Tuesday, 10 September 2019

A new lacing option or not?

It is known that the mid-line of the foot is where the 2nd toe meets the 3rd. It begs the question if a sandal using this mid-line point as a toe-post would work. I had ignored this possibility for a long time but eventually got around to crafting this "innovative" lacing system. I was curious to know if it would work and I could take minimalist running into a new realm of natural movement!

It took a while to work out where the ideal new point would be because the gap the between the 2nd and 3rd toes is not that well defined ... or my toes are a little stumpy!  A little digging with a pen marked the point but was this to be trusted? I also used the normal toe-post location between the big toe and 2nd toe as a guide to help locate the new anchor point which interestingly was located slightly in front of the aforementioned - in other words closer to the front of the sandal. 

As a safety measure I also inserted a tiny loop at the traditional "correct" toe-post point just in case I wanted to ditch the new innovation and restore my new sandals to trusted legacy lacing!

And so I set off. At first it felt very awkward and unbalanced. I wasn't sure how to position my feet and I wasn't able to rely on the foot sitting naturally in the sandal. Much of this was due to the fact that the laces were not tensioned properly and this created a new problem - how to tension the laces?

Trying and trying again was all I could do and I must admit the difficultly in getting it right. Even when it was working I knew the tension was not perfect, especially in the heel strap which I couldn't set correctly. As a result of this the sandal sat well for short walks but for anything longer it tended to be unstable.

Much of the lacing difficulty was due to the fact that it was simply too painful to put too much tension in the laces. It really hurt. This was very interesting because, as regular sandal runners will attest, a lace between the first and second toe is never painful and remains pressure free if setup correctly.

I tried for a couple of weeks to get accustomed to the new lacing. I kept these sandals on all day for days at a time. But in the end I gave up. There was simply no point in pursuing this painful exercise. 

While it felt good to have a little more freedom of the big toe and slightly better proprioception, there was no apparent benefit to the new lacing. After a month I cut off the radical toe-straps and inserted new ones using the tiny loops I had inserted during early construction. My sandals were restored to traditional lacing.

Now they look like this:

And now I have even used them for a few short comfortable runs!

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Why a Yeti X? Developing a ridiculous sandal

In truth I had been thinking about this for some time but was too lazy to act on my ambition. This changed when the Doc of Moove (aka Stuart Hutcheson) asked me if I could build a "hard-core" sandal. He wanted something that would work on extreme terrain and in bad weather.

Exactly what that meant was not clear. Does more extreme mean more rock? More water? Almost certainly more mud ... and I hate mud more than the devil himself. I had a vague idea. I knew that our Yeti, although working well on trails, was more of an all-purpose tool. The Doc wanted something that would work well when the degree of elevation increased, when the surface underfoot was dangerously broken-up, when the risk of misplaced feet and incorrect weight distribution was very high. With the Cape winter looming I knew he was also keen to offer trail runners a product that made the outdoors more enticing.

And so I started pondering the options.

Many years ago I made a sandal with a single lace looped through three anchor points. It had felt pretty close to wearing a shoe and I had discarded it because at the time I was aggressively pursuing minimalist design and anything that looked like it could be reduced or eliminated was reduced or eliminated. This early taught lacing system was needed now. It was robust and secure.

I am seriously embarrassed by the hillbilly look from at least 5 years ago. Importantly look at the different lacing on the sandals.

Another memory crossed my mind. In my library of failures (and marginal successes) was buried a sandal that I once built for the Magaliesberg Challenge. I used it for the 40km race and it's hyper sticky sole impressed me as well as countless other runners who I did not crash into, as we bounced across the ancient orange rocks of this little mountain range. When I built this one-off sandal the tread pattern was so deep that I  had to use a surgical scalpel to trim each protruding lug from an estimated 7mm to about 4mm. It took a day of hard and erratic slicing but it worked well. The resultant tread pattern, a random matrix of rectangles, worked exceedingly well despite it's low-tech origin.

This semi handcut sole worked very well on some technical trails.

And so a plan emerged for Doc's hardcore Yeti, the Yeti X, as he already called it. I had an idea for a tread pattern as well as a robust lacing system.  The next question was how to actually build this Yeti X sandal. Traditionally Yeti's have had a hard footbed with a softer midsole and a grippy outersole. I wanted to change this and make the footbed a little softer without losing any protection offered against sharp stones and sticks. Could it be done?

My first few attempts were unremarkable failures. I decided to throw caution to the wind and go against my initial thinking. I would build the Yeti X with a very hard footbed, harder even, than the Yeti. The result was a sandal as stiff as a surfboard. My mood deteriorated as I tried to work the soles loose and make them more pliable. This attempt has now gone to Coachdion for testing and to see if the sole actually will soften in time.

In the depths of misery and close to the midnight hour I worked to fashion yet another new prototype this time using a combo of hard and soft polyurethane mixtures. I needed something to wear on a pending Cape Town visit and I was damned if I was going to Table Mountain without something to try. And luckily, the next Yeti X prototype emerged from the workshop. It was pretty good I thought ... it might actually work!

In the preceding weeks I had been sourcing heavy duty webbing and lacing fittings from the USA. I knew as I built my next prototype that it would be pretty tough.

Quickly I contacted my old climbing mate suggesting that he send me the Table Mountain Right Face route description (which I had long forgotten) because I now had a plan. Not only was I going to test my new Yeti X's but I was also going to recapture a moment of long past youth. I was going to climb Right Face in my new extreme sandals.

Classic routes on Table Mountain just left of the cable station. Source: Table Mountain Classics by Tony Lourens 2011.

On the day that I arrived to climb this old classic route my plans were thrown into turmoil as I couldn't even find my way across the classic Right Face Arrow Face traverse which led to the rock climb I wanted to ascend.

Navigating my way across Africa Face

Half way across the traverse I was stranded at a 12 inch wide ledge overgrown with stout bushes with a 150 meter drop to the side. There was no way I was going to navigate this narrow ledge in my Yeti X's while simultaneously doing some recklessly extensive gardening. Dismayed and turning back, I returned to the India-Venster route later making my way down Skeleton Gorge to Newlands Forest.

The next day I was back with Richard and with his help we got across the traverse. I had missed a small step upwards which led to an easy path across the expansive rock face. It brought home to me how easily mistakes can happen in the mountains even to those like me who regard themselves as pretty seasoned.

And so we got to the start of Right Face. Me in my new Yeti X's and Richard, by the way, in climbing booties and a chalk bag! "That's serious over dressing, Dude!"  "Not so" he said ... "I need to have a firm grip if I have to grab you and haul you up". And rightly so because the first step off the ledge was a damn tricky undercut pull-up to a crouching position below an overhang. Darn! Was I rusty?!!
Richard laughing at the prospect of a sandal failure. Note his climbing booties and chalk bag for this elementary outing!

It got better as we worked our way upwards, me sometimes taking a very long time to work out the most simple moves. Not only did I want to avoid falling off but I also wanted my sandals to do what I expected of them. We climbed higher and higher, at one point moving up the "Shell House" pitch named at the time after a tall building in the city center.

Maybe this was the Shell House pitch ... another 25m up.

What an engaging and wonderful outing. This exposed rock climb (an easy one by any standards) tested my brain more than the Yeti X's as I struggled to work out very simple moves ... often above a 1000 foot drop. The Yeti X prototype performed!! Remarkably.

Classic "smearing" in the Yeti X.

After 2 full days on Table Mountain and much "smearing" the test soles looked pretty good.

At one staged Richard asked "What if they break?"

"I never really thought of that" I retorted. And I never really had.

Picking my way up an exposed section of Right Face.

The final Yeti X is now only a few steps away. I know what is needed. At least I think I know. It will work very well and while it might be a compromise between an ultra and a sprint sandal, it will definitely stick like glue to a hard technical trail and allow pretty rapid movement and a little extra confidence.

Yeti X ... find your Vertical.

My hurriedly made Yeti X's with optional 70's style side posts.

One more pic at the top for fun, before trotting down.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Yeti Review by Coach Dion

This review is shared from Coach Dion's blog. Coach Dion is the University of Cape Town athletics coach. His original blog is available here: http://coachdion.blogspot.com/2019/03/t-rocket-yeti-sandals.html

t-rocket Yeti Sandals

For my birthday in December I was lucky to score a pair of T-Rocket Yeti Sandals.

Now having run over 500km in them it's time to look at them and share a couple of thoughts:

Where does one start? Well I can start by saying I don't wear flip-flops! I don't like them! Never felt comfortable with something between my toes! That said I didn't mind 5 fingers so, lets put these on and see what happens...

Ok, putting them on the first time took a bit of time:
• I set the back strap
• I set the tension around the ankle
• I set the tension of the thong through the toe.
All set... and like a mad athlete with a new toy, I just had to head out for a run!!! Only 1.6km around the block but it was enough to test if I had the straps right, if I was ready to do some real running.

I did tinker with the straps a bit, but it's easy.

Most of you would wear flip-flops, these are not flip-flops, these are sandals, so they 'stick' to your foot! So if you shake your foot around it doesn't come off!

Let's run:

No wait, let me tell you this first, I have been running in 5-fingers, Vivobarefoot shoes, and NB minius for years now so what I'm about to tell you about my runs not everyone can do!

• Run 1 (2 Dec), 1.6km around the block
• Run 2 (5 Dec), 4km pushed for time, but had been wearing them in the house.
• Run 3 (8 Dec), was wearing them as I drove to the track... ran in to enter a couple of track races!!! It felt comfortable! Kept them on for a 3000m track race, a 1000m race and the Mile.
• Run 4 (12 Dec), 14km on the road.
• Run 5 (15 Dec), 21.1km not a race, just a run 88:47
• Run 7 (22 Dec), 30km 2h25 half road, half easy trail over 500m climb
• Run ? (23 Feb), 14.3km 2h06 real trail, single track on Vlakenberg 700m climb.
Wow, I've run a bit of everything in them... from the runs above you can see I've run road, gravel road trail, rocky single track trail and track! yes tartan!
Only pic left of me on the track, with me 40 years ago!
Now what do they run like?
I'm having a ball in them!
But it's just a hard piece of rubber under your foot!

Truth be told, it's not that hard, it bends and wraps around anything and has enough give! Have you ever been on a tartan track? Well next time take you shoes off and go for a run! That was what it feels like! Don't ever get near a track? How about the carpet at home? Jog down the passage!

When running I feel someone has rolled out thin rubber mat in front of me, yes I feel the rocks and stones but you want to feel the ground so all is good. The rubber is thick enough so sharp rock aren't a problem.

What I can say: that 3rd run, the track races, my toes felt a bit of a burn, the type of burn you might feel running on the beach... so start easy for a couple of runs, till you get use to running in sandals.
Blisters? No problems, No NOT even between the toes, the foot doesn't move! I can say, the little plastic that connects the straps was uncomfortable for a bit, but I sanded the ruff edge off and I don't feel it anymore.

Another thing I've noticed is that in the wet, while the soles might still grip to every rock and road, my foot wanted to slide a bit... this just meant taking turns a little slower. No problem on the road, but on a twisty trail... if you are a racing snake you will be loosing a bit of time!
I also felt, due to the fact you don't have big lugs, some loose rocky down hills slow you down... ok they slowed me down. That said I'm old and take them slowly in any case!
Some real single track heading to Blackburn

In the mean time I have a 2nd pair, The Streetlite, They are a little softer, thinner and lighter. (and the foot slips more in the wet, but this will improve as the sandal molds to your foot. The sole mean while grips to anything!)
Raced 30km in them on the weekend

Who should own/run in a pair of sandal?

Well, I would say everyone, yes you, you, and even you... but that said not everyone will be racing track races and running 30+ km long runs in them...
Most of you will just put them on for a jog round the block, to walk to the beach, to go shopping in! A sandal is not a flip-flop it allows your foot to relax and move freely strengthening it. Strong feet, good for running.
So your feet get dirty

Monday, 11 February 2019

T Rocket Hominid Sandal Review in Barefoot Running Magazine

Find the latest issue of Barefoot Running Magazine here:

A full independent review of T Rocket Hominid sandals on page 146.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Vegan Trail by T Rockets is here!

6mm Total Sole (2mm footbed + 4 mm outersole and tread depth)
Nonslip footbed
Non stretch lace
Padded comfort lacing
One point lace adjustment