Friday, April 29, 2011

Sole and Strap Updates

Sandal with "nubby" vibram sole and blue tubular webbing.

Nick and I constantly experiment with different types of webbing strap and Vibram soles. The 6mm Vibram "nubby" gumlite sole, featured above, weighs much less than rubber and has an absorbing bounce that treats the foot nicely. The "nubby" begins to shape to the foot after a couple runs/walks and feels like a second skin. Vibram designed the sole material to shed oily liquids and we've found this really increases grip on wet trail runs. The "nubby" is a definite winner and we'll continue to make sandals with this sole. Next week we'll be testing a thicker sole pattern (8mm and 11mm) for sandals with a hiking/walking focus.

Now onto the webbing strap front. We are continuously searching for a strap that is thin enough to work well through our buckle while being soft enough to keep our feet blister free. We got the soft part down with the thicker tubular webbing we got in this week from REI. As soon as the webbing arrived, Nick and I feverishly built ourselves new sandals and took to the streets. Damn it felt good. The soft webbing felt supple on the foot and after a couple hours of running - nothing even close to a blister warning sign. After the run, Nick kept his sandals on for a couple hours in our house because they're that comfy.

Nick burning webbing to create a long lasting thong strap hold underneath the sole.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Testing, Testing, Testing.

After a test beach run, getting wet.

Over the past week I've been testing out a new sandal that I fashioned. On a hot lead from Nick, I bought 10 feet of really minimalist "chaco" style climbing webbing from a local shop. I used this in replace of the more heavy duty blue tubular webbing on our last pair. Also instead of using red ripcord for the ankle straps I used the black climbing webbing. In order to build these new ankle straps I needed to learn how to sew! Of course I headed straight to youtube to edumacate myself. Several needle pricks and botched knots later I haggardly assembled the first pair. I created two loops with the webbing and sewed them into place on the sides. Ultimately we want to use a sewing machine to sew these ankle side loops together but for now we're stuck with my clumsiness.

View of ankle webbing loop from above.


I've been wearing these sandals around non stop for the last week during runs, walks, and hikes. In short I'm giddy about how they feel during runs. Our buckle system makes it super easy to adjust thong and ankle tightness. Once adjusted I lock the tightness in place by looping our strap back through the buckle, syncing it shut. The sandals have stayed on my feet well during sprints in the redwoods and long runs through oncoming beach waves. Even when tight on the foot the plastic buckle doesn't chafe the foot because of the webbing layer separating the two. Look for a video soon of me buckling up the sandals before a run.

View from above.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Late Night Stencil Experiment

While having some late night Sandal Inspiration, I started pulling on some old art skills from High school. Hence our First Sandal Logo was born. I started working on a stencil to place onto our sandals and then found a can of primer in our garage. Then we went for it! Deciding to place the logo on the arch of the sandal for the least amount of ware.

While all of this was happening, Dan was being enthusiastic with our out of the box thinking habits. And now you can turn our sandals into Elbow Pads, just in case you are in that super tight spot in the wilderness.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

From Bunions to Barefoot

Eight years ago I began seeing a podiatrist about foot pain. "Your foot shape lends itself to over pronation and bunion development. Slap these custom made orthotics in your Merrells and things should shape up." Well in short they didn't. My bunion pain began to increase and felt raw and sore after any long walks and runs. In retrospect I imagine I put my feet through the perfect hell. A narrow rigid shoe coupled with a big heel and oppressive arch support.

My KSO Treks after months of wear.

Flash forward to the end of my college career. At this point I had given up on my feet and resigned myself to getting corrective foot surgery later on in life. Running and long walks left me in serious bunion and arch misery. Fortuitously my college roommate, Foster, inspired me to make some necessarily large changes in my footwear. During the '10 winter, Foster began to experiment with five fingers . Throughout the entire winter and spring he literally couldn't and wouldn't stop evangelizing them.

"Dude you should really read this book Born To Run." I probably heard that multiple times a week.

Before he was "Born to Run" Foster, like myself, hated running. To us running was a painful activity geared for the psychotic. We'd rather go down to Maine's beaches and freeze our faces off surfing in 35 degree water. Unlike running, surfing didn't hurt our feet and knees - only our exposed skin as we dove below the waves. But hey, atleast a brain freeze only lasts a few seconds.

Considering Foster and I were attached at the hip five fingers and barefoot running quickly became a part of my life through osmosis. A rather annoying part too. Telling me that running/walking barefoot could help my feet was like telling a catholic school girl god didn't exist. Orthotics and arch support reigned king in my mind. How the hell could removing arch support actually build arches? How could the doctors I trusted know less about foot health than some yahoos on youtube running barefoot? Conceptually it didn't make any sense.

Our latest sandal with a thinner webbing strap. I've been testing it against all the gnar Nor Cal trails have to offer.

Throughout that spring Foster continued to run around in five fingers - loving every mile. It was an incredible transformation to witness. Essentially a change in footwear enabled Foster to passionately love something he once hated. In the summer I finally jumped off a podiatric cliff and ordered KSO Trek Five Fingers. At the time I realized a massive change in my footwear might be the massive catalyst I needed to fix my feet. For 4 months I wore my five fingers constantly while walking and trekking. Immediately I loved how my feet felt. My bunions stopped hurting entirely. Although they still protruded they became like any other part of my foot. The KSO Treks allowed me to walk "barefoot" while still protecting the skin on my feet. Over the next 4 months I only walked in my five fingers - I waited to run until my feet and body adjusted. I most likely didn't need to wait that long but the idea of running for enjoyment still puzzled me.

I moved out to California and took to the beach. At first I ran the beaches in five fingers and gradually shifted to "Raw dogging" aka barefooting. I soon realized that running could be a blast. Barefoot running forced me to completely change my running style. Without any shoe support, striking the ground heel first hurts. It hurts enough to make you improvise and strike with the side/front of your foot. That motion will in turn decrease the amount of impact on your body because the calf muscle absorbs it. In other words no more foot and knee pain.

As I got into running I got inspired by another friend experimenting with running sandals. A few months ago Nick, my fellow geology enthusiast, ordered a pair of Do It Yourself (DIY) Luna Sandals.

"Barefoot Ted just called me!"

Barefoot Ted called Nick and gave him some advice about Vibram soles, huarache sandal lacing, and his DIY kit. Ever since then we've been tinkering with different types of Vibram soles, tying methods, and tying materials. Our goal is to build running sandals that both adjust and tie easily while retaining tightness on gnarly wet pacific northwest trail runs. We also want running sandals that serve equally well for walking/trekking.

A picture of my feet in our sandals.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

New Buckle Design

Nick and I had an "ahah" moment last night when we realized our buckle was in the wrong place on our sandal. Originally we placed our strap buckle at the ankle and looped the webbing back across itself. It looked good but didn't fix the ankle strap properly or allow for easy on-the-go adjustments. It became difficult to fix the position of the ankle loop on the top of the foot. As we ran the front of our ankle loop slowly drooped down towards the toes.

Sandals with OLD buckle placement

After some tinkering we realized that moving the position of the buckle on the webbing itself could fix our problem and make the sandal even easier to adjust. We shifted the buckle down below the ankle strap and onto the thong. This allows us to weave our single piece of webbing through the buckle twice and create two distinctly separate adjustments zones.

Sandals with NEW buckle placement

We can now separately adjust ankle and thong tightness. Nick is taking these sandals along on a bike trip through Colorado and Utah. I'm excited to hear about his test runs with these. We're also waiting on some thinner, less heavy duty webbing which we think will be softer on the foot. Next week we'll replace the red loop strap with webbing too. Look for a video soon showing how the sandal works.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A picture of an early morning modification. I added a small loop to hold our webbing cross strap in place.