More travels and more kilometres (560K to go):

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Eastbourne in the mix

Lots has happened since writing up my shoe post, well actually even before, but just gone unmentioned in that post.

I started out by catching a bacterial infection on my lower leg that went in my blod, now anyone having tried that will confirm it to be some scary sh*t and not something you want to experience more than once. A few visits to the hospital, a really heavy doze of penicilin and week worth of high fever later I was more or less good to go, my leg more or less normal colour and back to normal size even 🙂

I hammered the EL-X five fingers quite hard for a number of things when doing my barefoot shoe write up, but heading off to London I decided to give them one more shot as my travel and London city walking shoe.

I wore them for 12 hours of walking in London (a good 30K) with a 12 kilo pack in some healthy warm weather, my hope is that they will loosen up and break in some, because as mentioned I adore the ground feel of the sole.

Being back in London was amazing for a day by the way. UK and London in particular feels like a second home to me and getting reacquainted with London on a hot summer day was amazing 🙂

In the late afternoon I met up with my girlfriend and we jumped the train to Eastbourne for the weekend.

Most people I guess come her to hit the beach, so did we. Though we hit it walking. Once you get past the tourist nightmare and onto the shore beneath the massive chalk cliffs (at low tide I might add) there is an excellent and quite long walking route on some wonderful terraing of water polished rocks, chalk stone and some other goodies.

And hiking this very uneven terrain in the Spyridons was a pleasure (I have to admit though that I spend a lot of time barefoot when the terrain allowed for it). As the tide came in we hiked up and along the upped edge of the cliff for a long stretch.  Before heading back to Eastbourne for a pub dinner and a pint.

Sunday was pretty much a repeat story, before catching an evening train back to the Airport and a flight to Copenhagen.

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from a 10K barefooter

The Running:

Copenhagen has provided me with two excellent runs this week.

First a 7K speed test, it has been a while since I really have been putting things to a test, thus I strapped into the seeyas and set up to see how solid my running style would be when upping the pace and when it would start to come apart.

Pace was set to 4:30 average, a pace that normally would be my fast half marathon pace.

And the run felt good, really good. Now I could definitely feel my feet getting tired towards the end and the fact that I ran in my seeyas that provides no support really made a lot of difference to at least how long I was able to sustain this in the past normal fast pace.

It felt good to be running faster again though and to verify that my technique and strength are improving also at a faster pace.

Second run was a 10K barefoot run around the lakes in central Copenhagen.

One of my longer completely barefooted runs and intentionally run on a track that is fairly leisurely and easy on the feet.

The lakes are a mix of fine gravel paths and paved paths, add in the flagstones and cobblestones part of my run to and from the lakes and you have an excellent mix of varied surfaces.

I had my doubts about how the gravel sections would feel, but they were entirely OK, only a couple of times did I encounter stones big enough to notice underfoot.

I normally see quite a few barefooters or minimalists on this route, but on this day I was the only one.

Pace and style was a generally good experience. I am still a little “lazy” in my heel pulls for the lack of a better word and I could feel myself getting tired towards the end, but not significantly and my feet and soles in particular were strong enough for a sprint the last kilometre home.

Definitely my best barefoot run so far.

The barefoot shoe writeup and a 12K (577K to go):

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Most of the barefoot shoe collection 🙂

OK how much sense does it make to have all this talk about barefoot running and then a massive amount of shoes.

Going completely barefoot is preferred and nothing beats the sensation of feeling the ground beneath you as you run. However sometimes you cannot get away with going barefooted, thus shoes for me serves two purposes:

a) a social function, when I am in a setting where shoes are the norm and bare feet would be frowned upon, a business meeting or conference is a good example

b)A practical function, when I am running distances or conditions where my bare feet are either not seasoned enough or the environment too harsh. +20K distances, off trail mountain running or the like are good examples.

all of the shoes above (and the ones missing) serves either purpose a or b, occasionally a pair of shoes will serve both, but rarely so. Some will claim I have too much money or a shoe fetish, but that is a story for a different day 🙂

All shoes has been bought and paid for by me, no “review samples” or “loaners”, it does not make me unbiased though. In fact it makes me 100% biased towards what works on my feet.

So lets get to it and start looking at what they are all good for, if anything at all.

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KSO on winter duty

The Vibram Five Finger KSO:

The casual observer will notise they are not in the picture.

My first pair of five fingers, bought in 2008 or so and has been used for a variety of purposes, but primarily as a gym, lightweight hiking or shoe for short technical running exercises.

However it excels at pretty much anything, one of the thinnest and most flexible soles in the five finger lineup , with excellent ground feel thanks to it and a thin lightweight upper with a velcro strap closeure to sefure it, it really has very few faults if any.

The picture kind of tells the story, I have used it for lgiht technical trails, snow, ice, gravel road and stuff in between.

Paired with a thin Injinji sock it is good down to -20C if you do not stop for too long or run multiple hours.

These days it is my gym shoe when in Greenland and not much else.Other shoes have taken over for any other use.

It was however the shoe that dragged me into the five finger shoes and barefoot running thing, thus in some ways a reference shoe for me and I got essentially nothing but praise for it.

If you can only get one pair of Barefoot shoes, these  and a thin pair of injini socks should be on your list.

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Seeyas can get dirty too 🙂

The Vibram Five Finger Seeya:

Without a doubt the most perfect Five finger running shoe at least for my feet.

A soft, thin to the point of almost not being there upper, with a thin velcro strap to lock it down a bit, mine is essentially loose and never adjusted nor really doing anything useful, but it is there if needed. I especially like the super soft heel cup, msot other vibrams have way too much support and shoe in their uppers, this one while probably not to every ones liking, just have enough structure to stay on your heel, but nothing else.

The sole is unusual, a soft EVA(?) at the arch portion (middle foot) and vibram rubber pods on heel and forefoot where you have contact with the ground. The sole while curling nicely into a ball, gets a touhc stiff  in the downwards movement of the toes, but ground feel is some of the closest to being barefoot you can get. it is a very finely tuned running sole and I adore it.

These are my preferred running shoes, I have done several half marathons in them, one of them in a blizzard, on ice and in snow. They do trails much better than most think, at least until the trails get too muddy or technical in nature.

I sincerely do not know what to criticise, could I only have on running shoes it would be a seeya

I know a lot of people like a more structured shoelike (for the lack of a better term) upper and if that is the case, then this is not a shoe for you.

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The Spyridon where it belongs

The Vibram Five Finger Spyridon:

Made specifically for trail running and functional masterpiece from Vibram. The upper is some active material that is quite tear resistant and while not water resistant or water proof in any way then it sheds water reasonably well. add a KSO like velcro strap and a serious upper is in the making.

A lot will talk about waterproof trail shoes, I am not one wanting it. I would rather have a shoe that is light breathe well and dries fast. because if you run deep snow or muddy trails, have to cross streams then you feet will get wet and your shoes will get soaked and a waterproof upper is just not optimal in such conditions.

The real magic is in the sole though. a quite hefty thread that makes for excellent grip in almost all conditions combined with a mesh just underneath the sole that helps distribute impact from sharp stones or ridges. for rough off trail terrain it is perfect. It provides a lot of ground feel, but takes care of all the stuff that would potentially hurt your feet at the same time, all in a really flexible sole. The only thing lacking in this almost perfect off trail sole is a little less grippy on steep smooth rock sections. it is probably a trade off for durability, but I have taken one slide where I would normally stay upright because the rubber did not connect well enough to grip. Now that I know I can adjust for it and it has to be very steep for it to be a problem, but it is a small thing worth mentioning.

Almost sounds too good to be true, but they are that good.

They are my go to, hiking boots and off trail running shoes. Now they can do a few miles of road if you want them to, but they are not made for it and one can feel that when running roads in them.

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The EL-X – on its first and last run

The Vibram Five Fingers EL-X:

Few shoes have had me as excited as the EL-X the promise of perhaps the most flexible and minimal Five finger yet and with a sloe with a by the look promising grip.

The first thing I did when receiving them was walking for a day or two and then give them a workout on a 12K summer run in Copenhagen

However everything that looks so great on paper, does not translate into the finished product.

The upper is made from the same superlight and flexible mesh as the seeya, but with lots of rubberband coatings to secure it. I am not sure who came up with the idea, but what a night mare, it creates a super tight fit but with plenty of pressure points and hotspots as a result.

I can go with the slightly added structure to the heel cup compared to the seeya, but why ruin this super comfy upper with rubber bands squeezing your feet.

The Sole I absolutely love though from a flexibility, grip and ground feel point of view, probably the best Five finger  sole so far. But why they decided to go with the same narrow heel and mid foot design as the trek sole, in stead of the wider design used in the seeya, KSO and spyridon is a complete mystery to me. The end result is another series of pressure points that will create blisters on my wide feet, especially with the massive amount of rubber bands squeezing it into my feet.

I would love to see this material used in a sole design with a width like the KSO and with a seeya upper. Would be such a perfect shoe, but in the current state the EL-X is not really anything but a walkaround shoe for me, I doubt it will see that much use. which is a shame when the potential is huge.

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The Bikila LS in Barcelona

The Vibram Five Finger Bikila LS:

The Bikila LS is marketed as a running shoe, but to be quite frank I find it to be way too much shoe and too cushioned to my liking for running. Thus I do not run much in it, that said it has been a great winter boot for me.

The upper is as said very shoe like and the speed laces works a treat creating a very snug yet soft fit and you can feel the upper support and hug your feet.

The sole is fairly padded for a five finger, which may not be a bad thing, I just prefer a ride closer to the ground.

I have been wearing them as my primary casual shoe throughout the Greenlandic winter, where the very shoe like and padded upper and slightly thicker sole is great to insulate your feet that extra bit.

I have walked countless kilometres and travelled a number of countries in them, and for a casual wear five finger, they are amazing, still super comfy after 12-14 hours of walking.

They are not for warm climates though and I think they perform the best in temperatures below 5C, belwo -15C they can get a little chilly if you stand still for too long.

I am experimenting with the Seeya LS as a replacement, but will keep them at hand for winter.

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Speed after a rare case of winter duty

The Vibram Five Finger Speed:

The first five finger to have the running specific sole also found on the bikila. and the sole share the same pros and cons.

The upper I think is a love/hate thing. I have heard several refer to it as looking like a bear paw and being super ugly. Personally I think it looks nice enough. The upper is a fairly thick mesh with a classical lace closure. IT is quite supportive and there is a lot of shoe to it.

I mainly use it in the gym, where it performs very well, save for being a little warm, but I have been running in it on occasion during winter too and it does well in most common winter situations, it is not good for  icey roads or trails though.

I have yet to encounter temperatures where running in vibrams is not viable up to a couple of hours and the speed is no exception. I would not want to run them on a hot summer day though.

If I were to find a gripe with it, save for the too padded and to shoelike thing, which I think is the intention behind the design, it would be the way they have constructed the upper, some of the seams creates hot spots and blisters if I run them barefoot for more than say an hour.

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The Gobi in action in Rome

The Vivobarefoot Gobi boot:

The Vivobarefoot Gobi is perhaps the most comfy barefoot shoe I ahve ever worn, at least of the closed toebox type.

Vivo has managed to get everything perfectly right with this shoe.

The upper is soft soft suede and really molds to the foot and ankle, the toebox is perhaps the widest I have seen and that without the boot does not look weird or “duck like”.

The sole is soft and offers great ground feel, I have walk more kilometres than I can count in these and they still look great and feel great.

If you need a short casual boot or shoe, the Vivobarefoot Gobi should top your list, barefoot enthusiast or not.

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A well worn pair of Vivobarefoot Ra

The Vivobarefoot Ra:

Well the Ra is essentially a shoe version of the Gobi, thus as you might imagine this is at least to me every bit as amazing.

My Pair is the black leather ones, bought specifically to replace the shoes I normally wear when I need to be dressed up.

I have worn them through countless of long business meetings, conference days, strolled I do not know how many kilometres while travelling, been running through airports, and other +12 hour days in them.

Albeit not being a fashion shoe, they do blend in well in the business environment and has for all, but the really dressy stuff replaced my suit and business shoes.

The best part I think is how well they age and it speaks volumes of the quality of the leather used.

I am due to the many days on the road quite tough on my footwear, but these takes it all in strides. The only thing is that I had to break mine in a bit, as the leather around the keep is a little stiff in the beginning, it quickly softens up though.

The full leather is not quite as comfy as the suede version thus not the comfiest closed toebox shoe ever, but they are without a doubt the most comfy business shoe I have worn and that by quite a margin.

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The Vivobarefoot One in Barcelona

The Vivobarefoot One:

3 years in the heads of the Vivobarefoot team before making it to to production and in my very humble opinion it should probably have stayed there a little longer.

The upper is not bad at all actually super light and super thin mesh, and a regular lacing system to close the shoe, the tip of the toebox and the heel has been reinforced with some more durable fabric and all of that is perfect. But why oh why has the mesh been reinforced with patches of stiff reflective fabric or plastic is a mystery and it totally destroys the soft flexbile upper fo me and I do not have particularly wide feet.

It is also mystery why the company that makes the Ra and Gobi (two of the most comfortable shoes ever) decides to go with such a narrow toebox, I was told that the shoe would mold and widen a bit, but it has not.

The sole is surprisingly stiff than (much more so than the Ra and Gobi) and the insole is surprisingly thick, that said it actually has a pretty good ground feel, but that narrow toebox.

I have walked a fair bit in these and been running a few laps. they are for me intolerable for running, uncomfortable does not even describe the feeling. They are tolerable for walking though and had it not been for the issue below I would have done so, when I’d needed a casual shoe with a close toebox during summer.

Now my biggest gripe is not the fit or anything else, but the fact that now a good month later, the sole and the upper has begun falling apart in several places. we are talking a 150 EUR shoe here and that is just not good enough. I will be returning them to the store next week.

Most disappointing experience.

Final words:

Two Vibram five fingers that I own has not been mentioned above, The Vibram Five Fingers XS and the Vibram Five Finger Classic. I was told long ago that if I had nothing nice to say then I should shut up and I really got nothing nice to say about them.

Add it up and it is a massive amount of shoes, I admit that, but it takes time finding the right shoe for the right application, that said the best thing really is not wearing any shoes at all. It provides the most varier running experience and a unique connection with your surrounds. It will even tell you if you are doing something wrong 🙂

Happy running out there 🙂

Travels, running, travels, running and more travels (589K to go):

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chilling at Fossar de les Moreres

It has indeed been a while and while you may not have seen me posting or updating my blog with new content, then I have indeed been running and travelling a fair bit, adding another couple of European cities to my barefoot experience. Barcelona and Madrid to be specific, two amazing places.

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The burden of weekend break aways

I have of course been doing a load of other stuff too, stuff you normally do when you are travelling (for business and for pleasure) or just busy and forced to leave your online life behind for a bit. I am however getting ahead of myself 🙂

Madrid was all business and those of you familiar with business travel know how little of the often perceived glamour associated with it holds true in real life.

I did manage to break away on 3 short runs of around 5-6K while there and the part of Madrid I ran seemed very barefoot friendly, some of the smaller parks had a few nasty section with some sharp rocks in the gravel, but no glass or other foot dangerous litter in the streets I saw.The only thing to look out for is the temperature of the running surface, some of the pavement was boiling in the afternoon. These runs aside, I did not see much more than conference rooms and dinner meetings, save for a long and relaxed walk in central Madrid the last evening. I was wonderful to revisit parts of the city, even if only for a couple of hours 🙂

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Barcelona Beach

From here I went by train to Barcelona and let it be said, the spanish train service rock! I do not think I would even want to fly between Madrid and Barcelona again, it was that much more hassle free and relaxed.

After check in I had the time for an absolutely Gorgeous 8K fully barefoot run in El Born, via La Barceloneta, through Barri Gotic and back.

Great mix of a wide variety of surfaces, from smooth polished flagstone, over multiple pavement varieties, cobblestones, wooden walkways and I saw only one piece of tiny glass on the entire run – simply Amazing 🙂

Later in the week I did a 14K  barefoot style run from Plaza Europa, up to the Montjuïc Castle and home via Plaza Drassanes and Plaza Espana.

The part up to the castle and back down were the fun part really and doing a lap up there if you are running in barcelona is well worth it I think 🙂

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Barefoot sightseeing

Third Run was a quick 6K moning barefooter from plaza Europa to Plaza Espana and back.

The liberation of running barefoot was amazing, I did get more than an average amount of weird looks as I zoomed through the morning traffic of people and the guy in the Lobby seemed unsure if he wanted to allow this barefooted weirdo access. but my roomkey solved that quickly enough 🙂

In addition to the running I did a lot of the general sightseeing and weekend break wiht my girlfriend barefooted and Barcelona really is a safe place to do so, at least I saw little to no glass or other hazards anywhere.

So overall some very pleasurable days . the running was from a technically point of view uneventful.

Style seems to be coming very well together and the last session with my running coach seems to confirm that I am doing fairly well (at least when he is around :))

 

Run sightseeing is a concept I am really warming up to again and the barefoot aspect really adds to the getting “connected” with where you are feeling for me.

So Stay tuned for more and thanks for reading 🙂