I needed something for the winter. The Five Fingers have a fatal flaw in their design. Separated toes. They sap the warmth out of your feet before you even start. If they get wet they are even worse. If this makes no sense then just ask yourself, "Which is warmer, gloves or mittens?" Mittens will always win. Closed-toe shoes will always be warmer than the VFF's.
So my first attempt at creating a pair of minimalist winter running shoes was a little bit of a fail. Okay, a huge fail. They were based on an old pair of tan converse trainers I had and I nicknamed them the "Tennant's". (All those from the geek squad are killing themselves laughing now - Angie.. I know who you are!). Like I mentioned they were a fail and after a very unsuccessful first outing they were abandoned quicker than a smelly doggie-doo into the garbage bin.
So my second attempt revolved around a cheap pair of aqua-socks I picked up from our local MEC store. (It's an outdoor equipment store similar to REI if you are south-side of the parallel). I ran a few run's in them and knew that as far as warmth went, these shoes were onto a winner. I rejoiced, I danced, I laughed at the feeling I had in my toes - something I haven't been used to for a while in my VFF's. As for durability, well, I admit.. it wasn't great. The socks were made out of neoprene so after about 15 miles they were getting trashed quite badly. This, however, did not have me disheartened. There was a reason I was the "fix-it Queen" when I worked in IT. NO, it wasn't the "bodge-it-together Queen", although with me it's very hard to differentiate those two.
So back to MEC for some barge cement. I also raided my son's sand table and picked up a plate of sand. I lathered the bottom of the aqua-sock in barge cement and then as the cement was drying dipped it in Sand. This was for traction. I was going to be running some wet trails and I wanted a little extra traction. They are surprisingly grippy, although I don't expect that to last too long. On roads the sand will last longer.
After a few run's I also used the worn sand as an indication as to place an extra layer of Barge cement/sand mixture. Mainly on the midfoot area. It's not so much for cushioning, but as I run gravel trails, there will always be more wear in these area's. If I was running on asphalt I probably would find that the wear would be minimal.
As you can see they collapse pretty well on themselves. They aren't perfect, but hey, they are a pair of wetsuit socks and some glue - have some patience please :D. The ground-feel wasn't fantastic initially, but as the neoprene begins to collapse on the sole, the ground feel is getting better. Despite this, they are still remarkably warm. The whole glove vs. mittens ethos. Closed toe will ALWAYS be warmer.
I did find I had to wear socks underneath; the injinini toe-socks are the best. There is a lot of movement within the aqua-sock and as I was running trails I was finding the aqua-socks were rubbing the top part of my foot a lot and causing blisters. There is no way of tightening the shoe, so preventing the rubbing is the next best thing. As for warmth, a thin pair of socks and the shoes were warm enough to deal with -6C/21F temps. They are great in the damp and seemed to keep my feet warm despite torrential freezing rain.
Cost fantastic. A pair of Terra Plana's or Sockwa's are anything between $60-$160. These were a princely sum of $22. You heard me! $22!! Twelve dollars for the shoes and Ten dollars for the glue!
So, my fellow runners, let me introduce the "Smithie's". As to the name, well if you are a Doctor Who fan then you would have guessed that they are named after the 11th Doctor; Matt Smith. The "Tennant's" were named after David Tennant; the 10th Doctor. He wore tan converse trainers whilst wearing a suit. Nerdy I know. Let's hope they last, because I don't really want to have to deal with either 1) a new Doctor, or 2) a new naming convention. I suppose he is a "Time Lord", perhaps the Mark III's will be the "Ecclestones" - Nah, sounds like a fruit cake! No, wait, that's me..:D