Official Shoe Review: Earth Runners

Earth Runners.  It just sounds like music to your ears doesn’t it? What a great name for a shoe.  There is no shoe I wear more often than my Earth Runners.  Earth Runners win the award for “Best All Around,” “Best in Show,” or “Most Well Rounded.”  How many times in this post can I say Earth Runners? :)  Find ‘em at http://www.earthrunners.com.

About:

Way back in the day, in December, I became intrigued by a company called Earth Runners, and made contact with the creator, Michael Dally.  I was fortunate enough to receive a pair for review, the Ultralight model.  Unfortunately, I was unable to run in them right away, because I faced my medical crisis shortly after the arrival of these good looking friends.

Nevertheless, I became a big fan of this small company, which was launched on Kickstarter.  Michael Dally is a smart, active mechanical engineer, who honed his skills at San Diego State University.  He’s also a trail runner who cares about the powerful connection we have to the earth and others.  He further exemplifies this connection by pledging to donate a pair of sandals to Seva Sandals, a nonprofit that donates protective footwear to children in India.

Earthing:

I really can’t review these sandals without discussing the concept of Earthing.  I still don’t really “get it.”  Good description right?  All I know for sure is that the Earth has a rhythm (Schumann Resonance) which I attempt to describe here and here. Barefoot runners often describe a feeling of ultimate connection to the Earth and their surroundings, gathering energy from the ground and those around them.  Additionally, decreasing inflammation in their body because of their soft landing and the neutralization of positively charged free radicals when in contact with the negatively charged electrons on the earth. I totally get that.  Well, the first part of that sentence anyway.  But I know there’s no feeling like running barefoot.  Except now, I get that feeling in Earth Runners too.

See here’s the deal:  Michael has taken his love of trail running and Earthing and put that concept into the perfect minimalist running sandal.  He has placed copper inserts (flush with the bottom of the shoe I might add) in attempt to ground the wearer and connect them to the earth again.  Like running barefoot.  Does it work? I think so.  I find myself getting that same euphoric feeling I experience when running barefoot.  But, I might add that for some reason I don’t notice that feeling until I’m about 10 minutes into my run.  I honestly can’t explain that except maybe it takes me a little while to become “one with the shoe” or perhaps it takes a little while for that connection to register.  Who knows?  Michael created a really cool video I will share here, in which he does an experiment to compare the difference between being grounded with bare feet and then with a pair of his Earth Runners.

The Running Experience:

Admittedly, it wasn’t love at first run.  In fact, I could only go about 2 miles running in them and 4ish miles of walking in them before ripping them off due to an excruciating middle toe blister.  And, I’m an idiot and maybe a little strap OCD, so I couldn’t get the straps where I wanted them.  I probably went on like this for a couple of months before I was smart enough to contact Michael to figure out how to help myself.  Michael kindly told me that he had a Support section of his website with FAQ’s.  Luckily, he told me right away what the problem was and I was able to fix it.  On the first try.  What a difference that made and all I had to do was ask…

After I fixed the straps just by rotating them a little bit, I was able to increase my running distance substantially.  My longest run in Earth Runners has been 10 miles, and they were enjoyable miles on the road. I must admit that I am used to running in a lighter shoe, so the 8 oz. feels a little heavy to me after that distance.  On a personal level, I really enjoy the Earth Runners for my shorter, recovery runs.  Possibly because of the Earthing effect?  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

For this particular model, I  prefer road running.  The tread on the bottom of the Ultralights is not the best for trails as I tend to slip often in dirt/rocks/mud.  I did attempt several times to go for longer trail runs in them, but I ended up changing after a couple of miles due to the slippage.  To give them some credit though, I did try to take them on the steepest, loose rockiest trails in Ventura and Santa Barbara County.  Like, you should probably go down on your butt, if you catch my drift.  If you want to trail run in your Earth Runners, I might suggest another model (he has quite a few to pick from now!) with better tread on the bottom for rugged terrain, like the Circadian model.  And to finish that thought, I prefer to not run trails in huaraches anyway because I am a total accident waiting to happen on a trail, especially now that I live in California.  These trails are rocky and I’m liable to lose a toe.

Once I am running in these, I feel like the shoe becomes a part of my body and I forget I’m wearing them. I really enjoy running in Earth Runners, not only for the feeling, but for the looks I get.  I can only imagine they are thinking how good looking my shoes are :) Below, I’ve marked the ground feel as fair, but this likely has to do with the 6mm sole vs the 4mm sole which is the max I’m used to running in.  The 6 mm sole is quite flexible, and I’ve read reviews that say that if you choose to have a naked footbed (who doesn’t want a naked footbed??) then the ground feel and flexibility is comparable to the Xero Shoes, which have the best ground feel I’ve experienced in a minimal shoe.

Life Experience:

I wear these shoes all the time.  Period.  The only time I’m not wearing them is at work.  But I would, if I could wear open toed shoes.  If I go out on the weekend, I’m wearing Earth Runners.  San Diego trip with my sister? Earth Runners at the zoo, out to eat, all day every day.  Newport Beach to see my hubby’s best friend? Earth Runners out to the bar, Earth Runners to the beach, and everywhere.  I think you get the picture, I’m obsessed with these things, it’s almost like an addiction.  My husband is thinking about getting some because of my borderline attachment.

Techie Stuff:

  • Stack height: 6 mm
  • Weight per sandal: 8 oz as tested (this would likely be different depending on how large your foot is, what type of laces and footbed you choose.)
  • Choice of leather footbed or naked footbed (tested leather footbed)
  • Choice of laces: Nylon with sturdy buckle, leather, or newly offered conductive laces
  • Sizing from chart or custom foot tracing
  • Zero drop (obv)
  • Foot bed forms to your feet
  • Don’t wear them in a thunder/lightning storm (ZAP!)

Pros:

  • Earthing: Come on, what other shoe can you say this about?
  • Comfort during walking/running
  • Easy strapping system (A big plus for a strap illiterate human)
  • THEY LOOK FANTASTIC. Raw, genuine huarache appearance (A plus for my street credit)
  • Versatility (I can go run, hike, or go to a bar in these.)
  • Favorite “recovery run” shoe. These things suck the inflammation right out of my little legs after a long trail run. Ok, I’m not certain that they really do this, but I do feel somehow more rested after going for a quick run or walk in these.
  • The company you’re dealing with stands by their product and is prompt to answer questions (no matter how silly)
  • For every 10 pairs sold, Michael donates a pair to charity

Cons:

  • Fair ground feel
  • Foot slippage in strapping on trails
  • Ultralights: Not the best choice for trails as tread does not accommodate steep, rocky California trails (Try another model?)
  • Barely a con: Straps take some adjusting, breaking in time needed. (Likely the case for all huaraches)
  • Not my first choice for a long distance (10+ mile run) due to strap rubbing over time.

Some pictures for your enjoyment:  Head on over to http://www.earthrunners.com and get yourself a pair.  And tell Michael I sent ya :)

Earth Runners hiking

Earth Runners hiking

fresh dirt after a hike

fresh dirt after a hike

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side view

side view

bottom: Sorry about the blue paint, I painted my front door. In Earth Runners of course

bottom: Sorry about the blue paint, I painted my front door. In Earth Runners of course

Earth Runners out and about in Ventura

Earth Runners out and about in Ventura

Earth Runners in my yard :)

Earth Runners in my yard :)

Earth Runners at the San Diego Zoo

Earth Runners at the San Diego Zoo

Earth Runners out in Newport Beach

Earth Runners out in Newport Beach

Earth Runners to assist with recovery after BTR Ultramarathon

Earth Runners to assist with recovery after BTR Ultramarathon

Categories: Running, Shoe Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

LOVE Wins! And Valley Crest Half Marathon Review with Energy Bits

Wow!  I went running tonight only to realize I forgot to post my Valley Crest Half Marathon Review last week… hahaha… Please forgive me, my mind is on overload due to our house-buying process.  Did I mention we are buying a house in Ventura, CA??  We are so excited!!!  We hope to close this week.  Needless to say, my evenings after work have been filled with decorating websites, picking out paint colors, etc.  I wrote this post last week and was just meaning to add pictures before posting and I completely forgot.

Luckily, I received two bags of Energy Bits tonight in the mail courtesy of the Energy Bits Brand Ambassador program.  What a great company to be involved with!! If 10 bags are sold with your discount code, you get a free bag!!  I couldn’t be more stoked. Plus, Catharine Arnston, the fabulous CEO sent me a letter. If you’re interested in the Energy Bits Brand Ambassador program, please don’t hesitate to email me with questions at moffettleigh@yahoo.com.

So tonight, I ate 30 energy bits and went out for a beautiful run in my new home town of Ventura with my husband.  It was perfect weather with views of the mountains and sunset at every turn.  It was a little piece of heaven except for the three walker look alikes that appeared to jump out of the show The Walking Dead.  Watch out for them walkers.  Yeah, I’m not sure what was going on.  Anway, here is my original post from last week:

Post I forgot about last week: :)

Tonight while I was re-running the Valley Crest Half Marathon in my mind, I turned the corner to see at least 100 people cheering and celebrating the Supreme Court Decision today to move this country in the right direction: Away from hate and acknowledging love above all.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I realized how much this day means to me and what this day must mean to all these folks on the corner.  “WOOOO!!!! CONGRATULATIONS!!!”  I could hardly keep the words in my mouth.

A resounding “WE WON!!!” echoed through the crowd as I ran through.  I couldn’t resist taking some pictures of the individuals, couples, and families that were happily celebrating their well deserved rights today.  Thankfully, I was running barefoot tonight for a nice 5 mile afterwork run, and I could feel the energy coursing through me from the ground and all the joy connecting us.  I ran a little further, and I could hear some music.  It was so beautiful, that I stopped and looked around, trying to figure out where it was coming from.  I kept going and turned down the sidewalk to go down a little bike path behind our apartments, and I was getting closer to the music.  Finally, I got to the edge of a tunnel.  At the other end, a man was playing his saxophone to no one in particular, but was completely lost in it.  I’m partial to the sax, as I used to play when I was little :)  I stood there and watched him for about 5 minutes as he played the most beautiful song.  It was celebratory, but solemn all at the same time, as if he was saying to everyone out there celebrating, “Well, it’s about time, isn’t it?”  The saxophonist and the group were totally separate, but seemed connected to each other somehow, and I to them.  The song reverberated in the tunnel so perfectly that I was  thankful I was there to hear it, even if I was the only one there to listen.

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Impromptu Pride

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Fuzzy, but guy playing saxophone

Free Hugs

Free Hugs

So how does this all relate to the Valley Crest Half Marathon?  Well I’m not really sure it does, except for the part about being connected to some quality folks in one place at the same time.  Two weeks ago, Mike and I showed up to the Valley Crest Half Marathon to discover that we felt like we were coming to a reunion from the Born to Run Ultramarathons . Some of the same people were there that we met including my buddy David in the cowboy hat and his crew.  I also met some new friends including one great guy named Jacobus that had heard my interview with Caity McCardell of http://www.runbarefootgirl.com.  I was so excited!  It feels great to be a part of the running community here in California, and I finally feel like I’m home; this is where we belong.

The weather was perfect for a race day here in California: It was a little drizzly and cloudy, which was perfect for keeping the heat at bay.  The course was delightful and rolling, located on the Mulholland fire road in the Santa Monica Mountains.  It was a “T” shaped course, which was nice because you almost always knew what was ahead.  I felt strong on the hills because Mike has been torturing me lately by taking me on the steepest hills in Southern California.  Not to mention, I’ve done a few “Hill Runs” with the Ventura County Trail Runners, which is a total joke.  The “hill” is more like a small Mt. Everest in the middle of Ventura that can only reasonably be crawled up and down, no running is actually possible.  But nevertheless, this self inflicted hill torture beautifully prepared me for all the hills on the trail and in life, and I almost sickeningly enjoy them now.  I think I’ve caught Mike’s hill obsession disease.

Again, this was a happy, happy race for me.  I don’t know if it’s California, trail running, the people, or Energy Bits that makes me feel high on life while participating in these races, but I feel like I could just go all day.  It’s probably all of the above.  I decided I would eat two servings (30 bits) of Energy Bits while running every 45 minutes during the half marathon.  I figured I would probably run around the 2 hour mark, so I knew this would be perfect.

This course has an epic downhill finish.  Probably the last two miles are downhill, which was ridiculously fun if you’re confident with your downhill running.  Unfortunately, I saw people picking their way down, but I felt totally confident with my energy level, my eccentric control and endurance with my quads(thanks to Energy Bits which naturally facilitates the release of nitric oxide ie a powerful vasodilator, allowing for more efficient delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscles in need), and my footing.  The wonderful thing about minimalist running is that it allows the runner to feel the ground underneath them… with all the rocks shifting underneath, the toes are able to splay and respond to the changing environment.  I’ve been loving my Vibram Spyridons for trails around here in California.  They have great tread to prevent slippage, and a rock block under the mid foot to prevent sharp rocks from hitting where it hurts.  I’ve really found myself actually needing this extra protection around here because of the rocks, the dry dirt slipping underneath me, and the STEEP hills.  Seriously, I’ve never climbed and descended hills this steep.

So, I was holding a great pace on the way to the finish, and feeling great.  The last approximately 0.10 or 0.20 mile is a STEEP downhill with loose rocks to come across the finish.  This was exciting, as spectators were lined along the hill, cheering and bringing the runners in.  I was borderline out of control as I made my own little switchbacks (I call this my downhill skiing technique) down the hill, trying not to fall on my face in front of all the spectators.  I still have yet to fall during a race, but I know my time will come soon.  I made it across the finish line in 1:53:19, which is a new PR for a trail half marathon for me.  I was also lucky enough to score 2nd place in my age group!! SWEET!  My new friend Alisa also placed in her age group, not to mention smoked me with her time.  I hope to see her again soon!  I received a little trophy, and a brand new pair of my favorite Injinji toe socks as a prize.  What a great day!! Thanks to David Santiago for the photo below.

2nd place in age group! Sporting the Energy Bits tee

2nd place in age group! Sporting the Energy Bits tee

After the race, Mike and I took the next hour or so to talk with our new friends, shower up, then we went and looked at houses.  And guess what?  It was that day that we found the house that we fell in love with. A great day all around, a great day.  Can’t wait for the next race!!

New house

New House!

As always, please feel free to use my discount code “BAREFOOT” in the checkout area of http://www.energybits.com for 30% off a bag.  You won’t ever want to go back.

Categories: Racing, Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Born to Run Ultra Marathon, Life, and Energy Bits

A couple of months ago I was listening to Caity McCardell of http://www.runbarefootgirl.com as she interviewed author Christopher McDougall of Born to Run.  McDougall (who happened to be interviewed right before yours truly) reminded me of Michah True aka Caballo Blanco’s famous oath:  “If I get hurt, lost or die, it’s my own damn fault.”  This oath was taken by all the voyagers in Born to Run before they descended into the Copper Canyons with Caballo as their leader.  Last weekend, as I stood with a bunch of clowns in cowboy hats (including Caity!! What a lovely lady) at the starting line of the Born to Run Ultra Marathon, we obediently raised our right hands and recited the same oath in tribute to the legend Caballo Blanco in the presence of his loved ones, whose hearts are eternally heavy in his absence.  That being said, the overall mood was joyous; both a celebration of his life and all of ours, as we were preparing to take a long journey together.  How can you not be happy, when your race director (Luis Escobar aka the photographer featured in Born to Run) is wearing a mariachi costume while telling us to have fun and not to be a bunch of dicks.

So WAIT a minute, hold up.  Where the hell have I been??  I know all of my readers are wondering.  Both of you!  :)  I’m in CALIFORNIA!  I CAN’T STAY INSIDE TO WRITE ON A BLOG!  It’s too beautiful here!  Seriously, this place is off the hook.  I have a great new job, I’m house hunting, I’m running all the time, meeting new friends, and it’s sunny! So in my absence, I’ve been exploring this place and doing some sole searching, misspelling intended.  I decided to take a mini break from blogging, because I needed to seek out some answers.  I found myself questioning the minimalist running movement a bit, mostly because of the confusion set in motion by big running shoe companies.  Every major brand now has a minimalist model or two, in addition to the cushioned, stability, and motion control models.  Result: Everyone is confused to the max.  Example: Brand X offers these models: 5 are considered minimalist, 2 are considered “barefoot ride.”  Example Question: Which minimalist shoe do I pick for the way I run?   Or, I have X injury from running in X brand, which other brand would you recommend?

Choosing how to answer these questions in a short amount of time has been my struggle these past few months, like at races or when someone passes me in the hallway.  I’ve finally discovered that the answer is probably not what the person asking wants to hear:  It’s not about the shoe, it’s about the way that you run.  It’s all about the way that you run.  And perhaps the attitude with which you run, but that’s more of an opinion :)  Change the way you run and educate yourself.  The best way to change and provide feedback to your body is to run barefoot.  Running barefoot will give you the answers to what you’re doing wrong, teach you to listen and respond to your body’s cues.  If you’re not willing to run barefoot or TAKE THE TIME to change the way you run, you should not wear minimalist shoes.  Switching to minimalist while you’re training for a marathon and you’re 4 weeks out but you want to try because you’re injured in your regular shoes is NOT a good idea.  If you ARE willing to take the time to change, you will find the reward and freedom that so many of us have already found.  The validation I was seeking came in the form of this video from Dr. Daniel Lieberman from Harvard, who has made such a vital impact in the field of barefoot running and movement research:

So anyway, what am I talking about?  Right! The Born to Run Ultra Marathon festival.  What is this thing all about?  I was there, and I haven’t the faintest idea, but I know I’m better than I was before it.  Mike and I arrived just before sunset to set up camp on Friday night.  Our wonderful friends eventually arrived and we danced around the bonfire, played with hula hoops and listened to the band.  Lights out was a little after 9:00, but we were so excited that we stayed up for a little while before dozing off.

BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG.  4:15 AM, 4 blasts of the shotgun followed by LOUD mariachi music.  Now that’s a good wakeup call.  Mike and I enjoyed a hearty breakfast of oatmeal with peanut butter mixed in from the jet boil (I love that thing!) and made some matcha green tea for a little extra boost of energy.  It was cold, probably in the 40’s, but exciting to be camping before a race.  About 20 minutes before the race, I began eating my Energy Bits and Recovery Bits.  30 Energy Bits and 30 Recovery Bits, just like they have recommended in their marathon race plan.

At 5:45 AM, we all stood around the bonfire and took our oath.  I’ve never felt anything like it, surrounded by runners venturing out for 10 miles, 31 miles, 62 miles, or 100 miles.  We seemed eternally connected in that moment, in that strange way that trail running brings people together.  BANG! 6:00 AM, we were off.

I ran the 50k, which consisted of two 10 mile loops, one of which we ran twice.  The actual course was beautiful:  A private ranch with rolling hills, non-technical dirt/gravel surfaces, and one beautiful ridge that’s totally worth the steeper climbs and descents.  The race advertises that the surface is “barefoot friendly” but I’m not in agreement with that.  I’m a huge wuss baby and do not enjoy running on small rocks for 31 miles.  I know, I have my diaper on as I’m writing this.  I wore my Vibram Five Finger Spyridons that have good tread on the bottom and was totally comfortable the whole time.  I was glad I was wearing them on the second loop, when I would have been sliding otherwise in the steeper sections.  After each loop, we had a chance to run back through the campground where my sweetie pie and friends were waiting and cheering me on as I came through.  They ran the 10 miler, so they were done WAY before I came back through after my first loop.  Those dudes are FAST.  Mike and his buddy, Joe tied for 3rd place and Grundle came in shortly after.  My new friends from Ventura County Trail Runners were running the 50k also, so I was happy to run with them at different points in the race.

My fuel situation was fantastic.  Like I mentioned, I ate 30 Energy Bits and 30 Recovery Bits 20 minutes prior to the start of the race.  Every hour into the race, I ate 40 more Energy Bits.  Why 40?  Because Energy Bits tells you 15-30, so I figured 40 had to be better, right?  I really don’t think I needed the 40, but I admit, I was a little paranoid.  I carried Mandarin Heed in my pack and drank water at all the aid stations.  I ate about half a tangerine and about half a gel at two different aid stations, but I’m not sure I needed that.  But I planned to stop at all the stations, so I felt like I should eat something they were offering!  My energy level was surprisingly high, and I never hit a wall.  Runner’s high was a gross understatement; I’m pretty sure I floated through this race.  Some might argue that I didn’t run the race to my full potential if I felt that good throughout the race, but I would argue that maybe I had the most fun out there :)  My time, while unimportant, turned out to be better than I expected at 5:16.

I really don’t know what to say except that this was the happiest race I have ever done.  Simply put, races like this perpetuate our need to be running, our need to be on the trails, and our need to be together.  Every race should be like this, as this is what running is all about.  Although, I’m really not sure if this race is about running at all.  Instead, maybe it’s about celebrating life.  I heard someone compare Born to Run to the Burning Man Festival, which sounds about right.  Afterall, I don’t think anyone knows what either one is about, but everyone comes away a little loonier and starry eyed, claiming that their life is forever changed.

On my last loop, I found myself full of emotion.  Unfortunately, this always seemed to happen on the hills, when I really needed even breathing to successfully get to the top.  I would have this overwhelming feeling of fullness and satisfaction, and I couldn’t seem to hold back the tears.  The Born to Run 50k seemed like the race that I had been waiting for: Almost like a coming of age, or a celebration of the arrival of the next phase of my life.  I always knew I was meant to run, but I never could until I lost the shoes and the orthotics.  Now here I am, two years later with two marathons, four half marathons, and one ultra marathon under my belt.  And here I am, four months after having surgery, running my first ultra marathon.  AND (as if that’s not enough :) ) we just moved to one of the most beautiful, sunny places I’ve ever seen with endless hills and trails.  When I crossed the finish line, I had a great crew waiting for me.  I held back the tears until they dispersed, then boo hoo’d (yes I’m still wearing my diapers) when it was just Mike and I. Best day of my life.  A few minutes later, one of my buddies I’d met from the course preview, David, came across the finish, and both of us were overwhelmed with emotion again as we had just come a long way together.

The Born to Run Ultra Marathon.  Still don’t know what the hell it was all about.  Was it the hula hoops, the authentic Tarahumara ball races, the beer run, the music, the people, the running, the tattoos, the surfboard prizes, the handmade pendant medals, the cows or the race director?  Who knows?  All I know is that this one will be an annual event for us, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for next year.  Here’s a cute video to leave you with by one of the Born to Runners:

As always, I’m offering 30% off Energy Bits at http://www.energybits.com with the discount code BAREFOOT at checkout.  :)

Have you ever experienced a race this fantastic? I’d love to hear about it!

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Dancing into the 3rd loop

Dancing into the 3rd loop

Finished!

Finished!

Friends

Friends

Ventura County Trail Runners

Ventura County Trail Runners

Categories: Racing, Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

How to Have Your Best Marathon with ENERGYbits

Mike and I are getting settled into Ventura, CA, and I have lots of great posts coming! In the meantime, here is a great tip sheet from http://www.energybits.com that describes how to have your best marathon using ENERGY Bits for fuel.  I was able to run 20 glorious miles this weekend using Energy Bits, and it was perhaps the most blissful run of my life in sunny CA.  That is, until I almost stepped on a rattlesnake sitting just off the trail.  But, the snake was just protecting himself afterall…. Good luck and run happy :) And watch out for rattlesnakes!! Although my friends at Muleshoe Ranch might be able to tell me what kind of rattlesnake this is… stay tuned!  MARATHON RUNNING Have Your Best Marathon with ENERGYbits

20 miles on the trail with Energy Bits!

20 miles on the trail with Energy Bits!

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The rattle snake that did not like to share the trail with me…

 

Want a discount on Energy Bits AND Recovery Bits?  Just enter the code BAREFOOT into the discount area at checkout for 30% off.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Even Justin Timberlake Likes Spirulina: “Bring It On Down to Veganville!”

Ok, Justin Timberlake is for real, everywhere right now.  Since his new album dropped last week (I feel really street when I say album dropped) and before that, he’s been all over.  He even “took over” my radio station for an hour the other day. This guy has power.  He appeared on SNL recently for yet another sure to be classic song called “Bring It On Down to Veganville.”  I was laughing so hard I almost peed my pants!  Hilarious little diddy, but a very important message.  Pay close attention to the line, “spirulina all in my shake!” So you might’ve seen this already, but just in case, here it is:

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xy35qv_justin-timberlake-bring-it-on-down-2-veganville-veganshake-snl-3-9-13_music

And don’t forget to go to http://www.energybits.com and use the code

BAREFOOT for 30% off a bag of Energy Bits, 100% pure, organically

grown spirulina :)

Categories: Vegetarianism | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering Where I Came From: The Last Running of the Wildwood Trail.

Today, I went for what will be my last long run on Wildwood Trail, in Portland, OR.  I was having a very nostalgic day, as I ran the path I’ve been frolicking on for the last 2.5 years.  My old friend Wildwood decided to give me one hell of a ride today, which I obviously expected.  I should’ve known that the last one would have to be a doozy.  That damn trail has chewed me up, spit me out, tripped me, whipped me with branches, left me bloody and bruised, and given me the worst conditions I have ever experienced in my life.  Ever.  And yet, I am so enamored by the mere thought of running on it, you’d think there’s something really wrong with me.  And maybe there is!  But getting laid out over and over again has taught me a very important lesson in life:  Always get back on your feet.  As many times as you fall, get back up.

The forecast today said that it might be in the 50’s and sunny.  HAHA!! It’s springtime in Portland, I don’t think so!  I left my house wearing tights, two long sleeves, and a vest just in case it was cold, gloves and my backpack.  It’s a good thing I wore all that, just in case.  It started out cloudy, but things quickly took a turn for the worst.  It started pouring rain, then that turned to sleet which came down with such ferocity that I started looking for an overturned tree just in case I needed to take cover.  That turned to snow, which came down in huge, soft flakes.  One landed on my eye, which I’m sure would’ve been entertaining for a passerby.  Looked like a giant cotton ball was affixed to my eyelid.  Then, as if someone hit a switch, it became blissfully  sunny.  The sun sparkled off every surface due to the sleet and snow on the ground, and I felt a burst of energy.  It stayed sunny for about an hour and a half, then started sleeting and then pouring rain again.  What a ride!  18 miles of crazy weather, one near face plant with an end result of a really cool half-cartwheel, and one epic 10 foot slide down an especially muddy hill.  Ok, maybe it was only 5 feet, but 10 sounds better.

I arrived back to my car sopping wet, muddy, and smiling.  The thing is, that trail has lit a fire within me.  Wildwood was the first trail I ever ran consistently, and it’s made me who I am.  It has created in me a love of running and experiencing the outdoors.  It has showed me that hills are not impassable, but rather a change to be embraced and overcome.  It is because of Wildwood that I now realize my potential to be an ultra runner, and I am stronger of mind and body.  In fact, it was two months ago exactly that I had surgery, and I know that trail running has helped me with recovery.  I was strong before surgery because of the trail, and I know it mentally prepared me for the demons that I faced.  I will always remember the lessons that Wildwood has provided me.

While I was running today, I also thought back to my recent trip to California with Mike and my side of the family.  I had a rare chance to run with my mom and dad, who are my original inspirations.  They are why I run, this I know for sure.  We ran together in Santa Barbara, 4 miles of sunshine.  My mom is still faster than me.  She is crazy!  Off she went, trotting ahead as my dad and I laughed at how we couldn’t keep up.  She recently won Grand Masters in a half marathon, and I really hope I’ll be able to keep up with her one day. Maybe when she’s 80?  My dad never ceases to amaze me either, as he never has any running injuries with as long as he’s been running.  He sure is noisy though, burping and blowing snot rockets every few minutes.  He even blew snot on me twice!  As I rounded a corner today, blasting up a hill, I blew a misguided snot rocket that landed right on top of my foot.  Ah yes, I can see myself in both of them.  A strong, snotty woman.  I won’t forget where I came from: I’m forever a runner because of two strong parents and I’m forever a trail runner because of Wildwood.

I decided today that either the universe was angry with me for leaving Portland or it was showing me a big flashing sign that it’s time to move on.  Again, thinking back to our California trip with my family, I have warm, sunshiny memories of running next to the ocean with my parents, running on the Arroyo Verde trail with Mike, and a feeling of home in Ventura.  I do feel that it’s time to move on, but it sure will be tough to leave my old friend, The Wildwood Trail.  But alas, I know it will always be right here in Portland, OR whenever I need a good ass beating.

Here are a few pics of my family from our California trip:

cute parents!

cute parents!

Mom, dad, Mike and I, Jill and Corey

Mom, dad, Mike and I, Jill and Corey

The ladies

The ladies

Dad and I

Dad and I

Here are some pictures from the Wildwood Trail today:  And yes, this is the same day!

Sunshine!

Sunshine!

The blue diamond, mark of the Wildwood.

The blue diamond, mark of the Wildwood.

SNOW

SNOW

18 miles on the trail with Energy Bits! Don't forget to get 30% off with the code BAREFOOT and www.energybits.com

18 miles on the trail with Energy Bits! Don’t forget to get 30% off with the code BAREFOOT and http://www.energybits.com

Categories: Running, Running Stories | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Podcast! Interview About Barefoot Running, Ectopic Pregnancy, Energy Bits, and Born to Run 50k!

A couple of weeks ago, I was so lucky to have an interview with Caity McCardell of www.runbarefootgirl.com.  She is the nicest person, and I can’t wait to meet her at the Born to Run 50k in May!  Speaking of Born to Run, Caity interviewed Christopher McDougall, the author of the famed book right before she interviewed me!  Needless to say, I was very flattered to be featured on Caity’s show.  She really has a way of drawing people in, and I get the idea that we will get along very well…  After all, we are going to be pushing each other in a wheelbarrow for the majority of the race we are attempting to run.  We talked about everything from running, to posture, to ectopic pregnancy, to Energy Bits and life in general.  Thanks for a great experience Caity!  Here is a direct link to the interview: Leigh’s Interview

Image

Categories: Barefoot Education, Running, Running Stories | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Meeting Hal Koerner and Rogue Valley Runners

Today, Mike and I began our road trip down to California to do some exploring.  I will be updating once we have covered more on our journey, but for now, a quick post about Ashland!  We left Portland this morning, and it was monsooning.  Sheets of rain were coming down as we were packing up the car.  A sign that we were heading in the right direction?  I think so!  To top things off, we met our neighbor for the first time today, even though he’s lived above us for 2 years.  After talking for a minute, we discovered that he is from… where?  Oh yes, Ventura, CA, the exact location we are headed to.  He said he loved it, and he would move back any day! He even gave us tips about where to go, where to avoid, etc.  As if we haven’t had enough signs from the universe already, there it was today in big, flashing, blinking lights.  I have never felt so right on our path.

Our first stop was in Ashland today, where we had a mandatory stop at Caldera Brewing.  I had an incredibly delicious, beautifully colored Ginger Hibiscus Ale.  Oh my… In combination with my Stinky Hippie sandwich (zucchini, hummus, grilled onions, garlic spread all on sourdough) I was in Ashland Heaven.  I have never been to Ashland before, and I can honestly say that I can’t wait to go back!  It’s Stinky Hippie heaven!  There was even a drum circle in the quaint downtown.  On a Wednesday.  I’d live there, but alas, there is no surf for Mike.  In addition to beer, sandwich and drum circle heaven, this little town is a runner’s dream.  And if you know of one Hal Koerner, an ultrarunner’s dream.

As I was slowly chewing my Stinky Hippie, Mike and I were discussing the fact that Hal Koerner lives in Ashland.  In fact, we knew that Hal actually owns Rogue Valley Runners, a running store in town.  Yes, we are on a first name basis now.  So we strolled along Main Street, a delightful throwback to everything that has ever been delightful.  Sweet smells of incense and sunshine filled the air, and there was a relaxed feeling of anything goes.  And of course, Ashland is known for the Shakespeare Festival, so there are hints of that claim to fame everywhere.

We finally stumbled upon Rogue Valley Runners, the store we were hoping to find.  We went in, not really expecting to see Hal, but who can resist a running store, really?  They have group runs at the store, and there was a trail map on the wall.  Elevation gain is an understatement.  I found a cute shirt, and asked the sweet girl at the register if they had my size.  As she was looking for it, I continued to look around.  I turned around, and hey, there was Hal.  For real? I hesitated for about 3 seconds, and then walked up and said, “Are you Hal?”

As if I didn’t know.  “Yes,” he said nicely, looking around looking slightly embarrassed.  I quickly explained to him that I was a big fan and we wanted to stop by his store, but never expected to actually see him.  What a nice guy!  He told us a little bit about the running around Ashland, explaining that it was either up or down.  Judging by the mountains and hills that towered all around the little downtown, I could see what he was talking about.  No wonder he likes this place to live!  He said that the community group runs that meet at the store routinely turn into 8 miles or more with some pretty huge elevation.  I wouldn’t expect any less from this cute little town, that is seemingly home to a pretty hardcore group of runners.  You’d have to be strong to run around here!  He did admit that he was thinking of having other groups that did shorter distances, but in this town, I’m not sure that anyone would show up.  It kind of seemed like it was go big or go home around these parts.  I love it!  Hal certainly lived up to his reputation of being a hell of a nice guy.  He was very humble, and he has that rugged appearance that shows his experience and miles on the trail.  I hope to run into him at a race one day!  I was giddy for several minutes after our time at the RVR store.  And I got a new shirt! Mike and I are already thinking about taking a detour on the way home and going back to Ashland for some trail running.  But first, we’ll have to ask Rogue Valley Runners where to go….

Tomorrow, adventures in Redding, CA on the trails.  We are planning a nice trail run tomorrow with Mt. Shasta towering over our heads.  Not a bad place to be!

IMG_0827

Hal Koerner and I at Rogue Valley Runners!

The Magic of Ashland

The Magic of Ashland

Caldera Hibiscus Ginger Beer

Caldera Hibiscus Ginger Beer

Categories: Running, Running Stories | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

True or False: Running is a Contact Sport!

If you asked me this question last week when I was face planting and rolling on the concrete, my first response would have been, “TRUE!”  If you asked my friend Brian the same question the night before, he would have said, “TRUE,” as he was also sprawled out.  Unfortunately, both of our falls were in front of people, which means that our pride was probably hurt more than we were.  Or at least mine was!  Trail runners would probably also say, “TRUE” because of all the contact with the ground, trees, bushes, rocks, mud, mountain lions, monsters, and whatever else we encounter on the trail.  Running in Forest Park in the mud in the winter has definitely brought some humor into my life with all of the wipeouts… Luckily, there’s no one else around when it happens though…

I recently started running “longer” distances of up to 5-6 miles.  This is the first I have done this since my surgery on January 21st.  I got off to a bit of a slow start, but I just decided to sign up for the Born to Run ultramarathon in May, to give myself a little kick in the pants.  I sat around for about 5 minutes when I found out about Born to Run, wondering if I should do it.  Then, I realized that the bigger question was, why wouldn’t I do it??  The Born to Run ultramarathon is in Los Olivos, CA, which is only about 1 hour and 15 minutes from Ventura, CA which is where I’m likely going to be living in May.  And think about who is going to be there!!  Christopher McDougall, author of best seller Born to Run, Barefoot Ted from Born to Run, and Caity McCardell of runbarefootgirl.com.  Three legends of the barefoot running world.  Not to mention, the race is directed by Luis Escobar, also appearing in Born to Run.  It looks like one hell of a good time, so even if I can’t run the whole thing, I’ll finish it somehow.  It might take me a while, but at least I’ll have the experience!

When I first started running after my surgery, I was having a great time with shorter distances of 1-2 miles.  When I finally got up to 5-6 miles, I was feeling disconnected, like a thundering elephant running down the street trying to put one foot in front of the other.  I couldn’t figure out what was going on!  It took me two to three runs of this distance to figure it out.  It was during one of these first longer runs when I was really focusing on my form, when I saw a hooded man walking towards me.  I am a creature of habit, so when I’m running at night and I see any kind of figure approaching me, I immediately try to act like I am bigger and badder than whatever it is.  I even read something recently about what rapists look for in potential victims.  The main trait they look for is weakness, someone who avoids eye contact and looks like they won’t put up a fight.  So ladies, this is something to file away for your personal safety.  However, please don’t do what I did in this specific instance.

So, hooded man was walking towards me wearing headphones.  I gave him my best mean mug and looked him straight in the eye as I confidently ran past him.  I probably took two steps past him when my toe hit some imaginary object on the sidewalk and I immediately hit the deck, rolled and sprang back up in hopes that he didn’t see/hear me eat concrete.  Wild-eyed, yet feeling like I had succeeded in my graceful roll back to my feet, I quickly turned around to assess the situation.  Did he hear me?  He was wearing headphones after all, and I didn’t want to give up the impression that I intended to give him with my mean mug and cool confidence.  No chance.  “Holy crap!! Are you ok?” he cried while pulling his headphones off.  He was crouched low to the ground in a wrestler’s stance and frantically looked around in a paranoid state, as if some creature might lay him out on the sidewalk too.

“I’m fine!” I tried to yell cheerfully although I was painfully aware of my knee throbbing. “Sorry…” I muttered to him for some inexplicable reason.  I was so embarrassed, I guess it’s the first thing that came out of my mouth.  Sorry he had to witness my idiocy?   Needless to say, I only made it about 3 miles that night, but I intended to run further.  I guess the combination of the thundering elephant and the throbbing knee didn’t exactly scream longevity.

On the bright side, I finally figured out what the problem was.  It took a couple 5 mile runs over the next few days, but I finally realized that I was having a hard time with longer distances because my deep abdominal muscles were fatiguing. When I had surgery, I had four incisions, all of which went through my deep abdominal muscles.  I had a very difficult time getting out of bed in the beginning, so you can imagine that during any longer runs, I would not be able to maintain my pelvic and abdominal stability.  One aspect of barefoot running that I found out early on, was that the pelvis plays an important role in running form.  In order to maintain proper positioning and stability of the pelvis and thoracic area, a strong transverse abdominis and obliques are important.  This gentle, active, sustained contraction is considered by some to be called abdominal bracing.  We’ve all heard that a strong core is important for runners right?  The transverse abdominis (TrA) is the deepest abdominal muscular layer, whose job is to hold all the innards together, to put it one way. Additionally, the TrA reduces vertical compression in spine, so strengthening exercises for TrA are widely used in rehabilitation for stability of the lumbar spine.  For  runners, strong TrA and obliques connects the pelvis and thoracic area, which is important for power in running and proper alignment.  During running, think about a gentle sustained contraction of the abdominals by bringing your belly button in towards the spine and leading with the pelvis.  Here is a good video for aligning the body during running.  I really don’t know much about Chi Running, but I do like this video.  

In addition to remembering proper running form, a variety of core exercises should be utilized in order to increase strength.  I am a huge advocated for Pilates, and finding a good instructor is vital when beginning a Pilates program.  I also love body weight exercises in the form of planks, stability ball exercises and bridging.  I really probably just need to do an entirely separate post about core and stability exercises.

So, the moral of the story is, be safe when running, and if you want to avoid looking like a thundering elephant, increase your core strength and endurance!  If you’re going to mean mug someone, make sure you know what’s going on on the sidewalk or on the trail to avoid faceplanting.  Here are some battle pictures:

Brian's hands

Brian’s hands

IMG_0814

Brian’s knee

IMG_0813

Leigh's Knees

Leigh’s Knees

Categories: Barefoot Education, Running, Running Stories | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Too Much Too Soon Syndrome FAQ: A Look at Inside Ankle Pain

The most frequent question that barefoot runners ask me is, “Why does the top of my foot hurt?” Second, “Why do the insides of my ankles hurt?”  I will go a bit backward with my posts, because I’ve gotten two inside ankle pain questions in the past two weeks. I will try to address top of the foot pain in my next one.  First of all, what is Too Much Too Soon Syndrome (TMTS)?  TMTS is very common among us newly converted barefoot or minimalist runners.  Many of us have tried for years to run in traditional shoes and failed to run injury free, or failed to meet our goals, or just failed to run happy!  Running happy is the most important thing of all.  So, that being said, when we start running barefoot or even in Vibrams, something funny happens to us.  The first time, it’s a little weird, and we may even vow to never do it again.  All it takes is that second time.  Two barefoot runs, and you may find yourself addicted.  THIS IS FUN!! WHEEE!!!  All of the sudden, running is fun again, and it feels like play.  Sensation is on overload, your awareness is heightened, and you think to yourself, this is great!  I’m going to run my usual five mile route!  Now it’s very difficult for a barefoot runner to do their normal five mile route because their soles will force them to turn around, but this is where many Vibram Five Finger runners get in trouble.  We have a false sense of security from the rubber on the shoe, and we do not pick up the feedback that’s telling us to stop for the day. And that’s when I get an email, or a message on Facebook…

They usually go something like this: Leigh, I tried those stupid shoes (and yes I ignored you when you said to go barefoot first) and I started really slow by walking in them, and then I ran 4 miles.  Or 6 miles.  Or 8 miles.  Now, I can’t walk!  The top of my foot hurts, or my calves are dying a slow death, or the insides of my ankles hurt, or my whole body hates you Leigh, and I can’t even sit on the toilet correctly.  I broke myself.  These are all things that I’ve heard!  And guess what?  I’ve experienced all these things, because I too, am an impatient runner and ignore my own advice.  It’s true, PTs make the worst patients!

Anyway, what am I talking about? Right, TMTS.  So as new barefoot runners, we truly need to appreciate the amount of time it takes to build strength in the lower legs.  Not only that, but the mobility of our foot must be enough to accommodate our new running style which is decidedly different than say, running in a shoe with an 1.5 inch heel.  It is known that it takes about 8 weeks to gain strength and mass in a muscle.  While we may feel stronger after only a few sessions of weight training or barefoot running, this is only due to neurological factors, i.e. the signal from the brain to the muscle to tell it to contract is getting faster.  This is the common phenomenon that may happen when you’re trying to bench press for the first time.  The first time you try it in the gym, the bar wobbles around like a noodle, and everyone laughs.  Yes, it’s happened to me.  But after a few days of persistence, that bar is steady and you get to show off your mad skills.  Are you stronger?  Well, in a way.  You have better control.  But you won’t be maxing out on the bench press with the big boys and girls until you practice for a long time.  And so, there is the parallel to barefoot running. Just because you’ve been a runner, doesn’t mean that you can max out (run 5 miles barefoot) the second time you try.  We are learning to turn on muscles that have been off for a long, long time.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve gotten questions from two different people about inside ankle pain after ramping up mileage in Vibram Five Fingers.  In both scenarios, the individual ramped up mileage very quickly. Because they were both runners before, they likely assumed they could do this.  Let me start out by saying that if you’re experiencing persistent pain after trying minimalist or barefoot running, please see a physical therapist who specializes in running.  If possible, seek an open minded, knowledgeable PT who has experience in minimalist running.  Physical therapists are movement and musculoskeletal experts, and they can evaluate and treat the specific problem.  While primary care doctors are a good starting point to get a referral to see a PT, they might not necessarily know exactly what’s going on or be open minded to a form of running that’s still considered to be “alternative” or “different.”

So let’s get back to inside ankle pain.  Inside ankle pain is not uncommon because the muscles that support the arch and muscles of the lower leg are usually atrophied from wearing regular shoes or running shoes with an arch support.  The arches including the intrinsic muscles of the feet need to learn to come alive again, but until then, sometimes certain muscles will try to do all the work to hold up and support the arch.  One such muscle that may become overworked while trying to control the arch, is a muscle called the posterior tibialis.  This muscle originates deep in the calf area and its tendon wraps underneath the inside ankle bone (medial malleolus) and connects to a small bone in the arch called navicular, and then attaches by fibrous expansion to many other small bones in the foot.  When this muscle is overworked, one could develop posterior tibialis tendonitis.  The action of that muscle inverts or brings the foot in towards the midline, plantarflexes the foot (points it like a ballerina)  supinates the foot (helps it roll out during running) and helps to control pronation (arch rolling in during running.)

Good Picture of Posterior Tibialis

So what can you do for this ailment? Well, for starters, RICE.  Rest, ice, compression, elevation.  Yes, it works!  Then, it will be necessary to restore normal mobility and strength in the feet and lower legs.  This is important for anyone who is considering barefoot/minimalist running!  So the question is, is there anything that could cause inside ankle pain other than the posterior tibialis tendon?  Of course! That’s why it’s important to talk to your PT.  But, these exercises below will be beneficial to ANYONE who is considering minimalist running, so you really can’t go wrong with them.

Stretch!

1. Gastroc/Soleus Stretch: Please perform this with knee straight and then bent to stretch both gastroc and soles muscles.  Soleus (knee bent) is of utmost importance as you will be eccentrically loading this guy with your barefoot running.  I like to hold this one for up to 1-2 minutes and repeat 3 times to really change the tissue and increase the dorsiflexion range of motion. Additionally, I like to use a slant board to obtain even more of a stretch. It is necessary for barefoot runners to have lots of dorsiflexion range of motion!

2.Ballerina Stretch: This will ensure the top of the foot has sufficient range of motion so that the muscles/tendons in back of the leg are not overworking. 

3. Roll Out!  Roll your calves out on a foam roller.  Get in there!  Also, roll out the arch of your foot on a golf ball.  Get in there! This should be a “good hurt” and the area should feel looser and freer afterward, not damaged and painful. The muscles/tendons need to be free of adhesions, rolling out can help bring circulation to the area.  Increased circulation means increased blood flow and oxygen, which brings the good stuff we need to repair tissue.

Strengthen!

1. Direct Isolated Posterior Tibialis Eccentric Strengthening: Tendonitis and eccentrics are enemies.  This one is a great addition to your toolbox! 

2. Short Foot Exercise: Janda’s genius idea.  This one is fantastic for intrinsic strength, so that posterior tibialis does not have to compensate for intrinsic weakness. Sanatan calls this the invisible arch support exercise:

3. Calf Raises with Eccentric Lower: Great strength exercise for minimalist runners, as we must have eccentric control via the muscles of the lower leg and foot to decelerate upon landing on the forefoot.  Please be sure that your weight is focused over the big toe.  In other words, do not allow the foot to roll out when lowering down. I use this daily! 

4. Calf Raise 100’s: Love this! 

5. Functional Posterior Tib Exercises: During the second video, you can stop watching at about 3:30, unless you want to know about the navicular drop test.  

These exercises are just a few things to put in your toolbox for minimalist barefoot running.  The most important thing to remember is that patience is key to success in your transition, and the reward in the end is well worth your time.  Run happy and run strong!

Have you experienced any TMTS injuries? What are/were they?  

Categories: Barefoot Education, Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 73 Comments

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