Saturday was spent with the family first visiting a Running Expo in Surrey then we checked out Chessington Zoo while in the area :)
I'd heard about the Expo via Runners World and it sounded interesting with the usual large amount of stands featuring mainly manufacturers and running stores so I knew there would be some nice goodies on display but what really caught my eye was this was the first event where there was a noticeable Barefoot Running representation.
There was a small independent store called Barefoot Britain (www.barefootbritain.co.uk) and a stand run by a couple that specialise in training Barefoot Runners.
These coaches were also holding a talk on minimal running so I was sold.
The Barefoot Britain stand was run by a nice lady called Tracy Davenport. She seemed to know loads about the minimal running scene and had a stock of some interesting products that included some slip on plastic shoes for general “chilling” but also sold basic DIY style running sandal kits. They were branded as Xero but I later found out they were actually rebranded Invisible Shoe sandals from the U.S. the main competitor of Luna.
I really liked the foot beds as they had a nice tread pattern and seemed to be made from a harder material than the neoprene Luna’s? I actually fancied trying some basic sandals to see how I could get on, I love my Luna’s but because they are the 10mm thick soles I feel I'm missing a little of the true barefoot ride if that makes sense. Well my lovely wife Kelly could tell how much I liked them so offered to buy them for me (love you!). Tracy had already “traced” my feet and she picked out some appropriate sized soles, some laces and even a hair pin and hole punch.... I’ll get back to those.
Later we attended the talk on barefoot running. It went into detail on how the techniques differ but also the physical benefits. My whole family actually attended it and they said they found it interesting. The presenters have written a book on the subject so I might try and track it down. My 8yr old daughter especially liked the talk. She’s getting into running and has already run a large number of trail races and is now into Cross Country. I loved the presentation and was the first to ask a question at the end asking "Does it hurt running barefoot?" The presenters actually took time to answer her question in detail and I was impressed with her and the time taken by the guy’s. Below is a pic of Katie at the talk.
Later that evening I built my sandals up from the kit. They were actually pretty easy to put together and I looked forward to testing them the next day. The hair pin I found was for threading the laces through the footbeds lol.
In the morning, I planned to get in some miles by running to a Cross Country in Little Baddow and back then later taking part in the Chelmsford 10k road race. This should cover the minimum of 20 miles long run for my ultra training.
Well what to wear? I wanted to try the new sandals but wasn't sure if I would run to the XC in them or actually race in them later in my 10k road race?
I took the decision to wear them to run to the XC in Baddow. This meant 6 miles of road and trail with some water and mud thrown in.
So what were the Xero’s actually like? Well to start with they felt nice! They actually felt like I wasn’t wearing shoes (hence the Invisible tag?) But what about running? They were hard to start but this was probably due to the fact I’d shelved the Luna’s for the winter and I hadn't run in sandals for a few weeks and it was taking a little time to adjust.
After a few 100m, I was getting used to them though. I'd managed somehow to get the laces set-up bang on and they actually felt better than the top of the range Luna laces. After a couple of miles I felt at home with the new footwear and even did my first mini review live!
See the video review by clicking the link below:
I got to the race start and enjoyed the statements from the rest of the members of my running club on how mad I was to run in those and loved the shocked look from the other clubs runners. Generally I was really pleased on how the Xero's performed. I'd almost say I liked them better than the Luna’s for now but we’ll see.
Did my feet hurt? Well yes to be honest. Were my wet muddy toes cold? Well yes again to that too but nothing serious and when running the friction warms you up. I'd covered probably the toughest terrain these could handle first time out and I felt ok.
Next up was the actual Cross Country event. I changed into my Walsh's for the XC and took it pretty easy on the course as I knew I was running home post event.
I finished 97th (no idea how good or bad that was), I had a quick cup of tea and a custard cream and changed back into the Xero's to run home.
The run back felt emotional. I was a lot slower and the feet were starting to get sore.
Well I kept going and even though I felt tired it wasn't that bad, well until I thought I'd trod on what a initially thought was a really sharp stone but it turned out to be a long thorn that had gone through the sole and into my foot.
I pulled the torn out and kept plodding on till I was home. I'd by now run about 16 miles and I just had enough time to change into a clean club vest before heading off to the 10k road race.
In hindsight, I should have started with something shorter and a little less technical and I knew I’d got blisters in my heels but that was nothing to do with the sandals and I remember a statement from the barefoot presentation yesterday “if it hurts, you’re doing it wrong and need to change something”.