Review "Invisible Shoes" - and other minimalist running shoes in comparison...

Discussion in 'Product Reviews' started by fjp, Sep 10, 2012.

  1. fjp Barefooters
    1. Deutschland-Ger...

    Member Since:
    Jul 1, 2012
    Message Count:
    10
    I am really into barefoot running and I really enjoy going without any shoes the most. When I started and for certain undergrounds I tried a number of minimalist shoes, like Vivobarefoot, Merrell, Vibram Fivefingers, Zemgear and Skora. Since I did quite a bit of research I also came across the Huaraches kind of running sandals and was close to order some when I won a pair of Invisible Shoes at one of these giveaway contests. So, I got the custom made 4mm connect style with black laces. It took a while to have them shipped to Germany and get them through customs ("these are a prize in a lucky draw, that's why they put 'gift' and no value on it… yes, riiiiight….").

    In Germany we have a saying "Einem geschenkten Gaul schaut man nicht ins Maul" ("Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth"), but since it was part of the deal, I will give an honest feedback.

    After reading all the lacing and running tips on the website, I tried them on and did my first run – and did not like it at all: (1) Somehow the knot under the sole felt uncomfortable, (2) one shoe was slapping and bending over all the time, (3) I got stones between feet and sole, (4) I got some pressure sores at certain parts of the feet and toes, and (5) the running didn't feel smooth and natural.

    But as it is probably true for barefoot running in general, you got to continue trying, listen to your feet, adjust, and have patience. That's what I did. I used the Invsible Shoes for short strolls to do some errands, running short and fast 3-5km or longer and slower 15km, along the Isar river in Munich and the lakefront of Lake Michigan in Chicago. I actually did a good amount of running in these sandals over the last couple of weeks. And some things – but not all – got better:
    · 1: The knot under the feet I feel only in the beginning, not really uncomfortable anymore, and after some minutes I completely forget about it. However, I am wondering whether the Luna Sandals with the flat plug which is countersunk into the bottom of the sandal will eliminate this problem completely.
    · 2: Regarding slapping, adjusting the laces and tighten them really helped to put the sole very close and tight to my feet, so that they hardly ever slap and bend over anymore. This just needs some patience and experimenting with the lacing and tightness. However, again I am wondering whether the "All Terrain Strapping" laces system from Luna Sandals would make it easier to fit these sandals to your feet without having to fiddle with laces all the time.
    · 3: Getting stones between feet and sole happens from time to time, but with a snug fit, it doesn't happen that often. I guess if you run on roads with a lot of small stones, you might want to use some closed minimalist running shoes. However, the Invisible Shoes are probably the closest you can get after pure barefoot running: You feel stones through the sole and get a very good feedback for your running technique. This is probably due to the fact that the soles are not a flat piece of rubber but some slightly anatomically formed soles which – when laced correctly – really snug along your feet.
    · 4: To avoid getting pressure sores, I really tried to vary my running technique. I don't get these kinds of pressure sores from running pure barefoot or with minimalist shoes, so it must somehow be related to the Huaraches. I just assume that I involuntary lift my feet slightly more than barefoot or with shoes to avoid the slapping and folding over of the soles. And this seems to result into some slight different landing and touching the ground. I tried smaller steps, bigger steps, higher cadence, lower cadence, but somehow this problem remained.
    · 5: Even after killing quite some kilometers in the Invisible Shoes, the running still doesn't feel perfectly smooth and natural as if I run barefoot. Somehow, it still feels like a foreign object on my feet. And I have to adjust the laces, think about not slapping/bending the sole, etc. When I run with my Vibram Fivefingers or Zemgear I have the feeling that the shoes and sole are much more snug to the sole like a tight glove so that I don't have to think about them and my running technique is extremely close to pure barefoot running. However, running without socks in Fivefingers or Zemgear gives me some blisters at some particular areas. I wish I could have best of both, free and light like the Invisible Shoes but snug and tight like Fivefingers or Zemgear. Again, I am contemplating to try the Luna Sandals with the aforementioned ATS lacing system.

    So, what does that mean when I put it altogether? This is how I will use all my gear in the future:
    · Pure Barefoot: still my favorite way of running. Since I can go easily 10km without any harm to my feet – and I only started earlier this year – I will experiment even more with distance and speed.
    · Vivobarefoot: The Ultra and Evo II are my favorite minimalist shoes because I can run them without socks and they fit very snug and are extremely light.
    · Vibram Fivefingers and Zemgear: I love both but need to wear socks because I get blisters in one area.
    · Skora: For running I find the sole too thick, but the Skora Form with their super soft leather are so comfortable to wear without socks that they are my favorite leisure time walking shoes.
    · Invisible Shoes: I really wanted to love them, but they are not the 100% solution for me. However, since they are the closest to barefoot running and so light, they will be my solution to bring along as a back-up in case I hit underground which makes running barefoot uncomfortable or for unknown terrain. I will definitely continue running in them, because I still find them pretty cool and so close to the way of running of the historic running tribes.
  2. scedastic Barefooters

    Member Since:
    Oct 7, 2011
    Message Count:
    1,858
    For the knot between the toes, I have switched to using thinner paracord 550 than the strings sent with the kit. I tie the knot really flat, and burn it well to mold and flatten it. Yeah, you sacrifice some strength, but the cord is so cheap.
    I would also suggest experimenting with styles of lacing and finding your own. The lacing method I'm wearing now is a weird mash up of a few methods I saw online, but it seems to be working well for me.
    Huarache wearing is a work in progress, always. Not like regular min. shoes that way.
    I also agree that it's still not quite as good as bf, and my form does suffer just a bit.
    Caution on the custom made sandals: I've ordered some custom made (not lunas), paid a lot, waited a looong time for them, and even with the tidy lacing method, one foot just doesn't fit right, and pains me enough I cannot wear them. Moreover, I didn't make them, and things are finished off more (shoe glue and stuff), that trying to rework them to fit properly would be a challenge. Just saying. Not all have good luck with the custom made.
  3. JHCC Barefooters

    Member Since:
    Sep 10, 2012
    Message Count:
    1
    I have a pair of huaraches I made from tire sidewalls, and the knot under the toes both drove me nuts and tended to wear through. The solution was to cut another hole forward of the current toe hole, thread the cord back up, and tie it to the toe cord. If you cut a groove in the sole between the two holes, the cord doesn't rub on the ground and wear out. See http://huaracheblog.wordpress.com/2012/01/28/my-running-huaraches/ for the photos that gave me the inspiration (although the person here is using rubber straps, not cord).
  4. barefootbill Barefooters

    Member Since:
    Jun 6, 2012
    Message Count:
    7
    I have been running in Invisible Shoes for a number of years now. In regards to the knot under the toes, A) I have found it is between my toes, so if I felt it initially, ( I honestly don't remember ever feeling it), it has never been an issue. B) If you heat the knot up slightly with a lighter and then squash it with a pair of pliers it gets quite flat.
    I found it took me a little time to find the lacing tension that felt "just right". I think it was just because I had never worn Huaraches before. Like any new endeavor, it took a little time to get a feel for it. With a little experimentation I was able to get it adjusted and now I don't even think about the shoes. I just put them on and go. They stay completely put.
    I have tried the VFFs and the Merrill Trail Glove. For me they were just to thick, and the arch in the Merrill Trail Glove felt weird to me. I couldn't feel the ground that well, and with the added insole I found I could actually continue heel striking, so I felt it was difficult to perfect my form. I find the Invisible Shoe, ( I run in the 4mm), has such a superior ground feel that it allows me to continue working on my form. Even now, if I get sloppy they remind me very quickly. I LOVE that about them.
    I have never had any issues with "pressure sores", either bare foot or with my Invisible Shoes, so it's a little hard for me to speak to that. My initial feeling is that they would come from landing too hard. Maybe try bending your knees a little more to see if that helps, ( a little more spring in the step).
    The other issue was the odor. Because the Invisible Shoe doesn't have a layer, (insole), to absorb moisture and bacteria I have never had any odor issues with this shoe. For me that is a HUGE plus. If they get a little muddy or dirty I can hand wash them with some dish washing soap and they are good to go. Many times all I have to do is rinse them off.
    I agree that there is no substitute for running completely barefoot. I like the Invisible Shoe because it still comes the closest to running barefoot, and it's way more affordable than the other Huarache options out there.
    In conclusion I will say that for me, the Invisible Shoe is the clear choice. I have run marathons in them and run trails in the mountains on a regular basis. They are my everyday shoe. They can do it all. I LOVE them!
  5. fjp Barefooters
    1. Deutschland-Ger...

    Member Since:
    Jul 1, 2012
    Message Count:
    10
    In addition to what I wrote above: I think I found my perfect barefoot shoe: SOLE RUNNER (in my case FX TRAINER II): Very thin sole of 1.5 mm, ultra light, very snug and comfortable fit, easy to wear barefoot and no blisters whatsoever. In my opinion the perfect combination of the thin sole of huaraches and snug fit without any slapping or flopping of a shoe. Not sure about international availability (it's a German company), but very worth to check it out: http://www.sole-runner.com
  6. fjp Barefooters
    1. Deutschland-Ger...

    Member Since:
    Jul 1, 2012
    Message Count:
    10
    In addition: I finally got the Luna Sandals, Mono with ATS (All Terrain Strapping System) and MGT (Monkey Grip Technology footbed). What a difference! They fit snuggly to the foot, adjusting the strapping system is very easy and once in place it basically stays this way, no flopping of th sole (but that might be due to the fact that it is thicker than the Invisible Shoes aka Xero Shoes I got), and tight and non-slippery grip of the footbed. Running with them hardly needs any adjustment, put it on, get straps right and run.
  7. flammee Barefooters

    Member Since:
    Mar 11, 2012
    Message Count:
    158
    I have tried a few different generation lunas, now have venados, adjusting still seems to be such an effort. Runbranca sandals, now that's a complete difference, so fast and easy adjusting, and you can even easily move laces to bit different position if they start causing blister.. Running in the forest trails and having gnats flying around quite a bit - you just don't want to stop for adjusting lacing any longer than 10 seconds. Runbrancas with MGT-type footbed, that would be even better though..

    I also bought sole runners (pure) lately, but I haven't actually tested them yet. I'm having this issue with every shoe with upper feeling too hot. Even vff sprint seems to have too much upper for me, my toes get hot. But I did compare pures to my other same kind of minimalist shoes. It has thinnest sole and it's toebox seems to be somewhere near altra adam's width, so it's actually something quite remarkable, as there just isn't too many wide and thin shoes. Easily thinner, lighter, wider and therefore better than vapor glove, for example. ;)

    Bergzeit.co.uk sells sole runners, I'm not sure if it's international, but atleast european wide..

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