Branca Sandals review

Things sure have been shoey around here lately. Which is funny, because I’ve never been more barefoot than I have this summer. Even though my job requires I spend the day in a gravel yard, my employers (I prefer to call them customers) are cool with my choice of flimsy footwear. The Invisible Shoes have been great, basically making the rocks feel like they’re covered in a thin sheet of rubber. I was contacted by Branca Barefoot to give their latest product a try: the Perforated Leather Running Sandals.

Here are my initial thoughts:

Woops, I should read the instructions. They left me to the task of cutting them to fit. At first I was all Mr. Irate Customer, even though I didn’t pay for them. It’s like getting a free Vallvik from IKEA. So then I thought, who am I to look a gift Vallvik in the mouth?

Actually, having the customer cut the toe end of the sandals makes sense – who better to make a “custom” fit than the “custom”er?

So I cut ‘em and wore them to work.

Some notes:
- It wasn’t the lace that was uncomfortable. Turns out I had a bug bite on my foot.
- I played around with the lacing and have some options.
- Not much running in them yet. Sorry guys, it’s summer. I’m not putting anything on my feet unless I absolutely have to. I guess everything will get re-reviewed in the winter.
- They have upgraded the Vibram Newflex soles. I don’t know what that means, other than they must be better than the Oldflex.
- New soles also have the curvy bendy feature to minimize flappage. But I gotta say, I don’t see how that is necessary with how the lacing works. These sandals stay snug.

So, would I pay $97 for a pair (that includes a free pair of basic Brancas, which I haven’t tried)? Because that’s what they cost. I can see how a small company would need to charge that much to make any kind of profit. Those soles and heel straps are probably pricey, especially if you’re not buying in mega bulk. But as a customer, no, I wouldn’t. Too steep for me, and there are more affordable options.

Price aside, my initial impression of the Branca is very positive. The sole is thicker than I’d prefer, but honestly after a while I don’t even notice. On some terrains and distances I might even like it better. For my general daily shod activities, though, Invisible Shoes are my first choice. I’m thinking I’ll want the Brancas for the trails, though. Time will tell…

Men Run After The Women 5k report: running in a dog’s mouth

Not a smelly mouth, mind you. The course smelled pleasantly neutral the entire way. It was 75 degrees with 100% humidity but not raining, the air had the quality of dog slobber. And the wind – a headwind gust that picked up at the start of a long straightaway in mile three felt like neutral-smelling dog breath. The analogy was made by my sister Rachel, who was racing her first-ish 5k. It’s also her birthday in a few days, but not really. She’s a runner now, and the only birthdays that count are the ones that put you in a new age group.

But as with all things, TANSTAAFL. Racing a 5K with the sis meant Iris had to run her 12th of 12 half-marathons in 12 months alone. For every other half, she had the company of either I or friend Christine. Fortunately she found friends along the way. Running and racing isn’t about time or place. OK, well, it is kind of. But at the root of all of that is the THING. That THING is the drive to dig deep, to be tenacious in the face of adversity. In short, to have guts. And that wife o’ mine has guts. Here’s a snippet of a conversation we just had:

Iris: I was going to quit, blow the race, blow my half-fanatic Saturn status, and quit running forever.

Me: But you didn’t. You are SO ready for a marathon.

Tally-ho!

On with the report:
Time: 18:34
Overall: 2/30? dudes

First the ladies:

First place:

Second place:

Third and Fourth place:

Rachel’s finish (Standard Expletive Alert!):

OK, now me:

Well, briefly me. If I were running faster, I’d be in the frame.

Even though there weren’t a lot of dudes for the dude-only race, there were a lot of fast looking dudes. I wasn’t sure where to line up. Oh, second row oughtta do.

I was already drenched with sweat from warming up. The air was dense, more liquid than gas. Gills would have been handy. START was yelled, off we galloped. After a few moments of sorting out, I was second. First was too fast and pulling away, third was alternately pushing the pace and backing off. I was quickly gasping for oxygen as we sped around a pond. It was difficult to tell where the air ended and the pond began.

The path was all wiggly, which was fun. Around the last mile, the footsteps from behind didn’t let up. I tried to accelerate, but he just kept up. I needed to back off but I guess he didn’t, so kept going. While he was passing me, first place started bonking a bit. I passed him, maintaining second position. Don’t look back, I told myself.

Anyway, gasp-gasp, run-run, happy to be done-done. The crowd was very supportive; I like to be cheered, and I don’t care who knows it. If Prince George’s Running Club is any indication, DC has an excellent running community. It was great to meet all of you, and thanks for putting up with my sister.

I'm the one with the beard.

I am a pithy maker of memes

First, I want to say I’m not mad. I’m not looking for, nor do I feel I deserve, financial compensation. A little recognition is always nice, but I understand.

Last February I posted a review of my first pair of Invisible Shoes, in which I included the slogan, “Less Shoe, More You.” I offered it up to any minimalist shoe company to use for free. Because, frankly, I hold the unpopular opinion that it’s silly to think an idea can be owned and should paid for once it’s out there. But that’s for another blog.

So what do I see on Zem‘s homepage? Click the link and see for yourself. Well, I’m sure you can guess without clicking the link. But you should click the link, because it makes me feel a little bit famous. Alright, fine, here’s a screenshot:

I'm such a giver.

Now, I said I don’t require compensation. However, that’s a pretty neat looking ninja shoe you got there, Zem. It would be a shame if something happened to it… wait, wrong unsubtle hint.

Other shoe companies have sent me free shoes. I’m not sure I totally understand why – maybe it’s the honor that comes with being associated with my awesome feet. If, Zem, and I am talking to you now, not the gallery of yahoos that make up my regular readership, if you would like to see what your neat looking ninja shoes look like on my feet, I would be happy to oblige.

But like I said, that one’s a freebie. But, and everyone has one, I’ve got two already in this paragraph, that’s just one among gajillions. My brain is not very good at most anything brains do, but that’s because all of my brain power is specialized to generate pithy slogans. So if anyone wants to tap my brain keg to sell doohickies and tweezledums, or just want more limericks, it’ll cost you. Fewer limericks? That’ll cost you too.

Less shoe, more you. On a shoe with the ninja toe thingy. That’s appropriate, I think. I should open up an ad agency.