sunnuntai 20. marraskuuta 2016

Barefoot Shoes Review: Feelmax "Panka"

Within the last year, I had many times come across barefoot walking and barefoot shoes. One of the reasons for paying more attention on barefoot walking was the faint feeling of plantar fasciosis on my left sole. Typically, plantar fasciosis is related to poor footwear, obesity, excessive training, continuous standing on hard surfaces, and tightness of the rear leg, especially on calf muscle and achilles tendon but also rear thigh muscles.
Feelmax Panka 
Last winter I reduced walking and increased stretching. Plantar fasciosis didn’t go away entirely, although the symptoms were reduced. Since I’m not a fat guy and don’t much practice standing on hard surfaces, the only thing that was left to help my plantar fascias to recover was to increase barefoot walking. The idea of barefoot walking is to let your feet function as naturally as possible. Normal shoes disturb walking by hindering natural joint movement, by deteriorating certain small muscles and by preventing shock absorbing system of the feet.

Barefoot walking has been associated with e.g. reduced back pain, improved blood circulation and good night sleep. The main purpose of barefoot shoes is to provide feet with protection against cuts, abrasions, frostbite and parasites. In the following lines you’ll find my experiences of using Feelmax® “Panka” barefoot shoes for the first ten days during which snow melted and grass became green.

Day 1

There is quite a lot of sharp edged ice on the ground. It is actually fun to feel the crushing ice underneath the shoe! The outsole of Panka is only 1.3 mm thick so you really feel even the smallest bulge very well. Occasionally heel hits the ice too hard. I realize that I have to adjust my gait so that I use the whole sole of my foot. Although some of the articles warned that starting to use barefoot shoes might cause pain to the foot that has been deteriorated in “normal” shoe I did not feel any pain after my first 2 kilometer walk.

Day 2

After few days, it’s time to wear Pankas again. Ice has started to melt and streets are wet and quite slippery. During my walk to the office it drizzles but to my surprise socks remain dry. However, legs got wet because Pankas do not have heels like in my normal shoes. From now on, I will fold my legs of my trousers when I use Pankas. My way of walking has already changed. Heel strike is weaker, gait has become more flexible. Small stones did not cause painful stings in my heels. Couple of kilometers walk today.

Day 3

Heel strike has continued to weaken. During my less-than-a-kilometre walk to the office my feet did not get cold although the streets are still icy. I’m eagerly waiting for a chance to try Pankas on grass and forest trails. At the office I noticed that Panka-walking is virtually silent, almost as if one was walking with socks. I managed to sneak into my wife’s office and got rewarded with an excellent shriek.

Day 4

In the morning ground was frozen once again. Snow has melted on the edges of bikeways and exposed grey grass...and shitload of dog excrement. Really not that tempting to walk on that... At this point I think that Pankas are best for walking on soft ground. Now I still have to walk on asphalt and other hard surfaces. During my walk home from the office I walked on gravel bed that has been created from material used for sanding during winter. It felt nice in the soles of my feet.

Day 5

Panka-walking in the city centre of Oulu. Walking feels quite natural already. In the city centre thin soles feel a bit unsafe. I keep looking for broken glass and other dangers of urban environment. Although Continental rubber composite sole is thin manufacturer promises that it is very durable. I asked about the protection the shoes provides to my feet from the manufacturer and they replied very quickly to my email. Sharp objects like nails and broken glass can penetrate the sole. On the other hand people running with Pankas have ran over broken glass with no problems. Customer service told that they haven’t got any reclamations concerning problems caused by sharp objects.

Only today I realized that Pankas have pads. They bring a bit more thickness to the mentioned 1.3 mm. In the store I also tried Feelmax® “Osma 2” barefoot shoes that have slightly thicker (2.5 mm) rubber sole. I eventually chose Panka’s because I wanted as authentic barefoot experience as possible.

Day 6

My heel strike has almost disappeared on flat surfaces. On the up and downhills - the few that we have in Oulu area - I hit the ground always with the ball of my foot first. Today, I found myself walking on asphalted bikeway instead of nearby sweep of lawn, newly uncovered by vernal sunshine. I took a couple of trial steps on brown-gray grass - felt like walking on cotton wool.

Day 7

Pankas have superseded my old sandals as office shoes. In the afternoon, I noticed that I had used Pankas all day. This may not be a desirable development, since my feet feel a bit sweaty now, and I share my office with another researcher who may not appreciate the odour. On the other hand, this tendency of wearing Pankas all day long tells a lot about the excellent user experience. The customer service of Feelmax explained that at the first phase feet may sweat more than usually, as may small decayed muscles of the feet start to recover and produce excess heat. Anyhow, sweating should return to normal level after some time of barefoot shoe usage.

Day 8

Today, I’m taking my first longer Panka-walk. When I’m on a forest trail, I notice myself trying to spot all possible small stones, twigs and pine cones to step on them to get more lovely massage for my soles, which now feel vivid and strong. I notice that stride length has decreased along with the change in gate style. Consequently, pedometer needs to be calibrated. I was pretty sure, that 11 km walk with Pankas would cause some pain, but afterwards my feet feel rested and ...revived! Not a slightest sign of stress.

Day 9

Again, Panka-walking to the office in the morning and back home in the evening. I assume, that I’ve started barefoot walking in just about the right way. There has always been one or two days break between the Panka-walks. There are certain exercises (video) that can be used to strengthen the feet for barefoot experience, but I’ve never felt that I needed any.

Panka's construction is extremely light

Although Panka-like barefoot shoes can be readily used in office work environment, they are not suitable for construction or industrial sites where feet must be protected from e.g. falling hammers and wrenches, and dangers of getting squashed between moving things. On the other hand, due to their lightness, Pankas are a nice option as evening shoes for camino and other hikes.

Day 10

11 km walk to play badminton and afterwards back home. It seems clear that Panka-walking is slightly slowlier than than walking with normal shoes. Today, the walking distance that usually takes one hour took one hour and ten minutes. Due to the thinness of the sole of Pankas, the positioning of the foot on the ground needs to be paid more attention to.

Along with the use of barefoot shoes, I’ve been increasingly going barefoot at home and in the garden. My feet have grown stronger and more ...aware, so to speak. Today, for some reason, I wore regular jogging shoes for a while. It felt like my feet were treated by some medieval device, like some horrible torture gadget from the time of Spanish Inquisition.

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