Thursday, July 30, 2009

Vibram Sole Review (and Shoe Give-Away!)

One of two things usually come to mind when you hear "Vibram": solid soles or those funny finger shoe things that are oh-so cool right now. (Keep reading, btw. I have three pairs of trail running shoes to give away).

I myself climbed the highest mountain in Colorado on the backs of Vibram soles. Naturally, I was excited when I heard that they were looking to get back into trail running. Vibram struck a partnership with Saucony and are featured as part of the Xodus shoe, which is earning very good reviews, btw.

My job was to review the soles, not the shoes. I took them out on all types of different terrain to see how they would perform.

First Impression
This is like running on air! Fantastic!

Smooth Single Track (10/10)
Perfect! I was flying on buttery, rolling single track. The soles handled small obstacles (small rocks, occasional root, etc.) with ease. The best part was that I was able to cut around sharp turns (such as switch backs) without having to worry about losing traction. That's a HUGE advantage. You can really make up some time here during races.

Rugged, Technical Single Track (8/10)
The soles definitely performed very well here, too, especially on the uphills. I was a little worried about sliding when traversing larger rocks or boulders. But I shouldn't be running those anyhow.

Rooty Trails
No complaints here. Exposed roots did not turn into slip'n'slides as they so often can.

Fire Road
Didn't I say something about flying earlier? You can FLY on fire roads with Vibram soles. Just enough grip to hold on to the dirt, but light enough to feel like you're running in road shoes. I was positively surprised!

Very Steep Inclines
Climbing was absolutely no problem. Perfect traction here. On very, very steep downhills (30%+), I did lose traction a couple times. But I have never not lost traction on these particular sections of trail. Gravity can be a pretty strong force (thanks, Newton!).

Sandy Trails (9/10)
There aren't too many around...unless, of course, you run a race that traverses a beach. No complaints here.

Road (10/10)

Yes, sometimes you have to traverse asphalt or, worse, concrete to get to a trail. No issues here.

Soooooo, here is the part you have all been waiting for. I have three (yes, THREE) pairs of Saucony Xodus' to give away, so you can try out the Vibram soles yourself. In order to enter, you have to answer one of two questions in the comments:
  • Why do you want a pair of free trail running shoes? OR
  • What is the wildest (or most unexpected) thing that has ever happened to you out on the trails?
Sign with your name and city. You have until 11:59 pm PST on August 7, 2009. I will pick the winners on August 8. Check back then, and contact me if you're one of the lucky ones. Good luck!


Alex : Alpharetta, GA said...

The primary reason I want trail shoes is to give me inspiration to hit the trails instead of the asphalt. I worry about damaging my body by running on the street so often. These shoes would be a big motivator to accomplish this goal.

Peter Lubbers said...

Why do I want a pair of free trail running shoes?
Well, my wife complains I have more shoes than she does, so it would help if I could at least say I got them for free! Seriously, these look like some pretty sweet shoes, so I am interested to try them out.

Peter Lubbers
Lake Tahoe, CA
Size 13

rumana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kate said...

I want a pair of free shoes for my great hubby, so he can do trail running with me! More adventures in our 34 years of marriage!

rumana said...

Wildest thing!

I went on what should have been a nice, relaxing, semi-long (which for me is around 1-1.5 hours) run in Tilden Park, which is in the Berkeley Hills... The run became north of 3.5-4 hours with no water, communication device... or flares, and turned into a search-and-rescue fiasco waiting to happen.

As it turns out, I was running a different trail than the one on which I thought I was running. Wound up trying to take a 'shortcut' (which is probably never a good idea) down a steep field of grazing and (angrily? mooing) cows, over a barbed wire fence, and a few yards into a field of dry, prickly brush that seemed perfectly harmless from far away, but wound up trapping and scratching me when I tried to cut through. Managed to reverse out, but couldn't climb back up the field (for fear of the cows... and of falling), so I just followed the direction of the path, but 50 yards below. All the while hearing children giggling and shrieking from the school nearby my house.

Eventually, I came across some steps cut into the hillside, and felt extraordinary relief at discovering signs of human life. Clearly I had stumbled upon an often-enough traversed path. I followed the slightly worn footpath, until I reached an actual running path. And then ran the hell out of the park.

New shoes may help my willingness to brave Tilden again :-)

Berkeley, CA

Juliet Morgan said...

I would LOVE a pair of trail shoes that might help me get through next month's Gore-Tex TransRockies 6-day trail race in Colorado! I'd even be happy to provide feedback on how the shoes, and hopefully I, survived...complete with snapshots crossing historic landmarks like the Continental Divide at 12,500 feet!

Thanks for the opportunity!
Manhattan Beach, CA

ken michal said...

I would love a pair of the Saucony Xodus because I go through A LOT of shoes. I love packing on the miles and race as often as possible. Usually, I'm pretty slow and I'm out all day. My shoes take a lot of abuse.

Here's my wild story from last weekend's White River 50. WR is the National 50 mile trail championship race in Washington. My wife and I flew in from San Francisco. At the run, she spotted a shirt that said "Your idea of hell is my vacation." What an awesome vacation!!! At the early start of the race I had the honor and privilege of having Uli Steidl personally meet me at the start to wish me luck and go over the course. Amazingly, when I finished (over fourteen hours later), he was waiting at the finish, with my wife. He was waiting just for me! How's that for cool? Imagine a super elite runner waiting to cheer on a back of the packer! Thanks again, Uli!!!

See you out at next week's Headlands Hundred, Dave! I can't wait!

All Day!

Anonymous said...

I want a pair of free trail running shoes because I can only run on trails, but I only have one pair of trail running shoes and they won't last forever. Trails are the only place to run, but that doesn't make them easy. Good shoes are vital, and free good shoes would be awesome!
Melanie Fox
Berkeley, CA

Ben said...

I would love a free pair of running shoes because I always wear shoes way longer than I should! I am kind of addicted to trail running so I spend a lot of time running and an exorbitant amount of money on running supplies, so I am constantly wearing worn out shoes to prolong dropping another $100 on a new pair. My feet would be forever grateful for a free pair!!

Sacramento, CA

Tracy said...

I would love to try out a pair of Saucony Xodus! I have always wanted to try a pair, but lacked the funds for a new pair of shoes.

Robin Ellis, Westlake Village said...

My favorite runs are on the trails. My biggest challenge is avoiding an injury such as twisting my ankle (which I've done a few times). I would love a good pair of trail shoes to help with traction and stability. If they come in 9 N put me in the "running."

Jessica said...

Alright, I would love to get in on the free shoe action!
I would love a free pair of Xodus trail running shoes BECAUSE of the craziest thing(s) that happen to me out on the trails... and that is - I fall down. A lot. I'm known in some circles as "the girl who falls down when she runs." No one is surprised anymore - mostly people just laugh. And they should - falling down is funny. Especially since I'm usually okay (no major injuries - just lots of scrapes and bruises.)
I fell doing the Rodeo beach race with PC Trail Runs; I was only about halfway through the run, and stumbled on some gravel on a steep downhill. By the time I stopped moving, I was on my back, head downhill, in some bushes at the side of the trail. I was bleeding from my hands and knees... but didn't have much choice other than to finish the run.
I had a party to attend that evening, and had to explain my dramatically bandaged hands and wrists to quite a few people...
I always run (on any surface) in road running shoes, because I don't have any trail shoes. But I do a fair amount of trail running... maybe with the awesome Xodus soles, I would have fewer scrapes and bruises.
Thanks for your race reports! I often read them - even when I just finished the same race!
Jessica Franklin
San Francisco, CA

Sunshine Girl said...

Hiya Dave!

Really, as a girl who spends a whole heckuva' lot of time on the trails, I have a LOT of good stories. Here's the tale of Leslie and the Grizzly Bear(s):

Myself, 4 friends and a Norwegian Elkhound had spent an awesome afternoon enjoying a long run 27km of prime Banff National Park singletrack. It was a gorgeous summer day. We had been on our feet about 4 hours and were starting to get tired, when I was surprised to see my friend Don running up the trail towards me. I said "Hey Don, What's Up?!?"
Now Don is a city dude, so I will forgive him for his moment of stupidity but he is EXCITED and shows me the screen of his digital camera. The money shot is a photo of an immense Grizzly bear. I ask him where he saw this bear and he replies, "Just around the corner about 100 yards away." Well. We run back up the trail to regroup with the others and decide that we don't have much choice but to go forward. The bush is really thick and the other option is running the 25km backwards. Not going to happen. So, we get out our bear spray and start walking down the trail hootin' and hollerin' and making all sorts of noise. We round the corner when we see THEM. The first thing we see is one cute little fuzzy bear. Then another cute little fuzzy bear. And then Momma. She's the biggest bear I've ever seen up close. And she's unhappy. She looks at us, swaggers back and forth, sniffs the air and then she STANDS UP. If you've ever wondered what a G-Bear looks like standing up...I can tell you this:


We retreat as she walks towards us and I hear myself saying "Nobody run...we're talking to the bear. Hey Bear! Happy bear! We're backing up. Slowly. Nobody run." It's ridiculous and terrifying simultaneously, but we round a corner and she finally stops. We are left shaking and quaking.

We back up the trail and take a trail side break of 30 minutes to hyperventilate and regroup and then we decide to try AGAIN. More noise. Bear spray out. We are literally trembling in our trail runners. At this point, I am banging my hiking poles together and have my bear spray out when IT happens.

I accidently hit the trigger on the bear spray, which EXPLODES pepper spray down my leg, which surprises me so badly that I SCREAM at the top of my lungs like a crazed woman!!

It's chaos and mayhem when the group realizes that I haven't been mauled by a grizzly bear, but we are currently inhaling bear spray and it is rapidly blinding and suffocating us.

We stagger down the trail in a cloud of bear spray, unable to speak because we have lost our voices from inhaling the bear spray. We are coughing and sputtering and weeping and there is a lot of mucus going on. Then the Norwegian Elkhound lets out a croaky bark.

We look down the trail when we see it. Another bear. Only this guy is black and smaller and it's not Mama G, but it has stil scared us. Fortunately, it runs away when it sees our group. Then we notice a group of people further down the trail and they are looking at us really funny. We are still unable to talk and we're still shaking and my buddy is carrying a large LOG (to protect himself?!) We look ridiculous. I try to explain that we saw a bear and they say "Yeah we saw the bear too" but we have really lost our voices now and try to tell them: "NO, there's ANOTHER bear" They can't understand us and give us a polite nod and wink and head up on the trail, looking over their shoulder at us as they walk.

We shrug, round the corner and are THRILLED to see the trail end, the parking lot and the car waiting for us after the longest run EVER. I take off my tights which are covered in bear spray and end up wearing a blanket for the drive home. My husband is a little bewildered when I arrive home and asks: "What happenned?"

NOTE: I couldn't even make that story up if I tried.

Sunshine Girl said...

It's a good story, yes?

Leslie of Banff

David Ray said...

Great story from Leslie. I would love for the shoes to be made in a size 16. I've got two choices currently for trail shoes. A New Balance and an Asics. I'm guessing it's not a "large" market. :)

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

I haven't tried those soles yet.

Last year's Rio del Lago, about mile 78, on the south shore of Lake Natoma. My light recently turned on. I came suddenly upon a furry critter on the single track. Coming closer, I saw the white stripe. A skunk!

I backed off, but not too much--I needed to pass. I was hoping it would run to the side, but instead it heading in the same direction as I was.

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Soon enough, I was on a wild skunk chase.

The skunk, unfortunately was holding a pace about 2-3 minutes per mile slower than I was intending. But what was I to do? Try to jump over it? Thoughts of how being sprayed would affect the remaining fifth of my race bounced around my head. This went on for about 2 miles.

Finally, having enough, it veered left toward the lake. Luckily, no one had caught up with me. I picked up my pace to make up for the lost time. Less than half a mile later, I think I ran into his or her cousin (no kidding!)

Double skunked!

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

(Sorry, but I decided to break up the story because my younger son already clicked my keyboard and made me lose most of the story.)

True story, mind you.

Mark Tanaka
Castro Valley, California