Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Traveling, my ULA Ohm and Blood Mountain

A little behind on posting to this blog with the Holidays.  Here goes a quick recap of the last week...

We traveled to Atlanta, GA for Christmas this year and all went well flying with our 4-month old and 21-month old.  The question is, how does one travel ultralight with kids???  I feel we did pretty good all things considering.   Traveling down there, we had the equivalent of two carry-on's (we checked one of them) and my ULA Ohm backpack worth of clothing and other goods.  Not too bad for a family of four and a week at the in-laws!!  The challenge on the way back was we had a 50 lb suitcase full of gifts. The secret is we put one of our carry-on suitcases inside a larger suitcase (fit perfectly) on the way down there so that we would have this extra suitcase for on the way back...  Worked perfect!

In regards to my own packing, I knew I was only going to be able to get out for a dayhike, thus I only brought my essentials in addition to an emergency bivy in-case something happened.  I had all of my clothing for the week, gear for the hike, running clothes along with a pack of diapers all packed into my ULA Ohm.  Although I didn't weigh it, I'm sure it was well over the weight limit of the pack.  Surprisingly it handled very well through the airport along with juggling other suitcases, car seats for the kids, a stroller and oh yeah, the kids themselves.  This was the first time I had a chance to put the pack to good use since I purchased it earlier this fall.  So far, a thumbs up for the pack.  Admittedly, walking the backpack through the airport overloaded isn't the best gauge of fit and use for this pack, but a good start.  It also fit well in the overhead compartment the way it is supposed to (i.e. I didn't have to turn it sideways).

On Wednesday and Thursday of last week, I was able to get out for a 5 mile run and a 4.25 mile run respectively in my VFF KSO's and very much enjoyed running in the much milder weather and sunshine.  The runs went very well over the rolling hills in the residential neighborhood near my in-laws.  I can't wait until spring in MN so that I can abandon the layers and boots to run more free and hit some trails.

I was fortunate to be able to escape for several hours on Saturday and made my way up to the northern part of Georgia to do some hiking and try out my ULA Ohm on some trails.  I debated back and forth about wearing my VFF KSO's or my Inov8 Roclite 295's  and ultimately decided to go with the Inov8's. This was the right decision as portions of the trail were icy and/or muddy.  The temperature was 35-40F and my feet would have gotten very wet and cold in the KSO's.

I stopped in at Mountain Crossings @ Walasi-Yi which is located at the intersection of the Appalachian Trail and Gainsville Highway.  They are one of four distributors of the ULA packs and had a large variety of other ultralight gear.  The owner mentioned that at one point he was considering buying ULA, but obviously that didn't happen.  He also mentioned that they were going to discontinue the Ohm, but I find that hard to believe since it is new pack for ULA and seems pretty popular.  I'll have to check into that a little more and see if there is any truth to that.

I talked with one of the other employees in the store for awhile and he made some recommendations for a dayhike.  I combined his recommendations with my desire to summit Blood Mountain and set out on my hike starting at the parking lot just down the road from Walasi-Yi.  Best as I can figure out, it is 2+ miles to the summit of Blood Mountain via the BH Reece Spur Trail and the Appalachian Trail with an elevation gain of about 1350 feet. I then headed north towards Neels Gap and Walasi-Yi and continued on the AT for another 4 miles or so, then turned around and came back catching the highway at Walasi-Yi back to my car.  All-in-all, I figure I hiked about 12 miles in about 5 hours.

The pack performed very well, but the true test will come when I do some backpacking this spring/summer when I will have closer to 15-20 lbs in it instead of the 10+I was carrying on this dayhike.  I was even able to comfortably do some trail running with the pack, which felt okay all things considered.  I did lose my water bottle out of the side of the pack which was my own fault as I had didn't have it pushed down far enough and was running which I'm sure jostled it out.

Overall, the pack is designed not to transfer a lot of weight to the hips, which is okay for weights under 20 lbs.  It does transfer some, but not as much as your traditional pack.  The pack fit my body type very well and the size was just right.  My back did get sweaty as expected with the padding as it is designed.  I think I will try my Z-Rest in lieu of the backpad provided by the manufacturer.  The egg-crate construction of the Z-rest should stand the pack off my back a little more and will hopefully provide a little more airflow.

Physically, I felt better on this hike than I have since I over did it 2 1/2 years ago.  Considering that I was able to run the downhills and flats the last 4 miles of the hike with no knee pain says a lot for the training that I've been able to do this fall/winter.  Prior to adopting primal running, I hadn't been able to run at all or hike downhill with pain.  Pretty amazing that I am able to now run downhill with a pack on with no pain!!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

11F and running in VFF KSO's

My morning run today: 11F and 3 miles in my VFF KSO's with the Injinji Wool Socks. Toes were pretty cold the first 1.5 miles and then warmed up and was perfectly comfortable. Could have gone further, but ran out of time...  I was running on the asphalt trail and not in the snow as that would obviously quickly freeze my feet.  My plan is go on a longer run tomorrow of which it should be warmer...  I think the key to keeping the toes warm is to dress in a way that the when you start to heat up, it then forces the heat down to your toes.  I let myself get a little warmer than normal and yet was not too warm that I got sweaty while running.  Highly breathable clothing is key!!  AND, I would highly recommend going with merino wool as much as possible because if you do get a little sweaty it is much warmer than any poly type clothing when it is wet.  I am finding out that I would rather throw on another layer of merino wool than my windshirt.  It always seems that I get much more sweaty under my windshirt and end up shedding it not too long into my run.  The windshirt also provides no insulation value.  I think the only time that I would wear the windshirt is if it is super windy and I felt my merino wool layers would not protect me in regards to the wind chill.

My 2.5 mile run earlier this week was in my Mukluks and those also felt good to run in.  They are just so heavy compared to the KSO's, and certainly a bit clunky and awkward.  I felt they gave me a good leg work-out and I could run off the trail as well in the 6-8" of snow.  But, there is something great about the feeling of running in minimalist footwear and being able to feel the ground below you.  The Mukluks are great in the sense that they offer no support and that the bottoms are totally flexible, but with all the insulation beneath your feet, they greatly reduce the feeling of the ground beneath you.

Currently my achilles tendons are pretty tender and for some reason my Feelmax Kuuva Boots put some pressure on the tendons.  So until my achilles are feeling better, I will switch back and forth between my KSO's and my Mukluks.

I'm headed to Atlanta for Christmas and am looking forward to doing some trail running down there as well as some hiking.  I'm really looking forward to running in some warmer weather and without snow.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Case for Avoiding Pavement of any Kind!!

Combining variety in your running surfaces with barefoot or primal running seems to be a great combination!!  Allowing your feet to be strengthened by removing all support and improving your form by removing all cushion will give you more of a full body work out than you would think could come from running.  One advantage to running in MN in the winter is you can run on snow.  My most recent run was 6.5 miles and about 2/3rds of it was in 4-6" of snow along side of the asphalt trail.  It really slowed my pace, but I did feel it was much more of a full body workout.  The key is to completely relax your body and let your feet speak to you.  I was wearing my Feelmax Kuuvas and the flexible minimalist bottom allows me to sense the ground under me and as my foot lands, by whole body automatically adjusts accordingly.  I have found that if I am not relaxed, my back muscles in particular get really sore.   As Ken Bob Saxton says "RELAX, RELAX, RELAX!"

The following is an excerpt from Always Running the Same Way - The trouble with running on concrete and asphalt by Paul Ingraham, RMT

The body is an all-terrain vehicle. We cannot run on concrete for long without consequences. In the case of running, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting to get away with it! Although most runners believe that the rigidity of concrete is the main problem, it may be that the continuity of the surface is just as bad or worse.

Lack of variety in running surface

Unfortunately, most recreational runners are running on sidewalks. Any sunny morning, you can see hundreds of them on the seawall in downtown Vancouver. They never touch the grass or the sand. They have succumbed to the illusion that a hard, constant surface is the path of least resistance. But on an unvarying surface, your body is subjected to exactly the same forces with every strike of the foot. Not only is the stress of impact exaggerated by the hard surface, but it is also repeated excessively because the mechanics of every step are exactly the same.

Worse still, the body is given no chance to adapt to other stresses. At best, same-surface and hard-surface runners become strong in one way, but weak in all the others — and therefore vulnerable to injury.

The solution to most running problems is to get off the concrete.

A classic runner’s injury, for instance, is a kind of tendinitis called iliotibial band syndrome. It is caused by muscle imbalance, by a relative weakness of the gluteus maximus and minimus. These muscles are lateral stabilizers; they control side-to-side movement of the hips. On a flat surface, they aren’t needed much — it’s easy to stay upright on a flat surface. They don’t exactly atrophy, but the other leg muscles get disproportionately stronger. When you see people running sideways, this is partly what they are trying to prevent. It’s a good idea, but it’s futile unless they do at least half the run that way.

The alternatives to running on hard, even surfaces

The solution to most running problems is to get off the concrete. Even trail running (chip trails and other groomed trails) is not adequate — it may be soft, but it is still same-surface running. We have evolved miraculously complex reflexes and musculature that can keep us upright on virtually any surface, even shifting surfaces like the deck of a ship. To develop and maintain a well-rounded fitness, all of those reflexes and musculature need to be constantly stimulated and challenged!

Ideally, everyone should do true trail running, or cross-country running. Your run should be on soft, constantly changing and unstable surfaces. For instance, I live in downtown Vancouver, which is runner’s Heaven: miles of scenic seawall running. The seawall itself is paved. But for most of its length, you can stay off of it, and run on beaches or grass, hop over logs and benches, go up and down hills, scramble over rocks. This is perfect!

The sidewalk is not your path: everything else is.

Alas, most people don’t have the option of running on the beach. The solution is what I call “urban cross-country.” The key to urban cross-country is creativity: do anything you can to vary your running surface, and to get off the concrete every chance you get. Put parks on your route whenever possible. If it’s a small one, run around it on the grass five times before continuing. No park? Run on people’s lawns! The sidewalk is not your path: everything else is. Look for stairs and steep hills, and put them in your route. Run with one foot on the curb and one foot off for a block.

Author's Original Post with Footnotes:
Research Article on Natural Surface Running

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Feelmax Kuuva Boots Initial Review

I received my Feelmax Kuuva Boots on Monday and took them out for a 4 mile run both Monday and Tuesday.  It seems very strange to talk about running and boots in the same sentence, but that is what I am doing, so here's a little background before I get into the review.

I adopted a minimalist/primal running style over two months ago after reading some of the reviews of Chris McDougall's book 'Born to Run' and similarly to the author discovered that my pain with running went away as my running style completely changed.  It had been over two years since I have been able to run without an onset of excruciating knee pain after a 1/2 mile of running.  And in over course of that two years, I've paid visits to two different doctors and and received physical therapy for patellofemoral syndrome and in the end, it helped some, but certainly not solved the core issue.  I had all but pretty much given up on running until I discovered primal running.  The theory behind it is that running in a padded and/or raised heal shoe oth allows you to run with poor form and additionally inhibits you from running properly.  Up until the introduction of the padded/raised heel by Nike in 1972, running injuries were almost unheard of.  Now, as many as 70 percent of runners experience knee injuries at some point in their lives, according to Dr. Kevin Plancher, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist.  For more information on this theory, check out the article "The Painful Truth about Trainers: Are Running Shoes a Waste of Money?".  This article was written by McDougall just prior to the release of his book.

The first time I ran in my Vibram Fivefinger KSO's, I ran almost 3 miles with no pain!  Granted I've had sore calves and achilles tightness since then as well as rare minor twinges of pain around my knees as I increase my mileage.  This kind of pain I can deal with  and the calf and achilles tightness is typical with those adopting this style of running.  Currently I am up to almost 7 miles and am thoroughly enjoying running, enjoyment that I've never had before...

The best and quickest way to correct your running form is to totally bare your soles.  I did get a chance to do a little bit of barefoot running this fall before it got too cold and really enjoyed it.  The reality is that here in Minnesota, it is too cold for almost 6 months of the year to go barefoot.  In addition, the days that it was warm enough, it was getting dark too early to run barefoot.  I will bring this back into my training next spring of which I really look forward to!  

As the temps dropped this fall running in my VFF KSO's, I quickly realized that they would only take me so far and if I wanted to maintain this running style, I would have to find a different solution.  Searching high and low in forums and internet searches, the Feelmax Kuuva boots were one of very few options that I could find.  The great thing about these being boots that as the snow starts to fly (and remains, typically until early April), I can continue to run as these are water resistant and they come up midway up my calves.

Initial Review
Initial Use
I currently have worn these boots for a 4 mile run on Monday, then going to get a Christmas tree, a 4 mile run on Tuesday in 1-2" of snow, and to work on Wednesday.  For both runs, I wore my Injinji Nuwool socks in them, for getting the Christmas tree, I wore a pair of REI Merino Wool liner socks in them, and for work I wore a thicker pair of Bridgedale socks.  It was a little over 20F degrees for the first run and getting the Christmas tree.  The second run was 18F degrees (5F degree Wind Chill).  

The uppers are constructed out of Clarino (water-resistant, breathable synthetic leather) and Canvas  with a minimal amount of padding and insulation.  The soles are 2.5mm of very flexible CeraPrene.  Obviously, as a minimalist shoe, there is no arch support and no cushion in addition to the sole.  The overall construction, stitching and style are superb.  One potential flaw is that it looks like the bottom of the soles are constructed in two parts and thus they are glued to each other.  I could see this eventually coming apart, but only time will tell.

My size 46 came in at 652 grams (23 oz) for both pair which is 326 (11.5 oz) grams per boot.  This compares to 153 grams (5.4 oz) per pair for my VFF KSO's (Size 45) and 722 grams (25.5 oz) for my Inov8 Roclite 295's (Size 12).  Great considering that as a boot, they weigh less than a typical trail running shoe.

I am between the 45 & 46 sizes and decided to go with the larger size so that I could both layer socks and/or wear thick socks in them.  I find that even with just a pair of liner socks in them, I am able to snug them up enough with the laces.

My feet seemed a bit warm when running at 23F, but certainly not uncomfortable or sweating yet.  At 18F with 5F windchill, they were perfectly comfortable.  When out looking for a buying a Christmas Tree, I did find that when not moving around much and standing on cold concrete,  the bottoms of my feet felt a bit cold.  I don't think I could sustain being out in this cool of weather without continually moving.  In wearing a thicker sock sitting at my desk all day, they were a bit warm, but still very comfortable, however, by the end of the day my feet were a bit sweaty.  My initial reaction is that I will use these when below 20F or when there is snow on the ground below 35F.  All else above that, I will switch back to my KSO's.

Water / Snow Resistance
After running in 1-2" of snow and some drifting of 4-5", my feet and ankles remained completely dry.  The are water resistant enough to keep out snow and yet breathable enough to keep my feet from getting sweaty.

I purchased mine through which ultimately comes from Gifts From Finland.  Were I to do it over again, I would have bought them direct from Gifts From Finland so that they don't have to pay the surcharges.  Either way, they were currently on sale for $120 + Shipping, but it looks like they are currently out of stock.,, and all also sell these boots.

Feelmax is headquartered in Finland, but it looks like these boots are actually manufactured in Germany per the label on the boot.

Other Reviews
Adventure in Progress - First Impressions - Feelmax Kuuva
Adventure in Progress - Minimalist Footwear for Winter
Living Barefoot

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My Review of Vibram FiveFingers KSO Shoes - Men's

Originally submitted at REI

Protecting the soles of your feet with a thin Vibram® skin, the Vibram FiveFingers KSO multisport water shoes allow you to experience barefoot freedom in your outdoor activities.

Cool Weather "Barefoot" Running
By gusmeister from Minneapolis, MN on 12/9/2009

5out of 5
Gift: No
Pros: Quality Materials, Well Crafted, Attractive Design
Best Uses: Minimalist Running, Cool Weather, Primal Running
Watch any child that is learning to walk/run and they run on the balls of their feet. It isn't until we put shoes on our feet that have an elevated heal that we "learn" to walk in a heal to toe pattern. It is my opinion that an elevated shoe trains you to walk/run heal to toe and that it is not natural.

I have been very active in sports and training my whole life up until the last few years when my ankles, knees and hips have responded very negatively to my exercising (primarily running and hiking). I was introduced to the idea of barefoot running (and vibram five fingers) this last summer and immediately started going barefoot around my house and yard as much as I possibly could.

At the beginning of October I started running in my Vibram FiveFinger KSO's and am completely sold on the idea. My leg muscles certainly responded in much pain, but my joints have had no pain. I am running up to 7 miles now with no pain in my joints!!

The impact of heal striking is something no shoe can absorb and as a result your joints must take that impact at some level. One has to think that eventually they will wear out... That is why a shoe like this is the perfect solution! It forces you to learn how to run with proper technique and thus avoid injuries.

Besides my calves being really sore in adopting this new running style, I have had NO knee pain. My balance and core strength is way better and most importantly, I now LOVE going out for a run! So much so that I have put a couple 25K trail runs on my schedule for next spring and a 50K trail run for the middle of the summer!

Primal running is defined by using a minimalist shoe like Vibram FiveFingers, Feelmax, Huaraches, or a racing flat type shoe. Barefoot running (I've only done this for very short distances a couple times) is just as it says.

One BIG note, you need to modify your running style when you run this way. AND, give yourself some transition time... i.e. TAKE IT SLOW. It's like learning how to run all over again. If something hurts, you are doing something wrong!!

Check out these three websites for some great instruction and dialogue on barefoot/primal running:,,

I also highly recommend reading the book "Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen". This has a great story that is centered around minimalist running.

Good Luck!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The painful truth about trainers: Are running shoes a waste of money?

Thrust enhancers, roll bars, microchips...the $20 billion running - shoe industry wants us to believe that the latest technologies will cushion every stride. Yet in this extract from his controversial new book, Christopher McDougall claims that injury rates for runners are actually on the rise, that everything we've been told about running shoes is wrong - and that it might even be better to go barefoot...

The painful truth about trainers
Every year, anywhere from 65 to 80 per cent of all runners suffer an injury. No matter who you are, no matter how much you run, your odds of getting hurt are the same
At Stanford University, California, two sales representatives from Nike were watching the athletics team practise. Part of their job was to gather feedback from the company's sponsored runners about which shoes they preferred.
Unfortunately, it was proving difficult that day as the runners all seemed to prefer... nothing.
'Didn't we send you enough shoes?' they asked head coach Vin Lananna. They had, he was just refusing to use them.
'I can't prove this,' the well-respected coach told them.
'But I believe that when my runners train barefoot they run faster and suffer fewer injuries.'
Nike sponsored the Stanford team as they were the best of the very best. Needless to say, the reps were a little disturbed to hear that Lananna felt the best shoes they had to offer them were not as good as no shoes at all.
When I was told this anecdote it came as no surprise. I'd spent years struggling with a variety of running-related injuries, each time trading up to more expensive shoes, which seemed to make no difference. I'd lost count of the amount of money I'd handed over at shops and sports-injury clinics - eventually ending with advice from my doctor to give it up and 'buy a bike'.
And I wasn't on my own. Every year, anywhere from 65 to 80 per cent of all runners suffer an injury. No matter who you are, no matter how much you run, your odds of getting hurt are the same. It doesn't matter if you're male or female, fast or slow, pudgy or taut as a racehorse, your feet are still in the danger zone.
But why? How come Roger Bannister could charge out of his Oxford lab every day, pound around a hard cinder track in thin leather slippers, not only getting faster but never getting hurt, and set a record before lunch?
Tarahumara runner Arnulfo Quimare runs alongside ultra-runner Scott Jurek in Mexico's Copper Canyons
Tarahumara runner Arnulfo Quimare runs alongside ultra-runner Scott Jurek in Mexico's Copper Canyons
Then there's the secretive Tarahumara tribe, the best long-distance runners in the world. These are a people who live in basic conditions in Mexico, often in caves without running water, and run with only strips of old tyre or leather thongs strapped to the bottom of their feet. They are virtually barefoot.
Come race day, the Tarahumara don't train. They don't stretch or warm up. They just stroll to the starting line, laughing and bantering, and then go for it, ultra-running for two full days, sometimes covering over 300 miles, non-stop. For the fun of it. One of them recently came first in a prestigious 100-mile race wearing nothing but a toga and sandals. He was 57 years old.
When it comes to preparation, the Tarahumara prefer more of a Mardi Gras approach. In terms of diet, lifestyle and training technique, they're a track coach's nightmare. They drink like New Year's Eve is a weekly event, tossing back enough corn-based beer and homemade tequila brewed from rattlesnake corpses to floor an army.
Unlike their Western counterparts, the Tarahumara don't replenish their bodies with electrolyte-rich sports drinks. They don't rebuild between workouts with protein bars; in fact, they barely eat any protein at all, living on little more than ground corn spiced up by their favourite delicacy, barbecued mouse.
How come they're not crippled?
Modern running shoes on sale
Modern running shoes on sale
I've watched them climb sheer cliffs with no visible support on nothing more than an hour's sleep and a stomach full of pinto beans. It's as if a clerical error entered the stats in the wrong columns. Shouldn't we, the ones with state-of-the-art running shoes and custom-made orthotics, have the zero casualty rate, and the Tarahumara, who run far more, on far rockier terrain, in shoes that barely qualify as shoes, be constantly hospitalised?
The answer, I discovered, will make for unpalatable reading for the $20 billion trainer-manufacturing industry. It could also change runners' lives forever.
Dr Daniel Lieberman, professor of biological anthropology at Harvard University, has been studying the growing injury crisis in the developed world for some time and has come to a startling conclusion: 'A lot of foot and knee injuries currently plaguing us are caused by people running with shoes that actually make our feet weak, cause us to over-pronate (ankle rotation) and give us knee problems.
'Until 1972, when the modern athletic shoe was invented, people ran in very thin-soled shoes, had strong feet and had a much lower incidence of knee injuries.'
Lieberman also believes that if modern trainers never existed more people would be running. And if more people ran, fewer would be suffering from heart disease, hypertension, blocked arteries, diabetes, and most other deadly ailments of the Western world.
'Humans need aerobic exercise in order to stay healthy,' says Lieberman. 'If there's any magic bullet to make human beings healthy, it's to run.'
The modern running shoe was essentially invented by Nike. The company was founded in the Seventies by Phil Knight, a University of Oregon runner, and Bill Bowerman, the University of Oregon coach.
Before these two men got together, the modern running shoe as we know it didn't exist. Runners from Jesse Owens through to Roger Bannister all ran with backs straight, knees bent, feet scratching back under their hips. They had no choice: their only shock absorption came from the compression of their legs and their thick pad of midfoot fat. Thumping down on their heels was not an option.

Despite all their marketing suggestions to the contrary, no manufacturer has ever invented a shoe that is any help at all in injury prevention

Bowerman didn't actually do much running. He only started to jog a little at the age of 50, after spending time in New Zealand with Arthur Lydiard, the father of fitness running and the most influential distance-running coach of all time. Bowerman came home a convert, and in 1966 wrote a best-selling book whose title introduced a new word and obsession to the fitness-aware public: Jogging.
In between writing and coaching, Bowerman came up with the idea of sticking a hunk of rubber under the heel of his pumps. It was, he said, to stop the feet tiring and give them an edge. With the heel raised, he reasoned, gravity would push them forward ahead of the next man. Bowerman called Nike's first shoe the Cortez - after the conquistador who plundered the New World for gold and unleashed a horrific smallpox epidemic.
It is an irony not wasted on his detractors. In essence, he had created a market for a product and then created the product itself.
'It's genius, the kind of stuff they study in business schools,' one commentator said.
Bowerman's partner, Knight, set up a manufacturing deal in Japan and was soon selling shoes faster than they could come off the assembly line.
'With the Cortez's cushioning, we were in a monopoly position probably into the Olympic year, 1972,' Knight said.
The rest is history.
The company's annual turnover is now in excess of $17 billion and it has a major market share in over 160 countries.
Since then, running-shoe companies have had more than 30 years to perfect their designs so, logically, the injury rate must be in freefall by now.
After all, Adidas has come up with a $250 shoe with a microprocessor in the sole that instantly adjusts cushioning for every stride. Asics spent $3 million and eight years (three more years than it took to create the first atomic bomb) to invent the Kinsei, a shoe that boasts 'multi-angled forefoot gel pods', and a 'midfoot thrust enhancer'. Each season brings an expensive new purchase for the average runner.
But at least you know you'll never limp again. Or so the leading companies would have you believe. Despite all their marketing suggestions to the contrary, no manufacturer has ever invented a shoe that is any help at all in injury prevention.
If anything, the injury rates have actually ebbed up since the Seventies - Achilles tendon blowouts have seen a ten per cent increase. (It's not only shoes that can create the problem: research in Hawaii found runners who stretched before exercise were 33 per cent more likely to get hurt.)
Roger Bannister
OXFORD, 1954: Roger Bannister crosses the finish line, running a mile in 3:59.4, in thin leather slippers
In a paper for the British Journal Of Sports Medicine last year, Dr Craig Richards, a researcher at the University of Newcastle in Australia, revealed there are no evidence-based studies that demonstrate running shoes make you less prone to injury. Not one.
It was an astonishing revelation that had been hidden for over 35 years. Dr Richards was so stunned that a $20 billion industry seemed to be based on nothing but empty promises and wishful thinking that he issued the following challenge: 'Is any running-shoe company prepared to claim that wearing their distance running shoes will decrease your risk of suffering musculoskeletal running injuries? Is any shoe manufacturer prepared to claim that wearing their running shoes will improve your distance running performance? If you are prepared to make these claims, where is your peer-reviewed data to back it up?'
Dr Richards waited and even tried contacting the major shoe companies for their data. In response, he got silence.
So, if running shoes don't make you go faster and don't stop you from getting hurt, then what, exactly, are you paying for? What are the benefits of all those microchips, thrust enhancers, air cushions, torsion devices and roll bars?
The answer is still a mystery. And for Bowerman's old mentor, Arthur Lydiard, it all makes sense.
'We used to run in canvas shoes,' he said.
'We didn't get plantar fasciitis (pain under the heel); we didn't pronate or supinate (land on the edge of the foot); we might have lost a bit of skin from the rough canvas when we were running marathons, but generally we didn't have foot problems.
'Paying several hundred dollars for the latest in hi-tech running shoes is no guarantee you'll avoid any of these injuries and can even guarantee that you will suffer from them in one form or another. Shoes that let your foot function like you're barefoot - they're the shoes for me.'
Soon after those two Nike sales reps reported back from Stanford, the marketing team set to work to see if it could make money from the lessons it had learned. Jeff Pisciotta, the senior researcher at Nike Sports Research Lab, assembled 20 runners on a grassy field and filmed them running barefoot.
When he zoomed in, he was startled by what he found. Instead of each foot clomping down as it would in a shoe, it behaved like an animal with a mind of its own - stretching, grasping, seeking the ground with splayed toes, gliding in for a landing like a lake-bound swan.
'It's beautiful to watch,' Pisciotta later told me. 'That made us start thinking that when you put a shoe on, it starts to take over some of the control.'
Pisciotta immediately deployed his team to gather film of every existing barefoot culture they could find.
'We found pockets of people all over the globe who are still running barefoot, and what you find is that, during propulsion and landing, they have far more range of motion in the foot and engage more of the toe. Their feet flex, spread, splay and grip the surface, meaning you have less pronation and more distribution of pressure.'
Nike's response was to find a way to make money off a naked foot. It took two years of work before Pisciotta was ready to unveil his masterpiece. It was presented in TV ads that showed Kenyan runners padding
along a dirt trail, swimmers curling their toes around a starting block, gymnasts, Brazilian capoeira dancers, rock climbers, wrestlers, karate masters and beach soccer players.
And then comes the grand finale: we cut back to the Kenyans, whose bare feet are now sporting some kind of thin shoe. It's the new Nike Free, a shoe thinner than the old Cortez dreamt up by Bowerman in the Seventies. And its slogan?
'Run Barefoot.'
The price of this return to nature?
A conservative £65. But, unlike the real thing, experts may still advise you to change them every three months.
Edited extract from 'Born To Run' by Christopher McDougall, £16.99, on sale from April 23 



Runners wearing top-of-the-line trainers are 123 per cent more likely to get injured than runners in cheap ones. This was discovered as far back as 1989, according to a study led by Dr Bernard Marti, the leading preventative-medicine specialist at Switzerland's University of Bern.
Running in muddy terrain
Dr Marti's research team analysed 4,358 runners in the Bern Grand Prix, a 9.6-mile road race. All the runners filled out an extensive questionnaire that detailed their training habits and footwear for the previous year; as it turned out, 45 per cent had been hurt during that time. But what surprised Dr Marti was the fact that the most common variable among the casualties wasn't training surface, running speed, weekly mileage or 'competitive training motivation'.
It wasn't even body weight or a history of previous injury. It was the price of the shoe. Runners in shoes that cost more than $95 were more than twice as likely to get hurt as runners in shoes that cost less than $40.
Follow-up studies found similar results, like the 1991 report in Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise that found that 'wearers of expensive running shoes that are promoted as having additional features that protect (eg, more cushioning, 'pronation correction') are injured significantly more frequently than runners wearing inexpensive shoes.'
What a cruel joke: for double the price, you get double the pain. Stanford coach Vin Lananna had already spotted the same phenomenon.'I once ordered highend shoes for the team and within two weeks we had more plantar fasciitis and Achilles problems than I'd ever seen.
So I sent them back. Ever since then, I've always ordered low-end shoes. It's not because I'm cheap. It's because I'm in the business of making athletes run fast and stay healthy.'



Despite pillowy-sounding names such as 'MegaBounce', all that cushioning does nothing to reduce impact. Logically, that should be obvious - the impact on your legs from running can be up to 12 times your weight, so it's preposterous to believe a half-inch of rubber is going to make a difference.
When it comes to sensing the softest caress or tiniest grain of sand, your toes are as finely wired as your lips and fingertips. It's these nerve endings that tell your foot how to react to the changing ground beneath, not a strip of rubber.
To help prove this point, Dr Steven Robbins and Dr Edward Waked of McGill University, Montreal, performed a series of lengthy tests on gymnasts. They found that the thicker the landing mat, the harder the gymnasts landed. Instinctively, the gymnasts were searching for stability. When they sensed a soft surface underfoot, they slapped down hard to ensure balance. Runners do the same thing. When you run in cushioned shoes, your feet are pushing through the soles in search of a hard, stable platform.
'Currently available sports shoes are too soft and thick, and should be redesigned if they are to protect humans performing sports,' the researchers concluded.
To add weight to their argument, the acute-injury rehabilitation specialist David Smyntek carried out an experiment of his own. He had grown wary that the people telling him to trade in his favourite shoes every 300-500 miles were the same people who sold them to him.
But how was it, he wondered, that Arthur Newton, for instance, one of the greatest ultrarunners of all time, who broke the record for the 100-mile Bath-London run at the age of 51, never replaced his thin-soled canvaspumps until he'd put at least 4,000 miles on them?
So Smyntek changed tack. Whenever his shoes got thin, he kept on running. When the outside edge started to go, he swapped the right for the left and kept running. Five miles a day, every day.
Once he realised he could run comfortably in broken-down, even wrong-footed shoes, he had his answer. If he wasn't using them the way they were designed, maybe that design wasn't such a big deal after all.
He now only buys cheap trainers.



'Barefoot running has been one of my training philosophies for years,' says Gerard Hartmann, the Irish physical therapist who treats all the world's finest distance runners, including Paula Radcliffe.
Ethiopian Abebe Bikila on his way to gold in the 1960 Olympic marathon - running barefoot
Ethiopian Abebe Bikila on his way to gold in the 1960 Olympic marathon - running barefoot
For decades, Dr Hartmann has been watching the explosion of ever more structured running shoes with dismay. 'Pronation has become this very bad word, but it's just the natural movement of the foot,' he says. 'The foot is supposed to pronate.'
To see pronation in action, kick off your shoes and run down the driveway. On a hard surface, your feet will automatically shift to selfdefence mode: you'll find yourself landing on the outside edge of your foot, then gently rolling from little toe over to big until your foot is flat. That's pronation - a mild, shockabsorbing twist that allows your arch to compress.
Your foot's centrepiece is the arch, the greatest weight-bearing design ever created. The beauty of any arch is the way it gets stronger under stress; the harder you push down, the tighter its parts mesh. Push up from underneath and you weaken the whole structure.
'Putting your feet in shoes is similar to putting them in a plaster cast,' says Dr Hartmann. 'If I put your leg in plaster, we'll find 40 to 60 per cent atrophy of the musculature within six weeks. Something similar happens to your feet when they're encased in shoes.'
When shoes are doing the work, tendons stiffen and muscles shrivel. Work them out and they'll arc up. 'I've worked with the best Kenyan runners,' says Hartmann, 'and they all have marvellous elasticity in their feet. That comes from never running in shoes until you're 17.'


Skeleton foot
Running barefoot may have some benefit in muscle strengthening as the muscles have to 'tune in' to the vibrations caused by impact loading.
If, like Zola Budd, you grew up running barefoot on a South African farm, your tissue tolerance would adapt over time. But for someone who has grown up wearing shoes and is a natural heel striker (see right), the impact loading will be beyond tissue tolerance level, and injury will occur.
We are all individuals, therefore it is prudent to have your own running technique assessed and work around that.
As for getting out your old worn out trainers and running in them - don't! Based on the individual's size and running surfaces/conditions shoes should be changed between 500-1,000 miles. It's best to seek the advice of a specialist running store.

Running in trainers

Running barefoot

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Vibram Fivefinger KSO's and Pushing the Cold-Weather Limits

18F (9F Wind Chill) with dusting of snow on the the asphalt trail.  I'm wearing my Vibram Fivefinger KSO's with an Injinji Outdoor Series Tetrasok (Nuwool) as a liner sock.  I ran 6.5 miles in just under an hour.  Overall the run felt great, but my toes did get a little chilly.  Not uncomfortable, but I think if it got too much colder, it would be uncomfortable.

Overall, I feel pretty good about my layering system for clothes and here is what I am wearing:

Top Layers
Icebreaker Bodyfit 200 Crew L/S
Gramicci Kinetic S/S
Icebreaker Bodyfit 260 Zip L/S
Montane Featherlite Velo Windshirt

Bottom Layers
Icebreaker Bodyfit 150 Leggings
Smartwool Synergy Softshell Pants

Smartwool Beanie

Smartwool socks

I did end up shedding the Windshirt about 2/3rds of the way through and probably should have sooner as it was lined with sweat.

News:  I have a pair of Feelmax Kuuva Boots on order and am expecting them in the next couple days.  I can't wait to give them a try and compare them to the KSO's.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) Ohm Pack

My favorite and also most recent addition to my backpacking gear is the ULA Ohm Pack. I picked this up off of the Gear Swap Forum at about 2/3 the cost of a new one.  It was only used on a weekend trip by the previous owner and he found that it was a little too long for his torso, so decided to sell it.  I have not used it yet, but am very excited to give it a spin on a weekend trip. I possibly may even bring it with me to Atlanta for Christmas as a carry-on (and if I can convince my wife, maybe an quick overnight trip!)

ULA has a great 360* view of the pack and description.

Here are the features as listed on their website:

A full featured, full suspension (active) ultralight pack that offers exceptional load control, on-trail functionality, and full body compression.

Combining a 1.2 oz carbon fiber/delrin active suspension hoop and exceptional compression, the Ohm maximizes load control, load transfer, pack compression, and overall pack rigidity in an ultralight package.

1.9 oz ripstop nylon, Dyneema Gridstop, and ULA's proven construction methods insure the Ohm is built to last despite its minimal weight.

Bottom Line? A full featured, ultralight performer.

Suspension Hoop
Internal Pad Holster
Contoured Shoulder Straps
Contoured Padded Hipbelt
Front Mesh Pocket
Dyneema Side Pockets w/ Elasticized Top
Non-Stretch Compression Cordage
Top Compression Strap
Sternum Strap
Ice Axe / Pole Loop
Ice Axe / Pole retention straps
Drawstring Extension Collar
Dyneema X Material

Main Body: 2,100
Front Mesh Pocket: 500
Side Mesh Pocket: 400 ea
Ext. Collar: 500
Total Volume: 3,500 cu in

Additionally I do have two of the options that they offer, the first being the Internal Backpad (Removable 1/4" foam backpad positioned in the interior pad sleeve. Provides additional comfort, and handy if you use the Conduit for dayhiking. Does not enhance load transfer.)  I use a Big Agnus Clearview Pad - Short that doesn't give me any padding under my feet so this Internal Backpad can be used for padding under my feet when I sleep as well as a sit pad around camp.

The second optional add-on that I have is the Hipbelt Pockets (Removable hipbelt pockets. Provide easy access for snacks, camera, and other essentials. Zip Closure. 3 points of attachment insure stability. ~4" (h) x ~5" (w) x ~1.5" (d). ~30 cu in apiece.)  The hipbelt pockets are a must for me to have items handy so that I don't have to remove the pack while hiking.

The selection of this back followed countless hours of researching what is available for packs versus the amount of gear and type of gear that I would be packing.  Not to mention a little trial and error with two previous packs.  To top it off I think it is a great looking pack (although my wife doesn't necessarily agree!)

I had previously owned an Osprey Atmos 50 as well as a first generation Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus.  The Osprey Atmos 50 ended up getting returned to REI as I just didn't like how difficult it was to pack around the internal frame.  On one side, it was nice having the airflow frame that helped to alleviate sweat build-up on the back, but it just intruded into the pack to much and made it really awkward to pack your gear.

The Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus was a great pack as well except for the minimally sized gear that I carry along with only doing 5 day trips or less, it just had way to much volume and wasn't able to compress down enough to carry well when lightly loaded.  Additionally, I had purchased a large when I should have bought a medium, so it fit a little long on my back.  Strange as it is, I am 6'-4" but have a relatively small 19.5 inch torso.  When one looks at me, you would think that I have a very long torso, but for pack sizing your torso is measured from the iliac (hip) crest to the base of your neck (7th vertebrae).  Apparently my iliac crest is very high despite the appearance of a long torso.

Initial review of the pack is that it wears extremely comfortable (around the house anyway) and my gear seems to fit it's style very well.  It is one of the lightest, if not the lightest, internal frame pack currently available  on the market.  Due to me using a BA Clearview pad, I am not able to use a frameless pack as I don't always have a closed cell foam pad to aid in giving the pack some comfort.

I use water bottles and can access them while wearing the pack which again is great that I don't have to take the pack off to take a drink.  Some people use hydration packs and personally I don't like the hassle of having to clean out the pack especially when using it for something other than water.  I prefer going as low of maintenance with everything to free me up to enjoy being in the great outdoors.

One feature that I really like about this pack is the ability to compress it down when lightly loaded.  It is pure ingenious how that have built in the compression straps (string) so that you can still access all the pockets while compressed.

The mesh back pocket will be great for stowing raingear and/or my tarptent when it is wet.  There is nothing worse than packing wet gear inside your pack where you are trying to keep everything else dry.

That summarizes my initial review of this pack.  Stay tuned for further reviews once I get a chance to put some miles on it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

25F Ultralight Backpack Gear List

I am getting to the point where I am becoming very content with my gear. In the weeks to come, I will be mixing in summaries of why I have chosen the gear that I have. The spreadsheet below is an active link to my google list, so changes will be made as I continue to adjust my gear.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Go Wagon and Buckeye Outdoors Training Site

I found a couple cool websites that will help me with my training. is a community website for training that integrates the Buckeye Outdoors Training Calendar in it.  I was using but I think will be nicer in that I can include a workout log in this blog.  Check it out in the column on the lefthand side.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bryant Lake Loop

I was able to set up a 1 mile loop of trail running at Bryant Lake Regional Park yesterday and completed 4 loops.  It was between 35F and 40F degrees and misting.  Running in my Vibram FiveFinger KSO's felt really good at this temperature despite my feet quickly getting wet and the ground being muddy and slippery.  I am wearing Injinji socks inside the KSO's that certainly help insulate my feet from the cold.  I think I will be able to used them successfully down to about 25F as long as I'm not running in snow.

I haven't been timing myself yet on any of my runs, as I don't want the pressure of the clock to affect me re-learning how to run using this new method.  I have been able to really relax while I run as well as keep my body straight even on the uphills and downhills.  I find that if I think about pushing my hips forward while I run, it helps my form tremendously.  It doesn't necessarily feel like I am falling forward, but at the same time, it quickens my cadence and keeps my upper body more upright.  When I do this running uphill, it makes the 'attack' a lot easier.

Additional clothing I am wearing for this type of weather.
Bottom Baselayer: Icebreaker Bodyfit 150 Leggings
Bottom Shell:  Smartwool Synergy
Top Baselayer: Icebreaker Bodyfit 150 L/S
Top Layer: Icebreaker Crew 260 L/S
Hat: Smartwool
Gloves: Black Diamond WindBloc Gloves

Observations of clothing:  Smartwool Synergy Pants are just too warm yet at these temps.  I should probably go with a midweight Long Underwear under my running shorts.  The Gloves were also too warm and I quickly shed these and just carried them.

I am still loving running in my VFF's.  They are super comfortable and I find I can maneuver around rocks and other obstacles on the trail easily.  I feel there is still much too learn with this new running style, but I am loving it!!