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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Shoe Innovation through Collaboration: Skechers Performance Division

Shoe Innovation through Collaboration: Skechers Performance Division

Honestly when I was first approached by Justin about doing some wear testing for Skechers™ I was a bit skeptical. After all, these days when the word “Skechers” is brought up in conversation it’s usually referring to, at best, their casual line of footwear (I myself have owned several pairs of casual and dress shoes made by Skechers). At worst, the conversation turns to the Skechers Shape Ups™ and what a controversial and frankly silly shoe this. Actually, Justin put the Shape Ups on a top 10 gimmicky shoes list awhile back (here).

However, I’d also watched Meb Keflezighi crush the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in a pair of Skechers GO Run™ shoes—not only winning the event but running a personal best time. I’d also read several favorable reviews of the Skechers GO Run. So perhaps the Skechers Performance Division was serious about making a shoe that runners would want to run in. I’ve got an open mind so I figured “why not?”

So began my interface with the Skechers Performance Division. I quickly learned that this team was very serious and very genuine about trying to build quality performance running and walking footwear. I actually wanted to share a bit about how the Performance Division came to be as well as what their vision is for Skechers. What better way to do that than to share a word from two of the leaders in the group? Meet Rick Higgins, David Raysse, and Kurt Stockbridge. These three are the V.P. of Marketing, V.P. of Design, and V.P. of Technical Development, respectively, for the Skechers Performance Division. Here's what they had to say about their brief history and their approach to making running and walking shoes.

Our team made a decision to enter the performance footwear arena three years ago. We knew that in order to be successful we’d need to take a completely different approach and build a division separate from the fashion and lifestyle arms of the company. So we assembled a small team made up of veteran individuals from many of the leading athletic footwear companies to build a line of products that will meet the needs and high expectations of the most demanding running and walking consumers. Though most of us are runners, we embrace the fact that the needs of accomplished runners are much greater than our own and thus we made the decision, as part of our process, to depend on their direct feedback and advice to help guide us towards building the best performing products possible. Our team firmly believes in this approach and that the key to our success will be the unique combination of our experience base and our ability to listen directly to runners and walkers regarding their needs. In short, our marching orders are to answer to runners rather than layers of management. And we believe that this open innovation approach coupled with complete autonomy and the support from Skechers executive team will enable success.

Once the team was in place, we dug in immediately and got to know Meb (Keflezighi) and local Manhattan Beach Ultra marathoner Christian Burke, who was introduced through this site several months ago*. We extracted as much information and subjective feedback from them as we could over a year… and the GO run was the first shoe born from this approach. The word spread and we since have formed strong relationships with many more very demanding and experienced runners, walkers, and subject matter experts. Just like us, they are very excited to be involved in building something new and pure… especially when the end result reflects their input and values. And it helps that we are both motivated by a similar objective (though from different angles) - having a wider variety of worthy footwear choices available to runners and walkers…. A true win-win scenario for everyone involved.

—Rick Higgins and Kurt Stockbridge (Skechers Performance Division)


As for my own involvement with Skechers, a couple of months ago I started receiving a number of current, soon to be released and future prototype running shoes to test, evaluate and provide feedback on (note: I receive no payment from Skechers other than from the prototype shoes I have been testing, which are provided free of charge). Basically I received a bunch of prototypes in the mail then proceeded to run in them as part of my normal shoe rotation and on my typical routes and training runs. After I’d gotten a good feel for the shoes I’d write up some comments and suggestions and pass these on to the design team. Typically they’d ask some follow-up questions and we’d carry on a good back and forth dialog.

Unfortunately, I was extremely new to the Skechers wear testing crew and arrived too late in the prototype stage to help influence any of the immanent product releases other than confirming that they are on the right track. However my input, along with that of a few other runners, is being incorporated early on in the process regarding their 2013 models currently underway.

Anyhow, I’ve been running for over 20 years and have gone through a lot of shoes; some good, some average and some downright awful! I honestly believe I know enough about running shoes, particularly off-road running shoes, to hopefully contribute some useful feedback. We'll see how it goes!

In the meantime, stay tuned for a full review of the GoRun Ride!

* Via this skeptical post about the introduction of the Skechers GoRun penned by Justin.

Xero Shoes Huaraches Review (and Connect vs. Contact)

Above pictured are the Xero Shoes Connect 4mm Huaraches with black nylon laces.
Above pictured are the Xero Shoes Connect 4mm Huaraches with black nylon laces.

Background

Xero Shoes aren't really shoes at all — they're sandals. Mind, they're not just any sandals, they're huaraches. Yes, "huaraches" is just Spanish for "sandals" — that's not the point — huaraches are the "sandal tech" made out of leather and old tires worn by the Tarahumara Indians while traversing miles and miles through the Copper Canyons of Mexico.

As legend has it, the Tarahumaran Manuel Luna taught Barefoot Ted how to make his first pair (circa 2006?), Ted took what he learned home and began sharing how to make huaraches in the U.S., and next thing you know, a few years go by and today you've got numerous flavors of huaraches to choose from, as well as a few new takes on the ancient sandal tying style.

One of the early movers and shakers in the burgeoning huaraches (pronounced wah-rah-chaise ... or at least that's how I try to say it) movement was Steven Sashen, a runner/sprinter, long-time entrepreneur, guru, and ex-comedian. You might know him from his Sh*t Barefoot Runners Say videos. Anyway, a few years back Steven made his first pair of huaraches. As he was running in them, fellow members of the Boulder Barefoot Running Club took note and asked Steven how to make their own.

One thing led to another and it wasn't long before Steven decided to make huaraches on a much larger scale and so Xero Shoes was born. Xero Shoes got its humble beginnings selling DIY kits including a sheet of Vibram rubber and colorful nylon laces. Countless kits later, Xero Shoes decided to bring to market the first ever molded rubber made-for-huaraches sole. And to date, these are still the only huaraches that use their own dedicated sole design (as opposed to cutting soles from flat sheets of rubber).

Today, I'm going to be reviewing the Xero Shoes Connect (4mm thick sole) and Contact (6mm thick sole). I'll be taking an approach that's not so much about running in Xero Shoes and more about wearing them all the time — as an ultra-minimalist sandal. I'll do a comparison of the Connect vs. the Contact, and I'll touch on how the Xero Shoes stack up against competitors.

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True Linkswear Phx (Minimalist) Golf Shoes Review

True Linkswear Phx (Minimalist) Golf Shoes Review

In early 2011, TRUE linkswear brought barefoot shoes to the attention of golfers everywhere with the first golf shoe designed to be "the closest thing to a barefoot golfing experience as possible." The shoes received rave reviews from golfers as they were the most comfortable shoe they'd ever worn both on and off the course (not much of a surprise coming from traditional shoes). I reviewed the Tour model primarily from a barefoot perspective, and while they weren't the most barefoot feeling shoe I've golfed in, they were definitely the best barefoot shoe built for golfing. You can read my original review of the TRUE linkswear Tour here.

Earlier this year TRUE linkswear released their entire 2012 line with a brand new sole and two new models (the Phx for men and Isis for women). I was able to compare the old and new Tour models, and have been testing out the new Phx for the past couple months. Overall, the new sole greatly improved the look of the shoes without altering the comfortable barefoot feel. The new Phx sports a more casual look at an extremely tempting price.

Read on for my comparison of the old and new Tour minimalist golf shoes and a review of the new TRUE Linkswear Phx.

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xkcd Immortality Vibram FiveFingers (God's Shoes!)

I *do* hear that they're the most comfortable thing to wear on your feet since sliced bread.
The xkcd comic from June 6, 2012, alluding to the magical powers of toe shoes.

Today's xkcd comic pays homage to the mystical powers of toe shoes and to the general initial aversion folks have to wearing them for the first time (despite their supposed awesome goodness). Immmortality Vibram FiveFingers? Sounds a lot like "God's Shoes" to me ...

Personally, I would gladly pay $20 to get this comic on a tshirt. Anyone know Randall Munroe? How can we make this happen? If you'd do this comment below, share this post on facebook, share it on twitter, and let's try and get Randall's attention. Maybe he'd be open to it with enough interest!

Oh right, about the "God's Shoes" — this xkcd just reminds me of the old (prescient) Married with Children episode (from 1991! — Ep. 8 of Season 6) where Al Bundy conjures up shoes with individual and calls them "God's Shoes" Check it:

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Flag-Styled Vibram FiveFingers Classics

Flag-Styled Vibram FiveFingers Classics

Back on May 1, we wrote about the possibility (and first sighting) of Classic Vibram FiveFingers fashioned after certain flags to be released around the time of the Summer Olympics — you can find that post here. At the time, we only had an image of the Denmark-styled FiveFingers; today, I've gotten my hands on all the flag-styled Classics.

There are 5 styles of Olympics/Flag-styled FiveFingers being produced — one each for the United Kingdom, Italy, Australia, Denmark, and the United States. There's just one catch: they'll only be available outside the United States — in Europe or Australia — in limited quantities (likely extremely so). As for availability in the U.S.? We're pretty much out of luck — they'll only be available for purchase in store (not via phone) from the Vibram retail store on Newbury St. in Boston, Massachusetts.

Want to see what all the designs look like (including the U.S. version not glimpsed above)? Hop on after the jump!

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Review of the New Balance Minimus Trail Leather Shoes (MT10)

New Balance recently released the popular Minimus MT10 Trail shoe with a leather upper.
New Balance recently released the popular Minimus MT10 Trail shoe with a leather upper.

New Balance's first minimalist shoe offerings hit the market back in the Spring of 2011. Perhaps their most popular "Minimus" style then, and perhaps even still, was the MT10 or the Minimus Trail (which we've reviewed in depth here and with video here). And while the 2nd generation of Minimus shoes are "Zeros" — so called because they're the same stack height at heel and forefoot — the original Minimus shoes all had a 4mm heel-to-toe drop.

Four millimeters isn't a lot and some might even like the differential, which still allows for a forefoot/midfoot running style but with a little less distance for your heel to travel as it descends and lightly touches the ground before lifting off again (as with a natural running style).

Anyway, the popularity of the original Minimus Trail is probably what led New Balance to offer the MT10 in a couple leather versions — the grey leather Minimus Trails (MT10LG) being seen photoed above and what I'll be talking about today (they offer them in brown leather, too — the MT10LR). Like the looks? Want to know what's up with this shoe? Well read on!

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