serious running: trail running, races, shoe reviews

Archive for December, 2010

Free Running or Urban Trail Running?

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

You may have seen the new flip camera commercial that features kids participating in free running, above is an example of parkour or free running.  Free runners use city and rural landscape to perform movements through structures.  Free running is a translation of parkour to the English language with a bit of a twist.  In free running, participants use efficient movements from parkour but add aesthetic vaults and other acrobatics.  Free running embodies complete freedom of movement, allowing runners to “find their own way.”  The goal is to use the environment to develop yourself and to always keep moving forward and not backward.  However, free running is not simply moving from “point A to B” but rather testing oneself physically and mentally.  The founder and creator of free running, Sebastien Foucan, defines free running as a discipline to self development, following your own way, which he developed because he felt that parkour lacked enough creativity and self-expression as a definition of each free-runner who must follow your own way.  However, even with the differences in philosophy, free running and parkour are very similar.  Not one of the founders and developers of the discipline, apart from Foucan, see two different sports in parkour and free running.

new-balance-trail-running-shoes-urbanWhichever discipline you want to name it, the philosophies of parkour and free running are very similar to trail running.  They test oneself physically and mentally; emphasizing efficiency while allowing freedom of movement.  However, they are even more similar to a sport I conceptualized in August of 2009,  Urban Trail Running.  Urban Trail Running allows runners to get the exercise benefits and excitement of trail running without having to travel far from the cities they live in.  Running in the city can lead to many types of injuries because of the continuity of flat roads and rigidity of surfaces.  Urban Trail Running is about varying the terrain and movements while running in an urban environment.  Animals tend to take the path of least resistance, but we’re not animals, so why not take the path with resistance?  Your body will thank you.

So how do you go Urban Trail Running?  First focus on finding differing surfaces, this can be the most difficult task because urban cities are often dominated by flat roads.  Try to find parks and other grassy areas, small running trails, or windy/old roads.  Grassy areas allow you to work on traction and give your running motion variation.  Small running trails often have many curves which is great for working on your balance.  Windy and old roads are great because the potholes and loose surface mirrors the variation in steps when trail running.  Overall, any uneven surface that will force you to focus on lateral movements and your balancing muscles is where you want to run.  Also, much like parkour and free running, run through obstacles in your run which mirror obstacles you may encounter on a trail run.  Jump over benches like they are tree logs across the trail.  Use light posts on corners to whip yourself into a quick, tight 90 degree turn.  When you encounter water, don’t take the bridge, run through it.  Any urban obstacle can become a trail obstacle, run through it.

Overall, the point of Urban Trail Running is to create your own path, don’t run where the sidewalk leads you, blaze your own urban trail and get the benefits of trail running right outside your front door.  Go Urban Trail Running!

XTERRA Footwear 50% Trail Running Shoes Christmas Sale

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

xterra-mens-xr-1_0-trail-running-shoesXTERRA Footwear is having a 50% off sale on their Trail Running shoes now until December 17th.  Looks like Christmas is coming early for trail runners.  Use coupon code:  “Xmasjoy” when checking out to receive the 50% discount.  XTERRA started as a SUV, then it was 1 trail race, and now it has grown to 195 events in 16 countries!  It is the premiere trail running organization which spans across the United States and now they have moved on to making trail running shoes.  Why not, they have the feedback of thousands of trail runners all over the nation, who have run and raced on all types of trail surfaces?  Their team members worked for many of the best footwear brands in the industry.  Now they are building the best trail running shoes for the greatest running events anywhere.  Their shoes have been tried and tested on the most intense race courses XTERRA has to offer.

XTERRA has made a trail running shoe that performs on hard packed dirt, loose soil, sand, rock, asphalt, or a combination of all.  XTERRA Footwear builds shoes for the XTERRA races, training, and outdoor lifestyle.  The XTERRA XR 1.0 is made for support and stability which doesn’t mean it has to be “overbuilt” and bulky.  It’s lightweight and stable which provides the optimal flexibility, breathability, cushioning, and support to handle trails and neighborhood roads.  The XR 1.0 is made for heel-strike and forefoot runners.  Colin Chapman, designer and builder of the Lotus Cars, once said, “Simplify and add lightness” and that’s what XTERRA tried to do with the XR 1.0.  They found that most trail running shoes were too stiff, too heavy, and the lugs were so sever they could be felt through the shoe, but running on trails in a road shoe didn’t provide enough support, traction or protection.  That is why they developed the hybrid XTERRA XR1.0 running shoe, a shoe that can go both ways.  So enlightened.

The XTERRA XT1.0 and 2.0 is a light, comfortable running shoe designed for XTERRA trail racxterra-mens-xt2_0-trail-running-shoese training.  XTERRA race training includes all things active and fun.  Your routine might include running your favorite trail, hiking, scrambling, playing hid and go seek, chasing Fido at the park, surfing, leaping tall buildings, or even going to the gym.  (Lame).  At any rate, the XT 1.0 and 2.0 are made for all of those activities plus running.  If you don’t like having to change your shoes then this is the running shoe for you.  This shoe is designed for shorter XTERRA and road races.

So how do they fit and feel?  Well I don’t know what your foot shape is, but that doesn’t matter, XTERRA offers a 100% absolute guarantee on any purchase of shoes!  50% off and a 30-day money back guarantee, you can’t go wrong with these shoes as a present!  Go to XTERRA footwear and get your Christmas shopping complete.

Born to Run: Minimalist Running Shoe Store

Monday, December 13th, 2010

vivobarefoot-evo-minimalist-running-shoeThe next logical step has come in the barefoot and minimalist running movement, a minimalist only running shoe store.  First, athletes started running barefoot.  Seeing the loss in business, running shoe companies started developing their own minimalist running shoes.  Established running shoe companies like New Balance developed minimalist models and many new running shoe companies sprang up who focused predominantly on minimalist shoes like Kigo Footwear and Terra Plana.  Someone has to sell these new models of running shoes; enter Born to Run: the barefoot shoe store.  Wait, barefoot shoes?  Oxymoron anyone?

The store is located in Bellevue, Washington and is owned by Barefoot Ted McDonald, one of the original and expert barefoot runners, along with Dan Fairbanks as CEO.  They started Born to Run because, “We believe that the human foot was created perfectly as it is.  Our mission is to spread the joy of free feet by educating others on the benefits of minimalist footwear, teaching how to use it properly, and by selling the highest quality of minimalist footwear on the market.”  There is a lot of great information on their website about minimalist running techniques.  They also have weekly minimalist running seminars at the store along with minimalist group runs.  A great place for minimalist runners to learn from each other.

I couldn’t find any other minimalist running shoe specific brick and mortar stores on the Internet, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  I think this is a great idea which has finally capitulated since ‘Born to Run‘ the book was released.  My problem is with their store name though, “Born to Run.”  They are already capitalizing on Chris McDougall’s book, ‘Born to Run’ which created the demand for a minimalist running shoes for a specific store, so why go all the way and name the store the exact title of the book?  Their website URL is actually!  In my research I also found another running shoe store that is named Born to Run Inc., obviously before the book was released.  I’m not sure how trademarks work, but I found that the store has trademarked the name ‘Born to Run’ for their use.  I wonder how this is legal?

At any rate, I wish Barefoot Ted and Dan the best of luck in their endeavor to grow this minimalist running shoe store across the country.  It’s a great idea and should prove to be a profitable concept, they just missed the mark on creating a unique brand.  No one knew what a Google was when it first got started, but that doesn’t mean they should have named the company, “Search Engine Plus.”

Karhu Fast Fulcrum_Ride Running Shoe Review

Friday, December 10th, 2010

mens-karhu-fast-fulcrum_ride-running-shoeThe Karhu Fast Fulcrum_Ride road running shoe is scheduled to hit stores in the United States on February of 2011, but you can get these hot new shoes now on  The Internet spreads across oceans.  If you haven’t heard of Karhu before, it’s probably because they are a Finnish company, but they have been producing running shoes in Europe for over 100 years.  Karhu has a rich history in running shoes.  After WWII they sold their 3 stripes trademark to a little known German brand named Adidas for the equivalent of 1600 Euros today and 2 bottles of whiskey.  That better have been some good whiskey.  In the 1980s Karhu sold off their outdoor shoe division to Merrell.  Karhu is now back with its new fulcrum technology and bringing it to its new running shoe line.

The patented fulcrum technology they say is, “independently tested and proven, collaborates with the foot to convert your body’s natural energy into forward motion.”  Much like a fulcrum would but with collaboration with your body.  The technology is located in the sole of the shoe.  The fulcrum is more efficient with its lower pronation angle and velocity because it allows for appropriate pronation during the gait cycle.  The center of pressure moves along it’s natural path vertically from the heel to the toes without interruption.  Traditional running shoes transfer pronation energy from side to side.  The fulcrum also allows for more balance because it is naturally centered which accelerates the transition, the most unbalanced portion of your stride.  Traditional running shoes with flat cushioning and vertical posting can create braking and angular forces.  The fulcrum keeps you moving forward with less vertical oscillation.  Stop wasting energy on oscillating anywhere but forward, unless you’re running up stairs or something.

The Karhu Fast Fulcrum_Ride is a neutral shoe built for performance; that’s why its named “fast.”  The Fast Fulcrum_Ride is womens-karhu-fast-fulcrum_ride-running-shoes1able to transition pressure to energy.  The body’s nerve signals anticipate contact with the ground at a natural heel strike, and because of the fulcrum, the force of the impact is distributed evenly.  The activation leads to forward movement, following the body’s natural inclination.  The mid-foot is fully loaded and the body pivots over the fulcrum.  The maximum horizontal velocity is applied in a final push off the fulcrum, driving the body forward.  It’s just science.

The new Fast Fulcrum_Ride are great for flat footed runners.  The fit is true to size, with a narrow and low profile for speed.  However, they feel like they may not be as durable as other running shoes so the Fast Fulcrum_Ride may be best kept for race day.  The cushioning is great but the amount of padding seems unnecessary for a performance shoe.  The extra padding makes the shoe heavier, especially if it gets wet from rain or sweat.

It’s an interesting new concept and you can feel the difference when you run.  Check out if the fulcrum technology fits you.  It could be a fast ride.

The Best Running Shoe Laces

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

running-shoe-lacesI’ve noticed the past couple of years that running shoe laces have been going through an enlightenment period; evolving at a faster rate than ever before, but I’m not sure it’s necessarily a good thing.  Personally I have the latest technology in shoe lace science in my New Balance MT101s and to be honest, they have been coming untied a lot lately.  The good thing about shoe laces though is that they are interchangeable, you can put any type of shoe lace on any type of running shoe.  We examine if it’s time to go back from the future for your running shoe laces.

Flat woven:  These are your traditional running shoe laces.  They are a 1/2 inch wide, flat and square with plastic end points for ease of lacing.  They range from 27 to 72 inches and have traditionally been about 34 inches in running shoes.  They can be made of cotton, jute, or hemp which is different from modern running shoe laces made from synthetic fibers which tend to be more slippery.  The length of the flat woven on traditional running shoes allows for little excess lace to dangle on the side of your shoe.  This results in an extra tight shoe as runners must tighten enough to have plenty of lace for the tie.fat-shoe-laces-running

Fat Woven:  These are very similar to the flat woven running shoe laces above; however, they have a width of 3/4 inch.  The idea behind having fatter woven laces is that they won’t loosen in the lacing holes on the shoe as you run.  They also make it easier to tie for all intensive gripping purposes.

Round Braided:  These first appeared in basketball shoes and made their way into running shoes.  The lengths range from 27 to 72 inches; however, most are 72 inches because of their basketball “baggy look” heritage.  The 72 inch laces are much too long for running shoes as runners feet pass each other very closely.  Basketball players are able to tuck the long laces into their shoes but runners can’t due to chaffing.  Don’t buy these shoe laces and if they come with your running shoes throw them out.

SURE LACE:  This is what my New Balance 101s have.  The length of the laces are 34 inches.  The laces resemble round braided laces but are computer knit designed with a reciprocating wave pattern.  New Balance says it, “secure shoe laces, provide added midfoot support, and keep the shoe snug around the foot.”  I agree with all of these except it keeps the shoe laces secure. Here’s a video about them:

Overall, you have to find the shoe lace that fits you, but don’t be fooled by gimmicks like SURE LACE technology or the hip long lace fad.  If it aint broke, don’t fix it, just tie a double knot!