I’ve been running in my Inov 8 X-Talon 212s for about 6 months now. My mileage isn’t high at around 20 miles a week and I run mainly on Pennine moorland, so plenty of peat, plenty of mixed trail and a good deal of rocky stuff (millstone grit). I have to say that I loved these shoes from the first moment I tried them on in a Glasgow running shop. They are fantastically light and snug, they feel secure and grippy on most surfaces (wet roads and rocks included) and, though a neutral shoe, they have enough cushioning underneath to be pleasantly comfortable. The lugs have worn a fair bit in that time, something I expected, given the soft, sticky rubber compound on the sole. I have contributed to this wear by running on roads and other unsuitable surfaces.
I have only one issue with them: they are narrow and the broadest part of my feet is exposed in that spot where bunions occur. On particularly rocky ground I have found that they offer little protection from sharp rocks that clip the overhanging bone there. This can be extremely painful. Otherwise though, these are a fantastic shoe…I’d fancy a similar pair with more of a road going sole.
Instead of that I found myself visiting SportsShoes.com in Bradford….a cheap running shoe specialist outlet. I went to get my son some Vivo barefoot shoes that I’d seen advertised at a bargain price. I’ve seen his form deteriorate since I got him cushioned sole shoes instead of footie trainers with thin plastic soles and I want to get him back to running more naturally again before it gets too late. He now loves the Vivos.
Whilst in the shop I saw the Vivo Barefoot Neo Trail and fell, I’ll be honest, for the way they look. They appeared very roomy at the front end for my broad feet and had quite an aggressive lugged sole. I tried them on in the shop along with some Inov 8 Mudclaws and the new Salomon S Labs. Despite feeling obviously harder than the two fell shoes, something about the Vivos felt right. I decided to go for them, thinking that my months of running in neutral and light X Talons would have sufficiently prepared me for barefoot running.
I was wrong. I wore the Vivos casually for just one day. I felt absolutely great in them. The following day I was due to run in the Windmills Whizz fell race on the moors above Halifax. I opted for the Inov 8s for the race as it’s a 7 mile course featuring a good deal of pretty hard and rough ground. I was in good shape, having run the course in about 53 minutes the week before at a canter. I reasoned that sub-50 would be well within my grasp.
Half way up the first 400 foot climb I felt my calf tighten. It’s true that I was climbing more quickly than on a training run but this is something I haven’t suffered from for a long while. I decided to slow to an easy pace to try and ease the tightness away…I even walked ten paces or so at one stage. I made it to the top of the climb but decided to retire as the tightness persisted….not painfully but I took it as a warning. Discretion being the better part of valor I opted not to be caught with a torn calf three miles from the start/finish.
I returned to the finish in time to see Tom Adams narrowly fail to beat the course record. He was still clearly in great form though and a time close to 37 minutes is really going some considering the very windy conditions.
The following day I had no ill effects so went for a gentle aerobic run in the Vivos. In fact I’ve run in them about 3 times since and I have very definitely suffered a degree of muscle soreness. Adapting to the Vivo Barefoot shoes is clearly going to take some time.
Because of the harder than usual feedback through the tough but flexible rubber sole, there is the temptation to over-do running on the forefoot. I think this is at the root of the soreness. However, the zero drop from heel to toe clearly has stretched my achilles and calf even when walking in the shoes during the day (I’ve scarcely had them off).
I think I’ll be reverting to the Inov 8s and running on a soft peaty surface for my next few runs but once I have adapted physically, I shall be making the Vivos my main fell training shoe.