Review Disclosure

I am not compensated for any reviews on this site. Some products have been sent to me by the manufacturer without cost for the purpose of testing and review, without any conditions on the results or content of the reviews. I may receive commissions from items for which advertisements appear on this site.







Monday, September 8, 2014

MORE PALEO EFFECTS-PERIODIC FASTS


Our family's transition to eating Paleo has become quite an adventure. My wife had some challenges initially, but has become quite creative in preparing Paleo meals. We're dropping weight, and I am really convinced that this manner of eating has a positive impact upon your health. After completing John Durant's book, The Paleo Manifesto, I tried a couple of short fasts. I have found that they are easy, make you feel great, and cause no discomfort. I have, generally a couple of days per week, merely skipped "breakfast". Finishing dinner at around 7 pm most nights, I simply wait until lunch time the following day to eat, having only coffee and water in the morning. That sets up about a 17 hour fast, and has, in my experience, really helped with dropping those few additional pounds, although that is not the main reason. What is amazing to me is that it is so easy. When I was a "carb eater", I would get SO HUNGRY when mealtime approached, I couldn't wait to eat again. Our diet now is almost all meats, vegetables, and some fruit. Anecdotal, I know, but my body seems to have flipped the switch from burning carbs to burning fat. My weight has dropped, since our odyssey began in mid-July, from 189 to 176. I am currently back at my high school weight! I just don't have the food cravings that I had previously. Yesterday was not a "fasting day", but we had a busy day with a number of activities planned, and when dinner time rolled around, I found that, between dinner the night before and our evening meal, I had only eaten two pieces of fruit and a handful of almonds. It wasn't a conscious restriction of food, it just happened that way. What is the most interesting thing is that my energy level stays steady. I used to get that kind of shaky, weak feeling when I hadn't eaten, and my wife had always said that she knew when I was hungry because I would be grumpy and frowning. It was really true. I just don't get that effect anymore. I have a steady energy level throughout the day, whether I have eaten or not. In these blog posts, I am not specifically recommending that everyone or anyone do what I am doing, but I want to share my experiences with those of you who may be going through the same issues or are considering doing so. I have not yet tried longer fasts, but have no qualms about doing so. I don't think 24 hours would even feel like a challenge at this point, something that would have seemed like a gargantuan task when I was eating a lot of carbs.

Friday, September 5, 2014

PRODUCT REVIEW-SHAMMA SANDALS WARRIOR

This was a product that came to my attention recently. It is made by a small company in Santa Cruz, CA, and they have put in a lot of time and attention in the production of their sandals. Shamma Sandals offers other models, however these that I tested really got my attention because they appeared to be ultra-minimalist. They were shipped very quickly, I might add. I could see right out of the mailer just how minimalist these sandals are. Very thin (5mm) sole with a sheepskin foot-bed, serious tread, on a Vibram sole, and laces pre-installed. The flexibility of Warriors is phenomenal. They were flexible to the point that I had some concerns about how they would ride on your feet when running. I followed the video to which they provide a link, and set up the strap laces for my feet. These have an interesting feature on the straps. On the outer ankle side, there is a movable "keeper" that slides over the strap to help keep the heel strap taught. I set up the straps using these keepers, but experienced a bit too much material in one place near my ankle for my personal preference, and I was concerned that it would bother me, particularly on longer runs. I elected (and this was not recommended by Shamma) to slide the keeper off of the strap and try a run without it. The lace has a nice suede-type heel strap cover that rides comfortably across your heel/Achilles tendon. I quickly found that, at least for me, after the first run (3 mi.) in them, I didn't need the keepers. I am sure that many people will prefer to leave them in place, and they are a nice additional feature, but I was most comfortable without them, and experienced no slippage issues on the heel strap. I have really wide feet, and I also had concerns that I could feel the ankle strap/sole contact points as I walked around in the house initially. Those concerns faded away quickly when I began to run. In almost every case, when I test a new sandal, I keep the first run to about a mile, just to assess issues of lacing/potential hot spots, and fit issues. I started off in these and reached the mile mark with NO issues, so I thought I'd push the test to 1-1/2 miles, then 2, then 3....then I had to cut it off or be late for work. I had no problems with the fit, the laces, nor any rubbing or chafing on my feet, toes or ankles. That is a very unusual situation for a pair of new sandals, fresh from the mailbox, in my experience. I ran the first test on a combination of concrete, some gravel, and dirt. They performed well on each. Perhaps the most significant thing I noticed was how they ride on your feet. Once the laces are the right tension all around, these sat on the sole of my foot like a second skin. As most sandal runners know, you will sometimes get sand and debris between sandal and foot, which is an irritation, at best. Such occurrence was minimized with Warriors. I had a couple of small pebbles/large grains of sand find their way under my heel, but they quickly fell back out, once with a little flick of my finger on the heel, barely breaking stride. The flexibility and ground feel of these sandals is great, assuming you are an experienced barefoot or minimalist runner, and have a good forefoot or mid-foot strike. I purposely tried heel striking a few times, and the flapping noise was VERY noticeable. These are not designed for heel striking, to be sure. The heel strap is a nice feature. It has, as indicated above, a suede "tube" that slips over the nylon heel strap. It provides a welcome contact with your heel/achilles and stays in place well. On one run, it felt a bit loose, and I was concerned that it would slip, however it never did. The hook and loop (velcro) method of securing the sandals is really handy and secure. No buckle to fiddle with, just snug it up and you're off. After the second run (total of about 6 miles), the sheepskin foot-bed was beginning to show signs of conforming to my foot shape, particularly at the toes. I continue to run in these, and have had no negative issues. They are thin enough to give you as close to barefoot feel as I've ever had with running sandals. Although these have a nice tread, it doesn't interfere with ground feel at all, in my experience. I tried them over some heavier gravel and fairly large rocks. They give your soles some protection, but allow you to feel the ground surface. If you are a true barefoot runner, and occasionally want some protection over rough terrain, these are great to throw in to a pocket or pack. They are so flexible that they roll up easily or tuck into a waistband. Shammasandals.com offers several different sandals, up to and including their 11mm "Mountain Goats". There seems to be quite a variety to fit your particular preference in a running sandal. The Warriors retail at $69.95. They have a nice Money Back Guarantee (see their website for details), and free shipping within the Continental U.S. There is a lot of detailed information on their website, and the sizing is pretty easy, with downloadable templates for the various sizes. With that info available, you'd have to try pretty hard to get the wrong size! I am very pleased with the quality and performance of these sandals.

Monday, August 25, 2014

HOW I PROVED (AT LEAST TO MYSELF) THAT HEEL-STRIKING IS NOT A NATURAL WAY TO RUN

Since I switched from "running shoes" to barefoot and minimal footwear about 4-1/2 years ago, I have watched with great interest how runners feet contact the ground. Probably 90 % of runners that you see along the road are heel striking. There is one older lady who runs regularly in our neighborhood who has the greatest light, mid-foot strike, and just floats along...wearing regular "running shoes". Whatever happened to most of those who wear that type of shoe, didn't happen to her. Everyone else that you see, though is truckin' along, some fast, some slow, all reaching out with that big rubber clad heel, then slapping that foot down as their weight comes over the top of their extended knee. I did a little experiment that showed me just how your feet should contact the ground. During a run, I encountered a branch and instinctively my foot went toward the side to avoid it. I have a pretty reliable mid-foot strike anyway, but this one was entirely automatic. You can't suddenly jump to one side or the other and land on your heel. You will either get hurt, lose your balance, or at the very least, make an ungainly recovery. Your foot, in a sudden situation, reverts to how it was made. It lands forefoot/mid-foot to give you the best chance of a safe landing. I get most of my revelations about running WHILE RUNNING. I then started trying to re-create the situation. Your foot, left to its own devices, will land naturally to help you avoid an injury. I then tried running backward. Guess what..........it's virtually impossible to heel strike when you are running backward. (Caveat-Probably not a good idea to run backward.) Put your feet in any unusual situation during a run and they will call on those 2 million years of evolution, instantly defeating the running shoe industry's multi-billion dollar campaign to sell you thick rubber heeled shoes in which to stomp along on your run. Therein lies my point. That "Keep on Truckin'" heel strike JUST AIN'T NORMAL. Don't know any other way to say it.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

CREATING A MAKESHIFT PALEO ENVIRONMENT

The initial question would be, "Is it possible?" The short answer is, probably not. We live in a modern, convenience filled, tech world. One could, I suppose, really live like our stone age ancestors, if one was willing to forego society, probably family, medical treatment, and comfort pretty much altogether. Not many people would be willing to do that, and in my opinion, anyone who goes to that extreme has some other agenda or issues separate and apart from living a healthy life. These articles aren't about doing such a thing. I, for one, am not willing to give up the benefits of living in the current age on a Quixotic quest for "Paleo-health". What we are about here is showing that, with some effort and creativeness, as well as a bit of commitment, you can access many of the benefits of living as you were evolved to live, while still being part of modern society. That's a lot of what I get from John Durant's book, "The Paleo Manifesto". I have read it once, am going to read it again, and will be doing a review in upcoming weeks, by the way. The main thing about "Paleo" is, at least from my point of view, a new way of looking at the world. There is currently too much food available and not enough demanded from us in a modern environment. Our food sources are cheap, plentiful, and mostly carbohydrate loaded. Fast food restaurants are on virtually every corner, and the food industry spends billions of dollars per year to convince us that our palates should beg for sugar, wheat, and other simple carbohydrates. Billboards and commercials are filled with sumptuous looking cinnamon rolls, waffles, bread, pie, burgers on a huge bun with mystery sauce dripping from the side, candy, cake, you name it. Switching to Paleo is not hard. Let me repeat that IT IS NOT HARD. It doesn't take long to get used to, either. You can lose those carb cravings in short order. It just takes a bit of creativeness and some commitment. 1. First of all, you gotta dump the crap in your pantry. If it's there, it might be eaten. If it's gone.........it won't. 2. Learn how to shop. If it's in a package, chances are, you don't need it. Stick to meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, fruit, nuts, eggs, and honey. You probably don't even need to go into those interior aisles of a grocery store where the other stuff is sold. You know, the bread, snack, cereal, canned food aisles. 3. Change how you view "food". Humans are an omnivore. We can live on pretty much any kind of food. Too many of us have been living (if you want to call it that) on highly processed, salt and additive-filled carbohydrates like instant ramen, macaroni, bread, and sugar-filled desserts. It takes a little leap at first, but you can easily get to where you need to be by no longer looking at those things as food sources. We weren't evolved to live on them, and you can't do it an remain healthy for long. Look around at the obesity rate, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc. As I say repeatedly throughout these articles, I am not a medical doctor, and won't tell YOU what is right for you. I'm looking at basic truths, and giving MY opinion, sharing MY views on how to get healthy. An African lion wouldn't stand on the shore, see a blue whale spout in the distance, and view it as a food source. (OK, the likelihood of THAT little scenario is pretty remote, but work with me here. I'm trying to make a point.) You shouldn't view those junk-type "foods" as a food source. I read someplace a while back, "Don't sacrifice what you want MOST for what you want NOW." My apologies to whomever wrote that, for no attribution, but I don't know the source. How true it is, though! Breaking over and eating that pizza may momentarily satisfy some misplaced craving for carbs and salt, but certainly won't help you in your Paleo lifestyle. It won't be as satisfying as you thought, either. 4. Movement, movement, movement. I use the tag "Simulate The Hunt" (c) at the top of the page. You need to move around to expend energy. If you take in too much and move too little, your body will store it for later. Simple simple simple. You've heard this before, but you have to move. Your body was made to move, to work, to climb, to run, to swim, in general to move through your environment. It is capable of amazing physical feats. Don't sit when you can stand, don't drive when you can walk, use hand tools instead of power tools when it's reasonable to do so. Increase your energy output. Walk, walk, walk. Run if you can, even a little and then increase it. Carry heavy (within your ability) objects. Move things, climb things. Jump, play, chase. 5. Enjoy your life. 6. Spend time out in nature. Even if it's a park in the middle of a city. 7. Get your bare feet and your hands in the dirt. 8. Use natural materials when you can.

Monday, August 18, 2014

NOT JUST RUNNING-LIVING


I often write about minimalist/barefoot running issues, minimalist shoe reviews, etc. Running is just something that I like to do. I want to look beyond ONLY the running, and talk about minimalist/barefoot LIVING. When you first transition from "traditional" shoes, you have to do it somewhat slowly, as your feet, primarily, are weak from years of being encased in rubber/leather/canvas, and your ankles, tendons, calves, (and on up the chain) are in need of conditioning to be able to run as you were made to run. Nearly EVERY runner that you see on the road, from those you see at the head of the pack in an event to the weekend casual "jogger", are running along, clomping down on the heel and slapping the toes down with every step. I have kind of made a game of it, in that when I am on the road, whether running or driving and see a runner coming toward me, I look to whether I can see the bottom of their foot as they take a step. Generally, if you can see the bottom of their shoe, they are presenting it as they reach out with their heel. As I started to say, barefoot/minimalist RUNNING strengthens your feet/legs. What about barefoot/minimalist LIVING? Do you have a good barefoot run, then throw on the old sneakers/worn out "running shoes" to prepare to work in the yard? If so, I think you may be missing a great opportunity for conditioning. I spend a lot of time working outside. I mean A LOT! We are fortunate to have a fruit orchard and large seasonal garden, however it takes a lot of physical work to keep it going. Whether I am trimming trees, removing stumps, fixing irrigation pipe or laying in firewood, I'm not wearing shoes. I do some of it barefoot, and much of it in some good old tire tread sandals with paracord laces. These are the ones shown in the photo above, taken before I did some customization on them, and switched to the paracord. Plenty of protection for the bottom of your feet from thorns, etc., but no cushioning, and lots of free foot movement. Such work strengthens your feet, as they move in ways that just don't happen while running. When I have worked outside for the day, my feet have that great "happy tired" feeling after a good hard trail run. I've been bending them, stepping on logs, rocks, pushing over stumps, you name it, for 8 hours or more. You can't buy that kind of foot workout. Now I've been doing this for a long time, and I'm not advocating anything, just providing my perspective and experience. I go so far as to chop and split firewood this way, and to the uninitiated, that could be fraught with danger. I'm just providing the point of view that our primitive ancestors didn't run down a buck, then change into their old Nikes to go gather firewood. This is about getting back to our primal roots, and living more closely to the way they did in order for our bodies to be healthy. If you don't do a lot of your living/working either barefoot or in minimal footwear, you are missing a great conditioning opportunity.

Friday, August 15, 2014

THE F.C.S. EPIDEMIC (FOOD CELEBRATION SYNDROME)

I work in an office environment. Just a few people, but LOTS in adjacent offices/rooms, etc. The problem that this presents is that there is, with several hundred people in a building, most of us interacting throughout the day, there is virtually ALWAYS something that somebody wants to celebrate. Birthdays, Retirement, Promotions, Holidays, people getting hired, transferred, married, having babies. Seldom, it seems, does a day go by when there isn't SOMETHING that SOMEONE wants to "celebrate". This alone is not a bad thing. It makes people feel good, after all. The problem is HOW they celebrate. I will use this morning as an example. We had the "trifecta". Someone, in an adjacent office, decided, "What the heck, it's Friday." So they brought a giant box (probably 15-20 count) of assorted doughnuts, chocolate covered, sugar glazed, sugar dipped, etc. etc. The box was just laying open on a table where EVERYONE would pass by during the course of the morning. The box was soon decimated, save a few scraps. Now, cut the scene to OUR office. Interns last day, so they bring a pound of candy to share with everyone. Another intern's last day, so they have someone deliver cookies, candied cookies and candy. Yesterday was "The next to last day for the interns", so someone bought a cake. This is learned, and accepted behavior in our society, and it is horribly unhealthy. We have a huge obesity rate, and this behavior is a big contributing factor, I think. We celebrate everything with food.......not just food, but JUNK, full of sugar and wheat. There won't be a quick fix to this, and I've certainly posted about it before. Until we stop raising our kids to think that every happy event involves sugar, we will continue to pass this on to future generations. Find another way to celebrate. Buy a card, a gift, whatever, as long as it isn't food. In my humble opinion, as always.........

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

MORE ON PALEO EFFECTS AND CHALLENGES

Now, I don't mean to be an evangelist here, but our paleo way of eating is showing such benefits that I need to share. I am, I realize, one lone voice among many pro and con for this way of eating and lifestyle, but I intend to use that voice, at least from this platform, to espouse what I see as behavior that could be beneficial to many people. That, after all, is the purpose of this site in the first place. The longer that we eat paleo, the easier it is. I have lost those quick hunger pangs that always hit mid-morning and mid-afternoon as breakfast and lunch full of carbs wore off. The increased protein intake has provided longer fueling for this body, and with the very low-carb, it appears (not verified as yet) that ketosis is also working. As we get our bodies used to burning more fat and less carbs, we have longer-ranged energy. The media sure doesn't help with this, though. The web, tv, radio, social media, etc. are seemingly FULL of advertisements and references to high simple carbohydrate consumption. If you look at a tv for more than 1/2 hour, you will almost certainly be bombarded with multiple commercials for fast food, instant waffles, sugary cereal, candy, chips,soda,etc. This isn't too tough on me, as I am happy with our committment. It seems to take a toll on the kids though. They have, to be sure, plenty to eat, and good nutritious food. They kind of miss cake and pie and doughnuts, though. Not that they don't EVER get them, but now it's dramatically less than before. That multi-billion dollar food industry is dedicated to making people consume a lot of food. It's that simple. It is further a simple determination that they make more money if they can PROCESS the food before it gets to your mouth. That's why you don't see a lot of advertisements for unprocessed meat and raw, fresh vegetables. Neither my wife nor I are overweight, but both have still experienced a noticeable weight loss since launching into full paleo. Leaner is better. The problem with obesity in the U.S. and other places around the world is easy access to lots of carbohydrates. Rice, beans, legumes....all much cheaper than, say, organic vegetables or grass-fed beef. We are fortunate. We grow most of our fruits and vegetables and have our own chickens. People who don't have that resource, and further don't have the means to buy such good quality food, often fill the void with food that is more affordable, thus high carbs, resulting in a high obesity rate. If you have to live on cheap bread, beans and ramen noodles, you're likely to get fat. Not that paleo can't be done on a budget, but you would have to be really committed. We will continue on, and it will be interesting to see where this paleo journey leads us. I hope it is a permanent change of lifestyle, as it seems to have great health benefits.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

OUR PALEO LIFESTYLE EVOLUTION


Eating a paleo diet is a pretty radical change from the way most of us have grown up. Carbs are EVERYWHERE! A natural diet is, it seems to me, just a logical way to live your life. Unfortunately, the food industry, at least here in the U.S., spends untold billions of dollars to convince you otherwise. After all, how much money can a food processing company make if nobody eats processed food. People eating apples, peppers, and unprocessed meats pretty much makes those companies unnecessary. If you watch TV, you will be subjected to a non-stop barrage of ads, trying to dress up processed foods as part of a healthy lifestyle. You really don't need someone to process your food for you. Your body was designed to process food. The paleo way of eating (of which I am certainly no expert), just gives your body what it needs, without it having to deal with all of the additives and "flavor enhancers" that are often blended into processed foods. Our whole society, it seems to me, has evolved to be "food centered". Instead of being nourishment, food has become a source of celebration and entertainment. I work in an office environment where people celebrate birthdays, retirements, promotions, etc with, unwaveringly, a big box or sometimes a table full of junk. Well-meaning people, wishing to make someone happy or celebrate a life event, spend their time an money to bring in a couple of dozen doughnuts, brownies, cake, cookies, bagels, etc.etc.etc. These are set on a table where people pass by during the day and constantly graze until everything is gone, generally with the exception of the little plate of fresh fruit that is set on the back of the table as a "healthy after-thought". This is usually done in the morning, presumably after everyone got up and ate their breakfast, so it's definitely not hunger-driven. You will hear things like, "Well....I shouldn't, but just this once. After all it is his or her birthday...". This will be a long uphill struggle to change our relationship with food. I think it is so well established that it won't be easy. You can only do it FOR YOURSELF. You don't have to celebrate with a big plate of processed junk that your body doesn't need. You can say "Happy Birthday!" and decline the cake and doughnuts. It's not that hard, and there is a lot at stake here. About a year ago, I tried really hard to go hard-core paleo. My family, at that point, wasn't on board, and it was really tough for my wife to try to cook in two completely different modes everyday, so I grudgingly stopped, although we all continued to eat a great deal of home-grown vegetables and fruit from our orchard. My wife, being Asian, grew up eating rice every day. That was tough. She has always desired and lived a very healthy lifestyle, and we try to steer our kids toward that as well. She recently began reading, in earnest, about paleo cooking and has read related books such as Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter, which sets forth his theory that consumption of so much grain is a source of many health problems. I am still reading that, and may do a review of it in an upcoming post. Being the excellent cook that she is, my wife began experimenting with paleo cooking, and has become quite the expert at substituting to make the transition easier for everyone, particularly our kids, ages 17 and 9. She searched out and found excellent paleo cookbooks, and we are fortunate to live in a pretty rural setting, with great access to bunches of different organic vegetables, organically grown fruits, and eggs from our own chickens. With those resources, we launched into a full paleo way of eating, and it has been great. She makes great pasta-substituting shredded zuccini for the noodles (zoodles!), has found that the kids can have some pancakes made from things like coconut or almond flour, etc. We, and particularly I, don't claim any particular expertise in such a way of eating, but we are really enjoying this. You don't, after a while, miss things like bread with meals, rice, etc. It is really not a hard transition, and with your health hanging in the balance, and more importantly, the health of your kids, it is a worthwhile endeavor. In keeping with my general philosophy in these posts, I am not imploring you to,or even recommending that you do this. That's not my purpose. I'm just talking about what we are doing, and giving you alternatives...Be healthy.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

REVIEW-NEW BALANCE MINIMUS TRAIL 10V2


Thanks again to Jeff Gallup at Barefoot Inclined for these. I won them on a giveaway from his site. They retail for about $110.00. I have done some running in them and have even tried them in some other venues (tennis to be exact). These are well-made shoes, for certain. Some recent modifications over the previous version have, it seems, improved their comfort. A minimal drop (4mm), the feel of them is nice and flat. They have a pretty aggressive tread which grips well on all surfaces that I have tried, and the toe box is certainly substantial. I have to admit that I am a true dyed-in-the-wool sandal runner, but these are some shoes that I can run in without my feet feeling boxed-in. Having a shoe actually shaped like a foot seems like a great idea to me, and these come pretty close. While sandals are (and no doubt will remain) my preferred running footwear, I have no qualms about running in these. They are extremely flexible, and let your foot move naturally without binding or rubbing. These shoes have a nice, smooth interior that allows you to wear them barefoot. Not having to use socks in a running shoe, to me is a great plus. They claim on the NB website to be "odor resistant". I have worn them exclusively without socks and, so far, they have not developed any substantial odor. This has been a problem for many "barefoot shoes", VFFs in particular, but so far, so good with these. I find that putting them on, perhaps because of the shape of my feet, has a little issue. Putting my foot in initially is a little bothersome. It feels as though the foot has to go through a narrow part of the shoe before being "released" into the roomy toe box. This is, to me a very minor problem, and as I said, may be a bit unique to me. Once they are on, they are extremely comfortable to wear. I minimize the problem by making sure the laces are really loose before putting them on. As I mentioned at the beginning, I tried these for something for which they really weren't designed. I have worn them on the tennis court a few times. One benefit is that the Vibram outsoles seem to be non-marking, and the lugs on the bottom grip really well on the hard court surface. I am not recommending them for tennis, and don't play enough to feel qualified to give a thumbs-up or down on that issue. I am only making the point that they seem to be quite versatile. This is a very light weight shoe. I have referred to this in a previous post in which I compared a number of shoe weights. It is on a par with my lightweight sandals, including Xeros and Earth Runners Alphas, so its weight has presented no issue for me. I got the shoe in black/silver, but it comes in a number of colors, so you should be able to find one that fits your preferences. It does well for relatively big feet (I have, in this shoe, a 13 EE). This is bigger than I wear in a sandal, but is just right for me in an enclosed shoe. I opted for the bigger size, as I was concerned about toe-box size. In all, I like this shoe. It stays minimalist, but provides a "real shoe" look for situations where you might need it.

Friday, August 8, 2014

NEW REVIEW COMING SOON-SHAMMA RUNNING SANDALS-WARRIORS


I will shortly be receiving a pair of Shamma Sandals Warriors minimalist running sandals from Shammasandals.com. These look promising, and I'm anxious to run in them. Watch for my review of these coming up soon.

Friday, June 13, 2014

SHOE WEIGHT COMPARISONS


Before we begin comparisons, a few disclaimers. This is by no means a scientific comparison. It's MY comparison of MY shoes in MY size weighed on MY scale (ok my wife's kitchen scale and she made me seal them in lightweight plastic bags before she consented to its' use.) I have run many miles in most of these, with the exception of the tire tread huaraches, which I just got a couple of weeks ago, and have run about 10--15 miles total in them. The NB MT10V2s are relatively new also. The tire tread huaraches are really what triggered this comparison, as they are pretty hefty. I plan to do a specific review of them, and their interesting (hopefully authentic, but not sure) origins. That's for another day. I used to run in those NB 992s in the photo. I ran my first half-marathon in them, in fact, so they're kind of a keepsake now, although I vow never to run in such things again. I even had heavy arch support insoles in them! They are the heaviest of the lot, coming in at a whopping 18.6 oz. sans insoles. That's a lot of weight to carry on each foot for 13.1 miles, if you think about it. Next came the tire tread huaraches, at 18.5 oz. These are authentic tire tread, with a leather foot bed and leather ribbon-ties. They came to me needing some customization, which I have nearly completed. They were kind of a funny, squarish shape and a bit big, so I cut, shaved, and ground off probably an ounce or so to get them to the size and shape that I wanted. After the first couple of runs I don't really notice the weight much. You can forget ground feel, though with a 15mm tire tread between you and Mother Earth. I will keep running in them, but they're also looking great for hiking at this point. I recently won (On Jeff Gallup's Barefoot Inclined site,) a pair of NB MT10V2 trail shoes. They are 13 EE, and have lots of toe box room. For a shoe, they are incredibly light, weighing in at 7.4 oz. My first commercially obtained minimal shoes are my old Xeros. These have plenty of miles on them, so I don't know if they are lighter than when I first got them. I have replaced the original lacing with paracord, as well. They come in at 6.3 oz. Last are my favorites, the Alphas from EarthRunners. These things fit my feet like gloves, hold secure during any conditions, and weigh in at 4.8 oz. They feel like nothing on your feet. I like to run in them after a day or two in the tire tread beasts. At that point, the Alphas make my feet feel like Mercury the wing-footed messenger.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

PRODUCT REVIEW-EARTH RUNNERS ALPHAS

I have had these for a while now, but held off on reviewing because I wanted to put them through their paces. I'm not really good about "logging" my miles, but these definitely have between 200 and 300 miles on them, and have been worn in a lot of diverse conditions. I run mostly trails, with some asphalt and concrete thrown in. Living in Northern San Diego County, there just hasn't been a lot of opportunity for snow/ice testing, and I haven't been to the mountains this year, so I'll leave that part to folks like Jeff Gallup over at Barefoot Inclined. We've had some rain and mud, though and they got a good shot at that. I have run barefoot, but mostly minimalist for the past 4 1/2 years. I used to run in "motion control" shoes like NB and the like, on poor advice from running store employees. I have the banged up feet to prove it. I have run in Xero Shoes and these Alphas only in recent times. Both of those are fine products, and I have reviewed Xero Shoes in the past. I have migrated in the past few months to exclusively running in the Alphas, due to my specific needs and foot situation. Having had a pretty serious bout with metatarsalgia after a period of exclusive barefooting, I looked around at the various options. When I came across the Earth Runners Alphas, I liked the fact that they have a 10mm Birkenstock sole. My feet just feel better with a better "rock plate" under them, probably a testament to my continuous need for improved form. My footstrike is much lighter than when I used to run in "heel stompers", but I, as are many others, am a work in progress. At this stage, the Alphas give me what I need. With that lead in, let's talk about these Alphas
The ordering process was top notch. I followed the directions on the website, (a link to which is at the top of this blog). There are detailed instructions on measuring your foot, printing a template, and getting them sized correctly. I opted for the leather footbed, resulting in a total 11mm thickness of the sole. I like the feel of the leather under my feet. These come with a variety of laces, including leather, nylon, and nylon with conductive material incorporated within. Michael Dally, who owns the company, has a lot of information about "Earthing", or getting connected electrically with the Earth. The sandals come with a copper stud in the sole and metal rivets at the rear connection points of the laces. I must admit that I haven't made up my mind about that whole theory yet, however the metal is totally unobtrusive, so there is certainly no loss of comfort from its presence. My Alphas arrived quickly, as promised, in a plain postal mailer, and were essentially ready to wear. The laces come a bit long, with the intent that the individual wearer should trim them as desired. I did trim mine, and left about 1" past the buckle when worn. On reflection, I will leave another 1/2 to 3/4 " on the next pair just for ease of grasping the lace when putting the sandal on. Early on, I had a couple of chafing issues, one at the buckle (near the outer ankle) and one between the toes. Both were quickly cured by some minor adjustments of the laces. Once I began running in these sandals, I was pleased at how they felt, hugging the foot with no slippage or "flopping". That is partly due to the relative stiffness of the sole. You do lose a substantial amount of ground feel over sandals with thinner soles, but it is a reasonable trade-off for the additional protection, should you need it. Earth Runners also offers styles with thinner soles if that is an issue for you. Once I started running in these, I never looked back, nor have I run in anything else. I have run in wet, dry, and muddy conditions, with no problems at all. The tread on the Birkenstock sole gives me plenty of traction, and the laces and buckle have never slipped loose. Over time, these conform to your foot, as you can see from the photos. After this much time, they have that custom, "old sweater" feel, and my feet find their exact place every time I slip them on. On the tread side, there is very little wear to this point. This pair cost $55.00 plus shipping. That is a bit mid-range between some of the other types on the market, but WAY below any "traditional" running shoes I've bought in the past. As I mentioned above, I have been running in sandals for several years, so my legs and feet are used to that. If you are transitioning from "traditional" shoes, take it slowly and work up to longer distances as your body adjusts. As in any real minimal shoe, you won't get away with heel striking in these. You need to run like your body was designed to run. Mid-foot or fore-foot strike. In summation, I am very pleased with these sandals. They are reasonably priced, extremely well constructed and durable. Comfort becomes more and more important as distances increase. These have been very comfortable to wear. I have even begun wearing them while I work in our fruit orchard. They have been up to every task, from mud to mulch to digging holes. I think I need to buy another pair just for running...............

Sad Realization

When I have an epiphany, it's usually at mile 4+ of some run, generally in the dark, either by myself or with my K-9 running partner. Such was the case this week, as we navigated a familiar trail that parallels a rural road near my home. It was well before dawn, a full moon was heading down in the west, and, as I prefer when running, the world was ours. No sound save the occasional familar screech of a hunting barn owl, and our feet on the dirt trail. Times like that are something that I truly treasure, and as you other runners will know, it gives you peace like very little else. As we rounded a corner, we were blinded by the glaring lights of an oncoming giant dump truck, on the adjacent road. He roared by at 50 miles per hour, belching out a large cloud of diesel as he went. I know this was a guy just earning a living, but at that time, all I could think was how we so often fly in the face of nature and act with a real disregard for our connection with this Earth. We have "evolved" to the point that we often have no understanding of a need to be part of the natural world. We have crafted devices of steel and rubber with which we roll over and past the natural world. I could only think of one thing as his racket faded into the night and the fumes were slowly dissipated by the slight breeze......"Humans are really an annoying lot............" Hope I can do my part to do better.

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