Thursday, December 29, 2011

Winter Traction

I was recently asked what I did about winter traction for my moccasins.  The short answer is absolutely nothing. The long answer is that the unhindered foot has several features to enhance traction without the use of a firm lugged sole.  There are of course limits, stiff soles and crampons were invented for a good reason, and are quite useful in managing slick slopes.  My friend that lives on the side of a mountain uses Yaktrax over sandals over warm wool socks, but I live in the city, in a flat part of the country, where my own badly shoveled front steps is the worst hazard I'll have to face.

My shod footprint
First of all, the foot is designed for decent traction in mud, wet grass, and wet rocks.  Despite not having any traction features on the sole of my shoe, it is flexible enough to telegraph some of the traction features of my own foot.  You can see in the footprint above the five little "cleats" in the front, and the larger one in the back.  That picture was taken with my shoes on, I'm not crazy enough to barefoot in the snow, although you might think it from my footprints.

A man climbs a tree barefoot with no harness or traction devices

Secondly, the more uneven the terrain, the more useful the flexible features of the foot.  Where a stiff soled shoe skates over the top of a bump or hole, the flexible foot wraps around that feature and uses the full surface of the foot for traction.  The flexible soled moccasin allows the foot to wrap around surface contours almost as well as if it was bare.

A sliding foot

The third feature of the moccasin is the flexible ankle.  Once you start sliding in a stiff boot, the angle of your leg quickly becomes steep enough to lift part of the boot off the ground, leaving you with only one edge of your shoe in contact with the ground, and most of the traction features of the shoe in the air, making it quite likely that the little slip will turn into a bigger one and possibly a fall.  This problem has also caused me a couple turned ankles in "sensible shoes" when that angle became severe enough to cause gravity to pull me down on the side of the foot instead of re-centering after the misstep.  When you start sliding in a shoe that allows natural function of the ankle, the foot can remain flat on the ground and all the traction features remain in effect, increasing your chances of stopping the slide, or buying you time to shift your weight to the other foot.

When I'm feeling like I have a little less traction than normal, I do something counter-intuitive.  I oil the leather.  Now when you hit a patch of oil on the ground, it's liquid and slippery, but that baked on sticky oil on your dirty dishes, that stuff is what I'm after.  About an hour or two after applying leather oil, the oil is all absorbed or wiped off, and the surface of the leather is slightly tacky.  This helps a great deal on surfaces like wet linoleum.  Note that the skin of my bare foot is producing a similar light coat of oil keeping my flexible traction surface in good condition and giving me a little bit of tackiness on smooth surfaces.

So in short, moccasins do absolutely nothing for my winter traction, but telegraph the natural traction features of the foot while keeping my toes warm.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pucker Toe Mocs, Take 2

Last year's deerskin mocs took a beating, it's time for a new pair.

First, I improved the fit by starting with a mold of my feet, sliced according to the style I was aiming at.  I'm not real great at the pucker stitch, so I put the seam out close to the end of the toes.

Next, add necessary slices to flatten where the pucker stitching will go, transfer to paper, and average out the lines to match the historical pattern.
 Cut out draft 1, and fold in half.  Average out the two sides for draft two.

Check for irregularities, the pattern calles for wider sole pieces, so I narrowed up the tongue/vamp to match.
 Cuffs widened a lot.  Maybe next time will draw upper line straighter to come up more in the front.

The above pattern pieces cut and sewn. My whip stich is sloppy, so I don't turn the seam side in.  Most folks are too impressed with homemade footwear to know that it's not the authentic method.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November Update

Sometimes my calendar reminder goes off, reminding me to do a monthly update, and I just don't want to.  I've been hardly running lately, and that just does not look good in print.

First of all, I really paid for that harvest day, my shoulder and back were sore for several weeks.  On the good side, I bought a copy of the Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, and a lacross ball for each of my work/lounge areas.  This has really helped with short term relief, although I'm thinking again that I may want to recruit a professional to help me with this.

Mom died this month.  No, really, it's OK.  She loved the Lord and was in a lot of pain for a long time before she went home to see him.  But planning a major ceremony in three days, hosting four family events, and trying to cook with my sister are all stressful enough.  Fibromyalgia feeds on stress.  Thankfully I had a nice interstate drive with Dad, an old fashioned church service, great second cousins, and some pieces of nature to keep me on an even keel.  The shoulder was actually feeling pretty good by the time I got back home.

As a side note, Mom ate super-"healthy" her whole life since putting herself through nursing school, and was a big believer in conventional medicine.  She died of cancer that was inoperable because of heart disease.  This confirms what I believe about diet, which is that popular science still knows nothing, and I'm best off eating like my ancestors instead of like a lab rat.  There are plenty of under-publicized studies showing the problems with grains and veggie oils, I think in time the culture will catch up and affect the publishing bias.

My other compounding issue was that my running partner is in heat.  Hopefully this is her last one, we're planning to spay when she's two.  (Great Danes have enough growth issues without messing with their hormones before they're done growing.)  Being in heat means no leaving the yard, and definitely no walks.  Thankfully she's a bit more mature now than during the last one, and is pretty happy playing with her toys and not burning off energy, although she did go spastic when I moved the leash the other day.

I'm really annoyed at my low mileage lately, but I am encouraged that the few times I went out I did everything I wanted to do, didn't have to stop short because of aches and pains.  I could be making more major improvements if I got out a little more often.

How Asics Lost Me As A Customer

If you read my very first post about Minimalist Shoes, you already know that before this experiment I bought Asics every six months.  I'm still trying to find concrete info on the matter, but it seems that when I started seeing changes in the wear pattern on my shoes, and the reaction of my hip, may line up with when Asics "reinvented" their women's shoes.  They completely changed the cushioning, fit, and rumor says they increased the heel rise as well.  Wearing the old shoes wasn't helping me recover from my health issues, but wearing the new shoes made my health worse and kicked me into minimalisim with full force.

And no, finding other "supportive" shoes was not really an option.  I'd tried to find alternatives to Asics previously, and found only one other supportive shoe that (kind of) fits my foot, a cheap shoe that wore out every 4 months instead of 6.

I'm a little bit mad that Asics put me through a year of intense pain with these changes, but coming out the other side I'm grateful that I got my eyes opened to what supportive shoes were doing to my health, and allowed me to make the changes I needed to become a more active and healthy person.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I earlier made a post about Android DailyMile Apps, but left out the app I am now using. 

Tracks2Miles QRCode
MyTracks QRCode
Tracks2Miles is a helper app that uploads tracks recorded with MyTracks to DailyMile.  It seems like a lot of clicks to upload a workout, but you get the hang of it, and no more guessing at your milage or fumbling to remember the exact numbers as you switch apps.

I'm still playing with the MyTracks settings that best record the distance of a slow walk (too-frequent waypoints can make the track too long due to margin of error in recorded position, too-scares waypoints can make the track too short due to missing points on a curve) but am otherwise happy with the tool.  It allows entry in just as many DailyMile fields as the DailyMile mobile website.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

October Update

I've had two themes this month: "get up again" and "fitness".

Get Up Again
No matter how many sessions get skipped, how low my mileage is, today can be the start of a better week, this week can be the start of a better month, I just have to get up again, and get my workout done today.

"Fitness" has many more meanings than the most common usage.  The common meaning is "acceptable" or sometimes "healthy" but what' I'm after is "capable" , "ready", "adapted".  Fitness should enable me to be useful things that I could not do before.

Tuesday was a big deal for the community garden, we did the final harvest to bring in decorations for the church's harvest festival.  I rushed over after work and had an hour before sunset to clear the stand of corn and play find-the-surviving-gourds.  My billhook, freshly sharpened, sailed through the cornstalks.  A double twist and the corn stalk landed neatly stacked with the others in a pile just ahead or behind me.  At the end of the row three to four bundles lay waiting, and I hefted a bundle at a time to my shoulder and trotted off to the pavilion humming the refrain of an old hymn.

One Row down, three to go

Swinging away at the corn.  Note I'm wearing my homemade huaraches, which are great minimal shoes for warm wet conditions.

Bringing in the Sheaves

The cavalry (my dear hubby) arrived as I was working on the last row, and helped finish up.

My workouts to date have made my feet and lower legs stronger, making it pretty easy to stay on my feet and moving around for the full hour, but my core is still a bit lacking and all the twisting and lifting took a toll.  The next day I was incredibly stiff in the back, and when I tried to do Somatics Lesson One to loosen it, I was downright incapable of doing one of the moves.  The dear hubby came through again, and massaged out the problematic muscle so I could at least finish the exercise at a reduced amplitude.  I took a few days off of my exercise routine to recover.

It's been kinda rainy since, I really need to get in the habit of doing shovelglove on the days it's too miserable to enjoy outdoor walks, and get more of that core strengthening.

Today I get up again, and work to become more fit for service.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Another reason not to buy a breadmaker

The incredible shrinking hippocampus (and how to stop it)

It appears that using a GPS shrinks the hippocampus, which then can lead to poorer memory.  It's not a huge logical leap to think that this may apply to other convenience items that make it easier to get things done, but allow us to shut down and not mentally engage with them.

I occasionally get these fliers in the mail:

This is supposed to be an ad, something that attracts me to their establishment, but the large array of identical machines is rather scary to me.  It's an assembly line of fitness.  You walk into your place in the assembly line, with a bunch of strangers, staring at the back of another stranger, trying to artificially manufacture fitness.

What is fitness anyway?
Definition of FIT1
(1) : adapted to an end or design : suitable by nature or by art (2) : adapted to the environment so as to be capable of survivingb : acceptable from a particular viewpoint (as of competence or morality) : proper <a movie fit for the whole family>2
a : put into a suitable state : made ready <get the house fitfor company>b : being in such a state as to be or seem ready to do or suffer something <fair fit to cry I was — Bryan MacMahon><laughing fit to burst>3
: sound physically and mentally : healthy

Going to the gym may help you become acceptable from a particular viewpoint, but it has little to do with adapting you to your environment, or make you ready to do something practical.

Meanwhile, Cuisinart is trying to sell me this image:

Happy, carefree, easy cooking, so I have more time to go to the gym and get a sterile workout in a stall next to a bunch of strangers.

Here's one tip for saving yourself money, eating healthier, and getting some light exercise all in one shot: learn how to cook like your grandma did.  Get out the cutting board, and a potato, and learn how to make nice thin slices, and make up nice potato casserole from scratch, with real ingredients, not that weird chemistry set industrial food uses.  Want a bigger workout?  Learn how to can.  You can easily go to a U-pick farm in the morning, come home with a bushel or two of apples/peaches/pears by lunch, and spend the afternoon peeling, chopping, stewing, and canning, and you'll have those home canned preserves/applesauce/fruit pieces to enjoy all winter long.  No, you won't get the intensity that the sterile gym can provide, but you're going to be off your butt for most of the day, which may be healthier than exercise in the long run.

Further reading:

Friday, September 30, 2011

The long haul

To expand on my previous post about Morton's Foot, further discussion has re-emphasized this point: "Lee said it took him five years to fix his own Morton's Foot."

Five years...

Hopefully I'll see other improvements in the mean time, after all growth and change in the human body is incremental.  I need to keep this in mind though when I'm discouraged, that things may still be changing slowly and I need to be patient.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Alternative view of Morton's Foot

One of my coaches posted an alternative look at Morton's Foot, claiming that it can actually be cured by allowing the arches to flatten during barefoot running:
Yelling Stop: Achilles' Ankle and Lee Saxby

I'm not sure I entirely buy this, although I do have very high arches as well as Morton's foot. Morton's foot is also known as "Greek Toe" from all those Greek sandal-wearing statues that showed the longer second toe. Is there something about Greek sandals that promote high arches?

They Might Be Giants covers Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping”

The song is good enough to post twice, especially when sung by an already cool band:

They Might Be Giants covers Chumbawamba

Thursday, September 15, 2011

September Update

I get knocked down
But I get up again
You're never going to keep me down
Well, doc and I have reached a compromise.  Going for a less aggressive treatment that lets me stay on my feet.  He's even more anti-surgery now, if little doughnuts in my shoe are bothersome, surgical dressings might be considered a complication even if all goes perfectly.  Gonna see him in another three weeks, at which point I'm going to ask if I'm trustworthy enough to go longer between visits.  Been upping the Tai Chi this week, then tonight took my .6 mile stroll with the dog, and all feels well.  #1 priority right now, is to develop the habit of doing that every day.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Slow Going

The treatment for the wart on my foot is worse than the disease.  I've been off my feet for a week now, two more weeks before I see the doctor, and he wants to give this treatment a three month run.  I'll be backing off to minimal treatment, more like the package directions, less aggressive than what he discussed with me, and talking to him about it at my appointment.  (Package says to apply once every 10 days and no mechanical removal, he says apply daily with mechanical removal.)  Going from occasional pain when stepping on a rock in that one spot to not really able to walk at all is unacceptable.

The discussion group is not keeping my interest lately.  New shoes I will never wear, competitive training programs I will never run, high and mighty debaters of off-topic stuff I'm trying to stay out of...  I may have even missed replies to my posts in my delete-happy phases.  Not that any of my recent posts have been of any great value. 

I'll get over it.  24 hours after skipping a wart treatment I walked my regular .6 miles, and I hope to be more active over this coming long weekend.  Worst case, I will tell the doctor "no" and go back to having a very minor gait issue.  Most warts resolve themselves over time once the immune system finally wakes up.  I was making progress despite it, I have a lot of progress to go before that limitation is my major limitation.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Evolutionists don't own ancient man

Some minimalists and paleo dieters are rather scornful of creationists in their midst.  But instead of scorn, they should see the creationist as a strong ally in applying knowlege of ancient man to modern day human health issues.

The evolutionist paleo dieter says that man evolved rapidly before the paleolithic era, lived in utopia during the paleolithic era, and then has not really had enough time to evolve to a rapidly changing world since.  He must toe a narrow line about the speed and practicality of evolution. 

The creationist primitive man dieter says that God created man eactly as he is today.  Agriculture was a curse tossed upon man after he lost the utopia of the Garden of Eden, and he has not changed significantly since except in his collection of knowlege and tools. 

The premise of the existance of a creator God may not make sense to the evolutionist, but the resulting conclusions of the creationist are more strongly consistent with the idea that man has not changed since he lived in utopia, and may be well served by some of the eating and exercise habits of utopian men.

A word from Coach Gordo

We were discussing warmups on Minimalsit Runner, and I mentioned that I run slow enough that I can't really run slower to warm up, but I wasn't really worried about being slow.  Gordo had this encouragement for me:
> If I can get up to regular decently long runs at my slow
> pace, then I'll worry about how to speed up.

Time and heart rate are the goals not likely to get you in trouble.
Step one is to get healthy. Step two is to get fit. Step three is to get efficient. Getting fast might be step four. Or maybe I forgot one or two. ;) It's way down the list and if you never get there, so what?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Long Walks

Did two miles of the Genesee River Trail on Saturday.  It is about four miles from my house to the Mind the Ducks starting line, and this hike was down and back one of the more plesant miles along that route, from the Maplewood Rose Garden to the Ridge Road underpass.  Maybe before winter hits we can cover the whole distance on foot in a sitting.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Resoling time AGAIN...

The deerskin moccasins have developed another hole.  This is in exactly the same place on the pad of my right foot as the first through-hole, but has not progressed as far, only showing as a crack in the leather.  I'm considering making a whole new pair of moccasins out of upholstery leather this time.  I also should get working on a pair of winter boots before winter gets here.

First hole in base layer

Current outsoles, note dark spot over the base layer hole

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August Update

I've gotten over the July slump, and am improving again.  So much so that I've made a bold announcement on dailymile:
I've decided to train for a half marathon in twelve hours next May. Most of you would find that slow, but I currently think a half mile is a good workout, so it is a big deal for me.
The idea grew from a couple things.  In the minimialist runner discussion group, the Big Dog Backyard Ultra was discussed.  In the Big Dog Backyard Ultra, there is a 4.5 mile loop, that must be completed every hour on the hour.  You can run as fast or slow as you want, as long as you finish the loop within the hour, then you rest until the clock strikes again.  Last man standing wins.  (Last man standing probably knows how to catnap on bare earth and awake quickly to an alarm.)

Last May I spectated and photographed the Mind The Ducks 12 Hour race.  The race is to see who can do the most 1/2 mile laps in 12 hours.  I did about three laps of the course over three visits during the race to do my photography. 

So between these ideas, for a beginning runner like me, how about one 1/2 mile loop every hour on the hour for 12 hours?  I'd run/walk for 10 minutes, and have 50 minutes to rest, do photography, or grill up some good food.  Not worth an official entry, I could walk the "wrong" way around the course like one of the racers' support crew did the last couple years.  But wait, I have almost a year to train for this, I could maybe do two laps per hour without regretting it later.  Two laps per hour would be a total of 12 miles, and a half marathon is 13.1 miles.  That's 3 extra laps over the course of 12 hours.  That seems doable, and worth an official entry if I feel up to it when early registration comes up.
Mind The Ducks 12 Hour, 2011
Because of the flexible format of Mind The Ducks, there is no pressure to complete a specific pace or a specific milage.  One half mile loop and I'm officially a race finisher.  I will keep the race as motivation to train, but I will not overtrain to meet a specific race goal.  The run/rest strategy will help me with my goal of staying on the course for 12 hours, but since I'll be coming in last place, it matters little to the racers or crew how many laps I actually complete.

(Minimalist Runner Discussion)

Maybe in 2013 I can do a full marathon that way, 4 laps per hour, with 5 more laps over the whole day.

What am I doing special to train for this?  Well, not really much, except that it's keeping me motivated to work out more regularly.  My DailyMile goal is set to "Train six days a week, including one long hike a week...".  The race is motivation to train, but I'm still healing and remodeling my body, so pushing it harder to train will only sideline me.  Regular workouts will do the most for the healing process.  The long hikes have been scheduled on the calendar, rest days occur as they will when things just don't work out in my schedule, and if they don't happen by chance will be added in after the long hike days.

Recent Doings:
We had company last week, got to see some of the local tourist attractions, Corning, Letchworth, Taughannock, Dinosaur Bar-B-Q, Broad Street Bridge, Eastman House, Red Wings Baseball, and the Sterling Renaissance Festival.  I let myself off the hook on official workouts, and still managed to overdo it.

After Corning/Letchworth we had a day off and I felt great.

Letchworth Middle Falls
Family at Letchwoth Gorge

(Can you tell I love panarams?)

Me and the pup at Taughannock

At Taughannock I was fine with the campsite to falls overlook hike, then after my noon nap I decided to walk down to the gorge trail.  There is a massive set of large, irregular, stone steps leading from the campsite down to the gorge.  I should have realized I was in trouble when I felt I had to resort to my lopsided right leg leading decent to remain in control, but I stubbornly plugged on, did half the gorge trail, and went back up those horrible steps.  My right calf let me know afterwards that I'd overdone it, but I was mostly able to keep up with company for the rest of the week.  (I sat on the floor a couple times during talks on the walking tour of Eastman House.)

Daniel, Duke of Danger, playing us a little music

At Sterling, I made the choice to wear my soft moccasins over the rough stony paths.  This was a bit of a foot workout, but going slow kept my calf happy.  At the last act of the day I gave in and switched to huaraches, which were slightly more protective.  In addition to taking it easy when walking, we spent much of our time resting on benches, watching our favorite shows.

My right calf is almost better now, although I think I'll stick to walking workouts for a bit.  The gym pool is closed for the week as they get ready for the beginning of fall quarter, and the puppy will appriciate getting out more.

Some guy from the shovelglove website
Shovelglove is a small oddity I've introduced to my workout schedule.  When I lack the motivation to go for a walk, I sometimes substitute some shovelglove.  Shovelglove uses a normal sledgehammer as an exercise device.  The "glove" part comes from the idea of covering the sledgehammer with something soft, but I'm not worried about scratching my floors, and no amount of padding is going to make a sledgehammer not hurt if you drop it on your toes, so I'm just sticking with slow, careful, controlled movements.

 I'm not strong enough for most of the movements, but I can work on my core by holding it different ways and bending or twisting gently.  This might not help the running much, but I think it will help develop muscles I need for gardening, and I'm really only using the running to improve my fitness to do more useful and fun things.

So overall, progress is occuring again, and I'm encouraged to keep trying no matter what other people say, and not allow anyone to push me to do more than I should, any more than I will let them discourage me into giving up.  I'm gonna be selfish on this, and do what's right for me.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Strong Ankles Save The Day

Today I stepped in a hole.  It was a narrow hole, but deep enough that the majority of my foot fell into it.  My heel snagged on solid ground, and the point of my foot went deep into the hole.  My foot contacted bottom, and I stepped forward again.  Not too big of a deal, I was just a bit surprised and the landowner was spooked that I might have hurt myself.  I'm not even sore.  I think a year ago if I had landed a foot in that hole I might have twisted an ankle.  I was even wearing the same clunky shoes I last twisted an ankle in, only my muscle conditioning has changed.

Now, instead of sitting on the couch with an ice pack, I'm rushing through chores waiting for my company to arrive.  Speaking of which, break time is over, it is time to get back up...

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Good For The Soles (Northampton, MA)

My last stop on my recent vacation was Good For The Soles in Northampton, MA.  The recommendation for the store came from someone who lives in Connecticut and drives all the way up to Northampton to shop there. For us, the store was only 20 minutes out of the way off route 90.

I had already bought my Tivas at City Sports, but was still curious enough to stop in.  The store is tiny, but it is packed wall to wall with good minimalist options.  The only noticeable hole was the Merrell Barefoot line, which the owner assured me they were working on getting.

What we purchased:

  • Zem Gear Playa Low, round toe - These were out of stock when I tried to order them from the manufacturer, but Good For The Soles still had a supply.
  • VivoBarefoot Dharma Leather - Hubby has been wearing moccasins full time for over a month now, and now finds it difficult to get back into dress shoes.  He picked these up for client site visits.
  • Injinji Lightweight No-Show Toesocks - I was actually looking for a lightweight crew, but took what was in stock.  My heavier tabi socks bother me when I try to wear them all day, and I wanted to try something lighter weight.
  • Compression Socks - hubby picked these up on a whim, but wasn't too happy with them.  After freeing your toes, it's no longer comfy to confine them.
Other things I looked at:
  • VivoBarefoot Evo & VivoBarefoot Aqua Terra Plana - These two models appeared to have a wider toebox than the other VivoBarefoot options.
  • Inov-8 roasx lite 155
  • Kigo Edge
  • Kigo Curv
The owner did not have in stock yet, but recommended to me the Altra Eve for my needs.

Overall, it was a good shopping experience, and I highly recommend the store.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

July Update

The calendar says that it is time to make an update, but my heart is not in it.  I've had the worst couple weeks since starting this journey.  After all my progress, I'm still too slow to hike with others.  I've had some personal issues too.  I'm upset and my fibromyalgia is having a field day.

I came home late yesterday and let the puppy out of her crate.  Mind you, I have a Great Dane, so we've got almost 100 lbs of puppy energy exploding out.  Normally I deal with this just fine, but the pain was so much when she bumped me for the 10th time and stepped on my foot that I became irrational.  I decided that crawling into the other dog's crate and shutting the door until my husband came was a viable alternative to killing the puppy.

I've had several setbacks, but I've always managed to come back.  I'll come back from this.  I am already benefiting from my drugged sleep and am able to do the tai chi stances I could not do on Wednesday.  Yeah.  I couldn't even take a slow measured step forward on Wednesday, anything is progress from there.  The puppy and I are also on much better terms today, perhaps tomorrow I will hobble around the corner with her.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

City Sports (Boston)

There are not a lot of opportunities to even go over to the ritzy side of my own town, but while on vacation I found the time to schedule in a visit to City Sports in Boston.  A recommendation had come with faint praise, that they had been an early sellers of Vibram Five Fingers, and therefore might have some of the newer minimal shoes available.  The place was near a restaurant we wanted to visit, so we made the stop.

The staff person I talked to was very friendly, familiar with VFFs and the other minimal shoes in the store, was interested in my homemade shoes, but didn't really have any information on shoes for hard to fit feet.

Shoes I looked at:

  • Saucony Hattori - This shoe looked promising, but given that I was looking for a wet/slushy conditions shoe, the sales person thought the sole would be unsuitable for me and didn't even bring out any to try.
  • New Balance Minimus - This was available, but looked like too much shoe for me to bother with.
  • Vibram Five Fingers - I confirmed in person that the toe pocket lengths are not the right ratios for me, just as pictures had led me to believe.
  • Merrell Trail Glove - The toebox allows more room than average for little toes, but had too much arch support for me.  The sole was more forgiving than the 
  • Teva Nilch - This had a toebox similar in shape to the Trail Glove, but a flat sole.  Overall they felt much like my cheap wal-mart water shoes, but of sturdier construction, and better fit.  They have what appears to be water resistant fabric up the sides of the bottom half of the shoe, so it might do better in wet conditions than the water shoes that have mesh all the way down in places.  I bought a pair of these (a size larger than I used to wear.)  My fourth and fifth toes still feel a bit cramped compared to custom shoes, but they seem serviceable for poor weather.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Cost of Custom Shoes

Sometimes people complain about the cost of buying custom fit moccasins.  The average price is around $300 for just a plain brown pair of lowtops. 

Doing it yourself is very rewarding, but for only one pair of shoes it is not any cheaper.  From October to June, I have spent $212.36 on tools, and $372.62 on materials.  Now I've gotten a lot more than one pair of shoes out of it, but I bought my leather by the hide, so that first pair has a pretty saggering cost, with dimminishing costs of each following pair.  If you look at just the tools and the materials for my first pair of shoes, that's $155 plus the hours of labor to make them.  I was however able to use those same tools and materials on an additional pair of shoes and two resoling jobs, and I still have a bunch left.

If you're handy, and you want more than one pair of minimal shoes (maybe boots, sandals, running shoes and dress shoes...) then I encourage you to go ahead and try making them yourself.  I estimate if I use all the leather I have on hand it will end up being less than $70 per pair of shoes, about what I would have paid for decent sneakers previously.  If you've got a supply of scrap leather near you, you can probably make out even better. 

If you're not handy, or only want one pair of custom fitted minimal shoes, you might take a second look at the price tag and consider how much healthy feet, knees, and hips would mean to you, and take the plunge.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Wear Patterns

While preparing to re-sole my moccasins for the second time, something interesting occurred to me.  My old heeled shoes always used to wear out first on the outside of the right heel (on the side with my painful hip.)  My moccasins developed their first hole on the ball of my right foot (my strong side.)  Upon realizing this, I made a careful inspection of the wear pattern on my left shoe.  Not only has that shoe not worn through on the left outer heel, the wear pattern was even and showed full even usage of my whole foot.  This is pretty conclusive evidence that my change in footwear and activity has indeed changed my stride pattern in a healthy way.

June Update - 6 month results!

It has been quite a journey!  Back in December, I started this blog with a post about my minimal shoe experiment, and set June for my target date for judging experiment success.

The Test:
  • In June of 2011, when I'd normally be buying another pair of sneakers:
  • Will I still be wearing these or other minimalist shoes?
  • Will I have hip, knee, arch, or heel pain?
  • Will I be able to increase my activity level without putting on arch supports?
  • Will my other fibromyalgia symptoms decline when I reduce this alignment stress on my body?
  • Will I be able and willing to walk the dog all the way around the block at least once a week instead of just walking him in the yard all the time?
The Results:

  • I am still wearing minimal shoes.  My first pair of moccasins have been resoled twice, I've made a pair of huaraches, my husband has gotten his first pair of moccasins, my mother's new ghillies are ready to come out of the gluing press
  • I still have pain, but much less.  Most of my remaining pains are forms of stiffness, and I can do exercises to loosen up.  Stiff feet wake up with a little jogging in place, stiff knees loosen up when I do squats.  The hip only bothers me when I wear non-minimal shoes, I can just walk barefoot for a bit to loosen that up.
  • Arch supports?  Hah!  Friday night, I ran 6 laps around the track for the first time (1.2 km total) and sprinted twice!  Shoes with arch support bother my hip.  Sure, the arch in my right foot is occasionally sore when I overdo it, but as long as I increase slowly over time my arches can keep up with the rest of my increasing capability.  
  • I still have some issues with tiredness, but I've not had any severe bouts that caused me to go back to taking my medicine.  Usually just going to bed early a couple nights fixes me up.  I am sleeping better with less pain, and better able to heal up after overdoing it on the track or in the garden.
  • I have two dogs now, and one is highly reactive, making the full circuit around the block difficult.  I do walk them around the neighborhood more than I did before, but we're not yet on a regular schedule.  The short distances I've been doing with the pup I could manage daily once we get out of the gardening season.
Overall, the experiment is a success, and I'm quite happy with it.

The most visible improvement this year has been in my gardening.  I am working on a community garden at church, raising food for a homeless shelter and some decorative items for the church.  There are very few volunteers, and I've put in a large part of the garden myself.  I've scheduled 2 hour sessions multiple times a week, and I've never once gone home because my muscles and joints were failing me.  (Yesterday we were working close to noon and turned it in because we were getting too much sun exposure, usually we leave due to dusk, weather, or other plans.)  In past years my tiny little garden didn't get fully planted because of my limitations.  This year I have planted a surface area larger than my entire yard at home!  

Friday, June 17, 2011

Foot Shape Survey

Please participate in our foot shape survey!

If you have unusual feet, take the survey to help prove that shoe manufacturers have it all wrong.  If you have normal feet, take the survey to prove that I'm just a freak who should stop complaining about the shoe industry.  :)

The survey will require some measurements, have a piece of paper, a pen, a cm ruler, and a helper handy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Expanding Shoes

I made this pair of shoes for my mother, who is having trouble with swelling feet. These shoes will fit her no matter what the current state of the swelling.  I started with Ghillies for inspiration, but the resulting shoe is very different.

The tools for this project are very simple, there is no sewing involved.  I picked up an ordinary hardware store knife with replaceable razor blades.  The punch is from my mini punch set.  (If using a wider lace you may need a wider punch from the maxi punch set or an oval punch.)  The wooden mallet is from my Basic Leathercraft Kit.  A rawhide mallet would be better.  You can use an ordinary hammer, but will shorten the life of your punches.  I also used a pair of ordinary scissors for cutting the masking tape and finishing lines scored with the knife.  The knife is more useful than the scissors when transferring patterns, as you can keep the leather flat while you cut.  My punching surface is a heavy piece of stone tile, covered with a cutting board, covered with a piece of scrap leather.  This multilayer surface is sturdy but preserves the edge on the punch.
Thankfully Mom and I have the same feet, and this pattern is not horribly picky, so I used my own foot as the model to spare her tender feet the fitting process.

To make the pattern, cover your foot in plastic wrap or some other disposable, pliable covering, cover that in masking tape, at least two layers deep. Be sure to step firmly on the tape and then wrap loosely around the top to capture the full weight-baring expanded shape of your foot. Draw the shoe you want on the tape. For this pattern I drew the top line above the ankle bones, a center line down the top of the foot to the center of the toe box, and then radial lines going from the center line to the sole, making sure the last line went backwards to the point of the heel. Cut the tape on all the lines. (Be careful not to cut your foot!)
Depending on your skill level and how much extra leather you have in case you mess up, you can transfer this directly to the leather or make an intermediate pattern on several sheets of paper taped together.  The second and third flap from the ankle overlapped, so I eliminated the third flap and made the available leather curve into the fourth flap.  The next three areas I had traced out turned out to be very tightly together, so I left them as a single flap, more like a regular shoe, less like a ghillie.  I traced the outer curve from all the outer points, and made score lines from the inner points to the midpoints between the outer points.  Then I made parallel sided tabs out of the points.  I then punched holes in the ends of all tabs.
That's it, that's the shoe.  Although it takes knowing how to lace it to make it wearable.  Start by passing the lace (ribbon, leather cord, etc...) through the toe tabs all in the same direction (front to back in this case).

Now center the lace and draw up tight.  If the tabs collide instead of stacking, rearrange them into a flat stack.
Put over your foot or last, and expand as necessary to get a good fit over the toes.
Then lace the rest of the way up like a normal sneaker or dress shoe.

Uh...  No, I don't think you can help with this one pup...


This time around I was lazy and flipped the right shoe over to use as a pattern to make the left shoe.  If your feet are different, you may want to make a separate pattern from your other foot, copying over only design details from the first foot.

Optionally, take a tracing of your foot and transfer to a rubber soling sheet.  Scuff up the leather in the area to be glued with a wire brush, apply Barge Cement to both surfaces, set for 5 minutes, add more cement to leather if it has absorbed the previous, set for 5-10 more minutes, then press together and let sit under a flat weight overnight.  I'm still waiting for my Barge Cement to come in the mail to complete this step, although I've done this with leather soles before.  Use a similar procedure to add a new layer of leather sole if the original gets thin or develops a hole.

Initial impressions: They are very comfortable and form fitting, and easy to lace.  I have not gone running in them, as they're not really mine.

Possible enhancements to next revision:  I'm thinking instead of the ankle flap, of bringing the leather straight back from the second flap and making a moccasin heel.  This might however require additional lacing, as moccasins usually have a tie going behind the heel.

P.S.  I am looking for alternate retail options for soling sheets and barge cement.  There are three suppliers I know of that are all owned by the same company, which has very slow customer service.  (Although I've so far always eventually gotten my order.)  If you're only making one pair, a sandal kit from Invisible Shoe or Luna Sandals is good, but when making several pairs, a whole soling sheet is more economical.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Free Sandal Givaway

If you're not handy enough to make your own shoes, you might be interested in this: Free Sandal Giveaway.  Entries open until 6/27/11. 

Huaraches are a great shoe for letting your toes spread, feeling the wind keeping your feet cool, but not feeling every little pebble on the ground.

I'll make a secondary plug for Luna Sandals, as being worth buying if you don't win the contest to get them for free.  Huraches are great, and Barefoot Ted (who runs Luna) runs the minimalist runner discussion group I hang out on.

Friday, May 20, 2011

May Update - Appreciating New Strength

There is no better way to appreciate new strength than to be forced to rely on it.

We were on our way to the gym to do a little running and swimming, when the truck broke down on the highway.  As I was on the phone with Triple A, I realized that my stomach might not be able to wait until a friend came to get me; I needed a bathroom ASAP.  So I handed the phone off to hubby and started walking to a fast food resturant I knew was about 3/4 mile away.  I did accept a ride to speed things up, but I declined her offer for a ride back, as it would be easier for my husband to find me if I was on the side of the road where he expected me to be. 

I started walking back, and my hip predictably started bothering me, as I was wearing shoes more friendly to keeping my feet dry in the wet than keeping my body in alignment.  It was warm enough that when I reached the nice flat shoulder of the highway I took off my shoes and walked sockfoot.  As I was walking sockfoot down the highway, with no husband in sight, no wallet, no phone, I contemplated that if I had to walk the five miles home I could.  I was filled with gratitude for my new strength, and happily moved up to a run for a few paces a minute.

I walked the 3/4 mile back to find hubby planning to ride to the garage in the truck, and had arranged a ride for me back at the resturant.  So I got my phone from him and turned around and went back.  My friends met me half way, and drove us up to the garage to pick up hubby, and then off to us treating them to dinner at an old haunt. 

On the way to the garage, we passed the Lilac Festival, where in a prior year I had struggled to get from parking to the festival, and then just found a place to sit and rest and recover, missing most of what I had gone to see.  I have come so far.

Thankfully, in the truck were my proper running shoes, so I put them on, leaving my others in my friend's car.  No point in staying in stay-dry shoes when your feet are already wet!

Our old haunt had moved from it's prior location into the middle of the entertainment district downtown.  One friend was a bit put off by the idea of the long walk from available parking to the resturant, but even after my little jaunt I was jogging ahead and doing much better than my former mode of just barely keeping up. 

Despite a bit of trouble, I had a wonderful evening.  I'm so greatful for my new strength and the likelyhood that it will continue to grow over time.  My feet unleashed from ill-fitting and restrictive shoes are learning just what they were designed to do and adding to my strength instead of draining it away.
Psalm 139:14
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
   your works are wonderful,
   I know that full well.
P.S.  In case you're wondering, the mechanic called.  The truck is not too badly off and I should have her back today.  Praise God!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

April Update

In my first post, I laid out some criteria for the results of this test, and I think I should systematically address them.

  • Will I still be wearing these or other minimalist shoes? -Yes, I'm still wearing minimalist shoes.  They are not a cure-all, but I feel worse in regular shoes, and I have much better balance and coordination in minimalist shoes.
  • Will I have hip, knee, arch, or heel pain? - Some.  Hip pain is still there, but is less intense and I have exercises to combat it.  The pain is immediately relieved when I do these exercises.  I also do these before I run, as they loosen up the hip and knee joints.  I have no knee pain.  Arch pain occurs when I overdo it and don't take the next few days off.  Heel pain is still there, but is decreasing in duration and intensity after rising.  Sometimes I can get up in the night and not have any pain.
    • Tai Chi Stances, my version is slower, higher, and focused on control, a balance and weight bearing exercise: 
    • One Leg Balance and Squat:
    • A humorous look on the Asian Squat: 
    • Will I be able to increase my activity level without putting on arch supports? - Yes.  I'm still non-athletic, but I'm no longer toeing the line of disability.  I wear no arch support unless I've had a sudden increase in activity and need a few days to recover.  It usually takes overdoing it a few days in a row to cause issues.
    • Will my other fibromyalgia symptoms decline when I reduce this alignment stress on my body? - Yes.  Fibromyalgia is treated with mild exercise, which I am now getting regularly.  The introduction of a puppy to the bedroom makes it hard to test if it's now easier or harder to get up in the morning, I haven't much of a choice once Erin starts sniffing me.  I do sometimes go to bed really early to catch up on my sleep, but it's effective, I'm not still tired after getting a 10-12 hour night.  I only take my muscle relaxants when I've overdone it and can't work out the kinks in a day or two.
    • Will I be able and willing to walk the dog all the way around the block at least once a week instead of just walking him in the yard all the time? - Yes.  My dailymile records show I've done at least two miles a week for the last seven weeks.  I did four last week and regretted it, but I'm slowly improving.  I started with multiple 1/4 mile walks a week, and I can do a mile at a time when fully rested now.  If I incorporate running into the walk, I can go about a half mile.
    Overall, the experiment is going well.  The benefits are not just from the shoes, but the shoe change got me to the point where I could do the exercise that brought about the other changes.  I can feel the difference if I put my old shoes back on: I am more clumsy, have less balance, and after an hour of wearing develop more hip pain than usual.  The experiment officially runs for two more months, but if things continue as they are, I will be able to declare success with minor modifications of the theory at the end.

    Thursday, April 14, 2011

    Android DailyMile Apps

    I was recently given an Android phone for my birthday, so i'm playing with the available apps.  I've found two that are useful for updating DailyMile.
    DailyMiler is a simple app that lets me log into DailyMile, and provides a nice little interface for entering workouts. It doesn't do the title field, or the advanced features like equiptment, but handles basic run data well.

    Run Free integrates GPS and a timer to help you log the run.  While running you can cycle the screen to see lots of useful data about your run. It does not seem to have a lap feature, but it does allow repeats of previous tracks, with comparison to your last or best run on that track. You can upload your run data to Facebook, Twitter, or DailyMile. The upload is automated, but it only accepts the "How did it go?" field, autopopulating time and distance.  It doesn't upload the GPS track or any other optional dailymile fields.  The look/feel of the app is so professional, it's dissapointing that it is not fully featured, and the paid version doesn't list any more features than the free one.

    Overall, both apps are nice, but neither one replaces the functionality I get entering or editing my dailymile entries on the PC.

    There are lots more training apps not related to DailyMile, you might look into them.  I'm looking at some of them and wishing I had waited on buying my HRM, as there are bluetooth HRMs available that integrate with these apps.  The bluetooth HRM is a little more than the one I bought, but together with your android can run all the super-fancy GPS & data logging stuff the really high end ones have.

    Friday, April 8, 2011

    Crazy Busy

    Barefoot runners talk a lot about Too Much Too Soon (TMTS).  But sometimes in life "soon" isn't the factor, sometimes we just do too much.  Hopefully I can balance all the priorities I have this spring.

    The new puppy needs lots of training and exercise, and has had enough housebreaking issues that I need to get home every 5 hours to take her outside.

    Victory Gardens
    I'm starting a new community garden at church.  I've got a bunch of seedlings started, that will need attention over the next couple months, then they will go into the garden and need attention further away from the house.

    I've commited to making a wedding scrapbook for my sister.  I will be seeing her in July, so I should at least have major progress made before then.

    I've recently picked up this art and some new tools, and would like time to play with it.  The things I've learned so far have been useful in shoe making, and I'd like to make some more fashionable custom shoes, maybe a purse, maybe a fancy cover for that scrapbook of Darlene's.

    I have recieved an agricultural billhook for my birthday, and would like to aquire some skill with it.  At current I'm only skilled enough to maul bushes and saplings, but that's a start.  The end goal is to learn how to make pleachers, for hedgelaying.

    I've found some nice sales on books, and have accumulated a significant reading pile.  (Search by subject on amazon, then sort by price.  I found one vendor just trying to get rid of old books that wouldn't sell.  One went for $0.01, another for $0.03, shipping was the only significant cost.)  I also still have some balance left on my Amazon gift card, and a bunch of Kindle samples to sift through and pick which I wish to buy.  Some of the books relate to the previous subjects, and will be first to be read.

    I'm trying to slowly increase my capabilities for running and walking.  Luckily this goal lines up with the exercising Erin one, so it's less likely to be neglected.

    I've knocked minimalist running discussion groups off the list of things to do.  I think I have the basics, I just need time to implement them.  I have my Kindle if I need a break moment to read and learn.