Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tanner Sandals: The Answer and The Timeless Review

Hey everyone...  here is my latest installment on my quest to test/review ALL of the huarache running options out there..well, ok, maybe not all :-). A year ago there weren't that many, but seems like there are new companies starting up everyday, which is a good indicator that the minimalist running movement continues to grow.

One of those new companies is Tanner Sandals, based in beautiful New Hampshire. Tanner Sandals was started earlier this year by three brothers, Coy, Luke & Daniel, who wanted to create quality minimalist sandals that support the natural, or barefoot walking/running style.  I've been working with Luke, the "dreamer" of the group, and he provided a great opportunity to try out two models of sandals.. the "Answer" and the "Timeless".

8mm Vibram/Neoprene Sole option
Both of these models come with the same options as far as the base goes.  You can get the sole in either a 5mm or 8mm option, and either a black or natural leather foot bed.  The foot bed adds an additional 2mm.  I chose the 8mm, as I wanted to try something a little more sturdy on the trail.  Also, on the "Answer" I opted for the nylon straps, as they also seemed better suited for trail running.

As far as sizing goes, Tanner provides good instructions on how to measure and determine what size is best OR you can follow instructions to trace your feet, and send in to them and they will custom cut your size at no extra charge!  I thought that was a great feature... and I went ahead and did tracings of both my feet (one is 1/4 inch longer than the other, so I got a perfect fit!

Sole on the "Timeless"
Both models have the same tread pattern (same tread as found on the Luna Leadvilles).  I like this pattern as it provided really decent trail traction, and didn't get jammed up with a lot of junk in the treads.

So, I spent most of my time in the "Answer" model shown above.  Pretty standard huarache strapping arrangement.  The nylon strapping is fairly wide, and it connects to two thinner and softer straps in front of the "TS" logo,down through your toes, and is then anchored underneath the leather foot bed.  This method avoids any kind of knot or hole in the sole for the toe strap connection.

The straps work fairly well, however not quite as smooth for adjusting as the clip/strap setup on the Bedrock Earthquakes.

The heel strap has a rubber sleeve, which helps with keeping it snug on the back of your heel and helps prevent slippage while running.

So.. once I had the strap adjustments figured out, I ended up spending a lot of time just wearing these while working, or walking around. The natural leather foot bed was stiff, and the smooth surface was a bit slippery feeling.  Huaraches I've tried before these were all rubber only, so this was kind of an adjustment for me.  I just didn't feel like I could run in them right out of the packaging.  I could tell I needed some time for them to begin to mold to me feet.  Eventually they did soften up a bit and I could see the impression my feet were beginning to leave in them.

After a week or so, I felt like I could take them out on the trail, so I did.  On the first few runs, I had to stop a few times to readjust the tension in the straps, but that is fairly normal and to be expected.  The only thing I struggled with in running in the "Answer" model was getting used to the leather foot bed. Although traction was better, I was still not that crazy about the smooth slick feeling.  Perhaps with a few more miles they will wear in better.

As you can see here, after several runs and more time wearing them, the foot bed is certainly molding to my feet.  That has helped somewhat with the slick feeling.  I asked Luke about other options, and it sounds like Tanner Sandals is working on a rubberized foot bed that may be available in the future.  For me personally, I would like to see that option, as that is more my personal preference.

But aside from the foot bed issue, I did like them on the trail.  The stack height certainly provided much more protection against nasty stuff on the trail, but of course at the cost of some ground feel.  That will always be a trade-off, so its a matter of finding that sweet spot for your own personal tastes as far as the feel versus protection.  I also noticed that the sole seemed to soften up a bit, allowing more flex.  I think as compared to other huaraches I've tried, these just require a little more break-in time, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Ultimately, wearing these in will provide a truly customized fit (no one is going to steal your shoes!)

Now.. on to the "Timeless" model.  These basically had the exact same sole, however the strapping is obviously much different.  These are some really classic huaraches... or as my wife calls them.."Jesus shoes" :-).   The split soft nylon strapping is the same between the toes, but after that its natural leather looped through a ring system.  The straps are really long, so you can create your own wrapping styles etc.  As far as running goes, I didn't like these as much, primarily because it was more difficult to dial in a snug and comfortable fit that wouldn't shift around a lot when running.  However, for casual wear.. these are great.  The leather is comfortable, and while you will get some looks for sure, I think the styling is pretty cool.  I know I'll look to these more next summer as my "dressy" huaraches :-).

As far as pricing goes, sandals range anywhere form $70-$85 depending on how you configure them.  This places them in the mid to upper-mid pricing range for running huaraches.

So, to summarize my thoughts/impressions:


  • Tanner Sandals is a great company, run by cool guys who get the barefoot sandal lifestyle.
  • The product quality is very high, and the fact they will customize with no extra charge is awesome.
  • A variety of models are offered (including kids), and there are some good options you can customize with.
  • Foot bed design allows for no knot under the shoe.
  • Nylon straps provide good function for trail running. 

  • Can be a bit stiff when new (especially in the 8mm option)
  • Straps could be slightly smoother to adjust
  • Smooth leather foot bed feels slippery at first, and requires some break-in time. 

So, overall, a good huarache made with quality material and workmanship.  Again, for me personally, I am excited to hear more about a rubber foot bed, especially for trail running conditions. Check out all the Tanner models at their website here

As always, if you have any questions/comments or if I missed something, please let me know!

Happy trails!


Monday, September 24, 2012

Is Gluten-Free the way to go?

SCD Lifestyle

So... lately it seems that "Gluten-Free" is the current buzzword or "fad" from a food industry perspective.  For those of us looking to remove or restrict gluten from "modern" wheat products, this seems great, however it's not all silver-lining. Oh, and before I rant, please note that I am not a dietitian (I don't even play one on TV).. I'm just a guy struggling to navigate the mine field of healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle.

Anyway, my wife came across this great article from SCD Lifestyle which you can read here.

I'm afraid that what is happening with the idea of identifying modern gluten as a dietary hazard is that the industry is quick to jump on it as the "culprit" behind the fact that the "Standard American Diet" is wreaking havoc on our health.   Michael Pollan does a great job of describing how the industry is so focused on figuring out what the key ingredient is in our diet that is making everyone sick, so that they can eliminate it through more over-processing.

The point that they are missing is that the entire highly-processed, over refined, and unnatural foods that comprise much of American's diets is what is contributing to declining health and obesity.  It's not any one single component.

Unfortunately, as the SCD article notes, there are a ton of products being marketed out there now as "gluten-free", and while its great to provide alternatives that eliminate gluten, these products are no better than any other highly processed foods being marketed.

The bottom line continues to be (in my opinion), is that to eat well, the focus needs to continue to be on whole, organic foods (local if possible).  The more you know about your food, and the more you recognize it as food, and not a list of 15 ingredients that you can't pronounce, the better off you will be.  There are a lot of "diets" out there, such as paleo, SCD, vegan, frugan etc etc... but I think you'll find that regardless, they will point back to this same premise.

It seems to me that with most of the people I know, they are all somewhat dialed into what is wrong with the "food" that is most often found in grocery stores, and many are striving to move away from processed foods and GMO's.  However, I often worry that we are in the vast minority...  perhaps, but I can't help but feel we are on the brink of a wave of change for the better.  But seeing the food industry continue to miss the point is frustrating.  I certainly hope I am right, especially after seeing this report that shows that over 50% of us in the U.S. will be obese by 2030..  not cool.  And, just for the record, I've been in the obese category most of my life, until taking steps to make permanent lifestyle changes more than a year ago...

Until then, we can continue to cast our votes daily by buying local, organic, whole foods.. staying educated, teaching our children what food is, and what cooking is, and putting our health first.

Ok.. I guess that's my Monday rant...  feel free to leave comments whether you agree or disagree :-)

Have a great week!

Happy trails..


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

COFFEE!! Aeropress Coffemaker review and Giveaway!!

Ok... so you are thinking, what does coffee have to do with minimalist running, the Incline, or a healthy lifestyle.. my answer? EVERYTHING!

First of all, I LOVE coffee.. and I know many others that do as well. So for those of you that do.. hang tight for a very cool giveaway.

Now.. there are a variety of studies out there on coffee, and some say its good, some says its bad.. however most of the bad goes along with over consumption.  So all things in moderation, including moderation :-).

As for running, there is nothing more that I like better (or rely on) is that great morning cup of coffee to get me up and rolling for a 430 am trail run. If I could figure out an easy way to bring more with me, I might, but in reality I am a one cup in the AM kind of guy, so I like to make sure my coffee is really good..

Which now brings me to one of the coolest products I've come across in some time.  I had a Kuerig "K-Cup" brewer for about a year, however I was on my 2nd machine from Costco (they have a great return policy), because it would work awesome for about 5 months, and then go downhill.  I think much of it was related to the altitude and air pressure (we live at 8500+ ft).

After returning the second one, I decided to go back to my Bodum press.  I love pressed coffee, and since I'm the only coffee drinker in the house, it was easier to make a cup at a time.  A friend asked me if I'd tried out the Aeropress yet. He's a true coffee aficionado, roasting his own beans in his garage and downing straight up espresso daily...

So, I borrowed his for a week and fell in love with it.  And, being the lucky dad that I am, received one of my own for Father's day this year.

So.. what's cool about it?  Well, it basically functions somewhat like a press, and kind of not.  It does however make great coffee, and it fits the "minimalist" idea, by being very simple and straightforward.

So here are the components of the system.  Again, pretty simple stuff.  Below, I took pictures of the steps I follow to brew a great cup.  I apologize for the quality of some of the pics, but you have to understand these were taken BEFORE I got my coffee  :-)

First, drop a filter into the Filter Cap

Next, screw it to the bottom of the chamber
Add coffee (you will need to figure out your own preference of amount)

Ok.. so I didn't capture all the steps.  After loading the chamber with coffee, place it on your cup (the funnel is if you have a small cup), and add boiling or hot water.  The trick about this is figuring out how much water vs coffee want. It may take some experimenting to get that perfect cup for you.  I put two big scoops of coffee in... add water up to the top, and stir it with the paddle well.  While this is happening, water will start to flow through the filter, so the level will drop. After stirring, I top it up again, and then fit the plunger over the top.  This creates a vacuum so the coffee/water sits in the chamber.  Similar to a press, I let it steep for 4 min or so, and then press the plunger all the way down.

What's cool is that the compression produces a nice little foamy finish to your cup which I like.  And now the best part!  To clean, simply unscrew the filter base, point the chamber into the trash can, and press.  All is ejected, and after a 10 second rinse in hot water, the press is clean and ready to store or use again.  No more messy grounds to clean out of your press, or filter screen to clean!  AND, no more cloudy or slightly chunky coffee that can occur with a press as well.

And now go enjoy your morning cup on a sunny deck and chillax!  Or, more often for me, enjoy that cup on the dark drive down to the Manitou Incline and be fueled to get up that hill and back down Barr Trail!

So.. any of you coffee lovers interested in your own Aeropress?  Well, lucky for you, the great folks at Aerobie are going to send one lucky winner a complete Aeropress set in a tote bag.  Also, did you know this is the same company that makes some pretty amazing flying discs? I had one that I really loved some time ago.. worked way better than that brand that starts with an F  ;-).  So check those out too here!

Follow the instructions on each option below to earn entries.  Contest will close on Monday, September 24th, at 10PM MST.  Winners will be selected at random from all entries using   Contest limited to residents of  the U.S. and Canada.  
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for following, good luck, and happy trails!!


Sunday, September 16, 2012

From the magic of Elves... Softstar Runamoc Dash Lite Review

Ok... let me just start with... I'm in love!  Yes.. in case my wife is reading this one... I do love you the most... but as far a minimalist shoes go? I may have found a close second!

So.. what shoes are these?  They are the Runamoc Dash Lites from Softstar Shoes.  For those of you that are familiar with Runamoc's.. you may know exactly what I'm talking about.  If you aren't familiar, hang tight while I provide a little background on the company, and a detailed review of these great shoes.

First of all, Softstar shoes are handmade in Corvallis, OR where elves have been handcrafting shoes since 1984.  After close examination of the Runamoc's, you can truly see and feel the quality of the construction and the materials.  

The Dash Lite's come with the option of 2mm street sole, or a 5mm trail sole.  I chose the 5mm, since I try to spend as much time as I can somewhere on a rocky trail in the deep dark woods.  

The soles are a very flexible Vibram sole (same tread pattern as on the Bedrock Earthquake huaraches), and on top sits a leather insole of about 2mm I would estimate. 

The uppers are made of an ultra soft, ultra light perforated leather, with a very roomy toebox.  The lacing is a simple straight-up 3-eyelet design, with a wide tongue.  They are easy to lace up, and are very comfortable all around, with or without socks.

What is most amazing about these shoes is how much they feel like a pair of super comfy slippers that you simply don't want to take off.

Oh.. here are the specifics on these as noted on the website:


  • Zero drop sole between toe and heel.
  • Ventilated leather uppers keep feet cool with quick-dry properties.
  • Wide toe box - so your toes can grip, spread & splay away!
  • Lightweight - between 5.6 oz to 8.7 oz depending on the type of sole you choose and how big your paws are.
  • Designed and made in Oregon using 100% made-in USA raw materials.

Ok... so, quality materials, great minimalist styling and features...   but when it comes down to it, performance is key right?  Before I get into my impressions of how they performed, let me preface it with a quick story about how I first heard about Runamocs...   I first came across them on Donald Buraglio's blog, Running and Rambling.  I have a lot of respect Donald as a blogger/reviewer, and a runner.  So.. Donald ran the Leadville 100 this year, in this very shoe. Amazing....  103 miles and 36 hours in the same shoes...  (he kept them on after his 28.5 hour finish time because they weren't bothering him).  So... need I even say anymore about performance? I think the Leadville 100 speaks for itself!  Anyway, if you want to read his epic story... check it out here..  its worth a read!

But of course, I can't just take the Runamoc's performance at Leadville as gospel, so I had to log some miles in them myself.  Granted, I didn't run 103 miles..  but I got around 40 in them... and no, not in one go.  My long run in them above was around 9 miles, and much of it strewn with foot bruising rocks like the ones above.

First of all, my feet were amazingly comfortable in all my runs.  The best way I can describe it is having the flexibility and freedom of a good running huarache, but with a super comfortable and soft fit around the feet, and no strap between the toes.

Also, even with only a ~7mm cushion above the ground, these truly felt like I was getting more protection that I would in my Trail Gloves which are thicker.  Not sure exactly what was going on there, but I wasn't going to complain... I'm going to chalk it up to more elf magic!

Another way I can tell when I really like a shoe is how often I reach for them.  Lately, I've had several shoes arrive at the same time, and in order to be diligent about providing good reviews, I need to log miles in each of them.  BUT, for those runs where I wasn't worrying about reviewing, I gladly reached for the Runamoc's... right now that is a good indicator of my thoughts about them!

Ok ok... by now you are thinking I am just totally infatuated and blinded from anything negative to say right? If so, you are probably close, however I did have one slight annoyance in these shoes.  Due to the perforated styling of the leather upper, I found that I would pick up small particles of dirt/rocks in looser terrain.  They would manage to work their way into the shoe, and unlike a huarache, I couldn't take a few strides to fling them out.  However, the perforations are small enough that what did get in there wasn't a real problem, I just noticed it a bit.  I'm going to have to ask Donald if he had this problem, and how often he stopped to clear them out.   I'll let you know what I find out.

Our little town from the top of the trail run

So.... for the moment, these are my favorite non-huarache trail runners...  and who knows? They may hold that position for some time.

Ok... if you are sold and want to try a pair... good news!  This same model is now on sale at Softstar for $77.60 (compared to $97 regular).  That is a great deal on terrific minimalist shoes.  Even at the regular price, Runamoc's are priced competitively in the minimalist running market, and even more so when you considered the hand-crafted quality and proven performance.

Again, as I always note, please let me know if you have any questions/comments/feedback..  I live for comments!

As always, thanks for tuning in... and please continue to stay tuned as I have a great giveaway coming soon for any trail running coffee lovers!

Happy trails!


WEEKLY CHALLENGE!  Are you up to it?

Take the challenge on!!

Monday, September 10, 2012

GU and HydraPak Review and Giveaway!

Ok... time for a quick shift over to a new fuel review, along with a give away.. just because I love giving stuff away whenever I get the opportunity!

Woolly Mammoth Insulated Bottle

Over the last few months I've had an opportunity to try out a variety of GU Energy Labs products, as well as a really great hydration bottle from HydraPak.

Ok... first off, my impressions about the GU Energy Lab products that I tried.  I sampled a variety of products that you can see in the first pic above. There was a variety of the standard GU Gels, as well as the Roctane variety.  Additionally, I tried out some hydration drinks in the form of drink mixes, and dissolving tablets.  Finally, there were a few energy Chomps as well. 

I've been experimenting a bit with different ways to fuel my runs. Since most of my runs now fall under 3 hours, I generally don't have to carry a lot, but I'm looking to continue to extend distance/time.  In May, I did  a review of Nuun, as well as Clif Shot Bloks which you can read here. 

As far as the gels go, I'm finding that you have to find the right flavors that work for you... if it's not a real favorite, it makes choking one down a few hours into a run kind of difficult. Regardless of the brand, I find that taking in a gel gets kind of old over time... and not really appealing.  However, from a GU perspective, I really enjoyed the Peanut Butter gel, as well as the Roctane Cherry-Lime or Island Nectar..  those seemed to go down the easiest, but I would recommend trying different ones out. Compared to other gels I've tried, the GU gels can also be a little thick... especially when temps are low.    Also, I find it difficult to fumble around with the gel packs while on the run.  To that end, Hydrapak does make a gel flask, that allows you to combine multiple gels into one container and allows easier dispensing.

Hydrapk SoftFlask

I have not tried this out yet, but since I have one here, I'm going to give it away, along with the selection of GU products pictured above.  If you can't stand the excitement, you can jump down to the bottom of the post and enter now... just come back and finish reading? :-)

I think the gel flask would eliminate opening multiple packets and also allow you to dispense your gel spread out over time.  The flask is small and flexible so would be easy to pack.  I'm really hoping to get an opportunity to try out another Hydrapak product called the Gel-bot, which combines your hydration and gel dispenser into one unit.

But as usual, I am getting sidetracked.  Let me finish up on the GU products. I found the GU Chomps to be a great way to fuel.  In my prior review I covered the Clif Shot Bloks which are a similar products. The GU Chomps are similar, however I found them to be a little less sticky, and just a tad smaller so it was easier to consume on the fly... however I still recommend caution that if you are huffing and puffing like I do... slow down so you don't inhale one!

The only con I have to GU products is that I wish they would use more natural ingredients, like Clif does.  Granted, I'm not a nutritional scientist, but for the most part, sugar based carbs are probably all the same.  But, I'm still much more inclined (pun intended) to go with as much organic and natural based fuels as I can.  For that reason I'm experimenting with my own food based energy sources as well. Regardless, as far as performance goes, the GU products provided me the necessary boost I need to keep plugging away, so no issues there.

Now, as far as the hydration tablets go, I really did like those. Compared to the Nuun tablets I've used, I noticed that the ingredients are basically the same, however GU seems to pack a little more sodium from a % stand point. My favorite combo? The strawberry-lemonade tablet dropped into a bottle that is half coconut water, half water.

Speaking of hydration, I have also been running with another Hydrapak product.. the Woolly Mammoth insulated bottle.

So what's cool about this bottle? It's a double walled, light-weight polyproplylene bottle that includes a layer of Primaloft insulation.  What is Primaloft? It's that amazing, lightweight insulating material found in serious mountaineering jackets etc...   And in the case of this bottle, works amazingly well.  What I noticed right off when holding the bottle was how warm my hand got, and how quickly.  I've not tried other insulated bottles, but apparently this outperforms all other insulated bottles on the market.

I generally run in the early mornings, so not as concerned about the temp of my drinks, but I did try it out on a few warm afternoons.  The bottle did surprisingly well at keeping drinks cold, especially if you tossed some ice in to start.  I also swapped it with the bottle in my Nathan handheld and I notice that I wasn't freezing my hand off like I've done before loading a cold bottle into the holder.  I haven't tried this yet, but the Woolly Mammoth works equally well with hot/warm drinks in cold weather.  Since we are rapidly heading that way in the Colorado mountains, I'll get an opportunity to try this when it gets nice and cold in the AM.

Ok... thanks for grinding through another verbose review.  And as usual, if I missed anything or you have questions or feedback on your own experiences, let me know!

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for... giveaway time! I swear I love giving stuff away as much as I do winning stuff... well almost :-)  Enter below to win the collection of GU products pictured at the top, as well as a Hydrapak SoftFlask gel dispenser.

Follow the instructions on each option below to earn entries.  Contest will close on Saturday, September 15th, at 10PM MST.  Winners will be selected at random from all entries using   Contest limited to residents of  the U.S. and Canada. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hello, my name is Jeff, and I'm a huarache-holic...

Invisible Shoes, Xeroshoes (green and brown), Tanner Sandals Timeless, Bedrock Earthquakes, Tanner Sandals Answer, Luna Leadvilles with ATS (and Monkey Grip Technology)

Yes...  I admit it...  I love huaraches.  Perhaps because my first foray into minimalist shoes were the Invisible Shoes 6mm Contacts (upper left). I ran in those late last summer and into the fall/winter (with Injinji toe socks).

Since that time I've branched out and ran in a number of different minimalist shoes, but I always enjoy the freedom of a great huarache when running.  Anyway, didn't realize how crazy my collection had gotten until I had them piled on the floor.

So far, I've posted a full review of the Bedrock Earthquakes (upper right), but stay tuned for full reviews on the Tanner Sandals, Xeroshoes (formerly Invisible shoes), and of course the Luna Leadvilles that just arrived.

I guess I never did an official review for the Invisible shoes 6mm Contacts, but look for a full review of the 4mm Xeroshoes in the killer "Gumby" green that I love...  

That's it for now...   BUT.. stay tuned for a few great giveaway posts that I'm working up (while trying to log some mileage for sandal reviews now that my knee is feeling much better)

Happy trails!


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Get Tribal! Website Review

Ok... a few weeks ago I was approached to try out a new website called Tribe Sports. Initially I was a little reluctant because I thought "Do I really need another social media site to try and manage?"  I probably spend too much time as it is on Facebook, Daily Mile, Pikes Peak Sports, Trail Runner Nation.. just to name a few.  And yes, I do occasionally Tweet, and pin things on Pinterest.

I'm guessing I'm not alone in that respect.. it seems everything online today is linked to some kind of social media network, primarily Facebook.  So, I was a little skeptical about trying out Tribe Sports, but I gave it a go anyway.

So...if you read the "About Us" on it states the following:

"We’re going to make a bold statement. We believe that Tribesports will make you do more sports.
Whether you’re a novice or a pro, we think seeing your friends sports activity, and sharing yours will make you want to be more active and do more sports.
We think that you are probably sportier than you think you are, and maybe just sometimes you need that nudge to get out there to exercise."

 First of all, I found it interesting to find a site that was dedicated to sports, and not trying to be a catch all replacement for electronic social interaction.  Once you have set up a profile, you can peruse all these great "Tribes" which are essentially forums for a variety of sports or sports related topics.  

Now, in addition to networking with other like-minded folks, the site awards medals for different achievements (a wide range), and also tracks your ranking among the 80,000+ members..  so of course, if you have any kind of competitive nature, you are compelled to move up in levels!  In addition to this there are a ton of "Challenges" that you can take on the site that range across all fitness levels, and you can get credit for those challenges already completed.  
Ok.. at this point you might think this just sounds a bit goofy.. and as I write this I realize I'm probably not doing it justice.  But, I have found that I enjoy logging into the site... encouraging others in the challenges, participating in discussions (primarily in the Natural Running Tribe) and also getting a great opportunity to share my blog with others. 
One of the key things that makes this site stand out, at least for me, is the true global make-up of the members.  Here I'm "following" members from just about every continent and it is so great to see and share with sports/fitness minded people from across the globe. 
So, I initially agreed to just "try out" the site, but I've enjoyed it enough that I'm sure I'll continue.  I mean I'm ranked 2,828 on the site... so I know I can work harder!  
Here's a quick video that shows some snapshots of the site etc...   but, I think its worth the time to pop in, create a profile (you can link in via Facebook as well) and give it a go..  I'm sure you can complete the "Drink a cup of coffee before your run" Challenge... you know I did!

Tribesports Intro Video from Tribesports on Vimeo.

Happy trails!