The winter/spring issue of the Barefoot Running UK magazine is now available online. You can find it here. Read it, enjoy it, and pass it around!
This review has a bit of back story. To get the most out of it, I suggest that you read the review of the Earth Runners Alpha X sandals that I posted a while back. (You don’t have to, course. I’m just sayin’.)
You’re looking at state-of-the-art Earth Runners Circadian Xs here. At time of writing, they’re not even on the Earth Runners website. That’s because mine are kitted out with fully conductive leather straps. If you take a look at the Earth Runners site (which I heartily recommend you do), you’ll see Circadian Xs with conductive nylon straps and Circadian Xs with non-conductive leather straps. Soon, you’ll see Circadian Xs with fully conductive leather straps as well.
What does that mean?
It means that Mike Dally, the founder of Earth Runners sandals and the guy who designs and builds them, has come up with the conductive straps, not just as an enhancement to an already-good existing product, but as part of a re-design of that product.
To go back a step or two, let’s compare my new Circadian Xs with my Alpha Xs. They’re similar – but different.
For one thing, the Circ Xs have a thinner footbed. They come in at 8mm, whereas the Alpha Xs have an 11mm sole.
Second, the Circ Xs sport a Vibram pebble-textured sole, rather than the Vibram “Woodstock” tread pattern on the Alpha Xs.
Those two differences suggest using the Circ Xs as a road or light trail sandal and the Alpha Xs as a sandal for more heavy-duty trails. That’s how I’ve used the latter (and how I’m currently testing the former). I’ve also found the Alpha Xs to be ideal as a general purpose, wear-all-over-the place sandal. And I’ve worn them with Injinji Trail 2.0 socks as pretty decent winter footgear, at temperatures down to -18C (28F).
The simplest way of putting it is that the Circadian Xs offer better ground feel and are closer to being barefoot, while the Alpha Xs offer more cushioning and more protection. How that plays out for you will depend on where you run, what kind of surfaces you run on, and, of course, personal preference.
Now, let’s look at the whole thing about conductive leather straps.
Currently, the Earth Runners Circadian X sandal can be ordered with either nylon or leather straps and copper plug inserts in the sole of the sandals to provide the benefits of earthing. In the very near future, it’ll be offered with a choice of nylon or leather straps, but without the inserts. As Mike Dally explains, “After testing the new conductive leather straps, conductive inserts have become obsolete. The conductive straps test slightly better than the inserts. Factoring in the manufacturing difficulty of the inserts and the unsustainable nature of this process, we have decided to slowly phase out this option.”
Mike also says that his tests show that inserts or conductive straps are about 97% as effective as going barefoot, in regards to earthing.
OK. That leads us to the question of earthing. Does it work? Yes, emphatically, it does. It may be a new concept to you, and may sound a little flaky at first, but it’s based on solid science and verifiable by experience.
The benefits of earthing yourself are basic, but impressive. Earthing appears to minimize or eliminate inflammation through the transfer of negatively-charged electrons from the surface of the Earth into the body (where the electrons neutralize positively-charged destructive free radicals involved in chronic inflammation). Naturally, this has a positive effect on your brain, heart, muscles, immune and nervous systems, and, in turn, the whole body and the aging process.
The most convincing argument for earthing I’ve is this short video of how earthing was used by the Discovery Team in the Tour de France:
I first learned about earthing soon after I got my (non-conductive) Alpha X sandals. That lead me to purchase an earthing mat and a set of earthing patches. Now I’m delighted to own a pair of conductive Circadian X sandals. And yesterday, I ordered a pair of conductive leather straps for my “old” Alpha X sandals. The conductive leather straps are currently available on the Earth Runners website for US$15 (plus shipping), with the regular, non-conductive leather laces still available for US$12. (My advice? Go for the conductive straps. They’re well worth the additional three bucks.)
One thin piece of rubber. One leather strap. One plastic buckle. And earthing. That’s all you really need!
Note: Product for this review was supplied by Earth Runners.
I’m delighted to announce that, in the very near future, I’ll post a full review of the Earth Runners Circadian X minimalist sandal. This is an exciting new product from Michael Dally of Earth Runners, featuring 8mm soles with conductive inserts, suede leather footbeds, and fully-conductive leather straps. Given the impressive design, construction, and performance of my present Earth Runners Alpha X sandals, I expect the CircXs to be quite something. Stay tuned!
It’s the second day of March, and, with the windchill factored in, it’s – 15C outside. People are telling me that Spring is “just around the corner.” Really.
To be fair, – 15C isn’t bad, considering that we’ve just come out of a couple of weeks where the temps have been been between – 27C and – 37C. But, warm weather creature that I am, I figure I’m looking at six more weeks of chilly stuff before we get to “warmish”. And that doesn’t take into account the inevitable “Let’s have one more go at it” early April snowstorm.
Never mind. Spring is on its way. Really.
So I’m preparing for some outdoor running. When the daytime temps get to about 5C (and the rock salt disappears from the sidewalks), that means short barefoot runs around the the neighbourhood. As the temperatures rise, the runs will get longer. By early May, I should be doing some decent distances – barefoot, shirtless, and watchless. (Think blissful Zen-style runs.)
When the rock salt goes, the skateboard will come out. I made some progress in the late Fall as “Skateboard Newbie,” but I have a long way to go before becoming “Skateboard Al.” I’m not aiming at learning any advanced tricks – just cruising around the ‘hood and being able to ollie will suit me fine.
Last on my Spring “ta da!” list is getting my fixed-gear bike on the road again. It’s a custom-built titanium frame, it’s brakeless, it sports Phil Woods hubs and a Brooks Swift saddle, and it’s an absolute beauty. It only needs new tires for the new season, and I’ll be profiling proudly.
I feel better already.
For years, I’ve resisted going on a cruise. My old travelling days were built around a knapsack and hitchhiking or very cheap buses, and it’s been hard to see myself as a member of the cruise set. Times change, though, and I figured I could too. Two things nudged me to try this cruise. One was the route – Dubai to Muscat to Abu Dubai to Dubai. The other was that the ship had a running track.
Bingo, I was in!
The ship was the Costa Serena. (Yes, it’s a sister ship of the Costa Concordia. Remember? The one that ran aground off the coast of Italy when its captain decided to get really close to shore without using a harbour?) The Serena’s one big puppy, carrying 3,800 passengers and 1,000 crew. It also features the most obnoxious decor I’ve ever seen – kind of “Disneyland meets Hieronymus Bosch.” It was, needless to say, a long way from a knapsack and a hippy bus.
But the Serena has a running track. It’s near the stern of the boat, and it goes around the ship’s funnel. It’s not a big track (150m, to be precise), it’s not banked, it’s often wet (it was at 5:30 AM, anyway, when I ran on it, because it had just been swabbed down for the day), and each lap involves running past two huge vents that bring the smells of the ship’s kitchen up close and personal. Very up close. Very personal.
There were some surprises. I ran when the Serena was going through the Strait of Hormuz. Because it’s an important transport corridor and a hugely important military location, the Strait is always busy, with immense freighters, oil rigs, cruise ships, and dhows always in sight. One morning I saw a submarine surface-cruising about 500 meters off the Serena’s flank. I also saw warships – from the UK, Australia, and the US – both in the open water and in the harbours of Muscat and Abu Dhabi. They were nasty-looking – flat grey paint, heavily armoured, and bristling with weapons.
But I ran on a ship, in the Strait of Hormuz, under the open sky, and on my lonesome. There’s a lot to be said for that.
Of course, there’s cruising and there’s cruising. Dhows like the one in the photo below, taken in Muscat’s harbour, have been cruising the Gulf for 2,000 years or so. A long time ago, they carried spices. Now, their cargo is more mundane stuff, like air conditioners and television sets. But, as far as I know, not one of them has a running track.
Dubai’s kind of a weird place.
It’s one of the richest cities in the world, home to the tallest building in the world (the Burj Khalifa, at 830m/2200 feet) and the biggest mall in the world (the Dubai Mall, with 1,200 shops, an aquarium, and an Olympic-sized skating rink). It’s one immense construction site, but at the cost of serious human rights abuses among those who are doing the building. Before 1970, it was just a small – and poor – fishing and pearl-diving village. Now it’s one of the planet’s “world cities.”
Never mind. Even weird places offer opportunities to run.
Like Amsterdam, this was a stopover – just a couple of days before setting out on a cruise. So, of necessity, my run started and ended at our hotel. The hotel (a Holiday Inn Express, no less) was between the “old” city and the “new” downtown, along a busy stretch of road on the way to Jumeirah Beach.
It was an interesting piece of road. I passed a big construction site in the first 500m (for the upcoming Etihad Museum, designed by Canadian architects Moriyama & Teshima), then moved into a mixed retail and residential neighbourhood. On the way, I passed the elegant Jumeirah Mosque, where, the following day, we attended an “Open Hearts, Open Minds” presentation. As I approached the mosque, I heard the call to prayer, which I’ve always found a lovely experience when visiting Muslim countries.
My turnaround point for the run was just passed the Dubai Zoo, with its pungent smells and sounds of animals large and small behind its walls. Then it was back along the same route to the hotel. The run, which I did in my Bedrock Syncline 1.0 sandals, took about an hour. Temperature was about 18C (it was, after all, winter in Dubai).
In 1970, when I first visited Europe, I missed going to Amsterdam. Not that it wasn’t a desirable location – very much to the contrary, in fact – but, as a 22 year-old hippie on his way to India, I had other priorities in mind. As if that weren’t bad enough, I missed it the next time around, in 1971, when I returned, once again on my way to India.
So, when I had the opportunity recently for a brief stopover in Amersterdam – this time, on my way to Dubai – I jumped at at the chance. To be sure, it was going to be a very quick visit, and it was going to be in early January, but what the heck…
I wanted to run in Amsterdam. I love tourist running in cities I visit. It affords one of the best ways to see a new place – slow enough to peer into all kinds of places, quick enough to get across some good distances, and, ideally, with lots of opportunities to get creatively lost. (Though, to be fair, I usually do a little bit of pre-run planning.)
In Amersterdam, we stayed in a hotel near the IJ, the city’s northern waterway, just north of the beautiful Centraal Railway Station. From there, an easy crossing of a footbridge and running through an underpass took me quickly to Haarlemmerstraat, a little, mostly traffic-free street of small shops.
It was Sunday morning, but it was still busy with bicycle traffic. (Heck, Amesterdam’s always busy with bicycle traffic.) It was cold (about 4C), wet (a fine drizzle was falling), and it was very windy. But I was running in Amsterdam, and I was happy.
After a while, I turned a corner to run along Herrengracht, one of Amsterdam’s hundreds of smal canal-side streets. It was all residential here, with the canal on one side of the narrow street and tall, narrow houses on the other. The houses, dating from the mid-1670s, were topped with the distinctive gable fronts that grace so many of the city’s canal-side buildings.
Down Herrengracht to a small side canal street, along that, up yet another canal street, and I soon found myself crossing Dam Square, a big, open space in the centre of the old city. From there, it was only a short jog back past Centraal Station, and then back to the hotel.
My Earth Runner Alpha X sandals and Injinji wool socks were perfect for both the weather conditions and the cobblestone streets. I’d run for about an hour.
So, 45 years late, but I’d done it. I’d not only visited Amsterdam, but I’d run in it. And I’m going back. There are other streets I want to run, along the canals and along the waterfront, and there are some beautiful parks to explore as well.
Next time, though, I’ll be there when It’s a little warmer and drier.