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Goin’ Barefootin’

14/04/2011

Barefoot.

In my post on barefoot technology (complete oxymoron), I touched on a few of the shoes and technologies on the market. Well that was then, and this is now.

I managed to pick myself up some of these beauties!

First up, we have the new New Balance road running shoes. This is from the new Minimus line of shoes.

Lets first look at the company, New Balance. In my last post on this subject we looked at the Birthday shoes (Vibram Five Fingers), Nike Free and the Luna Sandal. In October of 2010, this was really all you had to choose from. The market has now exploded with new concepts and pretty colors. Manufacturers like Merrell, Vivo, Vibram FF, Nike, Newton, Inov-8, Kigo, Feelmax New Balance and Go-lite have come out to the market. This doesn’t count the non-running shoe market that has also exploded.

What drew my eye to New Balance? New Balance says that 25% of their shoes are made, sourced or assembled in the US, with as much US products as possible. In my estimation, that is more than Nike, and other companies bother to declare. Although I am sure some of these companies are sourced and or made in the US, I connected to the New Balance Minimus.

I think a little back ground is in order before I get too involved with this. Last year I decided to grow my hair out for the next year for charity. The charities name is St. Baldricks, we shave our heads for Children who have cancer and lose their hair. Now, I shave my head on a regular basis. In fact if it goes longer than a month it feels weird and it needs to go away. I have been like this since High School.

So, to say I am going to grow my hair for one full year is a huge undertaking for me. I don’t want to make light of this, but just the fact of figuring shampoo and buying it was tricky. So I sit here typing this at exactly 1 year and one week later, the organizers of this local charity decided to back out of the fundraiser a few weeks ago! At many points in my journey through hair, I looked like Anton Kupricka, seen above. Anton is the “spokesrunner” for New Balance Minimus and actually helped develop the shoes. I certainly feel he channels the hair and beard so much better than I ever could.

So did I base buying this shoe off of my half assed attempt to look like this? No (maybe). Did I get these shoes because they look cool? Hell yes!

So, a barefoot running shoe. What the hell is a barefoot running shoe (oxymoron again)?

We have all seen the videos and write ups on the new barefoot movement (again an oxymoron). What we are looking at here isn’t truly barefoot technology, like seen in a Vibram Five Finger. There is still cushioning in these. What we have here is another mechanism that helps you transfer to a more mid foot or forefront strike while running. There is a 4mm drop from heel to toe, meaning the heel raises only 4mm from the forefront. In your typical running shoe or normal sneaker this could be 10 to 12mm.

Unlike other trail running or road running shoes, these allow you to feel every little pebble and crack in the road or trail.

Along with the road shoe is the trail shoe (shown in the New Balance AD above). I managed to get one of those too but I will save my review for next week.

I took these guys out for the last week and ran a few miles.

My first impression is how easily I was able to transition to landing on the balls of my feet. I have heard and still recommend that you slowly transition into barefoot running or walking. Depending on how severely weak your feet are, it could be a very painful lesson. Landing on the balls or forefront of my foot has almost completely taken out of the equation the pain in my knees and legs. There has always been the stinging pain in my knees from landing, the tightness in my legs from the rigors or running. (this is a part of the problem I have always had with running).

My next impression, which I will elaborate more on with the trails shoes as it pronounces itself far more in them, is the road feel. I can feel the road in these shoes. Now, does this come from landing on my forefront rather than my heel or from the thinness of the sole? Probably both.

So what is a novice like myself bothering with these expensive, unneeded, gimmicky shoes for anyway? The novelty of them is all the proof I needed. From my first impression to the simple fact that they got me out and active.

It is absolutely no secret at all of my hatred of running. So feeling joy in running for even a few miles seems strange! I actually felt nice running.

Now, my true test will be running the Madison based Crazylegs in them on April 30th.

This will be 8K that I have done now for three years. Over these years my time has gotten worse but my form has gotten better. Over the last year I have (certainly not perfected) gotten more used to this new form. Will the shoes make my time better? Over the years I have finally been able to complete it non-stop. I can actually say I am looking forward to this year’s race.

Next week will be my first look and actual use of the trail shoe.

So, what are my final thoughts (for this week) on the New Balance road shoe?

The shoe itself is well made; it looks nice and is extremely light. I have always been of the impression that Nike, is the top dog for running. Asics and other manufacturers are good but, Nike has to be the top, with all that research funds! All of the gimmicky, trite and clichéd colors, heels, soles, pumps etc… How can you go wrong! The material used in the shoe is very nice. From banging my toes against a curb they didn’t completely separate like a previous manufacturers product. I may be wrong in this line of thought but I can say the material inside the foot compartment is nice, so nice that I feel more comfortable going sockless than not. By all counts it is a very well made and useful shoe. It is rather too expensive to be a “Barefoot” shoe. No more expensive then the Vivo’s or all of the other manufacturers of “Barefoot” shoes. Are these any different than those?

I’m glad I’m wrong about Nike and the others; I would have never bothered finding these shoes had I not questioned my form. You can’t go into Foot Locker, Endurance House, Nike store or any of the other thousands of shoe stores and get true honesty. You as the runner or consumer need to do your own homework and come out with your own decisions. Of course one persons experience is an others headache. This shoe may work well for me and poorly for you. Is it the shoe?

What are your views on the barefoot movement? I personally will always go barefoot or barefeet as much as possible. Shoes won’t make that any better, seeing as how it is “BARE” feet!

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