The PaleoBarefoots® from GoSt that I mentioned in my last post have recently been generating quite a lot of comment around the web – with my little test video even reaching as far as China!
Here are just a few of the links that have discussed (some more positively than others) the PaleoBarefoots.
http://www.humanosphere.info/2013/01/les-chaussures-en-cotte-de-mailles-ont-la-cote/ (In French)
http://fashionablygeek.com/shoes/chainmail-sneakers-are-perfect-for-knights-on-casual-fridays/ (I’ll be taking this advice and wearing them for casual Friday!)
What a lot of these reviews have in common, apart from the “Whoa! Chainmail!” type reaction, are a number of misconceptions about the PaleoBarefoots, particularly around their comfort and usefulness. So I thought I’d try to address some of these here.
Firstly – comfort. Let’s get this out of the way, anything you read about barefoot running in general also applies to PaleoBarefoots. If you think you’ll just slip them on and run a marathon on the roads without ever having run barefoot since you rocked around the house as a 2 yr old, you are deluded. Changing to barefoot (and even minimalist) running is a process, it takes time, effort and care. There are no prizes for being macho. Running in shoes made of metal are no different – however, I have never had a blister from running in them – if I run for longer distance, I run with the provided ‘ankle savers’ – as the only place likely to rub is the instep or around the ankle where the PaleoBarefoots are secured. Blisters form because of friction between surfaces – often because shoes are too tight or because you have bad running form – in this case, between your skin and whatever shoe you are wearing. One interesting thing with the PaleoBarefoots is that when I run, my feet don’t sweat as much. If you sweat in a traditional running shoe, even with socks, the chances of getting a blister increase with the dampness. This doesn’t happen in PaleoBarefoots. So, yes, it’s metal, but as I point out in my video, once you get used to it, it’s actually quite a nice sensation – the mesh is extremely smooth, and it moves very naturally. You will need a little time to get used to wearing them, it is a different sensation, but they reward patience.
Secondly – saftey. If you run completely barefoot, and you land on a reasonably sized sharp stone on a hard surface like concrete, you will likely cut your foot, and even more likely get a painful bruise. If you do the same with PaleoBarefoots, guess what – you’ll likely get a nasty bruise, but you probably won’t get the cut. Bruises are a function of impact against your body, cuts are the action of sharp/penetrating objects against your skin. The PaleoBarefoots are for the explicit purpose of ensuring that you can run safely and not get cut. Is it possible to run safely totally barefoot on almost any surface? Yes, probably, if you’ve spent your life without shoes, running on those surfaces. As a forty+ guy who spent his life mostly in shoes, not so much. The saftey the PaleoBarefoots afford means that you can pretty much forget about getting cut up, and you can just run. But don’t go leaping onto any sharp stones with your full body weight – they’re not airbags – you can still get bruised.
Thirdly – grip. This is a counter intuitive one. You’d think that metal would be slippery – well, guess what, it isn’t. If you go and run on a polished tiled/marbled floor, you might find that there’s not much grip – but get on to packed sand, mud, dusty trails, ice (yes, ICE), snow and yes, even concrete or asphalt* and you’ll find that the grip is not only fine, in many cases, it’s much better than any sneaker or your bare foot. If you’ve ever run in slushy ice**, or mud with your bare feet, you’ll find that the PaleoBarefoots are way more grippy.
Fourthly – price & durability. They are made of metal. Wash them in clean water (or the dishwasher occasionally) so that salt or acidic soil types won’t lead to corrosion, and store them in a cool and dry place and you will find they last FOREVER. For comparison, I’ve run around 400 miles in my current Merrell RoadGloves, and they’re just about worn down (and lose grip in the rain). At around $90 each pair, I’m looking at 2-3 pairs per year – a minimum of $180. So to pay the price of, perhaps, 3 pairs of those for PaleoBarefoots doesn’t seem so crazy. In ten years time, I might have had to replace a few pairs of the laces, but the Paleos themselves will still be fine.
Fifthly – Internet Snarkiness. It’s amazing how many ‘experts’ pop up out of the deep recesses of the ‘net, ready to scoff at any new idea. All I would say is, you cannot judge until you have tried, as a fully qualified Internet Snark (TM), I might have agreed with you before I actually went and tried the PaleoBarefoots. Your intuition might tell you that PaleoBarefoots are silly, overpriced, sure to be uncomfortable, pointless, and all sorts of other negative things, but your intuition is denied by my direct experience, and the direct experience of many other testers all over the world.
Well, this was quite a long post, so I’ll leave it there. Feel free to leave me a comment, I would love to hear from you!
*GoSt explicitly states that the best environment for PaleoBarefoots is natural surfaces, they’re not really for road warriors – though personally I have used them on concrete with no problem.
**If you run on ice, please do be careful about temperature, you MUST wear at least a 0.5mm neoprene full sock, and listen to your body. I have a friend who runs in these every day in Iceland (on ice/snow), and he reports that the grip is amazing.