Outdoor Q&A: The Gear Guru speaks

Need to know the deal on gear, trends, and outdoor issues? You've come to the right place. Gear guru Johnny Bozeman's got the answers you need.

Q: What’s the deal with the whole “barefoot” running craze? And aren’t “barefoot shoes” an oxymoron anyway?

A: Yes. The uninspired marketing teams at certain running-shoe companies seem to have perverted the English language to cash in on the minimalist craze: you CANNOT be barefoot if your feet have something on them, period. Look it up.

Anyway, there is some legitimacy to the minimalist movement. For thousands of years, humans ran barefoot, and things were good—until Nike invented thick-foam-heeled running shoes and started charging a hundred and fifty bucks for them. This allowed runners to use a heel strike instead of a forefoot strike, which threw off natural running mechanics and people started getting hurt.

Should you throw your kicks away indefinitely? Well, if you’ve spent decades running in conventional tennies and then blast a 10k in Chuck Taylor All-Stars, you’ll find yourself in crippling pain (I’ve seen it). If you’re thirsty for some barefoot Kool-Aid, ease into things slowly, read Born to Run, and correct any salesperson who describes a shoe as “barefoot.”

Q: Help me with helmets—I wanna be safe, but I’m broke. Can you recommend a good multisport lid?

A: Finding a good helmet can be a bit of headache, I’ll admit. I’ve found that the Petzl Elios is the Swiss Army knife of helmets. Designed as a rock-climbing lid, it dries quickly after kayaking, breathes well on a bike, and can be layered over a thin hat for skiing in a pinch. The worst issue I’ve found with a single brain-bucket pulling double (or triple) duty is that hardcore patrons will roll their eyes at you. If you can get past that, you’ll be fine.

Q: My biking friends swear by Lycra. Since I’m just getting started, do I really need it?

A: Wearing Lycra is a bit like shaving your whole body for swimming: you’ll feel sexier, but it won’t necessarily make you any faster—and you might look like an idiot. Though I generally don’t give a dump when it comes to what other people wear, Lycra is special—no other fabric so brazenly displays moose knuckles and muffin tops. You don’t need it for mountain biking, you won’t need it until you’re clocking serious miles on the road bike, and no one ever needs it for any nonbike scenario—unless you’re female, and really, really good-looking.