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barefoot running

Micah True - aka Caballo Blanco (The a White Horse) www.ultracb.com

Micah True – aka Caballo Blanco (The a White Horse) http://www.ultracb.com


The other day I was contemplating the economy. Not something I usually do. But a question popped up I could not shake:

“Why does our economy have to grow?”

Now, every economist in the world will be able to give me a plethora of reasons. I even thought of a few myself. But here is the thing: I will bet that every one has as it’s core the need for someone else to continue to make money, and more of it. So one might say, “The economy has to grow so we can employ people as the population grows.” True – but you could employ more people now without the same growth if some of the executives in your company were happy to take home a little less pay. Or the shareholders were happy to take home a little less dividend.

As I chewed this, the concept of Korima came up. Korima is a concept within the culture of the Tarahumara people (also known as the Raramuri). Basically Korima means “What I have, you have too.” It is a simple way of ensuring everyone in the community has what they need to survive. At the same time, nobody presupposes Korima will save them and therefore the Raramuri do not allow it to be a motivation to laziness. This is no communist system in that sense – but instead a commitment to ensuring that nobody in the community lacks anything.

Korima is a challenging concept because it demands that I recognise that I have more than enough; and the more is capable of being given to one who has little. And that even if I think I have (or do actually have) little, I will always have enough to give something to someone with less.

I first became aware of Korima through a man who became my mentor in running and in life. Micah True first moved to the Copper Canyons to live with the Tarahumara to learn how to run from them. (Hint: if you want the full story read Born to Run). But he learned so much more. One of those things was Korima and he was so taken by it that he began to embrace and practice it in his own life.

Korima shone through in everything Micah True (known to the Tarahumara as Caballo Blanco – The White Horse) did. And as he mixed in the running community, he mixed the two and carved out a community among us runners that practiced Korima among ourselves. Unfortunately Micah True passed away two years ago this week while out on a run in the Canyons. But his legacy loves on, especially among the trail and ultra communities that I mix in.

Maybe Korima is not only a great way to start making change (see last week’s post) but also a way to discover what it means to be truly human? What I do know is that John Lennon was right – if people wanted peace more than a TV, we’d have peace – and that Korima might hold the key…

Live Simply and Simply Live
Mark G

(picture sourced from http://www.ultracb.com)

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Disclaimer: Yes, I am sponsored by Luna Sandals. But it should be noted that:
A) I bought the review sandals for this review at full price;
B) I have been wearing them for nearly 18 months;
C) I approached Luna for the sponsorship BECAUSE of what I wrote in this review;
D) I had formed my opinion of these sandals well and truly before I was offered the sponsorship (an opinion which, as I mention in point C, pushed me to seek the relationship with Luna that I now enjoy and appreciate).
Okay, that said, let’s get on with it!!

Many readers of this blog will know that my minimalist tendencies also cross over into my sport – distance running. For the long story read the first few paragraphs on my review for Xero Shoes or read the long story short which goes a little something like this…

I have always had an off again/on again love with running – more often off again. This was due to two key factors:
A. Just plain lazy, and
B. Put off because of the injuries that would always come upon me.

I was turned onto the idea of minimalist running in 2006 after reading an article by Christopher McDougall in Men’s Health Magazine about the Tarahumara/Raramuri running people of Mexico. I began running barefoot and in Nike Free, the only other minimalist shoe of the time. The in again/off again continued (due to laziness alone now as the injuries were gone!) until the start if 2012 when I decided to get off the couch and change my life.

By this time, there was a plethora of new minimalist options and Luna Sandals were one of these. Luna were the company started by Barefoot Ted McDonald. Barefoot Ted was one of the “gurus” of the Barefoot/Minimalist movement who was further brought to notoriety via McDougall’s book “Born to Run”. Ted famously had a pair of huarache running sandals made for him from car tyres by Raramuri runner Manuel Luna. When Ted began making sandals, he called them Luna’s in honour of the man who showed him how.

I bought my first Luna’s back in September 2012. I bought the Leadville Pacer: a 9mm trail sandal with Monkey a Grip Technology footbed and the All Terrain System laces. It must be made clear that the Leadville pacer is designed as a trail sandal. My intention was to begin getting out on the trails in sandals – I had been wearing another huarache on the road but needed something that could provide a little more protection. The plan did not quite happen at first. If I am honest, I tried a number of other minimalist shoes for running with the Luna’s being relegated to my casual wear.

So let’s start there – as a casual huarache, the Pacer is excellent. It is comfortable and although when new ground feel was there but a little limited, now after much use there is plenty of feel. Set the ATS laces and you can slip on/slip off the sandal every day and never give the laces another thought. It also looks like a casual sandal as opposed to the traditional huarache lacing that gets people staring. So for everyday lifestyle wear, exceptional.

However all that time, I was wearing and experimenting with a whole heap of other shoes. The Pacers got relegated to shopping, caf├ęs and BBQ’s. Then one day in September of 2013, I out them on for a run. Don’t know why – all I know is that my training log shows that morning of the 23rd, I put on the Pacers and hit the street and came home 11.05km later. And after that, almost every run on road and a few on trail have been run in the Pacers.

The Leadville Pacer is a 9mm thick but light sandal made for trails. It has an aggressive Vibram rubber tread on bottom; and on top a thin footbed of what Luna calls it’s “Monkey Grip Technology”. It comes with Luna’s ATS (All Terrain System) laces which are smooth, flattened tubular nylon straps with a buckle slide for secure fastening. The heel part is made of an elasticised vegan material which allows for a very easy slide on/off once the laces are secured. There is really not much more to say about them because that is all there is of them!

So how have they fared nearly 6 months later of almost daily use? Brilliant!! The Leadville Pacer is currently my go-to running shoe. It is comfortable, reliable and offers great ground feel for it’s 9mm sole. I have worn the tread away under the ball of my feet where my foot falls, but to be fair, Luna make it clear on their website that, “The aggressive tread will wear out quickly on pavement though, so stick to trails with these sandals!” That tread has done me well in wet and dry on trail and (way much more) pavement. And despite the wear, it continues to perform and will continue to, although I think my use has jeopardised the trail life of the sandal. But remember, that is my fault, not the sandals.

I was concerned that the buckle would cause me issues. It hasn’t. On the one occasion it did, it wasn’t the buckle, but the fine sand that got stuck under it (I was running down the beach) that I left there. A quick finger swipe would have fixed it, but I was too proud to stoop down for a quick second and didn’t fix it. I have run along the beach and on trails many times since with no problems (and certainly no need to finger swipe under the buckle every time).

As someone who travels a lot, I must say travel with running gear is a breeze – they take up less room than my tech shirt and shorts in the bag. And they don’t smell!

As I said in the disclaimer, this review was well underway before I began a conversation with Luna about sponsorship. But the performance of these sandals was enough to prompt me to approach them for support of my upcoming running event. I am so glad they came to the party – this is a product I am proud to wear and promote because I believe in it wholeheartedly. So much so, I would have bought at full price the sandals for my event and training for it had Luna needed to decline official involvement.

Some have complained about the price (the Pacers are $85USD plus shipping), but I believe their value for money is excellent. As more and more people get on the Luna bandwagon, Luna Monkey’s the world over are wearing Luna’s in everything from 5k’s to 100mile Ultra’s. And at some of those you will find Luna’s on the podium.

Of course, Luna’s may not suit all as a running “shoe”. If you are a barefooter or used to running in minimalist shoes you will find a transition to a huarache like the Luna easy. But don’t let that stop you – Luna’s are the ideal Lifestyle shoe and it is well worth a visit to the Luna Sandals website to check out their styles.

Running NoXS Minimal for me is about carefree running. No hi-tech, flashy latest doo-dad stuff here. If you are into that, great. But what I love about Luna is it’s down to earth “let’s let running be about running for the sake of running” vibe. Each day, I pull them on and off I go – bit of protection for the soles of my feet with a strap to hold them on. Nothing more, nothing less. And off a I go with a smile on my face.

I love them and look forward to wearing them for years to come.

I wasn’t going to post this review just yet, but Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes has invited all NoXS Minimal Blog readers to take advantage of their 20% off sale that ends Friday June 7, 2013! So I have published this review now so you can see my take on them. Then, if you are keen, you can get over to Xero Shoes and use the coupon code TANK to get 20% off their DIY 4mm Connect & 6mm Contact shoes – then feel the world for yourself. Make sure you mention that you came via NoXS Minimal Blog in the order notes at the checkout.

I first fell in love with running barefoot in 2006. An article by Chris McDougall about the now famous Tarahumara published by Men’s Health in June of that year talked about how minimal running can help stave off injuries by promoting good running form. I bit, chewed, and loved what I tasted. But what most people tried was either running completely barefoot; or in the only commercially available mimimalist(!) shoe at that time, (in Australia at least) the Nike Free. Nothing else was freely available.

What eluded most of us though was that the Tarahumara lived and ran in the harsh, rocky and treacherous Copper Canyons. And to manage that, they wore a sandal that in recent times they made out of used car tyre: the Huarache. For a long time, people made their own at home. Today though, huaraches are available commercially. And the three pair I tried for this review are by far my favourites on the road, on the trail and for casual wear…

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Xero Shoes 4mm Connect laced for slip on/slip off (my casual shoe!)

Xero Shoes were launched in 2009 by Steven Sashen and Lena Phoenix. Then known as Invisible Shoes, the company sold a make your own huarache kit; or for a little more, you could trace your foot and have a custom shoe made. It wasn’t long (six months to be exact) before business was booming. But Steven knew that what the rapidly increasing barefoot running community was looking for was something that would feel as close to barefoot as possible, but give a little protection. This needed – nay deserved – something a little less generic.

With the help of two recruits who were formally with Nike and Reebok, a brand new huarache was released and the FeelTrue(r) sole was born. Xero Shoes were now something that was specifically designed to give the best possible barefoot feel with enough protection for either roads or trails. Very soon, not only were Xero’s appearing on runners and walkers, but also on yoga enthusiasts, CrossFitters, hikers, paddle sports enthusiasts, coffee drinkers in cafes, Moms picking up the kids at school – people were wearing them everywhere!

I bought my first pair of Xero’s about a year ago now; and now own three pair of them. Xero come in two types – the 4mm Connect and the 6mm Contact. The former I wear for road running and casual; the latter for trails. Here, I will review how they perform in each of these environments.

My 4mm Xero I use for running. Laces are secure and while they look uncomfortable are no bother.

My 4mm Xero I use for running. Laces are secure and while they look uncomfortable are no bother.

Let’s start with road running. This is the initial reason why I bought my Xero’s, and they did not disappoint. As a long time barefoot runner, I was looking for a little more protection as I began to experiment with longer distances (I now run ultra’s). Obviously, I needed something that gave all the feel and freedom of barefoot. I had tried toe shoes, but for me, the felt far too built up in the sole; and the foot just did not feel natural.

On the other hand, the Xero acts like a thin piece of rubber that is stuck to the bottom of my foot, but allows my foot to completely move and flex as normal through my gait. The rubber is thin enough too that I have amazing feel; and flexes with my foot so it doesn’t stop my foot changing it’s shape when I stand on uneven or round objects.

I decided to lace traditionally and was a little nervous that the lace wrapping around my ankle would be a bother, rub or limit my gait somehow. What I found was completely the opposite and quite comfortable. As my distances got longer, I did note a rubbing on top of my foot, but I experimented with some tying methods and develop my own which not only removed the rub but gives me full confidence in the shoe’s security on my foot. I even set my 16k PB in Xero’s.

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Stepping out in my 4mm casual Xero. The slip on/slip off style of lacing means I only tie them once ever!

Wearing them for running, I realised that the authentic barefoot feel was going to work for me casually. I ordered a pair of 6mm Contact and laced them in a slip on/slip off style. Most people don’t even blink when I wear them as they look like a sandal. I wear my casual pair everywhere I can when I’m not completely bare foot or at work or some place that demands something more formal. And when I say everywhere I mean it: park, cafe’s, shopping, planes, conferences, pool, camping, anywhere! My only beef with the Contacts was that at 6mm and designed for rocky trails, they didn’t have the same feel for general wear. So I recently ordered another pair of 4mm Connects for this and finally took the Contacts where they were built to go – the trails!

Not long ago, I tried a minimal trail shoe that had no rock plate on the same trail I tested the 6mm Xero. This particular trail was a fire trail strewn with up to fist sized loose rocks. What I found in the shoe was that it was bearable to a point, but at the end of a 20k run, your feet felt a little battered. It was enough to convince me to buy a pair of minimal shoes with a rock plate for a 25k race on that trail.

The 6mm Contact gives more protection it is still flexible enough to allow complete barefoot movement from the foot.

The 6mm Contact gives more protection it is still flexible enough to allow complete barefoot movement from the foot.

So you can appreciate that I was nervous taking the Xero’s out there. Suffice to say, I was pleasantly surprised that they pretty much felt the same as the shoe, except with the benefits of an open top sandal that allowed my foot to move as if it were bare. Obviously, with an open top, you do need to take care not to stub a toe. But the warning from some shoe wearers that “You’ll hate it if a rock gets between that rubber and your foot” were unfounded. Sure it happened, but the most steps I took before the rock flicked out was three steps. Try having that happen next time a rock flicks into your shoe!

I will be totally honest and say that on that particular trail, I would never wear the 4mm – just not enough protection. But the 6mm did the trick well enough that if I knew a trail race had some rocky areas but was a bit smoother generally, I would seriously contemplate wearing the 6mm Contacts for the race. And they now replace my hiking sandals as my trail walking shoe of choice too.

Roll them up and put them in your pocket, or...

Roll them up and put them in your pocket, or…

Xero shoes are not only the most comfortable shoes in my closet and the most versatile, but they are also the most compact shoe as well! Travelling with my running shoes is no problem – they lay completely flat and take up no room at all in my bag. So packing road, trail and causal shoes is an absolute breeze and takes up less than one shoe pocket in my suitcase! Unbelievable! And on a run, if I take them off they can roll up into my pack or pocket.

...pack three pairs of shoes for your holiday in less than the space of any sandal, slide or flip flop!

…pack three pairs of shoes for your holiday in less than the space of any sandal, slide or flip flop!

And the products from Xero just keep getting better! For example, take a look at the pic of the underneath of my three pair of Xero Shoes – (L-R) 6mm Contact for Trail; 4mm Connect that I run in and my new blue Connects that I will wear for casual. Note the knot on the brown and black ones. Now, this is not a problem and once used to it you really don’t feel the knot, however some wearers complain about it.

The underside of my three Xero's - note the knot on the first two (you don't feel it) and the little barely there "plug" the new lace material allows you to do!! Brilliant!!!

The underside of my three Xero’s – note the knot on the first two (you don’t feel it) and the little barely there “plug” the new lace material allows you to do!! Brilliant!!!

But Xero have changed the lace material and so note the small little “bead” on the blue pair! The new lace material allows you to melt it into a mini plug. Totally undetectable! Awesome!! This is just another modification (the first being the development of the FeelTrue sole; and the option of a 4mm or 6mm sole) that shows Xero is still thinking about how to make their products even better. I can’t wait to see what surprises come next.

Xero’s come in 5 sole colours and 17 lace colours which means they are completely customised. While you purchase in sizes closest to your foot length (full instructions on the website), you place the toe hole with a tool that comes in your kit; and the sole can be trimmed for a perfect customised fit every time! Xero is with you every step of the way with truckloads of video tutorials on everything from getting started with your Xero’s and basic lacing, to various lacing patterns and styles to experiment with. Ladies, being male this doesn’t appeal to me – but the tying style variety means that various patterns, beads and trinkets can be added to truly personalise your Xero Shoes. A full range can be seen at their website.

If you have read my posts here and at Facebook, you will know that I believe being NoXS Minimal is a complete lifestyle. In that sense, I prefer living barefoot. But in times when I can’t or need that bit of protection, you cannot go past Xero shoes. They do the job, are so amazingly versatile, can be used for just about every occasion, can be personalised beautifully, travel easily and come at an incredibly cheap price. Oh, and did I mention the 5000 mile (8000km) warranty? (Not kidding – see the website)!

How long will it take me to wear through the sole?! I have 5000 miles (8000km's) to try!!!

How long will it take me to wear through the sole?! I have 5000 miles (8000km’s) to try!!!

There is so much going for these shoes, I give them a 10 out of 10. But don’t just take my word for it…

As mentioned, Steven Sashen of Xero Shoes has invited all NoXS Minimal Blog readers to take advantage of their 20% off sale that ends Friday June 7, 2013! Get over to Xero Shoes and use the coupon code TANK to get 20% off their DIY 4mm Connect & 6mm Contact shoes – then feel the world for yourself. Make sure you mention that you came via NoXS Minimal Blog in the order notes at the checkout.

With 20% off extended to NoXS Minimal Blog readers until June 7, there has never been a better time to feel the world!!

With 20% off extended to NoXS Minimal Blog readers until June 7, there has never been a better time to feel the world!!

If you are not sure and want to ask me a question about Xero’s for your situation, drop me a message here or on the NoXS Minimal Facebook Page.

Live Simply & Simply Live,

Mark G