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.

Fixing outside knee pain August 18 2015, 0 Comments

It is fairly common for runners to get knee pain, and I'd like to take a look at a specific form of this in which the pain comes on the outside of the knee. This is probably because of tightness.

The iliotibial band consists of the the iliotibial tract, a tendon which attaches to the pelvic girdle at the top and the tibia below the knee at the bottom. The gluteus maximus (buttock) muscle inserts into it top-rear, and the tensor fascieae latae muscle at the top-front. This combination is responsible for sideways stability in standing, walking and running. Just above its lower insertion, the iliotibial tract passes over the lateral epicondyle, a bony bump on the side of the knee. Under normal circumstances, it will glide back and forth over this without issue, but if the iliotibial band is tight the resulting friction can lead to inflammation and pain.

How does it get to be too short? Running too much too early can result in the tendons shortening, especially if you don't routinely stretch them when warm after running. Aim to increase either distance or speed (but not both) by about 10% per week for a comfortable progression to fitness, and slow this down if you get untoward aches and pains.

The iliotibial band is relaxed during sitting, and so if you have a sedentary job, it can result in the tendon shortening. There are two main ways to tackle this, stretching and rolling. There are several stretches that you can use, either standing or lying down. For balance, you should always stretch on both sides, and go into and come out of stretches s-l-o-w-l-y - never bounce. One particularly effective yoga stretch (the pigeon) is shown here. From a position on your hands and knees, move the leg to be stretched across your body and then slide the other one backwards until you feel the stretch. You can get additional tension by bringing your head down to the floor and rolling towards the side with the straight leg.

You can roll out the iliotibial band with a solid foam roller, as illustrated. Regulate the amount of weight you put on the roller using your arms and the other foot, and roll back and forwards from knee to hip slowly about ten times. You will have a pretty good clue as to whether the trouble is coming from a tight iliotibial band, as this will be very uncomfortable until it loosens.

Stretch and roll at least once a day, and always when you are warm after a run. If none of this works, it might be time to go and see a doctor or physiotherapist for more specific advice.

Foot fitness August 11 2015, 0 Comments

Over the last few years, I have watched my feet get tougher.

Not in the sense of being able to run on stones or coals, more in the sense that a body-builder would use. When I first started barefoot running, I had a fallen arch on the left foot, and both feet had a slightly long and flaccid a look. As I continued to run, they appeared to shorten, the ball of the foot widened, the musculature across the top of the foot became more pronouced and, miracle of miracles, the arch on the left foot re-formed.

I am aware that a case study with a single subject does not make a general rule, so I went to the internet to see what I could find on the topic. As well as more case studies detailing improvements in foot and ankle alignment from barefoot running over two years, there is a study from the Shanghai University of Sport, written by some eminent USA professors. The study followed two groups of runners wearing standard and minimalist shoes for 12 weeks.

So we can expect some increase in foot strength whether running in 'normal' running shoes or minimalist ones, but this is more widely spread across the muscles in the latter, and the arch becomes stiffer and stronger. The upshot is, if you start running with minimalist shoes, you can expect your feet to grow and look tougher.Minimalist shoe runners moved on average towards a more front- or mid-foot striking pattern while running. Both groups showed an increase in muscle volume for the flexor digitorum brevis muscle under the arch, but the minimalist shoe group also showed a significant increase in cross sectional area and muscle volume in the abductor digiti minimi, which runs along the outside of the foot to the little toe. Longitudinal arch stiffness underwent no change in the control group, but in the minimalist shoe group it increased by 60%.

Do flip-flops cause floppy feet? August 04 2015, 0 Comments

Wearers of high heels sometimes complain of tiredness and aches when going barefoot or wearing flip-flops, and somehow this has been translated into a message that the flip-flops are the trouble makers.

We go barefoot around the house, and wear ZEMgear shoes regularly for trips to the shops or to go out socially. Our feet therefore regularly get exercise and stretching through everyday use - and on the occasions that we do wear flip-flops, it's a breeze!We would argue the opposite. If your feet are encased in a shoe all day, they are unable to flex and stretch as they would if they were uncovered, and so all the little muscles and tendons in the feet and calves do not get exercise. This is especially true if you are wearing high heels, where the foot is fixed in position such that up to 90% of your weight is resting on the ball of the foot. Furthermore, the Achilles tendon is held in an unnaturally shortened position, and tends to shrink. If, at the weekend, you then switch to flops, your feet will have to do unaccustomed work when you walk, and the Achilles tendon will be stretched back into its natural position, both of which can lead to discomfort. Regular periods in which you allow your feet and Achilles tendons to work naturally will help with this. We advise people new to barefoot shoes to start gradually, especially if the intent is to do some serious running, and allow the feet, tendons and calves to 'get fit' again.

Keeping cool in the heat July 21 2015, 0 Comments

One of the reasons that we are a successful species when it comes to running is our ability to sweat.

When it evaporates, water takes energy from nearby heat sources to increase the energy of its molecules enough to launch them into the air. The energy used to change the state of the water from liquid to vapour is called the latent heat of vaporisation. When the latent heat is taken from our bodies, it has a cooling effect. In contrast to animals such as dogs who cannot sweat, and have to cool themselves by panting, this means that our whole body surface can be used to cool us, which is why we are so good at running long distances. Dry atmospheric heat is better for us than humid heat, - you are more sweaty in humid heat because the sweat stays on your skin and does not evaporate as easily, so the cooling effect is reduced. Wiping sweat off can be counterproductive, as it can no longer evaporate and cool.

So what does that mean for running in the heat? Essentially, you should aim to expose as much skin as possible to allow evaporation (don't forget to use suncream...), and/or use clothing which wicks the sweat away from your body to the outer surface of the cloth so that evaporation can still take place.

The second part of this story is equally important - because you are losing so much liquid from your skin, you need to drink frequently to restore it. You also lose minerals (notice how your sweat tastes salty), and you will need to replace these. Omission of either of these can result in heat exhaustion; lack of water causes excessive thirst, weakness and headaches; lack of minerals causes nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps and dizziness. So keep drinking, and in hot weather consider upping the amount of salt that you put on your food, or address both with balanced salt drinks.

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.

What is the difference between walking and running? July 07 2015, 0 Comments

Weight transfer in walking does not exceed total body weight as the transition from one foot to the other involves a stage with both feet on the ground. With running, we are airborne for most of the time, so weight transfer includes the impact of landing which is typically two-and-a-half times body weight. The feet and legs have developed to absorb this impact, and cleverly to store energy from the landing for use in the next take-off.

The benefits of barefoot style June 30 2015, 0 Comments

We use our ZEMgear shoes for free-time and social use as well as for sports. We get a few widened eyes and raised eyebrows when people on public transport see them, a small price to pay for comfort, and anyway, some like that sort of attention... I first noticed the benefits at an exhibition.  We were wearing ZEMs - the best way to display your wares is to use them - and at the end of a longish day, I noticed that I had no back-ache, something that I have associated with exhibitions for many years. To get an idea of why this might be, we need to go into the mechanics of heels.

When standing barefoot, weight distribution between the heels and the ball of the foot is about 50:50. This is the most energy-efficient way of standing, as your weight is balanced over your feet, a technique taught in the Alexander technique for reducing strain and promoting relaxation.  You can change the weight distribution by leaning forwards or back, but this induces tension in the opposing muscles.  Over a full working day, this can make a big difference both in how tired you might feel at the end of the day, and in aching of the correcting muscles.

Let us now throw some heels into the mix. High heels are worn to attract. They make you taller and bunch the calf muscles so that the curve of the calf is more accentuated. They tilt the body forward so that the spine curves to compensate, making the bottom stick out and lifting the bosom into a sexier pose. So what is the effect of this re-distribution of assets?

Relatively low heels will change weight distribution, throwing more weight onto the ball of the foot, and less on the heel, and really high heels can put as much as 90% of your weight on the front of your foot, which can cause distortion and bunions.  The arch of the foot, which normally flexes to absorb impact during walking, is now stretched into a fixed position, which weakens its ligaments, and the toes are are flexed into a fixed position from which they can make little contribution to locomotion. The Achilles tendon and calf are shortened, and if the shoes are worn for long stretches, this can become permanent, making it uncomfortable to go back to low-heeled shoes because of the stretch that this induces. The knees are pushed forward so that when standing the weight is not balanced over the foot in the column of the leg - instead the muscles and ligaments around the knee have to be in tension to maintain balance. Still thinking in columns, the vertical alignment of the spine is disturbed, putting strain on the discs, and necessitating additional muscular effort to stay upright.

Walking barefootI know that it is too much to ask some people to give up their high heels, and the social constraints surrounding some jobs make this impossible. However, to allow your feet, legs and spine to relax, try barefoot in the evenings at home, and barefoot shoes for going out informally. Your body will thank you for it.

Travelling, ZEM-style June 24 2015, 0 Comments

Summer hails the arrival of another holiday season when we head for the sun, sea or mountains to unwind after a hectic winter and spring. For many of us this involves flights or car trips to our chosen destinations. For this, and indeed any travel that does not require looking formal at the end, ZEMgear shoes are a useful addition to the travel inventory.

If you are like me, and take your shoes off as often as possible, the elasticated, no-lace design means that they can be slipped off easily when sitting down waiting for that flight, and on again in a trice to board. Off when seated in the plane (or car), and on again for a walk to the back of the plane.  Also because they are elasticated, they will stretch to accommodate feet that swell up on a long flight or car journey, and maintain a good, snug fit as the feet shrink back to their normal size when we start to walk.

Normal shoes are bulky and impact the size of the suitcase that you take - it helps to stuff them with smaller items of clothing, but even so they take up a lot of space. Not so with ZEMs. They are compact enough to fit three pairs in the space normally take by a single pair of normal shoes, or you can slot them into the narrow spaces between other items to make best use of available space.

Finally, you can use them at your destination. If you continue with your running programme on holiday, they take up less space than your other running gear, and if you are so lucky as to be going to a beach, they are perfect for walking on sand as they keep your soles off the hot sand, and fit snugly to your feet to prevent the sand from getting inside the shoe.

There are so many reasons to travel ZEM-wise.

Fartlek - a Swedish innovation June 18 2015, 0 Comments

A normal training programme for a running event will include distance work to build stamina and shorter faster elements such as intervals to build strength and speed. In the 1930s Gösta Holmér, the Swedish national cross country coach, put these together into the Fartlek, near-literally speed-play in Swedish.  This is how it works.

In the course of a normal run, you insert periods of increased speed, for instance a faster two-minutes within each kilometre, with longer normal running spells in between to allow for recovery.  The advantage of this is that it does not require dedicated times or places for speed training.  It can take place almost anywhere, on roads or trails, and features occurring on the run can be put to use - lamp posts can be counted to set distances for the fast and slower stretches, or hills can be used for shorter, flat-out uphill work.  All of this will add spice to a normal run, and has been shown to be extremely effective in building both speed and stamina.

Sweden gave the world ABBA and the car safety belt, and punches above its weight in international sports competitions.  Distance runners can thank it for the Fartlek, an innovation used to this day by many serious runners.

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!

What sort of runner are you? April 30 2015, 0 Comments

Reflecting on the running community, it seems that it has a big a diversity as the general population.  As with the general community, runners tend to fall into groups of 'types', with some spillage from one type to another.  So what sort of runner are you?

The Competitor.  The competitor always has a goal and a plan on how to get there, from the 5k charity run right through to the ultra-marathon runner who will do a continuous 200km.  A goal helps.  Whether it is as part of a 20kg weight-loss programme, or the gruelling lead up to that long, tough race, it helps to get you out of bed on those cold, wet mornings and to attack your day.

The Good Mood Generator.  Stress hormones and adrenaline can build up during the working day, and running helps to burn them off.  It provides a haven away from the office environment, along with the ability to use the muscles we inherited as part of our evolutionary development and which see too little use in the office.  That feeling at the end of the run in which the tensions accumulated during the day are all gone is well worth the effort.

The Problem Solver.  Running bears many similarities to meditation, regular breathing, a repetitive rhythm, and a chance for the mind to freewheel.  Often, when faced with a knotty issue which seems to have no solution, running allows the subconscious to kick in and untangle it.

The Social Runner.  Running in a group provides social contact and, if wanted, an element of competition to provide a little push.  It is a very wholesome kind of socialising too - no preservatives, no additives, no smoke, and a great way to make contact with like-minded people when moving to a new home.

The Escapist.  Often running on their own, the escapist can be found following trails through field and forest to engage in a little solitude in a healing environment.

The Explorer.  Characterised by the fact that many times they really don't know where they are going, the explorer runs in cities, on hills or in woods - anywhere, so long as it opens up new horizons and widens their knowledge of the place where they are.  They need a good mental compass to make sure that they can find their way to where they want to finish, and the length of the run often depends on the interest of the environment.

The Commuter.  Often with a backpack containing a towel and the days clothes, the commuter runs at the beginning and/or end of the day.  They arrive at work awake, oxygenated and invigorated and ready for the challenge, and at work relaxed after a clear break from the stresses of the day.

So which one(s) are you?


Adapting to barefoot-style running April 14 2015, 0 Comments

Changing back to a barefoot running style should be gradual. I say 'back' because, if you watch children running they land on the forefoot - and don't they love to run!

Landing on the forefoot means that the foot and the calves absorb the impact as the heel is lowered to the floor, and this requires strength.  The muscles and tendons involved in this movement need to be strengthened, and building muscle takes time - ask any body builder.  Overdoing it can result in stiffness, soreness and inflammation, and many people who have switched to barefoot shoes have experienced this.  So what can you do to avoid it?

Start slowly - keep running in the old shoes, and intersperse this with shorter distances in your barefoot shoes.  Take rest days - the body works by a system of repair-and-improve.  Every time you run, you create an oxygen debt in your muscles to which the body responds by building more lung capacity to capture oxygen, and more capillaries in the muscles to distribute it and take away carbon dioxide.  Working the muscles produces micro-tears in their structure, prompting a repair mechanism which builds back the tissue better than before.  All of this takes time, and rest days in between exercises allow it to happen.  Gradually increase the distance you do in your barefoot shoes, and if you start to experience stiffness in your calves, hold at that distance or drop back a little to allow them to catch up.  Gradually replace the time spent in your normal running shoes with time in your barefoot ones.

A useful tip is to roll out your muscles and tendons. You can buy a hard-foam roller to do this, but I use a rolling pin.  If I am feeling stiffness, I roll out the muscles in my calves, shins and upper legs for a few minutes before running and again after stretching at the end of the run.  This helps to move the lactic acid through and works with the stretching to lengthen and relax the muscles.  This has also helped in my case with achey knees, where I spent a little more time rolling the iliotibial band above and outside the knee as tightness here can affect the knee.

It does take time, but the rewards are great - success comes in the form of strong, fit legs and feet and light, trouble-free running with all of the pleasure that that can bring.

Light and quiet March 31 2015, 0 Comments

In our running group we have a smattering of people who run in barefoot shoes, and the rest in more standard running shoes.  It is noticeable that the barefoot-shoe runners seem quieter than the others, and I speculate that this is a question of style.

No matter what style you run, the peak impact when you land is about two-and-a-half times your body weight.  However, the way that we arrive at this peak is different, depending on how we land. Here, for instance, you will see heel-strike running with shoes, and barefoot.  In both cases you will see that there is a sudden, steep rise in the impact force as the heel lands, indicating a sudden, hard landing.  With a barefoot running landing front-foot first, the impact climb, albeit to the same level, is more gradual.  This means that the weight also arrives on the ground more gradually, and could explain the lighter sound when running.

A further video looks at a runner running shod and barefoot without any pre-training. It discusses that the style adopted is completely different, with the runner landing on the front foot when bafefoot, and the heel when wearing shoes.  The suggestion is that extra padding in the heel of shoes is sufficient in itself to cause a change in style to a heel-strike.

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.

A nice pair of lungs March 20 2015, 0 Comments

In a previous blog I mentioned whooping for air after doing some intervals, and that got me to thinking about the whole area of lung capacity and stamina.

Our capacity to take in oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide depends on our lungs and our circulatory system.  Our lungs have a total capacity of normally about six litres for men and four for women, and at rest we use about 10% of this to breathe, the in- and out-flow being called the tidal volume.  The 'vital capacity' of the lungs is the maximum volume that we can breathe out after a full inhalation, and this is about 4.8 litres for a man, and 3.2 for a woman.  This is less than the full capacity of the lungs, as it is not possible to completely evacuate them.  Nevertheless, it is considerably more than we use in everyday life, which means that a lot of the air in our lungs is not exchanged with normal breathing.  Deep breathing, either induced by exercise or through deliberate techniques such as are found in yoga, is an excellent way to flush stale air out of the lungs and replace it with fresh.

When we make ourselves pant with exercise, we are creating an oxygen debt in our bodies, and this, in turn, is tells the body that it needs to increase it's capacity for absorbing and distributing oxygen, our aerobic capacity.  We grow more alveoli in our lungs, increasing the capacity to take in air, and new capillaries in our muscles better to distribute the oxygen to them and carry away carbon dioxide.  If we overdo it and cannot supply enough oxygen for a sustained period, the body switches to less efficient anaerobic respiration, producing lactic acid as a by product, which makes us feel stiff and sore afterwards.

So the occasional whooping for air is a good thing.  It clears out the stale air in our lungs, and contributes to making us fitter.

Barefoot or cushioning? February 24 2015, 0 Comments

Last week, a friend sent me an article from the International New York Times describing the arrival of maximalist, highly cushioned shoes. You might be surprised that such a topic would appear on this website, as we are at the other end of the running philosophy spectrum. I was initially a little reluctant to read it because I was sure that I wouldn't like what I saw. In psychology, this is known as 'confirmational bias' - an acceptance of anything that confirms one's existing beliefs, and rejection of anything which contradicts them.  However, I did read it, and in the interests of open-mindedness (the opposite of confirmational bias...), here is what I found and think.

Born to runOn the basis  of the story of a prominent long-distance runner whose plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation of the feet, was resolved by using maximalist shoes, they seem to work.  Plantar fasciitis was exactly the issue that plagued Christopher McDougal, author of the best-selling Born to Run, and his cure was to change to barefoot running, so it seems that different approaches can come to the same resolution. The article emphasised that, even with the cushioning, correct running style on the forefoot is important. This uses foot pronation and the gradual lowering of the heel to absorb impact, wonderfully demonstrated by professor Daniel Lieberman at Harvard. 

I guess that each individual has to find his or her solution to their running needs, and this can be different for different people.  For my part, switching to barefoot running (with barefoot shoes) has been life-changing, and I shall stick with it.  And, even in this article, I found a salve for my confirmational bias - the long-distance runner who uses the maximalist shoes still runs shorter distances barefoot to keep his feet strong.  He drily concludes that people who spend more time improving their bodies as opposed to shopping for shoes are the ones who are going to run better.

Nutrition for runners February 23 2015, 0 Comments



Whether you’re taking on a 5K or facing off a marathon this year, our expert tips, meal plans and infographics will have you flying over the finish line…

Indoor sports - shoes or no? February 18 2015, 0 Comments

We had an in inquiry last week from someone who wanted to know if ZEMgear shoes could be used for indoor sports such as martial arts.  I had heard that in some states in the USA, new legislation had made shoes compulsory at public sports venues because of the possibility of spreading foot infections.  This prompted an internet search, and I could find nothing about it at all, so it seems that it might be another myth.  However, the question about use of ZEMgear shoes for indoor sports remains.

In the past, I did martial arts, and we always trained barefoot, and sometimes on different surfaces (grass, concrete, slippery floors) to widen our experience.  This can be a trial in the early stages as constantly-shod feet are soft and can develop scratches and blisters until they toughen up.  This would be a perfect time for barefoot shoes, as standard trainers do not convey the same feeling of contact with the ground as barefoot training, and plasters covering small injuries would be protected inside the shoes.

So the answer is 'yes', it's possible to train for barefoot sports in ZEMgear shoes.  The soles of all models are all non-marking to keep the sports hall management happy, and the tech-bands hold the shoes tightly to the feet, allowing good manoeuvrability.  Any of the range could be worn, depending on the degree of protection or warmth required, with the O2 Oxygen as an initial recommendation, as it was specifically designed for indoors or water sports. 


ZEMgear Heroes at home in the snow February 11 2015, 0 Comments

Last weekend I went away with a running group for a Winterfest.  One of us lays a trail using blobs of coloured flour - you can see from the picture that on Saturday it was blue.  When the trail is laid, the rest of us follow it, navigating such deliberate obstacles as places where the trail disappears so that we have to fan out and find it, and others where it doubles back on itself.

You can also see that we ran on a lot of snow and ice, which makes for hard work when it is either broken up or deep.  I was wearing Apexes on Friday evening and Sunday morning, and Heroes on Saturday.  My feet were toasty warm through all three runs, and, even in deep snow, I never had the discomfort of snow getting into the ZEMs.


The reason for this harks back to the orignial ZEMgear designs which were for playing beach volleyball.   They are fully elasticated, fitting snugly to the feet and ankles (I can testify that on beaches no sand gets in).  Likewise, the winter versions don't let in the snow and the Thermoprene material ensures that feet stay warm while running.

They were all good runs, Saturday's longer than expected as we got lost, eventually clocking over 20km and instilling even more confidence in me that snow and ice are no obstacles for a good pair of barefoot shoes!

Long and slow, or short and sharp? February 05 2015, 0 Comments

Up until recently, the most common refrain that I heard about distance running was that you should do some long, slow running for stamina, and some faster work to build speed.  The extension of this was based on heart rate, with 80% of training time at 60-70% of the maximum heart rate (often called the 'fat burn' rate), and the remaining at 80% or more.

An extension of this, and a theme that I am hearing more and more, is that short, sharp bursts of activity and rest are actually much better for getting fit.  Recommended times vary, but distinct improvements in fitness have been recorded with less than 5 minutes a day.  The interval training involves 20 seconds or so at absolute top speed, followed by a rest period of 10 to 40 seconds.  I have tried this myself at a track near here, and with a heart monitor, and here is the result.

I did about a 6k warm-up, so the relevant bit for the intervals was the spiky bit at the end.  I did five, about 100 metres, followed by 300 slow, and you will see there are five peaks towards the end with a gradually ascending maximum.  Two observations on this.  Firstly, by the end of the last interval I was whooping for air, so my lungs definitely got a clearout.  Secondly, sprinting like this, you use the full travel of your stride, bringing the knees right up at front, and extending back hard for the thrust.  This addresses a concern that I have about always running long and slow, in that the muscles are not used through the full length of their travel and I don't believe this is best for them.

Later that week, I ran with my usual group, and I have to say found it easier, and clocked a better speed than before.  So the interval training stays from now on.


The sock conundrum January 22 2015, 0 Comments

Despite a gradual improvement in fitness from running, by the end of last year I was having a nagging recurrence of slight inflammation in my Achilles tendons - not enough to stop running, but enough to make them uncomfortable for a couple of days.  I run with a group, and we stand around and socialise after the run, and I felt that the cold around my ankles aggravated the inflammation.

A two-week break at Christmas gave them time to recover, and I took a couple of other measures.  To quiet down my immune system and inflammatory response, I changed my diet to increase my intake of antioxidants and omega-3 oils with more fruit, vegetables and fish.  This was less an issue when I wore Heroes, because they reach higher up the ankles, but more so when I wore Apexes as there was a gap between them and my running pants.

I browsed toe-socks to address this, but then Claudia pointed out that we had a solution in our own inventory in the form of the HG ankle supports, and this proved to be very successful.  They are elasticated, offering some support, and more importantly in this case, keeping the ankles and tendons warm.  They work really well with the ZEMgear shoes, as they are effectively toeless socks.

It worked.  The achilles tendons are now quiet, and I am running freely and enjoyably through the winter chill.

Photo Contest November 29 2014, 0 Comments

Enter our Facebook Photo Contest for a chance to win a pair of winter ZEMgear shoes (APEX or HERO)



What happens to our brains when we exercise September 02 2014, 0 Comments

Exercise has been touted to be a cure for nearly everything in life, from depression, to memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s and more.