The Inaugural Asheville Marathon at the Biltmore - in Luna Sandals (Venado/original)

The Inaugural Asheville Marathon at the Biltmore - in Luna Sandals (Venado/original)

You're out on a run. Your nose is getting stuffy, so you lean to the side for a quick farmer's blow. It's cold out, but you didn't realize how cold until you go to wipe your nose with the back of your glove to clear off any additional moisture -- only to find that it's already frozen around the edge of your nostril in mere seconds.

Welcome to the inaugural Asheville Marathon, held on the grounds of the beautiful Biltmore estate. "Well," I thought dramatically at around mile 20, "At least I'll die somewhere majestic."

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    Xero Shoes - Barefoot Running Sandals

Interview with Patri Friedman, Seasteading Institute Founder

Patri Friedman gets ready for a maiden voyage on a DIY Tensegrity Pyramid / motorized Raft at the inaugural Ephemermisle — check the black Classic Five Fingers and Injinjis
Patri Friedman gets ready for a maiden voyage on a DIY Tensegrity Pyramid / motorized Raft at the inaugural Ephemerisle — an annual floating festival of politics, community and art — check the black Classic Five Fingers and Injinjis (photo credit: Chris Rasch).
Patri walks the plank at Ephemerisle in his Classics.  Note the pirate pajamas! (photo credit: DangerRanger)
Patri "walks the plank" at Ephemerisle in his Classics. Note the pirate pajamas! (photo credit: DangerRanger)

Background: Patri Friedman is perhaps best known as founder of the Seasteading Institute, an organization whose stated mission is "To further the establishment and growth of permanent, autonomous ocean communities, enabling innovation with new political and social systems." In addition to working towards changing our paradigm of governance, Patri is a fan of Vibram FiveFingers. Given the overlaps between VFFs and Seasteading, I asked Patri if he'd answer a few questions about Seasteading for and he kindly obliged.

Name:Patri Friedman,,,
Birthday:July 29, 1976
VFF shoe size:40
Feet are:fundamental

What originally attracted you to FiveFingers?

I'm a sucker for anything with an evolutionary explanation. Plus, I'm a narcissist and they attract attention. Once I got used to them, I loved the feel and the extra control of getting to use my toes (amazing for stop-and-go traffic, for example).

What VFFs do you own? Do you wear any other minimalist footwear?

VFFs: Black KSOs and Black Classics. Non-VFFs: ASICS Onitsuka Tiger and my current main shoes, Terra Plana Vivo Barefoots.

What have you mostly been doing in your Five Fingers?

Anything, really, from CrossFit to going to a conference. I'm most likely to wear them when I'm appearing in a formal business setting, interestingly enough — but then, I have an unusual business :).

Your current work is focused on the Seasteading Institute, an organization whose goal is to create new frontiers on the open sea by way of manufacturing floating nation-states in the ocean. I can't help but see a tie-in between the Seasteading Institute and VFFs — and I don't mean the fact that Vibrams were originally marketed as boat shoes.

There is definitely a tie-in. I am a contrarian - I like finding ideas which are true but not accepted by the mainstream. But to be a contrarian, you have to be smart, you can't just embrace any fringe idea or you'll be a crackpot. I see barefoot shoes and seasteading as both smart contrarian plays, unusual at first glance but backed by solid science. Wearing my VFFs helps emphasize that I'm calculatedly different.

Both VFFs and floating nation-states have the ability to increase human freedom. What makes seasteading so powerfully freeing?

Both are a return to an environment humans are better suited for. Our bodies were made to operate barefoot, and our minds were made to operate in small tribes. The modern world where we have no personal interaction with our leaders, where we can't build coalitions of our friends to change policies, and where we can't easily leave if we want to start a new tribe, is very different. Seasteading is a return to the world we were designed for, where any small group of people with a passionate vision for a better way of life can pursue it.

VFFs share another common characteristic with seasteads — the idea of a foot glove was (and still is to many) considered fringe and impractical. How do you overcome the resistance you encounter when promoting an unconventional idea like ad hoc nation states at sea?

People usually think it's crazy when they first hear it, but usually it just takes a single 15 to 30 minute talk to change their minds. I'd say there are three basic techniques. First and most important is to get them excited about the outcome, about the innovation we'd get if we had a startup sector for governments. That changes their whole perspective — from coming up with problems to coming up with solutions. Second is to use existing examples, like pointing out that cruise ships are cities at sea, and oil-rigs are permanent ocean installations. And third is to get into the details — let them state their concerns, since we have good answers for all but a few common questions (the true challenges, not the mirages).

You recently held the first Ephemerisle, a self-proclaimed "floating festival of politics, community and art," which took place on a make-shift raft of rafts, boats, and other floating structures. Looks like you wore your FiveFingers for the event. How did they hold up to the task?

They were great for hanging off the sides of boats, jumping around, etc*. Only downside is that my feet got wet, as the VFFs aren't so waterproof.

Check this excellent eight minute glimpse into the 2009 Ephemerisle. Patri is featured therein, and if you're paying attention you might catch his VFFs:

Ephemerisle Documentary by Jason Sussberg from The Seasteading Institute on Vimeo.

Thank you, Patri!

More on the Seasteading Institute and Ephemerisle:

Interested in taking to the oceans as a new frontier for experiments in governance? Check out the Seasteading Institute. Or read about the Seasteading Institute on Wikipedia. Here is the official Ephemerisle website if you want to learn more or participate in 2010.

An article on Ephemerisle by One participant's experience at Ephemerisle. The IrishTimes on the event. Finally, below is a rendering of what a seastead might look like by Andras Gyorf:

* Et cetera includes Patri making good use of his VFFs in a Zorb (see here, here, here, and here)

Topmost photo credit: Chris Rasch

Joe's Five Balls, Five Fingers

Joe's Five Balls, Five Fingers

If you're ever in the mood for juggling 5 mini basketballs, I highly recommend wearing VFF's while doing so. They help keep your balance, and they help your balls stay in the air longer. When gravity is doing everything it can to bring the balls past your five fingers on your hands, the Five Fingers on your feet are doing all they can to not let that happen. Five Fingers seem to be on your side, in the battle against gravity. Juggling becomes a united body experience when wearing Five Fingers, the ground is once again your friend. I like that, because as a juggler, the ground isn't always your best friend. Because, the ground represents drops, and drops represent mistakes. But, without the ground we don't learn. When you respect the ground, you respect gravity. Thanks Five Fingers for reinventing my juggling relationship with the ground. I think we're good now. We're closer at least.

Joe S.

Five balls in the air seems like a lot to manage. Well done, Joe! And thanks for the thoughtful words on gravity, juggling, and reconnecting with the ground.

You might remember Joe from his joggling the Philly marathon in Five Fingers.

Inspired by all this juggling goodness, I asked for a set of juggling balls for Christmas and Santa came through! Still working on it though.

Jawa's Vibram Vacation

Jawa runs on Negril Beach in Jamaica in his Sprint Vibram Five Fingers.  Looks like a beautiful place for a sandy run!
Jawa runs on Negril Beach in Jamaica in his Sprint Vibram Five Fingers. Looks like a beautiful place for a sandy run!

Be sure to check the photos linked below in Jawa's narrative below!

I am sure Vibram Five Fingers have been subjected to various conditions and your website serves as a single, authentic source where real people share their success with Vibram. As you may know I have been using Vibram since September 2009 and recently ran my first half marathon.

This winter break, I decided to go with my Vibram to Jamaica for a two week family vacation. In Jamaica we were very active: I ran on the streets of Montego Bay, climbed Dunn’s Rivera Falls, zipped through the longest (1600 feet long) zipline in Caribbean, jumped from a cliff, swung from a rope over YS falls, ran on the beaches of Negril, snorkeled, scuba dove and much more – all with my Vibram. This was truly a Vibram Vacation.

I wore my brand new taupe-clay sprint for this trip. The first day in Montego Bay, we decided to go to the famous Doctor’s Cave Beach. After snorkeling for about an hour, I was simply floating and relaxing.

Next day we went to the famous Dunn’s River Falls – from where the river merges with the ocean, we trekked upstream about 600 feet (See photo here).

Interestingly they were selling water shoes for $15 and many people asked me where I bought my Gorilla water shoes. We also visited the longest zipline in the Caribbean at Lethe Estate. It has 5 ziplines, varying in length from 250 feet to the amazing 1,600 feet (Here I am flying).

My favorite part of the vacation was in Negril, a small town an hour drive from Montego Bay. Negril claims to have 7-mile long sandy beach. I ran through this beach three times and I can attest it is only 4.5 miles (See photo at the top of the post). In Negril I ran through the Hedonism resort (nude beach), and the best part is that all the eyes were on me (my Vibram) as I ran at a steady, 9 minute/mile pace. I also ran through the main road which was treacherous for about 4 miles. There was no side walk but plenty of broken glasses, pebbles, sharp rocks, discarded furniture, two dead dogs and all kinds of trash. I was still was able to complete a 10+ mile run through the beaches and streets of Negril. Check out my Negril Run Garmin stats.

All my family members are PADI Certified scuba divers and we went for six dives. Of course, I went to dive with Vibram. Since Vibram feels like a glove for the foot, I was able to fit into diving fins (see here) easily. My daughter took this next picture when I was 75-feet under water.

Some additional pictures:

I couldn’t resist doing a headstand in the black river area on the south coast of Jamaica on this beautiful road. This is a single lane road with traffic on both sides so I have to do it quick (see here [getting ready] and here [headstand!])


Dr. Jawa is quite the pioneer for VFFs! Teaching in his black KSOs, racing in his blue camo KSOs, and cooling down with yoga moves in them, too — now he's taken Jamaica by storm!

Incidentally, I too have climbed Dunn's River Falls in my VFFs (Beware my blinding paleness!) — KSOs in my case back in May. They worked like a charm.

As a great number of us are dealing with a frustratingly cold winter, seeing Jawa have such a blast in a more temperate climate induces a mixture of excitement ... and jealousy! I just keep telling myself that Spring is just around the corner!

Thanks Jawa!

Edgar Kicks his KSOs at a Radio Station in Barcelona

Edgar wore his KSO Five Fingers "on the air" at a radio station in Barcelona.
Edgar wore his KSO Five Fingers "on the air" at a radio station in Barcelona.
Edgar normally gives Segway tours around Barcelona — wearing his VFFs, of course!
Edgar normally gives Segway tours around Barcelona — wearing his VFFs, of course!

Hi Justin,

Today i went to a radio station invited to talk about the segway tours I give around Barcelona, when they saw the Ksos they were so intrigued by them that I had to explain on air what they where and why I am wearing them.

I took a few pictures while at the radio station :)

You might recall that Edgar gives Segway tours around Barcelona in his KSO FiveFingers.

I love the looks on the radio guys' faces. I'm not sure if it's incredulity or curiosity! Way to spread the word Edgar! And if any VFFers are in Barcelona, be sure to check Edgar out!

Jim Weber, CEO of Brooks, on Barefoot Running

This is interesting — an open letter from Jim Weber, CEO of Brooks, on barefoot running. If you have a second, go read it. Here's a clip from his letter:

Let’s call a spade a spade. [Brooks makes] running shoes: High-quality, biomechanically mapped, performance running shoes calibrated for runners’ unique needs. We hope runners buy our shoes and we’re confident they’ll enjoy them. But this isn’t about selling shoes. And, quite frankly, this isn’t even about running barefoot.

So what are we talking about here? First and foremost, we’re all talking about running, and that’s a great thing because we believe to our core that running is a positive force in our world. We want everyone to run and be happy. But to get there, whether you should run barefoot is not the great debate. We are all unique. The focus should be on how you run and train, and then finding the right shoe that addresses your unique biomechanical needs. "The Perfect Ride for Every Stride," as we say at Brooks.

There's more, including Weber's categorization of runners into a spectrum generally broken down into runners who effectively must wear shoes because their form is particularly bad or their feet particularly weak, "biomechanically blessed" runners who have the option to wear shoes or not, and everyone else, a catch-all for the average, majority of runners.

Though it's interesting at a meta level that Brooks is publicly addressing the barefoot running movement, the letter seems fatally skewed towards a pro-shoe bias. As is often the case of any insider, you breath your own exhaust long enough and it's difficult to see clearly. Weber and Brooks mean well, I'm sure, but I personally think they are misled.

Below is a comment I left to the open letter. It's no surprise that I'm biased (aren't we all?); and though I'm hesitant to post so much opinion on this blog, the "running shoe debate," pun intended, is important so I'm reposting my comment here.

Read my comment below. Feedback is welcome.

So this is about running. If that is the case, then shouldn’t the focus be on how best to get people running injury-free?

Therein lies the rub and the evidence may soon be mounting (slowly) towards barefoot running. Like the recent study showing that torsional stress on hips and knees is higher running in shoes than running barefoot (link)

Anecdotally, there are many, many cases whereby individuals report going from being biomechanically cursed running in shoes (and getting injured) to running min-shod or barefoot and reducing/eliminating injury and becoming biomechanically blessed.

Since wearing shoes is the default position, the progression here is typically from being a shod runner first and then later becoming a barefoot runner. Anyone out there gone the other direction? Anyone out there given a concerted effort towards barefoot running only to fail and have to get some biomechanics correcting shoes?

You note:

We are all unique. The focus should be on how you run and train, and then finding the right shoe that addresses your unique biomechanical needs

This is problematic for shoes for a couple reasons — but no problem for going barefoot.

  1. how do you focus on how you run and train (or how to run properly) if your shoes affect how you run and train? This chicken/egg problem isn’t trivial when shoe design directly affects how you run.
  2. a quick count of the men’s shoes offerings at Brooks brings up 31 styles. That’s 31 styles for every unique runner out there. Even if we grant that all the unique variations in runners can be categorized to find the one correct shoe style out of 31 that will be the best, how is a runner to go about testing them each to find the magic style that works — a problem compounded by (1) above, which is that the shoes affect the way you run.

Contrast this against the automatically customized shoe — one built only for you, one that has built-in AI with a few thousand input receptors to provide instantaneous feedback, and a “shoe” that will rejuvenate forever. This shoe is so advanced that it has has an internal frame of almost 30 parts. Even still, this shoe is hardwired into the rest of the body.

Of course, I’m talking about our feet: unique to each of us and massively adaptable. Feet are our living shoes.

Now sure, if you’ve been clunking around in dead-shoes (pardon the terminology), then your live-shoes may be a bit weak and need to be rehabilitated. We expect as much whenever we cast a bodypart for months, so we should expect the same for anyone who has been sticking their feet in “foot casts.”

I don’t mean to come off so pejoratively towards dead-shoes, but they’re just so simple compared to our feet, and if you’re going to talk about uniqueness, then I think the default position should side with the innately unique solution — bare feet.

I’ll wrap it up, but to me, your runner categories is off. It seems to me that the only ones whose default position should be to run in shoes (or non-minimalist footwear such as VFFs or otherwise), are those who’ve not sustained injuries — those who are “biomechanically blessed” to run in shoes! If this isn’t you, maybe you can spend an enormous amount of time and effort trying out all the shoe options out there until you find one that doesn’t injure you -OR- you could just go outside and run down the street barefoot.

Disclosure: I’m biased as I run, but even as I love VFFs, I still recognize that even they dumb down my feet. Their success is just a testament to how much better they are than your average shoe (And hey, for all I know, Brooks are way above average, so no dig there I swear!).

(permalink to the comment | Note: did some minor edits to my comment here where typos/wording could be improved! )