Vivobarefoot shoes survive the rigours of 21 days at Outward Bound

Vivobarefoot Trail Freaks, Vivobarefoot Neos

When I got the scholarship to go to Outward Bound I was told I needed to bring 2 pairs of running/cross trainer shoes. We were warned that our shoes would definitely be getting wet.

For some reason I decided to tell someone that I wore Vivobarefoot shoes. I got told that I would need to take at least one pair of conventional cross trainers with me. Having just invested in a pair of Vivobarefoot Trail Freaks I decided to ignore that and took the Trail Freaks and my trusty Vivobarefoot Neos. I think they were expecting 5 fingers or maybe that I ran with no shoes. I’m not sure. No one noticed that I didn’t have conventional cross trainers until I pointed it out to one of my instructors. I get shin splints and achilles problems if I wear anything with heel rise and I was definitely not going back!

Trail Freaks

I had bought the Trail Freaks because I thought we might be running on the Queen Charlotte track. In the event most of our running was done on the road at Anakiwa. After PT our 3.2km morning run was always followed by a quick dip in the sea (total immersion – they had instructors in the water to make sure you went under completely). We had to wear our shoes because of the oyster shells on the beach.

I prepared to sacrifice my Vivobarefoot Neos for our morning run

I quickly decided that my Neos would be my morning running shoes and that I would save my precious Trail Freaks for drier activities and use them as my cross trainers. I used them rock climbing and on the high ropes and they did great. I have to admit that the cleats were a bit of a bother on the high wires. Probably not the footwear of choice, but my Neos were always wet and it was so very cold.

Oh no, I’ve lost weight off my feet – my shoes don’t fit anymore!

I went to Boot camp for 10 weeks before Outward Bound and lost so much weight that my feet went down half a size. Its not a place one anticipates having weight loss. Having just invested in the Trail Freaks I was a bit concerned as I couldn’t get the laces pulled tight enough. I found two solutions to this problem.

Vivobarefoot Neos with insolesThe first solution I figured out while still at home. I cut foam insoles for both pairs of shoes which meant that they fitted really snuggly. It was relatively dense foam from my old screen printing table. I fitted them in under the removable insole of the shoe. It also meant I had slightly more cushioning under my feet (a great asset when you get to my age).

When I got to Outward Bound my Neos got wet every day we were at Anakiwa. It was a mission to get them dry each day along with their insoles and the rubber cushioning. Not only that, because we had to be on the PT court before 6:20am (and there were penalties if we didn’t get there on time), I would have to get dressed, retrieve my shoes from the drying room, try to put them all back together and get them on. There just wasn’t the time to get the fit exactly right without any wrinkles as both insoles are a tight fit. In the end I just put the foam insole in and left the normal insole out. It still worked really well.

Vivobarefoot Trail Freaks with winter socksThe second solution I came up with at Outward Bound. It was an extremely cold June, the coldest for many years, so my normal cotton running socks just didn’t do it for normal everyday activities when wearing my Trail Freaks. I took to wearing my woollen tramping socks instead. I used the normal insole and left the foam insole out. This worked really well both for size and for warmth.

A half marathon – me run a half marathon – surely you joke!

What no one had told me was that I would need to complete a half marathon on the last day at Outward Bound. I struggled enough with the 3.2km morning runs. At 65-years-old I was just learning to run. However, one thing I learned at Outward Bound is that “there is always more in you” and I surprised even myself.

Outward Bound half marathon at 65 years oldThere was roughly 3kms of running on the road, 5km on a bike track beside the road and 13kms on the Queen Charlotte Sound track.  I had to make a decision about which shoes I wanted to wear. In the end my Neos were still wet from the evening before and it made the decision to wear my Trail Freaks the obvious choice. I wore them with their normal insole and with woollen tramping socks. It was an extremely cold day, quite frosty and very slippery on the road.  I never overheated. They were great and very comfortable on the longest run I have ever done. I had no shin splints or archillies problems at all. Although I did end up walking the last 10km after falling over and re-grazing my already grazed knee.

Yes, I know, I forgot Eric Orton’s advice of stepping over logs. At that point I was just amazed that I had beaten about 8 of the teenagers. I counted as they overtook me at this point. I finished with a time of 3hr 23 mins and was very pleased with that. I was definitely not last over the finish line.

Vivobarefoot Neos survive the salt water

My poor sea-salted Neos stood up amazingly well to the rough treatment I asked of them. I am very impressed, as all I did each day was rinse them off, strip out the foam insoles and hang them in the drying room for the next day. I was lucky my line was almost directly under the heat pump so I normally had dry shoes for the morning. However, there were times we had to pack them wet for PT while on expedition. Not a nice experience putting on soaking wet running shoes.

Vivobarefoot Trail Freaks, Vivobarefoot NeosSo yes, Vivobarefoot shoes will survive the rigours of 21 days at Outward Bound and do you proud.

Thanks to Sole Mechanics in Takapuna offering vivobarefoot shoes online.

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