Earthing

Earthing

My discovery of earthing came about because I was introduced to a pair of sandals.

A pair of Earth Runner Alpha X sandals, to be exact. Michael Dally of Earth Runners offered me a pair to review, and I took him up on it. I’m glad I did.

In the course of testing the Alpha Xs for my review, I became intrigued about earthing. First, I looked at the earthing section of the Earth Runners website (which I recommend you do too). Then I checked out some earthing-related videos on YouTube, and I did more research.

I’ll admit that at first I was sceptical. The corner was turned when I saw this video of how earthing products were used by the Discovery Channel Tour de France team from 2003 to 2005 and again in 2007:

I then purchased an earthing mat from the earthing.ca website.

Put simply, Earthing means connecting yourself to the Earth’s natural, negative surface charge by being barefoot outside or in bare skin contact with conductive systems indoors while you sleep, relax, or work. It’s a simple concept, but one with profound consequences.

Connecting with the Earth restores a lost electrical signal to the body that seems to stabilize the complicated circuitry of our essentially-electrical body. When you ground to the electron-enriched earth, an improved balance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system occurs. Your self-regulating and self-healing mechanisms become more effective. There’s better blood flow. Less pain and inflammation. More energy. Deeper sleep.

Even after a little less than a week of using the mat, the effects were dramatic. For the first time in years, I slept straight through the night (numerous radiation treatments for prostate cancer over the past eight years have played havoc with my sleep and urinary patterns), and also lost some chronic pain in a thumb joint.

I noticed a marked reduction in my stress levels. Shortly before starting to use the earthing mat, we started an extensive house renovation, which meant that we had to empty the house, relocate to a condo, and board our two dogs and four cats. That would have been enough to unhinge anyone, but was especially tough on me. I have Aspergers Syndrome, and, like most Aspies, find any change in routine extremely harrowing. Being earthed made a really big difference in my ability to cope with the changes.

I feel like I’ve begun a whole new chapter in life education as I learn more about earthing.

I recently read Earthing, by Clint Ober, Stephen Sinatra, and Martin Zucker. It’s been a fascinating read, especially the more technical appendices at the end of the book.

I sleep on the earthing mat every night, and I also have it under my feet as much as possible during the day (for at least a couple of hours each day). I’m still sleeping soundly, and I’m still managing stress better. Not just day-to-day stress during the house renovation, but also acute stress – one of our greyhounds died a few weeks ago, and I don’t think I’d have made it through that difficult time very well without the help of earthing.

I also find that my recovery from long or intense runs is much faster and more complete.

I plan to buy a full earthing bed sheet in the near future, and probably also a set of earthing patches. And, when the warmer weather arrives, I’ll order a pair of fully conductive Earth Runner Circadians. Earthing makes so much sense as a way of optimizing my health and well-being that I’d be foolish not to.

I urge you to give earthing serious consideration. It may be one of the best things you’ll ever do.

Note: A slightly different version of this post previously appeared on the Earth Runners blog.

Kelso

Kelso

This afternoon, we said goodbye to our greyhound Kelso.

His going was gentle and peaceful. We were with him until the last, holding him, talking to him, and letting him know he was loved. It wasn’t easy, but he was ready to go, and he seemed to be at peace at the end.

Kelso was a gentle companion, a loyal friend, and a beautiful animal. In the four and a half years he was with us, he gave us so much joy. He made us laugh, he taught us a lot, and he filled our world with wonder. JoAnne, Toby, and I will miss him hugely.

My heart aches.

Coming Up

I’m not posting much to the blog these days. That’s because our house is being renovated. We’ve moved out temporarily, and the dogs and cats have been boarded. The project is supposed to take three months to complete. And that’s not all – we’ll be travelling for a couple of weeks early in the new year as well.

For a while, I’ll rely on my tablet, rather than my desktop computer, to access the Net. All well and good for Twitter, Feedly, etc., but a bit of a chore when it comes to writing lengthy blog posts. So, for now, I’ll just bring you up to date on some of the things I’ll post when I next get close to a computer.

First, a post about homoeopathy. I’ve been following a homoeopathic regime for a little over a year now, and it’s brought about some significant improvements to my health. I know that homoeopathy doesn’t sit comfortably with a lot of people, so I’ll give serious thought to what I’ll say about it. I don’t want to start any wars on the subject, but I do want to share my experiences.

Same with topic number two, which is earthing. It’s another controversial subject. Besides, I’m fairly new to it. So I’ll let some time go by before putting my thoughts in a post. Again, though, this is about health improvement and enhancement, and I want to share what I’ve learned.

Lastly, I’m running the Run4RKids 8 Hour Ultra on January 3, so you can expect to see a full race report soon afterwards. Because both homoeopathy and earthing are playing roles in my training for this event, you can also expect to read something about them in the report.

Stay tuned!

Review: Earth Runner Alpha X Sandals

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of testing a pair of Earth Runners Alpha X minimalist sandals. That’s been a treat – they’re very good sandals indeed, with a couple of features that set them apart from others that I’ve worn.

Overview

That’s not to say that the Alpha Xs stray very far from the basic huarache-like minimalist sandal concept. The soles are cut to size and shaped to the foot, there’s a strap/lace system to hold them on, and they allow your feet to stay open, flexible, and to breathe. All good.

But they’re different. You can see a couple of the “set apart” features in the photo below.

Earth Runner Alpha X sandals

First, the straps… They’re leather, rather than the usual nylon – a lovely, soft, treated leather with the Earth Runner logo showcased nicely. They’re incredibly comfortable. And they’re complemented by a suede leather footbed that adds some moisture-wicking capabilities to the footbed, and has – even over a couple of weeks – already helped the sandals shape to my footprint.

The Alpha X strap pattern is different from that on the Bedrock and Xero Shoes sandals I own. From the toe, it comes back and across the foot to the outside, crosses in front of the ankle, goes around the heel, then back to fit into a locking buckle. It’s a design that works very well for my high instep feet. (If you’re uncomfortable with a strap between your toes, I’m afraid you’re out of luck.)

Alpha X strap

The photo below shows the bottoms of the Alpha Xs.

Alpha X soles

The Alpha X soles are from Vibram, which is no surprise, as almost all minimalist running sandals do that. But the tread pattern on the Alpha Xs is something called “Woodstock.” It’s not a very aggressive tread, but sturdy enough to hold its own on most surfaces except the most technical. (I find that good running form usually trumps extreme tread patterns anyway.) The Alpha X soles are 11mm thick, but surprisingly light, each sandal weighing only 141 gm (5 oz.). For all that, they’re reasonably flexible. Not the “once ’round the circle” flexibility you get with 6mm or 8mm soles, but still pretty good.

Alpha X flex

Testing, testing…

As I said, I’ve been testing the Alpha Xs for a couple of weeks. That means running in them – on neighbourhood roads and sidewalks – and walking in them as well. They’re good to run in, and even better as an everyday sandal. The leather straps are easy to adjust, which is a good thing, since they stretch a little at first. Not a big deal at all, just something to be mindful of.

It’s the combination of the leather straps, the lightweight/light-density sole, and the tread pattern that makes the Alpha Xs into a sort of “do everything” minimalist sandal. That was a bit of a surprise – I’d expected to wear them for running, but was completely unprepared for the other. The simple fact is that these are an extremely well-designed and well-constructed sandal. Given the attractive price point of the Alpha X (US$72 , not including shipping), they’re a good choice in the increasingly busy minimalist sandal market place.

A couple of caveats… As noted above, the toe strap thing might not be for everybody. And the strap pattern may not work for everyone’s foot shape. Leather straps? Great for comfort, good for security, but I’m not sure they’d be ideal for a lengthy trail ultra. And I worry a little bit that the bit of leather that goes under each side of the sole (see photo of the Alpha X bottoms) may wear out over time. As for the “general purpose” tread – you may want a more aggressive tread pattern for very technical trails.

Bonus!

I have to add that Michael Dally, the man behind Earth Runners, was kind enough to send, along with my pair of Alpha Xs, a pair of Smartwool tabi socks.

Tabi socks

These, to use a phrase from a much younger generation, are The Bomb! Here in southern Ontario in mid-November, my morning runs happen in temperatures at about 0C to 5C (32F to 41F). That’s certainly doable without socks, but the tabis make cool temperature running just that much more comfortable. I’ve never worn tabis before, but am now a convert!

Conclusions

The Earth Runners Alpha X is a great sandal. I recommend it highly.

The thicker sole means that there’s not as much groundfeel as with my Bedrock Synclines. That’s to be expected. But Earth Runners also offers the Circadian (6mm sole) and Circadian X (8mm) models for that. They’re similar strap design, but with less sole and are available with nylon laces.

I think the Alpha Xs will really come into their own when I’ve run and walked long enough in them that the footbeds have become even more shaped to my feet. When that happens, they’re going to be close to slipper-like comfortable, while keeping to their minimalist sandal roots. I’m looking forward to that!

For comfort, looks, and general goodness, I don’t think there’s a sandal on the market that can beat the Alpha X.

Earthing

I have to say something about the concept of earthing. It’s controversial, so bear with me.

Earthing is central to what Earth Runners are all about. In a nutshell, the theory behind earthing is that one’s health and well-being can be improved/enhanced by “grounding” oneself to the earth. The idea is that “earthing can help normalize your circadian cycle and avoid the harmful effects of high-frequency-man-made EMF” (from the Earth Runners website).

I’ve looked at it from all sides, and read and watched testimonials froma number of sources, including this video from Earth Runners’ own Michael Dally:

I’m willing to entertain the idea that there are benefits to earthing oneself. I’m not entirely convinced. I know how much better I feel when I run barefoot, but have always ascribed that to improved form, the joy of contact with the ground, and optimized groundfeel. But perhaps there’s more to it than that.

As it is, my Alpha Xs are only marginally conductive. You’ll see in the photo of the underside of the Alpha Xs that there’s a copper plug at the bottom of the toe plug. If the leather straps are moistened (by rain, sweat, or pre-soaking), they will, according to Michael Dally, become minimally conductive. For earthing to be fully effective, though, Earth Runner sandals with the full range of conductive copper inserts are needed. (The good news is that Alpha X sandals are available with conductive nylon straps instead of the leather straps I have.)

As I said, I’m reserving judgement. I will say, though, that I like the design and quality of my Alpha Xs enough that I can see myself ordering a pair of Earth Runner Circadians sometime in the future.

Note: Product for this review was provided by Earth Runners.

Earth Runners

Spoiled for Choice

I have a very good life. Sometimes I think I’ve got it all.

Right now, part of “got it all” is that I’m testing two great minimalist sandals – the Earth Runners Alpha X and the Bedrock Gabbro 2.0. I’m truly spoiled for choice.

It’s a great opportunity, because, while the Alpha Xs and the Gabbros are similar, there are enough differences between them to make it interesting.

Upper comparison

A top view of the sandals shows some of those differences. Most obviously, the strap methods are different. So are the strap materials – the Alpha X features leather straps, while those on the Gabbro are nylon. The footbeds, too, are different – the Alpha X footbed is suede leather, while the Gabbro is ballistic nylon. They weigh about the same – each Gabbro sandal comes in at 119 gm (4.2 oz), while each Alpha X weighs 141 gm (5 oz.).

Sole comparison

Underneath, it’s again a story of “like but different.” The sole thicknesses are very close – the Alpha X sole is 11mm thick, while the Gabbro sole is 10mm. Both sandals are made with Vibram soles – but those on the Alpha X are a pattern called “Birkenstock,” while the Gabbro soles have a more aggressive technical tread pattern.

No wrong answers here, obviously. I’ve run (and walked) in both of them, and can confirm that they’re both high quality, performance-oriented products. I’ll soon post full reviews of both. Separate reviews, not a comparison – each one of them deserves its own treatment, and I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by putting them mano à mano (not quite the right phrase, but you know what I mean).

So stay tuned. I’ll post the reviews after I’ve put the Alpha Xs and the Gabbros through some serious testing.

Earth Runners

Bedrock Sandals

Earth Runners Affiliate

I’m pleased to announce that I’m now an affiliate for Earth Runners minimalist sandals.

That means that, if you follow a link on this blog and then buy an Earth Runners product – such as a pair of their sandals or socks – I’ll get a small commission.

I don’t often do this sort of thing, but I want to support Earth Runners, because I believe that their products are worth it.

So have a good look at the Earth Runners site – and feel free to ask me any questions you might have.

I’m currently testing a pair of Earth Runners Alpha X sandals, and will post a full review soon.