Shoe Review: Vibram Five Fingers

Monday, 13 September 2010  |  Gear + Gadgets

God knows how long I was pining for these shoes. Oh, most of you know too because of this old post: My Birthday Wishlist last May 2009.

Good things come to those who wait. Last month, local distributors of Vibram, Barefootwear Inc., gave me a pair for road testing.

Bikila
– Bikila for Men (left) and Women (right). I got the pink one –

BACKGROUND OF VIBRAM

Vibram is an Italian brand which is behind the soles of brands such as Prada, Ferragamo, Nike, and Merrel. Three years ago, they decided to make their own footwear called FIVEFINGERS. Last 2007, Vibram Five Fingers was awarded as one of Time Magazine’s best inventions of the year.

Last May, Barefootwear Inc. opened the ONLY stand alone Vibram Kiosk anywhere else in the world at Powerplant Mall in Rockwell. (Let’s go Pinoy!)

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– with Cherry of Barefootwear Inc –

Vibram Five Fingers is designed to mimic the feeling of walking or running barefoot making us walk or run in the most natural way – the correct way for that matter which is with the forefoot / mid foot first. They are designed to improve and enhance the natural capabilities of our feet and legs..turning our body into the TECHNOLOGY and not depending on other rubber shoes for the technology.

BENEFITS OF BAREFOOT RUNNING

According to Barefootwear Inc., here’s why you should run barefoot:

  1. Stronger muscles in the legs and feet – since FiveFIngers mimics the sensation of being barefoot, wearing it allows you to exercise, stretch, relax and strengthen muscles you normally don’t get to use when wearing rubber shoes or leathers shoes
  2. Corrects the way you run – makes you land on the balls of your feet / mid-foot – as compared to wearing regular shoes which give us the tendency to land on your heels first. Landing on the heels of your feet releases more pressure/shock to your legs/knees and slows us down.
  3. Allows your feet to rest and relax – perfect for post-race/post-activity since it can relax and stretch your feet after running or being enclosed inside a shoe. It’s like giving your feet a vacation.

CHOOSING A PAIR

Carlos and Cherry of Barefootwear Inc. showed me the various models.

VFFProducts
– VFF models for runners: Speed (P5,540) and Bikila (P5,750) –

Vibrams have five different styles to choose from with SPEED and BIKILA (named after barefoot runner and Olympic gold medalist Abebe Bikila) as top picks for runners.

  1. SPEED P5,540 – designed specifically for a more natural walking experience. Built on an entirely new platform, the Speed features a Dri-lex® covered 3mm polyurethane insole (thickest under the ball) and a 3 mm anatomical pod outsole design, that offers more plating protection and distributes forefoot impact without compromising important ground feedback, essential to a proper forefoot strike running form. A more athletic padded collar and topline, a lace closure and Mesh upper for improved ventilation.
  2. BIKILA P5,750 – encourages a more natural, healthier, and more efficient forefoot strike. While many have been running in their Vibram FiveFingers for years, the Bikila is the first model designed specifically for near barefoot running. Also features the same insole and outsole technology like the Speed.

Other models:

  1. CLASSIC P3,950 – for Fitness Training, Cross Fit, Travel, & After Sport
  2. SPRINT P4,450 – for Running, Fitness Training, Cross Fit, Yoga & Pilates, Water Sports, Flats Fishing & Travel
  3. KSO P4,950 – for Running, Fitness Training, Cross Fit, Light Trekking, Bouldering, Water Sports & Travel

I was pleased to know that Vibrams have undergone some improvements from the first time I fitted a pair in Singapore last December 2009. Soles are now thicker and provide more protection for the feet. This was definitely a welcome change as I had hesitated about purchasing a pair before.

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– Helpful staff measure your feet and teach you how to slip your feet into VFFs the proper way –

Don’t let the tiny selling area fool you. The store, no matter how small, allows you to test the shoes on various kinds of running surfaces: grass, rocky, or concrete. If you’re not satisfied, they allow you to walk or run towards the end of the mall. Just make sure you head on back!

I chose the bright pink model which was released only before the last Boston Marathon.

ROAD TESTING

First time I wore my Vibrams was at the Mommy Milkshake Marathon. Admittedly, I was a bit apprehensive and conscious about wearing them. It attracts a lot of attention, not just from curious adults, but also from kids who, for some reason, find it utterly cool. More than that, I was concerned about running an easy 3k on the pavement of Bonifacio High Street. I threw caution to the wind and hoped for the best.

As it started to rain during the race, I literally got my feet wet but I was thrilled. I initially thought I would be extra careful where or how my feet landed, that I would be conscious of my form, or worse, I would encounter pain. But, there was none of that. It was so comfortable and natural that I was able to focus on the race (and my daughter), not the shoe.

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– At Mommy Milkshake Marathon wearing my Bikilas for the first time –

I wore it again when hubby and I took the kids biking and running in Filinvest. It was nice to know my first experience wasn’t a fluke. Again, I felt comfortable in my Vibrams.

When I removed the Vibrams and walked around the house barefoot, I seriously felt like my feet were more attuned, if you will, to the ground. I felt a more pronounced arch, as if it had been sitting on an arch support for hours. Great to know it wasn’t just my legs that got a good workout, but those tiny muscles in the feet too!

THE VERDICT

PLUS

  • very functional – if you wanna go barefoot, this is one safe way to do it without worrying about injury from elements on the ground.
  • ample protection of the sole and toes
  • comfortable and snug fit
  • attractive design
  • washable – throw it in the washing machine for easy washing

MINUS

  • stinky and sweaty feet – My friend Alvin warned me about this and he was right. Once you start sweating, you feel your feet doing the same inside the shoe. Perhaps one should try wearing ininji socks in them?
  • price – costs almost the same as most running shoes

For the serious runner who wants to practice barefoot running safely, I highly recommend the Vibrams. It’s a well-made, high-quality barefoot running shoe that protects your feet from harmful elements while still allowing you to feel the road.

I plan to use my Vibrams once a week in easy runs below 5k. Admittedly, I am not ready to run above 10k in them. The jury is still out regarding the real benefits of barefoot running. I also don’t know if it’s recommended for a flat-footed runner like me. But, I can attest that the Vibrams truly exercised my feet, which I would like to believe will strengthen them in the long run. If this is true, then I should have super strong feet come New York City Marathon and all my future marathons. Vibrams, that I will have to thank you for.

Vibram is at Level R1 Bridgeway Kiosk, Powerplant Mall

Website: www.barefootwearinc.com

Related articles:

http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/health/baring-it-all-the-barefoot-running-trend-2337336/

Shoe Review: Brooks Glycerin 8

Thursday, 26 August 2010  |  Gear + Gadgets

A couple of weeks ago, I was witness to the unveiling of the new Brooks baby: Glycerin 8.  I occasionally drool over a nice looking shoe or pine over a new model, but it takes a good shoe to impress me.  And, this one definitely did.

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– Fresh out of the box. Two security guards unload the shoes. We wait with bated breath –

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– Tadaaah! Toby Claudio of Runnr/Toby’s and Hitler Dulay of SRI hold the precious cargo. Check out the Men’s silver/orange…I like! –

Toby Claudio of Runnr admitted that there were no plans to hold a mini press launch for the Glycerin 8.  But, after testing the shoe for himself—and being amazed with the cushioning, he felt compelled to tell the public about it.

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Hitley Dulay of SRI presented a background of Brooks as a company.  Did you know that Brooks is the No. 2 running shoe in the US?  (Asics No. 1, Nike No. 3).  Hitler went on to discuss the features that make Brooks Glycerin 8 unique, especially Brooks DNA Technology.

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– Coolness.  The Brooks Green Silence, a performance racing flat using earth-friendly materials (hence the name). Note: each side has a different color so it looks like you’re wearing different shoes. Eduardo Buenavista and Fr. Robert Reyes each have a pair of this –

ROAD TESTING THE BROOKS GLYCERIN 8

I was privileged to receive a pair of Brooks Glycerin 8 for road testing after the press launch. I took it for a spin first at an 8k run on concrete and then during Rexona Run’s 10k at SM Mall of Asia. I took a break from it for a week or so and found myself using it regularly for training runs this week.

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– Brooks Glycerin 8: Runner’s World Editor’s Choice Spring 2010 –

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PLUS

1. Brooks DNA Technology. In the shoe is a highly viscous, non-Newtonian polymer fluid which makes the Glycerin 8 highly adaptable.  Say what?  Bascially, the shoe automatically and physically adapts to your footstrike and gives you the kind of comfort and protection you need as your pace changes throughout a run. It’s like custom cushioning!  Hitler made it easier to understand for us visual folks.  He showed us exactly how Brooks DNA works:

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– Dipping your hand slowly into the polymer fluid will allow you to feel its mud-like, liquid consistency.  If you walk and jog slowly, the shoe will provide you ample cushioning –

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– Punch the polymer fluid and it suddenly feels as hard as a brick.  (I tried it myself!)  If you run or sprint at a fast pace, the shoe will respond by giving you protection and dispersing the impact away from your foot –

After using the shoe, I guarantee this was no marketing ploy.  It truly works.  The shoe was well-cushioned and comfortable, yet it was responsive to my every step.  When I run on concrete, I usually feel the tension and tightness on my ITB and the harsh impact on the foot.  This time, I was almost oblivious to the harshness of the road.

2. Stability. The Brooks Glycerin 8 is a neutral, cushioning shoe.  It’s not the perfect shoe for a flat-footed, overpronating runner like me, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover how stable it felt during runs.  No knee pain, baby!  (Note: I haven’t tested it for runs above 10k.)

3. Comfortable Fit. My feet sat snugly inside. Toe box or vamp was perfect for the width of my feet.  Heel counter cupped my heel well so that there was no annoying movement with each step.

4. Attractive. It’s a handsome shoe.  I loved the Men’s colors more, but I wouldn’t say I complained about mine.  The shoe does not have too many frills; it’s not ostentatious either.  It’s the kind of shoe that stands out in the crowd because of how simple and clean it looks.

5. Green shoe. And I’m not talking about the color. It’s an environmental shoe.  All materials used to make the shoe are completely recyclable.

MINUS

1. Heavy. For someone like me who favors Nike+ Lunar Glide and Newton Racers, you can imagine how heavy the Glycerin 8, a training shoe, felt when I first used it.  I was literally dragging my legs (especially during Rexona) and I felt like I had to double my efforts with each step.  But, after a few runs, my feet got used to the weight and I was able to enjoy its cushioning and stability.  Weight: Men’s – 12.6 oz; Women’s – 10.3 oz

2. Blisters!!! I wear low socks, which was never a problem with other shoes.  With the Glycerin 8, however, the achilles notch (the topmost portion of the back of the shoe that hits your heel) was hard and high for my taste.  I learned about this the hard way during my Rexona Run 10k (see photo below. Cringe!)  I wore ankle high socks during the next runs—problem solved!

Blister

– Yeooowch! Back of my foot right after Rexona Run 10k –

SUMMARY

It took me quite some time to review this shoe thoroughly.  The Brooks Glycerin 8 and I were off to a rocky start with the blister and weight issues, but I was so impressed by its features—DNA technology, comfort, and stability—that I was motivated to give the shoe several chances to prove itself to me before I labelled it “For Gym Use Only”…and I’m glad I did.

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– Neighbor’s cat spotted my shoe after one Saturday run –

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– Looks like she loved it too –

As of this week, I’m happy to report that I’ve used the Glycerin 8 on most of my training runs on the road and treadmill.  I don’t see myself using it in any race (I have the Newton Universal Racers for that) nor for any long runs (It’s still the oh-so comfy Nike+ Lunar Glide), but it will definitely be one of my training buddies for NYC Marathon.

Website: Brooks

Brooks Glycerin 8 retails for Php 6,495.  It is available at Runnr and selected Toby’s outlets.

Shoe Reviews: New Balance 760, 758 and 740

Monday, 23 August 2010  |  Gear + Gadgets

A few months back three lucky readers won New Balance Running Shoes which NB management specifically chose for their respective foot types. In return, NB requested for honest, unbiased reviews of the shoes. Pretty good deal if I may say so!

Here’s the summary of their reviews.  At the end of this blog, you may click on the links to download each of their full reviews:

MIKE JANEO
SHOE: NEW BALANCE 760
FOOT/SHOE TYPE: low arch, neutral shoe

Mike2

– New Balance 760 –

PLUS

  1. DESIGN & COLOR: The design is subtle and is made to be functional. The nice comments I got from friends who saw me sporting the shoes with my weekend casual wear are confirmation that it really looks great!
  2. SURE LACE: I’m very satisfied with how it works. I don’t have to worry about pulling my laces too tight or what will I do if it gets loose because it stays in place once you’ve pulled them together
  3. REFLECTORS: This shoe has more than enough reflectors for your safety if you are usually off running on the roads before sunrise or at night.
  4. LIGHT AND COMFORTABLE: The thin mesh material keeps the shoe flexible and comfortable.
  5. Great fit especially in the heel and towards the arch. The LockDown Liner™ wraps the mid-foot for a snug and comfortable fit.
  6. SHOCK ABSORPTION AND CUSHIONING: N-ergy® and ABZORB® are trademark features of New Balance and they are known to provide ample amount of shock absorption and cushioning which is very much needed by heavy runners like me.
  7. STABILITY: TS2® or its Transition Support System is very evident on the shoe’s performance which benefits me a lot having a low arch and being a mild-overpronator.

MINUS

  1. BLISTERS: I cannot confidently point out the specific factor in the shoe that may have caused me to get blisters but I just had to point it out here as a delta point since I haven’t experienced having blisters for the longest time that I was using my Nike Run Avant.
  2. WIDE TOE BOX: Not a big deal for me, there could be positive and negative effects of having this (I’m thinking blisters could be a negative effect ) but having a roomy feeling on the forefoot is something that I needed to get used to at first.

Over-all, I’ll give it a 4 out of 5 rating. For me, the New Balance 760 is a great stability training shoe built for faster pace but short distances. Low arched runners who have an over-pronation problem will benefit much from this shoe.

Mike1
– Mike in his NB 760 at Chase the Sun, Neutrogena Run –

I will continue to use the 760s for my training runs as I was able to maximize the features and benefits of this shoe during my interval and tempo runs. I will reserve my Nike Run Avant for my long runs on a weekend and for my future races.

MARTIN CRUZ
SHOE: NEW BALANCE 758
FOOT/SHOE TYPE: high arch

Martin2
– New Balance 758 –

PLUS:

  1. WIDTH: I liked the wide opening of the 758. It gave a lot of room for my wide feet to play inside since I am trying to run landing on my mid foot.
  2. CUSHIONING: It’s not really soft but the cushioning is fine with me. With my weight of 186 lbs, it gave good support on my landings.
  3. DESIGN: I liked the looks as well compared with my old NB 845 shoes. I guess NB is also catching up on making the shoes look beautiful in addition to the great functionality it provides.

MINUS

  1. SOLE: The only challenge I had doing the mid foot run was on the heel part of the sole. Since it is quite thick on that part, I have a little difficulty running on my mid foot. But I am beginning to find the sweet spot landing mid foot with that shoe.

I have run in this shoe for almost a month now. I have ran with it on my long run prior to the Dream Marathon of the Bull Runner, I ran with it on the Dream Marathon day, I used it during my short runs on weekdays and I can say that I am satisfied, I liked the comfortabilty and I can recommend using New balance 758 running shoes to anyone with the same need as myself.

Martin1
– Martin in his NB 758 at TBR Dream Marathon –

ETHEL SAMSON
SHOE: NEW BALANCE 740
FOOT/SHOE TYPE: neutral

Ethel2
– New Balance 740 –

PLUS:

  1. Wide toe box. It lets me stretch out and move my toes in all directions a bit inside. It had prevented me from having more crooked and dead toe nails.
  2. Breathable mesh on the upper part of the shoes keeps my toes well ventilated and yet it has a considerable outside protection, that doesn’t let moisture in easily, even when you’re already pouring water all over.
  3. Steep curve on the flex grooves are perfect for me as I’m a forefoot striker. I love it that even a slight forward bend would already give me a forward thrust. Even though it doesn’t have that bulk cushion as compared to the heel part, I’m amazed that with just the perfect pair of socks, I’m not having blisters on the ball anymore, no need for a footbed.
  4. Slim arch side on the midsole towards the shank, the tongue, shoe laces. The slim fit of the midsole part thru the arch part of the feet and the placement of the shoe laces behind the tongue keeps my feet in place comfortably. The sides don’t rub, and my longest toe hardly makes contact with the toe cap part, despite of the wide toe box and the fact that I’m a forefoot striker.
  5. The stiff heel tabs towards the heel counter and the sturdy medial post and outer sole keeps my heel from rolling in or out and provides the best cushion when I’m too tired, is unconsciously heel striking, and not running correctly anymore.

Ethel1
– Ethel in her NB 740 at the 1st Eagle Run in Cebu –

To read the full reviews of each runner, click below:
Mike Janeo – New Balance 760
Martin Cruz – New Balance 758
Ethel Samson – New Balance 740

Road Test: Newton Universal Racers

Monday, 26 July 2010  |  Gear + Gadgets

I got my first pair of Newtons a little over a year ago.  It was the Newton Stability Trainers which I actually liked for its comfort and lightness.  But, after using it for a handful of short runs, I was forced to lock it in a box when I started feeling minor knee pain, which I couldn’t risk aggravating with my training for Singapore Marathon at that time.

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– Newton Stability Trainers and Newton Universal Racers –

Last month, Newton learned about my experience with the shoe and they urged me to give Newton Shoes a second chance. They handed me the twin sister of my shoe, Newton Universal Racers in a bright, bold pink (how cool!) for road testing before the Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon last June 27.  (Note: Renze gave me the Universal Racers because Runnr does not sell the Stability Racers.  According Newton website, these shoes “will complement the Neutral Performance Trainer or Stability Performance Trainer.”

I was quite apprehensive about using a racing shoe as I had the impression this could be used only for short and fast runs, not a half marathon in KL. But, Renze of Newton was quick to point out that the shoe could actually be used for long runs, even marathons.

I road tested it over a handful of times: once at a 10k hill training at McKinley Hill, two 7k easy runs, and three races, Rock and Run (where it got soaked!), Robinsons Supermarket Fit & Fun Buddy Run, and the farthest I ran on them, Kuala Lumpur Marathon where I ran 21k.

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– What a beauty! –

THE GOOD

Weighing 7.0 oz., the Newton Universal Racers felt incredibly light and fast.  Much like my experience with the Newton Stability Trainers, I felt that the lugs underneath the midsoles were propelling me to run faster with much less effort.  I’m a midfoot runner so I felt very much at home in these shoes.

Running 5ks and 10ks in these Newtons, particularly in a race, made me feel like I could PR at any race. No wonder they call it “PR in a box.”

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The shoes were also comfortable and breathable. (I replaced the insoles with my Spenco insoles, which I really can’t live without.) The mesh on the vamp area allowed for breathability. I found it cool, figuratively and literally, that I could even see my socks from the outside.

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Best of all, I love the bright and bold colors of my Newtons. After a while, one gets tired of the usual colors that everyone wears at races. Newtons allow me to stand out and be different.

THE NOT SO GOOD

As a flat-footed overpronating runner, stability is always a key concern for me.  I felt the shoe could have been a little bit more stable. I worried that, because of the lugs, my feet were prone to more movement from side to side.  For runs below 10k, my feet were fine. But, when I ran in KL in these shoes, I felt slight pain on the right side of my foot after the race, which thankfully disappeared by the following day.

Another issue for me is the durability of the shoe. Only after a handful of races, the wear of the shoe underneath was surprising. I had been forewarned by Renze about this: that the racing shoe was meant for races, and not for daily training runs. But, what am I to do if my feet love the racers more than the trainers?!

SUMMARY

I like the Newton Stability Racers its lightness, comfort, breathability and design. While I’m concerned about stability and durability, I feel like I can get away with these issues for short runs.  I am definitely going to use it for 5k and 10k runs, especially in races I hope to PR in!

Newton Universal Racers P6,995.  Newton Stability Trainers P8,250.  Newton shoes are available in Runnr, Bonifacio High Street.  Click HERE to visit website.

PRODUCT REVIEW: NORDICTRACK TREADMILL 2350

Friday, 26 March 2010  |  Gear + Gadgets

Chris Sports sent me the Nordictrack Treadmill 2350. For a couple of weeks, my own treadmilll was relegated to a lonely corner of the house while the hubby and I tested the spankin’ new treadmill.

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The Nordictrack Treadmill 2350 tracks time, speed, distance, calories, and pulse. It also has a detachable key for emergencies. This treadmill offers several high tech features, such as iFit Interactive Card Technology where you can actually insert a card with a set program in it, iPod docking center, customized fitness and weight loss programs, and even a fitness age center where it can evaluate your fitness age. Cool!

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– Cellphone not included –

The size of the Nordictrack is midway between the enormous, industrial-type treadmills at gyms and the smaller, more affordable ones for home use. This was just about right. It was heavy, sturdy, and well-manufactured. When not in use, it folds up to free up space in a room.

I particularly liked the easy push buttons for speed and incline located just by the handle bars. The ride was smooth and easy. Even at the speed of 9.5 and above, the Nordictrack remained steady.

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The only negative I had with the Nordictrack Treadmill 2350 was the initial start. My warm up (speeds below 4) were jerky during the first couple of minutes. I also didn’t get the opportunity to try the iFit as it  required purchase of the iFit Workout cards.

THE VERDICT: This is more than your basic home treadmill. I highly recommend it for those who are willing to part with a little bit more cash in exchange for all the unique features of this treadmill.

SRP: Php  112,495
Now Only: Php 78,995

Available at Chris Sports.