Whether you manufacture barefoot running shoes like Vibram or sell them like us, or if you make any other product, being kinder to the environment is something every business of any size should have high on their agenda. Both Barefoot Junkie and Vibram are working hard to make sure our carbon footprints become smaller than the physical footprints we leave on our planet with our barefoot running shoes. We still have some work to do but we’re well on the way. We understand that our barefoot tribe takes all matters green very seriously and we do too. Connecting with the ground and the environment is one of the many pleasures from wearing thinner, less restrictive footwear, such as our barefoot running shoes. Together we’re making great progress towards providing a product that better aligns with the whole barefoot ethos. Let’s take a look at some of the ways we are both working on being kinder to the environment and what work we still have left to do. Reducing waste! Reducing scrap and waste is a really important piece of the puzzle and Vibram have already made some great progress here. Already, Vibram are saving 500,000 sheets of paper by the digitisation of documents. They are aiming to reduce this even further. At Vibram’s USA site water recycling has become a part of daily life. They've been recycling large volumes of water for the cooling tower to reach a target of ‘zero waste of industrial water’. Reducing energy! Vibram are using more renewable energy now, without any waste by reducing energy consumption. This is made possible with more efficient processes and state of the art systems that only use clean energy. The USA Vibram HQ is now using 100% renewable energy. Some of the steam presses have been replaced with more efficient electric presses. In China a solar energy system has been installed and elsewhere lighting has been gradually replaced to LED lights, some sites are already lit with 100% LED lighting. Vibram's barefoot running shoes are changing too. Take a look at the KSO ECO! The newest product in the Vibram FiveFingers range is a really big leap forward for sustainable footwear production. The KSO ECO uses brand new technology called N-Oil to produce a sustainable upper material made with hemp which is designed to reduce overall impact on the environment. It’s the first FiveFingers shoe to use this more sustainable material which is made from more than 90% natural ingredients. The KSO ECO doesn’t compromise on quality or comfort either. Barefoot Junkie’s own reviewer, Paul, had this to say about them: “I’ve worn many shoes in the Vibram FiveFingers range and have my clear favourites that I find myself going back to time after time. The V-Alpha for instance is my go to for a trail run, I’ll head for my V-Treks when the weather’s a little colder or wetter. However, since my KSO ECO’s dropped on my doorstep I’ve seldom worn anything else. Out of the box they felt softer than any of the other shoes in my rack, even though some of my favourites have had plenty of use. With any Vibram FiveFingers shoe I’ve never experienced any of the problems commonly associated with other new shoes like rubbing or blisters, but the KSO ECO took this to a new level. They felt as if I’d been wearing them for ages right from the start. They are surprisingly warm too, despite being very minimal and very light. If it’s a little colder outside they play very well with a pair of Vibram Toe Socks. I haven’t yet felt the need to reach for my V-Trek’s but I’ll still be grateful for the extra grip if things get slippery underfoot. Overall, these are a real winner for me and tick many boxes on my own quest to be kinder to the planet. I’m excited to see how Vibram will use these new, greener manufacturing methods to improve their range further” Click here to take a look at the new, greener KSO ECO and try them for yourself. We’re looking to do more! Even though we are really pleased with our greener efforts so far we’re not quite where we want to be. For example there are many things we can do to improve our delivery process and packaging for our amazing range of barefoot running shoes. Rest assured we are working hard to find more sustainable materials and more cost effective solutions. If you have any suggestions for ways that we can do more to become kinder to the planet we’d love to hear from you.
Barefoot Junkie : "A great read from Ben Turner from Athlete Adventure and his transition to Barefoot Running. After his own reasearch Ben came to us to find out more about Vibram Fivefingers, Barefoot Running and how they may help him with his series of extreme challenges. The follow blog is written entirely by Ben and his own journey into the world of a more natural approach to running and training footwear." Over to you Ben : This is part one of a three-part study into the world of barefoot running. I will be running the 16 Marathons Project barefoot to investigate the theories of barefoot running. The science behind the benefits of barefoot running is limited and largely anecdotal, therefore, I aim to research this myself through a culmination of research and internet ‘science’ and my own experiences of 1000 miles of barefoot running to help YOU better understand the FACTS and filter out the nonsense. Disclaimer. I am NOT a physiotherapist, nor do I hold a degree in Sports Science. I investigate certain topics such as barefoot running though the physical testing of Athlete Adventure challenges, academic research from professional and qualified subject matter experts, books, and finally through the improvements I see through clients and friends whom I have helped. “I was so frustrated with the pain in my shins and ankles that I threw all my trainers out and went for a run barefoot. I haven’t looked back since.” Athlete Adventure To date I have run ultra-marathons in military boots, raced the Salomon Glen Coe Sky Race in shoes with carbon fibre reinforcement, bought top-of-the-range mountain running shoes and specifically designed ‘correction’ trainers. I have altered running styles (including the dreaded jogging) in all types of terrain, from mountains to coastal sands and roads. But still, I have had a nagging chronic pain in my lower legs. Sometimes this has been a small niggle that I have been able to work through, and other times it has resulted in my being crippled for days before being able to walk properly, let alone run. So, What's the problem!? Well having seen many physios and various diagnoses have been: too much training to soon, pronation, supination, over load of the anterior tibialis (the muscle at the top of the shin), compartment syndrome and shin splints. This all sound like I should never ever run and hang up the trainers for good, right? But, through a fit of frustration at spending £££s on a new pair of trainers, I threw all of them to one side and disappeared on a run, barefoot. Although sharp under foot to start, I found that my running technique changed completely, my foot would hit the floor in a smooth and gentle movement, the front and mid sole of the foot impacted the ground first, with the heel just ‘kissing’ the floor. My toes would curl and flick my leg forward at the rear of the stride, I would bounce on my legs more and my feet would automatically align parallel to each other. The key thing… no chronic pain, what so ever. The analogy that I always keep in mind was mentioned in Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run that basically states: If you were to look out the window and see your child playing in the road, and notice there is an oncoming vehicle, you would run straight out to save them. You wouldn't stop to put on shoes, and that short stint of running would completely differ to the learned running in trainers. These changes in technique are the same changes that I experienced above, and one cannot help but question why we are the only species on the planet that wears shoes. In my training for the 16 Marathons Project, barefoot running definitely sounded like the solution, but I had to find a way of protecting my feet at least a little for the onslaught of 16 marathons in 16 days across every terrain possible throughout the UK. As I am impatient, I jumped straight into barefoot running without a transition period and hung up my trainers for good, after a week of running everywhere with no shoes, limiting myself to grass running, I was introduced to the Vibram Five Fingers from Barefoot Junkie. This allowed a layer of protection on the sole of my foot and did not restrict my feet in any way. I have not looked back since and remain injury free with a much stronger running form and increased efficiency. There will be a full review of the Vibram Five Fingers to follow after my next training block for the 16 Marathons project*. What does this mean? Well I am not saying that everyone should drop their trainers and run barefoot everywhere, if trainers work for you and you have no issues, that’s fantastic and I do not think you should change a thing. Mo Farah does not run barefoot, nor does the ultra-running legend that is Tom Evans. But, if you are experiencing problems, pain, or just curious, then it is important to bear in mind the following principles: Barefoot running takes time to adapt. YES, this is contrary to the method that I employed myself, but for the vast majority who are used to running in trainers, breaking in slowly with a couple of gentle barefoot runs a week will suffice to start the process safely. Practice mindful running. Barefoot running will change the way you run. It is only natural for the brain to tell the feet to land differently and softer without shoes. This is down to the feedback from the tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of sensors in the feet sending signals to brain about the way the ground feels. This is the most complex suspension and feedback system ever imaginable and the brain will make tiny alterations to account for different surface types and gradients. Being mindful of these signals and concentrating on what the brain and feet are telling you is vital. Build a firm foundation. Barefoot running is not the answer for everyone. But exercises such as these will teach you is the art of gentle running. Gentle running is efficient and smooth and is the key to building your personal running base. NEXT: Part 2 of this study will unpack the jargon and myths of barefoot running and help you better understand the thinking behind barefoot running and how you can become a running ninja! *I am an ambassador of Vibram Five Fingers through Barefoot Junkie. They have been kind enough to provide me with some of their products to support the 16 Marathons project. I must stress that I am not paid by the company. As with UFIT and The Protein Works, I ONLY aim to represent companies to my readers whom I know and trust and would genuinely recommend. From Barefoot Junkie : Follow Ben on his amazing challenges at Athlete Adventure