Posts Tagged ‘Minimalist’

Reinforced Hobbit Hole Sanctuary


Here I am in the reading nook, aka a sitting cushion that folds up for when I’m on the computer at the kneeling desk.

Living with brain injury includes having a brain that is easily short circuited by loud sounds, bright flickering lights, scents and any other sensory input. Thus, the concept of a sanctuary, which I call my hobbit hole.

I was blessed to receive from Catholic Charities and GE Johnson Construction the gift of new windows and increased sound proofing in the walls (a friend took several years arranging it). The result is beautiful. I am going to keep things very simple.

At this end is my desk (I kneel on a kneeler) and the floor couch (think thin sitting pad) for visiting with my family in the quietest room in the house. The other end houses my cloths and is my walk in closet and reserve bedroom for when the town is too loud and I need somewhere quieter to sleep. Not bad for 200 square feet.

One of the therapies that is very effective at restoring God’s Engineering and helping me both function and heal as much as possible is floor living. Our whole family sits, eats, plays, sleeps on the floor. This keeps the body’s core very strong, keeps us shifting positions every 20-40 minutes, and keeps us feeling lithe and limber all the time. Our bodies did not evolve to be in chairs or cushie beds. Quite simply we feel far better all the time because we live on the floor. I never need to stretch before running or biking, I just go. It also uses space much more efficiently.

The earphones are Bose noise canceling headphones. The mechanical rumble still comes through the walls and windows a wee bit (there is a fan on the restaurant across the creek that runs 24/7 that none but me can hear, and it puts out sound that carries through most things — the longer the waves the harder they are to stop). So unless I am talking with the family, my earphones are on.

The windows and walls now stop the infra noise that was finding its way into my hobbit hole, and that is perhaps the biggest gain. I have been able to write and think far more in the week I’ve been in the new hobbit hole than in the months before (at least until the doctor’s office debacle). We’ll see what the noisier spring and summer bring!




Here I am at the kneeling desk on the computer. The desk is two night stands connected by a board in the middle, which happens to be the right height for kneeling.


Here I am in a wider shot, and you can see the small couch area in front of me, where is works to meet with family in a quiet room. Before I couldn’t have many conversations with my family until the town quieted down in the evening (if it did, in summer it stays pretty loud (for me)).

Where to get Quality “Barefoot” Footwear?

I wear sandals year-round and my feet have never been happier!

More folks are discovering just how much healing power for the brain walking and running as close to barefoot as possible really unlocks. I’m more often getting the question: what do I recommend?

First, there are standard qualities every minimalist footwear should meet:

  • no cushion
  • no support (arch or otherwise)
  • foot shaped, not last shaped (plenty of room for toes and forefoot)
  • no foam of any kind underfoot (preferably only leather and/or rubber)
  • Highly flexible (allows foot to move freely, unencumbered)
  • Thin sole (as thin as your activity will allow)
  • No heel rise (Zero drop is the industry term)

If you’re thinking, “That list rules out almost all shoes!” Yup. It does. With good reason. Here are some that do meet the criteria

Yup. It meets all the list above, better than anything else ever possibly can. If you want to wake up the neural connection between your feet and your brain and the rest of your body, this is the best way to do it.

Luna Sandals
Their Equus sandal is the only current model that meets the full list, as most of their sandals have a neoprene (foamed rubber) sole. These may be fine if you have no balance issues, but neoprene messes with my vertigo to no end. Luna should have a good denser yet grippy rubber soled option coming out soon (I’ve been testing it a while).

I strongly recommend a leather top if at all possible. The foot loves being in contact with leather!

Zem Footwear
This is next on the list, though I’ve not yet tried their 360 or other new wear, which is available for preorder mid June for delivery July. Their current line meets this entire list and is very reasonably priced. Unless you are running mountain trails like me (which tear them up), they are an excellent choice. And I’ve high hopes for the 360!

Their Adam and Eve shoes meet the above list, so long as your forefoot isn’t as wide as mine. They have other versions of these no cushioned models coming out as well, over then next year or two.

Softstar Shoes
Their new DASH running shoe is a great option without neoprene sole (it has a thin harder rubber sole, very flexible).

Other options:
There are other options that may work for your individual situation. Feel free to share what you find works in the comments.

I need more help!
If you want to talk over the options with someone who knows them very well and will treat you right, The Born To Run store sells online and has a retail center in Seattle. They offer excellent care.

What about Vibram’s Five Fingers?
I started off in VFFs along with barefoot, so they will always have a fond place in my heart. But they still control a lot about how your foot moves by the contour on their footbed. but if you are going with a pair, the Classic, Sprint, or KSO models are the most minimal options.

If you do order VFFs online, be sure they are from an authorized dealer. There are many, many knockoff sights. Check here first to be sure.

Huaraches with YakTrax

This is my cognitive and dexterity therapy for the year. This project is really pushing my brain’s capacity, so I am working on it in short bursts and I would really appreciate any ideas from the do-it-yourself/huarache running community.

This photo shows 6mm Vibram Cherry with the layout of my YakTrax wire (cut off and re-shaped) to match the traction sections of the foot.

This photo shows my proposed plan, but I’d love your input before I go punching holes in my sole. (the heel portion would be aligned more with the outside line, rather than as shown.)

Please share your ideas in the comment section. Thanks for your help!

New Huarache Tying Method

This method does not have the toe string between the big and second toes (which I’ve never been able to put up with), allows for the wearing of socks (winter is coming), and is secure enough to use on the mountain trail around Pikes Peak. I’ve got four miles on this exact method so far, but have been experimenting with other methods to reach this one.

It actually creates opposing forces from the heel to the midfoot, and then from the forefoot to the midfoot, do does a surprisingly good job of being very stable. One trick is to tie it looser than you think when just standing, as the forefoot expands greatly at running speed when landing.

I use a thick leather footbed and parachute cord. I may experiment with Vibram Cherry but I haven’t been able to make leather or other natural laces work for me because of the abrasion and/or stretching/shrinking involved with getting them wet.

Minimalist Clothing Allows us to spend brain energy where we want!

In the post about radical minimalism, I talk mention the value of finding where our brain “leaks” energy, so we can spend it where we want rather than loosing it to things that are not important to us. One of the most surprising places I learned I was leaking brain energy is clothing. Fixing the leak is very simple.

Me before I learned that I leak brain energy wearing a pack above my waist and that I do much better barefoot or with minimalist shoes.
Clothing Leak #1: Deciding what to wear
Each morning, looking in drawers, staring at the closet, figuring out what to wear. What matches what? What’s the occasion? What will others be wearing? All these questions are perfectly normal for most folks. But for the brain bludgeoned, they take a lot of brain energy. Depending on what’s hard for you, and if clothing isn’t a passion of yours, you may want to spend that limited brain energy differently. Here’s how:

Solution: Radically Simplify your wardrobe.

  • give away clothing you’ve not worn in more than a year
  • focus on what your favorite clothing is. What if you wore that (and others like it) every day? The reality is most people don’t particularly care if we dress the same every day. The UPS person and police officer do it, why not you?

Clothing Leak #2: Changing clothes for a new activity
Going out? With friends? To church? To a restaurant? It’s ingrained in many of us that we need to change when our activity changes. Why? Why not find a single basic outfit that works no matter what you’re doing?

Solution: Travel Clothing for All Occasions
THere are many places that offer travel clothing. It tends to be hearty and able to look good no matter your activity. I wear travel clothing every day and the same outfit is what I run in and what I wear when I serve at Mass. It’s fast drying supplex nylon which is strong, hearty, feels like cotton, and dries very fast. I get dressed in the morning and don’t change a thing till I take it off for bed. Nice and simple and I can live more life in between.

Clothing Leak #3: clothing rubbing on my skin
Of all the things that surprised me about leaking brain energy through my clothing, this one was the biggest surprise. Let me explain how I figured it out.

Ever since my most recent concussion in 2002, I’ve mostly worn a kilt. I’m Scottish, and it’s a bit odd, but a traditional Man’s garment. For a variety of reasons, until I can find someone who can make me a supplex kilt, I need to wear something less hot that dries faster, otherwise it simply doesn’t work for me when running in heat or wet.

I tried adventure pants (I highly recommend Rail Riders if pants work for you). But I couldn’t figure out why it was harder for me to run long distances.

It wasn’t until I threw all caution to the wind (a common thing for me, a likely contributor to my brain bludgeoned state, aye?) and donned one of my wife’s adventure skirts, ran in it, then changed into pants, that I discovered just how much brain energy was leaking out because my pants were always rubbing everywhere on my legs. I now wear Macabi adventure skirts (call it a sarong if it makes you feel better — the reality is men have worn skirts just as long as women, just not in recent memory in Western culture).

Even compared with my will kilts (which brush the back of my leg), a long flowing skirt contacts my legs far less, and when I change into pants, it’s like wading through a bog in comparison.

These marvels get completely soaked in a rain (though they shrug off light rain no problem), but when it stops, they are dry in 20 minutes — five if I’m running in the dry Colorado air. Combined with a same colored top (I use a t-shirt or a cowl/cape — yet to be made — as it looks like a robe).

For cooler and cold weather, I simply put on fleece pants under (fitting, stretchy fabric doesn’t rub the skin much at all — seems it needs to be loose and flowing and snug and stretchy), and wool or fleece tops.

Wardrobe done. Leaks stopped. More brain energy for what I want to focus on. Sue, I look odd to some. So what? This is what works for me.

What have you found that works for you in stopping the brain leaks from your clothing? Use the comments section to share your experience with others.

Radical Minimalism Frees the Mind, Body, and Soul

I call it accessing God’s engineering. The concept is simple. Strip the many and various aspects of life down to their most basic, removing all semblance of comfort, cushion, support, and then see how life goes for a week or month. Add things only to test and better understand if it’s helpful or if it gets in the way.

My new desk set up, minimalized from a full on recliner.

What am I talk about? Clothing, diet, furniture, shoes, bedding, decor, routines and schedules, faith, and just about anything else you can think of.

Why? What’s the benefit? For starters, simplicity. Less clutter outside means less clutter inside. It literally feels like a breath of fresh air.

Living brain bludgeoned, we each start the day with a very small amount of brain energy. Figuring out were we “leak” brain energy without even realizing it is one of the more dramatic yet subtle benefits of shifting to radical minimalism. Lose less brain energy to things that don’t matter to you, and you have that much more to spend on things that do!

As our whole family has shifted to radical minimalism we’ve discovered more time and space for each other. Us adults have dropped closer to our ideal weight. sitting on the floor, while not easy at first, makes us more limber and lithe, freeing us to move more efficiently when we’re standing too.

Other discoveries we’ve made, like by sitting on the floor, our core (abdominal and glut muscles) are stronger. It’s far easier for me to cut through my vertigo on the floor, and it’s easy to shift positions from sitting to lying.

In short, there are boundless benefits we’ve discovered from going radically minimalist in many aspects of our lives. By removing the cushioning, support , and comfort of modern living, our bodies naturally get stronger and work more efficiently, freeing our mind, body, and soul to more fully enter life!

It’s important to note that radical minimalism takes time to shift into. Living on the floor, going barefoot, changing diet, and more litterally change the way our bodies function, move, and flow. This can involve muscles and tendons needing to strengthen, waste stored in various parts of our bodies may be released and so we may actually feel worse at different times as we make the sifts. But we’ll also experience benefits along the way.

As with everything else, trust yourself to know what you need — doing so will help you learn to listen to your body even more. And always remember the brain injury motto: “As fast as we can, as slow as we must!”. I’ve taken 3-4 years to make the changes I’ve made.

I’ll post more detailed posts on each category. Just use the Minimalist link on the left to find them.

To test this minimalist thing out, sit in the room you spend the most time in. Look around. Pick one space (a shelf or desk or ???) that’s most cluttered and radically clean it. Just that one. Now, sit again and see if it feels like a breath of fresh air. Perhaps it works so well, you want to try expanding where you go radically minimalist? You’ll be amazed at how much brain energy it frees up!

How have you simplified and what benefits have you experienced? Share your wisdom with others in the comments section.

Quest for the Right Primal Running Shoe

My preferred primal running footwear.

As much as I love running barefoot, the combination of the distances I run, the roughness of the trails I run, and the temperature most of the year in the early morning on Pikes Peak, I need primal running shoes.

Like many of the folks in the ever more popular sport of primal running (running barefoot and/or with minimalist shoes), I have tried a lot of shoes and they’ve all (so far) fallen short of what they need to be.

Here’s my list of essentials for a minimalist shoe:

  • zero drop (no raised heel)
  • zero cushioning
  • zero support
  • thin (4mm or less), natural material, gripping sole that mimics the foot’s natural shape and flexibility. Leather and rubber are the two I’ve found work best.
  • curved outer edges
  • lightweight and breathable
  • Foot shaped (broad forefoot, narrowing though the mid-foot and narrower heel). Most shoes are last shaped, which is further limits and damages our feet.

I’ve worked with a number of custom moccasin folks and while I love an all leather sole, I’ve not yet found a traditional moccasin maker able to meet the demands of longevity and flexibility. The top simply causes blisters on the top of my foot when worn without socks (essential). See previous posts for some info on that adventure.

Terra Plana Barefoot line offers some great primal footwear. Their Evo, designed specifically for running, unfortunately uses a narrower last than their other barefoot shoes and is poorly engineered to cause blisters (they claim it’s been fixed, but multiple folks I know on the list have tried 2nd-3rd run Evos and they still cause blisters. TP’s claim that they just need breaking in is absurd considering it takes several hundred miles.

So, what do I currently run in? a modern moccasin, made by Terra Plana, called the Oak. They are pricy, but offer occasional coupons (worth signing up for) and are made exceptionally well. I have nearly 200 miles on my first pair and they are holding up well.

As you can see, I’ve modified a few things. I’ve:
removed the optional insole
punched air and drainage holes around the shoe
removed the back logo tab and cut a notch out of the achilles area.

I have my eye on Altra‘s Adam shoe and Merrell’s barefoot line, both of which are due out in the somewhat near future.

Minimalist Footprints…

This photo intrigues me. The print in the lower left is made by a guy I saw on the trail, who appears to weigh less, be smaller than me, and made the print about the same time I did. He was walking, I was running. I mention that to make clear the prints were made onto ground of equal softness and the deeper print was made by someone lighter and walking compared with my 190 lbs running. My print is in the upper right. I was wearing my primal moccasins.

My print isn’t quite “the best runners leave no print” ideal, but it is interesting to see the difference between primal running and shod walking in what appears to be a Converse or similar less structured shoe.

Clearly the shod print is a heal strike (see the deep heel imprint.) It creates an artificially flat surface. My primal print is soft around the edges and is clearly a gentle forefoot strike. My foot molds the ground slightly, but also molds to the ground. There is clear toe articulation.

Thoughts? Riff away in the comments section…

Baby Step Miracles!

Bathed in gentle alpine glow after a night’s snow, this view looks down Ute Pass.

As I connect with, learn, and live the basics of “God’s engineering” I am deeply humbled by how great we are made and how much we try and do things our way and simply gum up the works.

What do I mean by “God’s engineering?” I mean that God, through evolution, designed us to be the most beautiful and efficient and gifted creature on the planet: mind, body, and soul. Learning how to listen to our body and what it’s trying to tell us can make everything in life better. Two cases in point:

Primal Running:
When I first began going barefoot (last spring), my feet tingled as the blood rushed in, grew new tissue, woke up dormant neural connections and created new ones. My feet began giving the rest of my body input about where I as compared with the ground. My brain no longer had to struggle to figure this out. My body (from my navel down) just knew. As this awareness and reflex grew, I realized I could run. A few more months and constant testing to see if I still needed the 4 pound walking sticks, and I’ve shifted to 8 oz. trekking poles (Thank you, Mountain Chalet!). I’m now running and moving faster and more efficiently than ever (including before my brain injury!). I’m hopeful that running will help grow new connections and help me recover even more over time (studies show mice grown thousands of new brain cells when they run compared with when they don’t).

Primal Breathing:
Using the Buteyko breathing method, my breathing is now keeping the maximum amount of accessible oxygen in my blood, increasing my body’s efficiency throughout. I’ve even been able to run more in the afternoon and once in the evening (Mornings are my best “brain energy” time). I feel better more, have more brain energy, and my sinuses are not a constant presence in every moment of life. I suspect this new efficiency deeply contributed to my being able to go to lighter sticks, as it provides a better, more consistent oxygen supply to my brain.

Baby step miracles by way of learning how to listen to my body and the way God created me to breathe and move and eat (Blood Type Diet). I wonder what other aspects of life I take for granted that I’m actually doing things counter to how God created me? How else can I go primal? The search continues… Grin.

Plus 43.6 (Yes, I’ve been negligent in reporting them!)
Total mileage: 519.5 miles

Snow Traction Update

Traction in the snow on steep trails (One I run climes 1000 feet in 1.5 miles) is a challenge. There is (at least) one dilemma for the minimalist runner: how to get enough traction while not weighing down the foot or hindering it’s function.

The bottom line:

  • I run in most situations in my double soled primal mocs. This includes in well crystalized snow up and down on moderately packed snow. More on this later.
  • When I absolutely need additional, I now use Stableicers Lite. Why? Because they are the only traction device I’ve found that doesn’t constrict my foot through the minimalist footwear. I use velcro straps over the top to help hold them on (they slip off otherwise).

Here’s more details:

R and D with a solo moccasin maker in the Christmas season slows way down because he’s filling Christmas orders! We’re working on a possible wire and leather traction solution, but it remains in the pre-prototype stage for being too successful. Grin. Shameless plug: Chuck is great to work with and I highly recommend him if you are ready for a fantastic, quality, custom sized primal moc you can resole and will last forever. Connect with him at Mountain People Footwear.

I much prefer the leather sole to a rubber one (like Vibram’s Cherry). Why? With proper primal running technique traction equals rubber soled shoes, yet is warmer, provides better ground feel, and allows the exchange of energy with the earth. Exchange of energy with the Earth? Isn’t that a bit wacko? Possibly. But I experience it. I feel much more energized running with leather sole on any surface, but particularly on trails. The closest thing to a “scientific” explanation is that running barefoot or with leather allows for the exchange of energy/electrons with the earth, in which we release waste energy through the soles of our feet and receive renewed energy from the earth. I’ve tried multiple testing of this and, whatever the explanation, I simply feel better running with a leather sole.

Winter is hard on leather soles. Replenish them with Obenauf’s Heavy Duty LP.

Snow type does make a difference. Like any shift in terrain, the type and temperature of the snow we run on makes a difference in terms of how we interact with it. As any skier using waxed skis knows, there are different waxes for different types and temperatures of snow. For leather soled folk, the wetter (ie, warmer) the snow, the less friction it has. Snow is slippery when wet. Increased traction is required on wet snow. On well crystalized snow (ie, temps 25F and below), I’ve found very few circumstances requiring additional traction (again using proper primal techniques (as a refresher: primal is the style/technique/experience of running or walking either barefoot or minimalist).

Running a winding, rocky trail downhill in primal footwear is mind altering delight. The concept/ technique for it is this: small, rapid steps that take you on the edge of the traction/friction equation. In essence, you run as close to the point of slipping as you can, but because your feet are moving so fast you have a LOT of traction when and as you need it. It’s amazing how our feet and legs are made for this (the same is true of any steep/rocky terrain) — our mind only has to decide the track of our travel, our feet and reflexes take care of the rest (I suspect this requires a lot of time learning the technique and building up the right muscle groups, but Wow! is it a fun payoff!). So, while the Stableicers are functional, and at this point the best I’ve found, they greatly hinder primal running an so the search continues. Hopefully our own research for a primal moc traction device will yield some results.

Deacon Patrick’s Round the World Progress

Deacon Patrick's Round the World Progress