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Entries in review (3)


Freet Footwear Review

I like shoes. I really do. Which, given that I now only like minimalist shoes, gives me something of a conundrum. (Ignoring the no-buying thing, which is even more of a conundrum for a shoe-lover!)

For me, a minimalist shoe needs to be zero-drop, wide in the toe box, preferably no toe spring, and a thin, flexible sole. Ideally, the shape should mimic the shape of my foot, which is actually pretty straight up to the end of the big toe. 

My current running shoes have 400+ miles on now, but do (if I'm being really picky) fall down in a couple of those areas: they don't really have the same shape as my feet, and the thicker, 5mm trail sole is really a little too thick for me. A third issue is that really, I ought to face up to the fact that even after beating them on a broom handle they are too small. This has kind of shown up in some pain in the joint in the big toe on my slightly-larger left foot.

I need to find a pair to both train and run in for the WDW marathon next January. While I love the look of the Soft Star Moc3s, the shipping and import duty really bumps the price up. So when I saw the Freet Footwear 4+1 Barefoot shoe advertised (at a very reasonable price, I might add), I couldn't wait to try them. 

Freet Footwear 4+1

I was dead excited when they arrived. They are a really nicely made shoe, light, good strong-feeling upper. The velcro makes them easy to get on and off, and only having a separate big toe makes them significantly faster to get on than Five-fingers.

Freet Footwear 4+1

And look! They do mimic the shape of my foot pretty well. I mean, other than that big old gap between my big toe and the rest.

Freet Footwear 4+1

A lovely, grippy sole that would make your footprints look like a gorilla. What's not to love?

I really wanted to love these shoes. I really did. But there were, for me, a couple of things that meant these went back into the box and got sent back to Yorkshire.

They clearly do have a slight issue with size. I consider myself to be a UK size 5, which would be a European 38. I am questioning that slightly, as I've had to order a 39 in a few shoes now, but still, I have never been larger than a 39. So I ordered a 39. Before they shipped, I got a lovely email confirming the size that I'd ordered, and telling me they run a size small. I said thank you, and that I had already added a size. Sadly, it seems I should have ordered 2 sizes higher. The big toe fitted pretty well. A little snug width-wise, but I have pretty wide big toes and the material would have given a little with time. The problem was the second toe, which was wedged up against the end of the shoe. 

How could that be? My second toe is no longer than my big toe, and the 4 toe pocket starts out no shorter than the big toe pocket! I think it's that big old gap. My second toe sits further to the outside of the shoe than expected, and comes up against the end where the third toe ought to be.

That's not a deal-breaker. I'm not a size 40 shoe in any other make I have ever found, but it's just a number so I could have been. But the deal-breaker for me was the toe spring.

Freet Footwear 4 1

(Forgive the fuzziness - it's surprisingly hard to take a photo of a gap.)

When I'm standing around barefoot, my toes do not curl slightly upwards. I don't think yours will either. I'm not quite sure why shoe manufacturers like to include this little bit of upward curl in their shoes - I'm sure there's a reason, I just don't know it. For me, it means I will spend the vast proportion of the time I spend in these shoes when I'm not running pushing my toes against that spring. I will drive myself loopy trying to get my foot flat. As I was rather hoping that the next pair of shoes I bought could also be worn with jeans before or after a run, this meant these were a no-go. 

I had fabulous customer service from them, and as I said, I really really wanted to like the shoes. Sadly, they just weren't for me. If you are less picky about the toe spring, and like Fivefingers other than putting them on, these are definitely worth a look. Just heed the warning about the size!

For me, I've gone back to Vivobarefoot. "The One" apparently. In a 39, because that's what size my Evos were.

"The one"

Guess what? They are slightly too big...


Picking up the pieces

The problem when I've had a very busy period is that I find they need a recovery period afterwards. I need to find all the things I ditched as being not immediately useful or relevant, and try and get them back under some sort of control. 

In some ways it's interesting looking at what got dropped, and what order they got dropped in! As best I can work out, anyway. It seems like the very first thing to go was my university blog. I was happily bumbling along giving weekly updates, and then suddenly I wasn't. That's fine, I was mostly doing them to give myself a sense of progress. Clearly I didn't need it any more. The question is whether I start doing them again or not? I'm not sure yet. 

Next on the list was this blog. Now part of that was that I didn't want to think on the weekends. The other part was that I wanted to blog our Berlin trip first, and somehow didn't feel up to it, and then everything else got put on hold behind it. Silly really, but it happens. Clearly I've blasted through that particular block now, so this is back on.

Cleaning hit the discard pile a few weeks back, sadly. I'd got into a nice routine where the kitchen and bathroom got deep cleaned on alternate weeks, and shallow cleaned on the other. Then they both just got a shallow clean. Then they got a wipe occasionally... Then Clarkie had to do them. On top of the cleaning she normally does. That's ok, for a really short while, and I take up the slack sometimes when she's got too much on. But not ok for the long term. So that is clearly back on my to do list.

I'd sort of got my email under control, then suddenly not so much. I went through it all yesterday, and was slightly startled by the number of read emails I had no memory of. If you think I owe you one, sorry, please try again now!

I had built up a nice little 10 minute mediation practise on a lunch time. That went, but fairly late - post-CHI. So the thing I was trying to turn into a habit to help in times of stress got ditched when times reached their most stressful. Go figure. I feel like I should try to get that going again, but it's taking more effort than the other stuff.

Sadly over the last couple of weeks running went too. Now that was more of a side effect of the cold I had; I couldn't run! I can't wait to get back at it, and hope to later today. Cycling also went, but that came back slightly earlier - as soon as I felt close to well enough. Granted it was very slow cycling, but that's better than nothing.

So what didn't change? Personal hygiene, you'll be glad to hear, remained right at the top of my priorities! A no-shower day is a very bad day indeed. Eating got a bit reduced (yes, I seem to have lost a little more weight - which is bad, actually) and main meals featured a lot of pasta, but at least 3 meals a day were consumed. And strangely, my lunchtime blog catch-up didn't go away. A little mental downtime seemed to help quite a lot, so that stayed. And my buy-nothing challenge was just fine! I still knitted, but switched to a more straight-forward project (plain stocking stitch) in the end, and did some other making-stuff sessions on the weekend (but very quick and simple ones). 

Hopefully I can get and keep things ticking again for a bit now. Bit worried I might swing back too hard the other way, but fingers crossed balance will be restored soon!


Running review

I know that the first of January is an arbitrary date, and I understand that really one day is much the same as the next. However, it is kind of nice to be in sync with other people at least occasionally, so happy new year!

With all that said, I'm going to do a review of my running for last year, because I'm quietly pleased, slightly smug, and rather hopeful about it.

The year didn't start brilliantly on a running front, it must be said. I completed the Walt Disney World marathon, but much slower than I'd hoped thanks to a chest infection that (I thought) just wrecked my December training. By the time I got to March and the Cambridge half marathon (trainer issues apart), I'd come to the conclusion that actually, my breathing still wasn't good. Those two races wound up being my only ones of the longer distances last year, giving me a season's best of 6 hours 9 minutes for the full marathon and 2 hours 39 for the half. Neither of these is as good as the times I set back in 2005 (5 hours 58 and 2 hours 24 respectively), when I was run-walking mostly on cycling fitness.

So after the Cambridge half, I eventually took myself off to the doctor who promptly increased my asthma medication. I ran my first parkrun (5k) of the year on 14 April in a time of 30:20, which wasn't quite a personal best but wasn't too far off. Then something remarkable started to happen. My times just started plummeting. 12 May I took over a minute off that time, getting down to 27:39 by the middle of June. I'm always a bit slack in August, and I got ill in September (failing to finish the Grunty Fen half), but after that I started cycling as well, and the times fell more. By my last run in December, my gun time was down to 26:25 (watch time of 26:08) which is a massive improvement of near-as-dammit 4 minutes since April.

Turns out running on knackered lungs really does hold you back! (Clarkie has asked for drugs tests...)

I also did a couple of 10k races this year. My last 10k was in 2010, with a personal best of 1 hour 3 minutes 31 seconds. I did the Phoenix 10k in the middle of July, into a 20+ mph headwind for the first 5k, and still finished in 57:10. That was already 6 minutes off my previous best. Then I did the Brighton Brooks 10k in November, not feeling great so taking it a little easy. I came in with a time of 55:31, or exactly 8 minutes better than my best at the start of the year.

These still aren't times that are going to set the world alight. I know that. But when you were the slow kid at the back they are very pleasing indeed!

The exciting thing is that I don't think I'm done yet. My base speed has increased, so if I get some endurance in I ought to be able to take a good chunk off my half PB this year. Those 10k times suggest that really, I shouldn't be too far off a 2 hour half now. And that is something I never believed could be possible.

Most important of all is that I've really, genuinely started to enjoy running! Wow!