Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole


2 Comments

Happiness vs. Contentment, Nice vs. Kind: An Observation of People

Light_Vs__Dark_by_AG_Wing

Hello, readers. You’ll have to forgive me for my recent disappearance from the blogosphere. Life in SoCal has been pretty amazing for me, and a side effect of that is I’ve been much too busy with it to spend my free time in front of a computer. It’s a rather curious thing, that sometimes the more interesting my life gets the less I feel like writing about it.

So as I’ve been living my life in high color, I’ve also been taking in a lot of what’s going on around me. Like most people who like to write, I am a constant observer of people, things and ideas. Sometimes it’s an amazing ocean view, sometimes it’s 50 miles of mountains and valleys viewed from a windy summit, and sometimes it’s the thoughts and behaviors of people around me. All of which I find equally interesting.

I’ve been reading and hearing a slew of thoughts from people, specifically on two somewhat related topics. The first one being happiness. Just what is happiness and how do we know it? Some talk about happiness as a feeling of freedom – freedom from society’s pressures to “have it all”, i.e. the American Dream. Money, more money, things and more things. Expensive vacations to exotic places for seven days, and then back to the grind of making more money so you can get more things.

Other ways that people define happiness is in accomplishing all your life’s goals, marrying the perfect partner, finding God, moving to a better part of the world or filling your home with lots of family, friends and children.

Well, I’m here to say that happiness is none of those things. Happiness is only about your own made-up ceiling of contentment. And I say ceiling because it’s up to you to decide how high it is, and how much you need to fill it. Set the ceiling too high, and you’ll never be content with what you’ve got and miss out on too much while you’re trying to fill that cavernous hole. Set it too low and you’re settling; chances are you’ll live an exceptionally boring life with no adventure and have too many regrets later on. You’ve got to know where the happy medium is. And how?

The answer is suffering. Without suffering, you can’t fully know happiness. Hear me out on this. Without bad, it’s impossible to separate great from ordinary. It’s why we’ve created Hell  – it’s there to heighten the allure of Heaven. Good and evil are opposites, and the ability to compare them is crucial for their own existence.

A long time ago I decided that those who have had the most suffering in life are capable of the most happiness. I say capable, because it’s only possible if one recognizes their ability to become happy and actually does the work of getting there. And you’ll have to work much harder to find happiness if you’ve been given some non-distinct version of mediocre happiness all your life.

Some would define all of America that way. But I digress.

Happiness, by my definition, is choosing your own contentment, and deciding it’s enough. In fact, I would argue that contentment is even more important than happiness, as happiness is only one ingredient in the unique recipe of your life’s contentment. And how will you ever know if the contentment you’ve got is enough, if you don’t know what it’s like not to have it?

Here’s a good analogy. I lived in New England my whole life. Since as early as I can remember, I hated every single cold winter day. I watched others enjoy skiing and snowfall, while I suffered through 150 days per year of clouds and precipitation, lack of vitamin D and summer humidity that made the world feel like a bowl of tomato soup. When I moved out to Southern California, everything that I hated about the climate was gone. It’s sunny almost every day, winter doesn’t exist and neither does humidity. I can go to the beach more often and soak up the sunshine with a tank top on all year round.

I feel absolute happiness here in San Diego, probably even more than most native San Diegans. Why? Well, because of my suffering. Native San Diegans are happy here, for sure. They recognize in a superficial sort of way that they are lucky they get to live in a nice climate with little related suffering. But without the actual experience of shoveling snow out of their driveway every other day for seven months, spending thousands a year to heat their small home and only seeing the sunshine a couple times a week all year round, they have no idea how happy they really are. But I do. I am two times as lucky, and two times as happy to live in San Diego, because of my suffering.

Same goes with my adulthood. Today I enjoy the freedom from my bad parents and disappointing family members. I appreciate the joy of making my own life, my way, all by myself, because of the suffering I endured as a child. Being deserted by my mother, having to raise my little brother when I was only three years his elder, being left alone in a house for weekends and neglected emotionally by my father are all things that sucked in my early life. So as an adult I revel in the contentment I’ve created, knowing that I don’t have any dependents to raise, the freedom to do as I wish without needing to care what others think of me, and the relief of no longer having to keep anyone around who treats me like shit.

Which brings me to my second, almost related topic: the way you treat others.

light_vs_dark___original_by_dw817-d2xtnig

Being that I am a very outgoing and social person, I’ve made a lot of acquaintances and friends in my journey through life. I fancy myself as relatable to many different types of personalities, because of my open-minded, non-judgmental and curious nature. People usually like me. I can often respond just as well to the warm, kind-hearted people as well as the sarcastic, ball-busting ones. Every once in awhile I come across someone who is tough to get along with, no matter how I treat them. When this happens I often go through a period of insecurity, and it can sometimes even affect the way I view myself. Am I intolerable? Annoying? Am I a weakling, just primed for the picking? I might question my place within a section of my friend circle, and at times I’ll even go back to my elementary school fat-kid days, and start to wonder whether my physical appearance has anything to do with it.

Recently I’ve heard out some opinions on this subject. One opinion in particular that stuck was that people are not made of nice, so deal with it. Everyone possesses within them a generous side that likes to make people happy, and a selfish side that likes to make people hurt. At first I was ruffled by this, and then I realized how flawed it was.

Of course everyone has the ability to be mean, to hurt others.  Natural selection has more or less favored the ruthless. In my life I have wanted to hurt people, and I have succeeded. But as I’ve looked into the reasons why I hurt them, I realized it wasn’t because I was feeling normal things that are just part of life. It was because I was indulging in a huge personality flaw of my own. Jealousy. Selfishness. Superficiality. Just because I’ve been built with the ability to feel these things, doesn’t mean that indulging in them is going to be good for me. Remember, natural selection also favors those who can cooperate with others.

That aside, good and bad traits have to exist in everyone, they have to fight each other. If you go back to my first point, you need negativity around in order to recognize positivity, even in yourself. But in my experience, if I am treating someone else like shit, the problem isn’t their personality or their wimpishness, the problem is mine. I’m jealous of something about their life. I’m angry that they’re prettier, richer, smarter than me. I’m trying to hurt them, because I’m not happy about something in my own life. I’m trying to fill my canyon of happiness with the suffering of others. And I don’t care how you cut it, that’s just not the right way to be. Rather, it’s an invitation to be a little more insightful about myself and start looking for happiness in another way.

And that’s where I get the idea of nice vs. kind. Normally, I am an extremely independent person who is flexible, forgiving and easy-going. I also have a cynical streak a mile wide, and I can be quite opinionated and big-mouthed. I like to participate in sarcastic banter with friends, and I love to tell others how wrong they are in their political opinions (just ask my friend Angela). In life I generally know what I like, am mostly happy with myself, and if you don’t like me you can go fuck yourself. I don’t make any effort to be around people who don’t interest me, and I have dumped friends who aren’t benefitting my contentment. No, I’m not always nice. In fact, sometimes I can be really very bitchy.

But nice is different from kind. Nice is a superficial notion – you can’t possibly always be nice and still have any depth, self-insight or true emotion. I know a few people who are only nice – and they are caverns of dispassionate vapidity.

But kindness is something else entirely. It is selflessness. Acceptance, tolerance and respect. I spend a lot of thought and caring on people who matter to me. I am warm, open and vulnerable toward them. I accept and forgive. I am kind to those whom I choose to love. I’m not always nice, and I’ve certainly made mistakes and doled out my share of misery on others, but I still consistently strive to be kind.

I believe that’s some of how you make your own happiness. It’s how you form deep and strong emotional ties to certain friends and family with whom you choose. Kindness, and thus vulnerability, is key, as strength is shown so well by the presence of that vulnerability (which is the same as happiness shown by the presence of suffering). If you can’t be kind and vulnerable to those who care about you, then you’ll spend your whole life alone, even if surrounded by hundreds of people.

These last several weeks have been a learning experience for me in many ways. Through the observation of others I have learned some things about myself as a friend, and I’ve learned a lot more about what I need to be content.

And since I can’t think of a great closing sentence for this rambling post, I’ll just congratulate you if you’ve managed to get to the bottom of it, and also encourage you to offer your own thoughts on this topic in the comments section. Thanks for reading!


9 Comments

Review: Your New Favorite Running Accessories

Running bloggers write a lot of reviews on running shoes. I do too. Trail shoes, road shoes, minimalist shoes, sandals, et cetera. Shoes are great tools for running, but shoes are just one of the tools in the toolbox.

So I thought I’d do a little compilation review to show my appreciation for some of the more useful non-shoe running items that I’ve come across recently. I’d like to do one of these reviews every so often, because I’m always looking to discover great new running gear.

Injinji Performance Toe Socks

Injinjis aren’t news for most minimalist runners; I’ve been wearing them for years now (when, that is, I wear socks running). But I’ve always bought the same kind, the regular performance micro-crew sock. I have about seven pairs (all permanently trail-stained, might I add). Recently I noticed on their site that they have a few newer styles that I hadn’t seen before, so I snagged a few samples. My favorite of them were the Performance Mid-weight No-Show sock, and the Performance Ultra-thin Lightweight No-Show sock.

The mid-weight sock was interesting because it’s kind of a wonder of design. To be honest, I’ve never really paid much attention to how socks are made until I had to review these. They seem to be made of different materials at once: a super-stretchy top and slightly cushy at the bottom. The slight thickness of the material is very useful if you get hot feet like me. These guys soak up sweat like a pro, and I like to wear mine on long runs. I dig the no-show tops too, they are actually no-show, as opposed to the other socks I’ve bought in this style that end up being way too long and are more like “extra-show.” The sizing is always pretty good for me with Injinji.

The lightweight sock was also great (mine were black so I couldn’t get them to photograph well – thus the stock image above), it was very, very thin so it fit comfortably with my most snug-fitting shoes, unlike the mid-weight pair. Some have said the really lightweight socks get damp too quickly and allow blisters to form, but I didn’t seem to have that problem. If you’re a chronic sock-wearer, they are a great option on a hot day.

So if you’re a distance runner and you’ve never tried Injinji toe socks (I’m thinking of a few friends of mine), I suggest you try them. Having a sock with toe pockets to buffer every surface of skin on your feet is an excellent way to keep away blistering for a long time. Also you never have to worry about your socks twisting inside your shoe, or that annoying seem-on-the-toe issue that always bothered me about wearing traditional socks.

AYG All Year Gear – Women’s Brief and Crewneck

If you’re a reader of Jason Robillard’s running blog, you may have read his thoughts on thermo-regulation and moisture-wicking fabrics. I did too, and it really got me thinking about the role that fabrics play in my running here in SoCal. I hail from a very humid, cool climate where overheating and dehydration is almost a non-issue throughout most of the year. But here, I can’t do things like wear two layers of t-shirt or don any kind of heavy wicking fabric.

I was impressed by the samples I got from this company called All Year Gear (AYG). They specialize in performance underwear for women and men, out of this exceptionally-stretchy, mostly cotton fabric (they call it XTRdry cotton), but they offer t-shirts and other items as well. It’s the most amazing fabric. The first time I went running in the briefs and crewneck tee was pretty hot and dry outside. I came back with a damp shirt. And this is an excellent thing because when the fabric is slightly damp, it’s cooling me off. Most moisture-wicking shirts pull moisture away from your skin and dry immediately, which is excellent in a humid climate but can help you to overheat in a dry one, because sweat is your body’s only cooling mechanism.

Why not just wear cotton then, you ask? Well, I don’t like how cotton feels when I’m running. I find it absorbs too much moisture, gets heavy and feels sort of gross. The AYG cotton is much lighter than your typical t-shirt cotton, and the stretch in the fabric ensures that it’ll keep its shape after miles of sweaty running.

As for the undies (there will be no live photos of those, thanks), I don’t typically wear underwear when I’m running. I don’t like the extra layer. But there are a couple of down sides to going commando, one of them is having to wash your bottoms between each use. That can get annoying and seem wasteful over time, so I like that I have the option of wearing these bikini briefs to stretch out the wears of my favorite running clothes. And the fabric is lightweight enough to not feel like much of an extra layer.

Buff Headwear

I love Buffs! I only wish I discovered them earlier than this. My friend Vanessa wears these things all the time, and I recently inquired as to where she got them. When I looked into the company I loved the whole idea. Way more than just a sweatband, the Buff is an ingenius, multi-use fat band of fabric (they make them in everything from lightweight stretchy cotton to Polartec fleece) that can be worn in dozens of different ways.

I like to wear my Buff as a wide headband for running and for whenever (i.e. lazy bad-hair day). I have a small head so I have a lot of trouble finding a headband that won’t slide off in five minutes. The Buff has a lot of fabric so it doesn’t move around much, especially if I wear it with pigtails – then it won’t move at all. I absolutely hate the idea of wearing a hat while running, so the Buff is a good alternative for keeping the sun off my head (especially my part, which is particularly prone to sunburn), and for keeping sweat out of my eyes. I also find it works well when there’s a bite of cold in the air – I slide the Buff down over my ears a bit and it’s pretty toasty warm.

You can wear your buff like I do or you can wear it in dozens of different ways. Check out this video on their site where they show you how to wear it like a scarf, a beeny hat, and various other fashions.

Here is one way you should not wear your buff:

This is my friend Shacky. He didn’t get the memo.

That’s what I have for now…as always, thanks for reading! Hope this helps you discover something new for your running toolbox. Do you have a favorite non-shoe running accessory that totally rocks? I’d love to hear about it.


17 Comments

Paleo vs. Vegan: The Politics of Diet

As we are all coming off the high of this insanely partisan Presidential election, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the equally partisan views that many folks have between the two big fringe dietary models of our current time: Paleo and Vegan.

For those of my readers who may not be familiar, I’ll take a moment here to explain my understanding of the differences between these two diets. Veganism is almost exclusively a plant-based diet, utilizing the carbohydrates that vegetables, fruits and grains provide for energy, with the added proteins and fats from nuts, legumes and fatty plants such as avocados. Vegans stay away from any animal product, protein or meat, including by-products such as milk, eggs, cheese and animal-derived oils. They also generally avoid heavily processed items, anything that has so many ingredients that it stops becoming real food.

The Paleo, or Caveman diet is often construed to be the opposite of Vegan. By definition, it is not at all. The Paleo diet contains any food that is naturally derived and completely unprocessed – that is, anything that would have been consumed throughout most of human history as we evolved to what we are today. This diet contains all forms of unprocessed meat (preferably grass-fed and not drugged-up), fruits, vegetables, eggs and nuts, and strays away from processed animal by-products like milk and cheese. Paleo also excludes any form of grain – wheat, oats, rice – because it must be processed for consumption. Legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts) and potatoes are also out because they were not a part of the diet early on in human evolution.

The reason I titled this post as such is that the people who follow one of these diets tend to feel strongly for their choice, at the total expense of the other. For example, earlier this year I decided to try a 30-day Paleo challenge, and was subsequently chewed out by a Vegan friend on Facebook. Fact and fiction alike was littered about the conversation, and there was even some namecalling. It felt like a political campaign, or hell…even a little like a religious argument.

Personally, I find that I generally tend to stay away from the side of any argument that feels dogmatic to me, and lean toward the side that feels more based in historical or empirical evidence. This is probably why I tend to lean left in my political beliefs, and non-denominational in my thoughts about life after death.

While both Veganism and Paleo tote around plenty of evidence for bringing on good health, and even though, like most religions, they aren’t all that different from each other if you look at the fine print, there’s just something more dogmatic to me about Veganism.

In my experience, many people who promote Vegan eating do it for moral or ethical reasons (i.e. meat is murder). Now, certainly this is not the case for all Vegans, but there is a good portion of that argument in there, anytime you touch on the subject. Conversely, Paleo devotees almost exclusively follow the diet for health and well-being, discarding the subject of morality entirely. I’ve always leaned toward the Paleo way of thinking because in my opinion, the nourishment of my body has nothing to do with ethics or kindness to animals (or plants either, for that matter). Coyotes eat rabbits because their bodies are evolved to need them. Cows eat grass for the same reason. I like to take my cues from science and evolution. But hey that’s just me, and this is my blog.

That said, I have seen some excellent empirical arguments made recently by friends of mine for the Vegan diet, laced with interesting anecdotal evidence (my favorite kind, heh). It’s times like these where I appreciate the sort of people I surround myself with because they are generally open-minded and intelligent, which is an excellent combination of qualities, especially because I love to learn from people and be inspired to think differently. Many of my smart, science-y friends have been testing (and loving) the Vegan diet for its ability to cleanse the body of toxins and promote overall good health. Most of them are runners as well, and they have boasted huge improvements in their performance since switching to the plant-based diet. And probably the best news of all, each of them has reported significant weight loss where needed.

Being that Paleo has always been the better fit for my political compass, I resisted these findings for quite some time. Sure you can go on a Vegan diet for awhile, but how long until you just need to go chew on an animal? How long can you really resist the general diet of the average human in 2012? Other than for out-of-the-ordinary people like Scott Jurek or Pat Sweeney, Vegan always seemed more temporary to me than even the likes of other diet systems like Weight Watchers, Atkins or South Beach. There’s just so much you have to take out of your diet, it just didn’t seem worth bothering.

But I’ve come to a crossroads. I’m struggling emotionally and physically with the weight that I’ve gained in the last four years. I don’t like the way I look in my clothes (or out of them). I run anywhere from 10-30 miles per week, I fill my house with all sorts of high quality foods, yet I still struggle with losing this extra weight. And I believe that the extra weight is the only thing keeping me from my running goals. Genetically pre-dispositioned, I’ve been somewhat overweight for most of my life and even though I’ve been moderately successful on some low-calorie diets before, I’m tired and bored of them. I need a different challenge, I think. It might be possible that going Vegan for awhile could offset that boredom enough to help me discard that unnecessary weight.

So I’m putting some thought into switching to Vegan temporarily, at least until the Across the Years 24-hour race that I just signed up for. I’m thoroughly ecstatic for this race, but I’ve been worried that my body isn’t up for the same challenge that my mind is itching for. It’s possible that changing my eating habits now, just shy of two months beforehand, could bring my body closer to meeting that challenge.

I’m not promising anything, I think, but I’m putting some serious consideration into the idea. I expect I’ll have my decision made by the end of this week. I welcome any thoughts or advice that my readers may have on the subject. Especially the free-of-politics kind. 🙂


12 Comments

Rethinking the Race

Ever since I started running in any serious manner – that is, when I started running barefoot/minimalist – I have developed a totally different perspective on the sport. Most notably, my definition of myself as a “runner.” I’ve come to realize that I don’t feel like a runner unless I’m involved in a race of some sort, either running in one or training for one in the near future. I realized this last weekend when I was at a race I wasn’t running, and I spent the whole day feeling like I wasn’t a “runner” because I was not participating.

That, as well as this thoughtful article by Kyle Kranz, has led me to re-examine my entire thought process on the subject of running races.

I really like races. I like signing up for them and then instantly being filled with all of that excitement and possibility, especially if it’s a new distance or a challenging course. I like training for them, too – building up my mileage and endurance gives me such a great feeling of accomplishment. Having a race at hand keeps me motivated to train at a higher level and always be improving.

I love just being at races, too. Standing at the starting line around a large group of excited runners gives me such a high. I have learned a lot of great things about myself at races that I’d never have learned just running on my own.

I’ve also learned some not-so-great things about myself during races. Like how slow I am, compared to everyone else at that starting line. How much fitter the average runner is than me. And also, how much those things bother me. Often, at a race I’ll be standing around just feeling short, fat and generally very unimpressive. It’s such a negative feeling to have, even around all those super open-minded California trail runners.

Some of my races have been major failures, as well. My last race was a few weeks ago, the Raptor Ridge Half Marathon. Half Marathons are great races for me because they’re not too scary, thirteen miles is a distance I have completed many times. I was so excited to run this race, my first one since moving to San Diego. I practiced this course a few times so I would know what to expect. I even donned a brand new running skirt for the occasion! When the gun sounded I was off with a great big smile. I ran light, smooth and fast (for me) along the first three miles. I even started to pass some people, anticipating my friends Vanessa, Shacky and Kate waiting for me at the top of the big hill the race was named after. I was fast approaching the base of that hill and I was so stinking happy.

And then I tripped on a rock and sprained my goddamn ankle.

It was a super bummer. I was pissed at myself, my ego was bruised, and now I was going to be benched for the next few weeks. But hey – that shit happens during races. The worst part of it all, though, was that I wouldn’t get to finish running that killer course that I liked so much.

As I was sitting under the med tent having my ankle wrapped and iced, and watching my friend Jon point and laugh at me from the comfort of his Merrell table, all I could think about was the money and energy I’d wasted on this race. I kept thinking that now I couldn’t run this course until next year. But…wait. What?

What the hell was I thinking?! I can run this course any time I want! The trail head is twenty minutes from my house – I could drive out here on a Tuesday and run the whole thing if I want. For free. And without feeling bad about my fat, slow ass pulling up the rear of all the other runners.

Somehow, I think maybe I’ve gotten a little too far away from the reasons why I run in the first place, especially since I’ve moved to California and began to spend more time around all my insanely talented distance runner friends. I have blown so much energy on the idea that I must be completing races of long, stupid distance in order to qualify as a runner. That I’m not really defining myself a “real” runner if I’m not collecting medals and cheap t-shirts, and damaging the paint on my car’s bumper with braggy race stickers.

Ok, so yeah I’m proud of having run those distances. And why not be? I finished those races, and I’m officially an ultra-marathoner now. I can walk proudly and wear that title for the rest of my life.

But the title is so arbitrary, isn’t it? It’s a lot like that ironic internet saying “pics or it didn’t happen.” If you don’t run 50 organized, aid-stationed and medal-ed kilometers, then it doesn’t count.

Ahh, but I’m digressing. My aim here isn’t to bash the organized race, but to point out that increasing my own race distances from 5K to 50K over the course of two years may not have been the best idea physically or emotionally. In those two years I have not increased my speed, decreased my weight or even done much work on my overall endurance. Sure, my feet are able to carry me 50 kilometers from here on any given day now, but can they do the job well? I think not.

If you subscribe to the message of any of our barefoot running prophets and sages, like Caballo Blanco, Chris McDougall and so many others, they all share the same notion about running: that the whole point of it is in the practice, not the trial.

In other words, is there really a point in throwing down my hard-earned cash to run long-distance races that I’ve barely had the time to train my body for? Why all the rush to go longer and longer before I’m really ready? I mean, who do I think I am out there: Vanessa Runs?

Look at that chick go! She’s so happy. She’s probably on mile 78 or something, too. Sigh.

And, more importantly, would I rather be climbing up mountains at my own pace and whatever distance my body can handle with my buddy Kate, or cranking out three painful, mostly walking 20-milers just to get them done before an ultra? The answer is pretty obvious. I just don’t want to give up the great opportunity to stop and climb up a random group of rocks, explore a dead-end trail or take pictures of ourselves lounging at the summit of a mountain. That stuff is the joy of running for me, I want every time I run to be like that.

Also, I just don’t like thinking of myself as a slow-ass, back-of-the-pack slacker. It’s not a good mental place to be, and I only feel that way when I’m at races. I’ll never run like Pat Sweeney, so why not spend more time running on my own and feeling good about myself, while also using that time to train toward a better, more race-friendly pace?

I dunno. All of this said, I’m still signed up for the Carlsbad Marathon in January (my first). I don’t really want to waste the money or the opportunity to train, so I will. But I’m going to think on this one for a bit, before adding my name to any more lists. It’s possible that I might be all done with racing big new distances for awhile, in order that I can practice more running.

Thoughts?


7 Comments

Of Aging and Piercing Body Parts

So today I did something a little different from the norm.

I worked a full day, shut off my computer, and instead of taking a nap or going for a run, reading a book, or making brownies like a good little wife, I went out with my buddy Kate and got my nose pierced.

Obligatory iPhone self-portrait. Attempt #327.

When I decided that I was going to have it done, the first thing my husband said to me was “Um – I’ve been telling you for years that you have the perfect nose for a piercing and you never did it. Why now?!”

Why now, indeed?

I  mean, tempting as it sounded I wasn’t ever going to do it. First off…I’m thirty-three years old. I know that some of you nice people will say that age is timeless, and such and so on. But it’s not so much the age thing as it is that I already went through my piercing phase about fourteen years ago. Back in our college hay-day, it seemed my friends and I pierced every available chunk of skin imaginable. In a very short span of time I managed to put holes in my tongue, both nipples, multiple places on my earlobes, as well as the pinna, tragus and rook parts of my ears.

So it felt like I’d already done enough hole-punching for a lifetime, especially since I ended up taking everything out by the time I got married. I think I figured it was time to grow up a little, and stop trying to maintain that “art-school edgy” look. Even though I actually was a professional artist who, well…still sort of liked edgy things.

Even though that’s kinda who I am.

But then I met Kate, and the third time we ever hung out together she tried to get me to go with her to have our noses pierced. But by then we were already two beers into our night, and I didn’t want to have to lie on a waiver form or bleed all over my new shirt. I told her I’d think about it, and I did.

Then, a strange thing happened. I started looking around at people I knew, and I realized I know a lot of people around my age with nose jewelry. And it looks adorable. They don’t look too old for it. And let’s not forget that I have a sweet and loving hubby at home who has been all but begging me to get it done. This man knows me better than anyone on the planet – if he thought it made no sense for me to do such a thing, he would have absolutely no problem saying it!

I think that perhaps over the past few years I’ve gotten away from myself a bit. Turning 30, getting married and buying a house instantly aged me. I felt responsible for the whole world. The weight of it exhausted me. I went to bed really early at night and stopped bleaching my hair so much. I went to nail salons for manicures and started wearing so much sunscreen that I never got tan in the summer. I think I stopped being fun.

Come to think of it, maybe it was just buying that damn house that did it to me.

We all get older eventually, I know this. Thankfully I don’t have any grays yet, but my skin is slowly starting to wrinkle and show off all those years of sun exposure. I get sleepy by 11pm, even on Saturday nights. I have to stretch my feet before I get out of bed in the morning. Every year I get older physically, but I’ve made a lot of changes in my life recently that have made me less stoically “adult-like”, less old and set in my ways. I’ve taken some risks that most people stopped even considering by 25 or 30, or whenever they decided to stop allowing life to let them grow or change anymore.

So why get my nose pierced at age 33? Because it’s a representation of all the youth that I still possess in these bones. A symbol of the youthfulness of the girl who isn’t afraid to leave every comfort behind her and move to a place that’s better suited for her. The woman of childbearing age who doesn’t actually want to have children. The heavy chick who can still finish a 50K, despite not “looking like” a runner. The person who says no to what family, friends and society always expected of her…and yes to what she expects from life.

Now, when I look at myself in the mirror I get to remember that I’m not too old. I’m never too old to answer to my own calling. To become just a little bit more wholeheartedly myself. And to understand that it’s the only really important goal there is.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson


9 Comments

Review: INKnBURN Women’s Athletic Clothing

I just counted, and I actually own eight (yes, that’s 8) pieces of clothing from INKnBURN. Wow. I’m a total addict. It seems like I’ve been contemplating putting this review together forever. But now I think it’s high time that I take a few moments and talk about my absolute favorite clothing line. Ever.

Several months ago lovely INKnBURN owner, Megan, contacted me to ask if I would test a couple of their new running skirts. At the time I’d all but given up on running skirts because they fit me weird and caused chafing problems that I don’t want to talk about. Don’t ask. But I said yes because…well…it is INKnBURN – the one and only premier ultra-marathon runner clothing company. Plus I’d already heard great things about their skirts and still had high hopes of finding a good one.

Well I found two, actually. Megan sent me the “Peacock” skirt and the “Lust” skirt, both gorgeously colorful and fashion-statement-y in their own completely different ways. I reviewed them here. Since then I’ve become a totally nerdy INKnBURN super-fan, and the more I wear their clothes the more I love them. Now that I work from home, I wear something from INKnBURN almost every day of the week, whether I’m running or not. I’ve also been lucky enough to befriend Megan and her awesome husband, co-owner Rob, go see their amazing shop, and let them unknowingly half-support my addiction to high quality athletic clothing. (I say half-support because I’ve definitely made a few purchases of my own along the way. Don’t tell my husband how many.)

I don’t have every item INKnBURN makes, but I’ve made an effort to gather most of their warm-weather items to make one big compilation review (my hoarding is for a good cause after all…see?). And for the sake of this review I even had hubby photograph me wearing the clothes. Oh, the sacrifices I make for my blog. Sigh.

I’d apologize about the photos, but you’ve had fair warning.

Why I Love Them

Before I get in to the meat of the review, I want to talk briefly about this company’s uniqueness. One of the major reasons I love INKnBURN is because of their pursuit of quality in both craftsmanship and design. Every single item of clothing that is sold to you from INKnBURN comes from their little manufacturing office right here in southern California. They buy bolts of expensive, high-quality fabrics and painstakingly press the designs onto each and every section of each shirt, skirt and short, through a process called dye sublimation.

The time it takes to create each piece is nothing like what you’d see in a typical large-yield manufacturing plant, and the end result is a truly well-made article of clothing with a design on it that was made to fit your shirt, in your size. Not to mention the design is “burned” into the fabric, so there’s nothing blocking the moisture-wicking effect or chafing against your skin.

Another great thing is that the care made to fit these articles is bar-none. It’s like they measured me for some of these clothes, particularly the skirts. Ever try on clothes at a mall store and wonder who the hell they were trying to fit? The proportions of some jeans are all wrong or you can’t get your arms through the sleeves of a t-shirt that should be your size? I hate that.

I also adore the energy and audaciousness INKnBURN puts into the artwork for their clothing. It’s nothing you’ve seen anywhere else (well, except maybe at a trail race, where you can pick out an INKnBURN fan by their richly colorful attire). They’ve got an amazingly talented in-house designer and a seemingly continuous string of new ideas to keep them going, so I’m pretty sure I’ll never get tired of seeing what they’ll come out with next.

I mean, for example: steam-punk t-shirts. Come on! Freaking awesome.

Tech Shirt

Living in New England, I pretty much never had any use for a short-sleeved shirt. Anywhere, really. I mean, it was either freezing and you were buried under seven layers of fabric, or stifling hot and you wished you were naked. Short-sleeve shirts never had much of a place because, especially when running, they contained just enough fabric to drive me nuts. If I ever wore a t-shirt running, I could be found stuffing the sleeves into the straps of my sports bra after about three minutes. Hated them.

But then again whenever I look at photos of people I know running, they’re usually wearing a t-shirt. So maybe I’m just a weirdo.

But the climate in SoCal is warm (not hot) and dry enough for me to appreciate the sleeved t-shirt again. Like a normal person. So I took the INKnBURN tech shirt out for a spin. The fabric is super light, you can’t even feel much on your shoulders. But it’s there, and it’s providing just that much more sun protection, which is nice for those afternoon runs when the sun is just leaning on you.

The cut on this shirt is very basic. Crew neck, regular sleeve length, cut to mid-hip. I felt the shirt was too short for my taste. Because I tend to wear tight-fitting bottoms running, I feel more comfortable in a top that’s long enough to hit the top of my thighs and cover most of my bum. So, unfortunately I was wearing a tank top under the t-shirt, so I overheated a bit from the extra layers. Might work fine in the winter, but not on a sunny 75 degree afternoon.

I hadn’t even mentioned this to Megan, because it’s just how most tech shirts are made, even all my race-acquired tech shirts are cut shorter than I like. But just this week I headed up to the INKnBURN office for lunch and lo-and-behold…they’ve changed the cut of their women’s tech shirts!

It was like some creepy magic ESP stuff was going on, or something.

Upper Left: old cut. Lower left and right: new, longer cut.

As if reading my mind, they made the shirt a few inches longer than it was before, so now it falls exactly where all my favorite tank tops do. Also they widened the neckline, giving it a more feminine look. I dig the improvement, and the new cut will shortly be replacing the previous one.

Yellow shirt shows the new, wider crewneck opening.

Megan didn’t have a sample of the new cut in my size, but I took home one that was a size up and I’ve been wearing it all day. I am recovering from a sprain so I haven’t run in this shirt yet, but I can tell you that I already know the new cut solves my wear-ability problem, one hundred percent. And not having to wear an under-shirt brings a huge improvement on the breatheability of the shirt. It seems much lighter than most cotton t-shirts I wear.

The old cut on top, new cut underneath.

Tank Top

The women’s tank top is made of the same material as the tech shirt, which is a super light-weight, stretchy micro-mesh. Megan gave me the tank with the iconic “Run or Die” graphic on it, which is pretty much the design that originally put them on the map. So bad-ass. Anyway, the tank is cut with a wide scoop neck and racer-back style. I’d say there’s probably a little more shoulder and back coverage than I’m used to for a tank top, and also it’s shorter, which I already talked about (at time of writing this I don’t know if they’re planning to lengthen the tank top as well). But the shirt still looks great over a running skirt and it kept me cool on a few great beach runs.

I respectfully dislike all the photos hubby took of me in the tank top, so instead I put in the Instagram I took of myself in the (embarrassingly filthy) mirror the day I wore it running at the beach.

Running Skirt

I can’t say enough about the INKnBURN running skirt. I have three now. I wear these things around the house, to the grocery store, to the mall, and on just about every run I go on, ever. After hanging out with me a few times, my friend Kate asked me if I ever wear anything but a running skirt.

The fabric of the skirt itself is a sort of criss-cross mesh, a little sturdier than the shirts. The compression shorts underneath are made of a slightly thicker spandex material, the kind of fabric that really holds on to you. If, like me, you’re not a stick figure, you’re probably wondering about the chafing factor. In the beginning of my run I will have to adjust the hem of the shorts here and there, but once I get going and start to sweat, the fabric stays put. In fact I ran a 50K in my INKnBURN Peacock skirt and had absolutely no chafing. The waistband is a nice, wide panel with a built-in elastic band that you can pull and tie tighter if necessary. This skirt tends to run a size large, so order down.

The new “Rock’n’Roll” style skirt I bought myself for a recent race.

The skirt is a lot more substantial than all the others I’ve seen out there, with bigger pockets and more complex fabrics. Some have found the skirt to be warm, but truthfully I’ve never thought that.

Here’s a detail shot of the fabric on the skirt and shorts.

Like their other clothing items, the INKnBURN running skirt costs more than most ($75). But I’m telling you, it’s worth it. After having spent so much time practically living in my INKnBURN running skirts, I have absolutely no problem spending the money on more. I feel this way about most items they offer, but more so with the skirt. You’re just not going to find anything more comfortable out there.

Women’s Shorts

I almost didn’t try the shorts because I really don’t like running in shorts. I don’t like how they ride up and look bad, and I especially dislike the chafing. Well, these shorts are very short so you can’t avoid chafing. But if you’re good with the BodyGlide or have legs like a Barbie Doll then these shorts are pretty darn fantastic.

My first thoughts on these shorts is that they’re so light. So cool. It feels like there’s just nothing to them (probably because there isn’t – they’re very short!). But I don’t feel naked in them, either. The shorts are made of a similar material as the running skirt (although it feels a little lighter so perhaps it is), and they have a built in skivvy so you don’t have to wear underwear. They have the same wide, fold-over-able waistband that the skirt does, too. I prefer to leave the waistband up because I like my running bottoms to go right up to my waist. It’s good to have that versatility, though. I like the curved stripe design on the back of the shorts, too, it’s quite cool and flattering.

And for your information, the shorts do not run large like the skirt, so go ahead and order your regular size.

In case you’re wondering, yes I did rub some of the black dye off the back of these. That would be from sliding down ten feet of sheer rock on my bum. I can’t recommend doing that, in any type of clothing.

Denim Capris

The newest craze over at INKnBURN is their “denim” line. They’ve got shorts, skirts, pants and capris now that have a denim print on them, which is pretty cool and truly convincing. Megan gave me a pair of the capris and they’re wonderful. They’re made of the same stretch fabric as the compression shorts they put under the running skirts. Same foldover waistband. But they look like jeans so if I wear them to run errands I don’t look like I just threw on a pair of yoga pants like a lazy ass. Even though I did.

The capris have a cool Asian-inspired design on them that’s in the same vein as their “Lust” design, as well as “pockets” in the back and front. There’s even a “button fly” at the front, which is so cute. There’s two generous (real) pockets in front for carrying stuff.

I found these pants to be longer than I’d expected. Most of the capri pants I like to run in stop just below my knee. As a result these feel more like running tights than capris, so they might be great for winter running. But right now I’ve mostly been wearing them to do things other than running, such as yoga, shopping, and paired with a cotton tee while I work all day at home and want to be comfortable. I look forward to running in them when the weather cools a bit. My friend Vanessa loves hers, and has even run a couple of ultras in them.

Again these also come true to size. You may find the waist band to be a little snug like I do, especially if you don’t have one of those tiny waists, so order the size you usually wear.

Final Thoughts

I’m not sure what else I can say about these athletic clothes. The cool people over at INKnBURN have gifted me with many of the items I talked about today, but I have been back to purchase more because I simply love them. I do want to point out that besides some test samples, I’m not being paid, befriended or otherwise coerced (not even with chocolate!) to write a falsely positive review. I walk around San Diego looking like an INKnBURN ad because I’m just a die-hard fan and I want to wear their clothes. The quality is there, the styles are growing by the minute, and I appreciate feeling like my hard-earned cash is going toward something that will last awhile. And I truly believe that a wider audience of runners and athletes deserve to hear about this company.

So get out there and wear some INKnBURN!


5 Comments

Barefoot Running – The Movie: Giveaway Winner

Hey guys, sorry this is a day later than I promised. I spent yesterday sulking, after an ankle sprain during my half marathon. Boo.

Anyway, Random.org selected a winner for the Barefoot Running movie, and that winner is:

Barefoot Dawsy

Congrats, Barefoot Dawsy. Please email me at trishalreeves@gmail.com with your mailing address and I’ll get the DVD out to you in a day or two. Although I  may send Hubby out to mail it, considering that I’m still in sulk-mode.

If you’re interested in getting a visual lesson in how to run more naturally with better form, you can purchase this DVD from the RunBare website, or on Amazon.

Happy running!


6 Comments

Ready for the Raptor

This Sunday, I’m running my first distance race in San Diego. It’s the Raptor Ridge Half Marathon. Those of you who might know this race, and also know me, are probably laughing right now. Why? Well, I didn’t earn the mock-nickname “Hill Killer” for nothing.

You know. It’s sorta like nicknaming the 300lb Samoan dude “Tiny.” And you’re not really sure if you should call him that to his face because he’s been known to have a “mood problem.”

I love to run, that’s a given. But probably nobody in the trail running community bitches about hills as much as I do have. Hell, I complained so much about the relentless hills at my 50K (that nobody else seemed to notice…what was that about?), that my friend Krista designed a “Hill-Killer” t-shirt for her online store because of me.

And dammit, why didn’t I think to order one for Sunday?

Anyway, the Raptor Ridge Half Marathon takes place near Lake Hodges, amidst the various hills and valleys of nearby Escondido, California. The first four or five miles are completely flat and prairie-like, and then the course climbs this pretty gnarly hill for about a mile, back down the other side, and then turns around and goes back up. I stole an elevation chart from the blog of someone who did this race last year:

It looks like Batman. I should show my husband.

Now, this race wasn’t totally my idea. I have some friends to thank for my participation in it. First is my friend Shacky, who coerced encouraged me to sign up for Raptor Ridge back when I was still living my safe, flat-trailed New England life. Having run the race before, he knew how hilly it was going to be but still managed to keep a straight face while I rambled on excitedly about “my first San Diego race.” Shacky is like that funny uncle who puts toothpaste in your Oreos and super-glues quarters to the sidewalk. You always trust him when he suggests that you do something “really fun”, even though it’s usually a bad idea.

And then there’s my friend Kate, who has spent the last month dragging me and my hydration pack all over Escondido to run up and down hills until we were both bent over at the waist, breathing heavy like two old men with emphysema. It’s been pretty awesome, actually. I’ve been looking for a friend to really push me for years, and it seems now I’ve finally found one.

Lucky for me (or perhaps not lucky, depending on your perspective), I got to run most of this course already. In two parts. The first time, Kate and I parked at the Raptor Ridge 1/2 trail head one afternoon with full packs, ready to crush that hill. But we never found it because we didn’t realize it was over four miles away, and also we wanted beer. The second time we parked at a lot much closer to the hill and ran up it with Shacky and Vanessa, the two of them bouncing up the ridge like it was an easy straightaway. Jerks. But I made it up both sides, and we even got to look out over the valley for a moment before flying back down like a bunch of wild, noisy antelope. Okay, not anything like antelope.

This was the first time I’ve ever run on a race course before running the actual race. I’m curious to find out if it makes any difference for me mentally, but I think it will. I have always told myself that I’d rather not know what I’m getting into because if it’s scary, I don’t want to be privy to it. But I think maybe I was wrong all that time, because all week I have been able to put this course into perspective, plan out my pace goals, and mentally prepare for the tough spots. I’ve run this course a hundred times in my head. For the first time in any race I’ve done, I’m approaching it like something to conquer, not just something I hope to finish.

And by conquer I don’t mean foolishly attempting to beat my half-mary PR by thirty minutes or anything crazy-stupid like that. In fact, I’m not even sure I can count on breaking my PR at all. Or even meeting it. My last half marathon was on a completely flat, easy course, and I still didn’t break 2:30. I’m not hoping for any miracles here, but I did just notice that there’s a 3-hour cutoff time. I’ve never run a race with a cutoff time less than an hour outside my personal best. Combined with the added difficulty, I’m a little nervous that I’ll be crossing the finish line on a golf cart with the course sweeper. I sincerely hope that doesn’t happen.

It’s times like these (trail races) where I’m always reminded of how slow a runner I really am. And I’m not saying that so you’ll try to reassure me in the comments section. I am just a really freaking slow runner. I know a lot of it is because of the extra weight I’ve been carrying around these days, and that just adds shame to the slow factor. I’m the slow chubby girl in the slow stragglers section at the end of every race I run, except for the really huge and popular road races that attract 10,000 C25K’ers who just started running for the first time six weeks ago.

But then again I know lots of heavier runners and most of them are faster than me, too. Damn.

So, I don’t know what the real problem is, but it’s certainly not for a lack of trying. I’ll be cruising along at a pace that I’m sure is pretty fast, and I’ll be patting myself on the back for pushing my limits…and then some lithe little number in LuluLemon whizzes past me, pushing a baby carriage.

So I guess my only choice is to take the good with the bad. I’m probably going to be pulling up the rear on Sunday. But I’m also probably going to finish, hopefully before the cutoff, and I’m going to have some friends at the finish line to greet me when I do. Also I’m going to have finished my third half marathon, my second trail race, and my first one among the mountains of San Diego. No matter what happens, it’s going to be an achievement worth smiling about. And there’s also going to be beer.


4 Comments

Review: Skora Form

I started following the Skora bandwagon well over a year ago now, before they’d even released any of their shoes. Heck, they probably weren’t even close to having designed one yet. For months, with their mysterious, snippety teaser ads, Skora promised me the World’s Best Minimalist Running Shoe. I was so enthralled by the idea of a brand new shoe company starting their entire business on the platform of minimalist running, that I immediately inquired as to whether I could test a pair. It took an excruciatingly long time for that package to finally come, but it was worth the wait (pretty packaging, too, I might add – I kept the magnetic-closure box for storage). I imagine that’s a little like how the owners of Skora also felt earlier this year, on the day they released the first two models of the line.

Those two models are the Base and the Form, released early in Spring for men, and followed too much later by the women’s models over the Summer. The Base model features a stretch mesh upper and cross-over strap closure, while the Form features asymmetrical lacing and is made of goatskin leather.

I chose the Form model because it was the only modern-day running shoe I’d ever heard of that was made of leather, and I was curious about how the material would mix with running. I mean, not only does it have this goatskin upper, but the liner inside the shoe is leather as well, sheep skin. It’s like running inside of a wooly goat. Too macabre? Sorry. But still…leather liner? That’s crazy talk!

As I talk more about in a minute, the goatskin was one of the many things about this shoe that I thought I could predict as soon as I saw a photo, but that definitely surprised me in the end.

The color of this shoe reminded me of an Easter bunny so I photographed it in the grass to entertain myself.

First Expection: This shoe is way too freaking narrow

You’ve read some of my other interviews. My feet are like blocks of wood. They’re built wide and strong, and they only got wider once I started running barefoot (which is the way it’s supposed to be). Any shoe that wants to rightfully call itself “minimalist” absolutely, positively MUST nurture your foot at its very widest, and leave room for a runner’s toes to do their job.

Please try to ignore the weird pattern pressed into my leg. I took this photo right after kneeling in the grass to take the photos above. And also I’m really pasty.

When I took one look at this shoe I thought for sure I was going to waste five paragraphs of this review in lecture-mode about proper shoe width. But the shoe was not too narrow for my foot. And over time, the upper got all buttery-soft and adapted to the shape of my foot, in the awesome way that…wait for it…only leather can. Sorry, vegan friends.

I think there’s still a little room for improvement in this avenue, though. Even though the width of this shoe isn’t much different than a lot of my other road shoes (i.e. the NB Minimus 00 Road, or the Merrell Dash Glove), the Form, like these others, could do with a wide-width version and give a little more toe room to us runners with naturally wide feet.

Second Expectation: The goatskin leather is going to be way too hot

Yeah, total surprise here.  Even though there’s tons of little holes all over the upper, I thought for sure my feet were going to die in these shoes. I hate having hot feet. Not to mention that leather liner that’s sure to be impossible to get my sweaty foot out of at the end of a run. I was actually shocked to find out that the leather is no stuffier than any other typical running shoe. In fact, the leather actually absorbs sweat and keeps your feet from getting nasty and blistery inside. And even after about 30-40 sweaty summer miles in these things, the shoes still smell like a new leather couch. My Vibrams never smelled so sweet after even half that mileage!

The only down side to the upper construction is the tongue. I love the burrito-style, asymmetrical look and function of the overlapping tongue. Only problem is that the overlapped part digs into my foot where it connects near the base of my pinky toe. This is the only part of the shoe that isn’t 110% comfy. And I don’t wear socks with this shoe because it feels too tight. To be fair, the same thing happens with the NB 00 Road. It is what it is.

Third Expectation: After all that waiting, there is sure to be something differently great about this shoe

Not really. This is a review so I have to be honest…aside from the pretty freaking cool properties of the leather upper, there isn’t a whole lot that’s different about this shoe, as compared to its competitors in the marketplace. There are some things it does great, and others that it just toes the line on.

For example, the sole: it’s pretty darn good. It’s more flexible than the NB 00 Road and the Dash Glove, for sure. But I guess I had hoped for something even more bendy, something closer to what VIVOBAREFOOT puts out. There isn’t a ton of stack height on this shoe, comparatively, but the sole curves up toward the upper on the outsides. When I’m running on roads I can really feel the outside edge of this sole digging into my 5th metatarsal. Sometimes it doesn’t bother me, but other times, my feet feel sore afterward. Could be a possible downside to having a wider foot.

I should also mention here that the second I got these I ripped the insole out. If there is a removable insole on a shoe, I almost always do this. It fit me better that way, and I could actually feel the ground. Could be that if the insole was in I would feel the edges less.

The Form is touted as a zero-drop shoe, and I certainly don’t doubt it. But there’s this “feature” of the sole, if you will, where the center of the heel has a separated pod that gives it this feel of being “lifted.” I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s curious to me, and I’m not sure what it’s there for. Perhaps it is to add to the rounded feel of the sole, and to make it more flexible. But I guess it’s neither here nor there, because the heel of any zero-drop shoe means nothing to me once I’m running.

What Didn’t Surprise Me

What didn’t surprise me about this shoe was its performance. As promised, Skora put out a solid minimalist road shoe on the first try, and I gotta respect that. Sticky and protective, the Form lets me feel the ground but gives me enough of a buffer to stave off fatigue for awhile during a long run. If you’re looking for superior ground-feel, this is no Luna Sandal or Vibram SeeYa. But I would probably bring this shoe to a distance road race. It’s decent on trail too, if you find yourself on one, as long as it doesn’t require a ton of traction.

For obvious reasons, I didn’t love that Skora made the decision to release the men’s models for six months before the women’s. Additionally, the women’s model release came with an addition to men’s colors, so they have four cool colorways to the women’s two. I can’t even tell the difference between the men’s and women’s shoe, except the men’s are probably wider, so in hindsight I suppose I could have just requested a pair of them instead. I didn’t love the color choices on the women’s side – as is often true, we only get to choose between pink and blue. But in this case the pink choice is actually mostly white, and somewhat takes on the look of a 1970’s bowling shoe. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, really – retro is in, baby! But I’ve never really been a fan of white shoes, so I actually had trouble figuring out what to wear with these.

Yeah, I wrote that. Deal with it.

Final Thoughts

The long-awaited Skora Form is truly a beautiful specimen of the minimalist road shoe, by a brave newborn company that was willing to take risks to offer something just a little different. I’m definitely a fan. With its buttery goatskin leather and slick design, the shoe can be taken to a marathon in the morning, and out for beers under some jeans later. The Form leaves a little room for improvement with its slightly narrow toe box, but it covers all the other minimalist shoe basics by being flexible, zero-drop and anatomically designed. It is a solid shoe that will hold up well to the demands of many minimalist runners.

I should also mention that the Skora Form comes pretty true to size, or possibly a little large, comparatively. A size 8 fit me great, where with most shoes I’m more comfortable jumping to an 8.5.

If you’ve clicked on any of my links you probably noticed the price is higher than you might be used to  – $185 – but that’s all because of the goatskin leather. If you like this shoe, the added durability of the high quality material will, in all probability, pay for itself in the end.

For those of you who do not wear leather shoes, the Base model is designed on the same sole as the Form, but it uses vegan-friendly mesh fabrics instead of goatskin.


10 Comments

Review and Giveaway: Barefoot Running – The Movie

Right about now in the barefoot running world, just about every expert is writing books on the topic. I mean, it’s not going to be long before there’s a “barefoot running” aisle rivaling the Cookbook section in every book store. That’s not a bad thing, mind you. If you like to read.

I myself learned to run barefoot by reading books. I read thorough descriptions of how you’re supposed to land and what your posture should look like. I read just about everything there is to know about the history of barefoot running, and about heel striking vs. fore-foot striking vs. mid-foot striking. I know all about persistence hunting, Caballo Blanco and the great Tarahumara. I am well versed in the art of bending my knees, leading with my chest instead of my forehead, not pushing off. So I guess you could say that when it comes to barefoot running, I was pretty darn book-smart even before I took a single barefoot step.

But what about road-smarts? Just because I read a few books and knew what zero-drop meant, did that mean I knew if I was doing anything right when I got out there for a run?

The reality is, we learn by doing, and by watching others do. We learn language by listening, we learn to walk by watching our parents do the same. Barefoot running, for most of us, is a process of learning much like that of a child starting from scratch, because we all spent most of our lives doing it wrong.

Michael Sandler and Jessica Lee of RunBare, a barefoot wellness school that hosts events and clinics all over the country teaching us how to do find our grounding again, wrote a book on the subject back in 2010 called Barefoot Running: How to Run Light and Free by Getting in Touch with the Earth. The book helped to launch their tour and got them onto the map. Coincidentally, their book came out right around the time I started running barefoot, and I found it to be a good source guide for my learning. But again, it was just a book, thus it could only teach me in theory.

Which is probably why Michael and Jessica decided to make a DVD as well.

Released earlier this month, their DVD is aptly named after their book and makes an excellent companion to it. The genre is a smart mix of documentary and teaching tool, aimed at the beginner barefoot runner. In the first sections, both Michael and Jessica talk a little bit about why it’s so important to go barefoot every day in order to get your, as they call it, “Vitamin-G.” A little hokey, sure, but I dug it. They also talk about why they themselves decided to go barefoot and why it’s been such a positive change in their lives. I found this section to be interesting, and I liked hearing Michael’s story in particular.

The whole movie has a serene, yogi-style feel that seems reflective of their personalities. I’ve only ever met Michael once and he seemed like a pretty centered dude who probably spends a lot of time meditating, so it fits. There might be a little too much canned docu-music in there, but I guess you can’t exactly expect high-quality original film scores from a couple of barefoot coaches. If nothing else the bad music was rather entertaining in a cheesy sort of way. There might have been a little head-bopping between Shawn and me. I said might.

The rest of the DVD is divided into different instructional topics aimed at teaching beginner techniques such as foot positioning and posture, core and balance exercises, recovery, et cetera. What I liked about this part is that having a visual representation of the instruction is so much more helpful than reading and trying to retain it for later when you’re trying to run on your own. Most of us aren’t lucky enough to be able to learn proper technique from a live barefoot coach, so we really have no idea what proper form looks like.

I wouldn’t say there’s a whole lot on this DVD for someone who is already very experienced in barefoot or minimalist running; you’re not going to learn anything new here. But it could be a nice refresher on technique, or a good visual if you’re still not sure if you’re doing it right. Also some of the strengthening exercises that are demonstrated in the video are actually pretty good (despite the fact that at one point, Michael demonstrates a balance exercise standing on a ball, on the edge of a cliff, and I pretty much couldn’t watch). And if nothing else, it’s good to support your fellow barefoot runners trying to make a living from spreading the word. I know we barefooters are a supportive bunch.

If you are ready to learn how to run barefoot, buy someone an awesome Christmas gift, or just to support RunBare and watch their movie, you can purchase a copy online here.

If you want a FREE copy, well then you’re in luck because I’m giving one away today, right here, on my blog! Woohoo!

Entering is simple and just like most of the other blog giveaways you’ve seen. Each of the actions listed below will earn you an entry. Spread the word, readers!

  • Write a comment below this blog post, telling me why you love barefoot running (or why you want to learn barefoot running)
  • Follow my blog by clicking on the “Sign Me Up” button to the right of this post. If you are already one of my followers, mention is in your comment for an automatic entry.
  • Post about this giveaway. Facebook, Twitter, your own blog, anything works.
  • Like RunBare on Facebook.

I’ll give this contest about a week, and draw the winner randomly on Friday, October 12th.

Good luck, and Happy Running!