huaraches

Xero Shoes Sale!

The good folks at Xero Shoes (formerly Invisible Shoes) are having a sale to celebrate their third anniversary!

I’ve used Xero Shoes minimalist huaraches since they first came on the market. I have both the Connect model (4mm sole, for road running) and the Contact model (6mm sole, for trail use). They are, in my opinion, the only footwear than comes even close to being barefoot. They’re good for running, racing, walking, and general street wear. If you buy a pair, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

The sale means that everything in the Xero Shoes store will be will be 20% off. The sale starts at midnight MST (UTC/GMT -7 hours) on Thursday, November 22, and ends at midnight MST on Sunday, December 2.

As an example, the DIY Connect huarache kit will be only US$19.97 (compared to the regular price of US$24.95). Don’t forget that Xero Shoes now offers its products in colours (soles and laces) as well as in black. Even though it’s getting chilly in lots of places, Xero Shoes make great stocking stuffers. And you don’t know exactly what to order, you can get Gift Certificates.

To get the discount, use the coupon code ANNIVERSARY during checkout.

To order your Xero Shoes DIY kit or custom-made huaraches, scroll down the right-hand sidebar on this page to the Xero Shoes badge (“The lightest, ‘most barefoot’ shoe NOW IN COLORS”), go directly to the online store, and do yourself – and those you love – a big favour.

Invisible Shoes – In Colour!

I’ve previously written about my Invisible Shoes huaraches, and how I like them as an occasional alternative to running barefoot.

It’s worth noting that there have been two recent changes to Invisible Shoes. The first is that they’re in the process of rebranding themselves as Xero Shoes. The company continues to be led by Steven Sashen and his wife Lena Phoenix, but they’ve been joined by some other staff, including a Director of Marketing who was formerly with Crocs. The second initiative is that Invisible/Xero Shoes are now available with coloured soles!(Up til now, all Invisible Shoe soles were black, and you could choose among an array of lace colours.)

The colour options look good. They are good old black, “Mocha Earth, Electric Mint, Boulder Sky, and Hot Salmon.” I have been – and will continue to be – a black sole/black lace kind of guy, but there’ll be lots of people who’ll go for the colours – especially as these huaraches are inexpensive enough that it doesn’t hurt the wallet to own more than one pair.

Colour soles and laces

To have a look at the new – and old – options, click on the Invisible Shoe banner on the right-hand sidebar of this page (scroll down past “Blogroll”), and do the needful. It links directly to the coloured sole page on the IS site, but you can easily navigate from there to the pages for the black-soled huaraches.

Tweaked

When I first “built” my new Invisible Shoe Connects, I deliberately left the laces longer and the footbeds a little bigger than they needed to be. I figured that I’d leave them that way for a little while, and trim them if and when I wanted to. This is how “final version one” looked:

Version one

Well, that time has come. I’ve trimmed the excess length off the laces, and cut the footbeds to follow the outline of my feet as closely as possible. Here’s the result:

New look

These changes have made quite a difference to the way the huaraches feel. They’re even more like being barefoot than before. And that feeling makes me want to go running somewhere like this…

Road

Review: Invisible Shoe Contact

Barefoot Running Sandals by Invisible Shoes

This review of the Invisible Shoe FeelTrue Contact follows my review of the Connect model. If you haven’t done so already, you might want to read the Connect review, as it informs what I’m writing here.

The Contact is the same as the Connect, except that its sole thickness is 6mm rather than 4mm. Like the Connect, you order the Contact according to the length of your foot, from 9″ to 12 3/4″ (22.7 cm to 32.2 cm), though custom sizes are available. The thicker Contact sole offers more protection than the Connect sole, and a “softer” feel. For all that extra thickness (2mm doesn’t sound like much, but it’s noticeable), the Contacts weigh very little – 5.4 oz. for a men’s US size 9, which equates to 153 grams for a EUR size 42.

The Contacts have the same double-chevron sole as the Connects.

Chevron soles

Like the Connects, they also have the same subtly curved shape, with a very slight heel cup and an almost unnoticeable lift at the toe area. And the side holes for the laces sit on little “wings” and are pre-punched in what Invisible Shoe says are the “ideal anatomical position. ” (I won’t argue with the latter statement, because they seem to work, on both my Contacts and my Connects.) So, although my Contacts came as a “DIY kit,” all I had to do to make them go was punch a toe hole and lace them up.

I’ve laced my Contacts in the same slip on/slip off way as I have my Connects. Now that I’ve sussed it out, it just makes more sense than the traditional lacing method. Like everything else with the Contacts, it works, right off the bat and well.

Slip on lacing

So far, I’ve worn my Contacts on short pavement runs and for general street wear. They feel good. With them, I lose some of the “ground feel” that I get with the Connects. But I can see where an increase in protection might come in very handy indeed – and that’s on trails.

I’ve wanted to run trails for quite a while. I have good friends who run trails all the time. Two of my running hereos are Scott Jurek and Anton Krupicka, who are gods of the ultra trail racing world. I’ve been saying for more than a year that I want to run a trail. but I never have, until now.

Why?

Because I run barefoot. I run on pavement, I race on pavement. I don’t want to wear shoes, not even minimalist trail shoes. I want to run barefoot on trails, but I’m not up to doing that yet. my feet are well-conditioned, but my form isn’t good enough yet – or maybe I’ve simply lacked the confidence to give it a try.

The Contacts, though, make me want to go on stuff like this…

Caledon Trail

The regular price of the Contact DIY kit (though there’s precious little DIY to be done) is US$34.95. Right now, as the Contact is being introduced, the folks at Invisible Shoe have lowered the price to US$29.95. Shipping costs are minimal (remember the Contact’s light weight?), so I suggest you get to it right now, and order self a pair of Contacts. Visit the Invisible Shoe site, have a good look at the videos that explain the Contacts and the Connects (there’s a brief one explaining the difference between the two models), and buy yourself a pair.

You may use the Contacts for light trail running, you may use them for street wear, you may run on pavement in them. But use them you will. I guarantee it.

See you on the trails!

Invisble Shoes - the shoes for barefoot running, walking, hiking and... FUN

Review: Invisible Shoe Connect

Invisible Shoes barefoot running sandals

If you’re regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that I’m a fan of Invisible Shoe huaraches. I’m a confirmed barefoot runner, but there are sometimes days when I want a little protection for my soles, or when it’s just to cold to run barefoot. My huaraches have also become my default footwear for daily wear, as I can’t always go barefoot. I like them because they’re simple, because they’re inexpensive, but most of all because they keep me close to the essence of barefooting.

So I was excited, but a little skeptical, when Steven Sashen of Invisible Shoe announced two new models which, he said, were a big improvement on the original. Excited because I knew that anything coming from Invisible Shoe was bound to be good, but skeptical because I expected that “improved” might mean a movement away from simplicity and efficiency.

Well, I was wrong. The new Connect and Contact models are mindblowingly good. They’re a vast improvement on the original Invisible Shoe huarache, and they come even closer to the feeling of being barefoot.

Rather than have me go on at length about the new models, here’s a video from the Invisible Shoe introducing the Connect and Contact models:

The only real issue I ever had with my huaraches were that,on long runs, the knots in the laces ground into the tops of my feet a little bit. I have high insteps, and could never get the lace tension absolutely right to avoid that pressure. Also, though I’d tried the slip on/slip off lacing method, I always went back to the traditional round-the-ankle tying method because it felt more secure. Doing that on a daily basis meant constantly recreating the lace tension I needed. Not a big issue, for sure, but a bit of a drag.

With my new Connects, I started out with the traditional lacing pattern. Here’s what I ended up with:

Connect Version #1

Here’s a video from the Invisible Shoe site on how to tie the laces in the traditional way:

When I took the Connects out for a run, I was absolutely amazed! They feel hugely different from my standard Invisible Shoes. In spite of being the same thickness and weight, they feel lighter. The very subtle shaping of the Connect sole is, I think, responsible, as there’s less slap on the ground, because the sole forms itself to my foot. The new sole tread pattern and the new sole upper pattern add to that sense of lightness and connection. The result is a feeling that’s closer than ever to the feeling of being barefoot. Ground feedback is considerably enhanced. Running in the Connects feels lighter, more effortless, and quicker.

Having tried Version One of my Connects, I then experimented with tying the laces in the slip on/slip off way. Here’s what Version Two looked like:

Connect Version #2

And here’s a video from the Invisible Shoe site specifically on how to tie the laces in the slip on/slip off way:

Of course, I then took Version Two out for a run. A number of runs, in fact. And the experience just got better. No pressure around my ankles, and the huaraches still stayed on my feet. Better still, it felt as if I was floating on top of the huaraches! With the slip on/slip off method of tying the laces, the huaraches are simply there, at the bottom of my feet, doing the absolute minimal necessary to protect the soles of my feet while I get onn with the job of running. Chalk up another win to the Connects!

Version Two included the full length of the laces. I didn’t want to trim them until I’d decided that slip on/slip off was the way I wanted to go. That being the case, I then trimmed of most of the excess lace, and ended up with this:

Connect Final Version

I had thought of trimming the edges of the Connect soles a bit, so they conform more closely to the shape of my feet. I still may do that, but, for the time being, am leaving them the way they are. I want to run a lot with them this way, and then make a decision.

(How you tie your laces is up to you. If it works, and it’s comfortable, go for it. There are always new videos of lace tying methods on the Invisible Shoe site.)

I was a fan of Invisible Shoe huaraches before, but the Connects have made me a rabid fan. These are the best things to come down the pike, ever. If you’re a barefoot runner – beginner or veteran – I suggest you get yourself a pair of Connects for running on sidewalks or pavement, or just for general wear. You won’t go wrong. Seriously. Do it now. Go here to get yourself Connected.

Coming up next: My review of the Invisible Shoe FeelTrue Contact.

Thanks for the Nudge!

Sometimes all that’s needed to solve a long-standing problem is a nudge in the right direction, from the right person.

I’ve got to thank reader Staci K. for giving me my latest – and much-needed – nudge. Staci has solved the only issue I’ve ever had with my Invisible Shoe minimalist huaraches. She did that by showing me, via photos on her blog, a slightly different way of lacing them.

First, a brief introduction to Staci. She’s a South African, who runs barefoot and in Invisible Shoe huaraches. Incredibly, she’s not only done the Comrades Ultra marathon (one of the world’s premier ultras), but she did it in her Invisible Shoes! When I looked at photos on Staci’s SheRunsInSandals blog, I noticed that her lacing was slightly different from mine.

When I lace my huaraches, I run the lace that goes from between my toes to the outside of my foot runs at about a 45 degree angle to the fore-aft axis of my foot. (I also laced my Barefoot Ted huaraches the same way.) I did that because it followed the directions given by both Barefoot Ted and Steven Sashen of Invisible Shoe.

The only issue I’ve ever had with either of my pairs of huaraches is that, on long runs (i.e., over 25K), the knot on that front-to-side lace grinds into my skin a little. (I have a fairly high instep, which exacerbates the pressure there.) The skin on top of our feet is very thin, so that slight grind, over a long run, results in a nasty little flesh wound that can take days to heal. Band-aids and Krazy Glue help, but they don’t solve the problem.

When Staci laces her huaraches, the lace runs along the fore-aft axis. coming straight up towards the centre line of her ankle. The following image from her latest race report shows what it looks like.

Staci's lacing

Yesterday, I tried lacing my huaraches Staci’s way. And hey presto! No pressure and grinding. I think the problem may be solved. I’m going to the new lacing pattern on a run soon, to see it works the way I think it will.

I’m kind of embarrassed that I didn’t come up with this modification on my own. It is, after all, a pretty logical solution. But I’m glad that Staci gave me the nudge that she did. A big tip of the huarache hat to her!

Huarache Happy

A cold but sunny weekend, and a couple of good short runs. I ran 5K yesterday (Saturday) and a little over 8K today. The temperature on both days hovered between -2C and -4C, but with the windchill factored in, it was closer to -12C. Not unpleasant, just brisk. (How’s that for a Canadian approach to weather?) Here’s what this afternoon’s weather looked like, using Weather Spark’s excellent graphing tool:

With the temperature what it was, I wasn’t willing to go barefoot, so wore my Invisible Shoe huaraches and Injinji toe socks. A great combination, and one that kept my feet nice and toasty. I didn’t wear a watch (no point really, as I’m no longer training for races). As always, I found my runs much more pleasant without that particular gadget. Instead of wearing my $30 running gloves, I opted for a pair of cotton gloves I bought for $1 at my local discount grocery store. Interestingly, they work as well as my “proper” gloves. And they fit right into my rather scrappy sense of anti-fashion.

It seems I’m getting somewhat eccentric as I get older. I’m OK with that.