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Upcoming Vibram Furoshiki a Minimalist Shoe Inspired by Japanese Knotting

Upcoming Vibram Furoshiki a Minimalist Shoe Inspired by Japanese Knotting

Now this is new.

Vibram has cooked up a new form of minimalist shoe they are calling the "Furoshiki" that is inspired by by the Japanese tradition of wrapping cloth to transport goods. As fans know, Vibram is Italy-based and as such, they are showcasing the Furoshiki at Pitti Uomo in Florence, Italy this week. Check it out via these photos from a Vibram Press Release (PDF) (text on down the page) and Deluxu.it:

The design could be described as a Vibram rubber sole on a cut piece of fabric that crisscrosses over your instep and attaches at the heel. And while Furoshiki doesn't seem to be used for wrapping your feet, the Vibram's use of the word here seems to make sense (to someone who knows very little about Japanese culture).

Wikipedia has a page on Furoshiki that defines it as:

Furoshiki (風呂敷) are a type of traditional Japanese wrapping cloth traditionally used to transport clothes, gifts, or other goods. Furoshiki began to be used in the mid-Nara Era, in traditional Japanese baths. To prevent a mix up of the bathers' clothes, the removed clothing was tied up in Furoshiki. Later the system of folding spread and was used by traders to protect their goods or gifts.

While I can't quite tell if this is a womens-only design, per Vibram's press release, the Furoshiki are being marketed as a minimalist shoe for everyday wear that be carried around comfortably. I imagine they are pretty lightweight and I bet you could do some interesting knotting when you aren't wearing them for ease of transport.

Looks like a fun shoe. Anyone else want to try it?

Press release below:

At Pitti Uomo Vibram tells a new story of design and technology

Vibram launches Furoshiki, the new outsole that envelops your foot in total safety and comfort

Tradition and innovation. The Furoshiki shoes will be introduced by Vibram to the fashion system during the 86th edition of Pitti Uomo in Florence, from Tuesday 17th to Friday 20th June. Vibram will offer the fair the wide tradition of research, quality and design that has always distinguished the company from the yellow octagon, global leader in the production and marketing of high-performance rubber soles.

In the Japanese culture, the term Furoshiki refers to the custom of wrapping, holding and carrying the most varied objects, bending and knotting a cloth that is transformed into a bag. Inspired by this Asiatic habit, Vibram has created the first wraparound outsole that fits comfortably on the foot thanks to special ergonomic bands that adhere to the ankle, ensuring maximum comfort and freedom of movement. The easy fit — guaranteed by the absence of strings — and the flexibility of this shoe, make it an extremely versatile footwear.

Light, sophisticated and colorful, the new Furoshiki by Vibram are comfortable to carry around and they adapt easily to any surface thanks to the innovative design of the sole, which guarantees comfort and durability.

Perfect for your free time, the Furoshiki shoes by Vibram represent a new turning point in the footwear sector: minimalist shoes for everyday use, with a unique and original look, provided with Vibram technology that has been the synonym of quality for more than seventy-five years.

Lems Nine2Fives in Black (and Updated Leather)

Lems Nine2Fives in Black (and Updated Leather)

In November 2013 I reviewed the Lems Nine2Five in "Coffee and Cream" brown leather but noted that the black Nine2Fives wouldn't be available until 2014. Six months later, here we are, and not only do we have more Lem Nine2Fives in black, but both the black and the brown 925s feature an upgraded leather. I'd heard the new 9to5s might be coming and reached out to Lems to see if they'd send me pairs to share with BirthdayShoes. They kindly obliged.

What do I mean? In short, both the leather colorways got an upgrade as far as materials, and now the Nine2Fives have leveled up. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I've got about 34,000 for you after the jump!

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Shamma Sandals Jerusalem Cruisers and Warriors Review

Shamma Sandals Jerusalem Cruisers and Warriors Review

For the past three weeks, I have been lucky enough to enjoy two of the latest models from Shamma Sandals: Jerusalem Cruisers and Warriors. Shamma Sandals are a huarache company based in Santa Cruz, California. All of their products are hand-crafted and made in the USA. They are a small operation and some of the nicest guys I have ever had the pleasure of chatting with about running.

Shamma Sandals has put a lot of time, love, sweat, and energy into the design and manufacturing of every sandal they make. Their latest models, the Jerusalem Cruiser and Warriors are a culmination of years of huarache-making experience and thoughtful design.

This is an exclusive first review of the Jerusalem Cruisers and Warriors for BirthdayShoes--read on!

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Vibram's $3.75 Million FiveFingers Toe Jam: What's it Mean for Barefoot, Running?

Vibram's $3.75 Million FiveFingers Toe Jam: What's it Mean for Barefoot, Running?

It's week-old news now and unless you've been living in a cave (or on vacation ... wink!), you know that Vibram has agreed to pay out $3.75 Million to settle a class action lawsuit brought agains the company two years ago (Has it been that long?) over some of the marketing claims they were making around the purported health benefits of barefoot running/training.

In essence, Vibram made some claims via various marketing channels as to the health benefits of their five-toed footwear. As is somewhat common knowledge in the minimalist/barefoot running community, there's not a ton of science in support of the benefits of any footwear—minimalist or heavily-cushioned—that's one of the lessons Chris McDougall shared in Born to Run. As such, when push came to shove and a lawsuit went after Vibram for associating health benefits with their footwear, well, you get a lawsuit. Tack on at least one recent study regarding increased bone edema associated with transitioning to minimalist footwear and you get a tricky legal situation for Vibram. That's my layperson's, non-lawyerly take on the matter.

In this case, Vibram didn't ultimately go to court but opted to settle the case. Thus, they didn't officially admit any wrongdoing, officially. That they are set to pay out $3.75 million as part of the settlement — payable to the lawyers in fees and to customers who seek refunds — is the sign that Vibram must feel there's a risk they'd lose the case were it to go to court. So that's that.

The story has gotten airtime all over the internet thanks to the sensationalism and juicy story that is using Vibram's settlement as a launchpad to poison the well on barefoot/minimalist footwear, generally, and toe shoes, specifically.

Haters gonna hate. What's new? This is the Internet.

Vibram's $3.75 Million FiveFingers Toe Jam: What's it Mean for Barefoot, Running?
Underlying image a screencap from some interesting marketing from Vibram.

But what does the settlement really mean, if anything?

Outside of the purview of marketing lingo and the FTC, I'm not sure it means much. You might recall that Skechers had to fork up $40 million in their Shape-Ups FTC case. So for whatever reason, Vibram is only paying out less than 10% in this settlement, which could be interpreted in a lot of ways:

  • Were Skechers Shape-Ups sold to more people than FiveFingers?
  • Were the claims made by Vibram viewed as less dubious to those made by Skechers?
  • The payout amount represents a probabilistic value of the lawsuit succeeding in court.
  • Something else?

It doesn't matter much to those of us who maintain that FiveFingers are a great product — so long as the financial impact on Vibram isn't so severe that they'll stop producing them. To date, VFFs are still one of the most barefoot-like shoes around made. I'd be seriously disappointed were they to go the way of the dodo.

Bottom line: all those saying this settlement means something about the merits (or lack thereof) of minimalist footwear are being short-sighted. Just as much as marketing-speak isn't science, resolutions of lawsuits don't prove much (See also: burden of proof though that applies to cases that go to court versus those being settled).

What I've observed: Taking Individual Responsibility for your Health is the Whole Point.

I feel as though this goes without saying, but when it comes to your own health and the claims of product manufacturers, it's always "caveat emptor" — "buyer beware." It's up to us, as individuals, to determine the validity of claims made about whatever. So when I say "individual responsibility" is the "whole point," I mean it in a few ways, not the least of which is that I put responsibility in the hands of individuals first. That's a rule of thumb. It's a starting point. Yes, there's a spectrum of how different claims affect whether or not someone is justifiably duped/conned/had/whatever. Individuals are responsible for themselves; it's a starting point.

But there's more to this idea than the legal merits of claims about products. When it comes to our own bodies, we owe it to ourselves to pay attention. Therein lies perhaps the biggest benefit of minimalist footwear: they dial up the feedback we get from our feet just as much as they dial down the dampening from the soles of shoes. Mind, relative to barefoot, minimalist shoes also change the feedback we get from the ground. They are a compromise.

But they also allow you to pay more attention, so relatively speaking, minimalist shoes allow you to pay more attention to your body through the feedback you get from your feet. This quality has made them hugely popular as people have gotten more in touch with the ground, their movement, and their health.

But not everyone is paying attention. Or enough attention. Or closing the feedback loop!

If we are running shod and hurting, something is wrong. If we're walking barefoot and in constant pain, something isn't right! The onus of responsibility is on us to pay attention to feedback and respond to it. It's to iterate on this feedback loop with the goal of improving our health, reducing pain, or getting stronger. But you gotta take the feedback (feetback?), act on it, iterate, and keep on trying. It's a process. And it's not without some pain and frustration!

So Vibram FiveFingers were never a silver bullet. When it comes to the complex interactions of the human body, what is? Indeed, I remember many in the community lamenting the fact as they saw newcomers to the minimalist world that people would switch to VFFs and instantly go out and try to run miles. TMTS was a common retort to said folks, who likely were very enthusiastic to find how great it was to move around without clunky shoes and allow their feet to feel more on the ground; they got excited as a result, and did too much ... too soon. Indeed, the Godfather of Barefoot Running — Barefoot Ken Bob — would cite too much enthusiasm as a major cause for injuries in folks new to barefoot running (source).

It bears noting that physiological and neurooplastic change takes time and is intimately personal. In so many ways, switching to barefoot or minimalist movement requires whole body rehabilitation. Minimalist or barefoot training is, in a way, self-managed physical therapy. It's not flipping a switch.

A lot of you know this. I probably preach to the choir here because so many of you have had insanely positive experiences from this self-managed PT. And at least of few of you didn't have initial success but kept at it, closed the feedback loop, and came out the better for it. Many stories about these experiences have been chronicled on BirthdayShoes.

So it is that all the snarky and glib attacks on minimalist shoes that have come out of this settlement are just so much Internet trolling. And if you're like me, and you still like your toe shoes, well, move along—there's really nothing to see here.

For those of you who had a bad experience with FiveFingers, that's unfortunate. Kudos for giving something weird and different a shot. And if you're looking to get your piece of the Class Action pie, you'll want to head over to fivefingerssettlement.com and await the day it updates with information as to how you can claim your refund.

So there's my take (finally!). What's yours?

Leave a comment (here) or sound off on the BirthdayShoes Forums (that's a link to ongoing discussion about this!).

TRUE Gent Wingtip "Dress Shoe" Review

TRUE Gent Wingtip "Dress Shoe" Review

Fans of barefoot shoes have probably all faced a common dilemma. A wedding, work, job interview, or any other potential situation requiring a more formal attire that isn't necessarily conducive to toe shoes or the casual and trainer styled minimal shoes. There have been a few casual styles that might pass in some situations, but an affordable truly formal dress shoe has remained elusive. That's why I was excited to test out TRUE linkswears new gent wingtip golf shoe. Read on to see lots of photos and find out how they look and perform as a dress shoe.

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Xero Shoes Amuri Cloud First Look Review

Xero Shoes Amuri Cloud First Look Review

Xero Shoes continues to innovate on the class huaraches design with the release this week of their new "Amuri Cloud" barefoot sandals. What is this "Cloud" that I speak of? It's a design feature of the Amuri Xero Shoes that reduces weight and improves the "ride" of the shoes via some well-placed EVA that is embedded into the sole. Take heed! Until March 30, 2014, the Amuri Cloud will be on sale for 20% off—$39.99 vs. $49.99—available over at XeroShoes.com!

But if you'd like to see more of this "Cloud," after the jump I've got a few first look thoughts and photos! Read on!

Note: What you might recall as the Xero Shoes Sensori Venture is now becoming the "Amuri Venture" (I did an in-depth preview/explanation of how the Sensori-now-Amuri design differs from the classic Xero Shoes huarache here that might be worth spinning through if you have a minute!).

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