Hiking Despite Osteoarthritis in Barefoot Shoes

Hiking Despite Osteoarthritis in Barefoot Shoes

I recently got the above photo from Ron. Ron is a 60+ guy who was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in one knee—after some 32 years of running.

What follows is his story about what the doc's had to say about how he should handle the news, and as you might guess, some FiveFingers came into the picture:

I call this my victory photo.

Last year, at age 60, and after 32 years of running, I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in the left knee. It hurt to walk, let alone, run. My general practitioner doctor suggested minimalist footwear as part of a program that included stretching and strengthening. [Meanwhile, both the] knee specialist and the physical therapist said to back off and use orthotics.

I took my general practitioner's advice.

Well, here I am a year later, relaxing at over 14,000 feet on the top of Mount Bierstadt in the Rocky Mountains. This was just one of several hikes I took during a 6-day vacation. I totalled nearly 35 miles of hiking and every step in my Vibram KSO Treks.

I proved to myself that I wasn't too old to make such a big change after 32 years of walking and running in the most expensive and most cushioned shoes. Of course, I still have osteoarthritis in the knee, but I am back at it, thanks to the therapeutic value stretching, strengthening, and minimalist footwear.

(I go barefoot alot, too!)

Ron A.

Fantastic to hear, Ron! And kudos for following your intuition and having success despite adverse conditions.

Hope you have many more successful hikes!

Laced SeeYa LS FiveFingers Spotted in the Wild?

Can you spot the prototype model of Vibram FiveFingers?  Is that a 2013 SeeYa LS (laced) we're seeing?
Can you spot the prototype model of Vibram FiveFingers? Is that a 2013 SeeYa LS (laced) we're seeing?

A photo surfaced recently of what looked liked laced versions of the Vibram FiveFingers SeeYa. SeeYas with laces? Interesting...

Both our men's and women's review of the FiveFingers SeeYa cited a somewhat loose fit, and while Tim didn't have issues with blisters while wearing the SeeYas with socks, Leah had some rubbing issues with hers.

Meanwhile, virtually every new FiveFingers model sporting a new sole has been followed up 6-12 months later with a laced model with the same sole (e.g. Bikila to Bikila LS, KomodoSport to KomodoSport LS, Spyridon LS/Spyridon, etc.).

We've already gotten a solid sneak peak of the Fall 2012 Vibram FiveFingers, and from that we know a laced SeeYa isn't on tap for a 2012 release; so I can only assume that these laced SeeYas are being tested now for a 2013 release — perhaps Spring 2013? If I had to speculate (which I am doing!), this would be my best guess so far, but honestly, who knows.

As for what I could tell in these mysterious pictures aside from the laces (which aren't the speed-lacing system style, incidentally), it looks like there's more of the sturdy fabric on the upper of these laced SeeYas, likely there to snug the fit down with the laces. The hope would be that this would reduce slipping and sliding of the upper and make for an overall more secure fit. What I can't tell from the alleged photos is if the heel-cup is modified in this design. We know the heel was also a question of concern from Tim's review and an area that was being worked on between the original pre-production and final production versions of the SeeYa.

Any existing SeeYa owners want to chime in on whether they'd like to have laces or not? Anyone on the fence about the SeeYa's current design? Let's hear your thoughts in the comments!

Altra Eve Review

The women's Altra Eve from Altra (Zero Drop) Running are Altra's women-specific ultra-minimalist/barefoot running shoe.
The women's Altra Eve from Altra (Zero Drop) Running are Altra's women-specific ultra-minimalist/barefoot running shoe.

The Altra Eve is a customizable minimalist shoe designed specifically for a woman’s foot (It's the women's equivalent of the Altra Adam reviewed by Justin here). In the product video on Altra’s website, they mention that it has a narrower heel, longer arch, higher instep, and a wider toebox.

Not much of a fan of the aesthetics here. They have a strappy configuration that has some sort of mummified/bandage look going on. Also, the overall look and feel of these reminds me exactly of a mitten. The shape of the stretchy upper and rounded toe are what gives it the mitten look. So with that, I’ve dubbed them the “mummy mittens.”

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Rare Vibram FiveFingers Classics

Two rare pairs of Classic FiveFingers - rare because they can only be purchased through Europe, and one pair (the floral variety) were one-off VFFs made a few years back and are only available via eBay.
Two rare pairs of Classic FiveFingers - rare because they can only be purchased through Europe, and one pair (the floral variety) were one-off VFFs made a few years back and are only available via eBay.

Let me recap: Classics are my all-time favorite toe shoes.

It's something I've talked a decent bit about recently (see here and here), but it stands repeating: Classic FiveFingers are fantastic. What makes them so great? Two things stand out:

  1. Classics feature a 3.5mm Vibram, razor-siped sole. Nothing more; nothing less. The sole is incredibly dynamic with your foot while still protective and still providing a good deal of "ground feel." This is practically the most "barefoot" you are going to get with any minimalist shoe out there.
  2. Classic FiveFingers are open-topped. Being exposed on top allows your foot better air circulation while also allowing you to slide into the toe shoes without hands (with practice).

This one-two punch makes the Classic an incredible "barefoot shoe" for knocking around town, wearing to the park, walking your dog, or lazying about at the beach or the lake or anywhere. Classic FiveFingers are even good for running! Yes, you read right! Don't believe me? Barefoot Ted ran the first Copper Canyon Ultramarathon in Classic FiveFingers! Yeah, he had the grey/orange, black-soled Classics* on the run-heard-round the world as made famous by Chris McDougall in Born to Run (read it already).

Thus I find it painful to watch as people (mostly men) overlook the Classics in favor of some of the more close-topped Vibrams. Sure the new-fangled toe shoes are awesome — the ultra-light SeeYa is probably the closest new model to the Classic's ground-feel and airiness — but I can't put any of them on like I can the Classics. That is, like a pair of my favorite flip-flops. I'd also like anyone who finds the Classics feminine to tell that to Ted McDonald, who I'd not want to run into in a dark alley and is one of the godfathers of the whole minimalist/barefoot shoe movement in the first place!

Full stop. You get the point: I like Classics and I'm not alone. Classics are the only model of FiveFingers I've ever heard of people collecting. It's just that as more and more folks buy up the new hotness in toe shoes, they overlook the age-old beauty of the Classic; Vibram is then left looking at sales numbers scratching their heads, thinking, "I guess no one likes the Classic so we'll have to pair that offering back."

And that is exactly what they've done.

Thankfully, there are still a few options out there to score some seriously sweet Classics, which is what you're seeing within this post — two colorways of Classic FiveFingers that are pretty rare.

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Interview with Robert Barr

Interview with Robert Barr

Robert Barr is a professional photographer and blogger here on BirthdayShoes.com. He's based out of Washington and is slowly, if unintentionally, collecting enough minimalist shoes to start a museum. What follows is an interview with Robert so that BirthdayShoes readers can get to know the writers who help keep this site running!

Why did you switch to minimalist shoes?

My path to minimalist shoes was a long one. For years, I wore the same type of dress loafer. You will see a picture of it below. They were almost always leather, heavy, black, and had a significant heel to toe differential. I have had chronic back pain for quite a long time. It stems from several accidents I had throughout the years. It can complicate things at times. For instance, I can't stand in one place for more than five minutes without needing to sit down. In order to reduce the pain, I would have to pace back and forth or sit down. I spent years trying different types of shoes hoping they might relieve my pain. I tried Sketcher's Shape Ups, Z-Coil, Orthotic Insoles, and many different solutions. Nothing I tried made it better. A hand full of the things I tried made it worse. Long story short I went many years without any real relief. I always ended up going back to my big dress loafers.

I had seen these things called FiveFingers online, and they really appealed to me. I spent a lot of time trying to avoid wearing shoes. Mostly because shoes tend to increase my pain. I really thought they would be cool to try out. I did not want to order any online without first getting sized. I was not really aware of the fact that you could buy them at a retail store. I did some searching online and went to born to run in Bellevue. They did a fantastic job of sizing me into my first pair of FiveFingers. They were a pair of Bikila LS in green/grey.

The instant I walked out of the store with them on my feet, I knew I had found something I liked. I found they helped reduce my back pain while standing. It was no miracle cure, but I did notice an improvement in my ability to stand in one place for extended periods of time. I am now able to stand in one place for around 30 minutes before I would I start feeling back pain agin.

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Olympic-Themed FiveFingers Classics

Denmark flag-styled Olympic Classic FiveFingers ... coming sometime summer 2012?
Denmark flag-styled Olympic Classic FiveFingers ... coming sometime summer 2012?

If there's one FiveFingers model that garners more of a following all others, it'd have to be the Classic. It's my all-time personal favorite style of Vibrams and I'm not alone: just take this fan's 20+ pairs for reference.

Unfortunately though, it seems that the Classic doesn't tend to get the most attention from the FiveFingers community at large — or perhaps newcomers to toe shoes who are wooed into picking up a "fancier" pair of toe shoes like the SeeYa, Spyridon LS, KomodoSport LS, or Bikila LS (among many others). I don't blame them: if you're new to the concept of a five-toed shoe, you're likely going to drop that $75-$100 on a model you feel like will cover as many bases as possible — and one with perhaps a little more conventional look (some shy away from the Classic's open-topped design for aesthetic reasons).

The result of all of this is that the Classic model is getting a bit ignored by consumers, which drives us crazy Classic fans a little batty. More to the point, it means that colorways in Classics, particularly in the United States, have been cut back to flat black, which is most unfortunate, as the black colorway is probaby the uber-Classic fan's least favorite. Sigh. Just a couple weeks back I scratched my Classics' itch by grabbing a couple rare pairs via the aforemented uber-fan from the Netherlands who helped me complete the transaction.

Thankfully, I can only assume some folks in Italy love this original model, too, because Vibram (at least in Europe) looks to be planning an Olympic-timed release of some very fun and cool Classic FiveFingers.

Case in point, the above pictured Denmark-flag styled Classics! What's going on here? Well, we're only able to just start piecing the information together, but it appears that Vibram will be producing some limited-number FiveFingers Classics styled in various flags from around the world! Which ones? Well, that's unclear at this point.

What we know to date is that Denmark is definitely "in" (as exemplified by the already existing model as shared by a certain Facebook page) and it seems like the United Kingdom is going to get a pair, too. Check it out (after the jump)!

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BodyGlove 3T Barefoot (3-Toed Shoes) Review

BodyGlove 3T Barefoot (3-Toed Shoes) Review

The BodyGlove 3T Barefoot "three toe" shoes first crossed my path back in mid-February. It wasn't long before I got an email from BodyGlove wondering if I'd like to try out their first product geared towards the water-loving barefooter — after all, BodyGlove has a substantial history of making surf- and beach-related apparel. Really, given how often people think FiveFingers (or Sockwas) are watershoes and/or the early attempts to find a cheap minimalist shoe by turning to aqua shoes from Walmart, in a way BodyGlove is just closing the loop with the 3T Barefoot.

And less you think your eyes are deceiving you, rest assured that they're not: the "3T Barefoot" only has three toe pockets, granting the smallest three toes a single pocket and the biggest two toes a pocket a piece.

Meanwhile, as I live in Atlanta and don't make a regular practice of watersports (sadly), BodyGlove sent me the 3T with the express understanding that I'd just be evaluating them as a minimalist (toed) shoe.

And so I've gotten acquainted with these three toed shoes. They're a bit unusual, but perhaps worth your consideration. Let's go!

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