lørdag den 1. november 2014

There and back again - Barepadz 10km review

Today I had the opportunity to try a pair of Barepadz running "gloves", and took them for a 10km run over different terrains. The bottom line is... I'm completely sold - today was the best run I have had for as long as I can remember! Read on to find out the one thing which makes Barepadz better than minimal shoes AND barefoot!


I have been running up to - and including - marathon distance in minimalist shoes (Vibrams, Merrell Vaporgloves) for the last few years. As a middle-age, essentially lazy runner I attribute forefoot/midfoot running in minimalist shoes to the fact that I can run any distance at all. I tried running 5km barefoot once this year and ended up with feet covered in blisters, but could feel that running barefoot increased my ground-feel and proprioception...
  1. Proprioception (/ˌproʊpri.ɵˈsɛpʃən/ PRO-pree-o-SEP-shən), from Latin proprius, meaning "one's own", "individual" and perception, is the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement.
... and realized I would have to harden my feet, or protect them in some way while retaining the barefoot running experience. Enter Barepadz.

Barepadz shoes gloves:

From the Barepadz website at www.barepadz.com :
Info: The World's Most Minimal Running Footwear.
BarePadz™ are the closest you can get to actually running barefoot while still providing enough protection for rough terrain. BarePadz™ are made of high quality neoprene with a kevlar enhanced pad and are very easy to put on. BarePadz™ are very easy to hand wash and dry out quickly. If you are an experienced barefoot runner, BarePadz will feel like running on a cloud. If you are an experienced minimal footwear runner, Barepadz will take you to the next level of shoeless running."

Barepadz 10k review:

I was offered a free pair of slightly used Barepadz, size large, via a Danish barefoot running forum on Facebook. My shoe size is EU43/44, and size L in Barepadz fit snugly and comfortably.

As I am not known for deep thought, I thought I would follow up my blisteringly disastrous 5k barefoot run earlier this year with a 10k test of the Barepadz. To my defence, I did take along a pair of Vaporgloves in case of disaster:

Backup Vaporgloves packed... let's go!

I ran the first two kilometers on smooth asphalt, and almost immediately noticed that my running was significantly smoother, more effortless, than even in Vaporgloves. Wow, I thought, I'm fabulous! 

The Kevlar sole gives more cushioning under my soles than minimal shoes do, while the heels and toes are completely free to act as sensors - proprioceptors - and I felt with each step that I was adjusting my footfall to land perfectly... outside of the foot touching down (natural pronation) and sensing the terrain, the rest of the forefoot rolling into position and finally the heel just kissing the ground enough to lightly compress the heel pad in its exact center Somehow, I felt I was regaining my optimal balance - foot, legs, hips, back and head began finding their own centers of gravity.

My running partner, Balou, checking the fit. And yes, you can get black toenails by running a marathon in minimal shoes too.

I went through a long series of different surfaces, and was astounded that the Barepadz were actually MORE comfortable than the thinnest minimal shoes. I felt like I was running on a cushion of air, while retaining all the advantages of unencumbered, barefoot running!

Gravel, no problem...

... unless you overdo it

Rough asphalt

No. Do not run on thorn bushes. Just take my word for it.

After 5km I stopped to take stock. I was having a ball! Checking the Barepadz I saw I had been landing on the outside of the Barepadz kevlar pad and had abraded almost all the way through the neoprene:

5k status. Average pace includes my running partner's urges to stop and pee, and talk to other dogs.

Neoprene blowout. Balou is such a poser.

More neoprene blowout, this time without Balou. A little more kevlar would fix this.

I was enjoying my run so much I decided to continue the next 5km in the Barepadz, despite the damage. By now I had warmed up nicely, and I felt my cadence increase and - to my surprise - my level of perceived exertion decrease. By the time I got home, my average pace had dropped sharply, despite me being stopped en route by my buddy Ole, who asked what I had on my feet.

Yes. Yes, that is a Pebble Smartwatch and iSmoothrun app combo, see http://thepebbleblog.blogspot.dk/

I explained what they were, and told him to hop up and down like he was jumping rope, first on his forefeet, then on his heels. Our neighbours were treated to a sight which must have made them shake their heads again and promise themselves to seriously call the estate agent first thing Monday morning.

A quick look at the stats shows that once I had settled in, my cadence and speed increased nicely.

No damage to me after 10k, except for a blister on my big toes...
 but the Barepadz are a bit worse-for-wear.


Barepadz are great! Really, I'm hooked and I am going to get a few more pairs. With the current design I estimate that there are between 40 and 60km in a pair, if you run correctly with perfect form. More kevlar on the outsides and more kevlar toward the toes will increase durability substantially. Other reviews have the same comments, and it appears a new version is already available. 

Don't run 10k in these the first time, unless you are already a barefoot runner - you'll get blister on your toes.

A huge and surprising (for me) upside is the cool air getting to your feet, I had no idea how nice it was to not have to run the last kilometers in hot and sweaty minimal shoes. 

I expect to be able to run down to about 8 degrees Celcius in dry weather, before my toes start losing their feeling and I need to change to minimal shoes and compression socks.

Another surprising upside is that the Barepadz afford some compression around the tendons and bones of the forefoot, and I felt the stretch of the neoprene working nicely with the suspension and elasticity of my feet. This is actually the one thing which makes Barepadz better than minimal shoes AND barefoot, and a very relevant reason for a barefoot runner to consider upgrading to Barepadz.

Would I run a marathon in these? You bet... Copenhagen 2015, here we come!

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