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!

Fila Skeletoes Toe Shoes Exclusive Sneak Peak

Black Turkish Sea Men's.
Fila Skeletoes Black Turkish Sea Men's.

"What the heck are those" Fila Skele-toes??

If you must know, just skip this post and go straight to our detailed review: we've photoed and videoed the "heck" out of the Fila Skele-Toes here!

FiveFingers Look Alike?

If you're new to the crazy concept of "toe shoes", you might benefit from a brief history on their origins. Believe it or not, they got their start almost five years ago by an Italian company called Vibram — they produced the first five toe shoes called Vibram FiveFingers and have turned traditional footwear paradigms upside down.

Though the Fila Skele-toes look conspicuously similar to Vibram Five Fingers, our contact assures us that, "Fila does not see this product as a direct competitor to the Five Fingers." How so? Well, this shoe is being marketed as more of a casual activity shoe. They see them being used for activities such as biking, boating, swimming, and walking.

They are not designed for running, which is one of the primary uses of our beloved Five Fingers. Instead they are intended to be more of a companion product. A comfortable and affordable casual alternative to slip your toes into after a hard work out in your Five Fingers. Skeletoes can give you the barefoot experience while reducing the wear and tear on your performance oriented Five Fingers. At least in theory, on review of the Skele-toes they're not quite as barefoot as we would like.

Men, Women and Kids!

The Fila Skeletoes are barefoot shoes targeted to active men and women and Fila is even offering this product in kids sizes. It is great to see kids included in the mix. They are certainly priced right at $59 for Men and Women and $49 for kids (MSRP).

Under the Hood

Though in the photo above, the upper material looks like Neoprene, it is not. Skeletoes are made of four-way stretch, two ply nylon. They have a bungee cord for ease of entry and velcro straps for a customized fit. They have a multi-purpose slip-resistant rubber outsole. That's the basics — more detail about them (and photos/video) can be found in our Fila Skeletoes review.

There are two things that really differentiate the Skeletoes from the original "toe shoes" (Vibram FiveFingers):

  • The bottom sole of the Skeletoes do not cover the top of the toes as this might infringe on a Vibram patent.
  • Skeletoes incorporate what they call an EZ slide feature that combines the smallest two toes for ease of entry. For some people that have issues with their toes and can't wear Five Fingers, this feature alone might make the Skeletoes an attractive option. Our contact claims testing shows that Skeletoes were much easier to put on than Five Fingers.

If you're wondering why we compare Skele-toes to something called "FiveFingers," it's simply because the concept of "toe shoes" was pioneered by the first toe shoes on the market, circa 2005-2006, Vibram FiveFingers: get caught up on what you've been missing a la the barefoot revolution.

Availability

The Skele-toes started showing up around mid-February 2011! That was when our buddies over at Comet Shoes started carrying them.

What say ye?

Do you like the look and would you consider buying a pair? What about that combined pinky/fourth toe thing?

Who says you can't use Vibram Five Fingers Bikilas in the snow?

Who says you can't use Vibram Five Fingers Bikilas in the snow?

Mark recently made the switch to running in Vibram Five Fingers Bikilas with great success. He even decided to give them a try in a race on the snow. Here is Mark's story:

My first "race" of the year went well. It was just a little under 5 miles - 3 miles road, the rest snow covered trails. Before the race started I couldn't feel my toes. Once we got going I didn't even feel the snow. I have been running my long runs on trails in Bikilas, but not in the snow. I was surprised how good the traction was. There was about 4 inches of fresh powder on top of packed snow.

This was also my first actual race in Vibrams. I made the switch to them around October. I kept getting injured every time I ramped up in normal shoes. It seemed as though as soon as I went over 20 miles/week I would injure myself, usually tendinitis. After a 10 mile race last May I could barely walk. I went to several podiatrists got the normal story about orthotics which I got. Luckily, insurance covered them because I think they made it worse.

My friend kept telling me to try Vibrams. Then, of course, I read "Born to Run". I remember the first time I put them on just to go to the gym. I couldn't run due to the tendinitis but it was pouring and my car was parked a few blocks away. So I ran to my car. Then I noticed I didn't feel a thing. I got to the gym and hopped on the treadmill and ran a mile at around a 8 min pace. My legs felt amazing. Well, except for the next day when it felt like I got hit across the calves with a bat. I slowly continued to work in Vibram runs until I was just using the Bikilas. I have been running for a few months now with just the Bikilas with no pain at all, other than the normal muscle soreness. I picked up a pair of Saucony Kinvaras this past week to help with the cold of early morning runs when it is 19 degrees and I switch back and forth between the Kinvaras and Bikilas.

Any who, I am looking forward to a lot more races in Vibrams. I am also dying to get my hands, errr feet, on a new pair of the Merrel trail gloves to try out.

Mark

Thanks for sharing this with us Mark! Let us know how you like the Kinvaras.

2011 Fall Vibram FiveFingers Boots, Laces, Leather and More!

Vibram Five Fingers Fall 2011
Previews of just some of the new models in the Vibram Five Fingers Fall 2011 line-up.
Updated 7/21/2011 with links to:

I'm excited to share with you all a sneak preview of some of the five toed shoes and boots in the Vibram FiveFingers 2011 Fall line-up. As you can see, Vibram has taken things up a notch — in more ways than one.

Overall, we're seeing new laced varietals of FiveFingers — for those who don't get "laces" on their toe shoes, realize that there are many would-be toe shoe fans who have high insteps. These "high feet" can make many VFFs too tight on the top of the foot — laces are a simple, time-tested solution to both this problem and the general issue of making a standardized shoe have a more custom fit for unique feet!

Perhaps having heard the call for winter-worthy toe shoes as well as the need for toe shoes for everyday, casual wear (read: more fashionable and less sporty), we see FiveFingers boots!

FiveFingers Kanga!

Update February 2012: this shoe never really got mass-produced. Rumor is that a couple hundred pairs (or so) got produced and are for sale in Europe. That's it.

First, the super-high boots with the furry tops are a women's model called the Kanga FiveFingers. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess the FiveFingers Kangas are pretty warm. How could they not be?

th the furry flare the Kanga has, it screams for attention and fits in with the high-boot fashion craze (oh the hours I've spent shopping for boots with Mrs. BirthdayShoes!). I wonder what celebrity will be caught wearing them first. Any FiveFingers ladyfolk after some boots?

The Kanga FiveFingers may not see a U.S. release as word is they didn't show up in the U.S. catalog. The Cervinia may be the U.S. equivalent (knit upper, no fur, Jaya sole). Stay tuned.

FiveFingers Trek LS

Update Fall 2011! I've reviewed the Trek LS FiveFingers!

Next, we see leather FiveFingers with laces — these are the Vibram FiveFingers Trek LS, which are basically Speed FiveFingers dressed in leather with a Trek sole.

As many Speed owners will tell you, the FiveFingers Speed is a fantastic model in the VFF line-up. Dressed in classy leather with the fantastic Trek sole, I think these will be a great addition to the line-up. Want!

The Fall 2011 Vibram FiveFingers Trek LS, all-leather Vibram toe shoes for everyday wear (though you could certainly do an impromptu sprint, dead lift, or tree climb in them if need presents itself!).
The Fall 2011 Vibram FiveFingers Trek LS, all-leather Vibram toe shoes for everyday wear (though you could certainly do an impromptu sprint, dead lift, or tree climb in them if need presents itself!).

FiveFingers Speeds in the U.S.!

Update! FiveFigners Speeds are out in the U.S.!

Now, I'm unclear as to how this fits in with the leather, Speed-like upper Trek LS, but I've got numerous people telling me the FiveFingers Speeds (the non-leather, Bikila-soled varieties!) are indeed, finally, coming to the United States.

Can I get an "amen?"

FiveFingers Bormio (Boot)

From left to right we see the Vibram FiveFingers Bormio leather boot, the leather FiveFingers Trek LS (Speed!), and a few pairs of KSO Treks — all from the Fall 2011 Vibram line-up!

Meanwhile, perhaps a reincarnation of the never-really-released FiveFingers Cortina, we see a leather boot — this is the FiveFingers Bormio. The Bormio has zippers on either side and features the Trek sole. We've reviewed the Bormio FiveFingers boots here in full. They retail for $160.

FiveFingers KomodoSport LS

And what are these new-styled LS FiveFingers? It's the FiveFingers Komodo LS! You can tell it's a Komodo by the side profile of the women's (pink) Komodo LS. Update July 2011!: We actually got our feet into pre-production versions of the KomodoSport LS and have reviewed the men's here and the women's KomodoSport LS here!

inal, non-laced KomodoSport, if you're not up to date on VFF models, is the Spring 2011 model was released in Spring 2011 with a new sole design. You can order the KomodoSport (non-laced versions) now, actually, or learn more about them on the Komodo FiveFingers page!

More!

In addition to the new color combos for Bikilas and Bikila LS, which is also slated to arrive any day now. Finally, it looks like there may be a women's calf-length "boot" with Jaya sole called the FiveFingers Cervinia. Haven't seen any photos of the Cervinia yet, so if I get some, I'll be sure to post them here!

Parting thoughts ...

If you're still reading, might I suggest you head off to read the actual reviews of these FiveFingers! This post is now (Feb. 2012) over a year old and everything mentioned above has been released (save the Cervinia and Kanga, which got nixed as far as being mass produced). Perhaps more excitingly, there are now newer models slated for release to get excited about. Just head over here to get a full rundown of all the FiveFingers coverage on BirthdayShoes — the barefoot shoes reviews rundown!

If it's not clear, we don't yet know all the details on these Fall 2011 models READ: These models will not be available until Fall 2011 (Attempting to head off 100 emails by folks who skim — you know who you are!). It seems Vibram reps only learned about them in the past month at the most, and are slowly spreading word to retailers around the country (and world!). That means there is some speculation above and a few attempts to match scuttlebutt to photos. We'll sort it out here in the coming days and weeks. So what do you think of these new FiveFingers models for Fall 2011 from Vibram? Sound off in the comments below!

Hat tip goes to Max DeLacy of BarefootInc, VFF runner, distributor, and go-to connection for FiveFingers in Australia, for sending in the photos. Also a nod to my anonymous source who filled in a lot of the product details! If you have additional intelligence (or clarifications!) on the 2011 Fall Vibram line-up, please drop me a line!

The 2011 Vibram Five Fingers Komodo Sport will arrive soon!

Vibram Five Fingers Komodo Sport
Vibram Five Fingers Komodo Sport

The 2011 Komodo Sport will arrive soon! Click here to pre-order it at REI. This model will soon be available as part of Vibram's 2011 Five Fingers line-up. Click here to read Justin's review of this exciting new model designed for fitness/cross training that could be used for just about any activity.

Komodo Sport Product Description

Designed for cross-training, the FiveFingers KomodoSport multisport shoes take the popular KSO and introduce a friction-reducing footbed to enhance comfort.

  • Stretchy uppers hug feet and offer quick-drying comfort; breathable stretch-mesh panels keep debris and grit out
  • Adjustable instep and heel straps secure with rip-and-stick closures to provide a snug, supportive fit
  • Individual toe slots enhance dexterity, control and stability to help deliver a natural motion
  • AEGIS Microbe Shield® antimicrobial treatment helps control odor development
  • Seamless 2mm polyurethane footbeds reduce friction underfoot; EVA arch shanks help provide light support
  • 4mm Vibram outsoles are made of nonmarking Vibram TC1 rubber and feature traction pods that follow the contours of your feet and toes for enhanced traction
  • Recommended for running and fitness; in order to allow your feet to adapt to using different muscles, gradually increase usage of these shoes
  • The Vibram FiveFingers KomodoSport shoes are machine washable in cold water; air dry only
  • To determine size, stand with heels against a wall and measure from the wall to the tip of the longest toe; use the longest toe length in conjunction with the size chart

Pre-order now at REI!



* This post originally said that the Komodo was available for order at REI, but we later found out that they are just taking pre-orders for delivery next month. We're sorry for the mistake.

Review: Women's KSO Trek

Review: Women's KSO Trek
Justine at Lake Tahoe in her KSO Treks.

Consultant Justine Lam was instrumental in putting together Ron Paul's online fundraising campaign. She is also a big fan of Vibram Five Fingers. You may remember the interview she did about her KSOs here on BirthdayShoes. Now she has put together a review of her Vibram Five Fingers Women's KSO Treks where she compares them to her KSOs and Bikilas. Here is her review:

by Justine Lam — Guest Writer

Women's Vibram FiveFingers KSO Trek Review

When I got my first pair KSOs back in June 2008, I had never seen them in stores or on anyone’s feet. I tried them on at a kayaking store in NYC and started wearing them around the city and while hiking or backpacking.

Two short years later wherever I go, I will likely bump into a fellow Vibram Five Fingers fan. For example, I just sat down at Red Rock Coffee Co. in Mountain View, CA to write up my review and next to me a customer was sporting his black VFF classics. He told me he can’t go back to normal shoes, that he feels more aware of his surroundings and in his body w/ his Vibrams. He smiled widely while talking about his shoes. VFFs creates real brand evangelists.

Recently, thanks to BirthdayShoes.com I got to try the new VFF KSO Treks for women. I was ecstatic. I had been jealously admiring the KSO Treks for men for the past year, wishing they would make them for women. Finally my prayers were answered!

Read the rest of Justine's review after the jump!

Read the rest of this post »

Winter Running with O'Neill Reactor Reef Boots

Minnesota in Winter
Northern Minnesota in Winter.

Photographer, filmmaker and author, Dudley Edmondson, found that barefoot running in the chilly winters of Northern Minnesota can be a real challenge. Then he discovered O'Neill Reactor Reef Boots provide a near barefoot feel while being warm and inexpensive. Here is his review:

by Dudley Edmondson — Guest Writer

Justin here at BirthdayShoes.com asked me to share my thoughts about a minimalist shoe alternative for winter running conditions. If you’re like me and live in a colder climate you’ve discovered the Vibram Five shoe we all love is not exactly the best in cold weather. The Vibram Five Fingers Flow is supposed to be the shoe of choice in cold weather but here in northern Minnesota where the daytime temps can hover in the double digits below zero for a week or more, you really need more protection from the cold than a five toed shoe can offer.

Read the rest of Dudley's review and see his How-to video after the jump!

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