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!

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Using tape to add strength, durability, and even style to the Vibram Five Fingers KSO (and KSO Trek) straps! [modification]

A pair of blue camouflaged KSO Five Fingers showing off the Marley Mission Tape Mod!
A pair of blue camouflaged KSO Five Fingers showing off the Marley Mission Tape Mod!

Jason a.k.a. "marley mission" on the birthday shoes forums came up with a stylish way to fortify the straps of his KSO Five Fingers in order to minimize strap wear on VFF KSOs. I asked Jason to share some photos of his Tape-Modded VFF KSOs on the main blog. He graciously agreed.

The Marley Mission VFF KSO Tape Mod

Hey all. Justin asked me to send him some tape mod pics of my VFF after seeing me post some pics on the forums. As I totally love the site I replied that it would be my pleasure.

Now of course the starting reason to do tape mods of the straps was to add protection to strap areas where the strap looped through across the front of the shoes. As you might have seen from previous comments on the forums regarding VFF straps — they tend to fray and can even break from constant strap loop contact.

Basically, I also noticed this with my VFF pairs (I have 1 treks and 3 kso's) as the plastic piece in the loop area does act as a "saw" of sorts against the fabric of the strap. As I run around 60 miles a week now between all four pairs - I decided to do some preventative taping in the loop areas on the straps. One thing led to another and I decided to tape mod the entire strap areas on all four pairs.

Brown KSO Treks Tape Modded:

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I did these with Realtree Brown 2" Duct Tape from ducttapesales.com. The duct tape sticks real well so no crazy glue was needed to further secure tape seams. Other notes from the treks pics are that these pics were fresh from a 2 hour trail run in the snow. I have also used crazy glue around the edges of the sole area where the sole connects to the shoe material — in both a repair situation and preventatively.

Orange / Black KSOs Tape Modded:

Click to see larger! Click to see larger! Click to see larger!


I did these with Orange Camo 2" Gaffers Tape from ducttapesales.com. I also used no glue here with tape seems as the tape was suffieciently adhering to the strap material. The different tape material choice had to do with the desire for the orange camo design which I only found in Gaffers Tape - not duct. As you will see next with blue camo tape I also made a material switch to Hockey Tape - as this was the only tape material that i saw having a blue camo design.

Blue Camo KSOs Tape Modded:

Click for the larger image! Click for the larger image! Click for the larger image!


I did these with Blue Camo 2" Hockey Tape from ducttapesales.com. I used some crazy glue on the tape seams here as the hockey tape seemed to need that reinforcement in the seam areas. Obviously, since the pieces of tape carry only a 2" width - several pices are needed to loop around the straps. Each piece cut varied in the length but no pieces—even in the thickest area in the loop section of the strap—measured more than 3 or 4 inches. I was careful to take my time in wrapping the straps so they fit nicely against the strap material.

Black KSOs Tape Modded (aka - the screwed up pair):

I did these with White Duct Tape from a local convenience store. These did NOT come out like I had hoped. Using traditional duct tape that had a white color I initially thought would look good but this particular tape turned out difficult to work with with and the black and white contrast did not give the result I wanted. The tape also did not seem to go on as smoothly though it is holding strong. I then tried to add a "zebra design" with a black sharpie only to learn that the sharpie began easily rubbing off the duct tape material so I stopped mid way. I will probably leave them as is as I don't want to put too much tape on and the tape itself does the job by protecting the strap. You can check these out at the forum thread dedicated to this mod.
Thanks Jason for this contribution to the Five Fingers fan community!

Bien and Ben Run Nittany Valley Half Marathon in Vibram KSOs

Bien (left) met fellow VFF-runner Ben (right) at the starting line of the Nittany Valley Half Marathon.  Both ended up finishing the race at the same time, spreading the good word about Vibram Five Fingers.
Bien (left) met fellow VFF-runner Ben (right) at the starting line of the Nittany Valley Half Marathon. Both ended up finishing the race at the same time, spreading the good word about Vibram Five Fingers.
Bien took a photo of the icy grounds at the half marathon.  Worried about the cold, Bien wore two pairs of Injinji socks!
Bien took a photo of the icy grounds at the half marathon. Worried about the cold, Bien wore two pairs of Injinji socks!

Above are photos of Bien and Ben taken at the Nittany Valley Half Marathon at Penn State on Here's Bien on December 6th. Here's what Bien had to say about the race:

Hi Justin,

I ran the Nittany Valley Half Marathon at Penn State yesterday and met Ben, also wearing KSOs, at the starting line. We actually finished at the same time too, so it was a great opportunity to take a photo. This a picture of us right after the race, with the frost still on our hats. This is my second half marathon using the KSOs — I did the Baltimore Half 6 weeks ago, and beat that time by a whopping 12 minutes.

The icy cold start didn't deter us from wearing the VFFs. It was great to see that a lot of people already knew about them and both Ben and I helped spread the word about "barefooting" all along the way.

Thanks for all your work on the site!

-Bien

Bien also added that he wore two pairs of Injinjis for the race to thwart the icy ground (see the photo above).

Impressive progress on your times, Bien! And great to hear VFF fans are sticking together and spreading the good word!

European Five Fingers Flow Trek a.k.a. KSO Trek Tex out!

European Five Fingers Flow Trek a.k.a. KSO Trek Tex out!

Way back in late September one VFF fan got word of the "KSO Trek Tex," sharing this photo on the birthday shoes forums. Later, German websites voycontigo.de (translated) and socken-kaufhaus.de (translated) announced the KSO Trek Tex would be released later in the year in Europe. Even still, more speculation about the KSO Trek Tex surfaced on the forums — this time via a Vibram Five Fingers distributor in Sweden.

Over here, I wasn't able to get any confirmation of this release so I held off on posting about this apparent hybrid Flow upper and Trek lower VFF. Now, fast forward to a couple of days ago, and it seems one German VFF fan named Andy ("Chronix" on the forums) has picked up pair!

I asked Andy to send me a few photos of what is apparently officially called the Flow Trek and he sent in the following photos:

Click to see a larger image! Click to see a larger image! Click to see a larger image! Click to see a larger image!
Click to see a larger image! Click to see a larger image! Click to see a larger image! Click to see a larger image!

It still seems that FiveFingers Flow Trek will be a Euro-only release. Clearly, the benefits of a Flow Trek are that you get maximum warmth via the 2mm thick neoprene upper and the thicker lugged Vibram Trek sole. It looks impressive, too. So the question is: would any of you rather have a VFF Flow Trek over the leather VFF KSO Trek?

Joshua wears VFFs pre-race, runs 5K barefoot

LEFT: Joshua wore his black and orange KSO Five Fingers before taking them off (RIGHT) to run the Jingle Bell 5k.  Note the ankle bells!
LEFT: Joshua wore his black and orange KSO Five Fingers before taking them off (RIGHT) to run the Jingle Bell 5k. Note the ankle bells!

Joshua recently ran the Arthritis Foundation Jingle Bell Run 5k — barefoot — as in, without his black and orange KSO Five Fingers, which were relegated to the position of pre-race warm-up attire.

Here's Josh on the event:

Wore my VFFs so they'd let me into the hospital before the race for packet pickup. Ran in my birthday shoes for the actual race despite temps being in the mid 30's. Don't even want to think about what the ground temperature was. Random cheers of "GO BAREFOOT GUY!!!" gave me an extra push in my kick to finish strong. Another PR to end the season!

Thanks for such a great site and keep up the great work!

Joshua

Mid-30s (Fahrenheit) and naked feet must have made for a chilly run! Glad you got some support from the crowd!

And those bells on your ankles could set a new VFF trend for the winter . . . :P

Feeling Fitness Deep Down In My Sole

by Tim Donahey NASM CPT, Guest Contributor

As a competitive raw powerlifter, when I'm getting prepared for an upcoming meet the majority of my training is strength-oriented and focused on optimal performance in three lifts: the barbell squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. As I've transitioned from traditional footwear to weightlifting-specific footwear and now to Vibram FiveFingers, I have both increased the efficacy of these barbell movements and also greatly increased the efficacy of my overall foot performance in day-to-day life.

V5Fs and Powerlifting

Tim gets ready to deadlift in his blue camo KSO Five Fingers.
Tim gets ready to deadlift in his blue camo KSO Five Fingers.

I'm an unequipped powerlifter which means I wear no performance enhancing gear, only a belt and loose fitting knee sleeves are allowed by my federation -- USA Powerlifting. Given those minimalistic restrictions, my FiveFingers are an asset in optimally performing all three of my contested lifts in general and essential to the back squat in particular.

Due to the squat's complexity, extreme range of motion, the numerous joints acting as movers, and the degree of stabilization necessary to support a weight on the upper back, optimal foot recruitment is crucial to perfecting this movement. Even before the weight is ever squatted, simply stepping backwards out of the power rack with upwards of 400 lbs resting on my back can be almost as much of a challenge as the actual squat movement itself. It's essential that I have full command of my feet at this point since every step I take to get myself into position demands energy -- energy best reserved for the squat itself. Taking any more than two steps back becomes exhausting and risks a failed attempt. Wearing my FiveFingers I am able to ensure each step is surefooted and precise. The lack of heel on the V5Fs allows me to keep my feet closer to the ground with each step, keeping my center of gravity lower and avoiding sway from one side or the other. The adherence of the heel to my foot also allows a graceful transition of the full weight of my body to the ground from toe to heel, and the razor-siped soles prevent slippage and keep my feet firmly glued to the platform.

Tim demonstrates a squat in his Vibram Five Fingers.
Tim demonstrates a squat in his Vibram Five Fingers.


Once in position I have a much greater (excuse the pun) grasp of the squat movement itself. The heightened sensitivity of my feet against the floor allows greater awareness of my body's center of balance. It's critical that the weight of the barbell be evenly distributed across the mid-foot region. The increased mobility of my toes allows them to literally grip the floor -- much as my hands grip the barbell -- further increasing my base of stabilization. An added benefit to the FiveFingers over being completely barefooted (aside from the fact that sport regulations ban any such lack of attire) is the considerable traction they provide against the ground. The combination of sweaty feet, a flush lifting platform, and hundreds of pounds teetering precariously on my shoulders could well be a disastrous one, so the “grippyness” of my Vibes is a welcome benefit to ensuring a stable foundation.

Another critical function that the V5Fs provide is that their lack of cushioning allows optimal force transfer to the ground. Imagine what squatting a heavy weight on a mattress would look like and you can get some idea of what it's like to squat in a pair of heavily cushioned sneakers. A portion of the force generated by the body against the ground is absorbed by the shoe which diffuses it instead of transmitting it directly to the ground. An unabated transmission of force from the barbell to the feet to the ground increases stability and efficiency, ensuring that energy is preserved for a successful squat attempt.

Of course, all of my training is not limited to powerlifting, I draw upon a wide array of modalities to better sustain a broad-based fitness. My FiveFingers have been equally beneficial in those pursuits, including dynamic training movements like power cleans, box jumps, and kettlebell work. Remember what I said before about how squatting on a cushioned shoe (the mattress) absorbs the force/energy transmission to the ground? That is even more so the case when it comes to jumping or speed movements and training in Vibes optimizes that force transmission better than anything else short of being barefoot. In other words, Vibes will literally make you jump higher and run faster!

Tim demonstrates some plyometric box jumping in his KSO VFFs — Rising to the challenge!
Tim demonstrates box jumping in his KSO VFFs: Rising to the challenge!

How the benefits of resistance training extend to everyday life

I've explained how V5Fs have increased the strength and efficiency of my sport, but even more important is how my sport, with the assistance of my FiveFingers, has increased the strength of my feet in more conventional settings. We know that once you take away the structure of traditional shoes that the burden of support is shifted from the shoe back to the foot where it rightly belongs. We also know that introducing a stress to the feet, say in the form of a support deficit, creates a stress adaptation to compensate for that deficit, hence making the foot stronger and more able to deal with the demands that are randomly placed on it. By increasing those demands to an even greater degree through the addition of external resistance, such as with strength (powerlifting/barbells/kettlebells), power (Olympic weightlifting/kettlebells/plyometrics), or speed training (sprints/hill running/plyometrics), we can also increase the fitness of our feet through all walks of life (again with the puns!).

It is essential for the foot to support itself under it's own bodyweight, but by increasing the body's overall load to one greater than the amount of one's bodyweight we are able to proportionally increase the strength of the foot, ankle, and calf for all life's demands -- whether they be walking, running, jumping or any other kind of footwork.

In case you're wondering to yourself, why in the world would I ever need my feet to sustain a weight more than that of my own body-weight, consider this analogy. Imagine you're driving your car, which happens to weigh exactly 1,000 lbs with you in it, along a deep canyon which you must cross and you arrive at two bridges spanning the gulf. The first bridge has a maximum capacity of 1,001 lbs and the second bridge has a maximum capacity of 10,001. Even though both bridges are strong enough to support the weight of you and your vehicle, which one are you more confident to drive across? Call me crazy, but I don't think we should consider the support capacity of our feet any differently. Life is random and unpredictable, and no matter what challenge may arise, a stronger foot is more capable of rising to any challenge. That ability will build the foundation for a stronger life well lived.

Conclusion


We are all already aware of the immense benefits of replicating barefootedness; increased foot, ankle, and calf mobility and stability; muscle, tendon, and ligament strength; and proprioception to the ground, flexibility, and balance. In my own training I've found that added resistance in the form of a weighted barbell or dynamic power and speed movement only adds to these benefits. This not only has applications for training inside the gym environment, but it also has legitimate carryover in the “real” world, even when in the absence of an external resistance because a stronger foot is a better functioning, more versatile foot.

Vibram FiveFingers have definitely helped me to bridge the gap between the exercises I perform everyday in the gym and the more traditional, but sometimes unpredictable, activities that I perform everyday outside the gym, too (e.g. scaling a wall, climbing a tree, changing a tire, moving furniture, or escaping from the police). By getting me closer to barefoot my FiveFingers have helped me take my fitness level from the ground up and I hope it can yours as well.

About Tim

Tim Donahey is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and competitive raw powerlifter in USAPL. Currently he works as a sustainable fitness coach and owner of Sustainably Fit in Columbus, Ohio where he resides and you can join him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

Tim is also the brains behind the KSO Trek for women and small-footed men petition and is a regular at the BirthdayShoes Forums (He goes by the moniker "Bango Skank"). Tim was also recently chosen as a winner of Vibram's Facebook photo contest for his plyometric box jump photo. In short, Tim is staying busy and has done a lot to not only further VFF awareness but also teach others about being healthier and more fit — sustainably fit as it were.

Roll Tide at the SEC Championship in VFFs

Roll Tide at the SEC Championship in VFFs
LEFT: "Here I am wearing my two week old black KSOs right before kickoff of the Southeastern Conference Championship game in Atlanta on Saturday December 5, 2009!" RIGHT: "Here's my black KSOs during the awarding of the SEC Championship Trophy to the game winning Alabama Crimson Tide!"

For some reason I had a feeling there would be at least one person at this past weekend's SEC Championship sporting VFFs — lo and behold James emailed me a couple photos he snapped while at the game as he cheered on the Alabama Crimson Tide to victory over the Florida Gators:

I absolutely love my shoes, and my shoes absolutely love my feet-and we both love our team, The Alabama Crimson Tide! These shoes kept my feet comfortable and warm while hiking around frigid downtown Atlanta. Also, while I was in Atlanta for the championship weekend I purchased my second pair of FF-the hard to find brown KSO Treks!

I'm going to the National Champonship Game against Texas at the Rose Bowl after the New Year, and will send a pic of my newly purchased brown KSO Treks at the game! I love these shoes! Roll Tide!

Glad to hear you're getting such good use out of your VFFs, James! Nothing like being able to kick back at a big football game with full foot freedom a la Five Fingers!

Incidentally, though I'm a University of Georgia alum, I was rooting for Alabama to win the SEC Championship — I lived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama for around four years as a kid — right down the street from Tommy Bowden, who was then an assistant coach at Alabama.