Reviews

ABQ Life


What to do? Studio Sway owner Ashley Biggers is also a writer. Find her book 100 Things to Do in Albuquerque Before You Die on Amazon or locally at Bookworks on Rio Grande NW. 

ART!  Ann Marquis donated one of her gorgeous paintings to Sway, and the studio bought another one as well because we love her work so much.  Her paintings are sensuous, drenched in color, evocative and pleasing. Her work is reasonably priced.  One of the wonderful things about the gift of art is that it’s always original, often inspiring, and supports both the artist and the receiver.  Check out her images online at www.hartmarquis.com 

www.Etsy.com has a fabulous selection of handmade art, crafts, clothes, and jewelry. Support the arts by buying directly from the artists, and enjoy fabulous & unique pieces of work. You can narrow your searches to local artists. Find Nia dancer and artist Anne Woods in her Etsy shop, www.annewoods.etsy.com.


SEX!  There is a wonderful store in Upper Nob Hill called Self Serve.  This woman-owned business has many happy toys. I highly recommend you add a vibrator and lube to your love life. A big pillow called the Wedge gives exactly the right support and angle for sex, and its hefty price soon will be made up for in pleasure and ease.  Self-Serve holds frequent educational workshops as well.  Find them at 3904 Central SE, just west of Washington, or online at www.selfservetoys.com.  

Body Art Just next door to the previous location of Sway is a piercing salon, Evolution.  Noah was extremely professional, and my ear piercings healed beautifully.  It was a great experience, actually, not at all like being tagged at the mall.  It’s very intense to pierce one’s self, even if it is just for earrings, and I recommend Noah at this salon for an experience that is soul satisfying.


Shoes

Before we get to reviews of specific shoes, let’s talk about shoes. First, there are no barefoot shoes. There are bare feet, and there are shoes. Bare is bare. 

There is something called a minimalist shoe. Most shoes I’ve seen labeled as a barefoot shoe are more properly described as a minimalist shoe. Even “barefoot style” is something I’d reserve for very few shoes.

Go to SoftStar shoes to find out how they distinguish between barefoot and minimalist shoes. Their blog post is here.

The Natural Running Center distinguishes between barefoot style, minimalist, and neutral or transition shoes. (Like many sites, the Natural Running Center has to have something to sell, so they push shoes at the same time that they explain why we don’t need shoes.) Most of the shoes listed in “barefoot style” are ones that I’d put in the minimalist category. The moment the shoe changes how I stand or walk, then it’s not barefoot style. 

In bare feet and in very minimal shoes, I walk more slowly. I’m testing each step just a bit. Even those most minimal of shoes invite me to walk faster, with less consciousness and more pounding. But anything more than that very minimal sole and soft covering, and the very way my foot moves on the ground has changed. 

In barefoot style, there's the Xero sandals and the Unshoes sandals. For shoes, there’s SoftStar Run Dash Mocs as well as the new Hi-Rez New Balance shoes. The sole on these shoes is so thin that I noticed only a slight shift in my running, most of it psychological (when I know I’m wearing shoes, I’m not treading quite as carefully as I do when barefoot).  With super thin soles and light-weight strapping, there is only a slight change in how I walk. I still have to tread lightly so I’m not pounding my feet into the ground. I will feel every pebble. If I step too hard on a rock, I’ll bruise. The goatheads peak through. I get a bit of protection from the environment but not much. I don’t notice everything, for instance, the heat of the ground. It’s not the same as barefoot, but there’s also very little shoe with very little protection and no support or pressure. That’s barefoot style. 

Pick up a pair of minimalist shoes. Can you roll it into a ball? Can you push your fingers through? Is the heel as soft as every other part of the shoe, or is it a bit reinforced and a bit tougher? That’s the difference between barefoot style and minimalist. The barefoot style doesn’t seem like a shoe. People marvel at it. It’s fun to squish it up. 

On the other hand, minimalist shoes pretty much look like shoes. They have hard spaces. For instance, the Vibram Five Fingers has a stiff sole and some arch support.  Teva Zilch sandals are fairly flexible, but I can see where a small amount of arch support was added in. Minimalist sandals and shoes provide extra protection from the elements so were less likely to feel every pebble underfoot. 

Minimal often means a shoe or sandal has a low heel or zero drop (no difference in height between the ball and the heel). Minimalist shoes might have wider toe boxes so our feet can spread as we move. The sole may be thinner so that there is more ground feel, which is just what it sounds like: the wearer feels what’s underneath, such as pebbles and shifts in the sand. But there isnt as much groundfeel (and sometimes none at all) as in barefoot style shoes. 

When I was at the New Balance store buying the Hi-Rez, I also tried on a pair one step up in stiffness, the 10s. I had the strangest sensation: I wanted arch support. I felt as if my arch were floating and needed something under them. This doesn’t happen when I’m bare or walking in my totally flat and flexible Unshoes sandals. My foot doesn’t want arch support normally. Something about the shoe didn’t let me walk normally as I would barefoot, and it somehow interfered with my normal arch.  Add just that tiny bit of stiffness, and the need for support is created. My foot no longer can work the way it’s designed. 

The sense I have is that we need arch support because we wear shoes, not we need to wear shoes because we need arch support. 

Spend your life without shoes and you won’t need arch support. The reason we need arch support is not because after 20 or more years of walking this earth, we just can’t do it anymore without help and, goodness, by the time we’re 40 or 50 or 60, we can’t spend any time barefoot because we need arch support. We don’t need arch support because we’re old or because our hormones have changed.

We need arch support because our feet are weakened. As women age and their muscle mass decreases, experts tell us to get out there and do some weight training. What we need, more and more especially as we age, is weight training for our feet. 

Our shoes disable our feet in such a way that our feet can’t function as they should. This is true even in great, minimalist shoes. If they’re not barefoot feel, if there is any support or cushioning, if there’s any structure, the shoe changes how our feet move. Our feet are inhibited from free movement. 

I know that sounds terribly anti-shoe. I’m not anti-shoe. Imagine your life if you wore gloves on your hands to do everything. How you type would change. How you tied your shoes or buttoned your clothes would change. It’s not anti-glove to note that they change how we experience the world. 

Since I’ve been spending time walking and running barefoot, I’m  more sensitive now to how my feet contact the ground. I’ve spent 13 years teaching a barefoot dance class. Walking outdoors barefoot and running miles barefoot has increased my sensitivity and changed my feet radically. Being a barefoot dance teacher was a good foundation but insufficient for me to change how I experience my contact with the ground as I walk or run. 

I’m telling you what my experience told me: those Vibram Five Fingers are absolutely not like walking barefoot. The Merrell “barefoot” shoes are narrow and do not feel at all like being barefoot. Not even close. They may feel different than the Standard Running Shoe (SRS). They may be healthier than the SRS. But they’re not barefoot and they may not help us strengthen our feet gradually because they do not provide the sensory input that going barefoot provides. 

Shoe manufacturers explain how to transition down to barefoot running, by which they mean running with neutral or minimalist shoes because they don’t really want you taking off your shoes full-time. They want you buying their shoes. But transitioning down doesn’t work. 

I tried minimalist shoes when I first began running in Spring 2012, and I was in miserable pain. Shin splints. Pain in the ball of my foot. Ankle pain. I thought, well, barefoot running isn’t for me. I did it totally wrong and then thought, gosh, I guess it’s just not for me. I read books that told me, quite clearly and explicitly, that I needed to go barefoot and I thought, well, maybe others do but not me. And then when wearing these transition shoes didn’t work, instead of figuring I was doing it wrong, I figured that I just was not capable of running in minimalist shoes. 

If you want to run barefoot, start instead from the ground up really. Devote ten minutes a day to walking outside barefoot. Keep adding some time and distance until you feel your foot change. Keep walking until you’re walking differently. 

Change you and then you’ll be ready to choose your shoe. 

I know; it’s easier to buy minimalist shoes than to go barefoot. Yes, they are better than wedges and high heels; what wouldn’t be better than high heels? The minimalist shoes are a tremendous improvement over the heavily structured, stiff, and narrow shoes that most of us have been taught to value and to wear. Just know what you’re getting and what you’re not, and consider investing in the real deal.

As of this revision on June 20, 2015, I have been running in minimalist shoes, no longer running barefoot or in barefoot feel shoes. For me and my running form, minimalist (flexbile with a low heel drop) works best right now. If youre wanting to try minimalist or barefoot style shoes, begin wearing shoes that are a little different than what you wear now instead of a lot different. Our bodies appreciate having time to adapt. 

Unlike the clothing reviews, I will post reviews that may be positive, less than positive, or mixed to the shoes section. I am not affliated with any shoe company.

A few more words about shoes. I recommend buying from REI. If you buy something and discover a few weeks (or months, up to one year) later that it doesn’t fit or feel right, you may return it, even if you’ve worn it. This is perfect for shoes since we often don't know until we've worn them a few times if they'll work out for us. Find REI online (both retail and outlet).  They ship your order directly to the store (there is one in both ABQ and Santa Fe, NM) so there are no shipping charges.  REI is a cooperative, and members receive a dividend from their year's purchases.  

A great online source is www.zappos.com, which has a huge selection and free shipping to and from your home (returns are easy and you have a full year to make a return). They carry different widths, from AA to EE, and many minimalist styles. I also like Planet Shoes.

For more information and reviews on minimalist shoes and barefoot running, my favorite website name and an awesome site is www.birthdayshoes.com

Here are two more words about shoes. Vary them. Don’t wear the same pair each day. Give your feet lots of variety to work with.

Second, I love shoes. They are fun. I like to look at them. It would be nice to live in a warm climate and go barefoot everywhere. Since that isn’t the case, I will enjoy searching for pairs that feel good and offer the warmth and protection I need.


Clothing

If it's on this section of my website, it's because I either like it or love it. All of these are items I wear and enjoy, and I think you may as well. Enjoying what we're wearing is a lovely part of being human. Feeling good in our clothes can support us in feeling good about ourselves. It's worth our while to invest in clothing that looks, fits, and feels great. 

Instructors often get a discount on clothing so that we'll wear items to class and let our students know where we got the items. This does not influence me to leave a good review; only loving an item influences me to write a good review. 

I'm a former ambassador to Lululemon and a current ambassador for YMX by Yellowman. I adore both these brands. If I had to wear no other workout clothing, I could live on Lulu and YMX (fortunately, I don't have to limit myself). This does not influence me to post a good review. There are items from both Lululemon and YMX that don't work for me, and I will not be posting those reviews here. You don't need to read about clothes that aren't spectacular. You need to know where to find stuff that feels and looks great. 

Local places in ABQ to find cool clothes

For both movement and outdoor/hiking clothes, go to REI.  REI has a fantastic return policy for its members.  If you buy something and discover a few weeks (or months) later that it doesn’t fit or feel right, you may return it, even if you’ve worn it. Find REI online (both retail and outlet).  They ship your order directly to the store so there are no shipping charges.  REI is a cooperative, and members receive a dividend from their year's purchases.  

Lululemon is open at Uptown. They are right next to Anthropologie in the Uptown center that is across from Trader Joe's.  I’d rather wear Lululemon pants than any other for dancing; they fit that well and look that good. They’re not inexpensive; this is long-lasting, performance clothing. Lululemon offers no-charge hemming on their pants, which also come in long lengths. 

Sportz Outdoors on Montgomery is a bit more expensive than REI.  They’re great for running clothes as well as leisure-to-work clothes that are comfortable, stylish, and eco-friendly.  They are a NM business rather than a national chain, another great reason to shop there. They often run 30% off sales, though beware: they offer credit only on sales returns.

Strive is a woman-owned, local business at Paseo Crossings at Wyoming & Paseo, a few blocks from Trader Joe’s.  Strive has brands such as Prana, Isis, Horny Toad, and Lole as well as a good selection of Tom's Shoes. They have some fabulous sales, up to 75% off.  Their return policy is credit only.

I also find good workout basics at two chain stores, TJ Maxx and Ross.   

Savers is now open at Carlisle and Menaul. This thrift store is now the biggest Savers in the US. There is another one on the West side near Corrales road and 528. Savers is good for just about everything.  I've found fitness apparel in organic cotton, by Nike, by Lululemon, and by dancewear brands.  I've found sparkle and glitz galore as well.  Savers really rocks when you want a pair of Gap jeans. They always have a gazillion pairs in every length and size, though it takes some persistence to find yours. I get a lot of work basics there, too --  Ann Taylor, Jones New York, Banana Republic -- items that are classic and never go out of style. Just remember to shop your size plus one or two sizes above your usual size (and if you haven’t shopped in a while, also try a size or two below). As Americans have grown (supposedly, 60% of us are overweight), sizes have shifted. What used to be a 10 is now a 6.  Also, the juniors and misses sizes are mixed on the same racks, and juniors can be one or two sizes smaller (thinner thighs, lower rises).  Women’s sizes are even numbers, and juniors are odd. If you usually wear an 8 in pants or skirts, you may be a 9 or 11 in juniors.  Clothes made 10 years ago may fit you in size 10 or even 12. However, something made in the last year may fit you in a size 6. Enjoy the process of browsing, and know that the size tag is only a very general indication of whether something will fit.   

Buffalo Exchange, another place for used clothing, features current styles.  Their clothes are oriented more for young adults in their 20s or 30s but they have plenty of fun designer clothes and shoes.  Check there first if you’re looking for a new purse. They’re in Nob Hill.    

Once you have your new clothes, or your new-to-you pre-owned clothes, sometimes they need altering.  Go to Final Stitch at Montgomery & Louisiana (same plaza as TJMaxx and Shoes on a Shoestring). The tailor there does nice work, and please tell him I sent you. 

Online sources for cool dress up 

www.autumnteneyl.com - both casual for work and fancy for work out - These are very soft, comfortable clothes that dance well and are machine-washable.  This is an environmentally-friendly and worker-friendly business based in Colorado.  

www.queenofheartsclothing.com has lovely braided tops and flowy pants. Jamie Klein in Santa Fe has been retailing these fun, feminine clothes. You can contact her to see when is her next trunk show or if she can order something for you.

www.phoenixrisingartists.com for batik workout pants.  These are kind of like buying art to move around in.  The colors & designs are intense.  

Athleta.com has the type of hiking and workout clothing that REI does, but with a bit more style and fit for women.  They are not inexpensive (okay, sometimes they’re very expensive); however, the quality is sometimes outstanding.  Just check out the sale items. Their return policy is phenomenal; items can be returned any time, even after being worn. 

More great stuff?  Look at www.sandiegofit.com, www.buddhaful.comwww.activewearusa.com, and www.hoopclothes.com. I got excellent customer service from Activewear, and they have a huge range of yoga and workout clothes.