Thursday, December 30, 2010

Foot-Type Determines Running Shoe?

Another myth perpetrated by the podiatric profession.

P.S. If you think I'm being unfair to podiatrists, here's a podiatrist perpetrating the foot-type myth:

"I am Dennis Shavelson DPM, the doctor named in Dr. Kornfeld’s article.

"I am not against barefoot running (I am a Vivobarefoot Shoe dealer in practice in NYC),

"Feet are not made equal (The Foot Typing System that was mentioned). Some make excellent heel strikers, some excellent forefoot strikers, some neither, some both. I believe that’s what Dr. Kornfeld was alluding to.

"Once foot typed, advice, direction and mentoring can be given as to ways to walk, run, what shoes to wear including heel heights, what contact positions, what muscle engine training, the use of foot centering trainers (temporary orthotics weaned away as you strengthen, if you want to barefoot run (or backwards run, or walk sideways or forward..."

Here's my reply.

P.P.S.  I'm upstaged:

"With all due respect, reading statements like this on your FootHelpers website ( is what makes people wary of those in your profession:

"'Simply send your Next Set of Casts (plaster, fiberglass or foam) and your Current Lab Rx to The FootHelpers Lab.

"'Dr. Shavelson will call you personally with your casts in hand to discuss and mentor you through the quick and profitable learning curve of Neoteric Biomechanics.'

"It's pitched as something not to be done for the good of the patient, but because it is 'profitable.'...

"Snake Oil: ...However, the most common usage of the phrase is as a derogatory term for quack medicine. The expression is also applied metaphorically to any product with exaggerated marketing but questionable and/or unverifiable quality or benefit."

Wow.  Hey, as they say, "If the shoe fits..."

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Is Alcohol Paleo?

Apparently so. 

Poor critter.  I wonder when the first human figured out he could make himself feel like this whenever he wanted to?

Happy Holidays. ;)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Instapundit Finds "The Heart Scan Blog"

Another Instalanche.  First Stephan Guyenet, now William Davis.  The Ancestral diet is going mainstream, and not a moment too soon.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"The Primal Blueprint Cookbook Receives Illustrious Award"

Mark's right.  This is quite the feather in his cap.  I've always thought a man should be judged by his enemies, and by that standard, he's doing well.

So Congratulations.

And yes, I do have a copy of this book, and the recipes, while not haute cuisine, are quite good.

Altra Adam Review

Harry's a fan.  Good to hear.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Enlightened Heart Surgeons and Cardiologists"

"Now, how do you think Dr. Gundry became enlightened? He tells the story in the first part of the interview, but let me just recount it to wet your appetite. It was about 7 years or so ago that a male patient in his 40s came to him, had already had several heart attacks, and had been pronounced inoperable, as every single artery was 95% clogged. In essence, he had been given a death sentence, and it was only a matter of time.

"About a year later, the gentleman returned to see the doctor and begged him to do another angiogram. Guess what? The 95% blockages had been reduced to 50% blockages."

Wow. I'm going to listen to these interviews now.

P.S.: The links to Jimmy Moore's interview with Dr. Gundry posted on Richard Nikolai's blog no longer work.  The correct links are here:

Dr. Steven Gundry, Part 1

Dr. Steven Gundry, Part 2

P.P.S.: OK, finished the interview.  Fascinating stuff.  A leading heart surgeon who realizes he can do more good for peoples' hearts by having them go on a paleo-style diet than by having them visit him for surgery.  The really alarming part of the interview is when he describes what happens to peoples' skin tags when they go on his diet.  He calls insulin "Miracle-Gro" for cancer cells.

P.P.P.S.: The other remarkable part of this interview is when Dr. Gundry discusses Stephen Guyenet's favorite heart-disease and diet study, The Lyon Diet-Heart Study.  This study pitted the American Heart Association recommended diet against a "Mediteranean", low-linoleic acid diet.  According to Dr. Gundry, they stopped the study because so many people on the AHA diet were dying.  Yikes.

Footcare Products For Barefoot Runners

Too funny.  I guess we're now officially a "market":

"As the debate over the pros and cons of barefoot running continues among runners, podiatrists and sports trainers, Carol J. Buck, CEO of Xenna Corporation ( looks at the problem from a different angle. Buck says, 'From a strictly cosmetic standpoint, it’s rather amazing that some of these runners’ feet look pretty good in spite of the stress placed on them.'"

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sherlock Holmes

"'These are young McCarthy's feet.  Twice he was walking, and once he ran swiftly, so that the soles are deeply marked and the heels hardly visible."
Yes, that's right: up until he invention of the sneaker, running on the balls of your feet was expected, the norm.

The stories of Sherlock Holmes invented the science of forensics, by the way.

("The Boscombe Valley Mystery", Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

U. of Delaware Barefoot Runners' Survey

If you're interested...

Friday, December 17, 2010

"What Frog Science Can Teach Us About Global Warming"

Fascinating post.  To be scientific is to be skeptical.  That's too easily forgotten.

Running On Ice

I agree with this:

"Why is ice such an effective teacher? It’s slippery. It requires great balance, coordination, and proper form to prevent slippage."
I did a run on snow and ice last year that illustrated this perfectly for me.  My foot moved on ice like a center of force diagram: it moved back, and then forward, but not out-from-under me. 

Good form will go a very long way towards eliminating falls on ice and snow, and ice and snow are the best teachers of good form.

Montrail Rogue River Review

Rogue River
Back before I read Born to Run and decided to go minimalist full-time, Montrail Mountain Masochists were the latest in a long line of Montrail sneakers that I just loved.

This is their toe-dip in the minimalist fray.  It seems designed to compete with the MT100/101, (as the comments on iRunFar indicate), which is a fine starting point.

It also looks like it would be a fine candidate for zeroing, as are the Mountain Masochists.

Hopefully they'll come out with something even more minimalist after the Merrells hit the market, as Montrails have always fit my feet exceedingly well.

Here's Montrail's post on these shoes.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Altra Adam: First Review?

From Harry:

"I received a pair of Adam's from Altra to test out. This is just my quick initial impression. I walked a lot in them yesterday and they feel awesome. They actually are more comfortable than the KSO (in my opinion) and I really like the KSO. I haven't run in them yet but I'll do so this Saturday. I would run in them sooner but I don't want to do speed work in a new shoe so Saturday is my next easy run day."

Discussion here.

Vegetables In The Eskimo Diet

Interesting post.  Yes, Eskimos ate fruits and vegetables.  Not a lot of them, naturally; but they seem to be a critical component of a healthy diet.

Good News From Inov-8

"Just had a look at the new Inov-8 Autumn Winter 2011 workbook and there's a couple of new models that may interest people.


"Based on the new Inov-8 anatomical last with ZERO cushioning, 7mm midsole with ZERO differential. Weight 150grams (UK8). Uses a new sole made of rubber and EVA foam with limited durability of 300 miles.

"Obviously, this shoe is marketed as a pure racer.

"BARE-X 200

"Pretty much same as above but with an additional 3mm layer of rubber bonded to the sole to increase durability (hence extra weight). This is being marketed as the training version of the 150.

Thanks to Terry the Tortoise, who confirms this is not the "performance" last that I tried before, but a truely anatomical last.

Hopefully this will turn out to be the "great option" from Inov-8

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Blog I'll Be Following: Gary Taubes

Here he is.  If you don't know who he is, then this is required reading.  His book is Good Calories, Bad Calories, which I've not yet read.

"Because it’s quite possible that the only meaningful way to lose fat is to change the regulation of the fat tissue, and the science of fat metabolism strongly implies that the best way to do that, if not the only meaningful way, is by reducing the amount of carbohydrates consumed and/or improving the quality of those carbs we do consume."

Fascinating stuff.

Uh-Oh... Now It's Senators?

"U.S. Sen. Scott Brown and the missus, Gail Huff, buying a pair of Vibram Bikila FiveFingers shoes at the new D.C. branch of Boston's City Sports store..."

Barefoot-style running is definitely getting too mainstream.

Vibram Flow Trek Review

Looks pretty good to me.  I've kayaked in the winter (complete with icebergs) and neoprene works pretty darn well.  I'm going to give these a shot.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Podcast: The Paleo Solution

This is one of the more eccentric podcasts that I've discovered.  Andy Deas and Robb Wolf get together once a week and Andy picks Robb's brain on topics related to paleo diet and fitness. 

Robb occasionally intersects with the English language, descending from (seemingly) his native surfer-talk, but he's got some interesting things to say.

They've got an extremely practical approach to the paleo diet, although I'm still mystified by what Robb's got against beef tallow.

In their latest episode, Andy and Robb interview some guy named Tim Ferris, who has a very interesting-sounding book out called the Four-Hour Body. It's a pretty fascinating discussion, and for anyone interested in biological auto-hacking, I'd say it's a must-listen.

iTunes link to The Paleo Solution podcast.

Erwan Le Corre Interview

MovNat man speaks his mind.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Brain Food

It's not sugar:

"The researchers found that those eating the ketogenic diet, compared to the other group, saw significant improvement in their ‘verbal memory’ (memory of words and other abstractions involving language). Also, generally speaking, the higher their ketone levels, the better their verbal memory tended to be. The suggestion here is that ketones provide ready fuel for the brain, and may enhance ‘cognitive function’."

Another Review of "Natural Running"

Runblogger this time.  The previous review I linked to is here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Settling a Beef With American Cattle Productions"

Good news for Grass-fed Beef in New England.  The farmers I buy my food from are all on the older side.  It worries me: we need a new generation coming into the business...

My main supplier had to go to France for chickens, for instance, since the American breeds have such large breasts that they cannot walk. (!)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

RSS Funnies

"ArtsBeat: Winfrey Picks 2 Dickens Novels
"from NYT > Home by By JULIE BOSMAN
"The author is not expected to appear on her show."

Too funny. The article is here.

Friday, December 10, 2010


It's one of my favorite spices, also. 

"Flat Feet Versus Fallen Arches"

I think "collapsed arches" is a better, more descriptive term, but other than this I agree with almost everything in this post.

"So, can walking and running barefoot fix a flat foot? No. But can it fix a fallen arch? Almost assuredly. Will it raise the arch? Maybe.

"Obviously, as any physical therapist can tell you, using a previously inactive body part will strengthen it. It will not only strengthen that part, but all the other parts associated with it. Muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons will all respond to the greater use. I can see how it would be possible that toning all those parts could raise the arch as they are all strengthened. Obviously, there is some anecdotal evidence that this is so, but I’ve not seen studies that demonstrate it.

"However, as the Hoffman study shows, who cares? It doesn’t matter! It’s not the height of the arch that matters, it is the underlying physiological structure, and you get that from going barefoot whether your arch rises or not."
There is one study: it's Dr. Munson's, and the link is under "Links" on the right.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Women Who Sunbathe Live Longer

News from Sweden, and I'll copy Instapundit, from whom I got this post, and include the picture.

"'Our studies show that women with active sunbathing habits live longer,' said chief physician Håkan Olsson at the division of oncology at Lund University, to the local Göteborgs-Posten (GP) daily.

"Studies of the sun exposure habits of 40,000 women in southern Sweden have found that the health benefits of spending extended periods in the sun outweigh the negatives, such as the increased risk for skin cancer.

"Olsson argued that he was not alone in claiming 'that there can be other factors other than the sun which affect the risks for developing malignant melanomas', and that exposure to the sun could help protect against a slew of other conditions.

"Researchers claim that exposure to the sun is attributed to helping against blood clots, which are twice as common in the darker periods of the year than in the summer, the newspaper reported.

"Furthermore the incidence of type 2 diabetes also shows seasonal variations, with the winter boom in cases attributed to a lack of vitamin D..."

I feel somewhat vindicated...  And you can be sure I'll continue with my sun exposure next summer.

Bosu Balls And Other Unstable Surfaces

Just came across this post by Steve Magness again.  It's a classic:

"[Unstable Surface Training] can lead to improper recruitment patterns and ruin motor skills, so it certainly should not be combined with anyone trying to improve a sports skill on a stable surface (Willardson, 2004)."
Well, well.

As I posted in the conversation that caused me to rediscover this post:

"We have a bosu ball in our gym. As I ski, I was a diligent user of it prior to starting barefoot-style running and hiking. What I found was I had such an enormous increase in strength and balance from going around in Vibrams (which I also wear in the gym on the Bosu ball, of course), that it dwarfed whatever little gain I was getting from the bosu ball. It made a huge difference to skiing, which observation I've had confirmed by one of my converts who's also a skiier.

"So I don't use the bosu ball anymore. Whatever incremental improvement it might offer me just really isn't worth the time, IMHO. I'd rather be running. ;) Even on the dreadmill.

"I have been doing ankle-strengthening exercising, including balancing on one foot on the floor. As said in that link, it really does hit the soleus muscles, which seem to be the ones I injured when I sprained my ankle."

I will note that lots of top skiiers and snowboarders use bosu balls as part of their training; but they are often operating on an unstable surface, so bosu balls may offer some value.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove: First Review?

Wow, these must be just about to hit the street:

"Tester’s Take: 'I love lightweight shoes, but these are something else. There is nothing to these shoes. I mean nothing. If you want to go out there and feel everything, these are the shoes for you.'"

"If the Vibram FiveFingers is a glove, the Trail Glove is, despite its moniker, a mitten."  Too funny.

Animals Getting Fatter, Also


I'll note that all the animals in this study are eating diets provided by humans, or derived from human diets (feral rats).

What about wild animals eating traditional diets?

Scientists can be so dense...

After going paleo/primal myself, I did the same for my dog, after noting most of the available dog foods are all grain, soy, and veggie oils.  He doesn't overeat, and doesn't have an ounce of fat on him.

Via John Durant.

VivoBarefoot Brooklyn Review

They sound very nice.  This is a winter minimalist boot, which is an extremely short list of products. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

More News On Merrell Barefoot

Trail Glove
"And speaking of trends, Merrell plans a February launch for a so-called 'barefoot' line. Barefoot refers to thin-soled, flexible footwear like the Vibram Five Fingers shoes that have grown in popularity."
Can't wait.  I'm hearing that these are very, very nice.  Here's the lineup on Merrell's site.  Nothing in stock yet; I tried.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Paleo Fitness

Jimmy Moore's latest interview is with two body builders (who are also husband and wife).  The interview's nice, but you really need to see the pictures at their website to appreciate what they're telling you.

He's 58, and she's 53.  Wow.

Interestingly, they first teach their clients how to shop and eat before they teach them how to work out.  Makes a lot of sense to me.

Lots of people note that paleo and low-carb typically go hand-in-hand, and then say that you can't be an athlete on a low-carb diet.  There's little science one way or the other, so we're left with anecdotes...  The anecdotes seem to be pretty clear: you sure can be a paleo athlete, just like your paleo ancestors were.

Are Fruits And Vegetables Paleo?

Nope.  Yuk, yuk. 

Great post by Mark Sisson:

"Does this mean grains and legumes are perfectly fine since they’re products of human manipulation? No, but the fact that we bred them isn’t the problem. It’s the demonstrably pervasive and deleterious anti-nutrients present in even the most modified of the grains (extra gluten, anyone?) that we avoid."

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Follow-Up to "Olympic Gold-Medalist Lindsey Vonn Goes Low-Carb"

Doing OK so far:

"LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (Reuters) - Beaten by Maria Riesch in the previous two downhills on the same course, Lindsey Vonn struck back to win the Lake Louise World Cup Super-G on Sunday, lifting the gauntlet from the towering German."

Original post.

Review of "Natural Running"

An interesting review of the book by Danny Abshire, the founder of Newton Running.  I'm not mad about Newtons, but some of their more minimalist shoes are good for folks looking to transition to barefoot-style running. 

I'll snarkily add that the book should be called "Nearly-Natural Running", but he's definitely on the right side of the shoe battle, for the most part. ;)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

"The Effect of Fructose on Renal Biology and Disease"

It's not a good effect, you may not be surprised to hear.

Via Mark Sisson.

"Flying Barefoot"

No, in a plane.

That's right, you have to take your shoes off to get on the plane, but you have to wear them (or at least have them) to fly.  It's the Government: expecting it to be rational is expecting too much.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Stupid "Science"

"But recently some scientists wondered whether the creature was too big to fly. A pair of papers recently asserted that the biggest pterosaurs may have been too heavy to get off the ground.

"That seemed implausible to Habib. After all, the biggest birds often have the longest flight range. And Quetzalcoatlus, with its 35-foot wingspan, certainly fits the bill for gigantic."

So these 35-foot-wide wings were for what, exactly?  This is like the story that according to aerodynamics theory, bumblebees can't fly.
Science 101: if your theory doesn't comport with reality, your theory is wrong.

Irene Davis Moves To Harvard

Irene Davis
Big news for the minimalist running community!

"Barefoot running advocate accepts position at Harvard

"11:16 a.m., Dec. 2, 2010----Irene Davis, professor in the University of Delaware's Department of Physical Therapy, is retiring from UD after 21 years and has accepted a position on the faculty at Harvard Medical School, where she will help to launch the Spaulding National Running Center.

"A runner herself, Davis has become nationally recognized for her research on the biomechanics and benefits of running barefoot or with minimal footwear.

"'It's always been a vision of mine to have a center focused on running and running injuries,' Davis says. 'Boston is a mecca for runners, and I'll be immersed in one of the nation's hubs of science and medicine -- it doesn't get any better than that. The resources for collaboration are amazing, and I'll have access to a large population of potential subjects.'

"Davis believes that people were born to run but are often sidelined by injuries, some of which result from changes in our natural gait induced by modern running shoes...."
Very exciting.  With Dr. Davis and Dr. Lieberman in close proximity, hopefully the research to justify minimalist running is just around the corner.

Of course if you participated in Barefoot Ted's Minimalist running group, you would have known this 10 days before the world:

"Also managed to catch this tidbit - Professor Davis is transferring to Harvard to work with Lieberman. Should be interesting."

Veggie Oils and Heart Disease

Stephen Guyenet is getting confirmed.  Congrats: it's well-deserved.

"In other words, [linoleic-acid]-rich seed oils do not prevent heart attacks (and may actually promote them), but correcting an omega-3 deficiency and reducing industrial trans fat intake may be protective. This is similar to what I've been saying for a while now, based on my own interpretation of the same studies and others. However, Dr. Ramsden and colleagues have taken the idea to a new level by their thorough and sophisticated detective work and analysis."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Podcast: Geeks In Running Shoes

Pete the Runblogger turned me on to this podcast. They're definitely geeks, as advertised, and they've also beginning runners which gives them a good perspective on things, as they're still exploring the beginning issues of running, which is cool.

They've not gotten on the barefoot/minimalist bandwagon yet, although they did recently have a coach on who's big into Newtons, so they're getting there, hopefully. Although if you want to hear a bunch of silly comments about barefoot running, go listen to that coach. :) (Sorry, Coach.)

For their latest episode, they've outdone themselves: they've got a nice interview with Scott Jurek.  They're good interviewers, too: they ask lots of intelligent questions and allow the interviewee to answer at length.  Since they're beginning runners, they ask lots of basic questions, which really adds to the quality of the interview, IMHO.  ("What do you think about on a 100-mile run?")

Jurek has lots of interesting stuff to talk about: How he got into running, how to get into ultra-running, and how he handles a vegan diet are some of the things I found of interest.

While this isn't on the A-list of podcasts that I listen to just yet, this is a really interesting episode, and I recommend it highly.

Definitely give this episode a listen.

"Geeks in Running Shoes" on iTunes.

A Daily Dose Of Aspirin?

Fix your diet instead.  I'll continue to skip the aspirin.

"Low-Tech Running Shoes In High Demand"

Follow-up to this morning's "The Rise of Barefoot Running".

Pretty basic overview of minimalist shoe options.  But pretty significant for a medical journal...

More Barefoot FUD Spread By Podatrists

Infectious Fears, thanks to Dr. Howell.

"The fear of getting infections by going barefoot is irrational though understandable given the cultural ‘brainwashing’ we receive throughout childhood – doctors, camp counselors, teachers and parents constantly tell kids that going barefoot is dangerous. It’s an irrational fear however because it’s not based in fact or human experience, and I’m starting to get perturbed at chronically-shod people (like Dr. Crane) infecting the populace with erroneous ideas about barefooting. If you really want to know the hazards of going barefoot, wouldn’t it be best to ask a barefooter?"

I completely agree about being barefoot in gyms.  The locker room is the most dangerous place you're likely to go, and is where I've gotten athelete's foot and plantar warts.  Go walk in some nice, clean dirt and you're likely to be completely fine.

"The Rise Of Barefoot Running"

In the Canadian Medical Association Journal, no less!

"Critics of barefoot running, including many podiatrists, note that there is no scientific evidence that indicates running barefoot is better than running in shoes, and say that even if running barefoot reduces some types of injuries it may cause other types of harm, such as puncture wounds on the soles and stress fractures in the metatarsals.

"Dr. Michael Nirenberg, a podiatrist who practises in Crown Point, Indiana, is not among those critics. Nirenberg has been a runner off and on throughout his life, and has suffered from plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation of the main ligament in the foot's arch. This led him to conduct research on ways to strengthen the muscles in feet, which in turn led him to become a fan of going barefoot.

"'I started reading about our feet and shoes and supportive shoes. I became intrigued with the idea that once you support the arch of the foot, you don’t use your foot muscles as much,' says Nirenberg, who writes about barefoot running and other topics on his blog ( 'If you start doing barefoot activity, be it running or walking, you start to build up the muscles in your feet.'

"His views aren't common in his profession, which tends to focus on using orthotics to correct foot problems. Orthotics do relieve pain quicker, Nirenberg acknowledges, but he recommends that people with foot problems transition over time to less-supportive footwear, and eventually incorporate some barefoot activity into their lives. As for barefoot running, Nirenberg agrees with the critics that there is no proof of its benefits ― at least, not yet.

"'Right now, there is no proof that running barefoot is better for you, but there is a lot of research that is leaning in that direction,' he says.

Nicely done.  Some of our other friends from the less-enlightened side of the podiatric profession are also present, including Dr. Kirby, who's moved atop the fence, and the idiotic Dr. Payne.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Marathon Running and Weight Loss

The prior post aside, no, you can't run yourself thin:

"Runner's World: Why did you do this study?

"Mary Kennedy: I got the same question so often from people in marathon-training groups: 'Why aren't I losing weight?' Usually I'd give the standard response: 'You must be eating too much.' It was also possible that people weren't moving as much as normal after their workouts–they were 'compensating' for their workouts–so maybe their calorie output didn't actually increase. Eventually I realized, we don't really know the answer, and there's no good data to work from. So I thought we should devise this simple study to begin the data collection.

"RW: Did the results surprise you?

"MK: I wouldn't say there were any big surprises. More women tended to be weight gainers. I think I might have guessed that, though the reasons aren't clear.

"Also the subjects' 'eating habits' appeared to be very important. The ones who were very diligent about what they ate were less likely to gain weight. That's not a big surprise either...."
This was my experience.  I didn't lose the extra 15 pounds I was carrying around until I fixed my diet.  No amount or frequency of running or other exercise made a meaningful difference.

Running is great for you, and a terrific complement to the sort of healthy diet I advocate here, and it apparently has many other health benefits.  Plus it's a heck of a lot of fun, IMHO.

But it's not a reliable way to lose weight.

"My 120 Pound Journey"


"Wheat One-Liners"

Dr. Davis is firing on all cylinders....

Follow-Up To "Vitamin D Foolishness"

Dr. Davis writes the statement the Institute of Medicine should have released.

Original post.

P.S. Dr. Davis is still annoyed about this.

Olympic Gold-Medalist Lindsey Vonn Goes Low-Carb

Low-carb, high energy
"Vonn has also sought the advice of a nutritionist, hoping for an energy boost to get her through the nearly 40 races of the World Cup season.

"'I always ate healthy, but it wasn’t scientific,' she said. 'Now it’s a high-protein diet and no carbohydrates. I have more consistent energy and I don’t get tired after a meal. It does take a very detailed meal plan.'

"Thomas Vonn, a retired ski racer who given the opportunity might prefer beer and pizza, has gotten used to his wife weighing her specially designed meals beforehand."

Makes perfect sense to me.

Via John Durant.

Pro Golfer's "Foot Fault"

No, I have no idea who Oliver Wilson is, but I do like his shoes.

"Oliver Wilson's Foot Fault": what a great title.

My Vitamin D Experiment

As you'll note from this picture, I'm not well-adapted to the sun. ;) 

My ancestors pretty clearly lived mostly in the woods in an area with little annual sunlight, and consumed a fair amount of wheat.

For years this has been my bane: any lengthy sun exposure, say an hour or more, would leave me roasted.  To top it off, I hate sunscreen.

So I developed an extensive collection of hats, and learned to wear long-sleeved shirts on hot days.

Then at the end of last winter I read this post by Stephan Guyenet:

"There's a mouse model of skin cancer called the Skh:HR-1 hairless mouse. When exposed to UV rays and/or topical carcinogens, these mice develop skin cancer just like humans (especially fair-skinned humans). Researchers have been studying the factors that determine their susceptibility to skin cancer, and fat is a dominant one. Specifically, their susceptibility to skin cancer is determined by the amount of linoleic acid in the diet."

He has a number of other posts on the joys of linoleic acid, which had prompted me in March to make a concerted effort to avoid linoleic acid, but this post sprung to mind one day in late March when we had a rare blue-bird day of skiing.  As usual I forgot to wear sunscreen.  My face was exposed for a good 6-7 hours not only to the sun, but to the suns' rays reflected off the snow.

This occurred to me that evening.  I turned to my wife, and I said, "Look at my face!"  "What", she said, "you look perfectly normal."  Exactly!  I was out in the sun all day, and I did not get burned.

Shortly afterward we went to Barefoot Ted's Barefoot Running Clinic in Central Park in New York City.  As usual, I "forgot" to bring sunscreen along.  Since the trees had not yet shown their leaves, my wife and I found ourselves standing in the early-spring sun for 2.5 hours.  That evening my wife pointed out the sunburn she had gotten, and I pointed out that I had not burned. 

To understand the significance of this, you need to realize that my wife is Colombian.  Unlike me, she gets nut-brown in the sun, a trait she has happily passed along to our children.  My tendency to become a lobster in the sun has been a constant cause of concern to her.

She was incredulous.  In our 13 years together, it had never once happened that she had burned and I had not.  Moreover, we were standing side-by-side together for the entire time.

My experiment with eliminating extraneous linoleic acid was going extremely well for other reasons, but this was a happy side-effect.

A month after Ted's clinic, we went to Disney World.  For five days we tromped around the Magic Kindom.  One afternoon my hands started to feel a bit tingly, so I put sunscreen on my hands and forearms.  But for the rest of the time, nothing.  Shirts, hats occasionally, and shorts, but no sunscreen.  And no burn.  I would get red, but then wake up more tan (for me) the following morning.  Pretty incredible.

So the summer continued, with me spending increasing amounts of time out in the sun with no sign of a sun burn.  People began to comment on the nice tan I was developing, and how blonde my hair had gotten.  This was entirely out of the ordinary.

I finally discovered what it took for my new skin to get a sunburn.  We went to Colorado in August, and I decided to spend a day running and hiking up and down Pike's Peak.  I spent about 9 hours in the sun at altitudes varying from 10,000 to 14,000 feet.  I finally got a sunburn.  The picture above is me the day after.  All of me got a bit pink, but the only part that really got "burnt" was the back of my calves.  They peeled, lightly, but nothing like what I would have expected to experience.

This would have been a fine day to actually wear sunscreen.  Anyone would have burnt after being in the sun for hours at altitude, but for me it was pretty incredible that I got only a "normal" burn.

My wife, who had been getting more and more prone to burning, was convinced by our experience at Ted's clinic to join me in my dietary experiment.  She has also recovered her ability to tan, although it happened more slowly than it did for me.

I call this post my vitamin D experiment because I had been taking D supplements for the previous winter.  After I figured out that I could stand the sun, I decided to stop taking them, and see if I could, through regular sun exposure, get my D levels up to something approximating "normal" through sun alone.  That experiment was also a success.

And I'm not the only one who's experienced this phenomenon:

"9. Near-immunity to sunburn. Throughout my life, a half-hour’s direct sun exposure left my skin looking and feeling like it had been scalded with boiling water, and it took weeks to recover. Now, I spend hours in the sun shirtless without even a patch of tender skin afterwards. I can only conclude my body has become orders of magnitude better at protecting and repairing tissue. To me, this suggests many startling implications, not least among them the prevention of cancer and senescence."