New Balance 2012 Minimalist Shoe Reviews


When you look at the major shoe companies, I will say that New Balance seems to be most aggressively pursuing minimalist footwear. With the exception of Five Fingers, the Minimus Trail 10 series is the funkiest looking shoe on the market, showing NB is not afraid of going against the grain. Today I’m giving you a look at 3 different shoes that NB is released this spring, I’ve put them through the ringer and you get to reap the rewards. Thanks to New Balance for being willing to connect with bloggers and new media types like myself, it shows a lot of forward thinking towards where reviews and information are headed.

On to the shoes!

Getting’ Low with Minimus Zero Drop 

This week the Minimus Zero was named Outside’s Gear of the Year, and will undoubtable continue to pile up awards. This shoe is legit. The bar has been set high with the introduction of the Minimus Zero-Drop line, a naturally progression from the previous 4mm heel-toe drop released in 2011. What’s cool about this shoe is the heavy customer feedback that NB relied on in designing and testing the shoe, setting up Q&A sessions between people who posted on their social media sites, and their stable of elite runners.

The shoe I was able to test out was the road version of the Minimus Zero. I put about 40 miles on them during training, on sidewalks, asphalt, track, and grass. My longest run in them was 5 miles, and I felt no foot fatigue or soreness after. I primarily run on the trail, so to be able to spend a lot of miles on the road feeling a shoe out was a bit of a novelty. I have to say, I really enjoyed it.

The “Zero drop” claim simply means that the heel and forefoot have no difference in height. Many road shoes average a drop of 10-12 mm, giving the runner who heel strikes a natural roll towards propelling back off the toes. This is the first zero drop line that NB has produced, but don’t think that you are completely in contact with the ground either. The shoe still has a slight 1mm cushion, and rises .5 mm to the arch (actually assisting the runner in staying on their mid foot through propulsion) before descending back to a 1mm cushion.

Pros – Breathable, comfortable, snug, but also a roomy enough toe box. Extremely light, they are flexible and moved with my feet well. I did have to stay disciplined in my foot strike and frequency, since a zero drop and pavement will make a runner pay for poor form! I actually really enjoyed running on turf and rubberized track workouts in them.

Cons – The main design con for me was the shoes were narrower than others, and I the balls of my feet seemed to cover more than just the insole. The mesh is very breathable but I wonder how it will hold up over time.

Other Notes – I had to be very disciplined in my foot strike and frequency. I think this is a more advanced shoe, especially being a road model. I think most minimalist runners tend to the trail, with its natural cushioning and varying terrain. The repetitive nature of a road run can expose a runner’s flaws much quicker, and I’m afraid the nature of these shoes may accelerate that. It’s not really a con, just a reality of the shoe. Like I said, for more advanced users who are dialed in to their stride.

Overall – I’m like the shoes and they have made my road runs more enjoyable, and are good for focusing on my form. I’ll continue to run in them and see how my body adjusts.

Details – Weight = 6.4 oz (181 g). Heel-Toe drop = 0mm

Interested in the Zero Trail? Click here to view.

Minimus Trail 10 

I’ve run the most miles in these shoes, about 50. My longest run was 10 miles. Initial impressions are been great, I have been wanting to try this model since they came out.

The Trail 10 have a 4mm drop, which in the market of minimalist shoes is still pretty low. Personally, when I run on the trail I prefer a little drop, the varying nature of the terrain can throw some random obstacles your way, and it helps it have a little more.

I ran all over Asheville area trails in these shoes, and am very impressed. They don’t look the coolest, but if that’s why you’re running then hop right back on the treadmill next to the good looking people.

My biggest run was on a technical trail ascending to Mt Mitchell, which is very technical with a steady incline. There are several stream crossings, along with your usual big rocks, roots, and ruts. The Trail 10 performed well, with great breathability, protection, and grip. When I ran through streams, a few times I consciously immersed the shoe, and 20 minutes later my feet were dry again. No raisin feet at the end of the run!

Here are some more notes…

Pros – The shoes are very breathable, flexible, and comfortable. They have a roomy toe box, are supportive, and comfortable without socks. I was impressed with the pod grips on the outsole, gripping well on wet rocks, dry packed leaves, and muddy trails. On downhill sections, the heel offered just enough cushion to make the impact tolerable. I also liked the forefoot brace, it helps keep your foot steady during the moment of impact.

Cons – The only cons are those inherent in trying minimalist shoes in the first place (support, cushion)! Honestly I don’t even really notice the 4mm drop, it may show more when I give the Trail Zero-Drop a try, but I think these are great. Visually, the shoe looks like nothing else I’ve worn before, and I can’t say how I feel about it yet. I wouldn’t wear this shoe besides running, but of course that’s their function!

Overall – As a shoe, they’re great. I think these are great shoes for people transitioning to minimalist running, the slight heel-toe drop allows people to still heel strike at times, especially late in runs when form is fading.

Details – Weight = 7.5 oz (213 g). Heel-toe drop = 4mm

MT 110 

I’ve run 25 miles in these shoes, and really like the improvements made over last year’s 110, which I put close to 1000 miles on. The new update is well-done, once again with feedback from their trail team. The biggest update was to decrease the heel-toe drop from 8mm to 4mm.

A cool yet utterly meaningless feature of this shoe is that the insole is printed with one of the hometowns of their runners, i.e. my pair had “Tested on the Flatirons of Boulder”, home turf of Anton Krupika.

Pros – What stood out to me was the update to the outsole, which was my biggest beef with the 101s. NB kept the rockstop plate, and added extra beef to the traction lugs on the mid & forefoot. Footing and control on slick and overgrown conditions is much better. Similar to the Minimus 10s, I appreciated a slight drop from heel to toe. I think the uppers of the shoe breathe very well, and the detachment of the mesh and synthetic layers provides a little extra support and protection with sacrificing much weight.

Cons – The ankle collars are stitched differently than last year’s, and after the 1st run they had begun to fray. The rock plate does its job, but compromises flexibility, a similar problem with the 101s. The heel seems to be a little more protected than the 101’s but a soft heel means that small rocks can become embedded. The shoe is not near as flexible as the others, but you have to weigh that against the additional support it offers. Simply user preference. The shoe also does not dump water and moisture as well as the Trail 10.

Overall – I think the changes have been great, I liked the feel during my runs and was able to keep a consistent mid-foot strike. The minimal flexibility is a big con for me, but may not be for others. As with any shoe, try and get to a store and test it them out for yourself.

Details – Weight =  7.75 oz (219 g). Heel-toe drop = 4mm

Time to Run

You can now order any of these shoes online (click the shoe name), visit an authorized New Balance store, or your local running store. Get a feel for the way you run in them, and ask what the return policy is on the shoes. I know last time I bought my 101s at a NB store, they said to wear them for a week, and bring them back if I didn’t like them. Can’t beat that!

As you all begin to run in these shoes, please post your own thoughts and comments, I’d love to hear them and add to the conversation. Also let us know if there’s anything I didn’t cover that you would like to know.

P.S. This post was originally written for the running site BarefootRunner.com, and will be published in the near future. Enjoy this early look!

A Weekend Outdoors with Friends


This weekend I’ll be spending every minute with good friends that I love and care about. We’ll hike, swim, shoot, eat, drink, zipline, ball, laugh, and revel. Don’t expect anything out of me on any social media site, I’m going to be fully present and in the moment. It’s incredible that 26 of us have carved out a weekend to flee to the mountains together, and I’m going to enjoy it fully.

Here’s a cool photo to send us in to the weekend, via Cold Splinters

Image

Have a great weekend!

In Celebration of the Awesome


Celebrating the bottom of the Grand Canyon

I have an awesome life. Simply in the basic comforts of health, food, shelter, clothes, I am richer than most in the world. But for me, in my American plenty, there are plenty of other aspects of my life that are awesome! What are they? Glad you asked!

  • Coffee every morning. I can even go somewhere and pay someone to make my coffee! And buy fancy coffee! Awesome!
  • Living on 500 acres, with room to run, hike, camp, bike, swim, play, and so much else. Awesome!
  • Starlit nights. Awesome!
  • Sunrises (with coffee, it’s early man). Awesome!
  • 12 Bones BBQ, only get the ribs man, and corn pudding. Awesome!
  • Pad Thai is freakin’ epic. Awesome!
  • American Apparel Track T’s. Awesome!
  • A long, un-timed hike/run/bike in the woods. Awesome!
  • Any time I laugh. Awesome!
  • Rockin’ out with Mumford and Sons. Awesome!
  • Vacations, and that I make enough money to not have to work for a couple weeks and go just go do stuff hundreds of miles away! Awesome!
  • National, state, county, city, community parks. Awesome!
  • Yosemite, Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Zion, and Rocky Mountain National Parks. Awesome!
  • Snow (except this winter). Awesome!
  • Fall colors, spring colors, and winter’s absence of color. Awesome!
  • Ice cream. Awesome!
  • Waking up today. Awesome!

I encourage you to take a moment (or several) during your day to appreciate the awesomeness of life. Our lives are pretty amazing, even the bad parts, meaning white-american bad. Times when Sunny Pointe is out of biscuits (AHHHHHHHHH!), my phone takes 15 seconds to upload a picture (the humanity!), or the ATM is out of order (why are you punishing me God!), everything is still ok.

Don’t take your awesomeness or happiness for granted, and don’t let jerks get in the way of it. They want to downplay your first 5k? Screw them. That arrogant music “expert” wants to tell you that the Avett Brothers have sold out to the man? Not friends anymore! Someone trying to tell you that your favorite restaurant is over-rated? You know they can do? STICK IT!

Your enthusiasm will rub off on others. Spending time with you and your happiness with the awesomeness of life will be awesome! I’m not saying you should be a pie-in-the-sky crazy person, but if we all can’t kick back and realize how good life is, then shame on us. Give someone a hug, a high-five, call a buddy and reminisce about your epically epic road trip, or plan a new adventure. There is a lot of awesomeness in the world!

You can find plenty of posts on this site about giving back and caring for others, but I wanted to celebrate the awesomeness that is day-to-day life and adventures.

Please join me in the comments and share what is awesome in your life! If you are a twitter user, tweet @mattragland and use the hashtag #awareofawesome.

[To feel even more aware of the awesomeness of life, go read Neil Pasricha’s blog 1000 Awesome Things]

Disclaimer: This essay was hugely inspired by Brendan Leonard’s post in Adventure Journal. High five! Also, Brendan curses in his post.

22 People Who Are Better Than Me (in a good way!)


Today I got down to thinking about what I really want to write about, and more specifically, where I would want the process to take me. I would love to be able to travel, wrote about nature, the outdoors, make short films, coach football, help those in need, go on mission trips, and work with kids. That’s all (sarcastic/hopeful tone).

Then I considered what I’ve been writing about, and my content didn’t match my hope that well. Since I’m starting out as a writer, I do believe it’s best to keep writing, and focus your voice and content as you get better. At least that’s what I’m going for right now. I have been writing a lot about writing and the creative process, and honestly it’s been easy to use that as a topic because it’s a daily part of my life. I’m basically re-packaging my own struggles and sharing them with you. Hopefully though, it helps in a small way.

One of the main challenges I face is the realization that there are so many people and services out right now who are doing what I want to do, and doing it really, really well. I’m becoming less intimidated by them, because I know that I can do great work as well. The challenge is taking the chance and putting forth the years of work necessary to get to where they are now. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are social platforms or the permission to impact people in a busy world. I don’t know how to write great code, use sophisticated SEO tactics, or create beautiful designs. I tell stories.

Presently though, here are a list of people and sites that I read daily, or will read, watch, or listen to anything they release. I haven’t included any company sites or blogs, they’re in a different category than these 22 run by an individual or small team. They certainly have a voice in the work that I produce, and I hope you enjoy them as well!

Outdoors

Adventure Journal – Steve Casmiro (former editor of Cycling magazine and top-notch photographer) has built the premier site for all things outdoor. News, advocacy, links, photography, gear, food, they have it all. This is the main outdoor site I visit daily, the content is rich and worthwhile. I would visit simply to drool over the Weekend Cabin (which you should as well). It was also just named Outside Magazine’s #1 Outdoor site.

Check out these posts to get started:

Cold Splinters – Jeff Thrope has made the outdoors feel all 1970’s again, and I love it. The site in itself is beautifully designed and vintage, the photography syncs perfectly with the site with vintage filters, and he writes very well. Cold Splinters is where I can feel like an outdoors hipster. It’s a general outdoor site, but the Trail Mix posts are very enjoyable, along with any of the well-written posts about doing work with your hands.

Check out these posts to get started:

Semi-Rad – I really enjoy Brendan Leonard’s blog, because he is a regular guy trying to live the dream. Also, he shows up and delivers to his tribe, consistency is king! My favorite part of his blog is the About Me.

Check out these posts to get started:

Dirtbag Diaries – This is really more of a podcast, and maybe the best outdoor life podcast going today. The stories take center stage, tales of adventure and brokenness that mirror our own lives. The Diaries popularity is also helped by the music that Fitz puts together for each episode, then make available in the notes.

Check out these posts to get started:

The Gear Junkie – Stephen Regenold has put together one of the best outdoor gear review sites, and my personal favorite. If you’re like me and want to low-down on every piece of outdoor gear you purchase, the Gear Junkie is a great place to look. He’s also active on twitter, and has responded directly to a few of my gear inquiries.

Check out these posts to get started:

Sports

Smart Football – Chris Brown is a lawyer turned football analyst, and his acumen for breaking down plays, techniques, and game plans is undeniable. If I’m following twitter during a game, Smart Football is definitely on the list. I’m also convinced that a smart person with average football knowledge could turn themselves in to a decent high school football coach simply by reading Smart Football.

Check out these posts to get started:

Only Gators – I graduated from Florida, and Adam Silverstein runs the best insider blog on the interwebs right now. I’ll check in with OG on a regular basis to see what’s been happening, and daily during football season. No links to read, if you’re a Gator fan just go ahead and start following.

Dr. Saturday – This is a stretch, since Dr Saturday is the Yahoo Sports College Football blog, thus not independent. But it is the most consistent, well-written source of news and updates in college football. The previous head guy, Matt Hinton, has recently left the building, replaced by the new head lady, Graham Watson. Looking forward to the new season.

Writing, Creativity, and Business

Jeff Goins – I’ve written about Jeff a few times, mainly here. He’s actually probably getting tired of it. Jeff consistently turns out great content and advice for writers, no matter what stage of the craft you’re in. Begin reading and you won’t be disappointed.

Check out these posts to get started:

Michael Hyatt – Michael is the Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, but on his blog he focuses on the topic of Intentional Leadership. He writes about other topics, but that is the main focus. I really appreciate the honesty Michael communicates with, and his willingness to share knowledge gleaned from many years in the writing business.

Check out these posts to get started:

Seth Godin – Seth is the first author I read who challenged me to think about how I worked. I am continually inspired by his work, and at the root of my amazement is his consistency! In 2009 he wrote his 3,000 daily post in a row, affirming his commitment to spreading ideas and new ways of thinking. He’s also a master at taking an idea or thought that is on the tip of your tongue, and giving it life. Check him out.

Check out these posts to get started:

Daniel Pink – Dan’s site is extremely interesting, and I’ve mentioned some of his work before. The Pomodoro technique came from Dan’s site, and his book A Whole New Mind was very important for me, especially just after graduating college. You can find a wealth of analytical information, presented in a fascinating manner, along with many other topics. One of my favorite running features is emotionally intelligent signage. Give him a look.

Check out these posts to get started:

Garr Reynolds – I read Garr’s book Presentation Zen 4 years ago, and it made me think differently about the way I speak in front of people, communicate information, and design everything. You wouldn’t think of the design and layout of power point presentations as art, but then you haven’t seen Garr’s slide decks. It changed everything for me in those areas. The design aspect spilled over in to other areas of life as well, to websites, my office, home, and really everything.

Check out these posts to get started:

Corbett Barr – Corbett runs ThinkTraffic.com, arguably the best site for bloggers looking to generate more traffic and income. It’s the only site of its kind that is currently in my rss reader, because it’s so detailed and extensive. Corbett has experience with several other successful blogs and websites, which you can find out more about by visiting his personal site.

Check out these posts to get started (on ThinkTraffic):

Christian Spirituality

Donald Miller – Donald is the author of several books, most notably Blue Like Jazz. Another important book in my life, it challenged me in my Christian faith and caused me to think about what my faith really meant to me. He is very human-story focused right now, his latest book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years covering the subject of the creative process, and being able to tell one’s story. All of this is done against the backdrop of what God has done for us and the life he’s called us to live.

Check out these posts to get started:

Richard Rohr – I almost didn’t put Fr. Rohr here, he can be so controversial. But he has also pointed me down the path of worrying about myself less (and one day not at all), helping the poor & needy, not seeking fame, and being able to embrace both my strengths and weaknesses. He’s also been significant in his writing on male development and rites of passage in the modern world, a topic that is very important in my work with young men.

Check out these posts to get started:

Ryan Taylor – Man, I really like Ryan. Never met the guy, but no worries. Ryan is the Director of Access Denver, plays basketball, and writes a solid blog. He is another leader who is challenging others to look around and see the suffering in our neighborhoods, and be the hands of God in creating change. I’ve written about him a bit more here.

Check out these posts to get started:

General Interest & Fun

The Art of Manliness – Yes, they have fun posts like How to Make a Survival ShotgunThey have informative posts like How to Carve a TurkeyThey also assemble great lists like 100 Must-Read Books: The Man’s Essential Library. But what really made me a full-fledged believer in the AoM was Brett & Sarah McKay’s research and writing about male development and being a man. Not an ultra-masculine no-nonsense man, or a soft, passive man. A Man; forged out of the experience of those before him, ready to do hard things, think of others’ before self, stand up for what’s right, and be a contributor to his community. Love it.

To get started, click on the articles above.

The Oatmeal – My interest in goofy internet comics really peaked during college, and since then I don’t go searching for such hilarity often. The Oatmeal though, really came to me. I saw the Dear Sriracha comic at Sunny Pointe Cafe, and liked it so much that I hunted down the site. Matt Inman does a wonderful job fusing humor, common sense, plain-as-day irony, and grammar checks in to his brand. Go over there and have a laugh. *FYI, not all comics are squeaky-clean, though the ones I linked are fine. 

Check out these posts to get started:

Zen Habits – Leo Babauta has curated one of the most popular blogs on the internet, and one of the most interesting. I’ve only been reading it for a couple weeks myself, but I’m blown away, definitely one that I can read for an hour and not realize it. Highly recommended.

Instead of linking a few articles, Leo has made it easy for us by creating a Start Here page.

The Minimalists – My friend Bryce told me about this site, as I was telling him about my feelings towards having fewer possessions. “You need to read what these guys are writing” he told me. So I did, and stayed up most of the night reading through their entire 21 Day Journey in to Minimalism page. It lit a fire under me, gave some substance to the conversations my wife and I had been having. Within a week, I had given away boxes of clothes, packed up extra household and kitchen products, and put the TV in the attic. I haven’t missed any of those things, because I am more than my possessions.

Check out these posts to get started:

Tim Ferriss – I have a love/hate relationship with Tim Ferriss’ writing and self-promotion. Mainly, I think he comes off as self-promoting and arrogant. I also think he is quite interesting and has many good things to say about creative ways to live and work. I can respect that. I mainly respect the effort and practice that he puts in to his craft of writing, and his personal blog. The blog is a smorgasbord of topics, enjoy picking through them.

Check out these posts to get started:

Wow, that took much longer than I had planned. When I said “today” at the beginning of the post, it was Monday. I’m publishing on Friday. I went through many temptations to cut the list, not include Get Started links, and leave out the descriptions. In other words, obey the path of least resistance. I’m glad I didn’t, and hope you agree.

Finally, this is simply my list, and it won’t be the last. People are doing incredible, creative work, and I would love to hear about the writers, bloggers, and creatives that inspire you. Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Running an Ultra Marathon: 0-40 in 6 Weeks (Part 1)


via Asheville Citizen-Times

Yesterday I ran the Mt Mitchell Challenge, a fantastic trail run that covers 40 miles from Black Mountain, NC to the top of Mt Mitchell, elevation 6,684 feet. I’m writing a short story about the race and submitting it to Outside, Trail Runner, and Blue Ridge Outdoors. But first, you, constant reader, are able to see the work in progress over the next few days. Enjoy!

We were sitting in the restaurant, waiting on our Thai food, when Dan spoke up. “I’m going to have to drop out of the Challenge this year, my hamstring just won’t hold up for the big runs. Kills me.” My ears immediately perked up. The Challenge. A 40 mile eastern epic that climbs from Black Mountain, NC to Mt Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Rockies. Last year I ran the accompanying marathon, which in comparison is treated like a 1 mile fun run. For 2012, I hadn’t gotten in to the race in time. When registration opened on October 2, I was 3 miles deep in to the StumpJump 50k. That probably didn’t even matter, because both races filled up in less than 15 minutes. Besides, at the end of the race I was so fed up with running ultras that I didn’t care. However, that feeling did not last. Between the end of StumpJump and the current scene, I had run less than 40 miles total. But when Dan said he was out, I immediately wanted in. I asked him to check with the race director and see if I could fill the space. The problem was, the Challenge was in 6 weeks.

I knew it would be an interesting training program. While I had run long distances before, I had not kept up my training during the past 3 months. I simply wanted to see if I could do it. What was the intrinsic desire that compelled me to even attempt this run? The course is notoriously treacherous, with sub-freezing temps, snow, and hurricane force winds. I knew I couldn’t possibly as prepared as I wanted to be, but I still wanted to try. Perhaps some of the desire was male machismo, but I also wanted to believe there was an ability and mental toughness inside me that could keep going. I stumbled upon a training regimen that intrigued me. On Timothy Ferris’ blog, he had interviewed an ex-special ops soldier who had taken up ultra distance trail running (read the post here). Pavel (not his real name), had been training for years by using a model of consistency of heart rates (60-70% of MHR), moderation of distance/intensity, and nose breathing. By not pushing the body to extreme fatigue, he was able to recover faster and be more consistent. Pavel rarely takes days off, and by having a moderate, but consistent, 30 minute workout each day, does not particularly need to. The nose breathing piece was also intriguing, because it is a way to keep the intensity down. The first few times I tried to run while nose breathing felt like 30 minutes of hyperventilating. My breathing became smoother, and it helped keep my heart rate down. I decided to stick with this approach for the remainder of the training.

I had no grand notions of doing well, simply to finish. In fact, I initially thought I would go out and run the marathon again, and spent the first 4 weeks training for that. I didn’t start thinking seriously about the Challenge until 2 weeks before race day, when training culminates with a big run. Mine was 22 miles, run in snow and freezing temps. When I finished, I thought “Hell, I just ran 22 miles, so I know I can run the marathon, and I already did that last year. Maybe I could finish the Challenge.” Being able to pull off a 22 mile run after 4 weeks of serious training had me thinking grand thoughts of long distance using the Pavel Method.

In Joseph Campbell’s masterwork, The Hero with a Thousand Faceshe states that the adventure of the hero begins with a “Call to Adventure”then follows 3 main phases:

  • Departure
  • Training/Initiation
  • Culmination/Return

In my work, we have studied the hero’s journey, rites of passage, and community contribution, so I was able to apply these tenets while making sense of the desire to run. My call was undoubtably when Dan said he was having to drop out of the race. But why keep running? The marathon was achievable, within my grasp. The challenge was a risk, I could endanger myself and others. I believe that we all aspire to challenge ourselves in ways we know will require all of our abilities. Running 40 miles up and down a mountain would require all I had physically and mentally. Could I accomplish that task in such a short amount of time? I didn’t know, but I felt that I wanted to try. I trained diligently during those 6 weeks, consistently running, sticking to the training, and eating properly (a entirely separate post). The run itself was initiation.

I’ll be posting Part 2 of the story by Wednesday, February 29. I appreciate everyone that continues to read my essays and stories, it means a lot! Until then, here is a video made by 3rd place finisher Tim Weed, who does a great job of running fast and showing what kind of course the race is. Thanks Tim!