Cool Stuff

ABQ Life

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.  Check out her images online at 

The Next Best Thing to Being There on Mountain Road is home to art work by Nia dancers Julianna Kirwin, Ilene Weiss, and Anne Woods. The collection of local and fair trade arts and crafts is interesting, unique and lovely. 

SEX!  There is a wonderful store near 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 112 Morningside NE or online at  

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.


For a while, I enjoyed and learned a lot from going barefoot more often. The information posted below from 2013 and the shoe reviews come from that period of time when I was wearing less traditional shoes and sandals. 

Now, I’m enjoying wearing sneakers and running shoes with more cushioning. The zero drop shoes don’t work as well for me at this point. This was difficult for me to accept. I know in my bones that barefoot is best. I also know that I’m unwilling to move slowly and with care across our concrete landscape. My body feels better when I’m walking and running in shoes that have a bit of cushioning and lift, though I still prefer a wide, flexible shoe. 

Wearing shoes that feel good is a part of self-care. An important way to keep my feet healthy is to spend some time barefoot, which I do at home and while dancing Nia. Another way to keep my feet happy is to vary which shoes I wear. 

If you’re looking for minimalist sandals, try REI. They’ve got Bedrock and Xero. REI’s return policy means you can wear something for a few months to know whether the product works for you and return it if it doesn’t. These sandals have straps, which mean they work better for you walking around than flip flops. 

from 2013, minimalist 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 we’re 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 isn’t 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. 

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. 

Imagine 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. 

I’ve spent nearly two decades teaching a barefoot dance class. For a period of time, I also was walking outdoors barefoot and running miles barefoot. This increased my sensitivity and changed my feet radically. I adored the sensation, and I could sense my nervous system relax and ground with my bare steps. 

I love shoes. They are fun and sometimes beautiful. I enjoy searching for pairs that feel good and offer the warmth and protection I need. My needs and desires change over time, so my shoes do 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. 

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 later (up to one year) 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 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. The Nulux fabric is divine: soft, lightweight, stays put. Their high-waisted pants are incredibly comfortable. They’re not inexpensive; this is long-lasting, performance clothing. Lululemon offers no-charge hemming on their pants, which also come in long lengths. 

Sport Systems on Montgomery is 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. Their return policy is credit only.

I also find good workout basics at TJ Maxx. I look for brand names that I know perform well, such as Under Armour and  Mondetta. The prices are great, and there’s a good variety of jackets, tops, and leggings.

Savers 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, wool and cashmere, sparkle and glitz galore, jeans, work basics (Ann Taylor, Gap, Banana Republic). Remember to shop your size plus one or two sizes above your usual size. As Americans have grown, 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.  They’re in Nob Hill.    

Online sources for cool dress up - 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. 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.

This list was revised December 2019.