Thursday, December 27, 2012

"Do Life" by Ben Davis: Book review and Giveaway!

Do Life by Ben Davis

I just finished this book, and really wanted to get a review up before it goes on sale on 12/31/12!! And, stay tuned for your chance to win a copy when it is released next week as well!

Before reading this book, I had not heard about Ben, or his amazing journey, so I am so glad I was asked to review this book and learn more about his amazing story!

For an amazing visual summary of his journey, take a look at the video below...

As for the book, I found it equally as inspirational and moving as this video.  Now, if you are not a runner, don't think that this book isn't for you.  It really is for everyone.  Granted, Ben Davis discovered running as his key to true happiness, but the message delivered is that the key could be just about anything, as long as it is a healthy obsession to drive you forward... or as the book is titled... to drive you to truly "do life", rather than sitting back and letting it pass by.  Ben does an amazing job of truly bringing you into his shoes... even in the darkest and lowest moments, and by exposing himself at his rawest moments, carries you forward in his journey to happiness and health.  And, it was not an overnight or painless transition as Ben recounts many setbacks and challenges that are to be expected.

Now, as someone who has been on a journey to better health and happiness, I really identified with many of the stories and feelings that Ben relates in this book. Not everyone is going to have the same challenges, or even the same journey, but the basic foundation and strategies offered in this book are sound and offer some great ways to begin thinking about how to change your own life.  Again, things aren't going to be the same for everyone, and Ben notes this often in the book, but the key message remains that you can take control and live life to its fullest, and it's never too late to start.

From a runners perspective, I really enjoyed this book as well.  Besides just documenting the ups and downs of his journey, Ben also takes time to offer a lot of running advice for new runners, based on his experiences.  Included in the book are several training programs for various race distances and some great advice on training, strategies, and gear.  These are by no means in-depth programs (there are complete books on each of these areas), but there is a lot of info I wish I had known when I first started running.  So, if you are a new runner, I would highly recommend this book for the simple tips offered, combined with the inspirational story.

What is also really cool, is that Ben's journey and philosophy has been transformed into a movement as well. You can check out the Do Life Facebook page at

And from that page, here is the mission:

What is Do Life?

Do Life is a choice to take control of our lives. 

It is refusing to accept that life has to be ordinary or inconsequential.

It is identifying the areas of our lives that need improvement.

It is deciding to change.

And the key thing about Do Life is that it’s not about just one thing; if you want to become 
a better father, you become it. If you want to be a better student, you do it. If you want to run a marathon, you run until you can’t run anymore, and then you keep running. 

Do Life is a movement dedicated to achieving these things and helping others as they Do Life as well.

And so.. there you have it. Would you like a copy of the book??  It will be released on 12/31/12, and one reader will have an opportunity to get one of the first copies. Or, you can order it here.  Please note, contest is open to the U.S. and Canada only.  Winner will be drawn from all entries via after the contest closes at 10PM MST on December 31, 2012.

Enter below... good luck and thanks for reading!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, December 21, 2012

I'm a Ninja! Born 2 Run Road Performance Review and Training update

Yikes! 36 days until my first marathon!  Ok.. I'm not panicking yet, but I'm sure that will come.  From a training update perspective, I am in week 11 of a 16 week schedule that I built using the free Smart Coach app from Runner's world.  I managed to complete my first 20 miler last Friday, which felt great.  Especially since I really was stressing about it in the days leading up to it.  But, I got through and recovered fairly quickly, so I am starting to think I may just make it through my first full marathon! 

One reason I think I'll get through my first full is that I'm going to run like a Ninja!!  If you recall, in mid-October I posted a preview of the goodies sent to me by Born 2 Run to help me train and run my first marathon.  You can see that post here.  The Road Performance shoe (shown above), sports a Tabi style split toe which is really comfortable to me (I credit my Japanese ancestry), hence my Ninja shoes... (or goat shoes as my wife calls them). 

So, what follows is my comprehensive review of these shoes, as well as a review of the Strength Training program from B2R as well.  Also, stay tuned because at the end of the review is a HUGE announcement...  no.. really..  :-) 

First of all, let me talk about the strength training DVD program. The Level One program includes a wobble board (what I am standing on), plus balance poles, and a really good DVD.  I did the workouts (which includes core work), but then came up with a great idea.  I have a core workout I like to do already, so I took the wobble board to my office and used it with my standing desk.  I can go through the series of foot/leg strengthening drills while on a conference call!  This worked out really well.  The results?  I know my feet and lower legs are stronger from these exercises.  Where I notice it the most is when I run on ground that is off angle... especially side to side. That can really wear you down, but the exercises simulate those changes and have strengthened my feet so that I can handle that much better.  Also, I've noticed less fatigue in my feet after long runs.  So... I will continue to use this while working!

Now.. on to the shoes.  Quick impression?  Love them.  But first, I'll give you a few specs/features, and then explain why I'm enjoying them so much. 

Here are the highlights from the B2R website:

  • All-purpose, everyday road shoe with breathable mesh upper
  • Perfect for high-mileage minimalist runners, and those looking to make the transition to an appropriate natural performance shoe
  • Zero-drop (the difference in mid-sole/outsole height between the heel and the forefoot is approximately 0 mm)
  • Low profile 13mm Stack Height: Midsole 6mm, Outsole 3.5mm, Footbed 3.5mm
  • Removable Insole for customized comfort - 3mm
  • Weight:  6.9 ounce for Men’s shoe size 9
  • Designed to fit men and women (shoes run true to size)
  • FREE downloadable transition program with purchase
  • Two pairs of split-toe socks included with each purchase
 So, for comparison purposes, the closest shoe that I own to these would be the Merrell Barefoot Road Glove.  And, its the only other pair of true "road" running shoes I own as everything else is either a huarache, or a trail shoe.   Of course the Road Gloves don't have the split toe.  From a stack height perspective, they are about the same, however I believe the Road Performance uses an EVA type rubber, so its a little more squishy compared to the Road Glove sole.  They are also very light, which I like.  And, although the upper is a breathable mesh, they actually stay warm.  I've run some long runs in sub-freezing temps (even through some snow) and have had no issues. 

 Now, the split toe is kind of an interesting feature.  As I noted earlier, very comfortable for me and I really like the feel of it when running.  It gives you that extra flexibility of toe articulation, but without the individual sleeves for each toe such as Vibram Five Fingers.  The toe box is still wide, and I can move my toes around comfortably.  And, if you are wondering about socks, each pair is shipped with two pairs of tabi toe socks, which I have found to work really well.  I have also run in these with Injinji toe socks, and that is a great combo too. 

Here is what my pair looks like after 141.35 miles of running. Wow.. that still boggles my mind...  I may have to admit to actually being a runner at some point, now that I've almost hit 800 miles for the year!  I still have a hard time grasping that... ah well, getting distracted again. 

I was a little concerned with the seemingly softer sole, but above you can see the amount of wear over these miles.  And just about all miles have been on pavement.  There is a little wearing on the outside of the mid-foot, and a little on the toes, but that is about it.  Also, after the first 20 miles in these, they felt less squishy which was good. 

I do have two areas of concerns at this point.  Above you can see that right behind my big toe, the outer material is starting to separate.  I'm not too concerned yet, as the material underneath is solid.  This may end up being more of a cosmetic issue after a few more miles

And, this is the second area of concern. On the inside of the shoe, just in front of the arch, the material is breaking down as well.  Again, placing my finger inside the shoe assures me that it isn't going all the way through, so I hope it remains that way!  Needless to say, with all the road running I've done in these, I will be wearing these for my marathon at the end of January.  

But, these cosmetic (for now) issues aside, I am very happy with the B2R Road Performance as my go to road running shoe.  Of course, my passion is trail running (after all, I am entering a road marathon simply to get a qualifying time to enter the Pikes Peak Marathon!), and B2R is working on a trail version of this shoe, but from what I understand it has not been release yet.  I would LOVE to put that shoe to the test! 

Overall, I am really excited about the work Eric Orton has put into B2R.  His running form video is one I've watched numerous times, and think about whenever I'm running.  It's on the Level One DVD, but you can watch it right here as well.

So.. there you have it.  As always, if I've neglected to cover something, or if you have questions, please leave me a comment or email me!


On January 1st of this year, I hosted my first blog giveaway.  My blog was only a few months old, but I found a few sponsors and had a great time giving a few things away. You can see that post here.  I called it the Happy and Healthy 2012 Giveaway.  So, now that I have a year of blogging under my belt, I went back to all the great companies that provided amazing products for me to test and review over the year to thank them for their support of Barefoot Inclined, and also asked them to help me give back to my blog readers/followers with another contest for 2013.  And WOW... did they respond.  Here is a list of prizes I'll have to give away:

Bedrock Sandals
Brite Buds from Far End Gear
Custom Xeroshoes Huaraches
Vivobarefoot shoes
Earth Runner Huaraches
DIY Sandal kit from Luna Sandals
$25 Gift Certificate to Softstar Shoes
Autographed soft cover "365 Day of Pikes Peak" book from The Pikes Peak Guy

And hopefully more!

So, be sure to look for a post on 1/1/2013 and enter to win.  And thank you again for reading and following Barefoot Inclined!

Have a Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Hydrapak GelBot and Honeystinger Review & Giveaway!

Even though it doesn't look like it outside, it is definitely the Christmas season!  I know, to be politically correct I should say "holiday" season, but I'm not going to be politically correct.  And hopefully, we'll see some winter weather and snow here in Colorado sometime soon. I can't believe we are into December, and even today up in the mountains, we hit 60 degrees... wrong.. just wrong. Anyway, I am certainly in a giving mood, so I'm excited to offer another few reviews, and a giveaway.

So, today I'm reviewing some fuel and hydration options, namely the Hydrapak GelBot, and a selection of products from Honey Stinger.  As my running distances continue to extend, I've been learning more about hydration and fueling techniques, as well as the myriad of products and gear out there to support it.  As with many things running, it comes down to finding what works best for you. Hang on while I give you a brief summary of my impressions of both of these companies and their products, and at the end you'll have an opportunity to win a GelBot with a sample selection of Organic Gels from Honeystinger!

So, the cool folks at Honey Stinger sent me an assortment of their products to try out.  I had heard some good things about them, but had not tried anything yet. I've tried and reviewed products from both GU and Clif (reviews here and here), but am always looking for other options. Oh, and before I forget, I did ask them about the Lance Armstrong packaging.  Yes, its being changed (for obvious and disappointing reasons), but stock will be out there for a bit until they shift over to new packaging.

So, first off, one of the things I liked about Honey Stinger is their focus on natural (and organic) ingredients.  Granted, I know that there are arguments that when you get down to sugars (as in a gel), they are basically the same chemically, but I feel better about seeing an ingredient list with organic ingredients, and a short ingredient list to boot.  So, bonus points to Honey Stinger for working a little harder to keep folks like me happier about what they use to fuel up.

First, the chews were great, but not particularly better or worse than Clif Shot Bloks, or GU Chomps... other than being organic/natural.  I did enjoy the caffeinated limeade ones the best.  But, I still find chews a bit difficult to take in while running...  still worry about inhaling a chunk!

The energy bar and protein bars were pretty tasty, and I ended up using them as a pre-run snack/breakfast... they worked well for that. But the waffles?  I REALLY enjoyed those...  what a great treat about 8 or 10 miles into a run.. I enjoyed both flavors... kind like a cookie, but not.  Easy to eat... and was easy on my stomach.  

The Honey Stinger product I liked the best however was their organic energy gels.  I tried the Fruit Smoothie, Acai Pomegranate, and Vanilla (missing from the pic because I used it before taking it!).  The flavors were great (with Vanilla as #1 for me), terrific organic ingredients, but most of all was the consistency.  Honey Stinger gels are probably the thinnest that I have tried, and that works much better for me. I have a harder time with thicker gels, especially when its well below freezing outside. AND, the thinner gel works awesomely with the GelBot from Hydrapak, which is up next!

I was first introduced to Hydrapak when I reviewed their Woolly Mammoth insulated bottle back in September here.   Hydrapak is just a great company with great products.  The GelBot certainly meets those standards as well.  Not only is the GelBot a great water bottle, it includes an additional feature that is a stroke of pure genius.

Inside the bottle is a 3.2 oz capacity chamber that attaches to the nozzle/lid.  Just the right size to hold two gel packs (depending on the size).  At the bottom of the chamber is a sliding plunger. Once filled, you attach it to the nozzle, slide it into the bottle and tighten it down.

Now, with the nozzle pushed down (closed) all you have to do is squeeze to deliver gel out of the center of the nozzle.  The pressure simply slides the plunger up to dispense gel.  Now, keep in mind, a really thick gel, and sub freezing temperatures means you may have to squeeze like crazy, and simultaneously try and suck it out like on a straw in the worlds thickest milkshake... but it will work.  If you aren't crazy about an additional workout while running, I would recommend a thin gel... like the Honey Stingers!  Anyway, if you want water, simple pull the nozzle up, like most bottles, and squeeze to dispense the water (or your fluid of choice).

I really like the ability to dispense gel in the amounts I want while on the go. Fumbling with a gel pack, and then having to down the whole thing at once is not my preference, as I'd rather spread that fueling out if I can.  Granted, this only holds two, but for this same reason, I could carry more gels using a gel flask, also available at Hydrapak.

Finally, this bottle really works well in my Nathan Elite handheld sleeve (see picture way at the top). If you want one, the 20 oz runs about $12-$14, so I think its a great value!

So, once again, thanks for hanging on through another wordy review.  I mean, you did read it right?  Or did you just jump straight here to the end for the giveaway?? :-)  No matter, lets get to the giving away! One selected winner will win a 20oz GelBot from Hydrapak, and another winner, box of assorted organic gels from Honeystinger!

Follow the instructions on each option below to earn entries.  Contest will close on Monday, December 10th, at 10PM MST.  Winners will be selected at random from all entries using   Contest limited to residents of  the U.S. and Canada only. Thanks!  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks, good luck.. and Happy trails!!


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sticky Fingers: VFF Spyridon Review

VFF Spyridon: Crazy awesome
So, I am really excited to finally get a review up for the Spyridon's from Vibram Five Fingers that were released earlier this year.  I really like the VFF Flow's that I have (review here) and enjoy running in them, but they are better suited for beaches or less rugged trail since they are lacking some protection, and also have no tread pattern to speak of. The Spyridons seem to have a much more gecko like tread.. especially in green!

Spyridon LS
The latest Spyridon is similar to the Spyridon LS pictured above which came out first.  The Spyridon LS was the first trail-specific shoe from VFF, so when I first saw those, I was dying to try them out since I love being on the trail so much.  As you can see, the major design difference between these two trail models is the lacing system.  The LS model uses a speed lace system , versus the hook-loop strap system on the Spyridon model.  I never did get a chance to try the LS model, so I can't compare, but I can say that I really do like the fit of the Spyridon. Unlike other minimalist shoes or huaraches, VFF's are designed to hug your foot like a glove.  I like the feeling, but its not for everyon.

But, before I jump into my impressions of the shoe, I'll break down some of the details.  As you can see, the outsole is 3.5mm, and is topped inside with a 3mm Polyurethane insole for a total stack height of around 6.5mm.  The great part about this sole is the molded mesh in the midsole that works like a rock plate. It doesn't impact the flexibility or ground feel very much, but it does a great job of dispersing or spreading any nasty sharp jabs.  Not that you won't get a stinger from bad foot placement (I did a few times), this added protection provides a little more insurance for those times when attention is lacking.

The stretch mesh upper is pretty comfortable, however I ran with no socks in my first run, and I ended up with a hot spot just above the arch of my foot.  I think it may have had to do with the bit of extra fabric on some of the seams in the upper, and perhaps it wasn't folded down flat. For the most part the interior of the shoe is relatively smooth, especially along the bottom, but as you can see there are some seams like the one above, and similar ones around each toe sleeve that could potentially cause an issue over a long run.  My personal preference is to wear a light weight Injinji sock in any minimalist shoe (except for huarache sandals), so went that route with the Spyridons.   I was very happy with the pairing of the thinner Injinji's, and didn't experience any other issues from that point forward.  Also, they still smell good :-)

This is how they look after just under 50 trail miles logged.  Granted, I'm pretty good about rinsing/dusting them off after each run.  Also, I really like the green... they stand out, and I'm a big Gumby fan, so green works for me!   You can also get them in an orange/olive/black style as well.

So, how do they perform? For a minimalist trail shoe, I love them.  I ran in them for 2 (out of a 4 race series) trail races, that were over some pretty rugged, rocky and technical trails.  A lot of the trail was loose rock, large boulders at off kilter angles, and some really good up and downhills.  What I liked was that even with a 6.5mm stack height, the ground feel was good. I think a lot of that comes from the individual toes sleeves that make VFF's very flexible and responsive. And, I was able to pick my way down some technical downhills quickly (well, relatively... at least I was actually passing people!) because of the great traction provided by the aggressive tread pattern.  While I didn't take any plunges into deep water, the Spyridons shed any water from small puddles well, and combined with the Injinji's, my feet stayed warm, even during a 7 mile race with temps in the mid 20's.

And of course, I've logged a number of climbs up the Manitou Incline, plus the run back down Barr Trail (pictured above).  I've really enjoyed taking these out on the trail, and I think Vibram has filled a gap in its product line by offering a true trail ready minimalist Five Finger shoe.  I really don't have any particular complaints or concerns about the Spyridons.  I do know that VFF's are not for everyone, as getting them sized and fit to your foot properly doesn't always work, based on the shape of your foot etc.  So, I would recommend trying them on, versus just ordering online.  The Spyridon's retail for $110, but its worth keeping your eyes open for any specials or discounts out there.

VFF Lontra

Finally, I can't help but give you a peek at the VFF Lontra's that just came out.  I am as excited about these as I was for the original Spyridons. These are the first cold weather trail VFF's that should perform great in snow as well (if we ever get any). Water resistant with a micro-fleece pile interior.... awesome!

Thanks again for tuning in.  As always, please leave comments/questions/feedback below.  Welcome to December, and hopefully some snowy winter weather!

Happy trails!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Nathan Quickdraw Elite Review and Giveaway!

Remember this guy??  Ah yes... cartoons from the good old days..    Wow, actually got distracted BEFORE I started a review post, versus halfway through it! 

Nathan Performance Gear

Ok.. back on track.  I have a number of reviews (many with giveaways) backlogged, so going to play some catch up over the next week or two.  By popular demand, today's review is of a great handheld hydration bottle from Nathan Performance Gear..  stay tuned after the review for a chance to win one for yourself! 

Why a handheld, versus a hydration pack or waist pack?  Really it is a matter of personal choice, and finding out what works.  When I first started running, I didn't carry anything at first because I just wasn't going that far! Then I shifted to using a waist pack from REI with one bottle, and room for a few items.  I still use that on longer runs, but needed to find a way to carry more liquid, so I picked up a Quickdraw Elite from Nathan pictured above.  I am also trying out running with a vest hydration system, but have only used it once so far, so I don't have any real feedback or impression of using that.  Before I get into the review, I do want to recommend a great article about the benefits of a handheld from an awesome runner/blogger Vanessa Runs.. check out her article here. 

Ok.. here is a bad picture of the Quickdraw taken at 4am before heading out for a run..  Besides a 22 oz bottle, this handheld has a zippered pouch that can hold a cell phone, plus car keys... and a stretchy outer pocket that can easily hold two gels.  You could probably pack more in there, but these items can be carried comfortably, and generally that's all I need. Also, there is a permanently attached ID tag that slides up and down from behind the pouch where you can write in emergency contact info etc. 

As far as the hand strap goes, it is very comfortable, and relatively easy to adjust.  You could wear it as above with your thumb through the hole, or with your thumb out as below.  I've found that wearing as above works best for me.  I can totally relax my hand and I don't lose any kind of grip of the bottle and it doesn't bounce around. 

I also use this handheld in any races I run in.  Sure, there are aid stations along the way where you can hydrate, but I'm more of one to sip intermittently while running, so I like to have it ready and available.  During my half marathon, I just refilled it at an aid station halfway through.  The spout pops up easily with a bite to the soft rubber valve, and seats back down easily too.  I've yet to have any leakage issues with it either. Also, you could swap the bottle with another that you prefer, provided it is of similar dimensions. 

As far as the specs and product info, below is the data I "borrowed" from Nathan's site:

  • Unique, adjustable hand strap eliminates the need to grip the Bottle and offers alternative hand positions
  • 22 oz. (650 mL) Hydration Bottle with Clipless Cap
  • Highly weather-resistant pocket and zipper provide extra protection from the elements
  • Large, zippered pocket with external Power Stretch Mesh pocket fits smart phones
  • Rugged collar securely holds Bottle and prevents hand strap from loosening
  • Reflective detail
  • Weight: 4 oz.

So how much do I like this handheld?  Enough that I will probably buy a second one to have the option to run with one in each hand, plus a refill in my waist pack for longer runs, unless I decide that a hydration vest/pack will work for me instead.   So what do these run?  I got mine for about $24 online at  and you can also get it in a khaki color if you don't want black. 

BUT... for one lucky reader, I'll ship you off a new Quickdraw Elite (in black) to try out yourself! 

Follow the instructions on each option below to earn entries.  Contest will close on Monday, November 26th, at 10PM MST.  Winners will be selected at random from all entries using   Contest limited to residents of  the U.S. and Canada.  

Good luck and have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

GMO Labeling.. why did Prop 37 fail?

First of all, sorry for not posting in a while.... life has been a bit hectic, and of course the whole work thing can cramp your style sometimes...

Anyway, I really wanted to just vent some frustration around the failure of Proposition 37 in California last week.   If you aren't familiar with it, it would require that any foods containing GMO's (genetically modified organisms) be labeled as such so that consumers are aware. Right now it is not a requirement in the U.S., BUT it is in 61 other countries.  Granted, this was for California only, but as with many other changes, I looked to California to lead the way.  To me, the argument to support this measure was simple.  People deserve the right to know what they are eating... plain and simple.
BUT..  to be fair, I wanted to see what the arguments could be to not support Prop 37:

1. Higher Grocery Bills: The claim is higher priced ingredients and other issues could raise bills by $400 per family per year. I don't disagree that it's not as cheap, but how much does poor health cost families and taxpayers each year? Avoiding GMO's means avoiding processed foods and focusing on healthier eating.. the result, better health.  I'll admit I didn't look a things this way until a few years ago, but now it seems painfully obvious... let food by your medicine, extend your life and save $ on healthcare.

2. New Shakedown Lawsuits: The claim is that this opens up lawyers to sue family farmers and grocers without proof.  My thought is, what isn't open to lawsuits these days? Seems there is an equal argument that if they don't label, growers will get sued later for NOT telling us GMO's were bad etc...  no offense to lawyers, but I think class action suits are always going to happen.

3. Special Interest Exemptions: Ok.. this is an interesting point. I haven't read the specific language, but it is noted that foods sold in stores would have to be labeled, but not in a restaurant.  Or that cows milk is exempt, but soy milk is not.  They claim they are catering to special interests.. ok fine, easy fix, make it apply to all of those currently exempted.  To me this is a backwards argument... and could easily updated in a new version by not exempting.  BUT... speaking of special no on 37 certainly supported the special interests of Monsanto and Dow etc.....

4. Conflicts with Science: Ok.. I don't care what kind of debate you are having, you can find scientific support for both sides of many arguments. I've read a few compelling reports that certain GMO's are bad, and a lot of info stating that they just don't know.  My point is that if it is not conclusive, then just tell me what foods have them and what don't and let me make my own decisions based on my own research. 61 other countries require this.. we should too.   Pretty simple..

So why did Monsanto et al invest huge dollars into convincing folks to vote no?  If GMO's are safe, and inexpensive (their arguments), then why wouldn't they want product packaging that says.. "NOW with more GMO's!!"   Who would love to grab some of that stuff?  If you are supportive of the level of modification happening to your food, then why would you care? Especially if you are saving money...

The bottom line is.. there are more and more folks waking up and smelling the (non-GMO) coffee! I'd really like to believe that those of us concerned about what we are eating, and the state of our chronically ill and overweight nation will be enough to get the movement towards whole, organic and local foods moving forward. It seems that most everyone I know is on board, and are working hard to make the transition away from the "western" diet that is killing us... but what percentage of the overall population are we?  And what will it take to get everyone to wake up?

Sorry... I'm getting worked up just writing this..   I've never been known to be a passionate or extroverted personality, but I feel pretty strongly about this.

So.. what can you do in the interim to avoid GMO's (if that is your choice)? Check out this Non-GMO Shopping guide by clicking here.   I got this link from my good friend Matt over at Peak Geek.  You should check out his blog, as he posts a lot of great mind bending stuff.

I think this video here summarizes the point behind Prop 37 extremely well...  take a look, and please leave me your thoughts here as a comment, or on my Facebook page...   thanks for listening to me rant!

 Happy trails..


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Shock the Monkey!: Luna Leadville W/ MGT (Monkey Grip Technology) Review

Luna Leadvilles w/Monkey Grip Technology!

Ok.. I have to admit that the first time I heard "Monkey Grip Technology", my first thought was "Kung fu grip!"

So yes.. I am dating myself again.  The Kung-Fu Grip was a feature offered on a line of G.I Joe action figures in 1974 (I was 9).  Wow... two sentences into a review and I am distracted already!

Back to the review..  recently I was provided the opportunity to test and review the Luna Leadvilles from Luna Sandals. As you may know, Luna was started by Barefoot Ted McDonald (of Born to Run fame). So, if you've read the book, you understand that a lot of though has gone into the Luna Sandal product line.

The models available include the Original Luna, Leadville, and Leadville Pacer.  The Leadville is slightly thicker than the Leadville Pacer (11mm versus 9mm), but otherwise have similar features.  I chose the Leadville to review, as I wanted to try the sandal that Barefoot Ted tackled the famed Leadville 100 Trail Race with in 2010.

The sandals come with a choice of traditional leather laces, elasticized laces (for easy on and off), or the ATS (all terrain strap).  The ATS is the best fit for trail running, so I tested that lacing version.  As you can see above, it is a pretty substantial strap, that includes an elastic heel strap to help keep the strap in place and to allow a nice snug fit. Also, the straps kind of do a crossover on the foot with an buckle that can slide forward and back, and then cinch down.  I like the extra loop to keep the extra strap down after adjusting.

The Vibram soles are pretty flexible, considering the thickness, and have a soft feel to them. As opposed to some of the thinner Vibram soles (on the Bedrock Sandals, or Runamoc's), these are certainly softer over all, so I'm curious as to how quickly they may wear.

Vibram sole with countersunk plug for the toe strap

Strap buckle

Vegan elasticized heel strap

Ok... by now I know you are dying to know more about the Kung.. I mean Monkey Grip Technology (MGT)!  Instead of a "naked" top sandal, or a leather foot bed, MGT is a 1mm rubber surface on top designed to enhance foot traction and durability.

Musical interlude!!

Ok sorry... ever since I titled this post I've been wanting to watch this video...  wow.. 1982.. remember when MTV played videos?  ugh.. waxing nostalgic and distracted once again.

Here is a close up of the surface.  The 1mm layer adds some really nice tackiness to the foot bed... something I really appreciate, especially running down hill.

So... the big question is.. how do the Leadvilles perform?  Overall, as a trail running huarache I thought they were pretty exceptional.  Granted, keep in mind that with 11mm between your foot and the ground, proprioception is certainly muted... but so are those nasty jagged rocks!  As I've mentioned before, minimalist trail runners have to find that sweet spot of trading off ground feel for protection that works specifically for them.  And yes, Ken Bob, if by chance you are reading this... first, why are you reading a shoe review? You don't need shoes! And second, yes, I understand barefoot is best... and I will work on it.. promise :-).

Ok... one of the best tests I put the Leadvilles through was the first race (of a 4 race trail series) with Pikes Peak Road Runners.  This first race included about 3/4 of a mile of running upstream in water/sand/rocks/mud that reached near knee level in some spots.  Runners were advised to wear old shoes as they would get jammed with gravel and mud from the stream. What a perfect environment for the Leadvilles!  From all the runners, I chatted with one girl running barefoot (totally awesome), and saw maybe 3 pairs of VFF's out there... but from what I could tell, no other huaraches.  BUT.. a lot of folks were commenting on what a good choice they would be.  Every step I took in the mucky stuff I could feel the sand and gravel get under my feet... but.. as soon as I lifted them, the force of the water flushed them clean...  I stepped out of the water back on the trail with nothing but clean wet feet.  And the MGT ensured I wasn't squeaking and slipping around in them.  Immediately after stepping out, I felt a little slipping, but within 30 seconds my grip was good and I could run past a few folks trying to empty their shoes...   awesome.

As fall has certainly arrived here in Colorado (snowed already), I've done several runs pairing Injinji's with the Leadvilles...  worked out great...  traction was excellent and kept my toes just a tad bit warmer.

If you are looking for an industrial strength trail running huarache, the Luna Leadvilles are a great choice. Especially if you are more focused on a heavy duty huarache that may carry you  more miles (maybe even 100!).

So, what are the downsides?  As far as quality, construction, and features go, these are the Rolls Royce of huaraches.  And like a Rolls, the downside is that they are positioned near or at the top of the price range for sandals.  The Leadvilles (as reviewed), will set you back $100 ($85 sandal, $15 for ATS lace system).  What remains to be seen is how much mileage you can get out of these..  I only have around 50 on them so far, so will be interesting to see if there are any wear issues... if so, I'll update the review down the road... or trail.. :-)

What experience have you had with any of the Luna models?

Happy trails!