Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Shoe giveaway contest, Coupon code & Finding work appropriate minimalist footwear


First off, Donald Buraglio, one of the bloggers I read, is having a giveaway contest for some really great casual/work minimalist shoes which I will get to in a minute. Head on over to and enter the contest before 7pm central today for a chance to win a pair of Vivobarefoot Kali shoes of you're a gal, and either a pair of Oaks or Dharmas if you're a dude. He also has a 20% off coupon code for these shoes, which is a really good deal and runs for several more days. Check it out

Very shortly after I started running in minimalist shoes, I noticed that most of the shoes I owned were no longer comfortable, with some becoming downright painful to wear for any length of time. Initially, I muddled through, wearing slippers (you mainland folks would call them flip-flops), huaraches, my ZEM shoes or, if I really needed to wear shoes, my Nike Frees. Eventually I decided that I probably ought not to be wearing running shoes to work every day (I work in a professional environment), or worse, footwear that are essentially aqua socks.

I had already purchased a pair of Vivobarefoot EVO II running shoes to wear during the winter, and fell in love with the feel of those. (Donald also has a review of those shoes on his blog ) So, much to my wife’s dismay I purchased a pair of black Vivobarefoot Dharmas to wear as my everyday work/dress shoes.

I have worn them for about a week now and I have to say, I absolutely love them. Here’s a breakdown:


  • Roomy forefoot allow your toes to move freely
  • Thin yet durable sole provides great ground feel, particularly with the insoles removed
  • Styling can pass for nice work shoes with slightly moccasin-like styling
  • Faux carbon fiber trim panel on the heel counter (Bitchin!)
  • Comfortable without socks


  • Expensive. Like really, expensive. Ouch. Use that coupon code people
  • Looks a bit like moccasins with the seam running down the middle of the upper (this may not appeal to some)
  • Construction quality. This may end up being nothing, but with my pair, there are a few loose looking threads that are visible when the insole is removed.
  • Heel biting. On my right foot, the heel tends to dig into my achilles tendon a bit. I think this is something particular to Vivobarefoot shoes and my feet as I have the same problem with my EVO II shoes, and only on my right side. Probably not a problem for most
  • Toe lift. The forefoot has a bit of a toe rocker which lifts my toes off the ground when I'm standing. This detracts from the barefoot feel a bit while standing but isn’t really a big deal while walking or running

Overall, I'm really happy with them and highly recommend them for anyone looking for work shoes that give a nice minimalist feel. And with the coupon code from they are a pretty good deal.

Finding the groove


I wrote the following post on the road about a month ago and had given it up for lost as I had typed it out on my Blackberry which I replaced on that trip due to battery issues.

I'm in Washington D.C. for a week on a work related trip, and before I came out I mapped out a little route that turned out to be one of the most interesting runs I've done to date.

Before I left, I checked online to see if there were any good places to run near where I'm staying in Silver Spring. The first thing that caught my eye when I pulled up google maps was Rock Creek park, pretty much the only sizable chunk of green in the District other than the National Mall. The northern tip of the park was only about three-quarters of a mile from my hotel and the southern end includes the National Zoo and is close to the Adams Morgan/Connecticut Ave area. I immediately thought, "I should run that." I would set out from my hotel and run the length of the park down to about the zoo and then take the red line back. All told, a little less than 6.5 miles. No sweat.

Never mind the Park Service warnings not to go through the park without a partner because of the risk of muggings. (They did find Chandra Levy's remains 9 years ago in that park) Never mind that I knew nothing of the trail and what kind of terrain or elevation there might be. Also never mind that I've never run that far before. NEVER. Not in my youth, not in the days when Andrea and I were regular gym rats, never. None of it mattered. It looked like fun, and that was the end of that. Anything that came up, I would just roll with it.

I waited until 1, giving enough time for the temps to climb out of the 50s but leaving plenty enough time before dark in case my body imploded and I had to gimp my way out. I started out relatively slow, mindful of the personal best I would be setting in distance. Two minutes in I began to have doubts as I worked my way through the hilly neighborhoods on the way to the park. A series of climbs followed by what felt like never ending slow descents made me realize, "if the whole route is like this, I'm screwed." My quads would be fried easily by the half way mark, and once the fatigue set in I'd end up pounding my feet into paste as my form deteriorated.

Thankfully the elevation settled down once I reached the park itself. And, aside from a few bastards who somehow managed to get their cars in, West Beach Rd., which runs the length of the park was closed to motor vehicles as it typically is on weekends. The wide open park road, coupled with the sad fact that I'd probably get my dumb butt lost if I ran on the actual trails, convinced me to stick to the paved road since I didn't want to be pulling my phone out every 20 minutes to make sure I was on the right path.

I made the fool mistake of checking my distance about 1.5 miles into the park. After that, every step felt futile as doubt crept in and told me that I wasn't even a quarter of the way done and my legs were already starting to get tired. I made a deal with myself: run out a 5k and get a little break. I'm not sure if that made things better or worse as each step seemed to cry "are we there yet? Are we there yet?" I pushed myself through what felt like an eternity (but was in fact only one mile) and took a short breather walk.

I checked my blackberry, answered a couple of messages from Andie and pulled up google maps. I was pleased as punch to discover that I was past the halfway point for my initially planned out route. I decided I could totally do the rest of the distance to the Zoo. I set off, and
about five minutes in things just started to click into place. I settled into a comfortable rhythm and began enjoying more of the scenery around me. I did a little people watching. Said "Hi" to all the black squirrels on the path. My feet seemed pretty comfortable just wheeling along under me. At one point, after stopping to check directions on my blackberry for a second time, I just figured "screw it, I feel like I can go all day at this pace." Either I would find the zoo or I would run out of park. Which happened first I didn't much care.

I managed to keep moving until I reached one of the east entrances to the National Zoo and felt good enough to attempt to run through to
the Connecticut Ave. entrance. I failed, as it's basically one big hill, but managed to make it about half way for about 1/4 mile of extra unlogged distance before I had to walk the rest of the way. I grabbed some water and Gatorade and a Cliff bar to rehydrate and refuel a little before heading back. As I rode the Metro back to my starting point I took stock of the day's run: 6.74 miles, 1:19 at a 11:50 pace (according to my sportband at least). Not bad, although not great. We'll have to work on that pace.


My ankles were sore for about 4 days after that run, and I didn't feel confident enough to run again for about a week after, a sure sign that
I totally overdid it (which I could have predicted before the run) but overall I felt pretty good. I have since done distances almost as long
and just completed a 10k on Thanksgiving which I followed up with a 5k job the following Sunday. Slowly but surely I'm increasing my distance. But more rewarding to me is that I'm learning to tune into the run, listen to my body and find the rhythm and the flow of that particular run, which dramatically increases the enjoyment. Still not very fast, but I'm praising myself for showing up and for finishing. That is enough for me right now.

Arches? We don't need no stinking arches!

I have what I believe are clinically referred to as flexible flat feet. When standing almost my entire foot comes to rest on the ground, but when I flex my foot, a natural arch appears. Or at least they used to. Since I started running in minimalist footwear I have noticed that the arches of my feet have slowly become more distinct. I would show you in a pic but, I think that one pic of my ugly feet is all the web can bear for now. You'll have to take my word on it.

About the time I started to notice the strengthening of my arches, I also noticed that when I stand, my ankles would have a tendency to kind of crash in medially which would flatten out my feet.

Brittany Zimmerman 5k

photo of Brittany Zimmerman 

This past Saturday Andie and I participated in the inaugural Brittany Zimmerman Memorial 5k run/walk down on the shore of Lake Mendota in Madison. Despite some first year teething on the part of the event organizers and some chilly, breezy weather, about 350 of us came out to support Madison Area Crimestoppers and the Zimmerman family. All in all a good time had by all.

Dog Jog 2010

The rain stopped this morning just long enough for the 2010 Madison Dog Jog. The event is an annual fundraiser for the UW School of Veterinary Medicine. The funds go to humane organizations that participate in the vet school's spay/neuter program for shelter animals. It's also the very first organized running event that my wife Andrea and I have participated in.

The dog jog is a nice little two mile run/walk around the park north of the UW hospital near University Bay. The fun, and challenging, part is that it's an event most people do with their dog(s). That means that the course also includes speeding labrador avoidance exercises, poop stops, and detours so your dog can mark every vertical surface along the route. We brought our two Shiba Inus, Hachiko and Inari with us (Hachi's on the right) . After some thought I gave Hachi to Andie because he knows how to walk and run properly on a leash so she wouldn't have to fight him the whole way. That meant that I got Inari, our almost 8 month old puppy who has boundless energy and doesn't quite understand "heel" yet. For just a two miler I found running it out fairly challenging because I had to devote so much concentration and energy to controlling the 15 pound pinball I had on the end of my leash, that I had a hard time running with good form. Also not helping was the fact that I forgot to attach my Nike+ sensor to my huaraches so as it was bouncing around in my jacket pocket it was only recording half the distance travelled, leading me to believe that we had waaaay farther to go that we actually did. I know this affected Andrea's mood a bit, but she stuck it out and pushed hard all the way to the end. I found the finish line a pleasant surprise as I had downshifted to conserve energy. When I was told by one of the volunteers along the route that we were almost done I managed to find the energy to sprint the last 100 meters across the finish line.

Lessons learned: take the time to set up any gear you're brining along, and train the little one to run properly on a leash before the next dog friendly event.

All in all, a good time and I am so proud of Andrea for how well she did. Thanks to all the other participants and I'm sorry if my dog was a little shit to your dog.

Slow down, you're moving too fast


My calves, it seems, like to sing a little Simon and Garfunkel from time to time.

One of the principal challenges faced by most runners who embrace barefoot or minimalist running is the transition to a new running form. Barefoot running forces encourages a mid/forefoot landing coupled with quicker, shorter strides. This loads muscles and connective tissues in ways that the body is not accustomed to if one has historically used a longer, heel-strike running form. Ask anyone who has tried barefoot running, or read any blog on the topic, and you will invariably see some comment about muscle pain in the calf, and sometimes some tenderness in the tendons and ligaments in the foot. Even elite ultradistance runners who regularly run in more minimalist shoes experience the trademark burning calves when they switch to footwear that more closely emulates barefoot running.

The obligatory gear post


As a self professed minimalist/barefoot runner, I have already begun to get questions about what kind of shoes I wear (we'll get to the irony of that in a minute). So, I figured I'd take a moment to get those questions out of the way and talk a little bit about my thoughts on running gear in general.

Beginning at the beginning

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, or so goes the overused, often misattributed, and possibly mistranslated quote by Lao Tzu. But there it is, and I think its use is fitting here. In my case, the journey began with a single mile. Specifically, a mile on a treadmill, in a basement, barefoot.

It started off quite typically really. I had been on the road for over a week for work, and between sitting through lectures for ten hours each day, massive quantities of food, beers in the evenings at the hotel bar, and a wedding thrown in for good measure, I swore I could feel my ass get bigger by the minute as I sat through yet another day of trainings. I had packed a pair of running shoes for my trip, and the hotel had a fitness center. So, like any good American I decided I would go down and run off the bacon and eggs, turkey sandwich with chips, baby back ribs and pint of beer I had wolfed down that day. One mile should do it right?