Oh, 2017 was a good year for our feet, a year for them to be fully unbound. Both new shoe models were products Bill spotted and I bought first—I having the needier feet. Neither shoe style is new, however. The Furoshiki came out in 2015 and the first models from Bedrock were sold in 2011 though this superior Cairn style has been out about 18 months.
Vibram-branded Furoshiki wraps & Vibram-soled Bedrock Cairns.
The deliberately outrageous looking Vibram brand Furoshiki, or wraps, were our first new footwear of the year. Bill spotted them in a back window of a favorite gear shop in Ortisei, Italy in the Dolomites in July (Vibram is actually an Italian company).
We’d arrived in Ortisei by foot late Saturday and admired the wraps in the window of the closed shop on Sunday. Monday was an all-day hike day but I was trying them on first thing on Tuesday morning. The young Italian clerk kept insisting that they were only “freetime” shoes, like slippers. He kept deflecting our chatter about their durability on the trails. At $100 and with the Vibram name on them, I was sure they weren’t slippers. They were clearly the next in the evolutionary line after Vibram’s 5 Fingers.
We read a number of disparaging online reviews Sunday night that commented on how easy it was to tear the fabric between the rubbery, reinforcing side and top ribs. The reviewers fell into 2 camps, the handful of experienced minimalist wearers that loved them and the larger, freetime crowd that was dissatisfied. One reviewer gave them low marks because her autistic daughter didn’t like the looks of them. With more excitement than worry, I headed out the trail Tuesday and I fell in love.
My feet are wide and thick and I’ve never owned any footwear that didn’t hurt or compress my feet. At last, I had something that was freeing for my Fred Flintstone feet. The soles are thin, really thin. We have learned that the key to being comfy in barely-there soles is having flexible feet. If your feet are stiff and immobile from being bound in shoes, they literally have knots of fascia in them and scar tissue binds bones together. Stepping on rocks with your tissue knots hurts; stepping on rocks with mobile foot bones does not. It’s amazing, but it continues to be true.
As I am prone to doing, I initially wore my Furoshikis everywhere on the trails, including down a snowfield from a high saddle. It was slow going and I slipped more than I would have in shoes with proper treads, but I did it. We always say “It’s in the feet, not the shoes” and I have highly experienced feet. After I exclusively wore these wraps on hikes for a few weeks, I then let them be my uphill and traversing footwear where tread doesn’t really matter. We did meet our limits on the rocky trails above San Marino, Italy—for some reason those rocks were just too harsh for the Furoshikis to be fun.
There isn't a lot of profile on the Furoshiki soles.
We do recommend buying Furoshikis a size larger than feels needed or than matches the sizing chart. We both did and were glad for it. Buying a size larger keeps the top-of-the-toe fabric from rolling under and on to the ground when descending. The side straps made it easy to snug the fit with a size larger shoe but it was still roomy enough to add a sock or waterproof sock. Speaking of socks, we both found that socks had us sliding around inside the shoe more than when barefoot so we rarely wore socks. The Furoshikis are surprisingly warm and dry out fairly quickly if they get wet on the trail.
The Furoshikis aren’t my go-to shoe in wet weather though a woman on a Grand Canyon trail commented that her Minnesota friend wears them there year round.
We love these Furoshikis for trail shoes but they also could be an option for an aging relative with so much edema that it is difficult for them to wear a shoe. Short calf muscles from a lifetime of high heel wearing could be a problem however.
The list price on Vibram’s US website is $110. They generally sell their discontinued colors for $77. We happened to buy our first pairs in Italy for US $100, including taxes and the conversion rate. We have yet to see the Furoshikis in a store in the US.
Bedrock Cairn Sandal
Bill spotted this dynamite sport sandal while cruising through Peace Surplus in Flagstaff, AZ. Flagstaff is our gateway to the Grand Canyon and Peace Surplus was the only outfitter in town until REI showed up a couple of years ago. We still go up and down all of the aisles in Peace every year looking for trophy finds. They were competing with REI before their brick and mortar store arrived, competing by carrying different brands, which we treasured.
Bedrock Cairns & a toe pocket sock.
Yes, I was so confident in these puppies that I wore them all day on a 20 miler for their first outing. I was a little concerned about the harshness of the stiff, new webbing against my skin, so I wore my toe pocket socks to be safe. Like the Furoshikis, it was "love on first hike.” The aggressive sole held tight on the tough descents around Flagstaff and on the difficult S Kaibab trail in the Grand Canyon. We both thought I was descending faster in them than when I wore my best minimalist trail runner shoe. And unlike that shoe, the Bedrocks didn’t hurt my feet.
I haven’t been able to wear minimalist sandals with a cord between the toes, like in flip flops, but I can this one. I believe that the different design using 2 cords is what makes them workable for me.
These Bedrock sandals represent an exciting turning point for me. I’ve been a “2 pairs of shoes gal” for a couple of years. That’s when we shifted from developing our feet to working on our speed. When developing my feet, I’d wear a thin shoe like my Teva Zilches or Vibram 5 Fingers, having to slow on difficult terrain. But when we began ‘increasing our range’, as in doing much longer hikes, I needed to work on my speed. I slowly settled on a compromise: I’d wear my less-shoe shoes on the uphill and switch to trail runners with more aggressive treads for the downhills. I’d have to do some rehab on my feet afterwards to undo the compression injury to my feet from my shoes but it was workable.
Happy feet at the end of a hard hike in the Grand Canyon.
We have become huge believers in rotating shoes. At the extreme, we switch shoes on a given hike. And we make a point of using different shoes in our rotation throughout the week. That said, I doubt that I’ll need to replace my trail runners for years because they won’t rack up much time in the dirt, I’ll be wearing my Bedrock Cairns instead.
The Cairn list price is $98.
But wait, there is more!
Altra’s King Mountain Trail Runner
A month after saying I wouldn’t be buying trail runners any time soon, and still in toe heaven with our Furoshiki wraps and Bedrock Cairns, Bill came through with New Model #3 for the year.
Satiated with new footwear finds from the summer and early fall, I’d been ignoring Bill’s lusting after Altra’s relatively new King Mountain trail running shoe. I was content: I had my new, barely-there footwear and 2 unused pairs of Altra Lone Peaks 1.5 ready in the closet. I wasn't entirely satisfied with the Lone Peaks, but they were by far the widest minimalist trail shoe around and I’d already worn out several pair.
Check-out the forefoot traction on these Altra King Mountains.
One of the annoyances with our 2 brands of expensive, minimalist trail runners is that we grind off the traction knobbies so fast—we practically take a knobbie head count after every long hike. But the engineering on the tread looked more durable and it was an extremely aggressive tread pattern that promised a superior grip, like our Bedrock sandals.
Once again, it was Bill’s find but I pushed the “BUY NOW” button first. A few days later, Altra put these puppies on a 50% sale. We groaned and I pushed “BUY” again. The price of returning them was worth the gamble, especially since Bill was on board with both purchases, making return shipping per pair cheaper.
The good news was that these King Mountains were even better than expected. By far, the best real shoe I’ve ever had. We instantly concurred with the reviewers. They performed well on rock and didn’t compress my feet. Bill too was love-struck. Suddenly, 2 pair each weren’t looking like enough, though we restrained ourselves for the time being. Once again this year, the answer to “Which shoes are you taking to Europe? question had a new answer.
Like with the Lone Peaks, the King Mountains have a tight collar, a small opening for the foot, which is the best way to keep the foot from sliding forward on descents. We buy-up a full shoe size on Altras to ensure a roomy fit in the toe box and further ensure the toes don’t smash into the end of the shoe.