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Hang Gliding Barefoot or in Vibram Five Fingers: Interview with Davis Straub

Davis Straub Hanggliding in his black Vibram Five Fingers KSOs.
Davis Straub Hanggliding in his black Vibram Five Fingers KSOs.

Davis Straub Hanggliding in his black fivefinger KSOs
Davis Straub hanggliding over Bald Hill in Australia (From Ozreport.com)

Name:Davis Straub
Birthday:August 12, 1947
Regular shoe size:10.5 EE
VFF shoe size:44
Feet are:friends

What prompted you to get Vibram Five Fingers?

I normally hang glide (4000+ flights, 2009 US National team member) barefoot, but I can't in Australia and west Texas where the terrain is too harsh. I went to Scheels in Sparks, Nevada to check out wrestling shoes (I needed small thin soles to fit in the hang gliding harness), but they didn't have EE widths. The shoe sales guy brought me wrestling shoes, then said try these (KSO Five Fingers) when it was clear that the wrestling shoes were too tight. Five Fingers fit great right away and felt great.

At over 4,000 flights, you clearly love flying, how did you originally get into hang gliding?

I guess the desire to fly was always there. At 38 when I talked to a guy at a weddding reception and he was talking about hang gliding I talked to him for a couple of hours. The next weekend I was on the training hill.

Also, you mention you typically hang glide barefoot, which seems somewhat unconventional. Was it awkward to ditch footwear while flying?

I hang glide barefoot in Florida where most of the fields that you land in are pastures. I didn't hang glide barefoot in Washington state where I started. I will be wearing my Five Fingers in France at the World Championships later in June.

In Florida I go around barefoot all the time, so it was no issue to just go hang gliding that way also.

Have you had any issues while flying barefoot or while sporting your KSOs?

Once I landed in a field with prickly pear. Still I came out fine. I was barefoot.

A few weeks back flying in Georgia with my KSO's on I landed in a rough (plowed, stubbled, not planted) field and got a deep cut in my right big toe from the top down. It was sliced open.

That toe injury sounds bad - something pierced the fivefinger sole or the outside fabric?

Outside fabric. From the top of the toe. Hard to believe when landing, but there was plenty of "litter" in the rough field. I've decided to stay away from those kinds of fields. :)

Do you use your fivefingers (or go barefoot, for that matter) for any other activities?

Nope (on wearing the fivefingers). I'm usually just barefoot (and put on shoes when I have to). I would wear them at the beach though. I really want them to work for flying as that is where I really need these small foot print shoes to fit inside my harness. I don't want to wear them out and they seem flimsy on the top surface. I want to save them for flying.

I have had my wife sew them up, both from the cut and from other tears.

Have you had any surprising or unusual experiences while wearing them?

My wife says that my gate while wearing them is the same as when I go barefoot. She can see the difference between wearing them and wearing shoes.

Every hang gliding flight is an unusual experience. A struggle to tap into the invisible power that surrounds you.

Finally, how does going barefoot (or opting for mimialist footwear like VFFs) fit with who you are as a person?

Going barefoot is pretty much a part of me. People are surprised whenever they see me with shoes on as they associate me with barefeet.

I love my bicycle shoes (which are size EE) and I went to a lot of trouble to find bicycle shoes that fit.

What kind of biking do you do?

Road. I average 23 miles/day. I have a mountain bike also and ride it when I am in appropriate places (say the Tetons).

Thank you, Davis!

Here Davis shows of true barefoot hang gliding

I didn't realize it at the time, but I first read about Davis Straub a long time ago via Richard Nikoley, another hang gliding enthusiast (and VFFer — interview) in a post about Straub flying 365 miles over Texas in 2005 (Straub's account of the flight), which as incredible as that sounds to me, was shorter than a 407 mile flight in 2001. Davis currently holds a number of world records in flying.

It was fun corresponding with Davis for this interview. His site, The OZ Report is a major resource for the hang gliding community. Anyone else want to fly now?

Black VFF Classics at Fenway

Black VFF Classics at Fenway

Pictured above, Marianna shows off her black fivefinger Classics at a Red Sox game (See the Green Monster to the left!). Marianna writes:


Here is a photo of my sleek-ass black classics at Fenway Park last week ... when Big Papi hit his first homer of the season! The guy sitting next to me said they looked like they were made for "the woods".

I like your site!

Five Fingers and Fenway Park. How could you go wrong?

Also Marianna has created a VFF livejournal community for all you livejournal users. You can find it here.

Thanks, Marianna!

Black KSOs in Santa Monica

Black KSOs in Santa Monica

Jesse sent in these birthday shoes shots where he's donning his new black fivefinger KSOs in Santa Monica, California. Here's what Jesse had to say:


I bought these KSO's online at REI.com, waited a while for the backorder to come in and slipped them on as soon as they were delivered to the store. They are size 41 and I am showing them off while lounging in Santa Monica, CA. Nobody stared but I did get a double take from a short lady. Go figure.


As any VFF wearer will tell you, the jaw-dropping, eyebrow-raising double-take is a pretty common, humorous occurrence, which as Nathan put it in his VFF interview, "it's the second look that you have to wait for cause that is the one where they really get hooked!"

Hope you enjoy them, Jesse!

Seret and Husband in Blue Ninja Feet (Vibram Five Fingers KSOs). Hiking shots!

Seret and Husband in Blue Ninja Feet (Vibram Five Fingers KSOs). Hiking shots!
Seret and Husband in Blue Ninja Feet (Vibram Five Fingers KSOs). Hiking shots!
Seret and Husband in Blue Ninja Feet (Vibram Five Fingers KSOs). Hiking shots!
Seret and Husband in Blue Ninja Feet (Vibram Five Fingers KSOs). Hiking shots!

In a recent comment regarding fivefingers sizing across genders, Seret mentioned that both her husband and her have "matching blue KSO Ninja Feet!"

I'm a big fan of the blue KSOs (and sorta wish I had garnered the gumption to grab them!). I hope Vibram comes out with some similarly styled red ones. Or maybe some red and black ... hmm ...

Anyway, thanks Seret for sending in "birthday shoes shots" of your Vibram Five Fingers a.k.a. Ninja Feet!

Sprinting through the Airport in the KSO Vibram Five Fingers

Sprinting through the Airport in the KSO Vibram Five Fingers

We should know have known better. Memorial Day weekend is just about to begin, and if you have ever flown anywhere on this holiday, which we have on numerous occasions, the airports get a bit overwhelmed and things start going a little haywire.

So it went that we arrived at the Atlanta-Hartsfield Jackson airport exactly (only!) an hour before our 4:15pm flight to DTW. We were immediately taken aback by lines at all kiosks, people everywhere, and just general airport chaos. We immediately marched back outside to the skycap check-in, which had no wait.

Only one problem. Our "Northwest" flight wasn't showing up in their system. At this point, we were directed inside to the "Northwest Check-in," or so we thought. It seems that there is an exceedingly complex relationship between what qualifies as a NWA flight and just a NWA-marketed flight. Furthermore, only official NWA flights can use the "Northwest Check-in." Too bad you can't determine if your NWA-booked tickets are officially NWA or not until you've waited in line and speak to an agent.

At this point, we try the kiosks. Yep, they tell us to seek out an agent, too. It's now about 3:20 and we are tasked with standing in a snaking line that appears to be going nowhere fast.

I know, I know. You've all been there, right? Did I mention my wife is 29 weeks pregnant?

About ten minutes later a Delta employee (whose job title must be "Line Supervisor") appeared. I informed her that our flight was supposed to leave in 45 minutes. I'm not sure I got the joke, but she muttered something, smirked, and then walked away.

The airport fire alarm starts going off at this point, and no one cared.

3:45 pm. After what feels like an eternity, we finally get to the agent. He tells us we are too late to check our 42 lb. suitcase (Numerous wedding outfits for all the weekend's events: this is an Indian wedding) and that we will have to take it through security and check it at the gate.

Seeing the task before us, I grab the boarding passes, the huge suitcase, and my 20 lb. duffel. Preggers (yes she lets me call her that) grabs her rolling carry-on and we take off for security, fully expecting to lose all of our liquid and gel-based toiletries, accepting our fates whatever they may be.

In the interest of science, TSA experimentation, and time, I again chose to leave on my fivefinger KSOs. Furthermore, we left the toiletries bag in stow in the large suitcase and just rolled the dice.

And we made it through no questions asked.

Atlanta's airport terminals are all connected by a subway. On the train, no fewer than three fellow passengers quizzed me about my "socks." We were at the first terminal (A lucky break), and as soon as the subway doors slid open, I grabbed that forty pound suitcase and my duffel bag and took off.

I actually managed what I would consider a "run" up the extra-long escalator to the terminal. An adrenaline surge later I'm racing through the terminal and see our gate in the distance — but no people around it. Am I too late?

Relief. I made it. Bent over and panting as I greet the agent at the gate, she checks my bag (For free! I guess you don't get charged for the bag when you lug it all the way to the gate!), a minute later my wife shows up, and we board the plane.

I'm guessing I'm presently around twenty or thirty thousand feet up in the air (I splurged on the airplane wifi), and we're already making our initial descent.

A common joke in the paleo, primal, evolutionary fitness community is that you should "run like your life depends on it" or to "imagine a lion is chasing you."

Well, in our modern day, it's a rare time where we have to bust out an all out, spur-of-the-moment, adrenaline-pumped sprint, but I'm happy to say that when that time came today, I was ready. And whether or not my fivefingers saved me any time or made me any faster or more agile, it's hard to say. What I do know is that my VFFs were a seamless part of my farmer-carry-style airport sprint, and that's all that matters.

Five Fingers Fan Forums are UP!

Due to popular demand (and the fact that setting them up just made a ton of sense!), I bring you:

BirthdayShoes.com Five Fingers Forums!

Screencap of the Five Fingers forums

hese forums will serve as a place for the VFF community to share ideas, reviews, pictures, successes, activities, and on and on.  It's a place for open and productive discussion: let's start talking!

As you might expect, registration is open/free.  Bear with me as I iron out the kinks of getting these set up right and designed so they are looking nice.

Register and say "hello!"  Go to the VFF forums!