I am not really a runner. I mean, obviously like most healthy people I *can* run, but I’ve never got to the point where I yearn to be running, where it is the joy and head space in my day that so many friends seem to love.
But – I also know I need to be fitter. And I get so BORED on the cross trainer that I have to use Netflix to occupy myself so I don’t just jump off. And then I get slower and slower as I get engrossed in what I’m watching instead of pounding out the steps.
So when Vivo Barefoot got in touch and asked if I’d like to try out the new Trail Freak II I said yes very very quickly – for a couple of reasons.
First – I AM a natural barefoot freak.For 3/4 of the year I only reluctantly wear shoes to go out – and then I’ll be barefoot in Birkenstocks for all but the most formal of occasions. In the colder weather I’ll happily pull on fluffy socks to keep the toes warm; I do also own slippers, and will wear those if doing busywork, but they soon get kicked off when I stop.
So a pair of shoes designed to feel like you’re wearing no-shoes? That’s my kind of trainers.
Second – new shoes means you have to get out and use them, right? Which meant that I had the perfect reason to kickstart the old Couch-to-5k programme (again).
I’ll admit – this is the first tie that a pair of shoes has arrived and I’ve read ALL the packaging. It’s because it’s not really about the shoe – Vivo Barefoot work on an ethos, and it’s fascinating. The principle is that your foot has all the technology you need – their shoes are designed to just let it do its thing.
And so, I tried them on.
I admit it – it’s weird.
They just feel different.
But definitely in a good way. You notice that you’re standing closer to the ground that your brain expects you to be in shoes. The fit feels snug – and yet pillow-y around the toes. At first I felt like I was walking like Pingu, flapping my feet down. Which was silly, because I was just walking… but I realised my brain thought it was walking in shoes, and somehow that seems to change the tread slightly. Once In concentrated on it, I could feel a difference happening, and it started to feel more natural.
The shoes are stupidly light, and twisty-bendy. I admit I was a little contemptuous of their ability to handle actual real outside-off-road-on-stones running. I was used to big thick chunky padding under my feet – even in my beloved 0mm drop Saucony‘s there was a sturdy sole to protect my feet.
But nothing ventured nothing gained, so I set off.
And it was… astonishing.
Not only did I not die, I actually enjoyed it. Plus I rather fell in love with the Trail Freaks.
Even if I did fall over. Twice.
And slap a foot into a cowpat.
And catch my leggings on barbed wire.
And alarm a swan couple with their cygnet as I cantered along the river bank.
It was very early in the morning and the ground was soaked with dew – you can see how wet the shoes are in the picture.
But the TrailFreak II’s are brilliant – totally waterproof. I was dubious, but it’s true. My feet inside them in that picture are bone dry and comfortable.
It is a little disconcerting when you glance and down and see yourself running in slippers – because that’s what they look like from the top. I’m sorry, but they do. But what are you looking at your feet for, anyway? Head up! Remember your posture! Run, for goodness sake!
The Trail Freaks do some with a slightly thicker insole, but this is just for warmth in the coldest weathers and not for extra padding so I had obediently removed it. The first part of my regular route is on a really stony, pitted track – this was the bit i had been convinced would just be painful with the Trail Freak’s ultra-thin sole. But not so. You can feel the lumps and bumps, and I’m, guessing that a particularly big sharp stone could be a little bruising; but it just made me aware of where I put my feet, and actually it was easier. I could feel the ground beneath me, and therefore my body naturally reacted accordingly.
Vivo Barefoot do provide a guide for non-barefoot runners to acclimatise; apparently if you’re not used to being barefoot your calves and feet can complain at first. It is a new way of moving so do take things slowly; if you’re accustomed to running five miles in regular trainers, don’t expect to be able to run the same distance straight away with bare feet or in Vivo Barefoot shoes.
I found it a natural progression as I spend so much of my time barefoot – plus I didn’t leap into a ridiculous training schedule, the C25k is just 30 minutes a day, and progresses so slowly it was a perfect system for me.
I’m now on week 4, and doing just fine, thanks :) I may actually have glimpsed the time where I love to run for running’s sake…
The Vivo Barefoot Trail Freak II Winterproof Ladies shoe comes just in the black & red, and is available direct for £125. If you’ve been hesitating, I strongly suggest you go buy them. But be warned – it’s a love thing. Once you’re in, there’s no turning back…