Muddy Paintball in FiveFingers

Muddy Paintball in FiveFingers

This is the muddiest photo of FiveFingers I think I've ever seen.

What's the story? Enter Michael, who picked up his pair of TrekSports as an all-purpose pair of toe shoes though he specifically planned to use them for paintball:

I've been trying to paintball regularly for a year or so now, something more active then my usual regime of computer games and TV. I'd scoffed at Vibrams the first time I saw them, but the more and more I spotted people wearing them the more I wanted to at least try them on.

Once I started paintball I figured I'd finally had a real excuse to have wear them passed the novelty so I was on a mission to eventually own my own pair. A few months ago I was able to venture to my local Hikers Haven and try on as many pairs as would fit, finally deciding that a pair of KSO Treksport would be the best for the job (as well as seemed to be the only pair that would fit my APPARENTLY abnormally tall dorsal area of my feet). Unfortunately they were lacking on my perfect size and I was lacking in actual funds.

Skip ahead a few months and a new job gave me the opportunity I needed to snag me a pair. They instantly turned into the comfiest and most expensive pair of slippers I'd ever owned.

Eventually I got the chance to head back out for paintball. I generally try to go on dry days, as I hate getting mucky (a bit of an oxymoron when paintballing), but of course that morning was a downpour, leaving the field a minefield of puddles and mud. Within the first 15 minutes of arriving, we had to walk about 50 meters through a river of inch deep mud. At that point I tossed my inhibitions to the wind and had a great time being a mudder. It was of course still winter and the puddles were cold, but the pair of Injinji socks I was wearing were able to keep me warm enough.

I'm convinced that I was more agile, less tired, and much more happy wearing the Five Fingers than I would have been wearing my usual clunky Merrell sneakers, which would have been impossible to clean.

I'll be bringing my Vibrams with me to every paintball day, and hopefully will start doing more things to wear them more often.

Michael T. - Toronto

Glad you've found some use for them!

All that talk about mud reminds me of Stuart running his 255km jungle marathon in Spyridons.

Thanks for sharing, Michael!

Luna Sandals Catamount (Plus Original) Review [Huaraches]

The Luna Catamount Huaraches from Luna Sandals is quite possibly the nicest pair of huaraches you could ever have; photoed here with leather laces and a cordovan leather/Vibram rubber sole.
The Luna Catamount Huaraches from Luna Sandals is quite possibly the nicest pair of huaraches you could ever have; photoed here with leather laces and a cordovan leather/Vibram rubber sole.

We've reviewed a number of huaraches here on BirthdayShoes. "Huaraches," (pronounced \wə-ˈrä-chē, hə-\) is simply Spanish for "sandals." While huaraches may refer to Mexican sandals of all varieties, here we're specifically talking about the types of sandals worn by the Tarahumara Indians (made famous by Born to Run).

If you've read Born to Run, you'll recall Barefoot Ted McDonald not only for his wily characterization by Chris McDougall, but also for popularizing two styles of footwear — Vibram FiveFingers being one, of course, and the other being huaraches. Ted first caught on to the hottest fashion trend in the Copper Canyons of Mexico thanks to his newfound friend, local Tarahumaran Manuel Luna.

Manuel Luna made Ted a pair of huaraches out of an old tire and some leather. Little did Luna know that this simple gesture would one day spawn an entire line of premium huaraches sandals thanks to Ted taking the sandals and literally running with them — eventually building a business named after Luna some five years later. That business is Luna Sandals.

Today, I'm going to be reviewing the Luna Catamount thanks to Luna passing on a pair for me to try out.

But before I dive in, it's helpful to understand a bit about how Luna Sandals are ordered; basically, you pick a sole design (a particular combination of rubber or rubber and leather, with different offerings as to types of rubber and types of leather) and then you pick laces. In the case of the Luna Catamount, the sole is a combination of Cordovan leather and a 4mm Vibram rubber sole. The base configuration of the Catamount comes with an option of quarter-inch leather laces, 3/8" "Leadville Black" laces (what I picked), or braided hemp. I'll also be reviewing the Catamount with 5/8" elasticized laces and, as put on a pair of the Original Lunas, the braided hemp laces.

Let's go!

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BeNat Shoes First Look

BeNat shoes are an ultra-minimalist shoe out of Germany that is almost like a mix between a pair of huaraches on steroids and a Roman boot.
BeNat shoes are an ultra-minimalist shoe out of Germany that is almost like a mix between a pair of huaraches on steroids and a Roman boot.

When it comes to minimalist/"barefoot" shoes, it's not unusual to have some unconventional designs. For example, while moccasins like Soft Star Shoes and huaraches have been around for millenia, they don't really look normal next to a pair of Air Jordans (yes, this is strange); and of course, toe shoes have a long way to go before anyone thinks of them as commonplace.

So it takes a special kind of shoe to cause me to do a double-take — and that's exactly what I did when I first saw BeNat Shoes. A unique shoe made of a lace and a riveted sole that wraps the foot from the ground up, BeNat Shoes are evocative of a Roman boot; or perhaps a mutant huarache sandal sprung to life and making a meal of a hapless, unsuspecting foot! I digress.

I was put in touch with the man (Michael) behind BeNat Shoes — BeNat is based in Germany — and was provided with a pair of BeNats to test out. What follows are my initial impressions of these hyper-minimalist, incredibly unique shoes!

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Vibram FiveFingers Trek Flip Preview

Vibram FiveFingers Trek Flip Preview

I was able to get my hands on a test pair of Vibram FiveFingers Trek Flip, a Europe-only model slated for release in Fall 2012. The Trek Flip, as you'll recall from our Fall 2012 FiveFingers preview, is a reboot of the popular KSO Trek first released in Fall 2009. I just wanted to share a few pictures of what I got my hands on.

I got a tip that this pair of Trek Flip FiveFingers (likely a test/sales/pre-production version) was floating around on the net for sale. I really liked the looks of them and I had to see if I could pick them up. Well, I did just that and what follows is more a photo preview than a review. More photos after the jump!

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Vibram USA Opening Flagship Store in Boston

The view from the front of the first Vibram retail store in the United States-located on Newbury Street in Boston, Massachusetts.
The view from the front of the first Vibram retail store in the United States-located on Newbury Street in Boston, Massachusetts.

Vibram is making another splash this year in concert with the 2012 Boston Marathon by opening their first ever retail store in the United States — in Boston on Newbury Street (They do have two international stores in Milan, Italy, and Spain, already). If you're not familiar with Boston and Newbury Street, it's the main drag for retail in the city with a long history of prestige associated with it.

Why would Vibram open up a store? What might their store have ... in store for visitors? Want a chance to win a pair of Vibrams? Read on!

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Padraig Cottage Crofter Slipper

Padraig Cottage Crofter Slipper

Consider this article to be a short product review but generally more of a recommendation. I have been using the Padraig Cottage Crofter Slipper for months now. Bottom line: I love the slippers. They have been my favorite pair of house slippers from the moment I tried them on.

Padraig Cottage is a company based out of North Vancouver, BC Canada. They create handcrafted slippers and children's shoes. You can hear an audio recording that describes the history of the company. They remind me of the shoes your grandmother would hand knit or crochet for you as a gift.

Find out why I love this slipper so much after the jump.

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Fila Skele-toes Voltage: Nike Free,Toe Shoes Lovechild

Allow me to introduce the Skele-Toes Voltage; the bastard lovechild of Nike Frees and Vibram FiveFingers (toe shoes).
Allow me to introduce the Skele-Toes Voltage; the bastard lovechild of Nike Frees and Vibram FiveFingers (toe shoes).

What if the grid-foam-soled shoe, as pioneered by Nike via the "Nike Free x.0," somehow copulated with a pair of toe shoes?

God forbit it but what would you get? Well, you don't have to think too hard because Fila has done just that. Allow me to introduce The Skele-Toes Voltage: a four-toed Frankenstein toe-shoe-slash-sneaker-slash-Nike-Free-wannabee.

Take that in for a minute. Are you horrified? All your worst nightmares in shoe design made reality?

While it's easy to gasp at the site of these monstrosities — the "marshmallow shoes" we all know as Nike Frees turned into toe shoes — is this yet one more example of Skele-toes "innovating" by mashing together winning concepts from other brands?

We've certainly seen plenty of Nike-Free-wannabes — Reebok RealFlex being the most popular, but also Skechers GoRun — I'm sure there are others, too. And we all know Fila is being sued by Vibram over intellectual property rights involving toe shoes (See our original Skele-toes review here; the Skele-toes 2.0 review here). Is the Skele-toes Voltage just something to be derided by minimalist footwear and toe shoes fans, alike, for being nothing more than a thick, cushion-y ugly mess?

Nope. It's actually got some redeemable qualities — nay, it may actually be even better than the Nike Free!

Read on for a bit of history on the Nike Free marshmallow "barefoot" shoe, grid-soled shoe functionality, and how the Skele-toes Voltage stacks up and actually beats the competition, in many ways. You could call this a case study on marshmallow shoes and toe shoes. Read on after the jump!

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