Product Recommendation: Lems Boulder Boot

If you’re looking for a minimalist boot with a barefoot-like feel for backpacking or hiking, look no further.  At CREUS, we only recommend products that we truly believe in.  One of our goals is to help you find products that are of the highest quality and good for your health–Lems Boulder Boot meets both of these qualifications.

I tested Lems Boulder Boot a couple weeks ago on a 25 mile backpacking trip on the John Muir Trail (JMT).  My wife, a couple of friends, and I did an “out and back” from Tuolumne Meadows to Donahue Pass.  After wearing my Vibram Five Fingers on the Lost Coast Trail, I decided that for the JMT I needed a shoe that would provide a little more ankle support and warmth, as well as keep the dirt off my feet.  After shopping around, I decided to go with Lems Boulder Boot, and it didn’t disappoint.  Here are a few things I liked about the boot:

Zero-Drop
There are very few minimalist boots on the market right now.  Among the boots that are available, the biggest issues are the design and quality of the sole.  Most of the boots I looked at are either “minimalist-inspired” and still have a slightly built up heel, or the soles are of questionable durability.

The Lems Boulder Boots has a perfectly flat sole, which allows the foot to follow a natural gait pattern and the arch to function as it should.  I’m of the opinion that hiking in a zero-drop boot also helped prevent my feet from sliding forward (which can scrunch the toes and cause blisters).

HIking-john-muir-trail-minimalist-bootsExcellent Ground Feel
Lems has managed to achieve what feels like an optimal sole thickness for backpacking.  The soles were thick enough that I didn’t have to worry about every detailed foot placement, Iike I’ve had to do when backpacking in Vibrams Five Fingers, but thin enough that I could feel the ground.  

For me, having good ground feel is a very important part of backpacking, for two reasons: For one, I enjoy feeling the ground beneath my feet, experiencing the wide variety of terrain I’m walking on.  With ground feel, my feet become another avenue for experiencing and remembering the amazing terrain.  Secondly, adequate ground feel, with zero drop, provides improved traction and a lower center of gravity.  Combined, these two factors improve balance and can help prevent twisted ankles (which often occur because of the increased torquing leverage caused by thick soles).

Lightweight
At 9.9oz, Lems Boulder Boots are one of the lightest boots on the market. If you’re a backpacker, you know that the lighter the gear the better!  These boots feel lighter than many trail running shoes I’ve worn, making each step airy and enjoyable along the trail!

Durable Construction
Amazingly, the lightweight construction doesn’t seem to interfere with the boots’ durability.  More miles are needed to discover the actual endurance of the boot, but after the 25 mile hike over rough terrain, the boots look little worse for wear.  Keep in mind, I was hiking a 50lb pack, and I weight 205lbs, so the boots were definitely taking some pressure against the hard granite.  From what I can tell, the soles incurred little wear, the stitches are tight, and there are no signs of anything coming unglued.  

Comfortable
Probably the most important aspect of any boot or shoe is the level of comfort provided.  Thanks to their soft-lining and spacious toe box, Lems Boulder Boots are very comfortable.  My toes had plenty of room to wiggle around in and my fore-foot had plenty of space to spread out (both important when it comes to backpacking).  I should also mention that I was the only one in the group not to get any blisters, and this was the first time I wore the boots other than around the house!

Another advantage of Lems Boulder Boots is that they provide the comfort of ankle support.  It was great to know that I had the benefits of a minimalist shoe with the extra protection of an over-the-ankle boot.  Thanks to the good ground feel, I don’t think I ever slipped, but if I had, I’m happy to know that the boots would have provided some protection against spraining one of my ankles.  

Photo-9_3_13,-11.42.51-AM-1

Other Considerations
If you’re looking for a completely water-proof or technical mountaineering boot, then Lems Boulder Boot probably isn’t the right fit for you, but they’re a an awesome step in the right direction as far as minimalist boots go.  Lems Boulder Boots are water repellent, but they don’t have a one-piece tongue, and you aren’t going to want to go marching straight through streams with them (but you shouldn’t have any problem walking across boulders in the stream).  

Also, if you aren’t an experienced bare-footer or wearer of minimalist shoes, backpacking or hiking in Lems Boulder Boots isn’t a good idea until you’ve had some practice.  If your feet are used to wearing shoes with built up heels and arch support, it will take some time before they are strong enough to hike or carry weight while wearing minimalist shoes.  For more on the benefits of minimalist shoes and/or barefoot running, read our previous blog on barefoot running

To check out Lems Boulder Boots, visit Lems Shoes!
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Originally posted 2013-09-03 13:15:27.

Connect to the Earth for Healing Energy…?!

If you opened this blog out of pure curiosity or skepticism about the title, that’s understandable. Connecting to the earth for “healing energy” sounds more like a belief from a New Age religion, than something that belongs to the realm of scientific discovery or that glorifies God as creator. When I first heard about the earth’s healing energy,  I too was skeptical, but it turns out that there’s a growing body of scientific evidence to support the idea that the earth’s electrical charge is important for the normal functioning of the human body (check out the references below).  As a result of society’s “advancements,” however, we’ve almost completely disconnected ourselves from this energy source and possibly damaged our health as a result.

Here’s how it’s thought to work: the earth’s surface is a vast source of free electrons, which have a negative electric charge. When we come into direct contact with the earth, such as by walking barefoot, those free electrons transfer to our bodies.  Once in our bodies, the electrons serve as anti-oxidants and blood thinners.  They serve as anti-oxidants by neutralizing excess positively charged Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) that cause inflammation in the body.  Chronic inflammation is responsible or contributes to a number of health problems, including slow recovery time, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and aging.  The discovery of the role of inflammation and free radicals in the aging process is what prompted the recent anti-oxidant craze, and it turns out that simply being connected to the earth might be one of the best and more affordable sources of anti-oxidants.

Connecting to the earth, or what’s been called “grounding” or “earthing,” also attenuates the viscosity of the blood, or thins it.  It does so by decreasing the coagulation of red blood cells (RBC) through electric charge.  Pilot studies have found that when the body is grounded, the Zeta potential of red blood cells increases.  In other words, the number of negative charges on each RBC is increased, which causes the RBCs to separate from one another and flow in the blood stream individually and more freely.

Based on a growing number of studies, the other benefits of grounding may include: improved sleep, stress reduction, improved heart rate variability (an important status for cardiovascular health), reduction of symptoms of arthritis, and improved glucose regulation.

While I think it’s important to avoid targeting any one environmental factor as the primary cause of our society’s health problems, it seems that not connecting to the earth is one more way that we’ve cut ourselves off from the life-giving properties of God’s creation.  Thanks to rubber soles, modern construction practices, and the automobile, we almost entirely cut ourselves off from the earth’s supply of free electrons.  Have you ever walked barefoot in the grass or on the beach and obtained an amazing sense of relaxation and peaceful energy?  Perhaps those feelings have to do with the positive physiological effects of being grounded to the earth.  At this point in the research it isn’t known how much grounding is needed to obtain the benefits listed above, but it’s thought that even half an hour can help (but the more the better).  On your next walk, consider taking your rubber-soled shoes off and walking barefooted, or look into getting some shoes with leather soles (which nearly all soles used be made of 100 years ago) – they won’t block the flow of electricity like rubber soles will.

It turns out that God’s creation is beautifully complex, and we’re part of it.  We’ve tried to control it and manipulate it for our own purposes but doing so usually only results in more problems.  Like other creatures, we depend on light, air, food, sleep, movement, and electricity for health.  Our bodies contain a vast electrical system, from our brain and nervous system to the electrical charges on our Red Blood Cells.  If we want to have optimum health we have to discover how we’ve cut ourselves off from the gifts in God’s creation, whether it be from healthy food, sunlight, or the earth’s free electrons, and RECONNECT!

References: Earthing: The Health Implications of Reconnection the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface ElectronsEarthing, The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?

Originally posted 2012-11-07 20:16:00.

Stress fractures from barefoot running

During the past few years of my barefoot running career, barefoot running has taken off in popularity.  I truly believe in the health benefits of barefoot running, and have experienced several benefits myself.  For one, I no longer get painful shin splints.  Secondly, my previous knee injury no longer causes me pain.  Moreover, my feet and calves are greatly strengthened, and I love the feel of the earth beneath my feet.  Nevertheless, many people have experienced negative effects from barefoot running, namely foot injuries.  A stress fracture to one of the metatarsal bones is the most common barefoot running injury.  Enough injuries have taken place that many podiatrists and orthopedists are discouraging barefoot running altogether.  Yet, take a look at the cause of stress fractures as described straight from the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeon’s website: “Stress fractures often are the result of increasing the amount or intensity of an activity too rapidly.”  In other words, barefoot running isn’t the cause of stress fractures, it’s jumping into something your body has never done too quickly!  Stress fractures are also more common in women than men, and it’s important to make sure you’re obtaining proper nutrition to support bone health, especially calcium and vitamin D.

Barefoot running is healthier for your feet, joints, and spine, but it’s a technique that must be learned and eased into.  Most people never walk or run barefoot except on the beach.  Our feet are weak, deformed, and shoe-dependent from wearing shoes all our lives.  Feet need to be strengthened slowly.  As your feet are strengthened by walking barefoot around the block a few times, then adding progressively longer runs, muscles will develop that support the metatarsals, and your bones will strengthen. Many people are excited about the idea of running barefoot, which is awesome; yet, few are willing to start out completely  barefoot.  The cool new “barefoot” or minimalist running shoes are oh so enticing and cultural norms of keeping feet shod are difficult to let go of, but starting out with minimalist shoes without learning to properly run in the barefoot style will result in a stress fracture! The importance of running COMPLETELY barefooted before wearing minimalist shoes cannot be overemphasized. Feet have one of the highest concentration of nerve endings in the body.  These nerve endings aren’t meant to be covered up and ignored; they’re meant to teach you how to run softly.  If you follow my advice, and ease into running barefoot, you’ll avoid a stress fracture and eventually reap the benefits of running the way your were designed to run!

Regarding barefoot sprinting, yes, it is possible to sprint barefooted.  In fact, sprinting techniques closely resemble running barefoot at moderate speeds.  Proper form involves keeping the body relaxed, slightly lifting the toes while in the air, and striking the ball of the foot first (this does not look like running on your toes.  In fact, if you watch sprinters it almost looks like they land flat-footed). Again, it’s important to work up to sprinting in general, let alone sprinting barefooted.  Your body is perfectly capable of sprinting without shoes, but you shouldn’t and can’t go from 0 to 20mph overnight!  As you progressively add mileage and speed to your barefoot running routine, slowly add short sprints and build from there.  Sprints are a more aggressive form of running and you will not land on your heel but primarily on the ball and midsection of the foot.  For more information about barefoot running, check out my previous blog.  

Originally posted 2011-08-23 18:41:00.