Posted on June 19, 2012 by
That’s a video by the guys at InvisibleShoe.com, which pokes a little fun at the barefoot running trend. Considering the fact that the company’s entire business is aimed at those barefoot runners, it’s a real sign of a sense of humor. Invisible Shoe sells custom-made running sandals based on the huaraches worn by the Tarahumara of Mexico, who are known for their distance running. In the most basic sense, these are thin soles made from the hard rubber most shoes have for their outsole that are tied to your feet by shoelaces. The idea behind the running sandals is to have the least amount of material on your feet while still acknowledging the fact that flesh and sharp things on the ground don’t get along so well. I’m not going to try to explain them in more detail than that. I don’t think I have the skills. Just go to their site and look for yourself.
I was given two pair of these a while back by the company to try out. I was interested in barefoot running and thought that these may be some of the greenest shoes possible. The first set was a custom-made set of the 6mm Contact. I followed the instructions on their site to outline my foot on a piece of paper (my foot barely fit given then I’m easily a size 12) and mark where the holes for the string should go before faxing that in. The other set was a make-it-yourself kit for the 4 mm Contacts.
I’m going to be honest. I haven’t done a darn thing with that make-it-yourself kit. It’s been sitting on my dresser since the package came in the mail. It wouldn’t be fair to Invisible Shoe if I had made them and then reviewed that pair anyway. I have none of the crafting ability that earned our Homo habilis ancestors their scientific name. I have tried out the pre-made sandals however. The only difference between the two sandals is 2mm of thickness. The reason it’s taken me so long to review them is that they came in during the peak of my training for my first half marathon. I just didn’t have the time to take away from my training schedule to try these out for fear of messing with my stride or my leg health. After the half marathon I was focusing on increasing my speed in the 5k distance in order to qualify for a better starting wave in the Peachtree Road Race. Again, I stuck these to the side until I had a break in formal training to really give them a fair shake and that came only recently.
First, I’m not going to say that these are for everyone. While there seems to be a nearly infinite number of ways of tying the things on, there’s always that part of the string that goes between your toes. Some people have a thing about that, and honestly, I’ve had a little bit of problem with chafing on the side of my toe from the string on my right foot, although the fact that the left has had no problems suggests this is something a little tweaking could solve, assuming that all that’s needed isn’t just letting my foot get used to the shoe. After all, I don’t normally wear flipflops or the like. That section of skin just isn’t used to touching anything.
Another slight problem is that for the less-than-dexterous like myself, tying these things can be a little difficult. One good thing is that one of the suggested tying methods is for making these sandals slip-ons, which means you’d only have to tie them once. There are, however, some pretty impressive tying methods that turn these into works of art. Me, I’m not that gifted.
Other than that, I like these. I ran over the rough gravel in my driveway without any discomfort. I got a little sand in there running on our sandy dirt roads, but didn’t have any issues on pavement. There is no cushioning at all here, but your body will likely get used to that if you start off slowly and work your way back up to your current mileage. Also, if you read my post about what to do with your old running shoes, these sandals solve most of that problem. Because they have no cushioning, there’s no reason to dispose of these until you wear a hole in one, which is likely going to take thousands of miles instead of the recommended hundreds of miles you’re supposed to get from normal support running shoes. After that, you can pretty easily recycle these. After all, most of what they’re recycling from your running shoes are the soles. Buying less and recycling more? You can’t get much greener than that.