Monthly Archives: April 2011

WOODWAY Treadmill Review

The Best Barefoot Treadmill Performance
I recently released the results of a three-month project to reveal the best treadmill for barefoot running. I shared these findings in Barefoot Running Treadmill Review. I determined three specific factors important to keep in mind when considering a treadmill for barefoot use:

1) the increase in belt temperature due to friction,
2) the belt texture, and
3) the suspension of the deck.

In that in-depth comparison review, I determined that the WOODWAY Curve and Desmo were the best treadmills tested for barefoot use. Now I’d like to expand on the details about these two treadmills to give you a better idea about why they are so different from conventional treadmills that are built with a rotating belt on a hard deck.

Why WOODWAY?
Running on the WOODWAY treadmills is unlike running on any of the traditionally decked treadmills. The slat belt technology on a ball-bearing transportation system of the Curve and Desmo is a far more enjoyable running experience than running on a conveyor belt rotating on a hard deck creating increasing amounts of heat through friction. Both WOODWAY treadmills had absolutely no running surface temperature increase, even after sprinting.

The suspension of the WOODWAY treadmills is hard, which is exactly what I prefer, and arguably the best, to maintain natural running form. This stiff suspension allowed for the best running form that I can achieve. Although they did not have the smoothest texture compared to all the other traditional belts, their hard suspension and lack of heat increase definitely make them the most barefoot appropriate treadmills that I tested. The website describes the suspension as ‘a type A shore hardness of 38-43’ and ‘to be the ideal “softness” to eliminate the harmful shock to joints and connective tissues, while not changing proper biomechanics.’

The Curve
The WOODWAY Curve is a non-motorized treadmill with a curved running surface. It is a commercial model priced at $6000. The 17” X 67” or 43 X 170 cm running surface is a WOODWAY-patented slat belt made of 60 individual slats of trapezoid-shaped vulcanized rubber-coated aluminum that glide over a 114 precision, two ball-bearing transportation system rails on either side of the belt. It can handle up to 350 lb or 158 kg in weight.

Due to its patented ball bearing design, there is very little friction and no belt slippage compared to conventional treadmills. The running surface temperature did not increase after a slow 10-minute run. After 10 minutes of sprint intervals there was still no increase. I was impressed.

The slat surface is texturized with excellent traction for bare feet. Although the texture looks deep, it is made of a relatively soft rubber.

The suspension is hard despite the lack of a deck under the running surface. This promotes the use of the body’s own elastic capacity instead of depending on a cushioned surface, which in turn, promotes good natural running form.

Running on the Curve is a completely different experience than running on a flat-decked treadmill because of the non-motorized curve design. In less than 10 minutes of running, I could feel my glutes and calves burning and my heart racing from the extra exertion. The Curve website says that the ‘treadmill burns up to 30% more calories than conventional motorized treadmills because the user is actually powering the running surface, thus engaging more muscle groups and achieving a superior workout’ and I whole-heartedly believe it after experiencing it. The perceived effort of running on the Curve feels greater than that of even running outside.

The Curve design promotes a barefoot-style, natural running form simply with the design of the surface. You have to be very conscious of your running form and pace at every step. The Curve responded very quickly to my pace and could reach sprinting or stopping speeds in as little as three steps. This treadmill is a high performance machine with no maximum speed. Being able to control my own pace instead of depending on the acceleration/deceleration of a motor felt more natural than running on the motorized treadmills. I also felt safer and more in-control with the responsive belt speed. It never outpaced me and it didn’t go too slow. The forced use of good running form as well as the natural and responsive surface made the experience much like running outside.

I was initially concerned with the curved design that the space between the slats might change causing pinching of my feet but this is not the case. The Curve is designed with equidistant slat space the length of the running surface. I could feel the slat space with my feet but it was no different than running over a crack on a concrete sidewalk. There was slightly more vibration in the deck than in the WOODWAY Desmo but, although noticeable, was negligible and did not affect my comfort.



The Desmo
The WOODWAY Desmo is a motorized, flat-deck treadmill built with the WOODWAY-patented slat belt technology instead of a traditional rotating belt on a hard deck. The Desmo is a commercial model priced at $10,000. The 22” X 68” or 56 X 173 cm running surface is the same slat system as the Curve except the running surface is flat as opposed to the non-motorized curve shape.

The belt temperature did not heat up after 10 minutes of running. The belt ran very smoothly along its ball bearing rails. The texture of the slats provides a lot of traction but is not rough on the soles of the feet. It was similar to running barefoot on concrete. The suspension is hard. The only vertical movement was in the individual slats upon landing but this was very minute.

Of the flat-decked treadmills tested for the comparison review, the Desmo is my preferred model for barefoot running. Knowing that my feet will never get too hot and that I can continue to work on my barefoot running form means that I can truly supplement my outdoor running with the Desmo.

Because the Desmo is motorized, the speed of the belt is subject to the changing of the motor speed, which is not as responsive as the non-motorized Curve. The Desmo does feature a “Dynamic Mode”, attained by pressing both the increase and decrease speed buttons for 10 seconds. Dynamic Mode allows the treadmill to run non-motorized, however, because it is a flat deck, you must hang on to the handles to reach momentum if the treadmill has no incline. At a sufficient incline, the belt will spin under the power of the user without holding on, but it will depend on the weight of the runner.



The Curve vs the Desmo
Of the two WOODWAY treadmills, I would choose the Curve as my favourite. I enjoyed the responsiveness and the mindful running form required to run on it. The extra effort in muscle engagement and cardio workout combined with the pace feedback allow me to use it as a true replacement for outdoor running. I did not compare running on the Curve to running on a motorized treadmill at an incline, however, but the latter would be harder than running level without an incline.

I had the pleasure of trying out the Curve and the Desmo at Stenia Health & High Performance in Calgary, Alberta, and talking with head coach and owner Kelsey Andries about her WOODWAY treadmills. I asked Kelsey why she chose the WOODWAYs over other conventional commercial treadmill models. She told me it was because of the low maintenance of the machines, the lack of belt slippage common in conventional treadmill designs, their energy efficiency, and that she liked the feel of the suspended slat system for running. She likes that the Curve forces good running form, is a high performance tool with no top speed, and its small square-footage requirement. When asked what she likes about the Desmo, she replied that she liked the running surface, the big deck, that it’s easy to run on, and particularly liked the Dynamic Mode. I also asked Kelsey which model she would recommend to a client to purchase and she said it would depend on their demands: they are both great treadmills but for a high-performance machine, she would recommend the Curve because of its forced good running form, responsive pace adjustment, and no top speed.

The WOODWAY Curve and Desmo are the best performing treadmills for barefoot use tested over our three-month investigation. Twenty popular residential and commercial models were tested during this time. The revolutionary slat system is a pleasure to run on both in terms of the ideal suspension and the lack of heat build-up in the running surface. Both models are excellent, high-quality machines and choosing between the two would depend on a number of factors: If you’re looking for a flat-decked, motorized treadmill that is easy to run on with the best barefoot performance, the Desmo is the best choice. If you’re looking for a high performance treadmill, with no top speed, no waiting for motor acceleration/deceleration, forced natural running form with a forefoot landing, and a mindful and challenging running workout, then the Curve is the model for you.

To learn more about WOODWAY and their treadmill models, check out their website at http://woodway.com.

Acknowledgements
Special thanks to Kelsey Andries at Stenia Health & High Performance for the use of the WOODWAY treadmills and all her shared knowledge and expertise. Thanks to Nelson Chan at National Fitness Products of Canada for his helpful information and stock photos of the WOODWAY treadmills.

Originally posted on LivingBarefoot.info

Announcing Living Barefoot Coaching

I am super excited to announce the creation of Living Barefoot Coaching. It’s taken a couple of weeks of intensive work but the Coaching website is now online with descriptions of the two types of clinics I am going to offer (to start with), a Coaching Calendar, and an online Registration for clinics. I even have an Introduction to Natural Running clinic already booked for the end of May! (Thank you Richelle and Tri It Multisport!)

I was thinking earlier this winter that I’d like to start teaching people how to run barefoot or with a natural stride but I didn’t know where to start. Then I found out about the VIVOBAREFOOT Coaching Program and I got my answer. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to learn how to coach from “the world’s best barefoot running coach” Lee Saxby. Now I can share my passion for barefoot/minimalist running to groups of people who are interested in learning how. I can’t wait for May!

Luna Equus Review

The Luna Equus is the second sandal model reviewed from Luna Sandals. This huarache running sandal is stylish and easy to tie with the new elasticized lace. The Shell Cordovan leather is pleasurably soft against the soles of the feet. With custom sizing available from Luna Sandals at no extra charge, you never need worry about picking the right size. It is, however, disappointingly inflexible with no ground feel. That said, if you like the huarache-styled minimalist look, this is the only room for improvement that I can suggest for the Equus.

Comfort
The comfort of an huarache sandal has a lot to do with your huarache tying skills. There is a considerable amount of trial and error as well as personal preference when it comes to tying. The new elasticized leather lace is fool-proof in terms of tying, though, as there is really only one way to tie them, that being with the slip-on method. You have a couple of options of what to do with the length that is left, which is not very much, but that’s about all in terms of options. Even with the elasticized lace, though, there is still some trial and error regarding tightness in the different areas of your foot. Once you’ve got it quite the way you want it, you can leave it there and return to the same level of comfort as the last time.

The elasticized lace can feel a little wide between the toes. I ended up modifying mine by wrapping synthetic thread around the lace to squeeze it closed. I’ve read that some sort of wrapping is common with the elasticized lace and it really did not take much effort and improved the comfort.

The Shell Cordovan leather footbed is one of the most comfortable surfaces I have ever had the pleasure of walking on. It is silky smooth and a joy for the sole.

Despite the comfort of the footbed and the easy-to-tie elasticized lace, I’ve had trouble with the overall comfort wearing the Equus sandals both walking and running. The review pair was custom-made with my footprint but the lateral holes feel like they are too far in which causes rubbing of the laces against the sides of my feet, in addition to the mild discomfort of having the lace between my toes. After half an hour of constant adjustment of the elasticized lace, I never did get it quite right and ended up just taking them off and finishing my run barefoot that day.

Modified Lunas

Weight
Each approximately women’s size 8 Equus weighs 4 ½ ounces or 128 grams. This is among the lowest weighing minimalist shoes and feels “barely there” on your foot.

Flex / Sole
The sole material of the Equus consists of a 2 mm Vibram rubber sole with approximately 4 mm of Shell Cordovan leather adhered to it. There is very little flex to the Equus. The cordovan leather is very stiff and the shoe does not bend much in any direction.

Support / Insole
There is no insole included with the Equus, just the 2 mm rubber sole and cordovan leather on top. As there is no upper, there is no foot support either.

Barefoot Feel
Because the sole material has very little flexibility, there is also very little ground feel.  The sole does not conform to contours of ground surface. Also due to the lack of flexibility in the sole, I was more aware of the knot between toes than in the Original Luna, although it was not overly distracting.

Grip
The texture of the 2 mm Vibram sole is slightly more grippy than the Original Luna sole. It has adequate grip on dry man-made and natural surfaces. I did not test their grip in wet conditions.

Breathability
No fully-uppered shoe can beat the breathability of the huarache-styled sandal. The Equus is the epitome of breathability perfection.

Quality of Materials / Manufacturing
The quality of both the materials and manufacturing is impeccable: the pre-made holes are perfect, the edges of the cordovan leather top perfectly match those of the sole, and the lace is already attached with a flattened knot on the bottom when the shoes arrive. In terms of materials, Vibram produces excellent sole material and the elasticized laces appear to be of excellent quality as well. There are no imperfections in the cordovan leather top either.

Water Resistance
Although I haven’t had the opportunity to run through spring puddles, water will not damage the cordovan leather sole nor the elasticized lace. Your feet will get wet as there is no upper to protect them from water but the sandal will dry and remain in perfect shape.

Sizing
Sizing is incredibly important with Luna sandals. There are explicit instructions and sizing information provided on the Luna website to make certain of a proper fit. If you’re not sure what size you may be, Luna offers custom sandals at no extra charge. This is a great advantage offered by the company to ensure a great fit for every customer.

Price
The Equus is listed on the Luna website at $125 USD, which I think is a little expensive for the product. The cordovan leather is no doubt an expensive leather product, which probably contributes to the high price. They are also hand-made through small-scale, sustainable production in Washington, U.S.A.

Style
The Equus is the most stylish of the huarache sandals available on the market today. Their simple design and quality materials are certainly elegant for a slip-on sandal fashion.

Break-in Period
There is no break-in period for the Equus outside of learning to tie them in a way that is comfortable for you. Although the sample pair have not done this, I have read numerous accounts of the cordovan leather conforming to the shape of your foot with wear, which no doubt makes them more comfortable and personalized.

Shoe care
There is no shoe care required for this shoe. The leather is extremely dense and should not need to be leather-protected.

Uses
This is the epitome of casual sandal style. Anything you would do in a sandal can be done in the Equus.  And you can run in them wherever your minimalist adventures take you. If you’re looking for a little protection from sharp ground contours, the Equus will perform beautifully for you. If you’re looking for the best in ground feel due to a flexible sole, this is probably not the right huarache model for you.

Summary
The Luna Equus, although quite stiff, is still a casual sandal that can be used not only for all-purpose sandal activities but also as running footwear. The cordovan leather footbed is immeasurably pleasant underfoot and the rubber sole provides good grip. They are easy to care for and easy to tie, too. Once the learning curve on comfortable fit is achieved, these sandals will probably last a long time and the lace can be restrung for even more longevity. Although I could not get the elasticized lace to be quite comfortable, if you are someone who is used to lace between your toes and against your skin, these might be a good casual sandal choice for you.

To purchase these shoes, visit the Luna website at http://lunasandals.com.

Originally posted on LivingBarefoot.info

The Sweat Collective Workout #1

I have joined The Sweat Collective, an interactive community of bloggers, athletes, artists and those who recognize life is the ultimate endurance sport. The Collective is in support of Melanie Jones’ RunWomanShow ENDURE, opening in New York City in July and coming to Alberta in August for a number of performance.

The first workout as part of The Sweat Collective is to share who you are and why you decided to be involved in the Collective. Therefore, this blog post is dedicated to my first Collective workout.

Who am I? The answer to that question is, to me, an existential quandary that depends on one’s perspective. From the perspective of the writer of this blog and a member of The Sweat Collective, I am:

  • A runner
  • A barefooter
  • A minimalist shoe enthusiast
  • A soon-to-be natural running coach
  • A sharer of a passion for pain-free movement
  • A friend to the great and talented and inspiring Melanie Jones

Why did I decide to be involved in The Sweat Collective? Because it gives me yet another opportunity to share my passions for natural running as well as the joys and celebrations in pain-free activity. Because I want to share in the journey of ENDURE and learn how other people feel about enduring and endurance. Because I believe in Melanie’s vision and want to support its inception into the world.

To learn more about The Sweat Collective and the ENDURE RunWomanShow, check out the Facebook page. You can also read more at Follow Your Bliss: about how ENDURE’s team and the project grew exponentially from a simple idea, and The Courage to Cross a Zillion Start Lines: on everyday endurance and transitioning to natural running (and a humbling mention of me). #ENDURE

Running Two Days in a Row

It’s not very often that I run two days in a row. I went for a run yesterday in the sunshine and today, well, see the picture below. We’re having a bit of a spring blizzard at the moment, not cold, just snowy.

Me covered in melting snow after spring running

During yesterday’s run, I had a bit of an epiphany: a faster cadence really is easier. My right foot was hurting a little about three quarters through my run. I thought it might have been from landing too hard. Then I thought if I had a slightly faster cadence, maybe it would land more softly. And it really did! My foot stopped hurting, my arms dropped, my back got even straighter, my knees lifted a little higher all from speeding up my cadence a little. I’m pretty sure my heart rate went up a bit but I don’t really know because I don’t run with a heart rate monitor anymore.

This morning, my calves and feet weren’t as tired and tight as they usually are the day after a run so I thought I’d go again. Just a really short run, though. I tried the faster cadence the whole run and it went really well again. Very comfortable. And I tried Angie’s breath trick: in in in out out out with my steps. I liked it when I read it and thought it was really easy with the higher cadence.

A note about cadence, I counted it a couple of times last year and it was always 84 BPM. When I tried to run at 90 BPM my heart rate shot up (that was when I did wear a heart rate monitor). At the time, I didn’t think it was worth the higher cadence but now I think differently after yesterday’s and today’s experimenting.

I’ve read that a cadence of 90 BPM is the optimum turnover for maximum utilization of your body’s own elastic capabilities. I’m certainly willing to keep trying to achieve 90 BPM to test if this works for me. After three years of running in minimalist shoes, there are still new things to learn. I CAN’T WAIT to learn from Lee Saxby next month in the VIVOBAREFOOT Training Clinic!