3 completely badass fitness products that you’re GONNA buy…or else.

Alright….maybe badass isn’t the appropriate description for these products.

None of them are going to smack you around for being a pair of idiot skinheads starting trouble on a public bus.

But they will help you :

  • make your feet work better
  • reduce associated pain
  • pack on muscle faster than cheap internet steroids

Correct Toes

Dr. Ray McClanahan (podiatric physician) believes that the best way to treat most foot problems is by allowing the foot to function exactly as nature intended. Unfortunately, the shoes you are wearing right probably don’t do that. This realization is why so many people are giving barefoot / minimalist shoes a try. Unfortunately, if you have been wearing “normal” shoes for most of your life, switching to a barefoot shoe isn’t going to fix your feet.

This is where the Correct Toes spacer can help. They are designed to spread your toes into their natural and correct position…improving “proprioception, which then allows the brain to better promote balance and optimal muscle function”.

Paired with a quality pair of barefoot / minimalist shoes, Correct Toes returns your foot to its natural state, treating most foot problems, and by extension, many musculoskeletal problems.

Sidewalk Surfers from Sanuk

There is no point in buying the Correct Toes spacer and fixing your gnarly old feet if you’re going to keep shoving them into a pair of “normal” shoes and scrunching them together like some masochistic Chinese foot binding experiment. What you need to do is buy a pair (or two) of barefoot / minimalist shoes that allow your feet to move as they were originally intended.

And that’s one of the reasons why I have been wearing a pair of Sanuk Chibas all summer long.

Some of the other reasons are…

  1. they are comfortable as heck,
  2. can be worn on the beach AND with casual clothes,
  3. they look pretty darn good
  4. and they come with an antimicrobial additive…meaning they won’t stink after hours and hours of barefoot wear.

SizeOn

skinny exercise weightlifterA few months back, I started working with two different 40+ year old clients who wanted to add some muscle to their “slender” physiques. In addition to a complete restructuring of their diets and an introduction to a truly nasty training program, I put them both on Gaspari Nutrition’s SizeOn product.

Instead of taking a bunch of different products, I wanted one supplement that would service their workout endurance demands as well as help them pack some meat on their hardgainer bodies. And SizeOn turned out to work perfectly.

Both clients had already started gaining muscle with SizeOn, but when we added it into the mix, things really took off.

  • Both gained significant muscle mass
  • Subject #1 gained 14 lbs of muscles while losing 7 lbs of fat
  • Subject #2 gained 11 lbs of muscle while losing 22 lbs of fat.

Pretty significant transformations…especially when you consider that both of these guys were both ectomorphs and lifelong hard-gainers.

I can’t say enough about this product – Great Stuff!!! – Here are the ingredients if you want to check it out.

VIVOBAREFOOT – Aqua Lite & Lucy Lite – Barefoot Shoe Review

Last summer I started reviewing Barefoot / Minimalist shoes…. and I’m at it again this summer.

First up are the VIVOBAREFOOT Aqua Lite (mens) and Lucy Lite (womens).

Both the Aqua Lite (AL) and Lucy Lite (LL) are designed as a lightweight road running shoe with a thin sole, wide toe box and zero drop profile. However, unlike many other barefoot shoes, the Lites have evolved to look like normal shoes. You get all of the health & performance benefits of minimalist shoes without people thinking you’re weird for wearing multi-colored toe-shoes.

Here’s the review…

Review Criteria

  • Protection – If you’re not going to develop thick natural calluses by actually running barefoot, you need to wear a shoe that will protect you from the occasional sharp stone or chunk of glass.

Both the Aqua Lite & Lucy Lite have a 3mm soft, high abrasion TPU sole, designed to give maximum sensory feedback on hard, flat surfaces. This is the same sole material used by Sockwa and is my personal favorite for “feeling” the ground under my feet.

  • The Aqua (Mens) comes with a removable 3mm insole with hex-flex moisture management system
  • The Lucy (Women) comes with a removable 5mm Pressed EVA Insole for additional thermal protection

Both of my shoe testers / guinea pigs didn’t mind the insoles, but as experienced barefoot runners, they preferred to ditch the insoles. My advice…if you are relatively new to barefoot shoes, leave the insoles in for the first couple of months as you get used to being barefoot.

  • Proprioception – A bare foot provides immediate feedback to the surface it rests upon. A thick spongy sole…not so much. This can be crucial when it comes to avoiding ankle sprains and wiping out while trail running.

With or without the insole, both pairs provided excellent proprioception. I love that TPU sole.

  • Natural Foot Movement – Does the shoe allow or prevent your foot from flexing & spreading in order to distribute the load uniformly over the entire foot. This analysis will address shoe width (especially the toe box), arch support, shock absorption, etc…

Both the Lucy Lite and Aqua Lite are winners when it comes to natural foot movement thanks to their wide toe box and zero drop profile. For maximum barefoot movement, I preferred to remove the insole. But as I mentioned above, a barefoot-newbie should probably start with the insole until their foot muscles get a little stronger.

In regard to the wide toe box, I can’t say how important this is to re-building a pair of healthy feet.  Our feet are supposed to look like the pair on the left, but I bet that almost everybody you know has feet like the ones on the right. Ugly nasty feet that make you think of creepy Chinese foot binding tootsies.

natural and unnatural feet

Also, VIVOBAREFOOT takes into account that the male & female foot aren’t the same and their shoes shouldn’t be either. No unisex shoes here.

Note – If you want to learn more about how your feet are supposed to look & work, click this link.

Next page – the review continues

Leming Ancestral Footwear – Barefoot / Minimalist Shoe Review

There are two main type of barefoot / minimalist shoe wearers.

  1. There are the people who want the benefits of barefoot shoes without looking weird.
  2. And there are the people who thrive on people staring at their feet while they wiggle their Vibram-shod tootsies.

I fall firmly into the first camp.

While I am “unique” enough to be caught jogging outside in shorts during a snowy Canadian winter, I am not a fan of wearing minimalist shoes with street clothes.

They look weird.

Correction – they looked weird.

 

Leming Footwear are the first truly barefoot / minimalist shoe that looks like a conventional “sneaker”.

And boy are me and my wife happy…she was sick and tired of me wearing my barefoot booties out with her in public.

But enough about me and my sartorial quirks….Here’s the review.

Review Criteria

  • Protection – If you’re not going to develop thick natural calluses by actually running barefoot, you need to wear a shoe that will protect you from the occasional sharp stone or chunk of glass.

The Leming sole is different than other barefoot / minimalist shoes.

While the market is moving towards thinner / puncture-proof sole materials, Leming employs a thicker (6 mm) sole made a 6mm thick air infused rubber that is supposed to replicate the elasticity of human skin.

 

The result is a sole that provides unbelieveably good groundfeel, is super flexible, but may not be your best choice if you’re into trail running over rocky surfaces.

 

With that being said, I decided to take them trail running over rocky surfaces….with the end result being a great run with no punctures – shoe or foot.

  • Proprioception – A bare foot provides immediate feedback to the surface it rests upon. A thick spongy sole…not so much. This can be crucial when it comes to avoiding ankle sprains and wiping out while trail running.

As I mentioned above, Lemings offer amazing groundfeel.

But unlike the sockwa G2s, this barefoot feel is achieved not through the thinnest of soles, but through the consistency of the sole material. It’s completely different from anything else on the market.

  • Natural Foot Movement – Does the shoe allow or prevent your foot from flexing & spreading in order to distribute the load uniformly over the entire foot. This analysis will address shoe width (especially the toe box), arch support, shock absorption, etc…

Lemings allows your foot to move, spread, scrunch as nature intended.

They also offer a great explanation of what nature had in mind. Enjoy your foot education.

  • Weight of the Shoe – Who wants a heavy, clunky shoe?

Lemings weighs 6.3 ounces…. or about 1/3 of a pound. Heavier than the Sockwas, lighter than a pair of Nike Frees.

  • The Drop – Most conventional running shoes raise the heel 22-24mm off the ground while lifting the front of the shoe only 10-15mm off the ground. This difference creates a forward leaning slope which changes your posture and leads to a heel-toe gait which leads a bunch of problems. Long story short, a flat shoe is more natural.

Lemings have a 0mm drop.

  • Shape of the Sole – As your foot spreads, does the protective sole continue to protect your foot from physical damage?

Lemings are built with an wide toe box and sole. This allow for a proper foot spread without stretching the fabric of the upper or oozing out beyond the width of the rubber sole.

  • Comfort – Do they feel good on your feet?

Super comfortable, with a barefoot feel equal to the Sockwa and superior to the Reebok.

Unlike most barefoot shoes, Lemings are comfortable whether you wear them with or without socks.

As an aside, due to the wide toe box of the Lemings, I found myself wiggling and scrunching my toes while wearing these shoes. Not sure why. It was kinda weird. Just though I would share.

  • Ease of Use – Are they easy to put on?

Yep – Also, I chose to wear socks with them. Can’t do that with all minimalist shoes.

  • Appearance – Do you look like a freak wearing them? Do you care?

They look like normal “sneakers”. When I showed them off to people, I had to draw attention to the wide toebox.

  • Ventilation – Vibrams are notoriously stinky shoes…what about the Lemings?

So far so good. The Lemings combination of faux-suede and mesh let my sweaty feet breathe during runs & workouts.

  • Durability – Will they stand up to some pounding?

So far, so good. If they wear poorly, I will update this post

  • Price –

$89.99 USD – Same price as the Reeboks, $20 more than the Kigos, $40 more than the Sockwas and $25 less than the Lunas.

  • Application – Is the shoe applicable for everyday use, running, sports, yoga, weight lifting, water sports, beach sports, etc?

Lemings are the most versatile barefoot / minimalist shoes that I have tested. Great for athletics & great for sitting on a patio watching the girls walk by.

Conclusion

Like all barefoot shoes, your decision to buy this shoe should come down to application.

  • Lemings are a true minimalist shoe
  • They are also the most fashion friendly minimalist shoe on the market
  • The price is reasonable

But what about you?

  • What kind of shoe are you looking for?
  • What is the application?
  • Do Lemings fit that application?..

The Luna Equus Sandal – Barefoot / Minimalist Shoe Review

The Luna Equus is different than any of the other barefoot “shoes” I have tested thus far.

For one thing, it’s a sandal, not a shoe.

Secondly, like a lot of my favorite people/stuff, the Equus started out as a giant pain in the butt, but with a little time and effort, I came to appreciate and love them.

Here’s why they annoyed me in the beginning:

  • Straight out of the box, this sandal is very stiff (thanks to the Cordovan leather)
  • The straps kept digging into my feet (especially between my toes)
  • They made a slapping noise as I ran in them (very annoying)
  • I got a wicked blister on my first run

In fact, I would have given up on them, except that I talked with a few people who had already gone through these growing pains. To a person, my new sandal buddies told me that as…

  1. the Equus begins to conform to your feet, and
  2. as your feet conform to wearing huarache sandals

… you will fall in love with these kicks and will never want to wear anything else.

And that’s what happened with me.

The sandals broke in, molded to my feet and my tender tootsies got used to the strap between my toes.

And I fell in love with my Luna Equus sandals.

Unfortunately, I live in Canada…and it’s starting to get cold…and I won’t be wearing sandals in the snow.

But as summer comes around next year, I will definitely be wearing these sandals as often as possible.

Here’s the review.

Review Criteria

  • Protection – If you’re not going to develop thick natural calluses by actually running barefoot, you need to wear a shoe that will protect you from the occasional sharp stone or chunk of glass.

The total thickness of the Luna Equus is about 4mm.

The thickness of the Equus leather varies slightly but it is usually right around 2mm. The Vibram sole is 2 mm thick also. And the last time I checked 2 mm + 2 mm =  4mm total thickness.

While the Equus sole is thicker than the Sockwa G2s, it still feels very “barefoot”. And yet, you can walk/run along rocky paths without feeling every stone jamming into the sole of your foot. It’s a nice compromise in thickness.

One drawback of the sandal is that the top of your foot is open to the elements. And while being topless feels great when you’re walking on the boardwalk on a hot summer’s day, it’s not so fun when a stick gets stuck between the footbed and your foot as you run through a wooded trail.

  • Proprioception – A bare foot provides immediate feedback to the surface it rests upon. A thick spongy sole…not so much. This can be crucial when it comes to avoiding ankle sprains and wiping out while trail running.

Until you “break in” your Equus sandals, there will be a distinct slapping noise as the stiffness of the sole hits the sidewalk. Over time, my pair of sandals has become much more flexible and that slapping noise has gone away.

Along with the reduction in noise, as the Equus became molded to my feet, I stopped noticing the separation between my feet and my footwear. The Equus became barefoot.

How will you be using your barefoot shoes?

  • Natural Foot Movement – Does the shoe allow or  prevent your foot from flexing & spreading in order to distribute the load uniformly over the entire foot. This analysis will address shoe width (especially the toe box), arch support, shock absorption, etc…

The Equus allows your foot to move, spread, scrunch as nature intended.

This adaptation becomes more natural as the shoe is broken in and becomes more flexible and molds to your foot.

  • Weight of the Shoe – Who wants a heavy, clunky shoe?

The Equus weighs 5 ounces. They’re heavier than the Sockwas, but still incredibly light. 

  • The Drop – Most conventional running shoes raise the heel 22-24mm off the ground while lifting the front of the shoe only 10-15mm off the ground. This difference creates a forward leaning slope which changes your posture and leads to a heel-toe gait which leads a bunch of problems. Long story short, a flat shoe is more natural.

The Equus has a 0 mm drop. perfect.

  • Shape of the Sole – As your foot spreads, does the protective sole continue to protect your foot from physical damage?

The Equus can be ordered custom fitted for no extra charge. This guarantees that the sole will fit your sole perfectly.

  • Comfort – Do they feel good on your feet?

At first, the Equus gave me blisters, killed the spot where the toe strap rubbed and felt really stiff.

After a few weeks of wear, they molded to my feet and felt like I wasn’t wearing anything.

You have to decide if you’re willing to put up with the break-in period.

  • Ease of Use – Are they easy to put on?

Getting the lacing “just right” was another issue with my new pair of Luna sandals. They come laced and ready to wear, but for a better fit, you will need to play with the laces. 

Personally, I like the top part of the lace tighter than the heel. When the heel lace was tight, it jammed my foot forward into the toe lace and caused a bunch of between my toes pain. 

However, after a few attempts, I got the lace tension just right. Since then, I haven’t had to adjust them once. 

Also, the laces stay in place and the sandal is super easy to take on and off.

  • Appearance – Do you look like a freak wearing them? Do you care?

Unlike barefoot shoes, the general public doesn’t react to huarache sandals with stares and finger pointing. Of course, if you have gnarly feet, you may want to consider getting a pedicure before striding out in your Equus’.

  • Ventilation – Vibrams are notoriously stinky shoes…what about the RealFLex?

Tons of ventilation. No stink. No sweat.

  • Durability – Will they stand up to some pounding?

So far, so good. It’s only been a few of months, but I have been running and walking them all over different surfaces – pavement, ashphalt, rock, gravel, dirt trails – and there is very little wear.

Barefoot Ted says that the Equus is made to be a long lasting sandal for everyday wearing and running. He estimates 1000 pavement miles of gentle pavement running for someone accustomed to the lightness of barefoot running. Street scuffing will wear the sole much more quickly.

  • Price –

The Cadillac of huarache sandals retails for $115 USD

Not cheap.

However, as with all Premium Model Luna Sandals, The Equus can be resoled and new laces can be added. This means that the Equus can be the last pair of sandals you ever buy.

  • Application – Is the shoe applicable for everyday use, running, sports, yoga, weight lifting, water sports, beach sports, etc?

The Equus is a great everyday shoe during the summer months. And while lots of other people use the Equus for running as well as everyday use, I prefer the protection of an enclosed shoe.

Conclusion

Like all barefoot shoes, your decision to buy this shoe should come down to application.

  • The Equus is a great sandal
  • And while the initial cost is pretty steep compared to other barefoot / minimalist shoes, the fact that I can re-sole the Equus should drive down the lifetime cost. 
  • However, while lots of other people wear the Equus when they hit the running trail, I prefer the protection of an enclosed shoe.
  • The same goes for my weightlifting workouts and sporting activities. I prefer a shoe to a sandal.

But what about you?

  • What kind of shoe are you looking for?
  • What is the application?
  • Does the Equus fit that application?
  • Do your feet look fugly in sandals?

..

Kigo Edge & Kigo Curv – Barefoot / Minimalist Shoe Review

After wearing barefoot / minimalist shoes for the past few months, I can honestly say that no two brands are the same.

Both the Kigo Edge and the Kigo Curv feel & perform unlike either the Reebok RealFlex or the Sockwa G2.

Kigo Edge

They are closer in both form & function to the Sockwa, but as soon as you put it on, you’ll realize that the Kigo design is completely unique.

Kigo Curv

 

and just what makes the Kigo so different?

Read on:

Review Criteria

  • Protection – If you’re not going to develop thick natural calluses by actually running barefoot, you need to wear a shoe that will protect you from the occasional sharp stone or chunk of glass.

Both pairs of Kigos come with a removable EVA insole, a flexible 1.5 mm midsole, and a 3 mm heel thickness. This combination of elements places the Kigos somewhere between the spongy protection of the Reebok RealFlex and the very thin barrier of the Sockwa G2.

The sole is made from a non-slip rubber with “fingerprint” grooves to provide a moderate level of traction. As well, the Kigos come with a protective toe cap.

Both of these features were tested when I played a game of pick-up football on damp grass one afternoon. 

  • Proprioception – A bare foot provides immediate feedback to the surface it rests upon. A thick spongy sole…not so much. This can be crucial when it comes to avoiding ankle sprains and wiping out while trail running.

Due to the thicker sole, both pairs of Kigos offer a lower level of proprioception when compared to the Sockwas.

For example, while sprinting up a rocky hill, I was grateful to be wearing my Kigos. However, when I was zipping through wooded trails with tree roots and uneven terrain, I preferred the “ground-feel” I got from the Sockwas.

How will you be using your barefoot shoes?

  • Natural Foot Movement – Does the shoe allow or  prevent your foot from flexing & spreading in order to distribute the load uniformly over the entire foot. This analysis will address shoe width (especially the toe box), arch support, shock absorption, etc…

The design of the Kigo’s upper  and the use of 4-way stretch  fabric  results in an incredibly snug fit. While playing football in my Kigo Edges, I could cut and spin just like Barry Sanders.

Unfortunately, this same design didn’t allow my feet to spread laterally as if I was barefoot. While the sole is flexible and allows for movement front to back, the lateral spread is lost.

As well, the narrow toe box means that your toes will be unable to spread as you walk/run.

And this may be a significant issue for people buying “barefoot” shoes.

  • Weight of the Shoe – Who wants a heavy, clunky shoe?

Both pairs weight 5 ounces. They’re heavier than the Sockwas, but still incredibly light. 

  • The Drop – Most conventional running shoes raise the heel 22-24mm off the ground while lifting the front of the shoe only 10-15mm off the ground. This difference creates a forward leaning slope which changes your posture and leads to a heel-toe gait which leads a bunch of problems. Long story short, a flat shoe is more natural.

There is a 1.5 mm drop from heel to midsole. Much flatter than the Reebok.

  • Shape of the Sole – As your foot spreads, does the protective sole continue to protect your foot from physical damage?

Like a conventional athletic shoe, the rounded toe of the Kigo is narrower than your actual foot. While this design is more aesthetically pleasing, it means that your toes are squished together.

While this may be unnoticeable to a conventional shoe wearer, it’s hard to miss for people who are used to other brands of barefoot shoe.

  • Comfort – Do they feel good on your feet?

The narrow toe box really bothered me. I couldn’t get past it.

  • Ease of Use – Are they easy to put on?

They are super snug, but the webbing loop on the heel made it easy to slip on and off.

  • Appearance – Do you look like a freak wearing them? Do you care?

Like the Sockwas, people (friends/strangers) thought the Kigos looked weird.

The most popular description was “elf slippers”

But after I kicked their collective asses with my elf slippers, most commenters changed their minds and said they loved the Kigos.

The fact is, all barefoot / minimalist shoes are going to look “different”. The Reeboks or Nike Frees are the only ones that are going to look like normal athletic shoes. But those shoes are much less “barefoot” than the Kigos.

And remember, different doesn’t mean bad.

  • Ventilation – Vibrams are notoriously stinky shoes…what about the RealFLex?

The Kigos have an anti-microbal insole. If stinky feet are an issue for you, this is a great selling feature.

  • Durability – Will they stand up to some pounding?

So far, so good. It’s only been a couple of months, but I have been running them all over different surfaces – pavement, ashphalt, rock, gravel, dirt trails – and there is very little wear.

  • Price – Due to my Scottish background, cost is always a factor.

$69.99 USD –  $20 less than the Reebok RealFlex – $20 more than the Sockwas G2s

  • Application – Is the shoe applicable for everyday use, running, sports, yoga, weight lifting, water sports, beach sports, etc?

I will be wearing my Kigos for outdoor sports like soccer & football. My foot doesn’t move around in the shoe, allowing me to make quick changes of direction.

Conclusion

Like both the Reebok RealFlex and Sockwa G2, your decision to buy this shoe should come down to application.

The Sockwa is more barefoot-y, but the thinner sole means you are going to hurt running over rocks.

The Reebok looks more like a normal shoe, so people aren’t going to stare.

The Kigo has more protection than the Sockwa, but looks funnier than the Reebok. The tighter toebox means that I won’t wear it for long stretches of time, but the tight fit is great for athletic performance.

  • What kind of shoe are you looking for?
  • What is the application?

Note – Kigo has two brand-spanking new models coming out in August. 

And both pairs have been designed to make the Kigos more barefoot-y.

  • Lighter
  • Zero drop outer sole
  • The rubber soles have been replaced with PLUSfoam
  • Improved proprioception
  • Wider toe box
  • Smaller toe bumper
  • Reduced “toe spring” – the toes don’t angle up like elf shoes
  • As well, the new lines feature high-performing recycled, post-consumer and non-toxic materials, and are actually recyclable.

It’s as if they read this review before it was even published.

  • The Kigo Flit is a lighter version of the Curv with a zero drop outsole.
  • The Kigo Drive is a lighter version of the Edge with a zero drop outsole and adjustable speed lacing.
My Recommendation
I would wait for August and check out the new models.
..

Sockwa G2 – Barefoot / Minimalist Shoe Review

Unlike the Reebok RealFlex, Sockwa shoes are most definitely not designed for the mainstream athletic shoe customer.

This is a true barefoot / minimalist shoe.

With a freakishly thin 1.2 mm TPU sole bonded to a 2.8 mm neoprene sock, this is as close to barefoot as you can get.

For my review, I tested the G2 model.

Note – Sockwa is going to be unveiling their latest product at the Outdoor Retailer show next month. Unlike the current method of “gluing” the sole to the upper, this new product will utilize over-mold technology. Overmolding is a process where one can join two different plastics during the molding process without the use of adhesives or primers. This process comes from the plastic injection molding industry and will serve to actually bond the upper & the sole together into one piece.  

The product will be fully machine washable, more durable, have fewer non-green materials, weigh even less and have a smaller footprint on society.  

Review Criteria

  • Protection – If you’re not going to develop thick natural calluses by actually running barefoot, you need to wear a shoe that will protect you from the occasional sharp stone or chunk of glass.

The Sockwa G2 doesn’t provide much cushioning for your feet. I found this out while sprinting a hill covered in very pointy stones. It truly felt barefoot.

However, the uber-thin TPU sole was up to the challenge of my 255 lbs pounding up and down that Hill of Pain. 

Conclusion – you will feel it when you run over stuff, but unless it’s a nail, the Sockwa sole will keep your human sole from being punctured.

  • Proprioception – A bare foot provides immediate feedback to the surface it rests upon. A thick spongy sole…not so much. This can be crucial when it comes to avoiding ankle sprains and wiping out while trail running.

Just like being barefoot…except you can’t grab stuff with your toes.

  • Natural Foot Movement – Does the shoe allow or  prevent your foot from flexing & spreading in order to distribute the load uniformly over the entire foot. This analysis will address shoe width (especially the toe box), arch support, shock absorption, etc…

Just like being barefoot. There was absolutely no restriction on the flexing & spreading of my Shrek-like feet.

  • Weight of the Shoe – Who wants a heavy, clunky shoe?

Light as a feather.

  • The Drop – Most conventional running shoes raise the heel 22-24mm off the ground while lifting the front of the shoe only 10-15mm off the ground. This difference creates a forward leaning slope which changes your posture and leads to a heel-toe gait which leads a bunch of problems. Long story short, a flat shoe is more natural.

No drop – 2.8 mm of neoprene cushion on the front and back of the shoe

  • Shape of the Sole – As your foot spreads, does the protective sole continue to protect your foot from physical damage?

Sockwa soles are shaped like a flat-footed, extra wide sock.

Unlike a normal shoe, the Sockwa sole wraps up and around the neoprene upper. This allows for the sole of your foot to remain protected by the TPU sole as your foot naturally spreads & flexes while you walk, run & jump.

  • Comfort – Do they feel good on your feet?

How do you enjoy walking or running with bare feet? 

With these shoes, you will experience essentially the same amount of impact. Less damage (temperature & impact) than bare feet, but the same impact force due to the relative lack of padding.

If you are used to exercising in a mainstream athletic shoe, the difference will be enormous. Like night & day.

However, after a little while, your soft little baby feet will begin to toughen up and your body mechanics will adapt to accommodate for the lack of foam, gel, springs, airbags, etc…

  • Ease of Use – Are they easy to put on?

Just like putting on a pair of your granny’s knitted slippers.

  • Appearance – Do you look like a freak wearing them? Do you care?

I overheard a few comments while wearing the Sockwas.

  • Check out that guy’s shoes
  • Is he wearing socks?
  • Why does he look like a hippo wearing ballet slippers?

The last comment made me wonder if all barefoot / minimalist shoes look better on smaller, less muscley owners. They look a little dainty on us “big guys”.

  • Ventilation – Vibrams are notoriously stinky shoes…what about the RealFLex?

So far so good. 

  • Durability – Will they stand up to some pounding?

So far, so good. It’s only been a couple of months, but I have been running them all over different surfaces – pavement, ashphalt, rock, gravel, dirt trails – and there is little to no wear.

My Sockwa G2s – sorry about the picture quality – trust me, there is almost zero noticeable wear
  • Price – Due to my Scottish background, cost is always a factor.

$49.99 USD –  $40 less than the Reebok RealFlex

  • Application – Is the shoe applicable for everyday use, running, sports, yoga, weight lifting, water sports, beach sports, etc?

I wore them in the lake, on the beach, walking on the boardwalk, walking on the sidewalk, running on the sidewalk, running in the woods, running on gravel & stones, while lifting weights, while stretch & doing yoga poses…and other than having to get used to the higher impact forces, I have absolutely no complaints.

True, I don’t see myself wearing them through a Canadian winter, but…

Conclusion

Like the Reebok RealFlex, your decision to buy this shoe should come down to application.

If you want a true barefoot feel, this is a great shoe.

But, if you don’t want to walk around in sock/shoes & have strangers make comments, then maybe you should opt for a hybrid minimalist shoe like the RealFlex or the Nike Free.

Or, maybe you wear your Sockwas in yoga class or at the beach or sprinting hills…..and then walk the streets in something more mainstream.

Reebok RealFlex – Barefoot / Minimalist Shoe Review

Reebok‘s RealFlex running shoe marks Reebok’s initial foray into barefoot / minimalist footwear.

Evolving out of an earlier concept for “collapsible shoes“, the RealFlex isn’t a pure barefoot shoe.

Reebok RealFlex Running Shoe

Designed for the mainstream market, the RealFlex is being promoted as being a better than barefoot shoe. Their Head of Advanced Innovation says that RealFlex combines the best aspects of barefoot/minimalist footwear with the protection of a modern running shoe.

They claim that you get all of that healthy foot movement & proprioception without all of those nasty impact forces caused by running on concrete sidewalks.

Sounds pretty convincing to me. Which is not surprising when you consider that they’re trying to sell you a pair.

How about an unbiased review?

Review Criteria

  • Protection – If you’re not going to develop thick natural calluses by actually running barefoot, you need to wear a shoe that will protect you from the occasional sharp stone or chunk of glass.

Compared to all of the other barefoot / minimalist shoes I have been beta-testing, these shoes offered the best protection against the stones, glass and small woodland creatures I encounter while trail running. This is thanks to the RealFlex’s thicker sole & foam padding.

  • Proprioception – A bare foot provides immediate feedback to the surface it rests upon. A thick spongy sole…not so much. This can be crucial when it comes to avoiding ankle sprains and wiping out while trail running.

Compared to every pair of Nike Frees that I ever owned, the RealFlex offers much improved proprioception. Compared to the average running shoe, there’s no comparison. The RealFlex lets you feel the ground better than any other big name athletic shoe that I have ever worn.

However, when we compare to every other barefoot / minimalist shoe that I have been testing, the RealFlex is like walking in Moon Boots. The relatively thick layer of foam padding creates a noticeable barrier between your feet & the ground.

And that’s the big trade-off – Protection for Proprioception

  • Natural Foot Movement – Does the shoe allow or  prevent your foot from flexing & spreading in order to distribute the load uniformly over the entire foot. This analysis will address shoe width (especially the toe box), arch support, shock absorption, etc…

The RealFlex offers no motion control technology. The minimalist upper lets the foot spread out against the fabric with minimal resistance. However, since it is shaped like a standard running shoe, us wide footed runners tend to spread our feet out and over the edge of the sole.

Not exactly like bare feet.

The toe box is average width. You don’t notice your toes being pinched, but compared to some barefoot shoes, there is less room to wiggle.

Regarding shock absorption, the RealFlex’s foam padding is designed to protect the runner from impact on man-made surfaces.

This is most noticeable with the RealFlex’s built up heel design. This is a major design difference between the RealFlex and other barefoot / minimalist shoe makers.

Instead of letting the runner alter their body position and center of gravity  to continue running on his mid-foot while going downhill, the RealFlex provides foam protection and a high-heel stance in order to promote a heel-toe gait. Big difference.

  • Weight of the Shoe – Who wants a heavy, clunky shoe?

The RealFlex is very light. Lighter than some barefoot / minimalist shoes…heavier than others. But, definitely, definitely lighter than just about every athletic shoe you will find on the wall of your neighborhood sporting goods store.

  • The Drop – Most conventional running shoes raise the heel 22-24mm off the ground while lifting the front of the shoe only 10-15mm off the ground. This difference creates a forward leaning slope which changes your posture and leads to a heel-toe gait which leads a bunch of problems. Long story short, a flat shoe is more natural.

As I mentioned above, the raised heel of the RealFlex is a significant difference between it and the other barefoot/minimalist shoes on the market. Barefoot runners adapt to running downhill by shifting their center of gravity and perhaps slowing down. The Reebok RealFlex wants you to shift your gait from a midfoot strike to a heel-toe running gait when you are bombing down hills.

Major difference in philosophy.

  • Shape of the Sole – As your foot spreads, does the protective sole continue to protect your foot from physical damage?

The RealFlex is shaped like a traditional running shoe. As such, runners with wide feet will find their feet spreading out and over the width of the sole

  • Comfort – Do they feel good on your feet?

They are super comfortable. My “normal” running shoes felt like big, clunky shoe-boxes on my feet after wearing the RealFlexes.

  • Ease of Use – Are they easy to put on?

The reduced material in the uppers means that you can’t just shove your feet in a pair of RealFlexes without untying them or using a shoe horn. Deal with it.

  • Appearance – Do you look like a freak wearing them? Do you care?

The RealFlex looks like an ordinary runner. Unlike almost all of the other test shoes, you won’t look weird wearing these shoes.

Major selling point if you want to market to the mainstream.

  • Ventilation – Vibrams are notoriously stinky shoes…what about the RealFLex?

So far so good. But then again, I don’t have stinky feet. My wife is a lucky woman.

  • Durability – Will they stand up to some pounding?

So far, so good. It’s only been a couple of months, but there is little to no wear.

  • Price – Due to my Scottish background, cost is always a factor.

At $90, the RealFlex is cheaper than some barefoot shoes, and more expensive than others. They’re also way cheaper than most pairs of high end “normal” running shoes.

  • Application – Is the shoe applicable for everyday use, running, sports, yoga, weight lifting, water sports, beach sports, etc?

The RealFlex is the most unique barefoot / minimalist shoe that I will be testing.

  • It doesn’t look like other barefoot shoes
  • It looks like a “normal” running shoe
  • It doesn’t work like other barefoot shoes….
  • But, it doesn’t work like a “normal” running shoe either

So, what is it?

What the Heck Is the Reebok RealFlex?

IMHO, the Reebok RealFlex is either:

  1. A transition shoe for runner who want to transition from heel-toe running to barefoot running.
  2. A hybrid shoe that provides the best aspects of barefoot / minimalist shoes with the best aspects of heel-toe running shoes.
  3. An attempt by Reebok to capture the buzz of barefoot / minimalist shoes without scaring away the mainstream buyer who would never buy a pair of shoes with toes.

Conclusion

I highly recommend the Reebok RealFlex to my clients.

I believe that a switch from heel-toe running to barefoot / midfoot running is a great thing to do for your body. However, the switch from a pair of New Balance running shoes to a pair of barefoot / minimalist slippers can be brutally painful.

The RealFlex makes that transition much, much easier.

Whether they transition from a RealFlex to a true barefoot shoe is another question altogether. Perhaps they use the RealFlex on rocky terrain or during a race. Perhaps they graduate from the RealFlex to a pure barefoot shoe. Perhaps they go all the way and ditch running shoes altogether.

Either way, the RealFlex is a good shoe. It’s not for the Barefoot / Minimalist purist. But then again, the purist is the customer Reebok is looking for. Reebok is looking for the millions who want to run without people staring at their feet.

 

Barefoot / Minimalist Shoe Review

About 5 years ago, I was introduced to barefoot / minimalist shoes while shopping for a pair of running shoes.

The salesperson showed me a pair of Nike Frees and explained to me the concept behind this new/old technology.

Since then, I have been a big fan of minimalist shoes. And I’m not the only one. In the past few years, these weird anti-shoe shoes have nudged their way into the mainstream athletic shoe market.

And while the bulk of the market is dominated by Nike Frees and Vibram Five-Fingers, there are a ton of other manufacturers making a wide variety of different minimalist shoes. But since they don’t have big advertising budgets, you have probably never heard of any of them.

That stops now.

A few months back I contacted some of the most interesting manufacturers to see if they would be interested in having their minimalist shoes reviewed by yours truly. And most of them said yes.

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting the reviews.

For today’s post, I thought I should outline the criteria I will be using to review the shoes as well as a brief intro to the theories behind barefoot / minimalist shoes & running.

Why should you wear barefoot / minimalist shoes?

Our ancestors covered their feet to protect them from physical damage (puncture) and unpleasant temperatures (Canadian winter). Since that time, shoe manufacturers have “improved” upon our footwear to the point they have more technology in them than your iPad.

As a result of this shoe tech, humans have modified their jogging/running/sprinting gaits to look more like a natural walking – heel-toe – gait. Instead of using the natural shock-absorbers built into our feet, we rely on our shoes to absorb the shock of a longer heel-toe stride. And this has resulted in a whole bunch of aches, pains & injuries.

The makers of minimalist shoes are creating shoes that:

  1. Protect your feet from puncture & cold temperatures
  2. While still allowing your feet to function as originally intended
  3. And hopefully helping you correct all of the postural and impact related damage you have inflicted upon yourself by running in your cool Nike Shox.

Review Criteria

  • Protection – If you’re not going to develop thick natural calluses by actually running barefoot, you need to wear a shoe that will protect you from the occasional sharp stone or chunk of glass.
  • Proprioception – A bare foot provides immediate feedback to the surface it rests upon. A thick spongy sole…not so much. This can be crucial when it comes to avoiding ankle sprains and wiping out while trail running.
  • Natural Foot Movement – Does the shoe allow or  prevent your foot from flexing & spreading in order to distribute the load uniformly over the entire foot. This analysis will address shoe width (especially the toe box), arch support, shock absorption, etc…
  • Weight of the Shoe – Who wants a heavy, clunky shoe?
  • The Drop – Most running shoes raise the heel 22-24mm off the ground while lifting the front of the shoe only 10-15mm off the ground. This difference creates a forward leaning slope which changes your posture and leads to a heel-toe gait which leads a bunch of problems. Long story short, a flat shoe is more natural.
  • Shape of the Sole – As your foot spreads, does the protective sole continue to protect your foot from physical damage
  • Comfort – Do they feel good on your feet?
  • Ease of Use – Are they easy to put on?
  • Appearance – Do you look like a freak wearing them? Do you care?
  • Ventilation – Vibrams are notoriously stinky shoes…what about the others?
  • Durability – I only tested the shoes for a few weeks, so this test is pretty inconclusive.
  • Price – Due to my Scottish background, cost is always a factor.
  • Application – Is the shoe applicable for everyday use, running, sports, yoga, weight lifting, water sports, beach sports, etc?

Okay, that’s it for today. I should have the first review online this Friday.

Shoe Reviews

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