Meet Lems Boulder, the "Barefoot Shoe" Boot

Meet Lems Boulder, the "Barefoot Shoe" Boot

I got good news from Andrew Rademacher, founder of upstart minimalist/barefoot shoe manufacturer Lems Shoes* ("Light. Easy. Minimal.") — the first batch of the much-anticipated Lems Shoes Boulder Boot are now available for order! I say "first batch" because it's only the first few hundred pairs of production (more to come, of course, within a few weeks).

The release of the Boulder boot marks the first of a new line of Lems hitting the market in 2013! What's so exciting about the Boulder? Aside from it being a "barefoot shoe boot" that is super lightweight, zero drop, minimally and flexibly soled, and a boot, well, what else is there to say? If you've had a pair of Andrew's barefoot shoes, you're expectations are likely through the roof for these boots. We've reviewed the first offering from Lems that hit back in 2011 — the Primal (see reviews here and here) and had nothing but good things to say.

Andrew has a pair of Boulders coming my way, so I hope to share more about it soon, but if you're eager to snatch up a pair without further adieu and want to know the scoop, read on!

UPDATE: I got the boots! If you want to jump straight to my full review of the Lems Boulder boot, go here!

The official Boulder Boot specs from Lems!

Read the rest of this post »

This is Not a Fad: You can Run Pain Free.

In addition to running in his VFFs, Dave kicks back in his Vibram Five Fingers KSO Treks while at work in Knoxville, Tennessee.
In addition to running in his VFFs, Dave kicks back in his Vibram Five Fingers KSO Treks while at work in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Guest post by Dave Parmly

From the design labs of Nike, Inc. to athletic shoe retailers to “fitness trainers," ripples of change are upsetting the conventional wisdom many of us grew up believing about the sport of running. New ideas have the potential to reduce running-related injuries and make the sport more accessible and enjoyable. One trendy new idea is the concept of barefoot running or “minimalist running.” Publicized in books like Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, featured in Runner’s World, Parade Magazine, Scientific American, and other media outlets, the return to our less-padded past is generating a lot of buzz.

As a father of three, I caution my family to avoid fads, “crazes,” and trends that promise much but deliver less. I’m a skeptic and I admit it. It was with skepticism that I looked at barefoot/minimalist running. I’ve been running in Army combat boots or expensive running shoes for 30 years. In my mid-20s, I was logging 6-minute miles, 60 to 75 miles a week, and running half-marathons regularly. After leaving the military, the miles dropped but I was a regular, habitual runner. Right up until five years ago, when I was forced by chronic pain to stop running completely.

A runner in pain, a runner no more ...

For 20 years, I was a runner in pain. It started at age 25, with nagging knee pain from Osgood-Schlatter disease. I kept running, but it wasn’t easy. You name it, I experienced it: plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and knees that swelled after a run, and sounded like sand paper with every stair step. I just popped Ranger M&Ms (Motrin), laced ‘em up and went back out. Many of you share my addiction, the call of the road. At 40, I went to a running specialist, got videoed, measured, and coached. I changed my stride, bought new shoes every 500 to 600 miles, tried rubberized tracks and springy treadmills. Sometimes it improved, but always the behind-the-knee swelling, not painful, indicated something wasn’t right. Finally, when the swelling persisted for days, not hours, after even a short treadmill run, I knew I had to stop. So at age 45, right as my metabolism was settling in for retirement, I took away the only regular exercise I knew.

An ex-Army buddy turned me on to CrossFit, a general fitness concept that does not emphasize distance running. CrossFit worked my metabolism, built strength, and got me back in shape. But when the Workout of the Day (the "WOD") called for any distance running at all, I substituted something else. I was off the running market for good, I thought.

A fortuitous "pose" — rediscovering running

One evening I watched an online lecture clip about “POSE Running,” a style of running that completely removed the shin/knee/hip strain inflicted by most conventional running styles, which are permissible only because of the heavily padded shoes most people wear. POSE running emphasizes shorter strides and landing on the forefoot, with the body kept vertical over the feet and hips.

The coach in the video demonstrated the pounding the heels sustain as our running mass lands on that bone at the back of the foot. No matter how much you pad it, no matter how often you change your running shoes, when you run with a heel-strike your heels are hammered by forces they were not designed to sustain. Only modern running shoes, with their heavily padded heels permit this ultimately self-destructive running style.

One evening, while walking the dog, I decided to see if I could try a little of this POSE running. I was wearing old, split at the sides New Balance cross trainers. I only went for a little 1/8 mile jog, coming down on my forefoot, keeping my heel off the ground. I slowed to a walk, a little winded. “Wow, that really does strain the calf,” I thought. Forty-eight hours later delayed onset muscle soreness ("DOMS") caught me. Yow! My calves were tight as drums. Still, I noticed none of the knee swelling I used to get after even the shortest run. Interesting. After a few days, I took the dog out again and tried the same running style, but ran a little longer, maybe a 1/4 mile this time. A little less soreness in the calves but no knee pain or swelling.

After that, I went to the internet to learn all I could about forefoot running, POSE technique, and the advantages it offers to runners of all types. After some weeks of warming up and gradually increasing distances, I was back, a runner once again.

I rarely ran more than three miles, and a 10 minute-mile is my plodding pace. But I was running. And it didn’t matter that I ran in old, broken down New Balances. The forefoot strike and the arch of the foot provided all the padding I needed. But I was running pain-free for the first time in 24 years. I was a believer.

Still, I looked at my shoes and noted a lot of unneeded rubber and nylon. I dug deeper into “back to the basics” running and found the concept of barefoot running (BFR) and minimalist running (MR). The idea is simple: run with nothing on our feet except what we were born with, or as close to that as possible, eschewing the padding, heel cups, wicking fabrics, micro chips and laces. The runner lands lightly on the forefoot and quickly pulls the foot high off the ground so it can descend down, landing under the hips, cushioning the strike with the wonderful mechanical function in the arched foot of homo erectus.

In Born to Run Christopher McDougall describes the physiological characteristics of humans, apart from all species, to run for long distances. McDougall states that we are made to operate efficiently without “running shoes” and did so for a long time. He notes that Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile in shoes that resembled ballet slippers, with no heel or any padding. Bannister was also injury free his whole running career.

Discovering the barefoot alternative — Vibram Five Fingers

One day, while browsing through my favorite adult toy store, River Sports Outfitters on Sutherland, I noticed an odd-looking combination of a glove and a shoe. The sales associate said “Oh, those are called the Vibram Five Fingers. They’re pretty new.” They have a rubber sole that mimics the natural arch of the foot, with no padding, and five separate pockets for each toe. “What do you do in these,” I asked. “Oh, anything you’d normally do. Some people run in them.” I interrupted, “People run in these things?” Most certainly, I was told. He explained that the foot really isn’t used to working as it was designed because we “support it” so much, so the muscles and tendons are a little sore when you start wearing them all the time, but they are good for any activity you would otherwise wear shoes. Standing with a V5F in hand, I realized that I was already close to being able to run in these. I bought a pair of Sprints, went home, sat down and put on my new shoes.

First impressions

A word of caution: People respond quite strongly to their first sight of a pair of Vibram 5 Fingers (V5Fs). My wife and teenage kids were no exception. “WHAT ARE THOSE ON YOUR FEET?” was the incredulous reaction. I explained the concept, showed the features, the cool colors. They were an eye-catching blue camo on the bottom ... very cool. “Well, just don’t wear them when you’re with me," was the caution I got. Even my wife, used to me coming home with some goofy things, was less than impressed.

On the other hand, the response from the ladies at the check-out line at Wal-Mart was quite strong! They were vocally curious about them, wanting to see me kick something to show if they really protected the toe ... fortunately, they did! Sideways glances and double-takes told me many people were not prepared for the sight of “hobbit feet” as a friend of mine called them. Truth to tell, it was his wife that called them that, as she forbade him from ever wearing shoes as ugly as V5Fs. “She’s a sad, narrow-minded woman,” I kidded my friend. He just shrugged. So not everyone was impressed.

But when I ran in them, my feet were very impressed! As I have learned by explaining to so many curious people, the difference between V5Fs and shoes is like the difference between wearing mittens and wearing gloves. Gloves allow your hand and fingers to work in a synchronized but independent manner. Mittens ask the fingers to move as a homogenous whole. If you spent most of your time doing everything with mittens on, it’s logical to assume many of the muscles and tendons would become underused, or would become habituated to limited ranges of motion and exertion. The transition from "foot mittens" to "foot gloves" caused my feet to ache a little at first, but the more I wore them at home, and especially on runs, the more my feet learned to be ... well, feet again. And the soreness disappeared. Though I began with one mile runs, it wasn’t long before I was back to three and four miles, three days a week. And no sore feet.

Most importantly, I was running those distances with a complete absence of any joint or ligament discomfort! No shin splints, no twinge of fasciitis, no pain and, for the first time since I was 24 years old, no swelling behind the knee at the end of a run. Do my calf muscles occasionally ache after a hard run? Sure, but muscle ache is normal, natural and not a bad thing in exercise. Joint and ligament pain is a sign of trouble, and I was finally running with none of that.

What do you do in those?

For the holidays, our family went to Walt Disney World, and over the next 5 days, I decided that V5Fs are the best conversation piece ever. I was often stopped by people asking where I got my shoes. The 2 most common questions I heard are: “Are those shoes comfortable?” and/or “Where did you get those shoes?” And how did my feet feel at the end of a 12-hour day pounding the pavement in the Vacation Capitol of the World? Just fine, thanks. No more tired than they would have been in any other shoes.

Another question is “So, what do you do in those?” I resist the urge to say “Um, I walk. What do you do in your shoes?” The answer is that I pretty much wear them everywhere except work and church. In the summer, I hope my pastor is a forgiving person because they’ll be in the pews! ANYTHING you would normally do in shoes, you can do in V5Fs.

Wrapping up — the family gets in on the VFF action

A runner who struggles with chronic or persistent pain during or after running should take a look at the concepts behind POSE/Forefoot running. Barefoot running becomes a next logical step for some (not all) who deal with chronic joint pain from running. Wearing Vibram 5 Fingers puts your foot in a shoe that will not allow you to run in a way that hurts your body. The discomfort of landing on an un-padded heel will force you to either stop the run or switch to a forefoot strike. The Big Shoe manufacturers like Nike are introducing shoes intended to mimic barefoot running. Other manufacturers are rushing similar models through testing and will be on the market soon.

What about that advice I give my kids about not giving in to the latest fad? I guess, like teen-agers everywhere, it’s in one ear and out the other. The day we returned home from Disney World, my oldest son and his girlfriend went straight to River Sports Outfitters and bought Vibram 5 Fingers, KSO’s for him and Sprints for her. Matching colors, of course. The other day, I was looking for my Classics at the end of the day. Funny ... I left them right here. Then my younger son walked in the door, back from a 3 mile run…wearing my Classics. “They work pretty good, dad. Can I get a pair?” And my wife? She wants a pair just so “I can be like you and have conversations with total strangers.” Okay, so they ignored my advice about trends ... but they did take my advice on getting back to the basics in foot wear. One out of two? I’ll take that, any day!

About the author —

Dave Parmly is an over-the-hill Benefits & HR manager who lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. He owns V5F Sprints, Classics and KSOs ... so far. He hasn’t quite forgotten what he was able to do as a young soldier and keeps trying new things that keep him active, fit and in the out-of-doors. He has converted most of his family to V5Fs. Dave oversees his companies medical benefits plan and is passionate about practical, healthy living because it saves money! Dave graduated from the University of Florida with a history degree — he has ZERO education, certifications or job experience in exercise physiology, nutrition or sports science, but hasn’t let that stop him from sounding like he does!

VFF Noob Buys his First Pair of Vibram Five Fingers (black Classics)

This is me the day I got my all black classics.  I'm VFF noob in the forum.  I thought my canine companion Amy would make a good backdrop.  They take a little getting used to but I am liking them more and more and getting them on is getting a lot easier.
"This is me the day I got my all black classics. I'm VFF noob in the forum. I thought my canine companion Amy would make a good backdrop. They take a little getting used to but I am liking them more and more and getting them on is getting a lot easier."

Above we see Guy's first pair of Vibram Five Fingers Classics in black. I asked Guy — "VFF noob" on the forums — to share his experience getting his first pair of "barefoot shoes" as I think it's fun and informative for Vibram veterans to remember back to the not-so-distant past, one in which the novelty of foot gloves was still fresh.

Below is what Guy had to share on picking a Vibram Five Fingers style, his buying experience, and how his feet have broken in to his new minimalist shoes:

Initially I was torn between getting classics or KSOs. I kind of hoped to buy locally in case I had any problems as it seems more than a couple people have sizing or product defect issues. I found a store to at least try some on and the only thing they had in my size were blue camo KSOs. I liked the feel but wanted a more casual color scheme. I called around and no one had any black KSOs or classics in stock.

I started checking online and GSS didn't have either KSOs or classics in black in my size, only the KSO treks. Even Vibram was out of stock on black KSOs. I broke down and bought my all black classics directly from Vibram in the same size, M41, that I had tried on in blue camo KSOs.

They arrived pretty quickly, I think I ordered them on the 11th or 12th and they arrived the morning of the 16th. When I first put them on they were pretty snug and I was worried that I had fallen prey to the black classics/KSOs sizing issue. My toes weren't ramming the ends of the toe pockets but definitely touching them. I found that my heel wasn't sitting back all the way which was forcing my toes a little too deep into their pockets.

Another thing was that the seam on the inside bottom edge of my big toes was kind of bulky (where the yellow microfiber footbed is stitched in) and hits about 1/3rd of the way in on the bottom of either big toe. It made me wonder if I have especially fat toes or something but I believe they are just average. This was especially uncomfortable on my right foot at first but it seems to have faded completely away although we'll see how it goes once I go for a long walk in them or something. I have read about people trimming excess fabric and although I don't particularly care for the idea of that but I guess we'll see.

The more I've worn them the more comfortable they have become and the more I forget that I'm even wearing them at all. It's been a little too chilly here in Central Oklahoma to wear them outside much. Wearing them at work isn't particularly comfortable as the flooring is all tile or concrete and the balls of my feet don't care for it at all. I played with my dog in my yard a bit yesterday and the first time I tried to really dig in and chase her both my ankles seemed to scream "WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO US!" I guess I've been a little too inactive over the winter :-) (cold weather and no warm-up whatsoever probably didn't help matters).

I hope to get some KSOs or KSO Treks in the near future for some hiking and more active stuff.

Thanks, Guy! I think you'll find that in time the Classics will get more and more comfortable. I'm not sure if it's your feet that are breaking in to the feel of Classic Five Fingers (or VFFs generally) or it's the Classic Vibrams breaking in to your feet, but I find that though Classics may not initially blow your mind in comfort, over time, they feel less and less "on" your foot, which makes your foot feel more and more barefoot!

Also, I think you'll find that as you walk in them on hard surfaces, your gait will adjust so that you don't pound the ground: when you're close to barefoot, you have to walk more gently.

Thanks for sharing your Vibram newbie perspective with us, Guy! We've all been there.

The barefoot-powered Vibram Five Fingers Fan community!

Welcome to the webring of Vibram Five Fingers fans! We Are Affiliated - The Primalfoot Alliance: Taking Our Feet Back.The sites below are run by active "VFFers" who run, walk, play, and engage the world through their feet via thier thin-soled foot gloves — Vibram Five Fingers!

If you'd like to be on this list, simply copy the embed code for the widget and place it on your website or blog's sidebar or footer and then contact me with your URL!

Vibram Five Fingers Fans

Widget:Get the embed code:
<center><a href="" title="Vibram Five Fingers fan community - free your feet!"><img src="" alt="Vibram Five Fingers fan community - free your feet!" width="150" height="150" /></a><p><a href="" title="Vibram Five Fingers fan community - free your feet!">I love my toe shoes!</a></p></center>

Note: This list is for non-commercial websites / websites with dynamic, original content (The prototypical template being a "blog"). Though your site doesn't have to even regularly talk about Five Fingers (VFFs), it should at least have tangentially related content (It covers topics like health, lifestyle, philosophy, etc.). Most personal blogs will automatically fit the bill; on the other hand, commercial blogs or sites typically will not. All of this is to insure this list connects VFF users to other users so that the community can connect and learn from its members.

be included on the list, the widget needs to be on more than a single page: this insures that VFFers who click through to your site readily recognize you as part of the barefoot-powered community!

Latest Vibram Five Fingers Reviews 2/28/10

Below are this week's last VFF reviews:

  • Pros and Cons: Vibram Five Fingers at One Foot Tsunami [ KSO ]:

    Pro: Thin soles make the Five Fingers perfect for nighttime cat burglary and other skullduggery.
    Con: Kleptomania is a serious problem, and these shoes are an unhealthy enabler.

    Nice humor-based review of VFF KSOs!
  • 3 years wearing Vibram five Fingers at Do more Trail RuNZ [ Sprint ]:

    My first pair of vff sprints lasted just over two years and I trashed them like no tomorrow, They are are super-well made, tough and durable. I did a lot of trail running on abrasive volcanic ash so I eventually wore holes in the forefoot of both shoes and needed to replace them with a new pair. After two years of constant use, some of the stitching started coming apart - but it was no big deal. A less heavy-user (i.e. using them for walking, hiking, boating etc.) will get a longer lifetime out of them. I am very pleased that the hole I made in these vffs was on the forefoot and the heel showed almost no sign of wear and tear - I must have been fore to midfoot striking.

  • Working out in my Vibram Five Fingers at Learn Fitness [ KSO ]:

    All of the balance and form comments above are highlighted in spades doing circuits. The combination of weights and cardio circuits really feel great wearing the VFF. The only thing I did have trouble with at first though was doing pushups in them. In regular shoes the thick stiff sole takes up a fair amount of the stress in a pushup. Wearing the VFF your toes and feet take up the stress. Until you develop the toe strength and balance the pushup might be a bit challenging but you’ll be fine in no time.

    Great overview of how VFFs work in the gym doing exercises on machines, free weights, and cardio machines!
  • Barefoot Running and the Cigar Community at Puffing Cigars [ KSO ]:

    It had the added benefits as well in the jumping rope and weightlifting departments. Jumping rope and performing double-unders has been a challenge for me, but with the FiveFingers on I was able to quickly start getting consecutive skips and better height. I chalk this up to being unencumbered by weightier shoes, and also being able to balance better in general by jumping from the front of my foot. As for the weightlifting, I have always struggled with different snatch movements, because in a large part the force needed to propel the weight upward requires one to push or jump from their heel specifically. In normal shoes I could jump, but I was tending to push from the front instead of loading up the heel. Wearing FiveFingers allowed me to sense what part of my foot I was leading from, and make the proper adjustments. In one session, and in multiple ones since, I have seen up to a 40lb gain in some of my snatches and high pulls!

    VFFs for CrossFit!
  • Vibram Five Fingers KSO Review at Barefoot Chronicles (Jason Robillard of Barefoot Running University) [ KSO ]:

    Traction on dry, hard surfaces is excellent. The rubber soles are both durable and "sticky." Traction on wet surfaces is still decent. It is similar to other traditional trainers. Traction on dry trails is also very good. Muddy, snowy, or icy trails are a major obstacle for KSOs. Traction is horrible in these conditions. Personally, I don't mind training in these conditions as it is a good strengthening activity. However, racing would be VERY difficult.

  • My Experience Of Running In Vibram Five Fingers at Krisandro [ KSO ]:

    While I listen to my body this time and take a good break to let my foot recover, I am almost certain that barefoot running or in minimalistic shoes like the Vibram Five Fingers is extremely good for me. I probably need a whole year of running and even more to be sure of the benefits that has graced me so far and of course to make sure that I don’t solve a few problems and uncover a whole nest of bigger injury troubles.

Go here for last week's Latest Five Fingers reviews round-up.

Vibram Five Fingers Discusssed on The Doctors TV show (Classics and KSOs)

A screencap from The Doctors show where they show off their Vibram Five Fingers.  At least one of the doctors - Dr. Drew Ordon - couldn't get both KSO VFFs on his feet!
A screencap from The Doctors show where they show off their Vibram Five Fingers. At least one of the doctors - Dr. Drew Ordon - couldn't get both KSO VFFs on his feet!

In case you missed it on TV, the popular show The Doctors featured VFFs. Dr. Travis Stork leads the discussion and makes the nice case that "5,000 years ago we didn't have arch supports. We didn't have running shoes with lots of cushion ..." going on to make a nice plug for natural running.

Humorously, one of the docs, Dr. Drew Ordon, couldn't quite get one of his Vibram KSO Five Fingers on! Also, Dr. Lisa Masterson calls VFFs a "fashion don't" — they'll grow on her, I'm sure. Oh and you'll notice, also, that she's wearing the new color combo dark pink/fascia Classic Vibram Five Fingers.

A close-up of one of The Doctors - Dr. Lisa Masterson - she's wearing the new color women's Classic Vibram Five Fingers in dark pink!
A close-up of one of The Doctors - Dr. Lisa Masterson - she's wearing the new color women's Classic Vibram Five Fingers in dark pink!

Watch the clip featuring Vibram Five Fingers on The Doctors below:

I do take issue with Dr. Stork's notion that surfaces weren't hard 5,000 years ago (like concrete today); seems there were no uniform surfaces 5,000 years ago either, meaning you had to run over rocks and varied terrain all the time.

I digress. All in all, I see this as good press for Vibrams!

Heisman winner, ex-NFL player Eddie George's KSO Vibram Five Fingers seen on Celebrity Beach Bowl

Pictured here is Eddie George, ex-NFL player for the Titans and Oilers, playing football in his black KSO Five Fingers on the DirectTV Celebrity Beach Bowl.
Pictured here is Eddie George, ex-NFL player for the Titans and Oilers, playing football in his black KSO Five Fingers on the DirectTV Celebrity Beach Bowl.

The 4th Annual DIRECTV Celebrity Beach Bowl was on February 6, and if you missed it, you likely missed ex-NFL player (Tennessee Titans and Houston Oilers) and Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George playing football in his black KSO Vibram Five Fingers.

Fortunately, Phillip was on the case and snapped the above photos capturing George kicking up sand and dominating the field in his Vibrams!

It's a little known secret that professional athletes are wearing Vibram Five Fingers for training. I won't say who, but at least one NFL star has contacted me trying to get his feet in some KSO Treks and I've gotten word a few MLB players wear them, too. Alas, most of these players are under contracts with sports shoe titans like (ahem) Nike.

Anyway, great to see Eddie George sporting KSO Five Fingers on the big screen! VFF on!