Shoes for Happier Feet

I have funny shaped feet.  I always have and now I see my son will as well.  My feet are both high and wide, with moderate arch.  The widest part of my foot is the ball of my foot which has often been painfully squished.

On my birthday back in 2008 I was in Chicago and went into a shop that was selling Vibram barefoot shoes.  I had read the research on barefoot running, and knew about the Nike Free concept they were working on.

Eventually I used my REI dividend and bought myself and my wife a pair (which she only will wear when nobody is looking.) 

Now after having lived with "barefoot" style shoes for over a year I can say they are best thing that every happened to my feet.  Running and letting my foot spread to absorb the shock make my feet feel great!  It is like a foot massage every time I go running.  In my daily life my feet have less fungus, feet feel much better day in and day out, I have better posture, and fewer leg sores.

Basically there are two strategies to foot issues.  One is orthotics which basically are crutches for your feet.  They prevent you from tearing yourself up if you have messed up feet, but they don't lead you to completely heal your feet.  If you used crutches all the time your legs would remain week and you would never actually walk well, to really recover you have to give them up.  That is barefoot shoes, you give up the crutch of support and you walk and engage all 26 muscles in your feet and make them strong and at first they make your calves sore, but eventually they make them feel better (at least for me.)

Vibram Fivefinger aka Toe Shoes
Blue Camo Sprint
Red Black SprintBlack KSOblack KSO trek, leatherBrown Classic
Yes I have 5 pairs of these.  They are the best shoes I have ever owned.  They have great traction wet.  They are good to run in (yes on concrete), Yes you really have to measure your feet with a tape measure and it makes sense to get them exactly the length of your foot (a 41 for me, though in normal shoes I wear a 44) if you wear them barefoot or with thin socks (yes your socks must have toes).

The blue clouds were the first ones I got from REI with my dividend, The sprints are great for running, climbing, going around town.  The one weakness is cold and wet.   The toes get extremely cold when wet in all of these (except the Trek KSO).  They take a while to get used to, you cannot start running long distances in these right away, and people who are used to heavily structured shoes get sore in them even with long walks, but you adjust within a week.  The sprints have a strap to really hold your foot in place, but a very light weight sandal like structure.  I have torn up my blue ones a bit, scraping my foot in funny ways on rocks does tear up the lycra.  The soles are bit thinner from hundreds of km of running on concrete.  I got a second pair (the red ones that look a bit nicer).

The KSO (Keep Stuff Out) has a mesh top so you don't get as much stuff in the shoe, but it also has a different strap and a thicker heel.  I like the straps better on the KSO but the sole is better on the sprints.  The KSOs also run bigger.  I blew mine out, not sure why they failed but the stitching didn't hold up very well.  I have sewn them up by hand twice, but have a new tear on my left foot.   Came while doing some "tight rope" style walking on a fence log.  These are also good running shoes.  The KSO Trek is a very different shoe.  The sole is much thicker, it remains very flexible, but it actually has lugged tread and a lot more cushioning.  The Kangeroo leather is great, makes it look nicer and the thicker sole combined with the leather makes it dramatically warmer.  The KSO Trek I can wear in the snow and be reasonably happy.  The feel is very nice, but it is also a much narrower sole.  I consider them more of a hit and miss kind of fit than the other models.

The classics I just use as house shoes, and use them for working out on the deck.  I like them for the the very flat standing position and excellent grip both wet and dry and extreme splinter resistance.  What I don't like is that the front cinch strap bites into my foot a bit (not a problem with the sprints) I think this comes from my high feet.

Vivo Barefoot by Tera Plana aka Eco Hipster Shoes
Red Vivo Barefoot AquaBrown Vivo Barefoot Dharma
For these I ordered a 44 which is my regular size for shoes.  They fit very wide and quite comfortable.  If I was going to wear them without the inside liner I would go a size smaller, I could almost go a size smaller anyway.  They fit pretty ordinary for a wide cut shoe.  The soles are comfortable, thin, and flexible in all directions.  The styles are a bit funky but stylish.  The sole has no grip in wet snowy conditions, but is fine on dry surfaces.  They look very ordinary, but do have an extremely flexible sole, but still protect you from everything that is happening.  They do leave shoe shaped footprints and I would consider them a good compromise for normal footwear and helping your feet.
Feelmax Shoes aka Puncture Resistant Socks
Black Feelmax Niesa
The Niesa is an interesting shoe.  The sole is 1.3mm with a thin insole.  The big problem for me is ordered a 42 (one size larger than I wear in the VFF) and it was far too narrow for my EEEE wide right foot, but the length was pretty ideal.  They look like pretty ordinary shoes and you can wear them most place where you could wear a fashionable sneaker.  They really feel like you are just wearing socks outdoors, you leave footprints that are foot shaped rather than shoes shaped.

My favourites remain the Vibram Five Fingers (VFF).  This is what really activated my toes for the first time.  But each has its place, general out and about climbing, short to medium runs go to VFF.  Going to work, semi-formal occasions, things that need enclosed shoes I go with the Vivo Barefoot.  I haven't found the real use case of the Feelmax shoes, partically because they are too narrow for me.

For winter running I still wear a pair of Asics trainers (but they are much harder on my ankles and knees) and for races I have a pair of Piranha SP2 which have a relatively small heel, and are ultra light-weight.

Now I also have gone over to toe socks.   For sports socks Injinji are the best, for daily socks I like some local German ones, and for just basic relativly cheap I go with feelmax.
  • Current Music
    Fats Novvaro, Nostalgia
  • Tags

I look less like me these days and more like my relatives...

Ring on the Right Hand

I wear my ring on my right hand these days.  This is actually normal in German speaking countries but that isn't why I do it, my wife still wears her ring on the left (and she is even German.)

I have lost a lot of weight in the last year, and after about 30% some of it came off my fingers.  I was gesticulating wildly (as I am apt to do) in Barcelona and my wedding ring just flew off and rolled down the street.  I found it and switched to putting it on my right hand as it it is a little larger (I suspect it comes from being right handed.)

First Thing in the Morning
Hair Slicked Back Before Work

I look different these days.  The strange thing is that I don't look different in the mirror, only in photos.  I guess I look at myself every day in the mirror (but I don't see any more of myself than you can in these photos they were taken at exactly mirror height.)  The left is first thing in the morning.  I think I look like a female impersonator my eyes and lips are too big!  Well I also look more like my mom.  The one on the right is after the shower and after I have attempted to put my hair down.  I look a bit more like by biological father if he ever felt like looking respectable, which happens every now and then.

  • Current Music
    Tom Waits, Blood Money

New Job at Nokia

I am pretty happy with my new job.  The Nokia Gate5 office here in Berlin is fairly casual and personally responsible.  At least that is how I take places that don't have formal work times, but have goals instead.  It is great to actually get to see energetic and engaged people again!

We are working on location based services (Nokia Maps, Ovi Maps, Routing directions, location information, ....).   It is very international office and the business language is english.  I think Germans are the pluarity but not the majority, but I could be wrong on that.  7 people started on the same day as me in the office, so it is a growing office (as a search for jobs at Nokia in Berlin would lead you to believe.)

Kind of chaotic starting just after the winter holiday, but people are friendly and excited about their work which is great compared to several other German firms I have interviewed at.

For me it is 30minutes by foot from withing my apartment to my desk.  There seems to be a little bit of definition missing from my job, which is perfect because I am happy to sniff arround and make it up as I go along.

Of course it is only day 2, but there have been 0 unpleasant surprises.  I kind of expected to have to wait for all my accounts and equipment to show up.  My management is all in Finland, but the people that I need to work with on a daily basis are here.   I think it is going to take me a couple of months to really understand the products and the orginization.  It is big and ever changing.

They issued me a Nokia E71 as my phone.  I actually really like it and I am not paid to say that.  The battery life is acceptable, the keyboard is good, the GPS is fast, the performance is good (not all s60 phones are that way) and the default software stack is pretty good as well.  Though I have to admit having an unlimited data plan on a modern smart phone is really nice.  My pre-pay was usefull and cheap (about 6 Euro a month with about as much email and IM as I wanted)  But the web browser is pretty good (not quite as good as the iPhone) the email client has been improved and works welll with both imap and exchange.

I am even getting a chance to speak and hear German!  This may sound odd for someone living in Germany, but I really had very little reason to speak German.  Everything in writing needs to be in English, but some people perfer to speak German to each other at work to communicate faster.

There is a lot to do and not enough people.   I will see how I can make it all work.

I even managed to get my work-out in before work this morning and make it to my seat by 9:45 AM

  • Current Mood
    happy happy

Duco Walk on Election Night

Took Duco on a walk this evening.  We went around our block and 1 further up as usual, bit was very lively for Tuesday tonight.

Babylon was hosting the Democrats Abroad party.  Everyone on the  east side street was American and everyone walking past me on the west side was British (OK there were a few token Germans and Eastern Europeans floating about, but not enough to actually be noticeable).

The party had already started before the first polls formerly closed!  Though the plan for the party is to go until sunrise when the closing poll results from the West Coast should come in.  That mood was more congratulatory than worried.  Looks like spirts were quite high for an Obama win.  They were already spilling onto the sidewalk projecting the TV onto a sail.

Today I will just post a personal one and leave my fitness-obsessing alone for a day.


The fitness & diet thing

I have been doing a diet & fitness regime for the last 12 weeks.  It has been working, and it has changed my lifestyle and not always for the best.  There was some traveling, getting married, and even a vacation in those 12 weeks.

I have lost 13.4 KG (29.5lbs) of weight [Currently 95.2KG (210lbs)].  My best guess is I have gained 2kg (4 lbs) of muscle.  I am a little more than half way to my end goal for next year.  Basically I want to get down to being over-weight according to BMI (currently in obese cat-1) and in the teens for bodyfat percentage.

This came about because I was rejected for health insurance here in Germany.  It turned out that the program I applied for was oversubscribed and was being super picky, but it frustrated me.  It made me say, I can change this, and I want to change this.

So people tend to ask what system I use.  I am using a fairly straight up calorie counter methodology.

The most useful tools I have found.

A food scale (something that is normal in European kitchens, since they don't use volumetric measurements in recipes)
And a Calorie tracking website. (I also got a mobile phone software app for while I was traveling)

The last bit that is helpful is to actually have a plan to figure out how many calories you should consume.

One of the enormous benefits I have is that I work from home, so I can make all my own meals easily and I can stagger the damage of calorie deficit more easily than most people.

I miss exploring restaurants, I also miss eating meals with my wife.  Both of these are things that came from major diet changes.  The problem with restaurants is it is too difficult to figure out how much something is.  I can plan to go out to eat, but I  need to be careful.  My current diet is 1,950Kcal per day max and 1600Kcal min.  That is not a lot of range.  If I drop below my energy really sinks and my body goes into starvation mode.  If I go above I don't stay on plan and see progress.  I eat very different food, this is what makes eating with my wife so difficult.  I often have meals that she doesn't like.  I eat way more cabbage than ever before (she hates cabbage).  I also use a lot more spice to make up for otherwise bland food.  To make matters worse she was trying a low-cholesterol diet for a while which is not as easily compatible with a direct fat loss diet.

Of course diet alone is not enough.  If you don't want to lose muscle you need to do something to make it build up as well.  So I have a resistance training program, and now I have aerobic two days a week.

That has been a more satisfying experience, I like seeing the progress.  I cannot say it has made me feel more energetic, but it does make me feel better.  Resistance day is push-ups, sit-ups, dumbbells (elastics when traveling), pull-ups.  Aerobic is jump-rope and squats.  Everything done at high-intensity (high heart rates).

I am using the highly defective social features of my calorie counter to keep my diet obsession blog. (no rss available).  And of course I have spreadsheet that keep track of even more numbers and models.

One of the things I find interesting is that after I have come up with that works for me is very similar to "the zone" diet (especially after I calculated my workout protein requirments), and my work-out fits reasonably into the ideology of crossfit.  Though neither of these were inspirations, I found them when investigating where I want to go next with my workout life.

It takes up a lot of mind space and time.  At some point I need to obsess about it less, but at the moment that is what help keeps me motivated and on track.


Shaving with a Straight Razor

This is a little video I made for a friend in California as an example of shaving with a straight razor.

I have been shaving with a straight razor for about 5 years.

I find it the most pleasant shave I can get, definitely the closest.  I even nick myself less than I did trying to get a close shave with a disposable, and it reduces some of your household waste.  It is even faster if you are like me and don't regularly shave so you go from a couple days growth to super smooth.

I use a Dovo razor (current price about $90 in the US)
A long strop, long ones are nicer (but no longer than your arm)
high glycerin soap.

If you feel like giving it a go, I can share some of my experiences to you

Yes my last name does start with "S"

Most of you that know me had no idea my last name started with the letter "M."  My drivers license last name began with the letter "S," Social security card, academic records, credit-cards, loans, employment contracts.

Then in 1999 I got a passport to travel the UK.  The officer in SF informed me that everyone had been mistaken and that my last name began with "M" and that last names can have spaces in them.  I was leaving in 2 weeks so I decided to put up with this nonsense, but she said, "You can only have a 1 years passport, because you don't have any supporting documentation for the name beginning with an 'M'."

So I have a passport that expired twice that I am still using and has a name that nothing else has, didn't seem like that big of deal other than I need to learn the word for "page 23" (the extension) in many languages to keep passport officers happy.

But now I want to get married in a country where name changes are illegal.  I am not sure what I want to name my kids, but they may get my name and I would rather it be the one with the "S".

Now name changes in the US are not that hard, you announce 2 weeks ahead of time that you are going to change your name you go to the court house stand in front of a judge and declare you intent.  And then post for another two weeks that you name has been changed in case someone wants to find you.

The problem here is you have to do in the county you are resident.  Which for me is Eugene, Oregon and it is not easy for me to get there as I live in Munich, Germany and work in Mountain View, CA.  So it becomes very expensive an cumbersome to get my name changed.

So instead I managed to convince one of vital records officers of Oregon that her predecessor had made a data entry mistake and to clear it up.  Now the cycle begin anew of ordering birth certificates getting an apostille and sending it off to Germany.

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Another Bike Stolen

Well my bicycle was stolen again.

 Robin at Hilltop vinyard

This time taken from in front of my apartment in Munich while I was Berlin for the weekend.  This puts me at over 50% of my bikes have been stolen.

Made me think.

Munich: 1 bicycle
  • VSF Fahrradmanufactur, pimped out touring bike outside small U-Lock for rear wheel and frame.
  • basic commuter bike, unlocked inside a locked basement cage.  The log was scraped but it was the cage that was broken.
    3 months
San Francisco:
  • Kona Jake the Snake Cyclo-cross bike.  Locked in the hallway U-Lock and cable.
    18 months
  • Some Trek low end Mountain bike locked in the Garage
    6 months
  • Jamis Frame, old racing components.  Unlocked inside apartment (door was kicked down)
    2 months
  • Trek 810, basic street bike.  U-Locked to a bicycle rack left over night.  They cut through the bicycle rack
    6 months
Eugene Oregon
  • Shogun Trailblazer Mountain bike.  Locked to a chain-link fence post.  All the chain links were cut and presumably the bike was lifted over the top.
    3 years
  • rear SCOTT SE brakes stolen (parked at the back of school) front wheel and seat removed, U-Lock through front wheel, real wheel, and frame.
  • Handbars stolen.  Profile Moutainbike aero bars, XT shifters, dia-comp brake levers.  All the cables were cut.  Bike locked with cable through rear wheel and ulock through front wheel, frame and bicycle rack.
Bikes Not Stolen
  • red Italian dirt bike 5th birthday present, given away when I got a new bike when I was 8
    3 years
  • silver city bike for 8th birthday, no idea what happened to this one
    3 years
  • Trek 7000 (ZID), broke the frame at the chain-stay had warped metal on the seat stays and seat tube.
    4 years
  • Grendal (Old broken Bruce Gordan converted to cyclocross bike after being warped), left it in Russ's house when I left
    1 year
  • Bontrager Privateer Comp Mountain bike purchased in Chicago, still at Russ's house
    10 years
  • Lemond Propad Cyclocross bike purchased in San Francisco, still at Russ's house
    5 years
  • 2rad Mountain Bike Purchased in Munich, and still here.
    2 years

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Taska & Robin are Engaged

Yes I am living in the modern world I am announcing my engagement on Livejournal.

Taska and I have been together for more than 10 years now.  In various states of relationships.  To take a more formal step to say "yes we are getting married" we are officially engaged as of today Monday 8th of October, 2007.  I have given her the ring as the symbol of commitment.  We don't have a date for a marriage or a wedding.  What we will do and what continent it will be on is still an open question, but we are committed to being together for many many years to come.

For the ring I designed a it, and worked worked with a local goldsmith to make it into something real.

The wedding rings are also made as well.  I designed it so the engagement ring and wedding ring would fit together.

My ring is just a sized up version of Taska's wedding ring, and on the right you can see the wedding and engagement put together.

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Back from Vacation on Corsica

Well I am back.  I took a couple hours this evening to upload the first two days of photos from Corsica.

I was there for two weeks and the weather was beautiful.  Stayed down in Porto Pollo (Porti Puddu) in a vacation rental, with Taska, and friends from diving training Philip Vlaicu and Johana Tischberger.

Weather was great, lots of diving, though none of it deep.  We were hunting wrecks and light for the Cameras.




Now I am back in Munich catching up on work and slowly uploading photos.

More travel notes and details to follow.

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