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Interview with Tim Kelley

Tim Kelley is a runner, dad, and blogger here on He’s based out of Virginia and is somewhat famous for having a photo of Obama and himself photoshopped into a spoof show of support for Ron Paul. Below is a brief interview with Tim t…

Tim Kelley is a runner, dad, and blogger here on He’s based out of Virginia and is somewhat famous for having a photo of Obama and himself photoshopped into a spoof show of support for Ron Paul. Below is a brief interview with Tim so readers get to know the authors behind BirthdayShoes!

Why did you switch to minimalist shoes?

I didn’t really switch as much as I just kind of fell into them. After living a rather sedentary lifestyle after college, I signed up with for a triathlon with a couple of friends. I decided that I had better start running and after a few weeks of running in old basketball shoes I got a pair of traditional running shoes. After doing a 10 mile running race that left me with debilitatingly tight IT bands and knees, I decided to seek out alternatives. At about the same time I came across a blog post by Tim Ferris which led me to do some more research and stumble upon BirthdayShoes.

Since then I’ve done everything in Vibrams including: short 5K races, strenuous hiking, lot of miles on them running, and training and racing triathlons ranging from sprint to Ironman distance!

Tim's feet some 140.6 miles later (after completing a triathlon).

Tim’s feet some 140.6 miles later (after completing a triathlon).

What is the most important aspect of minimalist footwear for you?

The sole, particularly ground transmission and a zero-drop heel. I definitely need to be able to have a good feel for what I’m walking/running over.

How many pairs of FiveFingers do you have? What other minimalist shoes do you have?

I’ve got about 10 pairs of VFFs and an assortment of shoes from VIVOBAREFOOT, Stem (Leming), and New Balance. I’m currently on the search for the perfect minimalist shoe to wear with a business suit.

What’s your current go-to shoe? All-time favorite?

For running, I’m split between the Vibram SeeYa and Bikila. For casual wear, I have trouble deciding between a pair of Stem/Leming and a discontinued beige colored VIVOBAREFOOT Oak. Both are so comfortable!

Bikilas are one of Tim's favorite toe shoes for barefoot-style running.

Bikilas are one of Tim’s favorite toe shoes for barefoot-style running.

What is one activity you enjoy doing that has nothing to do with FiveFingers?

I love riding my bike. So much so that if I have the day free, I’ll think nothing of heading out for a 100 mile ride in the country side.

Show us a picture of the shoe you wore before you transitioned to minimalist shoes?

The last pair of running shoes Tim bought prior to jumping into barefoot running shoes.

The last pair of running shoes Tim bought prior to jumping into barefoot running shoes.

I went into a running store, got fitted and walked out with a pair of Asics Cumulus 10s. They had so much support and soft cushioning they were named after a cloud! I gave them to my Dad and I think he uses them to mow the lawn.

What is the most you feel comfortable paying for a shoe?

I think the $80-$120 range that most minimalist shoes fall into is about right. The nice thing about VFFs is that they work better and better as they get worn in. With traditional running shoes they recommend you replace them every 300-500 miles!

What is your least favorite shoe that you have ever tried?

A pair of Nike Frees. After I’d been into VFF running for awhile, I went into the running store looking for a pair of more normal looking minimal shoes and I thought the Frees would be the answer. Just a few steps in those thick soles and I was back to VFFs.

How long did it take you to transition to minimalist shoes?

It took about 6 months for me to build up the muscles in my calves to the point that I could run 10-12 miles without regular soreness. Even now when I take some downtime off from running in the winter, it takes a week or two to come back.

Do you prefer Socks or No Socks?

Definitely socks. Blisters suck and I don’t have time to be washing sweaty, smelly shoes every other week. The only time I don’t wear socks is during a short triathlon race when transitioning from the bike to the run and putting on socks cost precious seconds.

How many people have you converted to minimalist shoes?

Most of my close friends that are fitness oriented have given them a try. I get asked about VFFs pretty frequently and remember that during my first marathon I was asked at least once per mile how running in my Sprints felt. My response was something along the lines of, “Well yeah, my feet hurt. How do your feet feel at mile 20?!”

Have you ever ran in to someone you could not convince to switch to minimalist?

I have a friend who works at a local running shop. She’s been running in Newtons and recently gave herself a stress fracture during a half-marathon that left her aqua-jogging at the pool in order to keep up her Ironman training. To each their own!

What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you as a result of wearing minimalist shoes?

Striking up a conversation with other minimalist shoe fans at races or public events and discovering they are also BirthdayShoes readers. Once while getting lunch at a local restaurant during the workday, I randomly ran into someone who had just read an article I had written the day before. Small world!

What upcoming shoes are you most looking forward to?

I’m really excited about the FiveFingers Lontra (waterproof and fleece lined!) that is slated to be released Fall 2012. I like to run year round and my Vibram Flows can only handle the cold and wet down to a certain temperature.

Finally, what perspective do you bring to your reviews at BirthdayShoes?

I think I’m the “try anything” athlete of the bunch. I’ve used shoes reviewed here for just about every type of race. I’ve done everything from the Krispy Kreme Challenge (run 2 miles, eat a dozen donuts, run 2 miles, in under an hour) to an Ironman Triathlon in VFF Bikilas. I’ve climbed a half-pipe and jumped through fire on the side of a mountain doing a Tough Mudder race in VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Trails. And my most recent race was running up 100 flights of stairs in a skyscraper stairwell wearing KomodoSports! I’m definitely very performance minded, with a focus on comfort during endurance/long distances.

Thank you, Tim, for all you do to make BirthdayShoes a success!

If you want to catch up with what Tim has been writing for the site, see a full list of his articles and reviews here.

By Justin

Justin Owings is a deadlifting dad of three, working from Atlanta. When he's not chasing his three kids around, you'll find him trying to understand systems, risk, and human behavior.

3 replies on “Interview with Tim Kelley”

The best minimalist shoe that works with a business suit? Since a few months I am using a shoe-waxed pair of black VFF Bormio. Looks terrific. Shiny and dark black. Those who notice are amazed and smile.

The line about your dad mowing the lawn in those monsters made me laugh really hard. Perfect audience-tuned comedy!

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