Spring in your step March 22 2016, 0 Comments

It's that time of year when some of us wonder when we are going to have to do the spring wardrobe switch. The weather, of course, does not go out of its way to make the decision easy, and temperatures swing wildly over a twenty-degree range making any fixed decision in either direction incorrect for at least part of the time.

For the ZEMgear barefoot shoe runner, an equally weighty decision has to be made in respect of footwear - when to switch from those warm winter Heroes and Apexes so as to avoid reproachfully steaming feet at the end of the run? I wait for them to be too warm, rather than switch early and suffer from cold feet - at least warm feet are flexible and don't hurt. This decision was reinforced by the experience of setting out on a balmy spring day last year wearing a pair of summer shoes and climbing above the snowline on the surrounding hills, hobbling back a half hour later with painfully cold feet.

So the decision has been made. The Terras are in waiting for a warm, sunny day, unless I plan to climb high. Meanwhile the Heroes will be used until the snow is completely gone. My 360s are used indoors where conditions are controlled, and for flying where swollen feet make having elasticated shoes a huge boon. All of them have that wonderful feet-on-the-floor feel that simply doesn't come with standard shoes.

Check them out!


What are the relative values of running and walking? March 12 2016, 0 Comments

You know that running is more intense than walking, and believe in your heart of hearts that it is doing you good. But what does the evidence say? The benefits of different durations and intensities (walking and running) of exercise is discussed by Wen et. al. in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (2014, 64:5).

It seems that, even in very small doses, walking and running are beneficial in reducing cardiovascular disease and lowering the risks of diabetes and hypertension. The benefits are on a sliding scale that increases as the amount of exercise goes up, but the biggest increase in benefit is at the beginning of the curve, where the amount of exercise is small (figure 1, after Wen et al.).

Figure 1: Relative benefit in reduced mortality for average daily running or walking time.

The implications from this are that benefits can come from relatively small changes - good news for those who have difficulty finding the time to do long work-outs. It also means that beneficial exercise can be built into your day by, for instance, getting off the bus a couple of stops earlier and walking the last part of the journey into work.

For those of you who want to ease yourself into spring with running or hiking, and would like to do so with less shoe and more you, ZEMgear Hero and Apex shoes are warmer for the still cold weather, but you should graduate fairly quickly to Terras as it warms into summer.

Good running and walking all!

Do your running shoes look like this? August 27 2015, 0 Comments

After a season and a half, my faithful Terras are feeling their age. You can see that the tread on the tough undersole that protects you from sharp and hard objects has worn smooth, and in places the light grey and orange mid-sole is peeping through. I'm a little more careful on stony ground now, but still able to cope with all but the very worst of surfaces. The picture above means that the combined thickness of 6mm for the inner-, mid- and outer-sole is down to an average of about 3-4mm, and less than this where the flexible and relatively soft mid-sole is showing.

It's nearly time to switch to the winter Heroes and Apexes, and these will be new, and with the full protective thickness that will allow me to run comfortably on pretty well anything.

So if you're feeling the stones more than you would like to, check your soles out. It might be time for a change.

Swimming in your running shoes July 14 2015, 0 Comments

Our running group is actually a 'hare and hounds' group in which someone lays a trail earlier in the day, and then the rest follow it. The trail disappears in places, so the front-runners have to find it and the others have a chance to catch up, and there are also a couple of other devices to keep the group together.

We ran on July 4th, as we have a fairly strong and patriotic American contingent. As the temperatures soared up to 36°C (97°F), the hare took the trail to the river, and we had a stretch of about half a kilometre along which we could float with the stream and cool down - bliss! I jumped in fully clothed and wearing my Terras. As they fit so snugly, and are not carrying a wad of padding underfoot, they felt quite natural, and I was able to swim and then get out and carry on running with the minimum of fuss.

Some ZEMgear shoes, such as the O2 Oxygen range, are designed for water sports, but in fact, because of their lightness and snug fit, all of them can be used for this. Handy if you would like to take a dip in the middle of your run.Similarly, a friend of ours with a labrador who has just discovered that he is a water-dog invited me down to the lake for a swim. Some sort of footwear is advisable to get over the stones near the shore to the deeper water. I wore 360s, and found that swimming in them is easy and, as they don't have to be changed, there is a minimum of fuss at the shore both going in and coming out.

Where to run? May 26 2015, 0 Comments

When running, I tend to either have a set route, or to simply wander until I feel like coming home.  For those who want to break their routine, but don't trust themselves not to be too far from home when they finally decide to head back, there are designated runs where the route and distance are clearly defined.

Interestingly, when I searched for these in the Zürich area, I found them listed under the Tiefbau- und Entsorgungsdepartement, the department which regulates civil (literally, 'underground') building and waste disposal, and there was a plethora of offerings.

Finnenbahn are tracks, often through the forest with a sawdust/wood bark suface which is spongy to run on.  Excellent for peace and quiet and offering the possibility of running completely barefoot without the risk of sharp stones or shards of glass.  Many of these are lit at night when the time of year requires it.

Waldlaufstrecke provide longer distances on standard tracks, again through the forests which are so readily accessible from towns and cities in Switzerland.

Vitaparcours trails have exercise stations along their length at which you can work on strength or flexibility training.  They are generally shorter, but you can do them more than once if you want to prolong the experience.

Most of the above options offer access to free showering and changing facilities, and you can find them for the Zürich area here.  For other parts of Switzerland, a google search will find them pretty quickly.

If you want more complete immersion in your running, a friend drew my attention to the growing trend for running camps in the USA, where participants can go away for a weekend or a week of running coaching and practice - details here.  Of course, you can also do this in Switzerland where we have unparalleled nature and terrains for running, details of one of these here.

What sort of barefoot shoe would we recommend for these?  For summer, the Terra offers good contact with the ground, and a sole which curls up to protect the toes and heels against knocks and scuffs.  If you're going really high up where it can be chilly, an Apex or Hero might be better for the additional warmth brought by a thermoprene upper.  Wherever you go, and whatever you wear, we wish you a good summer of running!

In pursuit of pain-free running March 24 2015, 0 Comments

This reduces the impact landing on the heels, which is the most common area for pain with plantar fasciitis.  The Terras would help with this, as they have that barefoot feel about them that makes heel-planting counter-intuitive.

Of bleak and sunny running days... March 18 2014, 0 Comments

Why do we wait until we break?

In the last couple of years I have come across three people, including myself, who are selling or distributing barefoot running shoes, all with almost identical stories.  We all suffered from spinal disc prolapses, resulting in long periods (2 years in my case...) of rehabilitation from pain, cramps and partial paralysis of the leg on the side of the injury.  We all have discovered that by running barefoot style, we were able to get back to a near normal lifestyle again, and continue to indulge in our love of running.

In separate conversations with the other two, we have wondered at people who hear our stories, but maintain that they will continue with their current running shoes until something happens.  Now, I understand the philosophy of not fixing something unless it's broken, but if I ever had a chance to go back and avoid that two year stretch of desolation with the prospect of giving up any sport except swimming, I would take it.  I guess it is this experience that makes us the zealots that we are for the front-foot running style outlined by the barefoot professor, Daniel Lieberman, at Harvard.  I also guess that it often takes a fairly radical event to change the habits of a lifetime.

Nevertheless, I don't get it...

Temperatures have climbed from near zero into the mid-teens centigrade now, and it's time to change from my toasty Apexes and Heros to the spring and summer options of the Terras.  It's still a bit early for swimming in the lakes and rivers, unless you have the constitution of an otter,  the O2 Oxygen shoes for water sports will later come in to play to protect our feet from stony underwater floors. 

In the meantime, it's running in the spring forests, with the trees coming into bud - fantastic!  Have a great spring!

Going for the longer haul April 13 2013, 0 Comments

With a couple of races longer than my usual morning lope coming up in May, I'm working on extending my distance.

So I took off this morning along Zürich lakeside for an 'adventure run' (never done it before), with the intention of keeping going for about an hour and a half.  The weather was perfect for running, at about 10°C and slightly overcast, and the view of the lake rolled past on the left hand side.  After about 50 minutes, I turned inland and crossed the ridge, dropping down through the houses to join the lacework of paths which crosses and re-crosses the country and forests in Switzerland.  I followed the sound of running water through the trees, and then the Sihl river, which brought me home.

It was the first time that I had run in my Terras, and I was a little concerned as my foot moves a little inside the smooth material of the upper, but they were comfortable and snug, and brought me the whole way.

A great lead into the weekend!