I had a bit of a love affair with the Vibram Five Fingers. Todd got a pair right before we headed to Tokyo on Life Nomadic 2008, and I was jealous the whole time. Near the end of the trip Vibram graciously sent me a pair (intentionally delayed until after the running of the bulls, because they didn't want to be associated with that), and I wore them as my only shoes for a couple years afterwards.
I love how the Five Fingers feel, I love how they look, and I love supporting such an innovative company, BUT.... they smell terrible.
If you wear them as your primary shoes, you have to wash them every five to seven days or they smell really bad. When you live in an RV, this is difficult to do well, and when they're your only set of footwear, it's annoying to wait for them to dry. So I began searching for a replacement.
Something that has become very important to me is to have the thinnest soles possible, so that I'm walking as close to barefoot as possible. I'm convinced that it's much better for my feet, ankles, knees, hips, and any other joints that get thrown into the mix when running or walking. Here's an article explaining why, so that I don't have to. The gist of it is that we evolved to walk barefoot, and half an inch or so of rubber strapped to the bottoms of our feet alters our gait. Most importantly, modern shoes move us from a ball-strike to a heel-strike, which multiplies the impact on our joints of our step. L
Less important, but also notable, is that walking close-to-barefoot is fun. You can feel the cobblestones, bricks, asphalt, tiles, or grass below your feet. I'm not one to drop hippie phrases like "feel more connected", but you do feel more connected with what you're walking on. It's an extra sensory input. I remember what Oxford looks like, don't remember what it smells like, but definitely remember what the cobblestones felt like under my feet.
Anyway, I stumbled upon a company called Invisible Shoe. They send you a rectangle of 4mm thick Vibram sole material, some rope, and you get to build your own shoes, called huaraches, according to the directions on the site.
So, one rainy afternoon about six months ago, I found myself huddled on the floor of my RV, using my Ryobi drill to bore holes in the rubber to feed the rope through. The resulting sandals looked ridiculous, and I somewhat timidly made the two block walk to Samovar. But, six months later, I now think they look pretty cool. I'm willing to concede that I might just be influenced by how enjoyable they are to wear, though.
The shoes basically fade away, and you feel like you're barefoot all the time. Unlike regular sandals, they have rope around the heel, so they stay on well enough to run comfortably. I've put hundreds of miles on them, both walking and running, and have never wished for another shoe. I don't really expect many people to give up all other shoes for these things, but they also make a great secondary shoe. They're so small that you can easily stash them in your backpack. Or in your pocket, as I did when skiing last year. I'd walk to the Gondola in the sandals, then put on my socks and boots on the way up to the mountain, rather than robot walking the whole way there.
For now, these are the best barefoot shoes you can get, unless you have a washing machine, two pairs of five fingers, and the discipline to rotate them and wash them on a schedule. Then again, Vibram just partnered with another one of my favorite companies, Smartwool, and made a Five Finger shoe with wool instead of synthetic, which should help quite a bit with the odor problem. Maybe I'll see about getting a pair of those to test out.
I've written over 600 blog posts now, as reader Michael pointed out. I didn't even notice!
A couple weeks ago my mom pointed out, in jest, that in Life Nomadic I mention my parents only twice, and both times were me disregarding their advice. Oops! In reality I'm constantly talking about them and how lucky I am to have them as parents. We butted heads when I was in school, but now they're both supportive to a degree that I think is hard to expect, given some of the insanity of my life. Thanks, Mom and Dad! I love you!
Photo was taken in Yoyogi park in Toyko, one of my favorite places to be.
A protip for those making huaraches: cut them larger than you actually want, wear them for a few weeks, and then trim around the wear pattern on the top. Then they look like the shadows of your feet.
A few years ago I bought a pair of VFF and I loved them and wanted to wear them all the time, but a few months later I made huaraches from an Invisible Shoes kit and I haven't worn my VFF again ever since! I don't think there's a shoe that's perfect for every situation, but the huaraches are by far the closest to being perfect. The only one situation where they are inferior is running or hiking on muddy trails, something I rarely do, because the slipping and sliding puts too much pressure on the cord. For that one situation I think VFF are best. I've had my nylon cord break a few times, and when I travel I keep a cigarette lighter in my bag in order to perform quick repairs.
I wanted to share my new Earth Runners conductive minimalist huarache sandal that will be available through kickstarter.com soon. I originally tried to contact Tynan himself in hopes of a review and possible give away, but the messaging system doesn't seem to be working. I figured this would be the next best thing, I hope I am not breaking any rules with this post.
Check out our website: http://www.earthrunners.com/
Our design brings a whole new dimension to the minimalist sandal world. We've combined the popularity of minimalist sandals with the resurgence of the timeless principle of grounding, also known as earthing. We believe our sandals take that minimalist footwear experience of "feeling more connected" to the next level.
These hand crafted sandals also include a uniquely stable and stylish lacing system along with self-molding soles.
Tynan please contact me if you are interested in our conductive sandals. Cool blog!
That Vibram sole is nice, but doesn't mold to your foot and does get hot/sweaty. And then there's the bit of petroleum products on your skin all day.
I have those, but resorted to making my own, better versions. Mostly leather components - www.HosingBear.com
Tynan I really admire your courage to do crazy stuff like this! I have a pair of vibrams, but I dunno if I'll ever get the invisible shoe.
When you use injinji socks with VFFS, do you have to size up? Also, the forefoot are of the soles on my KSOs actually wore through because they were my everyday pair. Legit holes in my soles, in only 7 months.
Y'all should check out water buffalo sandals. Wear them, soak them in water, and they form to your feet. Second skin, super comfortable, I haven't taken them off in months. Durable but you can feel everything beneath the soles. Hiked up Mount Marcy wearing these bad boys. Also, they are wicked inexpensive.
My Treks don't smell either, but the toes blew out after only 3 months of use (also the liner dissolved and the leather inside has the consistency of hot cheese). They have been making constant improvements though, The new Trek Sports reinforced the seams at the toes, and they look pretty good. If only I could find a pair in stores.
Tynan, you mentioning that you're eating meat now reminds me. Have you ever read Dr. Eades? I've heavily associated the two of you for years because you're listed after him in my RSS reader. He's a big Gary Taubes fan, and I think you'll like his analysis of the nutritional literature: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/drmikenutritionblog/~3/9LO7mwDWUwg/
Our original gear list has changed. We've added a few gems and have also dumped some poor performing or no longer useful stuff.
Stuff that hit the trash can.
I'm sure we've all heard about people who train barefoot. A lot of us have looked at them like they're crazy. Shoes give added support, cushioning, and protection to the foot, right?
Well, is it right? First lets look at some anecdotal evidence:
Shoes are a fairly recent invention, being only several thousands of years old. The Hominini tribe, the earliest ancestors of Homo-sapiens genus, divulged from their Pan genus brethren 6.3 million years ago. The human foot, and all the body's supporting mechanisms for the foot, evolved over millions of years to be fairly good at what it does. We could probably trace the evolution of the human foot even farther back, but lets go from there. Human feet were designed to be walked on. Shoes stop you from walking on them.
You are probably wearing shoes right now. Take them off, and put one on your desk. Look at it. Do you see how the toe is curved upward? This is done so it is even possible to walk in shoes.
When you walk barefoot, you strike with the middle of the heel, rolling forward onto the balls of the feet, and then there is a powerful push-off from the balls of the feet. When running, they were designed to strike in the midfoot, not the heel. Shoes alter your gait - when you walk in shoes, the back of your heel strikes first, and your foot rolls forward, and then you push off your toes which creates a rocking motion. When you run with shoes, it feels "natural" to run heel-to-toe, which causes a jarring shock to your ankles and knees. High heels exacerbate problems caused by an unnatural position of the foot. They cause different and unnatural stresses on the bones of the foot, the ankle, the knee, up to the pelvis and even through the shoulders. It raises the heel, which is the foot's natural supporter of weight, by an inch, two inches, sometimes even four or five inches! The entire weight of the body is transferred to the ball of the foot, while the pelvis and the shoulders tilt to compensate for the difference in weight distribution.