Sunday, August 21, 2011

A hike up the creek near Piedra Blanca

I brought my Invisible Shoes on a hike yesterday. I hiked up the trail wearing my Chacos. The hike was a short one, about 3 miles on a trail and then half a mile up a creek. The creek part took as long as the trail part. I am very sore now and all scratched up from the bouldering. I'll probably get some wicked poison oak.

At the end of the creek part was a huge blue-green swimming hole. We swam and jumped from rocks into the cold water. It was probably 20 feet deep. There were steelhead trout in the pool but we scared them into hiding. I learned yesterday that steelhead trout are the same species as rainbow trout. The difference between them is that steelhead spend some time living in the ocean. It's possible these had never been to sea but I think they still call them steelhead in this area because that is their normal behavior, to go to sea at some point and come back again.

Hiking in the creek was pretty difficult. I am not good at this kind of thing. I felt like I couldn't trust my footing. Some of the rocks were very slippery and some were not but you couldn't really tell which ones just by looking at them. Sometimes even the dry ones were slippery. So I pretty much did the whole half mile of creek hiking bent over holding on with my hands.

After the swim and after descending back to the trail, I decided to hike in the Invisible Shoes. They feel like you have thin little rubber mats that come up to meet your bare feet with every step. I don't really even feel the straps, just the mats under my feet. You have to watch where you walk because you can feel every rock. It felt like a total relief to take off the Chacos and walk in what felt pretty much like my bare feet. I wished I could have hiked in them in the creek. I think the rubber they are made of might have stuck to the rocks better than the rubber of the Chacos, but they are so thin the movement of your foot through the water just flaps the sandals right in half under your toes. So they are fine to swim in, if you want to wear them swimming, but you can't hardly walk through water in them.

After the hike we went to Deer Lodge which has really slow service but decent buffalo and other game meat burgers and beer and bikers. I saw a guy there who I really thought was Too Obtuse from the PCT. I finally had to ask him if he was Too Obtuse, which of course sounded like the stupidest thing to ask a person, so I quickly had to say, "I mean, is your name Too Obtuse." He wasn't Too Obtuse and thankfully he didn't beat me up or anything.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Went for a run in my Invisible Shoes

I went running in my new Invisible Shoes today. I'm like the princess and the pea. Even though I got their thickest model (the 6mm Contact version), they felt plenty thin to me. I could feel the bigger stones or craters in the asphalt, and sometimes they hurt! But most of the time I wasn't being hurt and I enjoyed running in them immensely. I even forgot I was wearing them after a while and just enjoyed being outside getting some exercise. I especially liked it that with the cheap nylon rope laces and lack of leather or glue I didn't feel the slightest hesitation to get my feet wet in the surf on the beach.

There's no way in heck I could ever do a long hike or backpack trip in them though. They are way too thin. I can barely set up the kickstand on my scooter wearing them. The plus side is if you ever want to have the secret pleasure of being barefoot without actually being barefoot, these are the sandals to wear.

Monday, August 15, 2011

My Invisible Shoes have arrived

My Invisible Shoes came today. That was the fastest anything has ever arrived after ordering. I ordered Friday night, I think, or maybe Saturday morning. They arrived today, Monday.

I ordered their smallest size. I was surprised I would fit the smallest size, but they just barely fit me. I think the next size up would be better, but these are actually a perfect fit.

I think the cheap nylon laces are kind of hokey, but I'm surprised how nice they feel. I think I will use the nylon laces for a couple days, as lame as they are, just so I can have the full Invisible Shoe experience. One nice thing about them is you don't have a good side and a bad side like leather laces, but the hardware store appearance kind of takes that plus away.

The new soles they have are really nice. They have little chevron shapes on the bottom for grip. They have the side holes pre-punched on little wings that stick out a little bit on the side. The sole is shaped a little bit to conform to your foot but not overly so. They feel really "soft", smooth and barely there. Even though I got the thickest ones, they are so flexible you can fold them in half with your toes. They are very quiet to walk in.

The reason I ordered them was I had made some huaraches using soling sheet and vegetable-tanned leather with a suede top. They were rugged enough for hiking. But the leather was poor quality and it separated and peeled right off the sole. Meanwhile, I've been using this soling sheet to make a lot of other sandals and shoes and I wear the zig-zag tread off way too quick for them to offer any meaningful traction on these ball-bearing trails I hike on. Plus without a thick leather top, the heat from the soil just goes right through and I burn my feet.

I considered buying some unit soles to make another pair of huaraches, but the athletic sole didn't look like it would provide much traction and the hiking soles looked too heavy. Then I thought, why not try the Invisible Shoes. They're kind of like buying unit soles. I could see what they were like and if they might make a decent pair of hiking huaraches.

So I haven't decided if I will try to stick some vegetable-tanned leather to these or not. It sort of seems like the glue might not stick to this rubber. It has a checkered surface that feels non-stick. I'll see if that's just a coating that wears off. It's not certain that these little chevrons on the sole will actually provide any better traction than the basic Vibram 127 athletic soles, either. And they are more expensive than a pair of unit soles.

I have way too many sandals now, but I feel like I can't ever wear shoes again. It's just too free to have my feet completely unencumbered. I've actually done some running in them, too. It's a lot of fun.

Friday, August 12, 2011

I've broken down and ordered some huaraches from the Internet

I decided after my huaraches broke that I would order some of the Invisible Shoes huaraches. They have kits that are pre-made with the only thing left to do is to punch a toe hole and thread the laces. The soles have little nubs for traction. With any luck, it's a decent amount of traction. I'll use my Luna Leadville laces if I like the sandals.

I turned my previous homemade huaraches into two pairs. One pair is made from the rubber outsoles. They are okay, but they lack the beauty of my former leather top huaraches. They are also kind of flimsy. They don't pass my Vespa test, which means they hurt when I try to put the kickstand up on my Vespa.

The other pair is made from the leather top and a pair of Vibram lug soles I had. They are too narrow and my toes hang over the sides. The Vibram soles are also really heavy so the sandals feel kind of heavy.

With any luck, the Invisible Shoe sandals will work out. Perhaps I'll glue some suede to the top for added good looks and comfort. I would order the Luna sandals except that a) they cost too much and b) I'm starting to not like the Vibram Newflex. It wears out too quickly.

Meanwhile, I have actually done some trail running, beach running and street running wearing homemade huaraches. I like running in huaraches. It feels sort of like barefoot running on the beach. I hope if I run at lunch a few times a week I will lose some weight. These love handles are bad. Very bad.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Huarache fail

My huaraches fell apart. The vegetable-tanned leather separated from the soles. It's like the leather peeled off and left leather fuzz glued to the sole. I'm so mad at how I can't get the soles to stick reliably.

I guess the only good thing to come of this is I'll get two pairs of sandals from this instead of one.

I peeled off the leather tops and glued them to some other soles. We'll see if they stick. I took the soles that the sandals peeled off of and glued some very thin suede scraps to the tops to make a new pair of sandals.

We'll see if the ones with the vegetable-tanned leather stick to the new soles. I don't have a lot of hope. If the suede doesn't stick, it won't matter so much because it's paper thin and only there to hide the leather fuzz.

I probably have more pairs of huaraches than anybody (3 pairs!)


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Sport sandal hiking huaraches

I continue to make shoes every now and then, although lately only sandals. I've made two pairs of huarache sandals and I like them both very much.

One pair is relatively thin, just two 6mm layers of rubber soling sheet glued together. There are little leather tabs on the side and a loop for between the toe sandwiched between the layers of soling sheet. The leather lace goes through the tabs and the loop instead of going through the bottom of the sole. They are very minimal. I have worn them on walks at the university where I work and I brought them on a camping trip and just wore them around camp.

Leather top huaraches
I added a suede top to these and 10mm black leather laces.
The other pair is relatively heavy-duty with 8mm Vibram soling sheet on the bottom layer, with some vegetable-tanned leather on top and another layer of suede on top of that. Same loop and tab system but with 10mm heavy leather laces. I've worn them on hikes in the mountain and usually wear them to work each day. There's something liberating about them even though they are so thick.

I wore them on a hike last weekend. We hiked up Rattlesnake trail to the Connector to the waterfall on Tunnel Trail, then down Tunnel to Mission Ridge and back down to Rattlesnake. I struggled a bit on the Mission Ridge trail, especially on the downhill part. I usually struggle and there's always a section or two where I have to scoot on my butt. It was no different this time, but with the sandals on, I felt like I had to blame the sandals. Other than the butt-scooting, I was pretty slow going down the hill. I didn't feel confident I wouldn't slip and fall, and the thong between my toes hurt a little.

Still, I was pretty happy I was able to make a pair of sport sandals and hike on a really gnarly trail in them. I had no trouble on the regular trails. Rattlesnake was fine. Tunnel was fine. Going up hill or on rocky sections or down a normally-graded trail was not a problem at all. My feet were bare with no socks on. I can't even do that in my Chacos.

I'm thinking maybe another try. Go with the same system with the loops and tabs sandwiched between two layers. But for the bottom layer, use a lugged sole for bullet-proof downhill traction. I haven't decided what to use for the top layer. The rubber is nice because it will dry fast if I go through a creek. But it's rough on my skin. The vegetable-tanned leather is nice because eventually it molds a little to your feet and it is flexible yet very protective against rocks. The suede just feels nice. I haven't decided what to do yet.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

My boring life

I haven't written anything in a long time. I've become a cave-dwelling programmer again. The 8-5 grind. An hour of sunshine and fresh air at lunch. A few hikes on weekends. Not much to say about that.

Not a day goes by that I don't think about the PCT though.