Thursday, June 18, 2015

Shamma Sandals - Warrior Review

Well, this review is really long overdue.  Strap in, internet!  The ride won't be bumpy, but safety first and all...

A nice gentleman from Shamma contacted me back in August of last year and asked if I would like a trial pair of sandals for review.  (That's a disclaimer, folks.  The footwear was free.)  Of course I said yes.  My experience with huraches is limited, consisting of a pair of Invisible Shoes (before they were Xero Shoes), a pair of sandals crafted with a friend from a motorcycle tire (a blog post I started, but never finished), and a pair of ill conceived sandals from another company (out of respect I won't name them here) that were sent for review and literally could not be attached to feet because of the lacing system they used.  I hacked those up and crafted traditional lacing for them and still wear them from time to time, including running. The sole material on those is 10mm Vibram newflex, so I was jazzed up to get a much thinner sole from Shamma.

I'm kind of a jerk for taking so long to review them, but I got them at the end of my running season and was only able to put a few miles on them before short daylight hours and icy cold hit Minnesota.  I know that some of you reading this might be tough and run in the snow barefoot or with sandals.  More power to you, but forget that noise.  I also don't run much in the dark around our place after a close encounter with a skunk, and because I'm a grown-up and I do what I want!  The nice thing is that I have nearly a year of wear on them so I feel like that is a good review.

This review is limited to the Warrior model from Shamma.  From Shamma's website:  The Warriors are a minimalist’s runners dream. The Warriors are our thinnest sandals. They are light and flexible with an aggressive tread that keeps you agile and surefooted. These sandals are ideal for technical trail running and uneven terrain, where ground-feel is key.

The Specs:
The soles are 5mm Vibram Newflex.  They have a glued on goat-leather footbed that is super soft.  (Love that new glue smell when you open the package!)  The lacing system starts with a plug at the toe so there isn't a knot at the bottom of the sandal.  The majority of the lacing system is 11/16" wide tubular nylon webbing with hook and loop closure.  The heel strap has a suede material wrap to prevent rubbing.  I find that it is a little grippy too, helping the strap to stay put.  There is also a plastic buckle to help you position the strap where you want it at the top of your foot. 

When they contacted me for a review, I had still been running, but hadn't done any races in a long time.  (I'm still not fast, if you were wondering.)  However, I was planning on doing a local 5K in September and I got the sandals the week of the race.  I figured that a minimalist sandal should be the kind of footwear that you can strap on and start running without having to worry about how the footwear will affect you.  In that spirit, I only put the sandals on once before the race to get the straps set.  I did not run in them at all before the race.

The First Run:
The local run is the Stagecoach 5K.  It runs through town (population ~1,200) and includes an out/back on a gravel road.  There is a lot of hills.  Surfaces were new smooth asphalt, old and beat up asphalt, gravel, and dirt (part of the course went through some road construction).  The varied surfaces were nice so I could test them all in the first (sandals right out of the package) run.

The run starts on an immediate sharp downhill, then makes a 90 degree turn to the right to head back uphill.  My feet did not slip at all on the shiny new leather, and I was able to make the turn at full speed with no problem.  I say full speed, but that is full speed for me (~6 min mile).  The next uphill section is slightly worn asphalt, and that surface continues until about 1.25 miles, where the course turns to gravel for an out/back section.  The gravel road includes one moderate hill, and then a long gradual uphill to the turn around.  The road was hard packed with loose gravel here and there along the tread lines, but was thicker loose gravel toward the edge.

I started out on the hard packed areas, but the random loose stones were difficult when I couldn't avoid them.  By about 3/4 of the way out on the gravel, I moved to the edge of the road where there was all gravel and no hard-pack.  That was a great improvement.  I would love to try these out on a trail run with big rocks instead of gravel, but I haven't had the chance yet.

As I got to the turn around at the top of the hill, I had to stop and tighten the straps on the sandals.  The heel strap was sliding down as they broke in a little.  If there is one thing I have found with securing these sandals, it is to tighten them to the point they feel almost uncomfortable when you are standing, and they will be perfect as you run.  I'll chalk this problem up to me not getting used to them at all before the race and not understanding how tight they needed to be.  As I was tightening the straps I think I counted off 30 seconds or so in my head.
Poetry in Motion.  A glorious sight to behold.

The rest of the race is flat or downhill.  Awesome way to finish a race in my opinion!  It was in this last portion that we hit the road construction areas.  That included stepping down from cut off streets into the work areas and back up out of the work area to asphalt.  A nice test because one of the issues I've had running in sandals is catching the front edge when stepping up and ending up gracefully slamming to the ground.  Not a problem with these sandals.  Even though the sole is supremely flexible, it is not floppy and comes up nicely with your toes.

I finished the race at 25 minutes flat.  My fastest 5K time ever!  In this picture you can see how I beat the gentleman behind me by apparently elbowing him and laughing my way to the finish.  Thanks to all my sponsors:  Shamma Sandals, bananas, and water.
A dramatic fight for 12th place.
So, what do I think about these sandals?  I love them.  I've worn them all over the place.  Walked in them on trails and around the yard.  I've run a lot of miles in them with no issues.  They are wearing very little, even though most of my running has been asphalt trails.  I've worked in the garden with them on and had them so caked with mud I had to spray them off with the hose.  I dried them in the sun and the leather and strapping didn't harden up.  The leather footbed has taken on the shape of my foot and they fit even better because of it.

If you are looking for a pair of sandals to run in, the Shamma Warriors are a great choice. (Click the link.  Their pictures are better than mine.)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Exercise and Depression

Last night, I realized I had been in a bad mood for about a week.  Busy at work, some sick kids at home, blah, blah, blah.  You've been there too.  I couldn't put my finger on a specific reason, I just felt like kicking someone.  Then my wife said "You were snoring last night".  Don't worry, I didn't kick her.  But it made me realize my problem.  When I don't exercise (also, when you don't exercise) my brain starts to shut down.  We are made to MOVE!  This is documented in medical literature, as well as thousands of running and exercise books, blogs, movies, fliers, and pamphlets.  My last run was on October 27, when I was still in Phoenix!  I had gotten zero exercise since that time.  I have been trying to catch up on work stuff, including hiring a new staff member and had generally just been lazy.  Problem noted.  Now to solve it.

After we got the boys in bed last night I went out to run my 3 mile loop.  I felt so good after the first half mile that I ended up going 5 miles.  I could have kept going, but it was getting late and I knew my wife would be heading to bed soon so I went home.  I feel better today than I have in two weeks.

I just did a quick search on PubMed - the depository for all things related to human research.  Searching for "exercise and depression" yielded 9500+ hits.  Searching "exercise improves depression" still hit 273 times.

What does it all mean?  If you feel bad, get off your ass.  It is as simple as that.  Even just going for a walk around the block will improve your mood a great deal.

Run on, Runners!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Rae's Run Across America

Just wanted to tell you all about one of the coolest things I've ever heard of.  Maybe you already know about it but I just found out.  There's a young woman from Iowa spending her Summer running across the U.S. to raise money for Soles4Soles, a charity that donates shoes to poverty stricken and disaster victims around the world.  Her name is Rae, and she is officially awesome.

She started her journey in April, and I saw a Facebook post today that she was only a day away from Iowa.  This is an amazing undertaking, but even more amazing is that she is running it BAREFOOT!

She has a website that will give you all the info.  There is a Facebook page as well with pictures of her journey and updates.

How can you help Rae?  Donate!  You can help her out directly (a girl's got to eat and ramen noodles aren't going to cut it), you can donate to Soles4Soles, or you could let her stay at your house for a night.  Her website has all the info you need, and here's a link to her nightly stops.  If you are on the route, consider helping her out.  She might need a shower and a little foot rub at the end of the day.

Rae will be hitting my hometown of Denison, Iowa on the 9th of July.  I wish I could be down there to run with her but I can't make it happen, so I'm donating to her cause.  I hope you will help out if you can!

Great work, Rae!  You are an inspiration to be sure.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

2012 Med City Half Marathon Review

About a year ago my wife and I were walking around a city park pushing son #1 in the stroller.  She was pregnant with son #2 and I had been running about two months.  The 2011 Minnesota Warrior Dash was about a month away and we were chatting about it.  I was surprised about how much I had improved already and I mentioned that maybe a half-marathon would be possible in the future.  It was a thought that would have been impossible not long before.

Fast forward to May 27th, 2012 and I'm in the pack for the Med City run, along with a few other barefooters (Christian, Katie, Jane, Nicole, and Bob)!  This would be my longest run ever, on a hot day, when I was already dealing with a little pain in my foot.  Here we go!

The Med City starts in Byron, MN and follows a hilly county highway to Rochester where you hop on some blacktop trails of varying age.  Some as smooth as butter, some not so smooth.  At mile twelve the half marathon and marathon routes diverge.  As hot as it was that morning, I was glad to take the right turn to the finish, rather than the left turn for another 14 miles.  Let's not get ahead of ourselves though.

Standing at the start was a little chilly, but the skies were clear so the sun would be on us soon.  Christian entertained us with his Schwartzenegger impression and we discussed the finer points of peeing in the woods.  We also stood and chatted with some other runners about barefooting and one lady was pretty interested.  She told us that she had a pair of Vibrams but her feet were very sore after her first run.  After we found out that she went two miles her first time out in them, we gave her some tips and ideas to get her started right.  I hope she tries them out.

We got started and were sticking around a 10:20 pace for the first miles.  By one mile in, the heat was already on us.  We kept at an easy pace and headed out into the open countryside.  I was feeling good, with just a little pain in the top of my right foot.  The weird thing about it was that it didn't hurt all the time.  I had it taped with Kineso Tape, trying to ward off extra pain and swelling.  Even though that tape is usually magic, it didn't provide much relief in this case.  The other thing I was wondering about was my food intake before the race.  At my last race (a 5K in February) I had eaten some oatmeal pre-race and it sat in my stomach like a rock, eventually leading to stitches in my side that forced me to walk.  Pretty lame for a 5K.  For this run, I tried a banana, Snicker's Marathon bar, and a Red Bull.  It was a lot of sugar, but seemed to be OK.  No problems with side pain and no stomach upset from the sugar.

We had a little break at about three miles while Katie and Jane hit the porta-potties and we were off again.  The first seven miles are pretty straight but a little hilly.  After mile seven, the course is nearly flat to the finish.  I was feeling fine at the first water stop so I skipped that one.  Not sure if that was good or bad.  I had two or three cups at each stop after that, but I still ended up five pounds lighter at the end of the race.

Nicole ran ahead down the last hill around mile 7 and took a picture of four running hobos with no shoes. (L to R: Me, Bob, Christian, Katie)

Responses to a pack of four with no shoes on were varied, but mostly supportive.  In fact I only heard one negative comment the whole time.  Usually people would shout their support and approval, and then follow it up with "I could never do that!"  Funny, I used to say the same thing.  No one even mentioned Bob's kilt.  I guess kilts are mainstream.

By about mile six we fell in with the 2:30 pacer group and alternated passing them and getting passed.  At about mile nine, my feet started to get a little tender on the bottom.  I wasn't hitting many rocks or other debris, but the pavement was warm and starting to get rougher and I was getting a little tired.  I got a bump of energy at about mile 10.5 when we passed my wife, my boys, and a few in-laws who were waiting to cheer me on.  It was this point in the race that I knew I would finish with no trouble, but I was ready to be done!

About mile 10.5

We hit the mile 12 aid station and stopped for a picture before Bob and Nicole headed for the second half of the marathon.  Katie, Christian and I walked about 100 yards and took off for the finish.  My feet were pretty tender by this point, but I didn’t have much trouble as long as I kept moving. 

Mile 12 Aid Station.

The half marathon course follows around Silver Lake in Rochester before heading South to the Civic Center for the finish. As you pass Silver Lake you cross over 7th Street.  It was at this point that someone on a bike wearing a vest rode past me on the course.  The vest said “Lead Biker”.  I thought to myself, “Huh.  I guess maybe there is more than one lead biker, and this guy’s shift is over.”  That’s when I was overtaken by a flash of red as the Marathon winner ran by me.  Embarrassing?  No.  Humbling?  Absolutely.  I guess I need some more practice.  He finished the marathon three minutes ahead of me.

Coming in to the finish.

My family made it from the park to the finish line to wave me in and I finished in an official time of 2:31:12.  My longest run ever by one mile and my first half marathon.  I grabbed a handful of orange slices and a bottle of water and stood around chatting with my barefoot compatriots.  There is really nothing like orange slices after a run in the heat.  Christian was pounding muscle milk and discussing his work capacity across time and modal domains.  You should ask him about it sometime.

I found my family and made a mistake.  I sat down for a couple minutes.  My feet were ungodly sore when I stood up to walk to my car.  No cuts or bruises, just really tender.  I hobbled to the Jeep and made it home for a nice Memorial Day weekend with the family that included a little Gatorade, a lot of water, a large amount of green salad, pork loin on the smoker, drinking beer, brewing beer, and generally lazing around.

Still smiling at the finish.

Me and my boys.

No post would be complete without telling you what I learned so here it is.
1.      Hydration.  Even though there were aid stations every two miles I really could have used an extra drink or two in-between, especially towards the end.  Next time I might bring some extra with me if it is going to be so hot.  Also, don’t skip an aid station.  Just grab a drink and go.  I also learned the “fold the cup” technique so the liquid goes in your mouth instead of down your chest.  Very handy.
2.      Pre-race food.  I think my banana, Marathon bar, Red Bull combo worked nicely.  Plenty to get me through the distance, but not so much that it was sitting in my gut.  I usually drink coffee in the morning, but that didn’t sound good pre-race.  Plus, I hear that Red Bull gives you wings.
3.      Run with a friend.  It’s more fun and the miles go quicker.

Run on, Runners!

*Edit:  I forgot to say thanks to all the volunteers staffing the aid stations!  You folks are awesome!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bare Feet and the Brain

Here's an interesting point of view by The Gait Guys.  I'm into brain research/training in the course of my clinical practice, so this was nice to see.  They give some of the rationale I use for no longer advising orthotics as we (and Podiatrists) are taught in school.  I don't just tell everyone with back pain to wear a back brace all day, so why give people with foot pain as a first line of defense?  We start now with foot strengthening and mobilization.  Some people will need orthotics in the end, but better to avoid them if possible.

They also briefly mention children and footwear.  Finding protective footwear that is functional is starting to be a little difficult for our toddler.

Neurodevelopment of the Barefoot Brain

To sum it up: if you don't use it, you lose it.  (You can, however, work to get it back!)

This is a picture of the sensory homunculus that is mentioned in the article.  The homunculus is how body parts are represented in the brain.  If they are large in the homunculus, they are well represented in the brain.  The picture is from  Not sure if it is his or he linked to it too, but at least know you know I didn't just steal it!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Jason Robillard's ABC's of Barefoot Running - With Video!

So, I've been on a hiatus for two months now.  What have I been doing?  The list is actually pretty short:
  1. Adjusting to having two kiddos at home instead of one. (Change is hard for me, even when I love my kids.)
  2. Trying to learn how to not be flustered by change.
  3. Working.
  4. Running.
  5. Playing Xbox (Batman: Arkham City - thanks to my wife for the b-day present!)
  6. Annoying my wife by playing Xbox and a sometimes surly attitude.
  7. Apologizing to my wife for the annoyance.
I realize both of my readers have been wondering when I would get back to posting again so lets do this!

In true lazy form this post is just pirated info and a link!  A few months ago I did a post on the ABC's of barefoot running as presented by Jason Robillard.  Now there's a video!

Check out the video for a visual "how-to" and get started today!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bare Feet!

Just a quick update on what I did today.  Baby boy #2, Liam, was born at 11:18 this morning.  He and mama are doing very well!

Welcome Liam!  We are glad you are finally here!