Thursday, November 11, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

Huaraches Abandonados

I have given up on trying to make a Huarache sandal that works for me!  I just wasn't very satisfied with the results of any of them. It turns out that I so much prefer running barefoot, that the Huarache concept seems to be taking my running in the wrong direction! Perhaps its because the Vibram material I chose was too thin. No matter what I did to it, it ended up flopping or bending in an undesireable way. 

I noticed that Ted McDonald (Barefoot_Ted_McDonald) is now making a Huarache sandal with a thicker sole. Its his Luna model. Here is a review:  Jason's Review of the Luna Huarache

I am much too "Scottish" (i.e. CHEAP!) to pour money into trying something that I am trying to avoid using! So while the Luna looks like a very promising minimalist sandal, I probably won't be getting it any time soon. 

This is likely my last comment about minimalist sandals. 

Although . . . 

I am aware of some kind of "stick-on" sole that adheres to the bottom of the feet. Its advertised as a strapless sandal. I wonder . . . ? 



Thursday, August 05, 2010

Huarache Redux

Another idea came from my Half-Huaraches experiment. This is a full-soled Huarache sandal idea.

Previously to trying my half-Huarache idea, I had laced the sides of my full-foot Huaraches in-line with my ankle bones, which - in retrospect - may have caused the ankle strap to pull the rear of the sandal forward, causing the sole to bend downward into a kind of a bow, which then collapsed when I stepped on it, making the clacking sound that bugged me so much. (That's a weird sentence - sorry.) So I was thinking, what if I connected the laces just forward of the actual ankle joint, in line with where the top of the foot meets the leg? (Perpendicular to the sole instead of at a backwards angle.) That way the straps would not be pulling the rear of the sandal forward. This also might have the advantage of helping the heel strap to stay on better. It kept on sliding off on my first Huaraches - maybe because my foot is a weird shape.
See the following illustration. The red lines are where I had tied-in the side laces on my first Huaraches. The green lines show where I think they would work better.
I also liked the idea of using the elastic from my half-Huaraches somehow. (The elastic turned out to be a girl's hair band. I found it on the beach one day and kept it for some future project. I'm like that - a scavenger always on the lookout for things that might prove to be "useful." I saw a package of 12 in the store for less than $4 the other day, many colors and several widths.) So last night I made up a new pair of Huarache sandals using my newest ideas. Here are some photos of them:

Description: They are the standard full-sole Huarache design. I put the side holes a little bit forward from my ankle bone. I added a second hole in the front, between my 3rd and 4th toes. The elastic band goes into the front two holes, with knots holding it in place. The elastic strap makes a 'V' on the top of my foot, one end of the strap goes between my big toe and #2 and the other end goes between my 3rd and 4th toes. The thing I like about the elastic is how it keeps the sandal nicely connected to my foot at all times, no matter how my foot is flexing and moving.
I put a leather lace through the outside side hole and knotted it to stay in place. I ran that strap through the elastic loop at the top of the foot, and through the inside side hole. I then ran the strap around the back of my ankle and knotted it to itself at the outside point (near the beginning of the leather strap.) The knot I used was a Boy Scout "Taut Line" hitch. This knot can slide up and down, increasing or decreasing tension. Really cool knot. I used this so that once my foot is in place, I can slide the knot a little ways up towards the top of my foot, tightening the whole lace-job and making the sandal more secure. I can loosen things by sliding the knot back down towards the outside edge again, in case my foot swells during a long run, or to make it easier to slide the sandal off. [After-thought: Looking at these pictures, I wonder how it would work to put my slider-knot on the strap that goes around the heel instead of on the strap that comes over the top of the foot? I'll experiment with that idea and see how it works.]

I wore them around the house last night to get the feel of them. I was worried all those knots under the sole would feel weird, but they were not bad at all.

These Huarache sandals slide on and off my feet very quickly and easily. Having the elastic strap connected in two places at the front of the sole makes the sole hug my toes more closely, which I like. Having the adjustable side-knot makes it so I can quickly adjust the tension of the lacing without having to untie and re-tie everything. Once these are tied to my liking, I don't have to untie them ever again. They are slip-on and slip-off. I like "quick and easy!"

I ran with them on a short run this evening, maybe 2+ miles. They definitely worked out better than my original ones. They fit very well and I liked how they tracked with my feet. I stopped and changed the sliding knot on one of them, so it slid towards the heel. It was a little bit better for tightening things up, but was a little bit awkward, perhaps because I put it together in a hurry and could have done a cleaner job of it.

That being said --- I still like running with nothing on my feet a whole lot better. Its just annoying to have artificial things in the way. I actually stopped and took them off (easily done!) and finished the last 1/4 mile barefoot. It felt so much better!! I would not hesitate to put my Huaraches on to get through short sections of "impossible" but would not wear them the entire distance. They will always be just a short-term crutch.


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Results of my Half-Huarache Sandal Experiment

Well, I tried them out on some very nasty sections of sidewalks near my house. They have been "repaving" the roads using the diabolical chip-seal method, which leaves a lot of very sharp bits of rock all over the sidewalks. At first I was running barefoot until it started getting too thick, then I stopped and put on my half-huaraches. As predicted, they went on easily and quickly.

However, once I started running in the razor sharp loose gravel, my heels didn't like being poked painfully and I ended up running too much on just my toes. Very tiring on the feet and calves!

I tried some super-bending of my ankles, keeping my knees closer to the ground, which naturally helped keep my heels up a little while allowing me to completely relax my calves. But that is an awkward way to run and my ankles aren't used to bending that much. I finally just turned around, got to where it was smoother and just took the sandals off. My ankles and calves were sore the next day from the extreme work out I gave them.

I realize that the type of stuff that would make me want to protect the balls of my feet, would also make me want to protect my heels. If its tolerable for my heels then it is tolerable for my whole foot! So a half-sole sandal just doesn't seem practical.

After-thought: While running, I thought about how my regular Huaraches were laced, and realized something that I could adjust to make them fit better without having so much "clacking" while running. Problem is, I destroyed my old Huaraches making the half-sole versions. I have just enough Vibram cherry 4 mm left to make another whole-sole pair to try lacing differently.

My thought was that by punching a hole directly beneath my ankle joint, as instructed, caused the lace cross over the front of my ankle and pull the heel of the sandal forwards, towards the toe when my weight was off it. This made the sole bend outward, away from my foot, so each time I stepped down on it, the curved sole would smack against the bottom of my foot. My new idea is to punch a hole more forward, so the lace does not want to pull the rear of the sandal forward; just "up". I suspect they will continue to have the problem with the "scoop" in the toe. Maybe I can do something to pull the toe of the sandal up when I curl my toes. Back to the drawing board!


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Half-Huarache Sandals

Many people are using minimalist footwear to run in. One popular item is a sandal patterned after the one the Huarache Indians in Mexico make. Ted McDonald in Seattle markets Huarache sandals starting at $50 a pair. He also posted on his website how you can make your own. I tried making some but didn't like how they worked. So I thought of making a half-sole design that might suit my purposes.

I realized that my only purpose in putting things on my feet to run in is to give some protection only to the balls of my feet. The rest of my feet never need any assistance. It was having the rest of the sandals on my feet that were contributing to most of my complaints about the original Huarache design. So by getting rid of most of the sole, I hoped to eliminate most of the problems!

Here is a photo of my "minimal-minimalist" design, or Half-Huaraches.

The straps across the base going up to the top are elastic. I used elastic to eliminate having to adjust and tie laces each time I put them on. The straps going across the tops are to help keep the tip of the sandals closer to my toes, so when I bend my toes up, the sandal follows them instead of staying open and catching the ground. When they don't bend with my feet, they act as scoops, grabbing gravel and sometimes folding under. I would have used elastic there, too, but I ran out of material. I might change it later on.

I'll give them a try on some mileage running and see how they do. I'll let you know later what I think!


Tuesday, April 27, 2010


For the past year I've had recurring problems with a very old ankle sprain. I suspect the ligament never healed quite right. Periodically it starts to flare up, feels puffy, burning sensation, and I have to be careful of it. Its not enough of a problem to prevent me from running, its just something I need to watch out for.

I was concerned for my half-marathon run last Saturday that my ankle might not take that distance. It had been sore for the prior month or more. It didn't bother me at all during the run! Not only that, but yesterday and today, I've noticed that the ankle feels completely well - no nagging aching going on at all. I also feel like my legs are relaxed and limber, with more pep and bounce in them than usual. Is this the result of going on a long run??

Maybe I'm more ready to run a full marathon than I think.

Saturday I wasn't trying to make a fast time. I was just plodding along at a steady pace - no 'racing' going on at all. Yet I still managed to come in just over two hours. A friend of mine ran her first-ever marathon in Salt Lake City a couple of weeks ago. She did it in 6 hours.

6 hours! I realize that if I had kept up my pace from last Saturday for a whole marathon, I would have been done in less than 4 1/2 hours. So maybe I've just got to target a marathon run some time and give it a go.

I've wanted to do the St. George Marathon in October, for several years, but never made the commitment. Is this the year??


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Here I Am Again

Wow, I haven't posted much lately!

I've been trying to run (barefoot) more regularly, even if that means doing a lot of shorter runs. I found that I was doing about 2 runs a week, pushing each one to around 8 to 11 miles, and then having to rest in between.

So about 2 months ago I started going on more frequent runs, doing 4 miles one morning, 5 miles the next, etc., and trying to get a run in close to every day. This meant I had to get up earlier and do some early morning runs. I usually don't like running in the mornings, but this time it wasn't so bad.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I was on a longer run and cut my foot on a hidden piece of glass in the river beach. Not a bad cut, but I figured I better let it rest a few days. It persisted to bother me, plus our weather got nasty, so I ended up taking more time off from running than I planned. Then, last Sunday, I came down with a head/chest cold which took me out of running all week long. I had signed up for a 10K on Saturday (yesterday), which I was determined to do even if I was sick. But I had problems registering online for this run and that got me a little pissed off at the race sponsors, so I finally just said 'Forget it!'

Yesterday they had an annual event here in my city called the Discovery Walk. It is for walkers, with distances of 5K, 10K, 21K and 42K, plus bike rides and swims. At the last minute, I decided to sign up for the 21K, and intended to run it, sick or not.

So with very little running the past two weeks I got up Saturday morning, ate a light breakfast, and went down to the starting location. Since it wasn't a timed event, you could start any time you liked within a 2 hour window. It got really chilly overnight so I wanted to wait and leave as close to 9 AM as I could, to catch as much warmth as I could. It was still only about 45 degrees outside when I arrived.

I got my starter's card punched and they gave me a map to use, and I was off at an easy pace. None of the route was coned-off from traffic, so there were frequent stops to wait for traffic lights - chances to stretch and visit with some of the walkers. They changed the course from last year, and I was apprehensive about some of the areas the new course would go through. There were three checkpoints along the route where walkers are supposed to get their card's marked for "credit" towards their Volkswalk points. I didn't care that much for points, but it was nice to get the water and orange slices they offered. Those were the only watering holes along the route.

The first part of the run was very familiar to me -- courses I have run many times. Around mile 1 it turned into a neighborhood I had never run through. I was pleasantly surprised at how smooth the road was - new pavement. This took us directly to the Deaf School, the first checkpoint, around mile 3 or so. I knew a lady and her son who were volunteers there. When I got to the checkpoint another volunteer was just telling my friend about some barefoot guy who ran the half-marathon last year -- and then I ran up just at that moment! She got a big laugh over the timing of my arrival. Drinks, orange slices, some conversation, and I was off.

The course became weird after this - all new territory for me. It cut through the Deaf School's back lot over grass and gravel, out through more residential neighborhoods, and ended up going to a very rough patch of road. This road was at the bottom of a ravine, heavily shadowed by dense trees, hardly any shoulder to speak of, and cars traveling fairly quickly. No part of the road was coned off for our event, and the shoulder was strewn with gravel and lots (really lots) of broken glass. I tried to run on the roadway as much as I could, all uphill, but the frequency of cars zooming down the hill towards us forced me to jump into the glass and gravel too much. I finally noticed that there was a strip of washed-up pine needles on the outer most edge that provided quite a bit of padding, so I ran on it as much as I could.

I came up to a group of Russian walkers. They were so impressed that I was barefoot that they wanted me to stop so they could take my picture, then they wanted to be in the pictures with me. I obliged, smiled, posed, and then handed out some of my barefoot running cards that explain who I am and why I run barefoot. I continued up the hill and eventually back into civilization (sidewalks).

The route took us across some major roads where I had to stop and wait for traffic a lot. It reached a paved trail that we followed for a couple of miles. The first half of the trail was pretty decent, asphalt strewn with a fair amount of gravel to avoid. The second half was cement with a corrugated surface that was not pleasant. There was a smooth strip on the side about 4 inches wide that I followed. I passed a lot of walkers along this trail, and heard a lot of comments about my bare feet. This was around mile 5 of the course.

The route turned onto a street that took us right past the local hospital surrounded lots of doctor's clinics. There was a check point somewhere around there, but for some reason I didn't see it. This was too bad because I could have used the water and orange slices. I forged onward, to a road that led mostly downhill towards the Columbia River. This road was very rough. I tried running on the sidewalk, but it was just as bad or worse. I ended up aiming for the white paint stripe on the edge of the road, but it wasn't much better. I had to just run gingerly along this road into a very ritsy neighborhood near the water. The roads through here were just as rough.

The route followed a very old road that was mostly cement with quite a few asphalt patches on it. The road itself was very smooth, but the shoulder was the roughest, worst stuff I'd seen the entire run. I couldn't even stand to walk on it. I ran on the roadway as much as I could, but again, traffic was a problem. I could see a long ways ahead so I could plan accordingly. I saw a long stretch of vehicles coming, and not willing to stand and wait for them, I decided to slip on my flip-flops I carried for just such an occasion. I only had to wear them for about 100 yards. Traffic disappeared and so did my flip flops.

The route crossed some railroad tracks, went over a short stretch of gravel, and then down to Wintler Park -- an area I have run very often. From here on out I was on familiar paths. I was near mile 8 - about 5 miles to go. The sidewalk through this area was brand new last year and had lots of very sharp edges on its corrugated surface. Thankfully the surface had worn down over the year and was not too rough. My feet were starting to feel sore by this time, but I knew that the rest of the route was mostly easy. I noticed a painted marker that said 4 miles to go. 9 miles down and 4 more to go -- I can handle this!

About a mile later I came to the final checkpoint. I was glad to find some water and enjoy some orange slices. I wolfed them down because I wanted to keep going and get this thing done!

I kept thinking that the first walkers left at 7:00 a.m. - two hours before me. I wondered if I might catch up to them. There was no way of knowing who was 'first' - it was just something on my mind as I thought about finishing the 21K. I passed a few more walkers, and then it got eerily empty. Nobody but me. I thought I might have taken a wrong turn or something. Nope, I found a route marker. Huh! Maybe I had overtaken the earliest of the 21K walkers after all. I ran on and on, through very familiar country. I could go on automatic from here on out. After a stretch of easy running I noticed another marker on the sidewalk that said 1.75 miles. I had gone from 4 to 1.75 without hardly noticing. Sweet!

At this point two routes converged. The 21K and 42K routes overlapped the 5K and 10K routes for the last part. I came upon a family I know from church. I stopped and gave them high-fives, congratulations and such. Then on my way. Of course there were a ton of walkers from here to the end. I was zigging and zagging through groups of people. At one point it was so crowded that I called out: "Make way for the barefoot runner!" Lots of turning heads, lots of stares, and like magic - a path opened up through the throngs. I felt like Moses.

My feet were sore from those rough patches I had gone through earlier on and I was ready to be done. One mile to go. I was just coasting, focusing on form as the sidewalk passed underneath the I-5 bridge to Oregon. Here the cement was that nasty corrugated stuff, the worst in all the route. Having run on it many times, I knew it felt worse if I slowed down to walk on it, so I just kept lifting my feet and landing them as squarely as I could. The rough part was short-lived. Only 1/2 mile left to go. Soon I was on some of the milkiest smooth cement sidewalks I've seen. The last two blocks were so filled with people and strollers that I gave up trying to run any more. I walked behind everyone else to the hotel where the whole thing started.

The hotel was having some kind of convention, and there were lots of people dressed up in very nice business attire, trying to impress all the other folks attending. I stopped to talk to some cashier people for the convention to find out what it was. 'Pre-Paid Legal' was the answer. I smiled and told them I'm an attorney, in kind of a loud voice so the people in line could hear. A lot of stares after that! I had to walk past a bunch of them -- me, sweaty, thirsty, hot, tired, dirty bare feet -- and them, hoity-toity penguins and ladies in stiletto high heels looking down their noses at me. I didn't care. Not only was I an attorney, I was proud to have finished a half marathon barefoot! So I held my head high as I walked past them all to the part of the hotel where the walking course had its final check-point.

This event did not have a 'finish line' or anything. You just moseyed in to the hotel and showed them your participation card with its checkpoints marked, and they gave you a nice little ribbon with a medal. No snacks, no water, nobody saying 'Yay you made it!' It was kind of a let down. I wanted my ego stroked a little bit. I looked around for something to drink or eat, because I was feeling kind of weak by now. I found a vendor's booth that had tid-bit samples of their energy bars. I grabbed a tooth pick and started loading up on them. All flavors. I had energy bar shish-ka-bobs! One of the ladies working the booth said she had seen me running barefoot sometime last summer and was happy to finally meet me in person. Okay, ego pumped! I gave her one of my barefoot running cards. Then it was out the door, past the hoity toity bunch, and out of the hotel. By now clouds had formed, the temperature was dropping and it was raining. Time to get out of there! I gingerly walked the 3 blocks to where I had parked my car and headed home.

Mission accomplished! Time: 2 hrs 15 minutes. I claim 2 hours because there was a lot of time wasted on the course at checkpoints, stopping to wait for traffic, and working through some crowds.


Friday, January 08, 2010

Northwest Running Hazards

Forget the common fears over glass, rocks, needles, pinecones and animal poop --- one of the things that worries me the most on barefoot runs, especially at nights, are these big beauties:

This is a slug I found outside my back door a few years ago. Its not even considered all that large!
If you step on one of these barefoot, expect to go down hard!