Vibram and Vivobarefoot are probably the two biggest brands designed specifically for the barefoot runner, while other industry giants may have dabbled, these two are first and foremost barefoot brands.
In my experience, I’ve always found that those who train in barefoot or minimalist shoes, tend to like to tell you about it. They’ll scoff at your padding and wiggle their toes until they go blue in the face, but why are people so enthusiastic about being barefoot? Should we all be ditching the padding and reverting to a barefoot style shoe. It seems like in a world where technology is constantly advancing, the fitness industry is constantly trying to rewind history, first with the Paleo diet and now barefoot shoes!
Vibram vs Vivobarefoot
As a twenty-something female, when it comes to trainers, as much as I want function, I’m in it for the aesthetics. I want to look good in my trainers and wear them as casualwear as well as whilst I’m training. I would not wear either of these trainers as casualwear. Make no mistake, neither barefoot trainer blends into your workout wardrobe. They stand out. They create a reaction. People will stare. People will ask, are you prepared to answer? Once you’ve tried them, I bet you will be.
5 Finger KSO Evo
Sole: The hugging sole of the Vibrams is less than 5mm (so very very thin). The soles are made with the XS TREK technology that is said to provide traction, stability, comfort and durability. Although they are barely existent. The soles do feel like you are directly on the floor and I think combined with the fact you have no socks on, you’ll feel bare.
Lacing: The shoe fastens with a speed lace system, which features a toggle fastening. I rate the lacing system on these. It’s quick and easy and stays really secure. I often have to stop and re- adjust my laces, so this was a real bonus. The lace allows plenty of adjustment as well meaning it's suitable for both a wide and narrower foot.
The toes: This is where I struggled. The Vibram is designed with individual toes to mimic being barefoot as closely as possible, allowing each toe to grip individually and strengthen the toes. The difficulty here is that people’s toes are rather different. Some people have a longer second toe, some people have toes which decrease in size as they move down the foot and some people's toes just have a mind of their own. The toe sockets on the Vibram have the first and second toes as equal and then decrease in size. For me, this was no good, I have small toes and they didn’t manage to fill the sockets, leaving the empty space at the end which was annoying as well as uncomfortable.
The Vivobarefoot Stealth has a very flat sole, whereas the Vibram contours around your foot, the Vivobarefoot sits completely smooth against the ground. The trainers are very flexible and very lightweight. The toe box is really wide allowing plenty of room for your toes to wiggle about, but with this shoe they can do so whilst snug together in one box. The upper is seamless with the Vivobarefoots signature hexagon laminate upper, which allows breathability and endurance in one, plus it looks cool. I feel more protected in these than the five fingers, whilst remaining grounded.
When transitioning from a regular trainer to a barefoot running shoe, runners often experience pain. Why? It’s something other than what they're used to. Barefoot running requires different strengths and therefore both barefoot designers recommend a transitional period, starting with running short distances in their shoes while your muscles become accustomed to the new style.
Running in the Vibrams feels cool, granted I’ve only run for shorter distances so far, which is what is recommended as you transition, but I felt lighter, despite the lack of cushioning, I felt bouncier. Why’s this? Barefoot running forces you to run with better posture, landing on the front of your foot. Running over fields and other debris is fine as the sole of the shoe still has you covered. My path was reasonably clear but a few bits of rubble didn’t put me off, you can feel it, but it’s not painful.
Running in the Vivobarefoots felt equally as lightweight as the five fingers, but somehow a bit more protected. I think this is due to their design being more similar to what I’m used to, just having the comfort of all my toes working together, for me, was better. The wide toe box allows your forefoot to lead the way comfortably, whilst the tongue and laces ensure your foot isn’t slipping forward in the shoe. I also trained legs in these and found I could lift heavier and jump higher, being able to push off my heels rather than push into the cushioning of a regular trainer.
Both trainers are designed to be multi-purpose, I see coverts wearing Vibrams 24/7, not just for their gym session but for their daily food shop. Equally Vivobarefoot have a range of casual footwear for every occasion, with their barefoot sole design.
Vibram 5 Fingers
Heel to Toe Drop
Speed lace and toggle
£60 - 95
£50 - £90
Whilst both trainers put in a good performance on a barefoot run, personally I prefer my toes being together, call me old fashioned, but for me, this makes the Vivostealth my winner.
For anyone new to running in a minimalist shoe, I would recommend reading up on the benefits of barefoot running. Either of these shoes would be good to support your transition when changing to a barefoot running style, I would argue that there is no clear winner and your decision is going to be down to personal preference and finding which trainer has the best fit for your feet.
Minimalist Running Shoes
Sales of minimalist running shoes have grown into a $1.7 billion industry in the US. Sales of minimalist running shoes grew from $450,000 in 2006 to $59 million in 2012, and grew 303% from November 2010 through November 2012, compared to a 19% increase in the overall sales of running shoes during the same time period. In the summer of 2012, both Vibram and Adidas were sued in the United States regarding allegations of deceptive claims of increased training efficiency, foot strength, and decreased risk of injury resulting from use of their minimalist running shoes. These lawsuits follow on the heels of recent settlements by Skechers and Reebok with the Federal Trade Commission over claims that their barefoot shoes strengthen the body in ways no shoes ever had before.
Was that lap 31 or 32? Now with the Poolmate Two, you don’t have to worry.
Introducing the Poolmate 2, the perfect partner for any swimmer. This watch lives up to it’s name and then some, anywhere there’s water this watch will count your laps.
The watch itself is slender and fits snugly around even small wrists, the design is simple and effective allowing a secure and comfortable fit with a classic sports watch look. The blue band reminds me of old school swimming pool locker keys, (you know the ones some people pop around their ankle) I wonder if this was the purpose in its design?
The four simple buttons are easy to spot and press even when you are tired, slippery and wet. The buttons themselves aren’t waterproof, so it’s recommended you lift your wrist out of the water to use them, but I found I was doing that automatically anyway.
The Poolmate 2 is the new improved version of the original Poolmate with additional features such as speed and open water swim tracking. For those of you who are new to the Swimovate Poolmate watches, they offer tracking of laps, strokes, distance, speed, efficiency, duration, sets, rest time and calories burned.
The battery life of the Poolmate 2 is said to be extended from is predecessor and can now last up to 2 years. So I’ll keep you posted in 2018.
In the Pool
Setting up and using the Poolmate. The Poolmate setup is simple, strap up, select your pool size by pressing the up and down key and then push start. Once you're off you can then press up and down to view your stats in real time, push to pause and record drills (up to 99). Once your workouts over the latest stats are viewable with just one press, but also stored in your log for later viewing, making it easy to compare your progress over the last few sessions. Here you can also see your swim efficiency score, which has results that are explained in the watch manual.
To swim open water, you’ll first need to go for a calibration swim. This is a swim where the distance is already known. From this the watch can then make a distance prediction, like an in water pedometer, as to how far you’ve traveled. For more accurate tracking you’ll need a GPS sensor, but for the RRP of £70 this is a very useful feature for those brave enough to conquer a sea swim.
Out of water training
Out of water you can use the watch as a 99-lap stopwatch, so it’s great for sprint training and particularly triathletes, who have to switch between the two disciplines.
Up to 50 workouts
I can see why the call it Poolmate, this will be any swimmers new best friend.
Read more of our wearable reviews here.
Remember when you hurt yourself when you were younger and your mum would run to the medical cabinet, pull out a disney plaster (one of those ones that costs 3 times as much as a regular plaster) and just like magic you wouldn’t be hurt anymore?
Well, this is what I pictured would happen when I tried Kinesio tape.
What is Kinesio tape?
Kinesio taping is a form of taping muscles for rehabilitation defined by the sire as being able to: “facilitate the body’s natural healing process while providing support and stability to muscles and joints without restricting the body’s range of motion as well as providing extended soft tissue manipulation to prolong the benefits of manual therapy administered within the clinical setting” - at least, according to their website.
What does Kinesio tape do?
The Kinesio site is filled with explanations of how this magic tape does it’s job, which in layman's terms, translates to the following:
By lifting the skin the tape aids with lymphatic drainage and reduces inflammation. The tape can be applied in hundreds of different ways and claims to have the ability to re-educate our neuromuscular system, reduce pain and inflammation, optimise performance, prevent injury, promote good circulation and healing and assist in returning the body to homeostasis ie. normal.
Dr. Kenzo Kase developed the Kinesio Taping Method in the 1970s whilst looking for a way to aid the body’s natural healing process and prolong the benefits of his treatments, after his patients left the office. He worked as a chiropractor in Tokyo and founded the tape in 1980. In interviews he has insinuated that the tape became more popular in Tokyo as there they are more open to alternative medicine such as massage and acupuncture. Since it became readily available to buy in 1983, the tape’s popularity has grown from strength to strength, with tape being used to support the olympics, by sports celebrities such as Gareth Bale, David Beckham and Claire Steels and a Kinesio University has even been opened.
A little research
If you try to find research around Kinesio taping, you’ll go one of two ways, there is no sitting on the fence here. Either you think that there is not a significant enough amount of research supporting the tape and it is just another fitness fad, or you think Kinesio tape is a fitness fix and wear the tape without fail over tired, injured muscles or muscles at risk to prevent damage and support your sport.
Here are some of the studies which have been conducted:
Two studies on Kinesio Tex showed some short-term effect. A study of 42 patients with shoulder pain, published in 2008 in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, found that range of motion improved immediately after application of kinesiology tape, compared with a sham taping using no tension. But the study found no significant difference in pain or overall disability scores.
A study on 41 patients with whiplash after car accidents found statistically significant pain relief and improvements in range of motion with kinesiology taping compared with a sham tape. The effects were seen immediately and continued a day later. In the paper, the Spanish-led research team said the changes were so small they "may not be clinically meaningful." Kinesio Holding, which didn't fund either study, said a limitation of the shoulder study is that the kinesiology taping wasn't customised to each patient's injury.
As studied are few and far between, it is hard to be conclusive purely based upon scientific evidence.
As with anything that gains a bit of momentum, there are many copycats of the Kinesio tape, however the original tape has distinctive features which make it easy to spot a fake.
The Kinesio Tex tape is designed to mimic the epidermis of the skin, with the same thickness in the aim to attach to your skin causing as little distraction as possible. The tapes fibers are designed to stretch between 40-60% of their resting length, which is the approximate stretch potential of areas of your skin such as the knee and lower back.
The adhesive strips on the tape are created in wave patterns to mimic fingerprints. The tape is porous and waterproof, designed to be gentle on the skin and remain breathable at all times.
The tape can be applied in a variety of ways to aid rehabilitation, once applied the tape lasts between 2 - 3 days depending on the affected area.
Kinesio regularly host courses on how to apply the tape and it is recommended you attend a course before applying the tape, however it is not seen as essential and there are plenty of helpful videos and guides available online.
Putting Kinesio tape to the test
Last month was father’s day. Father’s day in my house means a family run. Joy. So my dad, the marathon runner, my sister, the school sprinter and myself, the weight lifter, set off on our run, I wonder who the weakest link is? I kept up for the first half, until on a downhill mini sprint to attempt to keep up with the others, I gloriously toppled over and had to hobble back to the road for a lift home. It’s been a beauty of an injury, sitting just above the ankle I found myself a high ankle sprain. I’d just started running daily, that stopped. I went on holiday wearing a support. Let me tell you, it has been bleak. It has now been five weeks of resting, exercising around the injury and icing when possible. So when I discovered Kinesio tape, I was praying it was going to be the adult alternative to one of those magic disney plasters.
Last week I received my Kinesio tape and I’ve been looking forward to reviewing it it ever since. I am a sceptical person, so following my online research I decided to take the approach of ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’. I’ll be the first to admit I’m desperate to get back to training normally and yes, I am looking (hoping and praying) for a miracle. Has the Kinesio tape given me one? Well, a miracle maybe not, but, I do feel better for wearing it.
Firstly, the tape is easy to apply and stays on easily for two days, including multiple showers. In fact, the only reason I actually pulled my first tape off was to check for tan lines, shameless. The tape sits comfortably and is easy to forget about.
Things the tape is good for:
Support: I swapped my tubigrip for kinesio tape for most of the day where I’m not putting any extra stress on my ankle and it felt really supported. It was far more comfortable to have on than a thick tubigrip between my foot and my trainer and still felt like it was holding my foot in place. However, I’m still far from being able to run, so no miracle cure.
Inflammation: For the last five weeks I have had a cankle. My ankle has stayed swollen despite ice pretty much from day one, when you compare the two side by side, one is at least a third bigger than the other. After applying the Kinesio taping the inflammation has reduced considerably and the ankle actually looks - as well as feels, less swollen.
Range of movement: Since the nurse confirmed my suspicion that I’d damaged the tendons in my ankle, I’ve been avoiding moving my ankle too much where possible. When the tape is applied, gentle movement of the ankle is far less painful, which is a benefit of the tape.
Pain relief: Another function of the tape was said to be pain relief. When I wake up in the morning and first apply the tape, I do feel a great sense of relief, but as the day goes on the aches gradually increase. Now, arguably this could simply be the toll of my daily activity, but the pain relief from the tape does seem to be initially quite significant and then slowly subside.
Overall, I think for me, the Kinesio tape has been a hit and after a week wearing it I will continue to do so. I think that proper application is critical to how well the tape works and that to get the most of the tape it really would be worth investing in going on one of their courses, something I would love to do in the future.
Am I going to give you a conclusive yes no answer as to whether the tape works or not? Of course not. For me personally, I felt better with it, be that a placebo effect or otherwise. Taping has been used to aid recovery by physiotherapists for years and whether there’s enough research to support it or not, if an athlete feels better prepared by wearing the tape, where’s the harm in that?
Every step you take. Every move you make. I’ll be watching you.
If you haven’t tracked your run, does it even count?
What started as written logs and spreadsheets in the 1980’s has now become a band logging up hours on your wrist even when you're sleeping with live updates, 24/7 feedback and an industry that’s set to be worth 19 billion by 2018.
Why are we addicted to fitness trackers?
Fail to plan, plan to fail
Fitness trackers help you to put a plan into place. They give your walk meaning and they help to create a routine which adjusts to fit your daily activity. Fitness trackers give you a fantastic insight into where your fitness is at and where it should be going.
Fitness trackers give your workout accountability. Every activity will be there for you to view via the app and some trackers even share directly with your social media, so everyone knows what you’ve been getting up to. Fitness trackers also mean you can’t cheat yourself, what can’t speak can’t lie and so if you feel like you’ve been on the go all day but only completed 5000 steps and 10 minutes of exercise, your tracker will remind you it’s all in your head and you need to get moving.
The leading benefit of tracking your steps, distance, sleep, calories and heart rate amongst other measures is to keep you motivated to do more. Whether it’s to earn a Fitbit gold star or score higher than your friends on Nike Plus, fitness trackers enable that extra incentive that gets you moving more, eating healthier and going to bed earlier. Putting numerative data on your movement means you’re able to see progress and adjust your activities accordingly. Seeing is believing.
Before you reach to the biccy tin, knowing you're going to have to log your food intake and that biscuit might ruin your calories in vs calories out balance can lead to healthier habits. For those with destructive eating or exercise cycles, it also puts a physical break in the cycle by having to manually enter into a tracker what you are about to eat, or press go to begin monitoring exercise.
We copy our friends
In most social circles, they’ll be one character that’s the trendsetter and the rest will follow. There’s a metaphorical shepherd and sheep. Once one pal decides to strap up, the rest of the gang follow, adding each other and comparing who exercises the most and eats the healthiest. As with most things, nobody likes to be left out, so once one person starts a trend the others will join, motivating one another to become a more active group.
Those with a competitive streak love a fitness tracker, why? Because even if they’re not competing against their friends, they can compete against themselves. Quantifying your fitness makes it easy to monitor progress and up your game when needed. The better you are, the more bragging rights you earn and you’ll have the data to back up your brag.
The pro’s of fitness trackers in numbers (because we know people wearing trackers like numbers)
Fitbit users walk 43% more than non fitbit users.
13.5 million health and fitness trackers (HFTs) were sold in 2014 and the numbers are shooting up every year.
Currently around one in seven (14%) Brits own any wearable technology.
Fitbit (the largest wearable company) has 9.5 million active users.
Employees equipped with wearable technology reported a 8.5% increase in productivity and a 3.5% increase in job satisfaction.
Most people who use wearable tech are young; 48% are between 18 and 34.
Growth in the wearables market is expected to increase 35% by 2019.
Fitness trackers research
We were once warned “don’t let the scales run your life” but now it’s basically attached to your wrist, there’s really no running from it.
And they seem to be doing their job, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The study looked into the lives of 51 overweight, postmenopausal women and found that those who wore a fitness tracker exercised for 38 minutes more weekly than those who just used pedometers.
But, the research isn’t always supporting fitness trackers, in fact an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that strapping up with a fitness band won’t actually make you any fitter, despite making people more aware of their fitness habits.
Research also suggests that the relationship we have with fitness bands may be more of a fling with fitness. A US survey of 6223 adults found that one in 10 people own a fitness tracker, but more than half admitted to no longer using it, and a third of those stopped using it within six months.
Activity readings for fitness trackers can vary by up to 25% for the same amount of exercise according to research, meaning that the research could not be taken seriously for any medical purposes.
Pricier isn’t always better: Lowa State University in the US analysed eight different fitness trackers and found that the cheaper models often had lower error ratings.
Are trackers our fitness handcuffs?
The problem with fitness trackers, comes with the obsession over numbers which aren’t particularly accurate, which can then rather ironically lead to some unhealthy habits. Is it good for your mental health to be obsessing over calories and steps every waking hour?
Picture the scenario: Person A is very tired, but has only walked 9823 steps, so, before bed they walk the remaining 177 steps pacing around and around their living room. Now person A is exhausted, they know they had a poor night's sleep last night, their tracker said so and so they’ve been walking around like a zombie all day and now lie in bed, worrying that they won’t get a good night's sleep tonight either. Would they have had more energy had their attention not been drawn to the lack of sleep? Would they be falling asleep easier if they weren't so worried about it? Are those extra 177 steps really going to make the blind bit of difference?
The same can happen for a high heart rate – the moment you know you have a high heart rate, you suddenly start wondering what’s wrong with you and this can ironically even have the effect of increasing your heart rate even further!
Person A has headed to the gym now and is ready for a session, they’ve had little sleep and they ache all over, but they’ve got to burn another 500 calories according to their watch. Person A spends their entire workout staring at their wrist to check they’re performing correctly. Don’t see an issue here? Whilst person A has spent so much time focused on the watch, they may have forgotten to listen to the best fitness tracker going, your body! Sometimes your heart rate may not be high on your tracker, but if your muscles ache and your body is willing you to stop, maybe it’s time to listen.
Person A is an extreme case, but it does highlight the risk of over reliance on fitness trackers.
We need to appreciate exercise for it’s health and wellness benefits to the mind, body and soul instead of just acknowledging the numbers on our wrists.
All good things come to an end. And unfortunately that included my original Huub Archimedes. Well to be fair, I could have used it for another year or maybe even longer but it was Christmas and I thought time to treat myself. My original Archimedes has been through half a dozen triathlons but mostly a fair amount of sea swimming. And to get to the sea where I live you need to squeeze through brambles. And brambles and neoprene are not friends.
Climbing through brambles is one way to shorten the life expectancy of your wetsuit.
Being an early adopter I treated myself to the original Archimedes when they were first out. Especially when I learnt was going to be wearing the same size as the Brownlee Brothers. But that is where the similarities between the Brownlees and myself end. Huub wetsuits come in all sorts of size variations so you can really get the best fit for your frame. Thin and long please!
I hadn’t actually tried on the Archimedes II until yesterday. Yes. That is 6 months in a box. But it has been a cold start to the year. Busy with work. New Baby. Etc, etc. Anyway. I have now jumped into the sea for the first time this year to test the Archimedes II.
When I put my first leg into the suite I though.. Uh oh. Wrong size. But there is a lot more size in the foot / ankle. A big welcome. It is especially hard putting on a wetsuit when you are standing in the cold at the side of a lake balancing on one leg. For me I wear the wetsuit fairly high up my leg and the extra space in the leg is a definate improvement. I haven’t tested time to remove the wetsuit yet but I am sure this will help kick the wetsuit off when in a hurry. I have seen the Brownlee Brothers removing the lower half of the wetsuit with just their legs, kicking it off at the end whiles simultaneously putting their helmet on. And I am sure that comes with plenty of practice. But when you are spending a big chunk of cash on a second skin kicking it off may not be for you. When I remove my wetsuit it is more of a slow peel rather than a big kick. But I have never won a triathlon and my T1 creeps close to 5 minutes.
Where I typically swim it is in the Thames Estuary. If you are lucky the water is as calm as a lake. Very strong current in one direction. But when it is nice and calm the jet skis are out and since last year when a jet ski towing a water skier almost took my head off I swim with a bright orange swim buoy. I couldn’t recommend one of these enough. You can put valuables inside. They will let people spot you when there is no chance of seeing you.
For example, the following photo I am about half a kilometer away. All you can see if the swim buoy. If it is wavy then there is even less chance of spotting a swimmer. Not to mention the swim buoy will actually keep you afloat if required.
Anyway, back to the Huub Review.
As I have only swum once in the new wetsuit I haven’t had the time to practice speedy exits out the water making the most of the quick release zip. The zipper at the back if you didn’t know uses their breakaway technology. So you can pull up with the cord and the entire back opens. This is great for getting it off in a hurry. When it is not great is when you are solo putting on your wetsuit and you pull the cord up too hard and have to take everything off to re-thread the zip and start again. A bit of practice will teach you just how far you need to do things up.
My first swim in the Archimedes II was amazing. This truly is like a second skin in the water. Apart for a little hit of cold down my spine the fit, comfort and flexibility are perfect. Some wetsuits when you put them on a give your shoulders the helicopter warm-up that triathletes love to do there is absolutely no restriction in the movement. And that is most of what happens when swimming. If your shoulders feel tight you will tire unnaturally.
There is definitely an improvement in flexibility and reading on Huub there are reasons behind it. Some of the updates from the original Archimedes include:
The Archimedes // has a 25% reduction in the neoprene thickness of the panels around the side, the back and shoulders, utilising 1mm Cholorprene foam and the most flexible lining materials available delivering less effort for more stretch.
The X-O Skeleton delivers structure and control to reduce snaking, power loss and directional waste by gripping and holding the pelvis and hips.
Calf Release and Bicep Release
The Calf Release has been increased in volume by 25%, giving the calf more coverage of the lower modulus with non-restrictive super thin nylon. The thickness was reduced to below 1mm to ensure natural calf movement; this improves kick by lack of restriction and significantly reduces the risk of cramping during swim and transition.
The Bicep Release has an improved modulus to further enhance the panel’s ability to create a natural flexed recovery arm and efficient arm flex for the catch.
Low Neck Line
Changes in stitching patterns and the reduction in neoprene thickness of not only the back but the shoulder and side panels from 2mm to 1.5mm and a complete redesign in the underarm gusset.
Increase in branding. And even a logo on the inside so when you have it pulled down to your waist Huub is on show. Nice.
If you are buying into Huub for the first time then you can look forward to swimming with total comfort. In the sea with the added buoyancy from the salt water plus a little extra from the suite give a true weightless feel about it.
Buy the Huub Archimedes II from https://huubdesign.com/products/huub-archimedes-2-triathlon-wetsuit
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