• minimalist sandals!

    Xero Shoes - Barefoot Running Sandals

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...BirthdayShoes was built by people like you! You can help us make this site better.

Do you have Vibram FiveFingers, New Balance Minimus, huaraches like Xero Shoes or Luna Sandals? Nowadays, there are is a slew of "barefoot shoes" and folks are doing just about everything in them.

The growth in the minimalist shoe world is a great thing as people begin to reclaim their health through their feet, but it also makes it pretty hard to figure out which shoes are best for you. Well, swapping reviews, news, and stories is one of the things that this site is all about and if you're up for sharing, you can help.

1. Submit a photo story/mini-review.

Do you have a great photo of you in your "birthday shoes?" Willing to share what you've been doing in them with the readers here at BirthdayShoes? If you do and you're willing to have your photo and story published on birthdayshoes.com, fire an email to [email protected] with the photos attached and ...

Along with your photos, please include in the email where the picture was taken, a few sentences about what you've been doing in your shoes, and any other information you're willing to share. Write a little "mini-review" so that others (often people who know nothing about "free feet") can benefit from you sharing your experience. Got multiple pairs? What's your favorite and why? Had issues? Tell us about them — others can benefit from the knowledge.

Here's an example of what a good photo might look like (note it includes all of the person and not just the feet. Feet shots are neat but feet without the rest of the person tell an incomplete story!

Managing a creek bed on a hike in the Smokey Mountains in the KSO Trek FiveFingers.
Managing a creek bed on a hike in the Smokey Mountains in the KSO Trek FiveFingers.

Small print: This site is about birthday shoes (it's a pun for bare feet), not your birthday suit! The difference is important! I do not want to see you in your birthday suit! Photos submitted may be altered by birthdayshoes.com to make them suitable for the site. Submission of photos to justin at birthdayshoes dot com constitutes both an acknowledgement that you possess the full rights of submitted photos as well as a general release of all rights to the pictures to birthday shoes dot com. Basically, submission means you own the photos and are giving them to birthday shoes dot com to publish. Your email address will not be published!

2. Send us news, scuttlebutt, or rumors!

Who doesn't love to hear the latest news in barefoot? We try to cover breaking stories, new product releases, leaked upcoming shoes, huge promotions and big sales, and more. If you've heard something that you think would be interesting to others on the blog, contact us!

3. Get even more involved. Help us keep the lights on!

BirthdayShoes is a side-project. It's no one's full time job and is currently being kept up in the spare hours of folks who are busy with work, school, families, or whatever. That said, the site has had over three million unique visitors since it began in Spring 2009 and these days, it takes a lot of work just to keep things moving — to say nothing of keeping up with all the reviews, news, and other stuff we like to share.

If you'd like to get really involved and have some basic knowledge about HTML, an eagerness to do some blogging, can take a good photo, and want to look behind the curtain, well, we could use your help. While generally we've got a number of reviewers of shoes already (though we could use more female reviewers!), we could use help to edit user story submissions, write original news, and more. While we can't promise fame and fortune, you'll get some great experience seeing what it takes to run a successful blog on the internet. If that sounds interesting, drop an email about who you are, what you're all about, and how you think you could contribute to justinowings at birthdayshoes dot com!

Interview with Free the Animal's Richard Nikoley on his Vibram Five Fingers

Vibram Five Fingers Classics fan Richard Nikoley shows off his black VFFs.  Richard is a health enthusiast and blogger over at his excellent site, FreeTheAnimal.com
Vibram Five Fingers Classics fan Richard Nikoley shows off his black VFFs. Richard is a health enthusiast and blogger over at his excellent site, FreeTheAnimal.com
Name:Richard Nikoley
Regular shoe size:Approx. 9
VFF shoe size:40
Feet are:cool

What prompted you to get Vibram Five Fingers?

I came upon a blog post at Modern Forager*, now LifeSpotLight, and it was one of those times where I realized I was already an authority and didn't even know it.

So I blogged about it in a post I called: Learning to Walk. In that post, I recounted my 6 1/2 year story of walking a lot every day, how I developed foot problems, and how I finally re-taught myself to walk correctly (in spite of the shoes).

I saw the Vibrams as something I could just naturally step into, and that turned out to be the case.

What type and color Five Fingers do you have and how long have you had them?

Well, that's a funny one, because I was late to the party, and all the colors I preferred were out of stock for my size. I ended up with the classics in all black, and the KSO (I prefer to call them "Keep Sh*t Out") in brown. Boring, but same performance. :)

What do you do most while wearing your Five Fingers?

Walking the dogs, mostly at night in the classics. For my long morning walk, I still often wear my light running shoes. But, this goes back to the beginning. I have already retrained my muscles over years to walk correctly and I have never since had foot pain. I also like to do my workouts in the classics. For the occasional weekend trail hikes, I use the KSOs. I do it mostly for the looks from other hikers along the trail. Priceless.

I've also been known to hit the local pub in the classics. Easy way to get a conversation going.

Any unusual experiences while wearing them?

Only at first. I called it "data overload." The feet, I'm told, have more nerve endings than human genitalia, which is saying something! What's very interesting is that you learn to deal with the data over time and are no longer obsessed with where you're stepping. It's almost like developing a sixth sense.

How do Five Fingers fit in with who you are as a person?

Perfectly. They are many things, implicitly. I think my favorite is simply that they are unconventional and far from what the crowd is doing, so they're profoundly distinctive in a way that's hard to criticize. And, I think the criticism I've heard would more properly be classified as envy. While I'm not a rebel for the pure sake of being a rebel, I eschew doing what everyone else does simply because everyone else is doing it -- or even worse: over fear of unpopular attention.

Anything else you'd like to share about your FiveFingers?

Yes. As great as they are, we must remember that they are still a compromise. As such, I also regularly walk barefoot. I think that should still be the ideal, and I doubt a great company like Vibram would dispute that.

Here's another. My wife has always made fun of them (she calls them my "feet;" as in, "do you want me to toss down your feet?"). Well, last week we were on vacation and went into a sports outfitter shop. They had a full stock and now she has a pair, at my expense, which was the only way she was going to have them.

To her complete surprise, she loves them. The first night, before even testing them out, she watched a movie in them.

Thank you, Richard!

Richard shows off his brown KSOs, black Classics, and his wife's blue sprints!
Additional pictures of Richard's birthday shoes sporting his brown KSOs and black classics can be found here.

Richard Nikoley blogs at Free the Animal dot com, where he is leading the charge for "World Paleo Domination" (An overview). I'm proud to say that I've been following Richard's blogging since as far back as early 2006, back when his blog was called Uncommon Sense. Indeed, Free the Animal is all about applying uncommon sense to your life via the lens of evolutionary biology. And if that last sentence makes no sense to you, I'd encourage you to spend some time at Richard's site. It could radically improve your life (And the lives of those you care about).

* The post Richard refers to at Modern Forager / Life Spotlight by Scott Kustes can be found here: You Walk Wrong And Your Shoes Are To Blame. I hope to get Scott to complete my interview at a future date!

Nathan Owings on his Vibram Five Fingers Classics

Empowered by the superior traction and flexibility of his Vibram Five Fingers Classics, Nathan makes use of a mere inch of purchase four feet up a light post and strikes a pose.
Empowered by the superior traction and flexibility of his Vibram Five Fingers Classics, Nathan makes use of a mere inch of purchase four feet up a light post and strikes a pose.
Name:Nathan Owings
Regular shoe size:10.5
VFF shoe size: 42M
Feet are:underutilized

What prompted you to get Vibram Five Fingers?

First off, I love going barefoot but I hate getting dirt on my feet. My brother jumped on the VFF bandwagon and couldn't stop talking about them and what could I do but give them a try? As a sign of good things to come, on the day I bought my VFFs I found a 20 dollar bill on the sidewalk - probably because I was staring at my newly VFF'd feet!

What type and color Five Fingers do you have and how long have you had them?

I'm sporting the classics with the khaki/tan coloring. I've had them for probably 8 months or so.

What do you do most while wearing your Five Fingers?

Working out, walking to the store, walking in the neighborhood, chillin around the house.

Any unusual experiences while wearing them?

Besides the twenty bucks found on my VFF day, nothing too spectacular. Unless, of course, you would call going to all of your favorite public places nearly barefoot which, I have to tell you, is truly a different experience. There's something about wearing these that puts you into closer communion with the ground.

How do Five Fingers fit in with who you are as a person?

I like to think of myself as adventurous and somewhat counter-cultural. I'm no hippie, but do love to be outdoors provided that there are things to do and places to play. I guess you'd have to be pretty open-minded to slap these suckers on your feet as you will definitely get a lot of weird looks from passers-by. Although, it's the second look that you have to wait for cause that is the one where they really get hooked!

Anything else you'd like to share about your Five Fingers?

It took me a little while to get used to putting them on, but now it's a breeze. Also, I love that they are machine washable. Eventually, I'd like to try the KSOs but for now my classics suit me just fine. Viva la BirthdayShoes!

Thank you, Nathan!

Imagine trying to do this with regular tennis shoes!
Imagine trying to do this with regular tennis shoes!
See all the photos of Nathan and his birthday shoes here.

*By "brother," Nathan is referring to me. And yes, I coerced him into doing this interview!

Playing Kickball in your Birthday Shoes

This past weekend a buddy of mine needed extra players for his Go Kickball league game, and since he and I had played two WAKA seasons together (The mighty "Rotties" and "Rotties Deux"), he gave me a buzz and asked me to help out.

Thirty minutes late to the game, my team was already down by twelve. As I been wearing my KSOs all day already (Had gone to the Atlanta Dogwood Festival), I switched to my rarely used Nike sneakers. So shod, I managed to get on base at my first at-bat and played outfield for an inning. However, my Nike's just didn't feel right having enjoyed the foot freedom of my birthday shoes all day. The unavoidable numbness of sneakers was all wrong.

I decided to throw my KSOs back on.

Approaching the plate at my next at-bat, I immediately got questioned by the opposing team's catcher about my FiveFingers. I believe her comment was something like, "Those are the coolest ... whatever they are I've ever seen!" This was immediately followed by a few shouts to other teammates to look at my feet. I'm not sure if the other team was so distracted by my birthday shoes or what, but after a whopping foul kick, I kicked a single and got on base. With the help of teammates, I managed to score before the end of the inning. We lost the game, but after we did the obligatory "Good Game" march, I had the somewhat self-conscious experience of the entire opposing team surrounding me and asking questions about my FiveFingers.

How'd the FiveFingers fare in kickball? Better than I expected. Outfield play was fantastic in FiveFingers as the grassy field made for an excellent sprinting surface. I juggled one monster punt by the opposing team but was nimble enough on my feet to spin around and complete the catch for an out. This isn't to say that FiveFingers are built for kickball: notably, it was awkward rounding the bases at sprint speed and trying to grind to a halt on a base without cleats. As you might imagine, there was also a slight sting to kicking the ball with so little foot padding — though not as bad as I expected.

Would I play kickball in KSOs again? Maybe, but I think I'll have to revert to my cleats next time.

Birthday Shoes Interview with Vibram Five Fingers fan and runner Matthew Fleming

Above is a photo by Paul David of Matthew Fleming sporting Vibram Five Fingers Sprints in the Mt. Sinai 50K
Above is a photo by Paul David of Matthew Fleming sporting Vibram Five Fingers Sprints in the Mt. Sinai 50K
Name:Matthew Fleming
Regular shoe size:13EEE or so
VFF shoe size:EU46
Feet are:wide

What prompted you to get Vibram Five Fingers?

I had regular Achilles tendinitis from running shoes, and rather than adding even more heel (as was sometimes suggested) I thought I'd try less heel. Plus I don't think I ever really liked shoes, but I didn't realize until I read Barefoot Ted (BFT) and his adventures with huaraches on the ULTRA list.

What type and color Five Fingers do you have and how long have you had them?

I have a pair of white Classics (worn through, about 3 years old?), grey Sprint (same age but less worn). I just got a pair or blue camo KSO but the footbed feels a little longer; I may try one size smaller but my guess is that will be a little short.

What do you do most while wearing your Five Fingers?

Running. That's really it.

Any unusual experiences while wearing them?

Nothing unusual. They're a remarkable shoe -- that is, many other runners see them and remark on them. Some people now recognize them, instead of just being curious.

How do Five Fingers fit in with who you are as a person?

They're an application of technology to solve a problem (barefoot isn't perfect always) in a way that's very different from existing solutions (bulky shoes). This is always my kind of product.

Anything else you'd like to share about your Five Fingers?

Can't think of anything. I've run two marathons and two 50Ks in them now. I do all my training runs in them (though that's a lot less running than I did a few years ago due to small children). Someday in the next year or so I expect to be trying a 50 miler in them.

Follow-up question: You mention that you "had Achilles tendinitis." Has this condition improved since switching to FiveFingers and/or incorporating barefoot running? Have you developed any problems that you can tie to using FiveFingers for running?

The Achilles tendinitis is mostly gone. I did once or twice get small tightness, so perhaps for me the perfect place is somewhere between the completely flat and the normal 1" heel.

I have had a few problems with extensor tendinitis instead and with the tendon on the inside of my right foot. Now that I'm running more rarely the problems are gone, but I expect if I get back to 30+ miles per week I'll need to do no more than 20 of them in the Vibrams.

Thank you, Matthew!

Matthew's LJ Thoughts of a meat popsicle keeps up with his running escapades (For example, a 31 question runner's survey) and other musings about life. Be sure to check it out!

Review of Vibram Five Fingers KSO (Keep Stuff Out)

Review of Vibram Five Fingers KSO (Keep Stuff Out)

I have been seriously enjoying my KSO Vibram Five Fingers — my second pair. The "KSO" is an acronym that stands for "Keep Stuff Out." I had previously purchased and reviewed Vibram FiveFinger Classics back in May 2008, and as a result, John from KayakShed had gotten in touch and graciously sent me a pair of the "Taupe/Palm" Vibram Five Fingers KSOs. That color combo is more of a "grey/green" with gray rubber Vibram soles, as you can see here fresh out of the box (For all KSO colors, see the definitive guide to KSO Vibram Five Fingers):

Vibram FiveFingers KSOs out of the box and onto my feet!

Design Differences — The difference between the Five Fingers KSOs and the Five Fingers Classics (Here is a picture of the Classics)is that the KSOs have an ankle-sock-like elastic seal, fully cover the top of the foot (these two work to keep stuff out of the inner parts of the VFFs), and are secured via a velcro strap that tightens over the top of the foot. The strap runs behind the heel, which allows you to tighten up the KSOs at the back of the foot, as well. This design makes for an all around snug (and quite comfortable) fit.

Another point of difference to the Classics is that the Classics use an elastic band/bungee cord that can be cinched and tightened at the heel. On the plus side for the Classsics, this design allows for a minimal amount of foot coverage and makes the Classics the easiest to put on — sort of like the "flip flop" of the Five Fingers line-up. Unfortunately, when cinched, the band on the Classics can put pressure on the front top of the foot, which may be irritating on longer periods of wear (Again see the Classics picture for reference).

The primary drawback to the KSO design, which is unavoidable, is that the covered top forces a smaller entry point for your foot, making navigating toes into toe holes trickier. Having said that, after probably ten "wearings" it became easy to put the KSO Vibram Five Fingers on, and of course, the benefit to having a more cumbersome entry point is that the KSO design affords greater security on the foot. Once your KSO Vibrams are on your foot, they stay on — Keep Stuff Out, Keep Vibrams On!

Some have asked me if the KSOs are hot — they are not. The mesh covering seems to breath well and the regular Five Fingers fabric is ultra-thin.

Functionality — All of the typical FiveFinger benefits you find with the Classics apply to the KSOs and then some. That means you can run, sprint, play, workout, jump, etc., in the KSOs just like the Classics. Like any FiveFingers, KSOs afford the freedom of effectively being barefoot but with the added protection of a thin, non-supportive-but-protective, flexible Vibram rubber sole. Thanks to the more robust velcro-based tightening mechanism, the KSOs inspire confidence — moreso than the Classics when running sprints or dashing up or down stairs. Whereas the Classics sometimes feel like the heel might flip off, the KSOs (and the Sprints for that matter) are completely locked onto your feet.

As for the "Keep Stuff Out" part of the KSOs, they work pretty well—mind, they could have really gotten nasty on the ankle seal by employing a beefier elastic band, something akin to what cycling socks use. However, this would have been overkill for many, considerably less comfortable, and would have impaired the improved stylishness.

Style — Here I model the KSOs, note the turn in the middle (I know, I should be a professional foot model!):

Here I model my KSOs wearing jeans, like you would a normal shoe! And turn ...

Herein lies perhaps one of the greatest benefits of the KSOs over all other varieties of Vibram Five Fingers: they actually look more like normal footwear — particularly when worn with pants. Of course, they are still FiveFingers, which means that everyone will still be staring at your birthday shoes thanks to the articulated toes. But the full-foot covering of the KSOs makes them much more palatable from a style standpoint, and I have frequently worn mine around town. This, in combination with the added security provided by the KSOs, that makes the KSO model the number one selling VFF — particularly for men. And of the color combinations, VFFers everywhere love the KSO Five Fingers in black.

I actually love my Classics and probably get more "wear time" in them than the KSOs due to their ease of entry and overall maximized minimalist feel (See my detailed thoughts on why the Classic Five Fingers are awesome here).

What can you do in KSO Vibram Five Fingers?

Just about anything. KSO Vibram Five Fingers are the "do anything" Vibram model.

Go hiking. Run a marathon or a 10K. Mountain bike or attend a football game. They're good in the water, too. This hardly scratches the surface of what you can do in KSO Vibrams. For 70+ user-based photo stories, take a look at the comprehensive page dedicated to KSO Five Fingers.

Sizing — Generally, KSOs size one down from Classics and Sprints though in my case, I actually wear the same size across both KSOs and Classics. You might have guessed it, but sizing VFFs is tricky. I recommend consulting the sizing methodology Vibram provides, which is covered in great detail at the birthdayshoes wiki, so make sure you consult it and get the right Five Fingers size! It's also useful to consult before going into a retailer as often times the employees don't know the nitty-gritty complexities on sizing VFFs (and there are differences between genders -- a M40 isn't the same as a W40 and women's sizes, which men can wear and vice versa, generally are slightly more narrow).

Conclusion and Summary — Simply put, the KSOs provide:

  • more versatility than any other VFF. The KSO can do anything the Classic or Sprint can do and much of the same things the Flow can do (it's just less warm),
  • a solid tightening method via the velcro strap, which both inspires confidence and is comfortable, and
  • the full-foot coverage makes the KSOs more stylish (particularly with pants). This seemingly trivial difference is actually very important because more stylish VFFs make you much more likely to wear your birthday shoes out in the world at large. More wear means freer, stronger, healthier, and happier feet. And that's the whole point, right?

So even though they are around $10 more than the Classics, I think the KSOs are worth the added expense for most individuals — particularly if you are going for functionality more than comfort. You can get them at KayakShed here.

See our post on "Barefoot Running Shoes" to see where KSOs fall on our Barefoot Running Shoes Continuum.

Questions? Comments? Be sure to leave feedback below!