Shoes and Socks, By Request

A few weeks ago, at Relay for Life, a couple of my adult students asked me about blisters.  One of them had been walking all night, and had blisters on her feet.  She wanted to know how to get rid of them.  I told her that I couldn’t help once she had blisters, but that I could help her prevent them the next time.image2

In my first few years of trail racing, I suffered from many blisters, especially after running in the wet, and from a few lost toenails.  The solution to both of these problems is shoes and socks.  I could go on forever about the need for the least amount of shoe possible, and the need to stay away from the evil marshmallow shoes, but that’s a topic for another day. You can read here  how to find the best fit.  Most people are surprised to find that their shoes are really too small. The easiest way to fit shoes, is to know that you need to be able  to fit the width of your thumb between the end your your big toe and the front tip of your shoe. image4

And socks.  Forget everything you were taught about white cotton athletic socks.  Cotton is about the worst material for socks, as it holds water, from sweat, rain, or puddles, and then all that wet fabric rubs against your skin and makes blisters.  And white socks just look silly, especially tall ones. Socks should be either black to hide the trail dirt, or the brightest colors you can find (personal preference :D).  And they should never be made of cotton.  Wicking polyester is good, along with nylon, spandex, and a bit of acrylic.  I like thin socks, thick ones ruin ground feel. Here are some examples of good socks.  img_3326

Please try not to buy your socks in 12 packs at a big box store.  The price seems good, but they will wear out quickly, give you blisters, and slide down into your shoes (I hate that!!!). Better to spend a bit more money and buy good socks.  There are a few nice Coolmax socks to be had at the local big box, but this is my favorite place to buy socks.  Sign up for the mailing list, they send coupons. These black socks are my favorites for running, and the blue ones for biking.  They are both made by Wigwam (in the USA).  My favorite socks for karate, and just walking around, are the Smartwools pictured at the top of this post.

img_3324

So, find yourself some great socks, and some well fitting shoes.  Then go outside and play!  The weather is still pretty nice.

 

DIY Shoes!

I have always liked sandals, but since I started wearing more minimalist shoes, my Birkenstocks have felt too heavy, with too much arch.  So I tried different sorts of flip-flops, but I really like my shoes to fit tightly to my feet, and the sloppy fit drove me nuts.  I may have found the solution:  DIY sandals from Xero Shoes.

Xero Shoes makes very DIY kits that require you to cut your own footbed, and a less crafty kit that comes with pre-cut soles.  That’s the option I went with.

IMG_0573

The kit came by mail in just two days.  It includes pre-cut soles, laces, a leather punch, and a little brochure.

IMG_0577

The first step is to figure out where you need the laces to come thru from the bottom.

IMG_0578

Then you punch the holes with a hammer and the included punch.  The directions suggested putting a magazine under the soles before punching.  That was a good idea since the holes the punch made in the magazine would have been much worse in the floor!

The next step is to pull the lace thru the toe hole.  The kit had a bobby pin in it to help with this.

IMG_0581

There are directions on the website for basic lacing that can start many different lacing methods.

IMG_0583

I first tried the lacing style that Xero Shoes uses for their custom kits (you can send them a tracing of your foot, and have your sandals delivered pre-made). But that still seemed like a sloppy fit.

IMG_0585

So I spent some time on You Tube, and found some gladiator-style lacing that I like.

IMG_0588

This seems comfortable, and they stay put on my feet when I walk around.  Anna thinks that it will be a pain to tie them every time I put them on, but that’s no different than what I have to do with sneakers or boots. I’ll keep you posted.  Now, put something on your feet (or not if you prefer) and go play outside!

No Such Thing As Too Many Shoes

Runners love shoes, but sometimes the relationship is a little bit complicated.  First, you need to have more than one pair of running shoes, in case one is wet.  Putting on wet shoes does not make for happy feet.  Then you need an old pair for stuff like painting or raking leaves.  It’s hard to throw away old shoes, this lengthens their life a bit. And you need a pair that’s sort of waterproof  for wet days.  And once your feet have experienced the comfort of running shoes, you never want to wear anything else, so you need at least one pair of neat ones in case you have to pretend to be a grown-up. If you have a favorite shoe, the company will always discontinue it, so you have to have  one pair waiting in a box for when you need it. And then there are lucky shoes for racing that must be protected at all costs.

My journey to shoe minimalism started about a year ago.  (That means shoes that are less, NOT fewer shoes!!) The first pair I tried was Fila Skele-toes.  I decided I definitely don’t like toe shoes.  Then I bought a pair of Merrell Trail Gloves, and fell in shoe love.  Like the name says, these shoes fit like a glove.  They are low to the ground, have good ground feel, and wrap securely around the top of your feet.  These have become my go-to shoes.  I have a couple of pairs for running, a couple of variations for walking around in, and a clean, indoor pair for wearing on the floor at work. I even have some Merrell flip-flops that stay secure on my feet (I hate it when my shoes slide around).

However, much as I love my Merrells, they are not a great shoes when the trails are muddy or covered in wet leaves.  So last spring I tried a pair of Vivobarefoot  Breatho Trail shoes. They have a very barefoot feel, and the soles are very grippy, but I really don’t like them.  Like I said before, there is nothing more aggravating than shoes that slide around on your feet.  These slide, a lot.  I can’t lace them up tight enough to fit well on the middle part of my feet.  And a size smaller would be too short.  So I guess they will just live in the closet.  If anybody wants to try minimalist shoes, and has wider feet than me, let me know, and you can have them.

One problem with wearing minimalist shoes, is that you feet get used to them, and don’t want to wear anything else.  Anna thinks this is great, and has been shoe shopping in my closet!  I guess this could also bee seen as an opportunity to get more new shoes 😉   ( Check out my previous post to read about my discovery of Inov-8 boots.)  Finding Inov-8 solved the problem of running in mud and wet.  These shoes are called Bare Grip 200.  They have no midsole at all and no drop, but have an almost cleat-like bottom.  They grip securely in the mud, wet leaves, loose rocks, and snow.  The last two days have been my best runs since the leaves fell down this fall!  Minimalist shoes are very low to the ground and if there is any wet on the trail, you end up with soggy feet. That’s fine in the summer, but cold, wet feet in the winter is not  very nice.  So the next project is to find some kind of waterproof socks.  Challenge accepted!!

Let’s go shoe shopping!

Running is supposed to be an easy sport to get into.  All you need is a pair of shoes, and clothes to run in, no other equipment (ya right!  but that will be another post).  But with changes in shoe technology, fashion, running science, and lots of (sometimes not so polite) opinions, shopping for running shoes can be pretty stressful.

When Roger Bannister ran his historic four minute mile, the shoes he wore were about as minimalist as you could get.  As a matter of fact, except for the spikes, they looked like ballet slippers. I ran on and off from the time I was a kid, and until I was in my mid 20’s, I always ran in whatever sneakers I had at the time.  I don’t remember ever having any running related injuries from my not-so-specialized shoes.

I bought my first pair of running specific shoes in the late 1980’s.  I bought what was advertised as the best new running technology, the Nike Air Max.  This shoe was supposed to offer all the best in cushioning and support.  At the time I had young, healthy joints, and weighed all of 115 pounds.  Why did I need such a huge, bulky shoe?  Because that’s what the experts said would prevent injury.  Over the next few years, I developed foot pain, and experimented with many different brands and styles of shoes, eventually adding arch support insoles, not only to my running shoes, but to everything I put on my feet.  I even put arch supports in the wrestling shoes I wore on the karate floor!

When I first started running trails, there were very few trail-specific shoes being offered.  After much experimentation, I settled on the addidas Terrain Lite. This was one of the lightest tail shoes offered, and the uppers were made of mesh so they drained easily.  But, you’ll notice, even though they were called “Lite”, they were still very bulky shoes. Even with my great shoes, I suffered injuries to feet, knees, and hips.  Not a great advertisement for shoe technology!!

Fast foward a few years, and I stumbled onto a website called Mark’s Daily Apple.  Here I learned about a great new idea called Minimalist Running.  Mark’s favorite shoes seem to be Vibram Five Fingers, which I thought looked really odd, but anything that reduces injury was worth a try.  The Vibrams seemed pretty expensive, so instead I tried a pair of Fila Skele-toes:  same idea, much cheaper.  My feet were much happier closer to the ground with a wide toe box.  However, I like socks, and they are hard to wear with toe shoes.  But this started my journey to less bulky shoes.  The first change was to wearing soft, Kung Fu shoes for karate, and taking the insoles out of my running shoes.

When I deided to try running in minimalist shoes, I realized that there was a lot of conflicting information out there. I found great info  from Dr. Mark Cucuzzella at  The Natural Running Center.  I decided to try the Merrell Barefoot Trail glove.  It was a great choice, light and soft, with a wide toe-box, and a snug fit around the heel (I hate it when my shoes slide around during a run!)  I like these shoes so much that I bought 2 pairs to rotate for running, and a pair for work that I use to teach karate, and cardio kickboxing.  I’ve run a little on the road with them when our demo team marches in parades, but I’m primarily a trail runner and they are great.

Seth (who loves to go barefoot) was interested in some minimalist shoes for running and parkour.  He’s always run in New Balance, and is very happy with his New Balance Minimus Trail shoes.  The most common reaction I get when people see my shoes is “Do you really run in those?  Do they have any support?”  The answers are Yes and then No.  Or people tell me they could never even walk without their insoles or prescription orthotics.  Check out the the links in my sidebar, and do some learning about how are feet were designed to run.  Then step out of your comfort zone (pun intended) and free your feet!