Since Henley Royal Regatta and Wimbledon are both gearing up, I played tennis the other day. Like the haughty elitist rower that I am, I assumed it would be easy compared to a 2K at 34. I figured it would be good for active recovery, and it was a good way to do something as a family outdoors. Silly, silly man. When I was done my legs felt like jelly and I was drenched from head to toe. It is actually a great plyometric workout, especially for someone weighing 195 with very long arms. The stopping and starting is basically equivalent to doing intermittent box jumps for an hour. It is very hard work to decelerate your body mass and launch it in the opposite direction. Kind of like in Death by 10 Meters. I decided to try playing in Vibram FiveFingers Komodos, and it was great. If I had been playing in shoes I would have sprained my ankle for sure, but in the VFFs I could really feel how much my ankles and feet have strengthened over the past year. In regular VFFs it would have been suicide, but the Komodos have enough traction to make them feel just right for this type of workout.
Well I went for my first run in my new Inov-8 MudClaws (thanks Mom & Dad!) over the weekend, and I didn’t know what to expect. I went through Saddle River Park in Bergen County, NJ, with a combination of on-road and off-road running in below-freezing temperatures. Would the lug soles be squishy and unstable on pavement? Would the toe box feel too narrow, as I’ve read in some reviews of Inov-8 products? Would it feel weird to wear shoes after a summer of running exclusively in Vibram FiveFingers?
The answer is no, no, and no – these shoes ROCK in a variety of conditions!
1. On road – they are light and surprisingly flexible – almost as light as FiveFingers, and the mesh upper is so ethereal that I felt almost like I was wearing nothing. The rubber on the soles is really solid but also really light and flexible, which I can’t figure out. Great design.
2. Off road – ditto #1, except that it’s like having monster truck tires on your feet. I looked at my footprints on the frozen ground, and there was a big, wide, shredded circle where the forefoot touched down, and just a tiny little divot near the heel – clearly these things can tear it up even on packed, frozen earth. I ran some trails that involved leaf cover over pools of ice – no slippage at all. I purposely tried to run across pure black ice frozen puddles, and I was able to without slipping. I bounced up on rocks and right over a fallen tree. I deliberately stepped on some sharp jagged little rocks embedded in the ground that would have put me out of action in FiveFingers, and they were no problem. It’s like you get the shielding of 1/2 inch of rubber, without the weight or stiffness due to the sole design. Incredible. I can’t wait to try them in deep snow.
3. Toe box – I love it. I have a “Roman toe” (second toe longer than big toe), and these are the first running shoes in which I didn’t smash up the nail on the second toe. The toe box is long and narrow, which is great for me, but the area around the toe joint is very wide and very roomy, which is the best of both worlds.
4. Freezing temperatures – a standard running shoe with heavy “leather” around the lace holes and thick laces becomes like a block of ice as soon as it gets a little wet. These are made of mesh, the laces are tiny, and the lacing holes are angled so that they do not interfere with the flex at the toe joint at all. Again, because my feet were able to move and work, they were no uncomfortably cold. I am probably not using the correct “shoe” terms here, but it’s amazing that no major shoe company thought of angling the laces before this?
All in all, this is destined to become one of my favorite shoes. I can’t wait to try a Tough Mudder wearing these. I also think they would be great for doing sprints on a football field or other grass/turf surface – huge traction, tiny weight. Although they are designed as a specialized shoe, I will likely wear them all winter, for all kinds of applications. I can’t wait to try other Inov-8 products. Good show!
Facebook’s new “recommended pages” algorithm gets pretty interesting as it tries to figure out what I might “like.” I clicked through the whole list to see what it would come up with.
Vibram FiveFingers. Check.
Various surfing pages. Check. Blame Laird.
Various Microsoft-related pages. Check.
Nothing related to rowing. Really?
Nothing else related to Crossfit. Huh?
A list of about 10 African-American entertainers and TV personalities. <Buzzer> Non-sequitur. Let’s start with the fact that I recently disconnected the TV to reclaim quality time and reduce the conspicuous consumption that it encourages. The only connection I can divine from my profile might be that I “like” Barack Obama and I “like” the band Black Sabbath. The algorithm couldn’t be that blatantly, offensively, simplistic, could it?
Philadelphia Phillies. Um, the profile says NORTH Jersey!
Starbucks, because “people who like Peet’s Coffee & Tea also like Starbucks.” <Buzzer>. Note to Facebook: People who like Peet’s SETTLE for Starbucks when traveling to, say, Dallas, or living in New Jersey where there ARE no Peet’s!
Wawa. Ok you kinda got me there, and before you Crossfitters gasp in horror, here’s why: There just happens to be a Wawa on the way home from the Cooper River rowing venue in Camden, NJ, with a large parking lot capable of handling a car-topped rowing boat, a good selection of fresh fruit, hummus and vegetables, and awesome chocolate milk ;-) I am thankful that Wawa provides an oasis on the Admiral Wilson Boulevard where I can refuel after a competition without feeling like I am poisoning my body, and for that reason I do like it, Sam I Am!
P.S. I know someone will ding me for the chocolate milk, but I am not a purist and I have a long, complicated relationship with chocolate milk that I am still working through. After winning a tough race I do like a little reward, and the other choices would be to walk across the street to Rita’s for water ice, or to drink Muscle Milk which is loaded with Sucralose and other nightmares.
So I finally broke down and bought Vibram Five Fingers. I had been using an old pair of Teva Proton water shoes for WODs at Crossfit Ignite, rowing, and stand-up paddling, but these are not appropriate for running, and I wanted to give the barefoot running thing a try because my knees are bad and getting creakier every year. Here are my first impressions.
1. They are great for running. My calves still get pretty sore and I still get blisters with no socks, but my knees feel great, I feel like I’m running on air, and generally I run faster than I normally would. I am up to 6 miles without feeling like my calves are being drawn and quartered. I still haven’t tried long distances or trail running but I think I’m on the right path once the calves get strong. Trail running could be challenging because I have loose ankles and I probably need to develop the stability that regular shoes masked.
2. They stink for jumping rope. I am not a great rope-jumper, and I get the rope caught between the toes and lose a lot of time untangling it in WODs. Shoes without the “toes” are much better.
3. They are great for things like burpees and deadlifts. I find that I am able to get my feet more directly under my body without having my feet slide around inside the shoes as they did with the Tevas. Because they weigh so little, I can move the feet at higher speed and get better range of motion.
4. They stink for rowing on the Concept2. The foot angle and the strap hinging on the ball of the foot causes a couple of my toes to slip out. This doesn’t affect performance but it’s annoying, especially for WODs requiring a short piece on the Concept2 followed by a transition to an exercise where you need the toes to be in the right spot.
5. I believe that they are going to be AWESOME for stand-up paddling! Being able to work individual toes is going to be huge. Looking forward to that.
6. They are going to be questionable summer footwear in New Jersey. In California, no problem. In Jersey, I will probably be regarded as a freak. But who knows?
7. They are AWESOME for business travel. No more size 12 running shoes taking up half the suitcase, no more separate sandals, etc. They are MADE for carry-on luggage!
8. The jury’s out on dealing with cold weather running. Talk to me in 6 months 🙂