HUARACHES GIVEAWAY & REVIEW: Invisible Shoes

Mileage: 51.2 miles

Terrain: Technical trails

About a month ago I received a complimentary pair of Invisible Shoe huaraches offered to the Run Smiley Collective. I was excited because these were my first real pair of laced huaraches. Previously I had worn Unshoe sandals, which are adjusted with a clasp (no lacing), and I was still waiting for my first pair of Lunas.

I started using the Invisible Shoes on San Diego trail runs, which I soon discovered were extremely technical. In retrospect, I am amazed that these huaraches did so well with the terrain and the mileage I was using them on. I ran over 50 miles in about 3 weeks of exclusively rocky trails.

Here’s what I think of them:

Ground Feel

The ground feel was very high, as the 6mm sole was really quite thin. I liked the fact that this forced me to pay attention to my footing, but it would also start to tire out my feet as the miles started accumulating. They didn’t hurt, but I definitely felt every step.

Tying & Adjustability

I never had any trouble tying these and they only came untied once under very harsh trail conditions. The best part of these laces is that they are easy to adjust on the fly. So if the fit isn’t perfect, I can tug a little instead of having to sit down and re-lace from scratch. They also come in slip-on form, which simplifies the lacing process.

Technical Trail Performance

I love running trails, so I really need a sandal that holds up. The thing about trails is that each footfall is different, and always uneven. So it’s difficult to find a perfect huarache fit. If the lacing is too loose, the sandal falls off. If it’s too tight, it digs into your skin and gives you blisters. Plus the constant foot-shuffling tends to loosen the fit in a way that doesn’t happen with traditional shoes.

That said, this pair only fell off once after a particularly intense trail run, and I was only delayed for seconds since I could adjust them while they were still on my feet. And I had run over 50 miles before they started to blister. I think that’s impressive considering I didn’t take any anti-blister precautions. No socks, taping, or BodyGlide. Creek crossings are also really fun in these.

General Fit

One thing that would bother me with the Unshoes was that the front of the sandal would fold over and I’d step on them a lot, no matter how I adjusted my form. So I was concerned that would be the case again. But that never happened with the Invisible Shoes. Overall, it was a better fit. I never felt the lacing between my big toe and my second toe, whereas this was also a painful issue with the Unshoes.

Storage & Convenience

I like to throw these into my hydration bladder and head out for a barefoot run. If the trails get too rough, I know I can throw these on fairly easily. They give me the confidence to try new trails barefoot because I know these can get me through any rough sections. They help me run MORE barefoot miles, not less. I think that’s how a shoe should truly function.

Customer Service

I have to mention the great customer service and personalized attention from this company. It’s always refreshing to deal with someone who can answer all your questions and get back to you promptly. Great job guys!

Drawbacks

I can’t race an entire ultra in these on a technical trail. I still need a bit of a thicker sole. I also hate them on concrete. They slap a little louder than I’d like and I find it tough to run in complete silence, no matter how I shift my form. I would also recommend some blister prevention, like BodyGlide. Because when they DO form blisters, it’s very demoralizing and tough to avoid rubbing in the exact same places.

Conclusions

I definitely have a place for these huaraches. I love that I can carry them around when I’m barefoot. I also love them on slightly rocky trails, or on anything less than 20 miles. I love they way they look on my feet and they do spark some conversation. For the average runner, these would be a fun sandal. For me, they were also a great transition to huarache running.

If you’re considering moving into huaraches, I would recommend these as a great “first” sandal. They’re easier to tie than other options, they’re very reasonable, and will really give you a good idea as to whether huarache running is for you.

HUARACHES INVISIBLE SHOE GIVEAWAY

Invisible Shoes is generously offering one lucky reader a free pair of huaraches!

To enter, do one or more of the following things. Leave a separate comment below for each thing you do, as I will count up the comments and choose a winner randomly using random.org. Every separate comment will count as an entry. The more you do, the higher your chances of winning.

The winner will be announced next Tuesday, October 4th. Come back and check because if you don’t claim your prize, I’ll choose another winner!

  • Leave a comment and tell me why you’d like to win these huaraches
  • “Like” Invisible Shoes on Facebook HERE
  • Follow Invisible Shoes on Twitter @InvisibleShoes
  • Post about this giveaway on any social media (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc). Each posting counts as one entry, so leave a separate comment for every one.
  • Blog about this giveaway.
  • Follow/subscribe to this blog (top left hand side). If you’ve already subscribed, that still counts as an entry. Just leave a comment and let me know.

Good luck!

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What type of runner are you?

On Tuesday I decided to try an organized lunchtime trail run with some co-workers. Since I just started working here I didn’t actually know anyone, so I was eager to meet some fellow trail junkies. Nothing like finding a friend who shares your addiction.

The posting said “Guided Trail Run,” which immediately gave me a hard on. But it turned out not to be quite what I expected. I feel we need to break down each of these words.

GUIDED.

In my mind, this meant that there was a high possibility of getting lost. My workplace is right on top of a canyon so I could totally see myself all mixed up down there (Note: This is exciting for me). I thought the “guided” aspect would allow me to see some awesome trails without actually getting lost. But to my disappointment, we were basically running in a straight line, turning around, and running back.

Even with my horrid sense of direction, I’ve never actually gotten lost in a straight line (knock on wood). So no real need for a guide. This is really nobody’s fault, but I do blame Noble Canyon for spoiling me and getting me lost on my first trail run in San Diego. Now I just want to get lost everywhere.

TRAIL.

I have decided we need a new definition for the word TRAIL here. From now on, a trail is a place where I CANNOT run barefoot. Because it’s too rough and jagged and cars can’t drive there and people don’t walk it. THAT’S a trail from now on.

On Tuesday I went out in my Invisible Shoe huaraches expecting rocks and gravel and got a flat, smooth surface. I felt like an idiot for not coming barefoot. On the plus side, now I know I CAN run barefoot at lunch. But it’s not a trail.

We didn’t even go down into the canyon (I think there were trails there). We ran alongside the parking lot all AROUND the canyon without actually going down. For me, looking at a canyon and not running into it is cruel and unusual torture. I did notice some other people (not part of our group) going down into the canyon. They looked happier. So I think I might just come out on my own next time and seek them out.

RUN.

I have to accept that not everyone runs the way that I do. Some people actually wear watches and keep track of their time. Not everybody stops when they see something interesting. Not everyone tastes leaves that look edible. Not everyone changes their pace whenever they feel like it. And some people stick plugs into their ears so they can’t hear me say interesting things.

The group I was with was aiming for a negative split. I was the only one without a watch and the only freak without shoes. I don’t know what my splits were, but I know the canyon looked fucking awesome and I never got to go down into it.

The guide said because I didn’t have a watch, I should just try to stick with someone. So I thought I would keep pace with the girl in last place, because that way I could encourage her if she needed it. In my mind, we were going to be best friends. But she stuck in her headphones instead.

WHAT TYPE OF RUNNER ARE YOU?

I’ve seen some articles that come up with cool little lists about what type of runner you are. They give you a name and a description. I can’t do that because I’m slow – it took me 30 years just to figure out what type of runner I was. I can’t possibly write up a box for every other runner in the world.

But at least I can now speak for myself:

I’m a trail runner. And I don’t always wear shoes. I will always be attracted to the person in last place. I’d rather be the last runner who saw a cool thing that everyone else missed, than to be the speedy runner who won the race. I don’t particularly give a shit about negative splits. I don’t always know how far or how long I’ve run, so I estimate when I log a workout.

I like to run until I feel good. Then I like to keep running until I feel shitty. If there’s a stream, I want to splash in it. If there’s a tree, I want to climb it. I feel that people should look up more often from their watches to realize what a fucking beautiful city this is. And how amazingly lucky they are to run alongside a canyon over lunch.

I don’t talk much during a run but I hear everything. I’m not always the best conversationalist, but I do want someone around in case I spot something awesome. Like a bug.

Trail runners are incredible people. They’ll literally take the shirt off their backs and give it to you. Or pour the last of their water into your bottle. They’ll sit down with you if you need to sit. They’ll run when you want to run. Even if they JUST ran. They don’t care who you are, they’ll look out for you.

Trail runners don’t really go to scheduled Guided Trail Runs. They don’t really plan or schedule ANYTHING. They just make their own way into canyons and naturally gravitate towards each other there. Like magnets.

Race Report: Stairway to Heaven 15k

Many new experiences:

  • First San Diegan race
  • First real trail race
  • Hardest race of my life so far

It’s been a few days after Sunday’s race now so I’ve decided that I had a blast. But there were definitely a couple of times during the run when I was hating life.

Shacky signed me up for this race and later told me it was probably the hardest trail race out there. I was excited to hit it up as my first San Diegan race. I figured I had done a lot of hill training in Toronto and I always said that I liked hills. So I thought, how hard can it be? And it’s just 15k.

I started off pretty slow and steady. I figured if I paced myself I might be able to take the first hill. Then I SAW the first hill, and I wished I had just gone faster at the beginning. Because pace yourself or not, the first hill makes your legs feel like they’re about to explode. And it doesn’t end.

First of all, these are not hills. They feel more like cliffs (ie – you want to use your hands to help you climb), and completely unrunable (at least for me).

Apparently I have to work on my hill walking technique because I discovered I only have two speeds: running and half-dead crawling. I’m not used to walking up steep hills. I’m used to hills that I can actually run, and EVERYONE was walking faster than me. Fat people, skinny people, old people. Everyone.

I did manage to recover pretty well at the top and start running again. I learned my lesson and stopped trying to pace myself – I knew I’d be walking again regardless. I ran through some nice stretches that reminded me of Toronto. Hard packed dirt trails instead of rocks, surrounded by trees. I flew through those sections; they were exactly what I was used to. Best compliment of the day: A lady behind me said, “You’re like a little gazelle in those sandals!” I was wearing my Invisible Shoes Huaraches. I was feeling great. And then I hit the Stairway.

This may be the Stairway to Heaven, but Satan himself built those steps. You’ll never climb steeper, more torturous “stairs”. All I could do was stare at the ass of the person in front of me and claw at the rocks to keep moving. There was a great cheering section at the top of the steps, but by the time I got there I honestly didn’t give a shit. I wanted to quit running forever.

I didn’t want to sit so I kept walking, but I was DONE. I wanted to go home. I felt every incline from that point on, and running was starting to hurt. Finally I turned to the person next to me and asked, “How much further??” Just under 3 miles.

The last bit was mostly downhill, but I wasn’t in any state to enjoy it. My huaraches were a challenging to run in through these sections – I kept feeling like I was going to fall. It didn’t help that my legs also felt like noodles. Because of all the shifting through uneven terrain, my right sandal started coming loose in the last 2 miles, while the left one was feeling tight on my Achilles. I had to stop to adjust the tightness, but was able to continue.

I got stuck behind a girl who kept cheering loudly to herself and others (basically me since I was the only other person around at the time). I wanted to punch her in the mouth. I had no breath to spare at that point and I figured if you had it in you to scream, you should run faster and leave me the hell alone to die in my misery.

That said, I found it truly motivating to be greeted at the aid stations by people I actually knew. That was a new experience for me. I’ve always only run races with strangers, and organized by strangers. Seeing familiar faces along the way was a breath of fresh air.

The final stretch was flat and I was still trotting along, but barely. The finish line sort of snuck up on me. I didn’t see it because I could only focus on a few feet in front of me and quite honestly I wasn’t sure there even WAS a finish line. But somehow I crossed it.

The lovely Theresa met me at the finish, put a cool dog tag around my neck, and asked me how I did. I wasn’t sure. Race results aren’t in yet and I wasn’t wearing a watch, but I think I came in well over 2 hours. That was giving it all I had.

For my first race, I’m pretty happy with the ass-kicking. I figure it can only get better from here and my body will have no choice but to adapt. I feel like these trails are at a whole new level than everything I was doing in Toronto and I’m definitely humbled by them. I love it here.

Elevation profile for this race

NUUN GIVEAWAY WINNER!

Congratulations to BRANDON who won the Nuun giveaway! Brandon, please send your mailing address to vanessaruns@gmail.com so I can send off your prize.

I may be a future Luna girl.

A lot of my running friends have blogs where they regularly review minimalist footwear. Because of this, they get free shoes and running gear from various companies. Although I’ve dabbled in reviewing minimalist shoes, the result hasn’t been great for me. The first shoe I reviewed cut both my feet and that scared me off.

Although I prefer to run completely barefoot, sometimes that’s not possible. The terrain might be too rough, the sidewalks too hot, or my soles might just need a break. But I don’t want to stop running. So I really need something – a thin layer between my feet and the earth – to allow me to continue doing what I love.

I’ve had my Vibrams since October and I now have 1104kms on them. They don’t fit me anymore because my feet have grown longer and wider. I tried cutting off the straps as well as cutting slits into the sides so they will expand, but they’re still uncomfortably tight.

A while ago I was lucky enough to win a pair of Unshoes from my friend Christian’s blog, which I’ve been wearing as sandals. However, when I try to run in them, they just don’t work well for me. So I’m down to zero minimalist shoes.

Two weeks ago I took on a job where I was required to wear dress shoes. I thought fine, no big deal. I ransacked my closet and pulled out all my old pairs of shoes from before I started running barefoot. To my horror, it was a scene from Cinderella. I was the ugly stepsister who couldn’t get her fat foot into anything.

Suddenly it dawned on me: I have no shoes. I have NO SHOES I can wear outside. Literally zero. I’m like a real live hobo.

My employer already scolded me for wearing my Unshoes to work, so when I emailed him recently and told him I couldn’t meet the dress code again for my next shift because I had no shoes, he thought I was the weirdest female on earth. I later learned that my employer personally owns over 100 pairs of shoes. And he’s a dude. He shakes his head at my shenanigans and mutters, “You and your running…”

Somehow I manage to stumble through life without any real shoes. When I was in school, I’d run to class in my Vibrams. During class I’d throw on these dirt cheap slippers that looked like boots on the outside, but had no soles. So I couldn’t step outside for lunch or anything because it was winter and they’d get wet and everyone would see they were just slippers (not actually boots).

Then one day I gave a presentation on barefoot running in class, and after that I could get away with walking around in socks. By the end of the school year, a few other classmates were also walking around in their socks and I thought that was awesome.

For work recently, I managed to find a pair of black sandals I could slip into. I wore black socks underneath so they kind of look like a shoe, and nobody notices that they’re not. For running though, I still have a problem.

I wrote to both Merrell and Luna this week to see if they could send me some shoes to review. Merrell was pretty quick to turn me down in what looked like a form letter. It made me wonder whether anyone had read my email at all. But Barefoot Ted responded to me personally and generously offered to send the next version of the Original Luna Sandal – the same sandal that my uncle Pat Sweeney runs in.

I’m really excited about the Lunas because I’m going to be doing a lot of running in sunny California this fall, and I have a feeling the Lunas could be a perfect fit. Plus Sweeney is one of my idols.

I recently read my friend Christian’s incredibly detailed review on seemingly every minimalist sandal known to man and thought, what can I possibly say that hasn’t already been said in a shoe review?

I mulled on that question for a bit, and here’s what I came up with:

1. I can put shoes through hell and back.

I trash shoes. I run them on mud, through tall grass, on gravel, on roads, pavement, dirt, roots, I even climb trees. My feet are where shoes come to die. If a shoe can survive me for a week, it’s a damn good shoe.

2. I can put shoes through incredible mileage.

In a short time, I got my Vibrams up to over 1104 km and my mileage is only getting higher. I could run forever in a shoe and see if it actually holds up. I can take it beyond the shorter trots generally used for review purposes. I can test what it’s like when running for 5+ hours on rougher trails and uneven ground. I can tell you if it’s going actually stay on your foot for an ultra or if it’s going to break your heart at mile 30 (my last shoe review ripped and cut me at 34 miles).

None of the minimalist shoes I’ve tried have lasted very long when put up to the mileage and terrain that I really need them for. So I’m eager to test the new Lunas.

Yesterday Christian posted a review of the new Luna Equus sandal where he stated that Luna products get better with age. I want that to be true about my footwear.

If all goes well, I plan to use my Lunas to run the Noble Canyon 50k this fall, as well as to climb Mt. Whitney, just like Barefoot Ted did back in 2007.

I’ve admired Ted from afar for a while now, so climbing where he took some of his barefoot steps in his shoes (literally) will be an experience not lost on me.

I seem to be slowly finding my place as a barefoot/minimalist runner and I think Lunas might be part of my development. I’m lucky to be part of such an inspiring community.

HOLISTIC NUTRITION BOOK GIVEAWAY WINNER

The winner of last week’s Holistic Nutrition Book Giveaway is….. KRISTIN OVERTON!

Congrats Kristin! Email your address to vanessaruns@gmail.com so I can send out your prize!

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