall I would happily recommend these to trail runners or walkers. You might find it easier if you were single or at least partnered up with someone with equally dubious taste in foot attire though.

Sportpursuit – Sports Gear and Gadget Deals Site

I was recently asked to blog about a new flash sale website that focuses on sports gear and gadgets.

20120526-104956.jpgI normally avoid this stuff like the plague as I’m not interested in seeing my inbox fill with fabulous offers that I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole.

This one seemed a little different and as I can’t resist sports gadgetry, I took a look and then I ended up signing-up and now I’m at serious risk of bankrupting myself.

If you’re not familiar with flash sales, it’s all the rage at the moment and featured on The Apprentice last week. It’s based around the concept of time limited offers with significant discounts. Sites such as Groupon put forward fairly generic offers and bombard you with treats such as laser hair removal, teeth whitening and golf trips on the Costa Brava but Sportpursuit has a focus – individual sports. This of course means that almost every offer is going to feel highly relevant and therefore a huge risk to my wallet.

At the moment they have offers from the likes of Vibram fivefingers, Vivobarefoot, Zoot, Cebe and a snowboarding brand that I’ve never heard of.

Vibram fivefinger dealsI’m particularly interested in the barefoot running deals. The Vibram fivefingers look fab – I know I already have a pair and I’m not really doing a lot of barefoot running at the moment but the Women’s Bikilas look great and they are being offered at £66, down from £115, that is quite an offer and it’s not a brand that you often find deals on.

If you want to expose yourself to some great run, bike, swim deals, I recommend that you take a look at Sportpursuit. If you want to keep hold of your money – ignore this post!

Vibram Five Finger Speed Review and the Campsite Run

A beautiful pair of Vibram Five Fingers arrived just before the camping expedition.

Unfortunately all the photos were taken post camping trip where of course it rained relentlessly and so the Five Fingers have lost a little of their new shoe gleam.

I wanted to get a slightly larger pair of VFF’s as my earlier pair of Vibram Five Finger Sprint were pulling a little bit on my longer toes. I opted for the Vibram Five Finger Speed because they are cool and yet also the most normal style in the range. I’m not necessarily attracted to normal but I was hoping to get them past the family’s acceptability rules so I can actually wear them in public and outside the confines of nightfall.

It seemed to work as no one complained when I packed them for the camp and I even managed to sneak in a shopping trip to the local Lidl while wearing them.

The Vibram Five Finger Speed were remarkably easy to put on, a push and a wiggle was all that was required to engage the toes in the right place. Perhaps that’s the result of finding a pair that actually fits.

I did a lot of scrabbling around the camp while wearing these and my little toe did occasionally pop out of its little recess while I was squatting down trying to light the Kelly Kettle. They were perfect for running though, extremely comfortable and no pressure points at all.

The soles are a bit more built up than the more minimal models. The VFF Speed has additional toe and heel pads just like the Bikila Five Finger and by the looks of it the new Vibram range seems to have maintained the trend for extra pads.

Not all barefoot or minimalist runners will like this. It increases the weight of the shoe slightly and of course all the additional padding will reduce the feedback between the floor and the foot. In these particular conditions – rubble and thorn strewn trails, I was grateful for the slight reduction in floor feedback.

I’ve read somewhere that the Speed model uses the same sole unit as the Bikila but they don’t have the additional 3mm insole and so have slightly more ground feel.

And so for the run.

Having spent 2 soggy wet days entertaining kids on a camp site, I was well and truly in need of a run. Lynn and I set off after clambering over the rickety style that marked the escape route from camp.

Generally my breathing is up the spout for the first 3 minutes of any run and then gradually eases off until I can manage a converstaion by the 20 minute point.

This run was tougher than usual, I felt as though I had a bit of kick in me and kept pushing along keeping pace with Lynn. I was closer to my 5k race pace which is sufficiently fast (in my books) to ensure that I never catch my breath.

The Vibram shoes were so comfortable. I’d spent the most of the trip wearing my Soft Star RunAmocs which are an incredibly practical shoe for this sort of trip but I felt pain when wandering over the rubble paths. In contrast the Vibram Speeds left me feeling positively sprightly.

It was a joy to feel so light footed and yet protected, these have easily moved into my favourite shoe territory and even the kids thought they were cool.

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.

Vibram Five Fingers – The Review

I’ve had the Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) for a couple of weeks now and feel I can now cast some judgement from the standpoint of an inexperienced barefoot or minimal shoe runner.

Just as a quick aside, I believe that barefoot running applies to running sans shoes but also encompasses runners who choose to wear minimal shoes such as Vibram Five Fingers or inov8 EvoSkins or the VivoBarefoot Evo from Terraplana. There are also shoes most accurately termed Reduced Shoes such as the Nike Free but these aren’t akin to barefoot running as they have a heel pad, albeit a reduced one.

Having decided I was going to try a pair of Vibram Five Fingers I did a quick search of the available reviews and found myself overwhelmed with sizing advice. It seems that most people need to take a size down when switching to VFFs. I followed the rules and measured my feet by standing on a ruler and then ignored the advice as it was suggesting I order size 6 vs my usual size 8.

With a shoe that is designed to wrap neatly around each of your toes sizing is a bit critical. Too long and the little toe will probably float around in the body of the shoe and risk snagging, too short and the problems are obvious.

I ordered size 7 in the end and although my left foot fits pretty well my right foot feels overly snug. Not that it seems to be damaging me but I am very aware of the casing around my toes and that seems a shame when the overall effect of minimal shoe running is so freeing. I suppose the ideal would be to whip them off, throw caution to the wind and run barefoot proper. But that’s not going happen any time soon – I want a sole.

I had a number of fears when I first ran in the Vibrams, I was convinced that they would slip about on the downhills and the natural braking action would leave me without skin on my forefoot. I was really very pleasantly surprised. The shoes really did fit me like a second skin and the effect was natural and fun.

Fun is the key word, on the first run I was encouraged to run further and further than I originally intended because it felt so free and comfortable. That goes against all the advice related to beginning barefoot running but I think it says a lot for the comfort of the VFF.

Having run further than I was supposed to do, I did develop a few niggles. A forefoot blister was simply the effect of inexperienced feet on hard tarmac but I also had a few rubs on the side of my feet which I think relate to rough seams on the Vibrams.

I chose the Sprint model, which has a few straps to assist with fit. Although they fit very securely I think the additional bulk does detract a little from the simplicity of the basic model. Not that any of the range are particularly attractive. I’ve already alluded to the fact that my family thinks I’m a freak for wearing them but they aren’t anywhere near as ugly as the inov8 Evoskin shoes reviewed here by Adam at Fitness Footwear. If I’m tempted by beauty or at least the allure of a normal looking shoe I’d be tempted to go for the Vivo Barefoot Evo, reviewed here by Running and Rambling.

I’ve now had a few runs out with the Vibrams and I’m taking it easier with the distance. I’m enjoying the experience and now feel as though I am so much more aware of my running. More often than not I choose to run without the iPod, happy to listen to the gentle slapping of my rubberized toes while I tune in to how my body is feeling and what the ground is doing. It’s a very involved and yet peaceful way to run.

**There is a link to my other product reviews on sidebar. Please contact me at angela@warriorwomen.co.uk if you have a product you would like me to review.