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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VivoBarefoot Off Road Hi Boot Review

VivoBarefoot Off Road Hi Boot Review

Sometimes you just need an old fashioned hiking boot. But you don?t have to settle for the traditional kind. The Off Road Hi boots are VivoBarefoot?s minimalist version.
I was intrigued by the minimalist boot idea since boots tend to drag me down. Before I switched over to VFFs a few years ago, I was wearing my heavy duty Asolo boots on all my adventures. They performed well, but wow, they were like lifting dead weights with every step and I always ended up with blisters after the trip. So I was curious to see how my legs and feet would fare after a few hours of walking the trails in this minimalist version.

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Spyridon Vibram FiveFingers First Look

A first look at the Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon, a new model that is reminiscent of the original KSO that features the new Spyridon sole.
A first look at the Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon, a new model that is reminiscent of the original KSO that features the new Spyridon sole.

Vibram has snuck one on us here in the U.S. — well in advance of a Fall 2012 release, it seems that at least one retailer (REI) has gnabbed the laceless Spyridon FiveFingers. Yeah, they're out right now (for $110).

You'll recall that these puppies were slated to roll-out later this year in the U.S. — this, despite the fact that Europe was going to get them in the Spring. Well, how that's actually gone down is that Europe did get them first — say a month and a half ago or thereabout. And I guess as things go, they went ahead and got some across the pond in short order.

So in the interest of timeliness, I'm going to do a "first look" at these laceless trail-minded five toed shoes. As first looks go, I've only had the chance to hike for an hour or two in them (as well as knock around in them to get a feel for them). But you can at least take a look at what you're going to get should you pick up a pair. Read on!

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Laced SeeYa LS Vibram FiveFingers for Fall 2012

I'm liking the black/grey or the grey/green personally.
Coming in October 2012 are the SeeYa LS Vibram FiveFingers (LS tacked on to any FiveFingers model means that it's got laces). These are a surprise release for 2012!

We got a glimpse of what must have been a Vibram FiveFingers SeeYa LS (laced!) prototype a bit over a month ago. With nothing to go on but speculation, I guessed that these laced SeeYas were going to show up sometime in the Spring of 2013.

Well what do you know? Vibram is actually planning on releasing the SeeYa LS in October of this year (2012)!! Photos and more after the jump!

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Skechers GO Run Ride Review

Skechers GO Run Ride Review

Overview

If I had to compare the Skechers GO Run Ride™ to another shoe of my recent experience, I’d say it’s very much like the marriage between the Saucony Kinvara2™ and the Nike Free™. It’s like the Kinvara2 in terms of low heel-to-toe drop (4mm), feel of the cushioning and the soft sock-liner interior of the upper and like the Nike Free because it’s crazy flexible. The biggest difference between the Kinvara2 and the GO Run Ride is that the GO Run Ride has significantly more toe room than the Kinvara2 because of the use of a more anatomical last. In addition the GO Run Ride is much more flexible than the Kinvara2. In terms of weight, the GO Run Ride is slightly heavier than the Kinvara2 but not by much (~.2 oz).

After the jump a full review of the GO Run Ride from Skechers!

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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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