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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Edgar's Barcelona Segway Tours in VFF KSOs

Edgar's Barcelona Segway Tours in VFF KSOs

Edgar ("dardo" on the forums) recently picked up some black Vibram fivefinger KSOs and has been wearing them to work — giving Segway tours of Barcelona!

I asked Edgar how VFFs worked with the Segway and also what kind of reactions he was getting from his fellow Barcelonians. Here's what he had to say:

The shoes did affect my segway driving, I used to have a comfort mat on my segway, a padded platform so your feet do not hurt. After using the segway for a few days I took the comfort mat out, it is uncomfortable now and I no longer need [it] :)

As for people seeing my shoes, most of the time they do not see them due to the segway, which is fairly spectacular on it's own. Also Spanish people are not that open and most of the times will look but not ask. Most of my customers do ask about them and surprisingly to me a few of them knew about them and the father of one american lady had a pair of VFFs.

On a personal note I have been wearing my KSOs for about 3 weeks non stop now. I feel my feet stronger now and the soles are also much more resistant. Last week I did a half hour run at a nearby park and I felt lighter than last time I had been running (about 4 years ago due to knee pains), also less tired and no pains during the running session nor next days. I am quite excited because I believe I will be able to run again, and only with the VFFs of course!

A Spanish newspaper (El Periodico - pdf) also interviewed Edgar about his tours, and in the photo they published, similar to the one above, Edgar is sporting his VFFs.

Here's Edgar's Barcelona Segway Tours website. Edgar added that anyone who shows up to do a tour in fivefingers will get a 50% discount.

So anyone want to do a VFF meet-up in Spain? Let's go!

Library Director to run Collingswood Book Festival 5K Race in his VFFs

Brett Bonfield, the director of Collingswood Public Library in New Jersey (just outside of Philadelphia), sent in a note to let me know he is training to run in the Collingswood Book Festival 5K Race to Raise Money for New Teen Area in the Library on September 26, 2009.

Brett will be running the race in his Vibram fivefinger Classics, which are prominently featured in the promotional video the library shot for the race (below). The video is done in a silent film style — Brett is shown running through town (VFFed!) in order to help a guy caught beneath a tree branch return a book. Along the way, Brett saves a few teens from reckless behavior by giving them good books to read!

By the way, the race has an interesting catch — all runners who "Beat the Director" will be given back $10 of their $25 registration fee (all proceeds from the race go to setting up a teen area in the Library).

For more details, check out the Collingswood Public Library website!

Best of luck, Brett!

Noah explores Newfoundland in his KSO Five Fingers

(click any for a larger version)

Got the above photos from Noah taken on a recent trip he took to Newfoundland, Canada with his wife Heather. As you can see, Noah wore his KSO fivefingers across various terrain to hike, fish, explore and, eventually, sneak up on some wildlife in Gros Morne National Park. Here's Noah:

This summer my wife I were lucky to spend a few weeks in Newfoundland, Canada but in particular Gros Morne National Park.

I wore my VFFs on a variety of hikes. The Green Gardens hike was a 9 km return trip strenuous hike on primarily sharp jagged rocks. While the VFFs held up well, the my feet certainly did hurt at the time. It was pretty painful but I put on a tough face! However I experienced no pain or anything afterwards. Not to mention the numerous people along the path who stopped me to ask about the shoes.

I also wore the shoes on various other trips and hikes in Gros Morne without any issues. Needless to say, the VFF's were fantastic! I've been running in them more than ever and enjoying them more with every step. I still find them difficult to wear in public mostly because I'm stopped so frequently with questions or comments.

Check out the moose that popped out of the trees just a few feet in front of us!

Cheers
Noah

Here is the moose Noah mentioned:

I've found that just as fivefingers enable you to be more nimble on your feet, they also enable "stealth" movement. I've snuck up on plenty of squirrels and a couple of hawks while bounding about some local woods. No moose though!

Looks like Noah and Heather had quite a beautiful trip. Thanks for passing these shots along!

Sal's California Central Coast Road Trip in KSOs and Classics

Sal Rodriguez recently took a road trip along the California Central Coast. Along the way, he saw seals and pelicans among other things, which he photographed through the lens of his fivefingers KSOs and Classics.

Here's Sal:

Hello BirthdayShoes.com; I love and appreciate your site. My name is "Barefoot Sal" Rodriguez of North Hollywood, CA. Although completely barefooted is my prime choice, Vibram Five Fingers are the close second. Here are a few photos submitted for your consideration. These were taken on a recent road trip up and down the California Central Coast - Big Sur, Morrow Bay, Cambria, San Simean, Pfeiffer Beach, Avila Beach, Shell Beach. The first few show the KSO; the last few show the Classic. ...

This trip was my "coming out" party for my VFFs. Before that, I had worn them to work and around town a few times (Costco, drycleaners, etc.) On the trip, I walked on cement, asphalt, wooden boardwalks, dirt, sand, rock, tile, and grass...oh and carpet - and loved every minute of it!

The pelican photo is my favorite—surprised the bird didn't mind the blue camo VFFs being so close. Then again, maybe it was confused and thought they were pelican feet.

Jocelyn sets a Personal Record in her Blue VFF KSOs

Jocelyn sets a Personal Record in her Blue VFF KSOs
Jocelyn sets a Personal Record in her Blue VFF KSOs

I love getting these stories in the mailbag. This one from Jocelyn, photoed above in her camo blue fivefinger KSOs, speaks to running injury-free and achieving fantastic fitness results. It's not that Vibram Five Fingers are some sort of magic footwear so much as that their minimalistic design lets our feet be feet. Everything else sorta falls into place.

Here's Jocelyn on her second 5k run in VFFs, this time reaching a new personal record:

Hi Justin,

Today I ran my second 5K in my KSOs in Ann Arbor, Michigan and ended up with a new personal record of 21:30! My first 5K in my FiveFingers I started out way too fast - my legs were willing to go, but the rest of my body said otherwise and I ended up with a nasty side stitch with a mile left. Even with that pain, I ended up with a time a few seconds off a former 5K race time that was run in super cushy, super supportive shoes.

I did a double-take when I saw the time on the clock at the finish. This was almost 30 seconds off my fastest time, which was done back in high school cross country!

Ever since I've strapped on my FiveFingers I've been injury free. I went to physics therapy for a few months for sharp pains in my right knee that would put me out of commission for days. Besides that pain, my knee would also ache in any run that was 4+ miles. I was convinced I'd be having surgery on my knees at some point in the future. So, while being a little more speedy is nice, not having any more pains has made me very happy!

Jocelyn

Great to hear from you, Jocelyn! Congrats on your new PR!

NYTimes "Wiggling Their Toes at the Shoe Giants"

Amy Cortese published an article Saturday in the New York Times titled Wiggling Their Toes at the Shoe Giants. The article gives a hearty shout-out to barefooting, generally, and minimalist footwear and Vibram FiveFingers, specifically. I was actually contacted by Amy a bit over a week ago as she was looking to talk to folks who were running the recent NYC half marathon in VFFs though she wasn't able to work in any of my leads.

Below are my thoughts on Wiggling Their Toes at the Shoe Giants, an article that will surely further the "FABLA movement." And if Amy happens to read this, perhaps she could tell someone over at the NYT to review Christopher McDougall's Born to Run already!

As I read "Wiggling," I was reminded of NY Magazine's You Walk Wrong as well as the UK Dailymail's The Painful Truth about Trainers. "Wiggling" asks the question, is less more? Is there something to minimalist footwear? Barefoot running? For ease of discussion, I'm going to lump the minimalist and barefooting movements into a single movement — the FABLA movement — Feet Are Best Left Alone*!

As you might have guessed, Wiggling quotes a handful of "experts" who naysay FABLA outright or indicate that "more research is needed," a statement almost as silly as saying "human beings need to breath oxygen to survive but more research is needed."

And really, the experts sound more silly than convincing:

“In 95 percent of the population or higher, running barefoot will land you in my office,” said Dr. Lewis G. Maharam, medical director for the New York Road Runners, the group that organizes the New York City Marathon. “A very small number of people are biomechanically perfect,” he said, so most need some sort of supportive or corrective footwear. ...

Simon Bartold, an international research consultant for Asics, said advocates of barefoot running “are propagating a campaign of misinformation.” ... [later in the article] Mr. Bartold ... said the industry had runners’ best interests in mind. “It’s all about trying to protect the athlete,” he said.

Dr. Maharam's comment is, of course, completely ludicrous — are we to believe that human beings are crippled by design? That humanity evolved over tens of thousands of years despite being completely handicapped by their faultily designed and biomechnically inept feet?

Surely not.

Bartold gets to the nuts of the issue: "protect the athlete:" wrap up the athlete's feet in a cast of cushioning and "corrective devices" intended to perfect biomechanics.

Don't any of these guys see how absurd all of this is? How do you know what correct biomechanics are if you're thwarting the bioengineering via highly-padded, high-heeled, spring-loaded, shoe casts? This dogmatic and dogged reasoning just chases its own tail.

If you're paying attention, you'll notice that Cortese tees up this little gem, which is promptly hit home by a sports research manager at New Balance:

But for all the technological advances promoted by the industry — the roll bars, the computer chips and the memory foam — experts say the injury rate among runners is virtually unchanged since the 1970s, when the modern running shoe was introduced. Some ailments, like those involving the knee and Achilles’ tendon, have increased. ...

At the same time [in the 1970s], millions of Americans began taking up running as a pastime. Those twin trends ushered in a golden age of biomechanics research. “There was a lot of concern about injuries because of the boom,” said Trampas TenBroek, manager of sports research at New Balance. The logic, he said, was that “if you build a heel lift and make it thicker, you take stress off the Achilles’ tendon.”

Whoops! The whole stress-off-the-Achilles' thing has been working out pretty well, right?

What I liked about the article is that Cortese does a solid job of illustrating the sports shoe market. You've got a $17 billion sports shoe market. Then you've got Vibram, an upstart** shoe manufacturer that is growing like crazy but is only slated to have "revenue of $10 million this year in North America."

Vibram (and others) is like the proverbial David up against the Goliaths of the sports shoe industry — Nike, Asics, Adidas, Reebok, New Balance, etc. These giants are all clad in their showy marketing and padded, "protective" armor while utterly missing the naked point — feet are best left alone! Quite trying to reinvent the foot! The best any footwear can hope for is to simply get out of the way.

But the giants don't get it—even when they try. Just take Nike. Nike spent untold amounts of money researching barefoot running and designing their "barefoot" shoe, the Nike Free, and what did they come up with? Something that still looks and functions a lot like modern sneakers, high heel and all.

And even if they did get it, could the giants untangle the mess of misinformation they've been pandering now for four decades? Would they be willing to implicitly say, "Hey, we were wrong: our shoes have been doing more harm than good." I'm skeptical.

What I am optimistic about is that the FABLA movement is gaining momentum. And why shouldn't it? It's founded on the evolutionary backing of a few tens of thousands of years of bioengineering.

With that kind of history, do we really need more research to understand that feet are best left alone?

* If anyone can come up with a better acronym, I'm all ears!

** Upstart because Vibram has been a sole company up until the past three years!