Category Archives: Reviews

Earth Runners minimalist sandals

It all started quite innocently, like many conversations do these days.  On Twitter.

I got one of those “random” followers, as happens almost every day when your Twitter profile is public.  Usually I don’t pay much notice to them, but this one caught my attention.  So, half joking, I sent them a message:

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting a response.  But, to my surprise, shortly afterward I did get a reply!

It turns out that Earth Runners is a new company, and just ramping up on a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to produce their sandals.  So they were looking for some people to try out the shoes and give them some feedback.

I’m one of those millions (?) of runners who read “Born To Run” and became fascinated by the idea of barefoot, minimalist running.  I had already been following Pete at Runblogger, and the idea of running naturally, the way our bodies were designed, appealed to me on an almost-instinctive level.  I know that some people feel that this is a fad, that things will change, and the minimalist trend will reverse.  I honestly don’t think it will.  This just feels right.  Not necessarily for everyone, some people will always continue to run in padded shoes.  But I think there will be a market segment of those of us who have tried running “minimal” and have found that it works best for them.  I, for one, am encouraged by the diversity of running shoe options out there, and now I really do believe there is a shoe for everyone.  As someone who has in the past been placed in orthotics, in “stability” shoes, and suffered through shin splints and stress fractures, I know that some people will still need to have these options.  But, also as someone who has gone through these, I’m finding that as I have made the slow transition to “less” shoe (it has happened over 5 years), now I can run faster, farther, and (so far) without injury.

Now, I’ve said already.  I am not a barefoot runner.  I don’t know if I ever will be.  I like a little cushion when I run, the pounding of the miles seems to take a toll on my feet.  But I don’t see myself ever going back to the built-up heel, thick padding, and heavy structure of the shoes I used to wear.  I would definitely try barefoot running for short distances (and I have), but for long distances, at least for now, I want shoes.

So back to Earth Runners.  I had long (since reading Born to Run) been fascinated by the idea of the huaraches worn by the runners in the book.  Although I didn’t know if I could run in them, I loved the idea of minimal shoes, and the thought of wearing next to nothing between me and the ground.  So I was thrilled that Earth Runners were willing to send me a pair to try out.

I looked over the list of options on their website – they really do have a multitude of options to fit almost any foot type.  I decided on the Quantum Earth Runners, slim fit, with a brown leather sole, 2mm Vibram tread, and the nylon lacing.   I opted for the Quantum style because it has a bit of arch support, and I felt that as I am still not a “barefoot” person, that little bit of arch support would be really nice.

Ordering was pretty easy – I traced my foot and marked a few key points, then scanned it and emailed it to them.  Within two weeks, the shoes arrived.  I was surprised Thursday when I opened the mailbox and saw a package inside.  Why the surprise?  Well, first of all because it was so small.  I even had to take pictures before I opened it.  I could hardly believe there were shoes in this envelope.

Can you find the shoes?

I mean really. There are shoes in here?

I wanted to rip the package open right away, but had to wait a few hours until the boys were settled down, then I opened them up.  The first thing I noticed?  The smell.  They smelled good and natural, not like plastic or packaging materials.

Just out of the package

See those little copper circles?  This is supposed to connect your body to the ground and to the earth (it’s called “earthing” or “grounding” – those of us who are electrical engineers understand the concept!)

I tried them on, and they felt, well, good.  I didn’t get to wear them long that night, but already I was excited about the idea of testing out these shoes.

I have worn the shoes virtually nonstop for four days now.  I wore them all day Friday, running errands, taking the boys to the bus stop, and around the house.  I then wore them all day Saturday to a college football game.  Tailgating, the game, and the 1 mile walk from the car, and my feet felt great.  I didn’t feel like I was more tired than normal, my feet and legs weren’t sore.  I felt great.  I wore them more on Sunday (although I didn’t go anywhere Sunday), and they are on my feet again right now.  I really like them.

I like them so much I even posted a picture of them on Twitter.

Ready to test them out!

But you know when I really knew that Earth Runners have gotten something right?  When I found myself wishing I had these shoes on my feet.  Each time I take them off, I instantly wish I had them on again.  They feel that good on.  I’m usually a “shoes off the moment I get in the door” person.  Not with these.  I’d rather wear them all day.  I think that says something.

If you’re interested in learning more about Earth Runners, I would recommend you visit their website(s):

Earth Runners website
Earth Runners Kickstarter website

Note:  These shoes were provided free of charge, and I was not compensated in any way for this review.  These are my opinions and mine alone!

Kigo Curv Mary Janes

Okay…let me start with this: These are not running shoes. At least I wouldn’t run in them. To me, these are casual shoes.

Kigo Curv (a Mary Jane style minimal shoe)

I’ve been kind of obsessed with finding a pair of these shoes since I first read Barefoot Angie Bee’s review of them.

The more I wear minimal shoes, the more I like them. I find myself not wanting to wear shoes with a lot of structure, or with much of a heel. This has caused me a bit of a fashion dilemma at work. As a 5’3″ short gal, most pants I buy are just a smidge too long (and sometimes, they are WAY too long…). So either I pay to have them hemmed (have I mentioned I don’t like to pay extra for things?), or I wear a shoe with a heel.

That means that when I’m not at work, I want the least amount of shoe possible. And therefore began a mission for reasonably priced comfortable minimal shoes. And when I saw these on eBay, brand new and at a fraction of retail price, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try them. And then, when my first offer was accepted and I got them for $10 with free shipping, it was even better!

I was so excited to get them, but was a bit nervous about the fit. You see, the reviews had said that they run small, and these were size 7. I usually wear a 6.5-7, so I was optimistic that they would fit, but nervous that they would be tight. Luckily, they fit almost perfectly. But there was one problem.

See the wrinkle in the insole?

This seemingly tiny crease in the insole caused a sharp point that dug into my heel. Worse, there was another on the other side of the same shoe. For some reason, these insoles were oversized and wrap upwards in the shoe – shaped (I assume) to cup the heel of the foot. What it did instead was rub, and annoy me.

I tried the shoes without the insole – and actually liked the way they felt. However, I like having the option of a layer, as I’m not quite ready to be barefoot all day, so I needed to find a way to make them work.

The shoes without the insole. The stitching bothered me a little, but not much.

Enter the sewing scissors.

Problem solved!

Yep, I just cut the edges of the “cup” off of the insole, and now – they feel much better! My heels are thanking me. And yes, the blue “kigo” text hasn’t lasted long on the insole – not that it matters, but little pieces of the name were stuck to my feet, and I found one on our living room floor yesterday.

The one thing I’d love to change about this shoe is the insole. I’d rather have a smooth finish on the inside of the shoe, so that the insole wasn’t necessary, and just wear them without. The insole adds a bit of cushion (which admittedly is sometimes very nice), and I’d like to have the option of wearing them without. It just doesn’t work as well for me with the rough stitching on the insole.

In all, I’d say this was an excellent find. My feet do get a bit warm in them when it’s over 100 degrees – like it has been this week. On these hot days I’d rather wear sandals anyway, so it’s not a big deal. But I expect to wear these a lot more when it’s cooler, and for the great deal I got, I won’t mind if I wear them out.

The only other thing – I love the green/gray combo, but that probably makes them less likely for a work shoe – I won’t complain about the color (eBay beggars can’t be choosy), but would have loved to have found them in black or even a solid gray. Then I guarantee I would have lived in them – they’d be cute both with summer dresses and with some of my more casual work clothes.

Firecracker Run 10K and InkNBurn review

A few days ago, Saturday, to be exact, I decided to run the Firecracker Run 10k race.  I’d been thinking about running, but knew it was going to be hot so I had almost decided not to run, until my 7 year old told me he wanted to run the 1 mile race.  So I figured I’d sign up for the 10k, use it as a training run, and then run the 1 mile with him as well.

I also had a new product to review, so I thought I’d go ahead and do that while running the race.

I learned about INKnBURN through my friend Heather’s blog.  She did a product review of theirs a year or so ago, and I have been coveting their funky running gear ever since.  Seriously, I go to their website to drool.  But, I am not one to shell out 65 dollars for a pair of shorts.  I like to run, but I’d much rather spend that money on a race, or on something else.  I honestly have never understood why running gear is so expensive.  So I watched, and waited, and hoped that someday they’d have a deal going (or that I would work up the courage to make a purchase!).

Then, a few months ago, I half-jokingly tweeted to the INKnBURN folks and asked if they would be willing to give me a discount for a blog review.  Much to my surprise, I got a response back!  Even more surprising, instead of offering me a discount, they offered me free gear in exchange for a review.  Of course I said I would do it…I’m not dumb 🙂

I sent them my sizing information and my shipping address.  So, last week, a package showed up at my door with a pair of their new Performance Denim shorts.  I instantly pulled them out and tried them on, and they fit perfectly!  (note:  I found that I was actually a size larger in these shorts than in my “street clothes.”  So definitely follow the size charts, they are accurate!)  

INKnBURN performance denim

really, how cute are these?

The “leather patch” is adorable too.

But, I had to find the perfect place to test them out. I’m usually not one for running in new gear during a race.  “Use what works” has been my motto.  But, what is more uniquely American than denim?  And I had the Firecracker Run coming up.  So, I decided that I would test out the shorts on the hilly, challenging Firecracker 10k.

And they were a dream.  I think now I might understand why someone would pay extra for these shorts.  I spent most of the race soaked in water (trying to cool off, I dumped water over myself and ran through every hose that was on the course).  There was no chafing, honestly!.  The shorts didn’t even feel that wet (although they were dripping at the finish line).  I would have worn them all day if they weren’t soaked in sweat and water. They are that comfortable.

So bottom line?  If you’re willing to spend the money, I’d definitely recommend INKnBURN.  I may go so far as to say the extra cash is worth it.  I’ve already picked out the next few things I would love to buy:

Women’s Sugar Skull Tech Shirt

Dark Forest Tech Shirt

Lust Camisole

(I’ll be honest, I love the Lust print on everything they make).

Oh, and I finished the 10k in just about an hour.  I felt great throughout, although it was crazy hot.  I intentionally took it easy and tried to pick a pace that felt comfortable, but not too easy. I really enjoyed the hills, and this distance – part of what I don’t like about a 5k is the “sprint” aspect, this distance allowed me to slow down and pace myself without feeling like a total turtle 🙂 I even liked the hills. Yes, I said it.

I ran without headphones, just enjoying the whole run.  I talked with some great people on the course.  That’s what I love about racing the longer distances and running slower, I always find someone to talk to.  It was a great morning.  And my son enjoyed his 1 mile race too.  Now the goal is to stay indoors for the rest of the day, it’s going to be 100 degrees here this afternoon.  I’ve had enough sweaty fun for one day 🙂

My ongoing shoe journey…

I mentioned in my last blog post that I’m a bit of a shoe hoarder.

If only…

In fact, just last week I took about 10 pairs to Goodwill…some I had only worn once or twice.

In my defense, I buy almost all my shoes on clearance or on sale, or on eBay.  So I can fund this minor obsession with minimal expenses.  I probably get 3-4 pairs for the price of one new pair, because I am so cheap frugal good at finding a deal.

Except for my running shoes.  I am perfectly willing to spend money on good running shoes, because I know the value that I get out of them.  And I know how important it is to have the right shoes for my running style, and my body.  Of course, I am still not afraid to search for the best deal I can find on the shoes I want, but I won’t buy a pair of running shoes just because they are cheap.  Make those a cute pair of flats or sandals, and all bets are off.

I’ve also made a shoe evolution of sorts through the last 5 years of running.

I started out with a pair of Saucony stability shoes (the ProGrid Guide).  I went through two pairs of these when I was first starting out in my running career.  And they worked out pretty well.

Then I started with Team in Training, and I finally got professionally fitted (at my favorite running store in the world, Running Wild).  They fitted me in the Adidas Supernova Sequence.  Again, I wore two pairs of these.  These are the shoes I wore for my first two half marathons, back in 2009.

I then made another transition (notice a pattern here?  I can’t really stick with one thing for very long…).  I had recently read Born to Run, and I had also recently had my third child, so I had been forced to slow down my running and was in the process of building back up.  I had experimented with running in the Vibram Five Finger shoes, and they just didn’t work for my feet.  (I have weird toes and the toe pockets just don’t work for me, they hurt!).  But I had felt the freedom of running with less on my feet, and I wanted to feel that again.

I went back to Running Wild and told them I really wanted to try running in less shoe.  They recommended that I gradually work down to a minimal shoe (although I had been running in the Vibrams already), so they fitted me in the Asics Gel-DS Trainer.

Again, I wore this shoe for a few half marathons.  Then, last fall, on a trip where I had forgotten to pack shoes, I was forced to go shopping (yeah, it was really tough).  I tried on a pair of the New Balance Minimus shoes and was in love.  They felt like slippers on my feet, they were light, and I just felt so good wearing them.  And, they were on clearance at a great price!  I figured I would wear them casually, but I didn’t know if I’d like to run in them.

It may not be the sexiest shoe in the world…but I love it.

I have been wearing these shoes since last fall, and I have been running in them. Once I tried running in them, I was hooked.  I could run faster, lighter, and more easily.  My form was better, and my legs were stronger.  And these aren’t really “minimal” shoes – they are just less shoe than I had been wearing.  There’s still quite a substantial sole, and padding.  But it’s much less than anything I had run in before, and I felt amazing.

These are now my go-to 5k racing shoes, and I wear them for everything up to and including 6 miles runs.  In fact, I was running exclusively in them up until I hit the 10 mile run in my marathon training.  I started to have a bit of pain in my ankle, and thought, perhaps, that these weren’t the best shoe to run a marathon in.  I went back to Running Wild and found the Saucony Cortana.  They felt light, yet cushioned, and I thought, “This is what I need for long distances!”  And I bought them (at $150, it was definitely NOT a bargain shoe!)

And yes, I did all my long runs, and the marathon, in this shoe.  But even now, when I put it on, I want my New Balances on instead.  So I’m back to trying to figure out exactly what I want to run in for the future.  Should I stick with the New Balance WR10’s?  Should I try the WR00 (the zero drop shoe)?  Should I run in the Merrell Pace Gloves (my current go-to casual shoe for summer)?

I do love this shoe.

So, I have some more research to do, and some more testing.  It’s going to be a fun ride, although it could get a bit expensive.  Based on my history with shoe purchases, however, I bet not.  I’m more likely to pass on a shoe “experiment” unless I really need one.  More than likely I will run in what I have until they need to be replaced (probably later this summer or fall).

Unless some very benevolent running company out there wants to start to send me free shoes…hint, hint?  (hey, it’s a very, very long shot!)

Another product reviewer? Really?

Although I’m not a “product reviewer” per se (I don’t have companies contacting me and sending me free stuff to review…at least not yet!), I love to try new things, as long as they are relatively reasonable in price 🙂  What can I say, I’m cheap!  When I walk into the running store, I head right to the clearance racks.  This doesn’t help me try out the “latest and greatest” products.   But, it has given me an opportunity to try lots of things, since I don’t spend much on them 🙂

I would like to start documenting my attempts at finding the “right” shoes, gear, and other things in this running journey of mine.

I also am excited that I may actually have a real product to review soon…but I’m not going to spill the beans just yet.  In the meantime I am going to start to blog about some of the things I have tried (whether I love or hate them).

Yes, I do *heart* shoes…

Goodness knows I have tried a lot of shoes in the last few years…documenting my shoe search alone will keep me busy…

This is not me at all…

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