Nothing puts me in the mood to go biking faster than getting new gear. You know that American Express ad where the woman is buying a bag and shoes for vacation, but it turns out she’s an extreme rock climber? That’s Tery and me (not the extreme climbing, but you can keep your Macy’s and Nordstrom gift cards; Sports Authority and Dick’s, please).
Despite technically being in a spending freeze, out of the blue I decided I needed a new pair of biking shoes. I have shoes I bike in, but they are uniformly cheap, heavy, and make my feet sweaty and numb. I decided this year to go for light, airy and roomy (I begrudgingly realized “cheap” might need to be sacrificed).
Thus my entry into the world of “minimalist” or “barefoot” footwear. The pioneer of this style is Vibram, who introduced the FiveFingers…
…which look exceedingly silly and aren’t terribly comfortable (yes, I tried a pair on once).
Not that this style is so revolutionary. Truth be told, I wore a pair of tabi boots back in school very similar to them.
These had the desired effect of keeping people away in droves. Ninjas don’t need friends, and neither did I.
Somehow I gravitated to Merrell, because I already own their hiking boots and they’re awesome. They have a whole line of “Gloves”: Trail Gloves, Road Gloves, Vapor Gloves, Sonic Gloves. They all come highly recommended by runners, and therein lies the problem.
Normally when I buy things, they’re so obscure that I spend days searching for reviews in an attempt to make a reasonably informed decision. Not so with the Gloves — runner’s blog after runner’s blog went on at great length about all the pros and cons. But runners seldom, if ever, consider their cycling brethren (until we’re trying to squeeze past them on the road). Everything I found nattered on about “zero drop” and “heel strikes” and “gait cycles.” None of these things matter if your feet don’t even touch the ground.
However, I liked the words I did understand: Roomy toe box (where I believe my numbness problems originate), feather light, and breezy mesh upper. And as soon as I tried on some Trail Gloves in the store for sizing, I knew there was no turning back. Like wearing nothing at all (no doubt where the term “barefoot” comes into play).
But I had my heart set on Road Gloves for their looks and smoother toe profile for fitting in my pedal cages. These, in fact:
But I couldn’t spend that kind of money without being sure. Even more intensive Googling led to one or two threads of people asking the same question: How were they on a bike? These poor souls were deluged with racing purists all yawning dismissively, “Just get cycling shoes.”
For those who couldn’t care less about biking (in which case you probably haven’t made it this far), cycling shoes are tight, rigid prisons for your feet meant to snap into special, expensive pedals (aka clipless). If you ever happen upon a cyclist fully geared up away from their bike hobbling around unnaturally, it’s because they’ve got these cleats on their shoes that aren’t made for walking. Tery swears by them, but she’s a bit snobby when it comes to sports gear. This technology has replaced the toe cages that I use because when I fall off my bike I don’t need to be stuck to it, making the crash worse.
Anyway, the purists insist only a rigid shoe works on a bike — some crap about dispersal of pressure or something. Very rarely a hippie would jump in and say they’ve been biking in flip-flops for decades with no issues. And I believe one person endorsed barefoot shoe pedaling, claiming it exercised muscles in legs and feet made spoiled and lazy by cycling shoes. These people were largely ignored.
A well-known cycling company came out with barefoot clipless shoes, for a mere $349. LULZ no.
To Tery’s displeasure, my next round of Googling was for “the myth of cycling shoes.” I did find some articles, and they all agreed that unless you were racing and needed quick bursts of speed, clipless didn’t make an appreciable difference in performance, so wear whatever damn shoes you wanted. I chose to heed that advice and pulled the trigger.
My timing is terrible though. It’s spring in Colorado, which means Mother Nature teases us with some mild, balmy days, only to say, “Nah, I was just taking the piss,” and dumps all the snow we didn’t get the rest of the season on us. As I write this, there’s about eight inches of Christmas miracle falling. But she can’t keep us here forever, and I plan to be ready.
Spring in Colorado