Sunday, September 11, 2011

Stinky FiveFingers & other Minimalist Footwear ?

Stinky FiveFingers and Other Minimalist Footwear that we Love to Wear Barefoot?

I hear and see horror stories about the unbearable funk that follow some users like a nuclear mushroom over their heads and t heir feet…. God forbid when they take them off .... Run for your life !
I have to admit that, since my first pair back in 2005, I have never encountered such problem ever. I have taken some time to specially investigate the funk phenomenon at my lab using some of my friends' VFF's that have the issue haunting them. You sure do not want to wait till your partner ask you to spend the night on the back porch ... !
Here is the scoop:
Foot odor come from sweat, dead skin and the Corynebacteria and Micrococci bacteria;
A human foot, with it’s 250,000 sweat glands, during the course of a day can sweat up to 1/2 pint of liquids composed of the following ingredients: Fatty Acids, Urea, Sebum and many other organic compounds. Just add a little heat from your body a couple days of wear compounded by accumulating materials then you just made yourself the ultimate stink bomb. You just uncovered the bio-chemist in you ... !
When you wear regular shoes or sneakers with socks you don’t wear your same socks for an entire week… Socks absorb sweat & dead skin. When your wear VFF’s barefoot your footwear absorb sweat & dead skin. That needs to be washed or it will stink, sometimes very very bad, depending on the individual’s chemistry …..
I have these simple rules:

  • I wash my feet before I get in my VFF’s 
  • I apply  Crystal salts on my feet after a shower on hot days
  • I jump in the shower and clean-rinse my VFF’s (with a little sud from my body-wash) at the end of the day, then let them air dry wherever there is air circulation (be creative here, a window seal in summer no direct sun, near an air vent in winter no direct heat).
  • Every 2-3 days, depending on my daily activities My VFF’s will get a real wash in the machine and will air day as usual.
  • Always use lukewarm or cold water with regular laundry detergent when using a washing machine.
  • Always Dry my VFF"s away from the sun or heat sources and in a well ventilated area.
Never let you VFF"s go out of control. The more you wait, the more difficult it will be to get your VFF's clean again.

It all comes down to Basic hygiene; Prevention and a good maintenance regimen will give you years of fun times with your FiveFingers footwear. I am not a clean freak but since I was born with only 1 pair of feet and I hear that they are not replaceable I'd rather take good care of them and my footwear too.

Providing that you can stand socks, Injinji is a premier maker of sport toe socks & liners that works perfect with FiveFingers footwear. This solution works beautifully but if you choose not to wear socks then clean, clean clean.... repeat ... clean, clean, clean ...

There is also the issue with "hyperactive sweat glands";  a quick remedial is to spray a thin coat of antiperspirant  on the bottom of your feet.  This has worked very efficiently for our test subjects with that condition.

I also need to stress the fact that wearing dirty footwear without socks will drastically increase your risk in developing severe blistering caused by slippage.  (I also have an article on this topic in my blog here)

Among other we investigated the following products:

Is my Footwear Clean Yet ???

It wasn't easy but fun, it took some time and finally I have some very interesting results on a range of cleaning methods for out of control funk on FiveFingers.

The research work and all products & footwear used in the process were funded by myself, for the sheer benefit of my own curiosity.

Each product or recipe was graded as follow:

  • From 1 to 10 as 1 is the least efficient and 10 the most efficient
  • A $ represents the cheapest methods and $$$$$ the most expensive.Enjoy and give them a try

---PRODUCT---------------------------- Effectiveness--Cost per month
  • Lysol ---------------------------------------------- 6------ $
  • UV Light bacteria killer --------------------------- 7------ $$$$$
  • Mouthwash -------------------------------------------4------ $
  • Peroxide (H2O2) -------------------------------------7------ $
  • Vinegar / Water mix ---------------------------------7----- $
  • OxyClean ------------------------------------------- 8------ $$
  • Denture tablets -------------------------------------8------ $$$
  • Baking Soda pockets ---------------------------------9------ $$
  • Fabric Softener sheet -------------------------------8------ $
  • Sportzyme by Norwex ---------------------------------7------ $$$
  • SteriShoe™ shoe sanitizer -------------------------- 7------ $$$$$
  • Crystal Deodorant Salts -----------------------------10 ----- $

The research is based on the following:
  • 3 consecutive days of wear @ 12 hrs per day
  • same activities on each test pair
  • We used 6 pairs of KSO All black, Size 44
  • 1 shoe used for each test cleaning method
  • 1 shoe left out since the experiment requires 11 units

The VFF's were carefully cleaned and processed in the same manner; the cleaning process was followed by a 12 hrs drying period in a controlled environment consisting of a box 36x36x24 with the item placed on a stainless steel mesh shelf. 2 fans developing 15 cfm were used with a 25 watts incandescent light bulb, the temperature inside the container was at 77.5 Deg. F. Relative humidity was contained and kept constant at 30%.

A bacteria culture was conducted in an inert medium after the drying cycle was completed. Colonies count were conducted after 24 hrs of incubation.
My Thanks to 2 interns with keen olfactory senses for providing the human sniff of approval.

Analysis and results:

Some of the best results come the simplest ideas !
Take your daily shower with your footwear, when your are done, give em a quick rinse and let them dry in a cool ventilated area overnight.  Your favorite footwear will be ready for you, cleaned and bacteria free, ready to to take you to more fun places !  And every 3  days or so give them a good wash in the washing machine !  It's the most simple method and the quickest too !  On hot days I apply Crystal deodorants rock salts on sole of my feet right after my shower; these salts inhibit bacterial growth to nearly 100%.  That combination is the most efficient VFF's odor control to date.  Nothing else comes remotely close to this method.

I must say that OxyClean and the baking soda pockets were the most efficient of all the tryouts. OxyClean was used in the sink at 30% dilution with a soak in warm water for 5 minutes followed by a quick hand scrub then a rinse with clean water followed by air dry. OxyClean will not affect the colors of your footwear. It's formula Na2CO3•H2O2 is composed of sodium carbonate and peroxide. It is eco-friendly and nitrogen and phosphorus free.

The other systems that worked very well were a clean water rinse the dry the VFF"s with a Arm & Hammer softener sheet on the foot-bed (or the Baking Soda Pocket) and a regular dry period. (Other brands of softener sheets gave very poor results as in general it left a very unpleasant mixture of foot funk - flowers scent potpourri)

The denture tablets are interesting ..... Soak for 4 Hrs, wash in the machine, air dry .... The result is minty fresh VFF's providing that you have 6 to 8 hrs to fiddle with a cleaning process. For my own taste I'd rather clean in 10 minutes and enjoy a nice trail trek for the next 5 to 6 hrs. ... (There was still a lingering very mild smell of foot funk mixed with mint post clean-up)

The UV lights systems (SteriShoe and a couple of others) are interesting, cost more than $150.00 for the system. Yes, it will kill the bacteria causing stench but it will leave all the dead bodies on the insoles. You will still have to wash clean the accumulated dead gunk once every other week or you will be in a very slippery mess ....

Mouthwash, vinegar and peroxide do work well but will not kill everything and there will still be a pesky smell remaining.

Sportzyme and worked OK; it's an expensive product that I believe to be overpriced for its performance.

Lysol was very interesting, as it did removed the smell but the bacterias were mostly still active after treatment was applied. And I am told that there was a slippery feeling in the VFF's afterward.

Notes on Vinegar:
My lab tests and results do show that exposure to vinegar diluted to 2% (pH 2.24) and subsequent exposure to moderate UV lights (similar to a northern 42 Deg. Lat.  summer sun) drastically accelerated the degradation of the glues binding the fabric to the rubber in VFF"s.  Use with extreme caution.

For people with severe foot sweating,  a simple solution is to spray antiperspirant or apply Crystal Deodorant Salts on your clean dry feet before donning your footwear.  It's simple and works great. No sweat, no stink !

I am sure that, as the time goes by, there will be new tricks used to clean your favorite footwear.

Then again, I must emphasize the following:

Never let you VFF"s go out of control. The more you wait, the more difficult it will be to get your VFF's clean again. 

Also, your VFF's will last much longer if you keep them clean. 
Keep in mind that sebum, sweat and other fatty acids are formidable enemies of rubber compounds and other synthetic textiles. 

It all comes down to Basic hygiene; Prevention and a good maintenance regimen will give you years of fun times with your FiveFingers footwear. I am not a clean freak but since I was born with only 1 pair of feet and I hear that they are not replaceable I'd rather take good care of them and my footwear too.

Providing that you can stand wearing socks, Injinji is a premier maker of sport toe socks & liners that works perfect with FiveFingers footwear. This solution works beautifully but if you choose not to wear socks then clean, clean clean.... repeat ... clean, clean, clean ...

Agent Orange Blossom

Keep on Trekking !


Dirty minimalistic footwear can also cause nasty blisters;  here is the rundown on the topic
Blisters, Tips & Prevention

Tea Tree Oil appears to dissolve the glue on our test trails .. so, if you use the oil be very careful.
Info on Culture Media for the Growth of Bacteria
©2000 Kenneth Todar, University of Wisconins-Madison
This article is a follow-up to my previous entry on the same topic. If you haven't read it yet I highly recommend it; it's very informative, and can be found here
Lysol, OxyClean, Sportzyme, SteriShoe, Arm&Hammer are commercial branded products owned by their own Copyrights on which I have no claim.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

INOV-8 EvoSkin™ Review ... What are They?

It's been 40 days since I got my feet into a pair of EvoSkin™ from INOV-8, and, of course, being a new product, I had to give it a good test. So, here is the story of my EvoSkin™ adventures ...

Are you an avid barefoot enthusiast, or a minimalistic footwear (0 drop) athlete that dreams that you could always be barefoot, being able to really feel the ground, being able to “see with your feet” without having to look down, being able to fully utilize what nature gave you at birth ?

Just imagine for a moment that you could dip your feet in a vat of silicone rubber, deposit a thin protective skin over your own and after a quick dry you are free, on the road, with every muscle, tendon, joints in your feet no longer restrained by anything … That is the exact feeling I get. Sure, I know exactly what you are going to say: “there are other manufacturers that offer footwear with separate toe pockets”, but the EvoSkin™ is much different from the others in many respects.

Meet The EvoSkin™ :
The EvoSkin™ is molded from a human foot, as a seamless, single piece of silicone rubber 2.97mm thick and weighs 135 Grams per foot with a ∆ of 92 mg averaged on 14 units of footwear.

Silicone is a polymer that contain silicon, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Silicone is a very
stable polymer that is naturally resistant to extreme temperatures (−120°C to +300°C ) and environments while retaining its useful properties.

What makes the EvoSkin™ so different from the others?

In order to answer that question I took 7 pairs of EvoSkin™ to the lab and track and trails. Yes, the Laboratory. Here are a series of test I performed on the EvoSkin™ :

• Gripping ability against known standard surfaces,
• General fit & Shape retention,
• Product consistency,
• Wear and tear under controlled conditions,
• Cleaning & maintenance tests,
• General performance on diverse terrain,

First and foremost, it is very important to mention that all field tests were conducted by people experienced in barefoot training, running and walking. All test subjects used only the “Fox Running” method for running and the “Fox Stalking” method for walks and trekking. Why? I have been doing all my activities, running, walking, martial arts, marathons barefoot for the past 40 years.
Back in 2005 I began wearing minimalistic footwear to protect my feet from the harsh environment of the sidewalks and streets in the city. I have some soles with over 800 Km logged on and still look almost new with only 0.9% loss on the rubber. Both of my partners "test subjects" have 12 and 15 years of barefoot experience under their soles.

Here are some of my findings on the EvoSkin™ .

The grip:
I must say that I was, and am still absolutely impressed with the grip I get out the EvoSkin™ ; I went to this park where they have a skate-park with a couple of deep bowls that are used by skate boarders and parkours enthusiasts. I felt like a gecko while walking the slope up from the bottom of the bowl, yes, walking up the bowl... The gripping ability is natural and truly exceptional.

In the Lab I tested this unique feature on a piece of marble polished with a 2500 grit sandpaper which is pretty much like a glass pane. In a static drag test at 45 Deg. angle with a dead weight foot of 100 lbs it took 150 lbs of force to move the foot with the EvoSkin™ on and 3 lbs of force without the EvoSkin™ . I also completed the same test with footwear with TC-1 rubber and got 35 Lbs of force on the meter to move the foot. You can make your own deductions here …

General fit and Shape Retention:
I and my colleagues were pleasantly surprised with the fit. At first look I thought that they look quite shorter than my feet but as soon as I got them on the EvoSkin™ morphed to my feet perfectly. Then I got this strange feeling of having nothing on my feet, yet I looked down and there they were, my blue translucent feet. On my first day I wore them for 9 hrs in town, to the park, a quick run, a little parkours, more walk, some shopping; in all I had put on 22 Km on them that day. When I finally took them off ( I peeled them like skin) they returned immediately to their original shape and very dirty ! The point is that the EvoSkin™ will conform to your feet as you wear them but will immediately return to their original factory shape after you take them off. Over the past 40 days I finally got used to the fact that my EvoSkin™ always look like new out of the box before I put them on, like a new skin ! One important feature of the EvoSkin™ is that there is no seam on the footwear; I found this feature to be very significant in comfort after a run thru the local creek with mud up to ankles. This makes a big difference when there are no stitching with particles rubbing against your toes. Since silicone is a stretchy compound I proceeded to put that to the test with 1500 cycles (10 stretch /min.) stretched at 20% over the resting length (130 Newton force). The EvoSkin™ remarkably retained it original shape and showed no degradation on the silicone natural elasticity. Silicone is also known for it's self healing capabilities; in a controlled test I used a dental pick and rose thorns. After retracting the foreign objects from the sole, the puncture wounds were barely visible with a magnifier and there was no loss of integrity to the silicone when subjected to a stretch test.

Product consistency:
Since the EvoSkin™ are made from a mold it's pretty easy to think that the product would be
consistent as per the mold itself. Of the 7 pairs of EvoSkin™ tested (4 gray and 3 blue) there was 92 mg difference in average in the weight of each piece of footwear. The thickness of the silicone is consistent within 0.006 mm . It is obvious that INOV-8 is paying attention to their product and quality control.

Wear and tear under controlled conditions:
I conducted 2 types of tests, Static and Dynamic. I am at day 40 on both tests and still going. The static test is a Lab controlled environment which simulate 45% walk and 55% run. Data is collected at each 50 Km mark. I look for material density loss, sole fingerprint abrasion, loss and deformation. The Dynamic test, still in progress, is being conducted by myself and 2 volunteers on walks, runs, parkours, sailing, and other general fitness activities. Each participant logs the type of activity conducted with mileage incurred and data is collected at each 50 Km mark.

Cleaning & maintenance tests
Cleaning the EvoSkin™ is amazingly easy. You just throw them in the washing machine, or give them a quick rinse in clean water or, my favorite, the dishwasher. Yes the dishwasher; I like my EvoSkin™ cleaned and sterilized. At day 40, my EvoSkin™ went through 15 regular washes,and 24 dishwasher cleaning. I have yet to notice any deformation or degradation of the silicone. There is no comparisons possible with other minimalistic footwear when it comes to cleaning the EvoSkin™ . They just don't get wet. When they come out of the washing machine they dry in 1 minute flat and are ready to wear again. Furthermore you will never have to deal with the notorious stink of death associated with wearing footwear barefoot.
I need to mention that “out of the box” EvoSkin™ have this little lubricating residue on the silicone which make them slippery. A new pair of EvoSkin™ should be washed before first use. A colleague tried a first run without the first wash and reported significant slippage inside the EvoSkin™ which was remedied after the first wash.

General performance on diverse terrain:
Providing that you are accustomed to barefoot activities you will find the EvoSkin™ to be great performers just about anywhere. If you can dish the terrain, the EvoSkin™ will take you there. I was very impressed with the EvoSkin™ when I went to the rock Gym, I truly felt like I was barefoot; how much more fun can it be than to have 20 fingers available to take you to the top of the wall? Yes it was fun indeed, for me and thanks to my 20 fingers. EvoSkin™ are very supple and nimble yet offer the extra protection when needed.

EvoSkin™ makes forest trails a fun adventure; wet rocks, mud and trees are no match for this footwear, the grip is unparallelled. I recently had a great adventure sailing the Columbia river and I had the best footing of the crew with my EvoSkin™ .

A Colleague runs 15 Km a day on an inside track at the local Gym. The track is made of wood similar to a basketball court but with a mat finish. She has been very happy with her EvoSkin™ and after 600 Km logged, the EvoSkin™ has lost 116 mg of it's original mass and very little visual wear to show for.

I normally do trails barefoot and with the EvoSkin™ I was surprised how I had absolutely no loss of feeling and feedback from the ground and, as a bonus, I got that little extra edge feeling protected from pointed rocks, twigs, occasional slugs wild life dong etc... Due to the nature of silicone, I found the EvoSkin™ working surprisingly very well on sharp rocks, creating a protective barrier against the pointed edges. As I was crossing the hot tarmac, on that hot day, on my way to my favorite park, the EvoSkin™ offered me protection from the searing heat. Silicone also provides good heat insulation. At the gym, the EvoSkin™ is right at home; from the exercise room, treadmill and other exercise machines, then right to the shower room, not having to worry about what infectious disease lurks on the floor.

A couple days ago I visited my horse at the ranch and I accidentally touched the electric fence but did not get shocked. Silicone has natural dielectric properties. I tested the EvoSkin™ to insulate to 9.5 KV on the HI-Pot tester. (Think electric wires at the Tough Mudder runs). At the Rock-Climbing gym, a colleague felt that she was cheating wearing her EvoSkin™ , never missing a step on the wall.

INOV-8 advertize the EvoSkin™ as providing the Gecko grip; I can attest this to be an
understatement; on parkours, I had to fully release my foot from the glass wall, for each step up, as my feet would not slide on the surface. That is a big plus as you can effortlessly use all 4 limbs to shimmy-up a slick wall.

Are EvoSkin™ for me?
That's the $64 question … (Yes, the suggested retail price is $64.00)
INOV-8 website offers a guide on how to transition from regular running shoes to Barefoot. My impression is that INOV-8 is being very serious and responsible for their products and the welfare of they clientele and I commend that.

INOV-8 provides crucial information via their website on transitioning to barefoot running
( I see INOV-8 producing a training video in the near future. I have seen many of my friends being injured in making their transition to barefoot running and walking too fast; the types of “very painful” injuries are debilitating and set them back months in their training.
Proper and safe transition can be achieved in 4 to 12 months depending on the individual. Too much too soon with hurt you and you will go through a long and painful recovery. I am very impressed on how seriously and carefully INOV-8 has taken the first step in the new barefoot industry.
(As far as I know this is much better than a line on a box that tell a consumer to take it slowly).

Final assessment:
EvoSkin™ are by far the most minimalistic footwear to date; they will take you to places where you could have never imagined to be possible.
EvoSkin™ are not your Everyday casual footwear.
EvoSkin™ are for experienced barefoot runners and walkers.
EvoSkin™ ground feedback is absolutely exceptional.
EvoSkin™ molds to your feet and adjusts itself at every step, leaving the foot free to do what a foot do.
EvoSkin™ are sanitary, and will clean with absolute ease after each use.
EvoSkin™ adapts & mold nicely to your Morton's toe if you have condition.

Always keep in mind that when you run or walk barefoot, you do it with your feet and your EvoSkin™ are a thin protective skin over your own.

I find the EvoSkin™ to be a pleasant relief from other “individual toe pockets” manufacturers who lately have been significantly increasing the thickness of the soles which in return considerably diminishes the ground feedback that minimalistic athletes long for.

At times I get this question: “ Aren't you sweating a lot in these?
The answer is no, and actually much less than when I wear other minimalistic “separate toe pockets” footwear. At most, after wearing my EvoSkin™ for 5 hrs I can detect a little moisture on my skin which is normal and does not affect the performance of the footwear

A colleague reported some sweating issue which was immediately remedied with antiperspirant spray on the feet.

I must stress, that with proper foot hygiene, you will have a very enjoyable experience with the EvoSkin™ . It's a good practice to clean your feet before you get in your footwear and clean your footwear and feet after your exercise session. Dirty feet in EvoSkin™ are a bad combination as the sebum on your skin will make your footwear slippery, a great recipe for hot spots and blisters. Note that this apply to any type of footwear that is being worn without socks. That also means that your toenails must be clipped properly; bear claws and talons are not recommended, no sharp edges!
In retrospect, I am absolutely pleased with the first generation of the EvoSkin™ . As far as I am concerned, there are “almost minimalistic” footwear then there is the EvoSkin™ .
I am reluctant to label the EvoSkin™ as “footwear” because that are so much more than that; EvoSkin™ are beyond footwear, they are as close as you get to a second skin. The EvoSkin™ is a serious training tool, not casual footwear

How long will a pair of EvoSkin™ last is everybody's guess!
A wearer that “heel strike” and “drag his/her feet” would probably get 100 Km of useful life. A
wearer that uses the “Fox Running” and “Fox Stalking” method will get much more mileage. My blue EvoSkin™ are at 800 Km and look barely used.

So, this is a test in progress and I plan to supplement this report with frequent updates.

Have fun, Tread safely, and enjoy this outstanding new technical footwear that the EvoSkin™ is.

Agent Orange Blossom

Here are some pictures taken at different stage of the tests I conducted.
(Click on the picture for full view)
Blue and Gray EvoSkin

Brand new sole

250 Km (cleaned)

500 Km front

500 Km forefoot
500 Km heel

Punctured Through sole
Foreign object removed