So the shoes I've been wearing non-stop are starting to develop dangerous slick spots on the sole. And given the snow and ice now, that's not very safe.
So I went in search of new shoes. But not replacements.No, I wanted to go even more minimal, given that barefoot style has continued to get more and more popular and there's far more options available than when I bought my current shoes.
Of course, where's the selection? Online.
And so I sit here now with far too many boxes of shoes, none of whom are perfect enough for me to say "send all of the others back" (the plan is to only keep 1 or 2 pairs though).
There's the general problem of my nearly universally hating women's colors. Without fail, they're horribly gaudy to me. But my foot size is on the low end of the men's scale, often making it difficult for me to find stuff.
Oddly enough, this wasn't a problem when I was wearing seriously bulky running shoes, but I guess the more minimal you go, the more obvious it becomes when a shoe is just too big.
I ended up with a couple of pairs of Vivobarefoot Ultras (they're the kind with the Crocs-like exterior (same thing as the Ultra Pures) and a reinforced removable "sock").
It's a goldilocks situation there. With the sock in, they're actually a bit on the too-snug side. Without the sock, they're a tad too big. Loose enough that I'd probably be okay to walk in them, but if I were to run, I think I'd be paranoid that they would come off (even though they probably wouldn't).
And here's one of the biggest problems of testing shoes. In order to truly test them, you need to take them out into the real world. Do a run. Wear them for a day. Whatever you need. But all of these things put the shoe in danger of being too worn to be returned.
So instead, I've tried to move furniture around in the house enough to give myself at least a tiny bit of room to run. It sure makes me wish I had a treadmill, or access to a treadmill anyway. My tiny bit of room to run is at least better than the put-shoes-on-walk-five-feet test.
So back to the Ultras. I would almost certainly be wearing the shoes with the socks-in during the winter months, so the sizing is not a huge issue, but I worry about the durability of the sock liner. Like, if the sock liner gives out but the external shoe part is still okay… well, if the external shoe fit fine, it wouldn't be the end of the world because I could just wear it liner-less. But instead, if the sock-liner wears out, I'm basically out of using the shoes.
I also have concerns about overheating. The sock-liner may not be breathable enough. I say this because there was one evening where I had worn the shoes around the house paired with my wool socks and it seemed like my feet were actually getting a bit sweaty. That ain't desirable in the winter. Well, or ever really.
So it was on to another set of minimal shoes to see if I could get a better match. Of course, I kept the vivobarefoots, because they weren't bad, I just wanted to see if I could find something better. But with the intention of, if I couldn't I'd probably keep the vivos.
In this new brand (Merrell Trail Gloves), so far I seem to have another goldilocks situation. The pair that's more appropriately sized in length, feels noticeably narrower than just a half size up. However, they're two different versions of the Trail Gloves, so maybe in v2, they made the shoe narrower. Or maybe for me, there's just a tipping point between the two sizes where one becomes too narrow.
And again it's a bad situation for me, because the too-narrow shoes aren't like super narrow, they're just narrower than the others. My feet would probably be fine. I can't know that of course. I really would need to take a proper run in them to know, ya know? If they were painfully narrow then I could rule them out immediately. The ambiguity makes it a bad situation.
My next first world problem is that I have normal socks and then a set of much thicker wool socks. So I'm already noticing that shoes that I've tested that felt appropriate with the wool socks, feel too roomy with normal socks.
Worse yet, some of the shoes I tested for extended periods with the wool socks on, may have some friction points that I wasn't aware of because the sock was providing enough of a buffer.
The whole thing just makes my head spin.
But one thing that's served me well in the past is to trust initial first impressions. I've come to believe that it's not that we actually break in a pair of shoes (at least not in the first few days)… we break in our brain instead. We signal to our brain, hey, these are my new shoes so stop bugging me about these pain points.
This is why I think the first impressions are important.
And of course, certain first impressions can only be made by testing the damn things out in the real world.