EL-X FiveFingers – Running Review

When Vibram discontinued the original FiveFingers “Classic” last year, they rebooted the series with a completely redesigned model called the EL-X that has only been out for a few weeks. This is one of the most minimalist outdoor FiveFingers to date. Justin has already put together a thorough overview based on his initial impressions, so in this post I’m going to follow up with my thoughts on how they perform as a running shoe.

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New Balance MT 110 Winter Boot Review

The New Balance MT110 Winter Boot.
The New Balance MT110 Winter Boot.

I should start off by admitting that I avoided trails for a while there. Especially organized single-track trail runs, when the fire of competition pushes me to run harder than I might normally. My first real running injury was on the Philosopher's Way 15k almost two years ago, and I've shied away from longer trail runs ever since.

A lot has happened since then. I've learned more about good running style and adjusted accordingly, shifting away from the lumbering heel-striking that this former defensive lineman had been doing for decades. I've come to realize that my poor running form was equally if not more at fault for my destroyed left knee as were the roots, rocks, twists, and turns of that 9+ mile trail run.

But still, it's a mental thing that no amount of cold, serious intellectual consideration can undo on its own. I'd have to actually get out there and battle those fears. The lack of more rugged minimalist-style trail shoes makes for an easy excuse, though. Especially when it's cold, wet, dark, and icy out. By the very nature of minimalist running, especially trails can seem out of the question for some runners. Add in extreme weather and it becomes even more unlikely. So when the New Balance MT 110 winter-specific boots arrived on my doorstep I was curious. Something had to go wrong with these, I just knew it. They were either going to be too built-up or not protective enough.

Read on to see what, if anything, went wrong — and what went oh so right.

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Belleville Mini-Mil Minimalist Boot Review

When the UPS guy dropped of the box of the Mini Mil boots by Belleville I could hardly contain my joy. I talked about these boots a little while ago and really hoped they would meet the need for boot with more protection while still being quite minimal.

Read on for my review!

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Luna Split-toe Tabi Socks – Pre-Sale!

A short while back I posted a review of Luna's new Split-Toe Tabi Socks. It was possibly my most unabashedly enthusiastic review to date. And for good reason -- these socks are amazing! I've since worn them on two additional trail races (10 mile and 8 mile) as well as countless chilly training mornings, and all of my original praise still holds true with no criticism to note. If anything, my love for these socks has only grown.

So when I got an email from Luna recently about the status of the socks from a sales point of view, I was both excited and sad.

Bad news first: Luna hasn't been able to keep up with the demand for these socks. These special tabi socks are carefully crafted in Japan and then imported a few dozen at a time. Now, I was a humanities major so I have no idea where Japan is actually located, but sources* tell me that it's far away. And though I've heard Luna Sandals referred to as the Cadillac of huaraches, that comparison only works insofar as the quality they put forth -- not necessarily the name recognition or resources. (Yet.) We're not talking Nike or Adidas here. We're talking about a company whose entire staff could probably carpool to work together in one vehicle. We're talking about a company whose founder, Barefoot Ted, is probably most quickly identified by explaining to someone that he was "the quirky one" in Born to Run. So it's really not surprising that right now they're ordering in the dozens instead of the hundreds or thousands when it comes to socks of this quality that have to travel this distance.

Now for the good news: Luna is planning to change that. What do you do when demand for your products outstrips the supply? You up your game. You think bigger. That's just what Luna is doing. Their plan is to start taking pre-orders for the next shipment in order to gather funds to place a bigger order. And now for the better news: Luna sent Birthday Shoes the exclusive pre-order link to share with our loyal readers!

Go check it out.

It'll take a little longer to get the socks shipped out to customers (as much as 4 weeks), but trust me when I say it's worth it. If you've been on the fence about these socks, go re-read my review of them. Post questions or thoughts. Or contact Luna directly -- I'm sure they'd be glad to talk about them.

The bottom line I'd leave you with: if you're a huaraches fan whose feet need a little something extra during the cold months but don't want to give up your sandals, or if you like keeping things minimal but could use some compression, you just can't do any better than these tabi socks. Go pre-order and help support an excellent small-but-hoping-to-grow shoe company.

DISCLAIMER: I did not benefit in any way whatsoever from this post. I really am just that enthusiastic about these!

*Google. According to this amazing search website, it'd take me over 129 days to get to Japan. That's pretty far.

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Xero Shoes the Shark Tank Sandal?

Xero Shoes—the huaraches sandals company founded by Steven Sashen and Lena Phoenix—is going to be on ABC's Shark Tank at 9:00PM tomorrow night, February 1, 2013!

If you're not familiar with Shark Tank, it's a show where entrepreneurs pitch their business to five investors. The investors then have the opportunity to bid on investing in the business. The show is great entertainment as it has that live edginess provided by the investors as they ask questions, poke holes, and comment on the pitch presented.

With a barefoot running sandal business being the investment at foot Friday night, you can be sure things are going to get interesting!

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Vibram Alitza, Entrada FiveFingers are Here!

It's now clear that the Vibram FiveFingers Entrada and Alitza are out — at least one retailer (TravelCountry.com)is now stocking all five colorways of Entrada (The Classic-like one) and four colorways of Alitza (The Sprint-like, strappy one).

These new women's-centric FiveFingers arrive on the heels of Vibram's men's El-X hitting stores over the last month. The Alitza and Entrada round out the Spring/Summer 2013 Vibram FiveFingers offerings (the Maiori and Signa have yet to hit stores as of Jan. 31).

What are these new VFFs? Want to see a few more colorways? Read on!

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Vibram FiveFingers Sorrento Review

Above is the men's Vibram FiveFingers Sorrento, leather loafer-ish-yet-casual five toe shoes we last buzzed about in the Fall (here).

In fact, the Sorrento has actually been available now for months—just not in the United States. And on that front, I'm sad to say that they won't be making it this way Spring 2013 (as hoped), either.

Bummer, I know.

I started wear-testing the Sorrento back in Fall of 2011 when the model was in it's pre-production phase (we glimpsed it way back in 2011 here); fast forward to this past summer when the Sorrento released in Europe, Vibram Italy was kind enough to send me a final production model, which brings me to today's review.

Why review the Sorrento if it's such a limited release model? Simple: I like it. A lot.

In short, Sorrento FiveFingers are comfortable, casual toe shoes you can knock around in day-in and day-out. Meanwhile, they look funky—but in a good way (not unlike the Speed FiveFingers), which makes them easy to wear daily.

And that makes for happy feet. And if you really want them but live in the U.S., well I'll see what I can't do to direct you to a retailer. And who knows, maybe like the Speed which didn't make it to the U.S. until about a year after I reviewed it on release in Europe, we'll see the Sorrento this side of the Atlantic some day in the future.

Now let's get to it. Read on for my full review!

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ChiRunning, the Book. A Minimalist Perspective.

Just finished reading ChiRunning, the book about the popular technique. When I say "popular" in this context I'm referring mostly to the passion ChiRunning practitioners exude for it. I'm slightly terrified about commenting at all, because in my experience the more passionate people are about something the more ferocious they tend to be towards critics. Oddly, the fury seems to increase if the thing being criticized actually centers around the very idea of relaxation. Go figure.

And so I suspect it will go with ChiRunning believers, as I do have a fair number of criticisms. Not the least of which because I'm approaching the whole philosophy having already learned several aspects that are put forth and so feel at least mildly qualified to take issue with parts of it. But I'm also coming at it as a minimalist runner, for which it should be noted ChiRunning is not specifically designed. It's a running form that's ostensibly for everyone, which means some of my criticism might admittedly be a little unfair.

But I'm still going to approach it solidly from this angle because there are many minimalist newbies that will pick up this book. A lot of the information will be very useful, while other portions may not work quite as well for minimalists. Hopefully I can parse some of this out with my review.

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Black El-X FiveFingers Out!

The wait for the all black men's Vibram Fivefingers El-X is over!

You can get them now with free two-day shipping (through Feb. 10) here for $75. Fit is similar to the Bikila if I had to make a comparison (I'm the same size in them as all my other FiveFingers--43 with 10.875" long feet).

Photos of'em if you're curious after the jump. Review of the El-X is here

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Tune Footwear Penny Loafer Review

Before I even I started writing for BirthdayShoes, I’d been searching for a pair of minimalist dress shoes to wear for work. I’ve had a couple good options from VivoBarefoot that I can wear on casual Fridays, but I’ve been waiting for someone to come along and create a truly minimalist dress, complete with zero drop heel and a nice thin sole. And then came along Tune Footwear!

Funny story—I and was out grabbing lunch when I randomly bumped into a guy named Mike Norris who commented on the Skora running shoes I was wearing at the time and had reviewed on the site a few days earlier. We got to talking and I learned that he was in the middle of a starting a minimalist dress shoe company. At the time, the only prototype shoes that he had were the ones he was wearing on his feet. Fast forward a month or two for a preliminary look at Mike’s vision, and a few more months after that and we finally had a couple pairs to play with. Justin reviewed a first look of the tassel loafers and I’ve been putting the penny loafers through their pacers over the past 6 weeks or so.

So let’s dive into the review!

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