Second Wind

Second Wind
"Run With Purpose!"

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Product Review 9: Stem Footwear - Primal Origins

Stem Footwear Primal Origins

Today we have the darkhorse of this review series: a shoe called “Primal Origins” from a Brand new company (these shoes don’t even exist yet but are available for pre-order now) Stem Footwear.

I had never heard of these shoes, nor had I heard of the company “Stem” before. However, as I started to research them, everything I could find I liked and decided to give it a shot. My assumption was that I would review a concept shoe and provide feedback for a ton of tweaks and that maybe in a year or 2, after several revisions, they might be someone putting out a decent shoe, who knows. I was wrong. Dead wrong.

First impressions weren’t good, they weren’t great, they were “oh my gosh what am I holding and how did I get this” kind of great. The shoes had a pink sock liner (yes, I said pink) and were about a size to a size and ½ too big, and yet I Loved them.
The look fantastic, like a really nice pair of casual dock shoes that you would buy at any nice retailer. Then you pick them up and they weigh virtually nothing (6 oz) and feel like they have no solid substance at all. Here’s a summary of what I found and my conclusions at the end of testing.

• As stated, the shoes look great – best looking (obviously opinion based here) minimalist shoe I’ve seen.

• Very light weight (coming in at a stated 6 oz)

• The lace system is wide and non-binding and ends in a zip cord type “cinch” (like on a
rucksack) instead of tying. This was actually one thing I wasn’t a big fan of (preference) and I actually cut the cinch off and just converted them into a traditional tie lace. To me it hung down too far (dangled) but I would imagine that part of that was from the shoes being so big on me.

• The shoes are cool (temperature wise), vented well, and didn’t cause undue sweat. I did not get them wet, now that I think about it, so can’t emphatically comment on that but the fact that the upper is vented and there is no insole tells me they would be at home pretty well with water.

• Flexibility, flexibility, flexibility. The flexibility was honestly second to none. Though the sole feels solid and showed no sign of wear during my testing, it moves like a sock – not a single spot of solidity to be found
• Great toebox: the shoes are wide throughout with great room in the toebox for toe splay (completely rounded front end – no point).

• These shoes had a ground feel that, for me, was second to none in a shoe. Let’s face it, all of the above is great, but ground feel is what sells me and most minimalist minded shoe patrons. The ground feel is simply superb, by the far the best I’ve had in a shoe.

So I tried these shoes expecting nothing from them, the sock-liner was baby pink (“lavender” as the box said), and they were a size to a size and ½ too big for me, and yet they are a “best of” in this review series already, hands down. My shoes, er hat, off to the guys at Stem… this sample that they sent me, not even a production shoe yet, is absolutely superb.

Well done, A+

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Levi Dodd
April 2011

As an introduction, I will periodically be posting these reviews of various products and brands.
At the end (a few months), I will publish all of the reviews in a PDF and make that available to anyone who wishes.
Note that I am reviewing products that I have done a good bit of research on First before including them in my list of products to review so I am anticipating most all of the products will receive favorable feedback (these are not 'blind' tests).
Also, all reviews will be posted on my blog and on my facebook page as well (The blog will include all the pictures)



This is my first Shoe review this round
(although I did review the VFF Bikilas vs VFF KSO’s a while back).
Today we have the VIVOBAREFOOT (Terra Plana) Neo.

First off, let me say that this is my second pair of Terra Plana/VIVOBAREFOOT
shoes and I am very impressed with the company’s direction they are taking.
They have had their VIVOBAREFOOT line now for going on 8 years now
(certainly ahead of the curve).
What I really like is that with each new shoe they put out,
they are listening to minimalist minded people and addressing their concerns –
getting better each time.

First impressions were great. The shoe is just a great looking shoe. I am a minimalist shoe and barefoot runner and let’s be honest… the good shoes typically ARE going to get you all kinds of attention, but the not the attention a fashion minded individual may want…

• The sole is not soft and squishy (a good thing), but everything around your foot (achilles/heel, sides, tongue) all felt very cushy and comfortable.

• The sole may not look like much, but I found it to be amazingly tough! After running a week on concrete, asphalt, crushed rubber (track), grass, and trail you couldn’t even tell I had used them at all!

• A small benefit that took me a little while to put my finger on were the laces: the laces are set slightly farther forward (not coming up as high on your ankle) and slightly wider apart (wide tongue) allowing the shoe to be laced very loose while remaining secure. This allowed the shoe to be worn without any tension or squeezing on the top of the foot or the front of the ankle like you get in traditional lace up shoes.

• The upper is a ‘different’ material. “Airmesh and microfiber”, as they call it. It’s like thick mesh. What it did was keep all debris out and even kept water out (I noticed after I had run through a puddle that my feet didn’t get wet even though I assumed they would get soaked in this mesh looking shoe – it was only after that that I noticed VB market it as “water resistant”). Also, for a water resistant shoe, it breathed very well. That said, it will, of course, not breathe quite as well as a full ‘summer mesh’ shoe. To me, it’s a good balance. It allows me to run comfortably each day in this crazy weather we’re experiencing here (literally over the span of 2 weeks we’ve had days of 93 degrees and days of 48 degrees).

• The Neo is said to have a 4mm sole. 4mm is certainly a great thickness for a minimalist shoe and without the insole the ground feel was quite good. With the insole (probably increasing the sole by nearly 50%) the ground feel is still exists, but is marginal at best. I say this because many people (like me) reading this will want to feel every pebble under their foot (no insole), but there are those out there who simply do not, and for them, the marginal ground feel will with the insole will be a plus.

• The Neo is a light shoe, as traditional shod shoes go, however, in terms of minimalist shoes, it’s a touch on the heavy side. Mine register right at 8oz a piece. To give some reference here, the Fivefingers range from around 5.6 oz to 6oz a piece, however, keep in mind that an Asics Kayano tips the scales at just under 12 oz a Piece. With that said, the stated weight (8oz) actually surprised me – I did not personally notice the increase in weight that significantly, but would obviously prefer it a bit lighter. If you are a barefoot runner, you will notice the weight slightly heavier than you are used to. However, if you are typically a shod runner, these will feel much lighter than anything you are currently used to.

• By far the biggest + of this shoe is the width. The toe box is extremely wide (all the way out to the end of the toes-not just where the toes join the foot) and allow for maximum toe splay. Not only are these shoes wide at the toes, but they are quite wide the entire length of the shoe. If you have wide feet, these shoes will be perfect! In fact, many would be minimalist runners complain that they can’t wear any minimalist shoes due to their extremely narrow last – not the case with these! Width wise, these are the best in width of any minimalist shoe I have seen so far.

Now, time for some opinion: many people will love the wide from heel to toe build of these shoes. For me personally, it was a bit of a turnoff, from a running shoe perspective.
Again, this is preference only, but I prefer a shoe to fit more glove-like around my foot with width reserved for the toe box (for splay).

The other thing was the padding: the padding was not on the bottom of the shoe, so it didn’t affect the run, but the padding around the top and edges of the shoe combined with the width just didn’t do it for me. I felt like I was running in a pair of old airwalk skater shoes. With that said, I Love them as a casual shoe. They look great, they have decent ground feel, zero drop sole, no arch, perfect for jeans… just not, for me, as a running shoe.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


This past week I got a note from a friend of mine who has recently taken the plunge into minimalist running.

Her question was one of fear and high anxiety: "Have you ever heard of TOFP???"

Admittedly, I chuckled a little. I (very fortunately) had only 1 episode of TOFP (Top Of Foot Pain) and it freaked me out! I was terrified I had a stress fracture, that I was going to have to take tons of time off, etc.... in another words, I felt her pain.

I thought that I would repost my note to her on TOFP to share with everyone, as this is a very common thing. As I said, I only had one isolated episode of it (after running the "Suicide 5k" way before I was ready!) but many people have it recur several times. See my response below:


Yes, I know TOFP (Top Of Foot Pain) and it sounds like what you have. TOFP is a result of another acronym: TMTS (Too Much Too Soon)

It's an adaptation of your feet - all those tiny bones, those ligaments, connective tissue, things you haven't used for most of your entire life. Think of it as physical therapy: when you have your leg in a cast for 3 months, all those muscles atrophy and you have to do physical therapy to wake those muscles back up and strengthen them. Your feet have been in casts your entire life - this is a slow process of 'rehabilitating' your feet to how you are using them now.

TOFP is experienced, to some degree, by about 80% of barefoot/minimalist runners. It is (I dare say) always a result of Too Much Too Soon. Here's what I suggest:

Back your mileage down a little
Back your pace down a little
Always take a day of rest between run days
You have to take it easy and build up your running. it will take 3 months for your feet (and ankles and calves) to truly get 'used' to being used. In that time you have to take it slow. It feels so good and it's so much fun it's hard to take it slow, but remember, this is your physical therapy - ease in!
Take about 5 days - week off Now (no running of any kind).

Relax! Tense feet and tense ankles can exacerbate TOFP, be as loose and relaxed as possible - no muscles should be tensed.
Your calves being tight (connect) also can cause and make TOFP worse - focus on stretching your calves (the better you stretch your calves, the better it will be, the faster you will recover)
Also, make sure your VFF straps aren't pulled too tight - you want them loose, they don't need to be tight on top, the strap really isn't necessary at all.

Ice your foot (30 minutes at a time)
Elevate your foot (while you ice it - just prop it up above your heart, i.e. lay down on your back on the couch, put your foot up on a couple of cushions, and ice it there for 30 minutes)

Take something with aspirin in it (anti-inflammatory): like Aleve (Not Tylenol)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Product Review 7: CEP Compression Socks

CEP Compression Socks

With these compression socks, like other compression socks I’ve tried, I used them in 2 ways: I did run in them in a pair of minimalist shoes (normally I run in VFF’s so no socks) and then I also used them in tandem with the sleeves: used the sleeves on the run and wore the socks post run and slept in them for recovery. On the run the socks held in place perfectly, no tugging or adjusting required. I want to specifically address the “padded foot soles”. The bottom of the socks are a different color (grey) making the leap in one’s mind to the grey (carbon injected) pronate/suppinate pads in shoes. I was worried about this idea of “padded” socks at first but I can say that it is only slightly thicker (I would say more tightly woven) on the soles. It was not a turn off for me. What I will say about it is that it felt as though they had increased the elasticity in that area which I actually really liked: it made the sock fit around the foot much more glove-like than a normal sock which made sure that the sock never shifted, slid, or bunched up during the run.
Compression level was good throughout and, just like in the sleeves, the material felt very soft (again, almost cotton-like) against the skin while wicking moisture away and drying very efficiently.
Another small point, CEP has actually created a YouTube video on how to put on compression socks. Sounds a bit silly, but I will say that I have people talk about the difficulty of getting them on while not stretching them incorrectly (I am not a tri-athlete but I would imagine this be much more of an issue if you were trying to put them on wet). The video is actually really good and shows a great technique for getting them on (and on consistently in the same way):

**NOTE: CEP has offered all readers of this review the ability to get 15% off all of their products at by entering the Coupon Code: blog15

Product Review 6: CEP Compression Short

CEP Compression Shorts

CEP was kind enough to send me a pair of their brand new compression shorts. Wow. From the very first impression to the last run I used them on (this morning), the shorts just scream Quality. For the first time, I feel confident enough to say that these are hands down the best compression shorts I have tried. The fit is perfect (truly), good compression while not having any tight spots, excellent attention to detail in the “zones” that they have crafted within these shorts (having separate levels of compression based on the area of the body and how you utilize those muscles). The attention to detail is superb. They stayed in place, they fit in such a way that you could wear them without focusing on their presence, they glide perfectly, and offered (anecdotally of course) the best level of performance and recover of any short I have tried thus far. The multiple ventilation panels work well and are positioned just right for me. Another small but very nice feature can be seen in the 2nd picture – that black rainbow in the center of the butt is actually the cover flap of a seamless pocket that will hold a key (which is what I used it for) but would even hold a small billfold or MP3 player. Again, I just honestly can’t overstate how impressed I am with this short.

**NOTE: CEP has offered all readers of this review the ability to get 15% off all of their products at by entering the Coupon Code: blog15

Product Review 5: CEP Compression Calf Sleeves

CEP Compression Calf Sleeves

The CEP Compression sleeves were absolutely top notch. The calf sleeves, as I’ve mentioned before, are the piece of compression gear that I was most interested in. The fit was fantastic – good solid compression, but not too much (where it would inhibit performance by cutting blood flow too much), and they stayed in place through the entire run, not once did I have to adjust them (or even think about them – which is the most important thing to me). Another think I liked about the CEP sleeves as opposed to some of the others I’ve tried is that they are cut just a little bit shorter in length so they didn’t come all the way down and cover my ankles. This isn’t a huge thing, but for me, it makes them more comfortable (and makes sense to me as there’s no benefit for coming down over the ankle bones).
The CEP sleeves material was also very nice. They are listed as 85% Polyamid, 15% Elasthan but they have a very soft (almost cotton like against the skin) feel to them. They breathe really well (a huge plus for me running in 90+heat already) and dry very quickly. They wick moisture as well or better than anyone else on the market leaving your skin underneath dry and comfortable (and eliminate the risk of bacteria and stench). I certainly feel that they did, in fact, reduce my post race soreness as well as DOMS, allowing me to recover quicker, and be ready to run again.

**NOTE: CEP has offered all readers of this review the ability to get 15% off all of their products at by entering the Coupon Code: blog15

Product Review Session 2: CEP Compression

Again, to start off with a brief intro:

As most people know, Compression gear is meant to increase blood flow (and some say ‘squeeze’ out lactic acid) and improve performance while aiding with recovery.

Admittedly, I was a bit of a skeptic on compression gear as it seemed, on the surface, to be a bit fad driven and followed the thought I’m trying to get people away from (‘you’d run better if you Just had _X_ product!’). With that said, I began thinking about how each time I had to have knee surgery (6 times…) I had to wear compression sleeves on my legs to reduce swelling and save me from blot clots – by increasing blood flow/circulation… so I decided to give compression a true go and put several types, brands, and lines to the test; now with CEP.

Today we have a series of 3 compression products from CEP

**NOTE: CEP has offered all readers of this review the ability to get 15% off all of their products at by entering the Coupon Code: blog15

You can also ‘like’, follow, and share your own thoughts and stories at CEP’s facebook page: and their blog: