I've been running barefoot for about a year, and having a pretty good time with it. I want to update my casual attire with footwear that follows some of the principles of being barefoot. Being barefoot is a non-option due to its taboo nature, and I've been getting by with a pair of basic flip-flops. I don't like that they "flip" and "flop" and I don't like having to grab with my toes if I need to dash across a street or something. I bought and made a pair of these huaraches thinking that they could address my needs.
After assembling a pair, I have issues that prevent me from switching to huaraches.
1. The heels drag. My arch is rather archy, and when I lift my foot to take a step, the bend in the Vibram material causes the heel to be pointed downwards just a bit. This causes the heel to drag when I set my foot down on every step. When standing, the material is pretty much exactly where it would be after following the instructions to trace around my heel – straight down. I expect I can trim this down, but then my heel will be jutting past the end of the sole when standing, and I'm not sure about this. I don't want to pare away too much material because this is all I've got.
2. The noise is irksome. When walking, even when just walking up stairs on the balls of my feet, I get a splat-splat-splat noise that I find awful. I can sit here on a wooden floor and tap my foot and it is quite loud. Is this normal? Is this a consequence of the sole material, and something I should have been aware of at purchase time?
I want very much to like these, but at the moment, if I can't walk in them quietly, I don't think I want to wear them.
I hope the problem is simply a result of placing the holes for the laces in the wrong locations. I have a crappy webcam that I can use to provide pictures upon request.
Before I launch into an answer, please keep in mind that I'm painting broad strokes -- I don't know your EXACT situation so I'm not writing to you personally as much as I'm trying to cover all the bases I can. No matter how well you describe what's happening in text, it's very different than what I, or someone else, would *see* if we saw you in person, or watched a video of you in motion.
And the odds are good that watching you live, I'd have a few good suggestions in a matter of seconds. But here, outside of real time, it's tricky. I'll be repetitive, I'll say some things that don't apply to you and, hopefully, I'll say some that make a difference.
FWIW, I don't imagine you have some radically different situation than the few others who've reported something similar. And since I've seen the following answers help them, I hope they help you, too.
First, I wouldn't trim the heel so that your foot extends over it, since that won't address your situation, I don't think.
The short answer to your question is, No, huaraches aren't inherently noisy. Neither is the Vibram sole material itself noisy.
I, and most people, walk in them silently (or very close to it). But not necessarily at first…
So now let's go to the longer answer:
Since you've been barefoot running for a year, you probably experienced how the sensations in your feet (a.k.a. pain) gave you "information" that you needed to adjust your running form. And, it so happens, that those changes make for more efficient, lighter, easier running.
(Typically, what most people learn when they go barefoot is how to NOT over-stride. How to place your foot down under your center of mass and, rather than dragging it back, lift it off the ground.)
Well, walking barefoot or in huaraches is no different… the information you get is a cue (or a clue).
In this case, the information is the dragging and the noise.
I know that when I walk barefoot, I get different information than when I'm in huaraches. When I'm barefoot, I can overstride, heel-strike a bit more, drag my toes, etc. and it doesn't cause a problem. But once I put on my huaraches, I become aware of those things because of some "issue" with the shoe.
If I want, I can make different kinds of slappy noises with my huaraches, I can catch the front of them on the ground, I can slide off to one side or the other, I can make the string between my toes hurt … but if I adjust my stride, I can be silent, smooth, and easy (again, like what happened with running). And it seems that the adjusted stride is more natural. It's now what I do all the time.
They way I got there was like what I mentioned in the 1-page that I send with Invisible Shoes: I experimented to see what I could do differently, using the noise or other "issues" as a cue/clue.
Now, for the sake of being redundant, possibly, let me toss out a few more thoughts.
First, a story: Sometimes people will call or email and say "I have a blister on the ball of my right foot," or, "I'm getting a lot of noise when my left foot hits the ground." Clearly in that situation (and I know you didn't present a "unilateral issue", but you'll still get the point of the story), the person is doing something different with one foot, but they've habituated to it and can't feel it any longer. It feels like both legs/feet are working the same, but since one has a problem and the other doesn't, the problem ("information") suggests it's own solution: experiment with adjustments so that the "bad" foot works like the "good one."
So, like I mentioned above, it's possible to feel fine walking barefoot even if our barefoot walking stride has glitches. And we might become aware of them when we put on huaraches… and then have the opportunity to do with our walking stride what we did with our running stride – find a new, more efficient way.
Now, another story (this one's a bit more relevant, perhaps, even though it won't seem so at first ): I've been riding recumbent bikes for 25 years. 3 years ago, I bought a new one that has front-wheel drive. Because the pedals connect to the front wheel, when you push on the right pedal, the wheel turns to the left… and you need to pull back on the right handlebar to keep from turning left and falling over. For the first week I had the bike, I couldn't get one full pedal stroke without falling over, and I was convinced there was something about a front-wheel drive bike and me that were incompatible. I was pulling so hard with my arms to keep the bike stable, that I'd get sore after five minutes of "riding."
The only thing that kept me from trashing the bike was reminding myself that I'd seen videos of people starting and riding with no hands! So I knew there was a way to ride this thing that took less effort, and I assumed there wasn't something wrong with me that would keep me from finding it. So, as I kept trying to ride, I kept wondering "What do I need to do to make it more effortless, like the guys in the video?"
And within a couple days, I was able to ride the bike. And within a few weeks, I could ride it with no hands.
So, backing up to huaraches -- again, it's possible to run and walk in them silently (or quietly enough that you don't think about it or notice it), and it's certainly possible to walk without the heel dragging (in fact, I'd never heard anyone have that issue before). And, I would take the bet that there's nothing inherently unique about you or your feet that would make it impossible for you to do the same.
As you walk, you may want to wonder, "How do they do that? How do they walk silently?" And, like you may have done when you started barefoot running, experiment with different strides to see what you discover (more about that in a second).
Some people are naturally better than others at experimenting with their stride … the other day I ran with 2 guys who had PERFECT left legs/feet, but their right legs were overstriding (they were reaching out with their feet and pulling back on the ground)… and they each had NO IDEA. They had blisters to show for it, but they thought it was because of the surfaces they were running on. Even more, when we pointed this out, they couldn't feel the difference because they were so used to the way it was. Then, we had to give them suggestions that, at first, felt TOTALLY unnatural to them, even though it corrected the problem. It took a few minutes until they could feel the difference and, more importantly, the correctness of the new way of moving.
I got a call from one Invisible Shoes customer who was getting a slapping noise when he walked and then he noticed something: When he ran up a hill (even a slight one), the noise went away. He realized that he was doing something different with his feet when he went uphill. And when he wondered to himself, "What could I be doing differently?" he realized:
He didn't think he was "dropping his foot" or over-striding when he walked, but just noticing that "uphill = fine" made him wonder "How can I do something similar when I walk?" and, without changing anything consciously, he found that the slapping noise went away and his walking stride was more like his uphill running stride.
Imagine that as you're walking (or running), you're trying to sneak up on a deer. You can't startle it or it'll run away. How would you walk to do that? How would you place your feet on the ground to do that? If you try that you might discover a way to walk that's silent and doesn't have a heel-drag problem. I'm not saying that's how you should walk all the time, but it'll point out that the solution could be in how you place/lift/move your feet. You may find that you can be a bit noisier and scare the deer away and still have a solution.
Or, here's another cue: Imagine that you were walking on a sheet of glass and wanted to distribute your weight evenly as you walked… and you couldn't step too hard on the glass… what does that do to your stride.
If you were running, I'd suggest imagining that the ground is hot broken glass. You have to place your foot down gently, but then lift it off the ground quickly. That image usually affects people's gait.
Anyway… without seeing what you're doing live and in-person, all the thoughts above are the best I have at the moment. Play around with them and keep me posted! I'm happy to try again if need be.
Thanks for all of that info, Steven.
I've spent a lot of time fixing my running gait to work well barefoot, and one thing I should try is actually running in the huaraches to see if they perform as expected in that arena. It's possible that my walking form is sloppy as a result of slogging around in flip flops all the time, and I may need to devote the same amount of attention to it as I did with my running.
One major difference between the running anecdotes that you presented and my walking is that I've always been under the impression that walking is most efficient in a heel-to-toe footstrike, rather than the midfoot strike used for running. As my foot would come down, I would lead with my heel, which is when the edge of my sole would make contact with the ground and drag the heel. Then, when I bring my forefoot down, the outside front of the sole would slap against the ground. The latter issue sounds like it could be adjusted with a change in gait – I'm not so sure about the former.
I'll experiment. Thanks again. I don't think I've given them enough time.
Hey, I was writing when it was late
You're right… ish.
Heel striking while walking is natural, but not in the way we think. That is, you can land with your heel touching the ground first, but have it touch lightly, or have it touch just barely before the rest of the foot.
You'll see that if you walk flat-footed, you can heel strike or mid-foot strike.
So you can still "lead" with your heel, but not lead very far. Yesterday, in fact, when I was walking, I noticed how I was placing my foot underneath me, with my heel touching BARELY before the rest of my foot, but the real action felt like I was pushing back -- using my glutes and hamstrings to propel me forward, rather than using my foot as a pivot over which I roll (I was aware of this because my glutes/hamstrings were really sore after the previous night's track meet).
Oh, one other thing I realized as I was falling asleep… again something that's impossible to tell from words, but would be easy from video/pictures/real-life… you may need to tighten the laces a bit.
Lastly, when you run, DEFINITELY think about those cues that relate to placing/lifting the foot (or tracking a deer). And definitely remember that it's possible to run silently -- or close to it… so if you're getting a bunch of noise, etc., wonder "Hmmm… what can I do differently that would change this and get those near-silent results?"
Sometimes it happens that putting on huaraches reveals little errors in barefooting form that we didn't know we had.
In the same way that going barefoot altered my stride, putting on huaraches refined it even more.
While changing planes, the other day (on the way to my 30-th high school reunion), I went running down through the airport and realized what the KEY to silence is:
It's actually soft ankles, knees and hips, but if you think about being soft with your knees, you "meet" the ground better and can be silent (otherwise, you're taking a stick — your legs — with a piece of rubber on one end and slapping it on the ground).
Now, at first, to experiment, you'll be softer than you need to. Eventually, you "un-soften" until you're only bending/absorbing as much as is needed. The most interesting thing about this, is that what you're developing is, technically, better barefoot form, whether you're in huaraches or not.
The "sneak up on a deer" cue is really a cue for having "soft knees" (and ankles and hips).
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