Monday, December 30, 2013

Merrell Vapor Glove vs. Vivobarefoot The One..

The One on left, VG on right.
Nice review: "Barefoot Inclined: Minimalist Showdown: Merrell Vapor Glove vs. Vivobarefoot The One..."

The One looks appealing when compared side-by-side.

There's this, from another review:

"I've had no problems with this design, but the laminate strips near the big toe do wrinkle up a bit during plantar flexion (when you roll up onto your toes). A friend of mine picked up a pair and had some painful rubbing issues there as the "wrinkle" pushed down painfully on her big toe. I've had other shoes that do this at the flexpoint, and I can feel where it happens here but have no issue with it."

But I've had the same thing happen in the VG when worn sockless, so I don't know if this is the dreaded rubbing issue that plagued the early VB shoes...

And when I mentioned niche barefoot-style shoe producers, I forgot to mention VivoBarefoot. I'm wearing a pair of their loafers today. Love 'em.

Thanks to John.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"Paleo Diet Popular With Endurance Athletes"

Ah, journalists. The fact that three athletes are doing something does not make it "popular". In fact, paleo and low-carb dieting are far from popular in the athletic world, although they are on the increase. Zero is an easy place from which to increase.

Other than that, a neat article from

"What do professional cyclist Dave Zabriskie, ultramarathon runner Timothy Olson, and gold-medal triathlete Simon Whitfield have in common? All of these elite endurance athletes have pushed away the time-honored plate of pasta in favor of a "paleo" approach to nutrition. They've dialed down the carbohydrates and replaced them with copious amounts of healthy fat. And as multitudes of paleo converts claim (and anecdotal evidence suggests), this may be the key to optimizing performance and extending careers into the late thirties and beyond...."

Mark Sisson (interviewed in this article) mentioned Simon in a post a few years ago, and I completely forgot about him. Gold medal on a primal diet. Not bad. I've done a couple of posts about Tim Olson.

Zabriskie's an interesting story:

"...The results for Zabriskie were impressive, DeVore says. Over the course of their time together the 6-foot cyclist dropped his body weight from 168 pounds to 154 while improving his dead lift from 150 pounds to 245. This while increasing his power on the bike by about 15 percent."

I really do think that the only way this paleo/low-carb diet is going to make it big is if it turns out to be good for athletes. That does seem to be the case.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Barefoot Running In NYC and The State Of Barefoot Shoes


"Chris Hawson didn't run much in New York City until he took off his shoes. That was three years, and more than 9,000 miles, ago.

"You can blame Chris McDougall and Born to Run for that,” he says while sipping hot chocolate in a coffee shop near the Union Square Paragon Sports where he works as an outerwear buyer. “It was inspirational to me. I didn't treat it as a technique manual, but it set me off on a path.”

"A health scare in 2009 prompted Hawson, now in his mid-50s, to start running a couple of times a week, but he found his IT bands, knees, and shins started to hurt, forcing him to resort to inline skating. Then Hawson, who spent a decade leading bike and ski trips in Northern Scotland, discovered Vibram FiveFingers and ran a few hundred miles during the summer and fall, mixing them in with a couple other pairs of more traditional shoes. But winter came, so he packed the FiveFingers away because of the cold. That plan didn't last long, however, and pretty soon he had ditched conventional shoes entirely."

Read the whole thing.

I went to see In the High Country (a movie about ultra-runner Anton Krupicka) in NYC last night, and Chris was there. (Paragon organized the showing.)

Chris, as the Outdoor story makes clear, is the real deal. I've run with him a couple of time in various McDougall-organized "events". He really does do the bulk of his miles barefoot.

As a buyer at Paragon he had some interesting thoughts on the minimalist shoe market: it's fading. In large part because the minimalist shoes last so long. With no foam to break down, you replace your shoes when they tear, or when the sole wears through. Chis explained that he just tossed a pair of Altras that had 2,500 miles on them, because the sole wore through and he had torn the upper on a rock.

Given that the typical running shoe companies recommend that you replace their products every 300 miles, that's a major difference. He then mentioned that he probably had bought enough pairs of minimalist shoes to last the rest of his life, at that rate. I also have enough to last quite a long time.

Altra Torrin: not minimalist.
He explained that there are no new minimalist shoe designs coming out: even Altra's new line has a lot of cushion built in. We both wondered about the future of Merrell's Vapor Glove, one of my personal favorites. It was nice to see them in Merrell's winter catalog, but I wonder if they'll last through next summer. New Balance's Mimimus line does doesn't seem to be doing well (according to a New Balance store I visited recently), as the most minimal models are falling by the wayside.

Guess it's not too surprising... When Dr. Munson first invented the barefoot-style shoe after World War I, they put millions of them on the feet of American soldiers. They were very popular, but then the whole thing disappeared as generations turned over, and they were forgotten...

Hopefully a few companies will stick with the idea so folks like me and Chris can replace our shoes when we need to.

Luna, Russell, and Skora seem to be pretty committed to the minimalist idea. [P.S. And VivoBarefoot!]

But there's more research coming along showing the clear advantages of barefoot over shod foot-binding, so hopefully the idea will stick around.

After 10 miles running in the snow.
My running rotation has been barefoot, Luna Sandals, Vapor Gloves, and Vibram Fivefinger Speeds. None of them show much wear on the sole. If I do a trail race, I'll wear the Trail Glove, and I wore the Sonic Glove the other day when I did a 10-mile run in the snow. I can't really see any reason why I'd ever want to go back to the sort of sneaker I used to wear.

(Found the Outdoor story via Chris McDougall on Twitter.)

Barefoot 'Granny' Wins 3k Race In India

BBC News:

"Lata Bhagwan Kare [age 61] performed the feat wearing a nauvari - a traditional sari named after the term for a single nine-yard (8.2m) piece of cloth - Indian newspaper Daily News & Analysis reports. She started the race in the western town of Baramati wearing slippers. When one came off, she discarded the other too. Within minutes, she had apparently left all the other runners way behind.

"I used to go for morning walks daily, but I had never run. If I had even tried to run, people would have found it strange and they would have asked me uncomfortable questions," Kare says. She tells the paper she felt "a little awkward" at the starting line as the other participants were staring at her outfit. "However, when the race began and I started overtaking them one by one, I gained my energy." Throughout the... race, she kept telling herself she wanted to win - "And I did it." She says she'd like to take part in more races, but "only god knows whether I remain as strong then as I am today"."

This seems to be the original story, with the picture above.

No word on her finishing time.

P.S. File this one under "Too good to be true", or maybe "why journalists aren't to be trusted"...

The first commenter on this post provides a link to a more likely version of the story: that the lady in question won a 3k race held at a marathon, not the marathon itself. I looked around before posting this suspecting something like that was the case, but wasn't able to find any thing. So thanks to La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie) for setting me straight.

"61-year-old barefoot woman labourer wins 3-km race at Baramati marathon"

This story provides the most likely version of events, and the title ("Sixty-six-year-old granny runs 'marathon' in a saree in Maharashtra", with marathon in scare quotes) explains how the story changed from the facts:

"Kare's dress code was a traditional Maharashtrian saree, and no shoes at all! She won the senior citizen's category running 3 km and was awarded a cash prize of Rs 5000 and a certificate.

"Over 9500 people participated in the race in four categories but clearly the highlight was the 66-year-old farm worker. After running her first marathon Kare, who is a grandmother, now wants to run more races. With better footwear and running gear, you never know, she could just be another Fauja Singh in the making...."

"Better footwear". Dumb journalists...

So she won the senior category in a 3k race. At 66! Congratulations, nevertheless.

And a good lesson on how the press can twist a story, and how failing to check news reports adequately can lead to error...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Low-Carb Athletes: World-Record Ultra-Runner Zach Bitter

Hold your hats: World Record: ran 101.66 miles in 12 hours; American record: 100 miles in 11:47:13. The world record he broke was Greek God (that's not ironic, it's literal) Yiannis Kourus's* record.
That's a 7:04 pace (minutes per mile), for more than 100 miles. Wow.
And, just to make it extra cool, he did it wearing minimalist shoes and eating a low-carb paleoish diet.
He has a recent post on his blog describing his diet:
"My personalized OFM [Optimized Fat Metabolism] approach can be characterized as macronutrient cycling. While my protein intake fluctuates little (typically 100 to 150 grams per day), my carbohydrate intake can be anywhere from 5 percent of my total calories to 50 percent, depending on where I am in my training cycle. When I am in full recovery mode after a race, I drop my carbohydrate intake as low as possible. On the other hand, my carbohydrate intake is around 20-30 percent of my total calories when my training is ramping up in volume and intensity, and in the final 36 hours before a race I allow it to climb to 50 percent at most.
"All carbohydrates are not created equal. I don’t eat grains; I think the way grains have been engineered in the past several decades has made them hard on digestion and the likely cause of many of our broken guts. I also stay away from lactose, simply because my body doesn't seem to digest it very well. Commercial dairy producers have removed the enzymes in dairy that help our bodies break down lactose. Since our bodies cannot produce these enzymes on their own, this results in bloating and indigestion. I will drink raw milk if it's available, but I don't go out of my way to get it.
"My primary source of carbohydrates is vegetables. I usually opt for non-starchy vegetables, but when I am looking to raise my carbohydrate intake I do eat carbohydrates from starchy sources, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, or rice. Another source of carbohydrates I use is fruit. I try to focus on melons and berries, as they are less apt to spike insulin, but I do eat things like apples, pears, and peaches from time to time.
[Tuck: I will note that "non-starchy vegetables" are metabolized into fats, basically: from a metabolic perspective they're not a carbohydrate. They will not enter the blood as glucose. P.S. See the first comment for a clarification from Zach.]
"After protein and carbohydrates, the rest of my calories, of course, come from fat—often more than half my daily calories. Just as with protein and carbohydrates, I pay close attention to the types of fats I consume. I take in approximately 50 percent of my fat as saturated fat.... The remaining 50 percent I try to make mostly monounsaturated fat, with very little coming from polyunsaturated fat sources. The polyunsaturated fat sources are a recipe for inflammation, especially when a diet is low in omega-3 fatty acids, so I avoid them for the exception of the occasional snack of mixed nuts or nut butters. A few go-to fat sources I enjoy include: coconut milk, coconut oil, butter, animal fat, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, and cheeses (full fat, to avoid lactose).
"One of my favorite dishes to eat is a mix of vegetables (mostly greens) with fresh calf liver, bacon, and sour cream..."

He never uses the phrase Paleo, but that's what it is. Robb Wolf or Mark Sisson would approve of his approach of cycling carbs up and down as required by training and racing: what's really interesting in the focus on lowering carbs for recovery.So by that standard, he's not strictly a low-carb athlete, as he's approaching this primarily from the perspective of maximizing fat metabolism, but I think that that's the right approach to take: it's not about which macronutrients you eat: the goal is maximizing health and performance. Minimizing carbs is a key part of that, but eliminating them isn't necessary for a healthy person. From an interview with Case Performance:

"...I would describe my intake as low carb, high fat, and moderate protein...."
"In terms of converting from a high carb to high fat based diet, there was probably a 2-3 week adjustment time period and I did feel "flat" during a couple of the workouts. However, it was well worth it. Since switching, I have found that a diet based on fats promotes quicker recovery, better sleep, and a more consistent level of energy throughout the day. My race times have consistently better since switching over as well."
He also discusses his approach to carb-loading:
"Basically, I begin to add more carbs 2-3 days out from the race. I focus on carb sources that are gluten free. Sources include: starches (potatoes/sweet potatoes), fruits, and raw honey. I decide how much carb based on the intensity of the race. If I would be heading into a 100 mile race I would add much less carb, as my body would be more apt to remain in a fat metabolic state."
And, in line with Wolverine's approach to hydration:
"If I am going out for a long steady paced run. I will do very little pre/during workout fueling. I will take in some amino acids in order to stave off any muscle catabolism, and water with some unrefined sea salt."
Skora Base
On the shoe front, he appears to have been wearing the Skora Base (on sale now!). Skora was a company that was started early in the minimalist shoe wave after Born to Run was published, and then went radio silent for a long time as they tried to get production started. Many of us figured that they wouldn't make it, and here they are, owning a world record. Congratulations to Skora!From their website:

"BASE is the ultimate, multi-purpose running shoe. Equally at home on the road, in the gym or racing a triathlon. BASE offers a stretch-mesh sockfit with an innovative adjustable X-strap system, elastic heel strap, reflective details and stitch-down construction with an Ortholite insole. Lightweight, quick-fit, and unique in design, BASE offers a lightweight cushioned ride with 13mm stack height (9mm without insole).
"BASE is built on the R01 platform composed developed to offer a unique anatomical fit that closely matches the foot’s shape. The R01 platform also features a zero-drop outsole/midsole with just enough cushioning and a curved section profile in both the forefoot and heel. This allows for optimal natural movement and performance.
While I've not tried Skora's products, they're a real minimalist shoe. A little beefier than a Vapor Glove (nearly twice the VG's feathery weight), but all the right features. Birthday Shoes did a nice review when they came out.Zach elaborates on how he adopted minimalist shoes:

"The practice of wearing shoes—with all their padding and support—regularly has weakened our foot muscles. Weak muscles need to be exercised with gradual incremental increases in order to avoid injury. It's the same reason why you don’t go from running 10 miles a week to running 100 miles a week without a build-up. Likewise, to effectively run with a minimalist shoe, one must slowly transition. If you're interested in learning about my transition to minimal footwear, keep on reading; I recently completed a 50-mile trail ultra in a pair of minimalist shoes."
And now he has a world record. Well done.Thanks to Sean for bringing this to my attention!
* If you don't know who Yiannis Kourus is, start here, but to sum he's the greatest distance runner in history, with no close second.
P.S. That's a 7:04 pace with bathroom breaks! Here's Zach's race report at iRunFar, and a couple of notes following up on what's above:

  • He was indeed wearing the Skora Base shoe.
  • His pre-race nutrition was pretty low-carb...
  • During the run he ate banana chips, potato chips, Mountain Dew, Gatorade, and had some M&M’s when he had a mini-bonk at mile 95.
  • He wore an iPod shuffle. Can you blame him? 100+ miles on a track? I'm amazed he could stay awake...
Read the whole thing, and congratulations, again.
P.P.S.: I listened to the Ultrarunner Podcast interview with Zach. Best line (discussing Kouros doing a 72-hour run in the near future):

"I think I'll stick to the short stuff..."
LOL.He's an interesting one, Zach is. He's minimalist and paleo solely for performance reasons, not because he thinks they're intrinsically better for health. He drinks beer, for instance, so he's not totally grain-free.
One other funny comment: one of the interviewers asked him about Achilles tendonosis, and Zach observed that he used to get it, but not since he went minimal. He also said that he'd use up to a 10-mm drop shoe, but all the shoes that he mentioned using (Skora and Altra) are zero-drop.
Additionally, as above, he made the point that (in essense) adapting to minimalist shoes is building up the muscles in your feet and lower leg. He noted that he doesn't (obviously) have any problems with strength in those muscles now.
I think this is a great point: a lot of people think that minimalist shoes "don't work" for them, when in fact their feet are still just really weak.
Oh, and thanks, Mark.

Friday, December 13, 2013

"The Nervous System and Metabolic Dysregulation: Emerging Evidence Converges on Ketogenic Diet Therapy"


"The KD might offer fewer chronic negative side effects than medication, and given that it has been in use for over 90 years, serious or systematic negative consequences would likely have surfaced by now."

Indeed. They make a strong case in this paper that epilepsy is effectively glucose poisoning...

"Converging lines of evidence suggest the utility of a KD for pain relief. First, it has long been known that reducing glucose metabolism influences pain. There is an overall increase in pain thresholds (and thus reduced pain) when glycolytic enzymes are inhibited..."

"...Thus, we predicted that the KD, which reduces glucose metabolism and is anticonvulsant, would reduce pain."

I've certainly noticed this effect since adopting a very-low-carb diet. I have a scar on my arm now from falling down steps. I didn't even notice the injury to my arm until I was in the shower many hours later. It's been a consistent reduction in pain from injury... And I get injured pretty frequently with the sports I do. ;)

"A better understanding of the relationship between metabolism and pain could help multiple and comorbid conditions, and the KD might prove uniquely useful against diabetes and diabetes-related neuropathy. Although work with rodents has produced mixed results (Al-Khalifa et al., 2009, 2011; Garbow et al., 2011; Park et al., 2011; Poplawski et al., 2011), clinical studies have found exclusively positive outcomes: after KD treatment, patients with type I or II diabetes had improved control of blood glucose, and many could have their medications reduced or eliminated (Gumbiner et al., 1996; Yancy et al., 2005; Westman et al., 2008; Dressler et al., 2010). In addition, type I diabetic patients (and, based on one report, children with epilepsy) prefer foods that are high in fat and low in carbohydrates (Amari et al., 2007; Snell-Bergeon et al., 2009), which might be attempted self-medication."

Only a doctor is dumb enough to prescribe more poison to a patient suffering from glucose poisoning...

Although polyunsaturated fatty acid content of the KD seems not to be important in the diet’s anticonvulsant effect (Dell et al., 2001; Dahlin et al., 2007), it might be a crucial characteristic for KD influence on inflammation.

It might seem ironic that the KD is discussed here as reducing inflammation, given that other high-fat diets and obesity are definitely linked to chronic inflammation (Thaler and Schwartz, 2010; Ding and Lund, 2011; Laugerette et al., 2011). Those high-fat diets that lead to obesity, including the so-called Western diet, include a high amount of fat along with normal amounts of carbohydrate, a crucial difference from the very low-carbohydrate KD which typically leads to weight loss (Gumbiner et al., 1996; Halyburton et al., 2007; Tendler et al., 2007; Westman et al., 2008). Thus, the high-fat-plus-carbohydrate diet promotes fat storage whereas the high fat, low-carbohydrate diet promotes fat metabolism.

This is fascinating. Not sure what they mean in the first paragraph. My bet would be that increased omega-6 polyunsaturated fat increases inflammation, even on a ketogenic diet, and is responsible in large part for the negative effects on obesity of the "Western diet".

A key part of my personal diet is avoiding omega-6 fats. The diet used to induce metabolic disruption in lab animals contains a large portion of omega-6 fat.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

More On Resveratrol

"Resveratrol in mammals: effects on aging biomarkers, age-related diseases, and life span."
"Nevertheless, no study has demonstrated the prolongation of life span in healthy nonobese mammal models."
And none ever will.
"In our opinion, more studies should be performed..."
And you should pay us to do them!

Thanks to Bill Lagakos on Twitter for the link.