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 »

Classic, KSO, and Sprint FiveFingers Reloaded: New Colors for 2010 (or sooner in some cases)

Most of the FiveFingers buzz tends to center around the new KSO Trek, Moc, and Performa, not to mention the news we received a few days back that Vibram was greenlighting production of the KSO Trek for women plus expanded sizes for men.

But we've also seen a couple new colors pop up in recent weeks. The month of October brought on a new KSO offering for men — the black, orange, and gray KSO, which has been a hit. And now we're also getting reports that an all-black women's Sprint is available (Available here, for example).

As you've likely guessed, there are a whole slew of new colors set to be released in the coming months, likely becoming available just as soon as they are finished being manufactured/shipped from overseas. So without further ado, here's a massive collage of anticipated new colors for KSOs, Classics, and Sprints that I've cobbled together via various internet sources (see below). Click for the mondo-enormous version:

So what do we have here? By row from top to bottom we've got "denim" and yellow Classics for men; teal, grey, and camouflage KSOs for women; black, grey, camouflage KSOs for men; fuscia, pink Classics for women; the all-black Sprints for women; "castlerock" (dark grey), "verde" (green) Classics for men*; the black and orange KSOs for men; fuscia, pink Sprints for women; a softer all-brown KSO for men; grey, light blue Classics for women; blue or purple and grey Sprints for men (I'm sorta guessing on what to call the last three color combos).

My personal favorites out of the "reloaded" color combinations are the castlerock/green Classics and the black and orange KSOs though I admit to being intrigued by the "denim" Classics combo and wouldn't mind having those either. Of course, I am a professed uber-fan of Classic FiveFingers.

So that's me: what do you think about the new color options?


Hieu Hiking Mt. Baldy in Classic FiveFingers

Hieu Hiking Mt. Baldy in Classic FiveFingers
A photo-montage of Hieu's hike up Mt. Baldy, California, in his black Classic VFFs.

In the mailbag comes the above photos and note below from Hieu who recently hiked Mt. Baldy in California in his Classic FiveFingers:

Here are five pics of me at Mt Baldy in California. The hike was pretty difficult, but I finished with my Classics. The terrain was rocky mostly, but I made it through, making sure every step I took was a safe and secure one. The Classics held up great! They were very light weight and were not taxing on my legs. We hiked up to an elevation of 10,000 feet. I got a few odd looks on the way up — mostly out of curiosity and/or admiration. Once we got to the top, we headed down to a lift chair which took us back down. Very nice!


Huntington Beach, California

Classics have the least cushion of any outdoor VFF (Excluding the indoor-only Moc and Peforma), so rocky hikes in Classics make for quite the foot massage!

I imagine taking the lift back down the mountain made for a nice and relaxing, not to mention scenic, ride.

Thanks for sharnig, Hieu!

Soft Star Moccasins Review

Soft Star Moccasins Review
What's that on my feet? Those are Soft Star Moccasins — giving my Classic FiveFingers a break and enjoying the comforts of a soft soled, sheepskin inner footbed, "barefoot shoe."

I first heard of Soft Star shoes back in early June of this year via Rocco, who mentioned them as his "barefoot shoes" of choice outside of his KSO FiveFingers. I sought out Soft Star and got in touch with Tricia, one of the Soft Star "Elves," so-called as the Soft Star shoes have a decidedly elfish look to them. I asked Trish if I could be sent a pair of Soft Stars to test for a potential review for BirthdayShoes.

Tricia obliged and sent me a pair of the Grippy Suede Roos in "chocolate.", which retail at $63 (unless you have larger feet — say size 13 men's or higher) and size similarly to regular shoes (a welcome relief to VFF-calculus!). Now that I've had a few months to put these Mocs through the ropes, it's high time I reviewed them, so allow me to introduce to you to a monotoed "VFF alternative" — Soft Stars!

A close-up of the "Soft Star" logo on my Grippy Suede Roo Soft Star Moccasins. Soft Stars are the "ultimate in high quality soft soled leather shoes," and are handmade in Oregon.


Though Soft Star has a number of non-moccasin offerings, the Grippy Roos have a two-piece moccasin leather design whereby the ankle is wrapped by one piece and another piece covers the front and top of the foot, overlapping the ankle piece. Both parts are connected at the lip, ankle of the Moc via a set-length elastic band, which comfortably secures the Moc onto your foot.

This design looks very Moccasin-like — for you parents out there, they might remind you of Robeez. Anyway, here are a couple of photos to help paint the picture (click for larger):

The "Grippy" part of these Moccasins is derived from the fact that they feature a T-Rex soling, which is "a soft black rubberized non-slip surface" that is bonded to a layer of suede, that is then covered with sheepskin insole, which is what you feel on your feet. All said, based on some caliper measurements, the combined footbed is a mere 2mm thick at the heel — by way of comparison, this is on par with the heel thickness of the FiveFingers Moc and thinner than my oldest Classics (they are 4mm thick).

You can actually see the layers come together by looking inside the Soft Stars:

Here you can see the inner sole construction of the Soft Star Grippy Roo. The outermost line is the outsole suede, the dark black line is the T-Rex sole material, then, a thick layer of tan suede, and finally the sheepskin. Total thickness under the heel only 2mm!

The T-Rex soling material has a diamond/gridded/bumpy structure to it, and true to form grips well to otherwise slipper surfaces. It also seems to be fairly durable though I'd expect it to wear through if you were a heavy walker or dragged your feet much. Below are two photos of the soles, the photo on the left when the Soft Star Grippy Roos were received back in June and the second photo taken today:

Overall, the Soft Star Mocs employ a simplistic, Moccasin-styled design, one that is lightweight, and feels well-made from nice, almost completely natural materials.

The Soft Star aesthetic

Seen bare-legged, it's easy to understand how Soft Stars look decidedly elfish — it's a different look, but one that I find grows on me. And worn with pants, or jeans, they look great (see below).

The moccasin aesthetic of the Soft Star Grippy Roos as worn with shorts or "bare-legged" as pictured above is one you may either love or hate. Personally, the look has grown on me, but I also see it as sort of a moot point as I tend to wear my Soft Stars with jeans or pants.

Where the Soft Stars aesthetically shine is as an inconspicuous barefoot shoe that you can wear to casual or maybe even business casual events.

As you can see me modeling to the right (How embarassing — click for a larger version), Soft Stars work well with pants and are aesthetically normal looking. They actually look a great deal like Birkenstock Boston suede clogs, which have been a go-to casual to business-casual sandal for me for over a decade.

Though KSO Treks are an elegant suede solution that compliment dressier occasions, for more stealth-barefoot applications, the Soft Stars work well in a pinch.

Where and when to wear Soft Star Mocs, and how do they feel, anyway?

The Grippy Roo is designed for indoor and outdoor use. When I first got the Roos, I tested them on a mile walk to a nearby park where I randomly decided to climb a tree. The Soft Stars performed perfectly and felt good if not slightly warm in the Georgia heat (this was in June!).

The soft soling of the Soft Stars transmits surface conditions extremely well. With only 2mm of material between your foot and the ground, there is no "cushioning" in the soles so if you walk on a rocky path, you feel it all in high-def with just a tinge of softness from the sheepskin insole.

Over the past few months, I've worn my Soft Stars on walks, to run errands, and to events requiring a dressier shoe than FiveFingers or where I didn't want to bring a bunch of attention to my relatively shy feet.

More than anything, though, where I've worn my Soft Stars the most from a time-perspective is in my house. I'm wearing them right now and they are keeping my feet quite comfortable despite the cold hardwood floors.

Generally, the design of Soft Stars affords my feet a great deal of freedom within the shoe. I can scrunch up my toes inside the Soft Stars, wiggle my toes with aplomb, and my feet feel completely unconstrained. The utterly flimsy soles don't push back on my bending feet in the least. To put it plainly, the Soft Star Mocs are super comfortable.

Special considerations for VFFers

The barefoot feel of Soft Stars is what you've come to expect from FiveFingers, if not even a little more "barefoot" feeling due to the thinner and flimsier sole materials.

Perhaps the biggest difference is simply that the spacious feeling and comfort provided by the Soft Star design means that the leather extends beyond your feet a bit, which is just to say they're not on-the-skin or wrapping-the-foot as tightly as with VFFs. Mind, this isn't a complaint. If anything, it's a testament to the requirements of "barefoot shoes" — they need to be big enough to keep your feet free and unrestrained by tight toe-prisons (a.k.a. toe boxes).

Overall thoughts

I'm quite pleased with my Soft Star Grippy Roos. With it getting cooler outside, they've quickly become my footwear-of-choice inside my house to keep my feet comfortably warm.

If you're looking for an alternative to FiveFingers that maintains the barefoot feel while providing a more "normal" aesthetic (with pants or jeans!) or just want an all-purpose indoor and outdoor barefoot shoe, check out Soft Star. And though I've not had a chance to test them, note that they also make Soft Star boots, Vibram-soled "Ramblers," suede-soled Mocassins, slippers, and more, including a whole array of barefoot shoes for babies or toddlers. Because Soft Stars are handmade to order, you can even mix-and-match leather styles by model and design your own Soft Stars. Custom-made shoes — how cool is that?

On sizing — Information on how to size Soft Stars straight from the source!

Check this video out for a four minute tutorial (really only the first half is how to size for adults) on how to size Soft Stars:


An information video on Soft Star Shoes!

Finally, you might like this short video from Soft Star that talks about the company and introduces you to a few of the Soft Star elves. I really like how personable Soft Star is and it's easy to get behind them as a cobbler. I confess: I love my Soft Stars!


If you have any questions about my Grippy Roo Soft Star mocs reviewed here or just want to inquire further into my experience with them, please let me know by commenting below.

Ben Walks Beijing in KSOs FiveFingers

Ben Walks Beijing in KSOs FiveFingers
Ben's VFF KSOs pictured atop a manhole in Beijing, China.
Ben Walks Beijing in KSOs FiveFingers
Tiananmen Square as viewed a la Vibram FiveFingers KSO.

Ben sent in the above photos snapped in the Forbidden City (Beijing, China). Ben was travelling through and went on a six mile walk from his hotel to Tiananmen Square.

I noticed a bit of wear on Ben's KSOs, so I asked him what he'd been doing in them — turns out, a bit of everything:

About of year's worth of constant wear; little tear on the left pinky, seam rip on the right big toe ... Still going strong. Bought them last October and I've been running and working out (Martial Arts, Weight Lifting, CrossFit-type stuff) with them ever since.

I travel a lot for work, which is why I was in Beijing. I had a few hours to kill and though I'd like to see the world's largest public square; I did think it was a little closer to the hotel though ...

It's tough to travel light and bring an extra pair of shoes with size 13 feet, but the 5 Fingers pack up so nicely.

I always get some weird looks, but I'm always telling people I don't care what they do, what kind of exercise or sports they do, they got to get a pair.

Thanks for sharing, Ben!

Brandon's 5.5 mile road race in KSO FiveFingers

Brandon's 5.5 mile road race in KSO FiveFingers
Brandon shows off his KSO FiveFingers pre-race with a nice VFF kick!
Brandon's 5.5 mile road race in KSO FiveFingers
Here's Brandon running the Tarzan Brown Mystic River Run in his VFF KSOs.

Brandon Marshall (@bmarshallpf on twitter) recently finished his first race running in his KSO FiveFingers. Brandon emailed me to let me know about the race saying, "Love the site! I just wanted to send you a few pictures from a 5.5 mile road race I did in black KSO's this past weekend. It was my first race in them and it was awesome!"

Further, Brandon wrote up his race results at his blog. Here's a snippet from that post:

The results for the 2009 Tarzan Brown Mystic River Run have been posted and I ended up finishing the race with a net time of 46:29 at an 8:27 minute mile pace (the results say a pace of 8:34, but that is based on my final time, not my net time.) My time is the first entry on “page 8″ of the results. Not too shabby for my first race in the Vibram Five Fingers I guess! I’m getting pretty comfortable running in the VFF’s now and with longer and longer runs, I’m noticing less pain the next day or so compared to how I used to feel in my Nike’s. Hopefully the same is true after this race!

Well done, Brandon! Glad your recovery time is improving and best of luck on your future races!

Admin note: For all you RSS subscribers who might miss the updated post, Women's Treks and extended sizes for Men's KSO Trek has indeed been greenlighted for production by Vibram!

Women's KSO Trek Greenlighted for Production by Vibram!

A stock photo of the Vibram Five Fingers KSO Trek for women!
A stock photo of the Vibram Five Fingers KSO Trek for women!

Updated 7/19/2010

The Women's KSO Trek Five Fingers are out!

Updated 11/2/09

Vibram has released an announcement on their facebook page. Here's the snippet you all are waiting for:

We are happy to announce the release of the Women’s KSO Trek, beginning in late Spring 2010. Additionally, the Men’s KSO Treks will be made available in sizes 38 & 39 beginning in March 2010. We know it’s a while off, but it takes a little while to develop the tooling necessary for this new product. We heard you, and we are moving as fast as we can!

Read the rest at the official Vibram facebook page.

Thank you, Vibram! It's great to see they've got their ears to the ground of the VFF community. Congrats to the women and smaller footed men in the VFF-land!

Original Post 10/30/09

A lot is going on this weekend — the NYC Marathon is on Sunday and as what is certainly no coincidence, Born to Run author and barefoot running—or more generally, human—enthusiast Christopher McDougall has been at a number of events in New York the past couple days at both the New York City Marathon Expo as well as the City Sports at the Rockefeller Center. By the way, if you haven't caught Christopher and are in New York, you've got one more opportunity tomorrow (5 - 7pm at City Sports).

And if that's not enough to get excited about, the good word is that Vibram is also in NYC—and has made appearances alongside McDougall at City Sports.

So where am I going with this? Well I've just received information from a "little bird" that Vibram is greenlighting production of the women's KSO Trek and plans to make an announcement to this effect as soon as Monday. It seems my source was a fly on the wall at some of these recent events and picked up this bit of intell—thank you for sharing it with BirthdayShoes!

Now, lest we all get too excited, allow me to add a disclaimer: I've not yet received confirmation of this tip. Until I get confirmation, which may simply happen by way of an official announcement Monday, we all have to hold our breath.

But maybe Tim's petition got the job done. And if so, a great number of women and small-footed men VFFers will soon have something big to smile about.

Stay tuned!