Archives for the month of: March, 2013

Freedom. What is it?

I spent most of my life chasing after some idealistic notion of it but in all that time I confess that I never really caught more than a glimpse of it. It seemed popular culture always played ahead, using the shell game of substituting symbols for the real thing. Somewhere in the ‘60s cool and free became synonymous as the notion of freedom became inexorably bound with lifestyle. And the marketing arm of popular culture was somehow able to create a huge need for all the accouterments that went with that lifestyle. The lifestyle required owning the coolest stuff and doing the coolest things.

All that required money which meant that a lot of free people had to temporarily set aside some principles and get jobs. And circular logic held that these same people needed to make a lot of money in order to become free again.

I wasn’t atypical although I subscribed more to poor hippie model than to the entrepreneurial hippie model which probably just meant that I got a later start acquiring the lifestyle. But eventually I went through a period of banal prosperity that lasted 30 years although my interest began waning rather unconsciously soon after my divorce. I managed to go through all the motions of career for another 10 years although my heart was clearly not in it.

I got free the first time in my adult life back in 1999 when I made my first break from the corporate world. I was 44 years old, I had a nice chunk of money in the bank and I thought why not? And I then asked myself, ‘Okay, you’ve quit the company where you’ve been employed the past 10 years, now what?’

The idea of keep doing what I was doing namely working to make more money didn’t seem to make a lot of sense especially in light of the fact that my father died young as did his father. And I had no intention of dying from a heart attack sitting behind some desk while I was preparing a PowerPoint presentation for yet another asshole meeting. And I had enough money and investments – or so I thought – to get me to wherever that next place was. And whatever that next place was, it was going to be more satisfying than the place I’d just left.

But I still had no idea where that was. I guess that I was counting on the fact that I had always been lucky and that I had always landed on my feet. I was convinced that if I made myself free then I would be available for that next best thing.

I paced around the house for a couple of weeks before taking another long trip to South America. I walked the Inca Trail. Then I went back a year later and walked it again. aussie&me

I had a really good time but it was eventually time to go home. So as usual I went back to California and paced around the house for a few weeks. I went for a run every day around Folsom Lake. I sat on my deck in the evenings and smoked excellent cigars and drank good rums.

Then later I’d fix dinner while some beautiful music played in the background. I’d read for a while and then go to bed. I was free to do whatever I wanted to do but my life wasn’t any different because I was still doing the same old stuff as when I was working; I just had a lot more free time.

And yes, I had friends. There were women I could see. And one or two of them wanted to marry me but my cynical self could only see them wanting to marry me for all the wrong reasons.

I sold my house in California and moved east where I built a pretty cool house in the mountains just south of Asheville. I thought maybe a severe change of venue coupled with building a house would be the answer. And frankly I always thought that designing and building a house was a top 20 life-list thing. But as it turned out, while it was a great house, the novelty eventually wore off and it became just another possession.

So there I was living in a different place and doing slightly different things but I found that my life really hadn’t changed; I still smoked good cigars, drank excellently, cooked most every evening and had plenty of friends and women in my life but nothing as I had said really changed.

After 5 years of spending lots of money, living good, traveling, and having a great time I took a job in Washington, DC working for an aerospace company that built satellites. After they sold that division I went to work for a big defense contractor who worked on government contracts. It didn’t take long for the work experiences to sour to the point where I could clearly remember why I bailed out of the workplace 8 years prior.

But at least I was getting closer to answering the question of ‘now what?’ because I was finally starting to learn point by point what it is was that I didn’t want to do and what freedom wasn’t.

If you’ve read much other of the stuff that I’ve posted to this blog then you pretty much know what I did next; my running and sandal making interests put me on the huarache trail which I followed until I found my way to Michoacán.

So the ‘now what?’ question has been answered for the time being. And I think I can even sort of articulate what freedom means to me.

But first I think the notion of freedom needs a context; meaning living free necessitates having some sort of purpose. Otherwise you are just another person who has a lot of time on their hands. So if you want to be free you’ve first got to discover a reason to be free.

The definitions of freedom I leave to the poets and the philosophers. The only thing I can add experientially is that freedom seems to go hand in hand with a whole lot of responsibility. I really can’t explain the entirety of what exactly that means except to say that living out here on the frontier as I am comes with obligations to community and family that I never recognized back when I was living in a culture of abundance.

Shortly after arriving in Sahuayo I asked Pancho why he thought I was here. I asked him because he knows, like I know, that people expat for the damnedest reasons and not many of those reasons are particularly honest or honorable.

He looked me in the eye and said, ‘You came here to find a better way to live.’ And you know, I did.

Problem: Acute Tendinitis in right Achilles brought on by over training in a new model of sandals.

I was running in new version of a sandal that was made by my alternate/backup fabricator and after 2.5 hours, just before one of the back straps came loose (he was later fired), I began to change my stride to try an relieve the chafing from new friction points. The chafing turned into blisters on my left foot and as so often happens, my other foot changed its cadence out of sympathy. So somewhere along the way my right foot began hyper-extending  the Achilles tendon.

Solution: Downtime. Ice (ice cubes in a small bucket of water) alternated with heat (hot water in a small bucket of water) 3 times per day. And just as importantly, I employ the anti-inflammatory herb Arnica; a herb that grows wild in Michoacan. I drink 24 ounces of tea made from the herb per day and add the discarded leaves and twigs to the hot water that I then soak my right heel and tendon in.

Results: In 3 days time I’ve gone from a crippled like limping state to very mild-discomfort. I expect to start running again in 2 more days; just to be on the safe side.

Warning: Read up on Arnica before you use it. Some say you shouldn’t drink it as it can cause heart palpitations and dizziness. The locals here in Michoacan drink it and I have found that drinking 2 X 12 oz glasses of the tea gives me a caffeine kind of buzz. It’s definitely a tasty herb whose flavor reminds me of Chamomile tea.

Testimonial: James Jessop, a gringo passing through Michoacan on his way to Ecuador, is the guy that told me about it. He did a face plant onto concrete a few years ago (coincidentally here in Sahuayo) when the stem on his bicycle handle snapped; resulting in a bunch of injuries mostly to the face like 3 snapped front teeth, a broken nose, and I forget  what else. Someone brought him a 2 Liter coke bottle of Arnica tea and advised him to both drink it and apply the infusion to his badly swollen face. Over the course of his 2 day stay in the hospital the facial swelling was reduced to almost nothing.

I loved the first 10 years of my working career and hated the last 25.

I studied electrical engineering and got a BSEE and subsequently entered the workplace full of confidence. I followed my interests in low-voltage communications systems and in the doing somewhere along the way got sucked into the whole IT funnel cloud.

I began my career in oil and gas down in Texas back when engineering was still a gentleman’s game but ended it when rampant technical worker immigration and Cisco ‘certificates’ began to undermine the profession.

I foolishly left oil and gas to follow in Jed Clampett’s footsteps to California which is where my profession began its death spiral.

I started working for Intel in ’89  and it was there things – namely my career – got twisted.

Example – decision making at Intel IT back in the ‘90s worked something like this: an engineer goes to his manager and asks a question regarding one of his projects. Manager’s response is crafted in a format more akin to a riddle but the direction, more typical than not is that the employee needs to go back and do a bunch more things. These things were typically about satisfying some of the finer points of business process and usually involved educating someone else about the project. That next someone else generally had concerns or questions that could only be comprehended if yet still one or more other people were brought into loop.

No decisions are being made at this point but more work is being generated. And in many instances the value of the project is determined not by the intrinsic nature of the project or the result, but determined by a manager based upon his/her perception of the value and the potential exposure that will result from the project. In other words, if a project was designed to solve problem, but the problem or potential solution was not understood by the manager, or was not a problem that the manager had to personally deal with, or the potential solution would not get sufficient notoriety, then the project was deemed unworthy. Often this results in busy work that requires an effort to prove that the project got properly vetted by the right people.

Things as seemingly innocuous like new self –empowered work teams, while timely and necessary (because if for no other reason than to expedite the decision making for the little issues), further complicate the management/decision making process.  1) By pushing decision making into such far corners of organization that the decisions that are produced are typically throw out at some point later because a) the decisions weren’t effectively collated for future reference b) or just something as stupid as moving targets creating extenuating circumstances 2) management is no longer the sole repository for the decision making process and as an end result is no longer being held accountable for decisions.

I had experienced a project plan that was stuck in both simultaneous management and peer reviews; and in different states of indetermination.

I had also experienced managing a project which necessitated gathering requirements, doing a design, and seeking funds conterminously; which was fundamentally absurd because one could infer that there both was and wasn’t a problem occupying the same space in time.

Here is a real example of what I am talking about: ‘We need you to design an Information System that will allow us to better understand the costs associated with the voice network. It needs to do this, this, and this.’

‘Okay. What are the (rest of the) requirements’?

‘You and your team need to develop those.’

‘What is my budget’?

‘It depends on the requirements.’

‘Who is my customer then’?

‘You and your team, all of the site PBX folks, and business groups A,B, and C (and expectedly a bunch of other folks who wouldn’t be identified until some time out in the future).’

‘What’s my success criteria’?

‘Making everyone happy’.

In the older and infinitely more pure ‘design/build’ world, the work process flow was pretty straight forward – a customer created a need, funding was created to satisfy the need, the funding enabled a design and so on.

The questions always were: Where did projects get screwed up? Why did they get screwed up? And why did they get screwed up more times then not?

This example project had cross-organizational implications with regard to not just providing varying degrees of benefit but also different cost burdens depending on where you were in the information stream. It was here at this point that management never provided to build the communication bridges at the management layer and clearly define how corporate objectives were going to be translated into work and getting that done and  in agreement before pushing it down the food chain into engineering and assigning it to a design PM.

I made my 1st mistake in assuming that it was clear to everyone that there was a problem (no real visibility into voice network costs) and therefore I was tasked to design an IS to provide a solution to that problem. Part of my assumption was that management had dotted all of their ‘i’s and crossed all of their‘t’s further up stream (or why else give it to engineering and say, ‘design me an IS’?).

So I didn’t see that I was letting myself get set up to fail, which had to be imminent, because there was never any really clear picture of an objective other than the a couple of managers who had a desire to have a new capability (and then only in the abstract), and no clear understanding of ‘customer’, except in the vaguest sense.

The design/build process starts breaking down when you as the PM (as well as the design engineer) are in certain respects your own customer, or at least in that particular example where I was asked to design that new IS where my group would be one of chief end-users. I knew what my group wanted in a system. And I could design and build a system that would meet what I perceived as corporate objectives but there wasn’t one system that would serve to satisfy every last PBX admin in the company.  That was of course presuming that any admin had an original thought regarding capacity planning (I know what I am talking about here as I interviewed most of them). But the fact of the matter is that management allowed them input into the design because as end-users that somehow gave them stakeholder status. Which in and of itself wasn’t necessarily the problem. The problem was more about wasting critical design cycles training the admins in system design; a clear violation of IS design best practices. Another problem was, though try as I could to freeze the design after consensus had been finally reached on the major design points, we always at some point managed to revisit individual design elements typically because there was a new face, a new manager, or a new opinion resulting in numerous resets.

It would have been okay if one was allowed to build a prototype or to model the IS to a point where it could quantitatively be defended but as the project plan and the design proposals got pushed through the various and every changing peer and management reviews there was always something that would cause my team to get periodically reset to zero.

I remember on another project presenting a solution in my boss’s boss’ staff after which one manager hotly remarked that he didn’t even know that there was a problem ‘so what did we need it for’?

I had been working on that particular project for over a year. It was assigned to me by the manager in whose staff I was presenting and it was one of his people who ‘didn’t know that we had a problem’.

The very same manager who assigned me to design that solution turned around 180 degrees and in front of everyone told me that ‘I needed to do more work on selling the problem’.

So the long and short of all of this was that the organization runs the risk of the staff being perpetually lost, dazed,  and confused because management isn’t doing their job.

And yes this is/was a waste of resources all because middle management is/was able to side step the pesky little problems of doing their jobs pushing decision making down the food chain but then reserve by virtue of being management to always second guess.

And the net result is that projects rarely got finished; they merely evolved or morphed into something else. One project always begat at minimum an additional 20 ancillary line items (begits as in begats, ‘…and Joshua begat Loab who begat Isaiah who…’)

This partially explains why service organizations without direct P&L responsibilities are more or less hopelessly broken. And this state is self –perpetuating because people get used to working in an organization that allows their managers to shirk their responsibility. The sad thing of it is that while we all get used to it, the manifestations of operating in this perpetually screwed up way is that we get severe anxiety thinking that it’s our fault -think about your performance reviews –  If we only did our jobs a little bit better and if we could just get this next re-org behind us everything will be better.

But it never is.

It’s always screwed up and management’s solution is to re-org and of course the supreme irony is always to add yet another layer of management.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Here’s a tip if you are running in sandals (or without socks) and you are getting a water blister on the bottom of one or both of the balls of your feet:

Here’s the problem – Your feet naturally ‘cup’ on the upstroke as they leave the earth; forming a small vacant hollow in the center of the ball of your foot. Over time this creates a hot spot where moisture and small amounts of dirt collect. This in turn creates a shear stress point where that part of the foot isn’t sliding as you are moving forward which results in a blister.

Solution – Lightly talc the footbed and feet before a run. If you are doing long runs – marathon plus distance – stop every hour or so and wipe the center of the ball of your foot with your finger and lightly re-talc.

 

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I hired a cab last weekend to take me to San Pedro. I had to do this because I couldn’t seem to find the connecting canal trail points on my runs. All my runs through the vast agricultural valley east of town were to some extent discovery in nature. I was always looking for that route that would give me that perfect 4 hour run. And I decided to start at the point furthest across the valley and scout my way backwards to find out how all those dirt roads and agricultural trails mapped together.

It wasn’t until after two hours of criss-crossing the north-east edge of the valley that I finally found the locus; Los Negritos.

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And it didn’t involve San Pedro at all, like I thought it would. Instead it is a small lake that supposedly has a small hot springs and therapeutic black mud; hence the name, Los Negritos. I didn’t get out to explore it like I probably should have; I was just so relieved to have found the place where the east bound trail I had been running terminated.

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And wonder of wonders – the cab’s odometer showed that it was 20 km from there back to town – meaning I finally had my 4 hour running route.

 

 

We use recycled airplane tire exclusively for our soles. This photo shows why.
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I wear these sandals everyday and have for 6 months straight. The sole shows almost zero wear.  And look at the profile view – the midsole/sole show absolutely zero deformation.

I have 3 blisters, a cut on the bottom of my big toe and a thorn puncture wound on my left foot. My right foot has 3 blisters. Test driving new sandals in the harsh terrain of Michoacán is sometimes down right painful.

I don’t go out for a 10 minute run around the block; my last run was 2.5 hours. I think that is what it takes to read the nuances in a new sandal.

 The development of the Sahara Running Sandal is now in version 10. Here is a photo of the failures –

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Yes, they all look pretty much the same, don’t they? The differences are in the details. Version 1 failed because the leather stretched. The fix was to stitch to it a lightweight lining; a special soft leather that doesn’t stretch.

Version 2 got a toe thong adjustment. Versions 3 -8 were all about the midsole; running stony Michoacán was literally hammering the balls of my feet into jelly.

For version 9 I switched fabricators and got the midsole problem fixed 100% to my liking but they hosed the upper; the toe thong was wrong, the lining was wrong, the stitching was wrong – all of which created new abrasive points which in turn caused the blisters that I mentioned earlier.

For version 10 I got crafty: I gave the good leather upper piece to the fabricator who built the perfect midsole and vice-versa I gave the perfect midsole piece to the fabricator who got the upper perfect.

So now I’ve got 2 competing fabricators; both having duplicate examples of what works in their hands, so odds have it that one of them is going to deliver that perfect version 10.

This past Thanksgiving wasn’t a typical Thanksgiving Day, not even for me. The Mexican’s don’t celebrate it but they did manage to have some sort of mid-day parade for heaven-knows-what reason. I think I’ve mentioned previously that parades and celebrations are pretty common place here and there is almost always something happening in and around the plaza most every week.

I went to school and taught English for an hour and got taught Spanish for an hour. This time spent at school has been most enlightening. First, I am learning that teaching is real work. I gave my first test 3 weeks ago and the results revealed that I wasn’t a very good teacher and that my methods weren’t effective. I began spending about a third of the class doing vocabulary review. I gave a test yesterday and the vocabulary review is paying off.

I am slowly learning Spanish but the effects are mostly academic at this point; most people on the street think I am as thick as a post because my conversational skills are still execrable and they think there should be a bigger return on 2 months of classes. They don’t say this of course but I can read it in their faces. It’s the spoken pronouns that tie my little head in knots not to mention pronunciation of certain words sound all too similar to this inexperienced estudiente de lengua. ‘Vivir’ (to live) sounds a lot like ‘beber’ (to drink). There are lots of things like that that twist my head in knots and then throw in a few prepositions or conjunctions that have verbs with attached object pronouns and I am lost from the first sentence on. I can now read a lot of Spanish fairly well but speaking it or even understanding the spoken word is still highly problematic at this point. So I am hoping that practice, practice, practice with lots of review will help me turn the corner.

I had both breakfast and lunch in the Mercado; a variation of Huevos Rancheros for breakfast and then a nice bowl of chicken vegetable soup for lunch. I went for a run between classes and lunch and I very thankfully managed to avoid the scary gangster guy since our one time encounter a week ago.

This guy was the real deal. He spoke good English – judging by the tattoos he was probably a gangster in LA too – didn’t say anything or do anything that was in any way threatening. He asked me a few questions about who I was and what was I doing in Sahuayo. He seemed to like my answers. At times the lips smiled but the eyes never did. I can’t remember the last time that I looked into such cold, merciless eyes. Beyond a doubt they were the eyes of a killer. What made the encounter scary is that he wasn’t trying to be scary – he didn’t have to try – he was just scary. So was he a soldier in the cartel that had checked me out at the El Cito Cantina a couple of weeks earlier? Or was he in the other cartel? He wanted to know why I was in his neighborhood and I am guessing that he wondered why the old gringo could be in such great shape (read, a runner with no belly) and not be DEA; not realizing that recreational running in the US is a fairly popular sport and isn’t just confined to the military or police forces.

I couldn’t make up my mind which cartel he was in because he acted like he had no information about me. Just like Dorothy when she stepped off the porch and surveyed the land of Oz for the first time; I too took in the alien landscape of Michoacán. 

My interest in building sandals came from 2 different places; minimalist running and the pissy anger that only an older person can get over buying something that wears out in 5 months, like my name brand – made in China – sandals.

I had been a fairly serious runner for a number of years. I counted myself among the fortunate few who discovered the endorphin rush that came with running long distances.

I first discovered it after running a fire road high up in the Sierra Nevada one summer after coming in off a 3 hour run and discovering that after sprinting the last 30 minutes that I finished the run feeling like a monster; all strong and powerful. From there on I was hooked, nothing made me feel as good a running.

I ran with some guys who gave me excellent coaching and as a result the running shoes I wore were the result of real time experience. I ran in these shoes: same brand, same model for 10 years on, and replaced them faithfully every 400 miles or 4 months; whichever came first. I had weeks where I was able to run a lot then there were weeks that business travel impacted my running schedule and I had neither the energy nor the access to run.

I liked to run trails, I liked running on dirt or gravel and was fortunate to live close to some beautiful long trails in the Sierra’s Nevada’s. Running on concrete or asphalt like marathon races tore up my legs, or so I thought. My running data was spotty because it was inconsistent. I wasn’t able to run the same schedule every day let alone every week so it was impossible to tie pain or soreness to specific cause and effect.

And then I injured my left foot big time; a soreness in the heel that was both chronic and persistent. So after months of trying to work through it finally in due course I gave up running. I was in my late ‘40s at that point and I convinced myself that I was too old to run anyway.

I tried all different kinds of shoes and cushiony orthotic devices but the pain in left heel would not go away. My foot did some rather sneaky negotiations with my subconscious mind and as much as I tried I couldn’t un-force my left foot from favoring the injured spot and as a result my left foot strike changed to where I was somehow walking on the outside of foot. This unnatural foot strike created problems that moved up my leg until there was pain in my knee and then in my hip. I kept looking for solutions. I became mindfully paranoid of the different wear in tread between my left and right shoes. The right shoe had a normal wear pattern but the left gave evidence of the fact that the foot was pulling un-naturally to the outside. It was pain and suffering and for someone who loved to both walk and run it just seemed unfair.

And I didn’t go to the orthopedist because I have been ever mindful of ‘never ask the barber if you need a haircut’ knowing that I would end up in endless therapy, wearing even more protective orthotics, and be told to walk less.

As a fix it yourself kind of guy, this was not a solution. An example, when I almost cut off the end of my right index finger in a table saw accident, I didn’t call an ambulance or go running straight to the emergency room; I called mom instead. She thankfully dropped her knitting and packed up some bandages and that finger of mine was in an open splint inside of 30 minutes.

Her cool head and natural doctoring abilities saw to it that the finger, while an open wound for 30 days, never got infected and healed perfectly. (This all sounds perfectly silly in the re-reading but it’s a true mom story.)

So a couple of years later I am surfing Amazon looking at footwear, running related stuff, books, and all of the other usual things when I stumble across ‘Born to Run’. The title immediately caught my eye, not for the possible Bruce Springsteen reference, because I am not a fan, but because I wanted to know who exactly was ‘born to run’.

Reading ‘Born to Run’ turned out to be a life changer for me. I had read about the Tarahumara Indians before in another piece of non-fiction called ‘The Devil’s Middle Finger’, a travel story about northern Mexico. I knew that they were awesome runners who thought nothing of running 100 plus miles; running was part of their culture. And while ‘Born to Run’ was loosely wrapped around the Tarahumara it was also written by a man with his own set of problems who like me was trying to overcome his own injuries and find his way back to injury free running.

But unlike me, he saw specialists. And as I would have expected they gave him all of  the usual run around: namely he was too big (6’3”) and too heavy (220 pounds) to be a runner. Their expert consensus was if he was bound and determined to run then their advice was to wear those same big-brand cushiony running shoes with additional orthotics and to not run very much or very far.

I felt like this book was written for me. I wasn’t too big or too heavy, just maybe too old and too injured. The author wasn’t satisfied with the answers that he was given so he set out to do his own research and what fell out from all of it (other than just the most inspiring running book of the past 20 years) were facts and conclusions that have been artfully hidden by the present day running establishment to bolster the $20B/year running shoe industry. So in short, the reason for my foot pain was that those comfy expensive shoes that I had been running in had over time weakened my feet. And that stuffing more orthotics in my shoes like I had been doing to my office shoes weren’t just making my feet weaker but quite literally to add insult to injury – the $150 that I was paying for a pair of inserts didn’t even help with the pain.

I had done a fair bit of research myself mainly because I just wanted to find a solution to make the pain go away. I could give up running if I had to but I couldn’t give up walking. But unlike Christopher McDougall, I didn’t look deep enough. He interviewed ultra-marathon runners, talked to trainers, and even went so far as to study the history of modern running and he came up with a couple of startling conclusions. First, man was truly born to run and that a man ‘didn’t quit running because he got old’ but ‘he got old because he quit running.’

Secondly, post 1970’s running shoes were, plainly put, all wrong. Elevating the heel to extend the runner’s stride also resulted in creating an unnatural heel strike. And adding cushiony and orthotic type elements to shoes were creating solutions to problems that didn’t exist. Why does an arch need arch support? Arches are supports; foot arches work just like architectural arches, they support. Adding arch supports to shoes over time weaken the arch just like adding other cushiony elements and orthotics also weaken the foot and make the wearer more prone to injury.

The solution to the whole running shoe conundrum was to strip away all of the unnecessary detritus and roll back to the early ‘70s running shoe model which were no more than light running flats that had no inbuilt orthotic structures, cushions, or heel differential.

And it was that kind of thinking that spawned the minimalist/barefoot running movement. All of which is totally counter-intuitive. Running on hard surfaces like asphalt or concrete, especially distances, require cushions or something to absorb the impact of the foot striking the concrete. It sounds so right but turns out to be so totally wrong. How can a quarter inch thick of anything absorb the impact of a foot strike landing with the force of upwards 12X that person’s body weight? It is absolutely impossible. What does happen is the foot relays false info to the brain vis a vis the signal translation done by the cushion which had falsely transponded the signals. The brain incorrectly reads that the feet are happy when in fact the feet are landing wrong and are landing with too much force which in turn transmits the shocks up to the knees, hips, and back.

Minimalist running works the other way. There is no more than a quarter of an inch of hard vulcanized rubber between the runner’s foot and the ground. The foot consequently feels every pebble and ever nuance in the terrain and adjusts every footfall accordingly. The foot is forced to comply with correct landings or the immediate feedback from the brain is ‘that hurts’. The runner is forced to to find the correct running style that incorporates more natural running attributes like landing on the front part of the foot and like bending slightly at the knees to allow the calves to do their job of absorbing the impact; this style also allows the Achilles tendon to do their job to compress and release energy. The result is a lighter running style.

And I can personally attest to the fact that this is true. Over time this minimalist soft running style has strengthened both feet and my left foot is now 95% normal. I no longer feel soreness of any kind in my legs or in my knees after a long run like I did when I ran in conventional running shoes. I’ve found that I don’t need rest and recovery days between runs like I used to. I discovered that by wearing the minimalist shoes and adapting to the newer and lighter running style that I could effectively turn my runs into a 7 day/week proposition and do it pain free.

My daughter introduced me to the pleasure of wearing flip flops a few years ago and my feet took to them like a duck to water in spite of my weak and troubled left foot. After long walks the left foot would periodically get tangled up trying to walk on the outside of itself but it seemed to get more readily confused in other footwear and I knew that my problems might have started as a shoe thing but was now a foot thing.

I like leather footwear and the nicer the better. While sandal shopping I found that my taste in footwear didn’t align with popular culture; what I wanted no one sold. I was forced to settle for a brand called ‘Reef’ which had a leather upper that was glued to a synthetic lower. I would buy a pair in the early spring, like April, and almost like clockwork the heel had worn through by October. I ignored this for the first couple of years but gradually this dependence and this cycle of planned obsolescence at my expense got me angrily rethinking about this new and troubled relationship that I was having with Reef. So I decided to make my own. And then somewhere along the way I got tired of spending a hundred bucks for my minimalist running shoes. I thought why spend that kind of dough for a few ounces of nylon and vibram rubber? So I decided to have a go at making some sandals that I could run in. It took a move to Mexico to make it all happen; but happen it did.

We recycle airplane tires to make into soles for our sandals and shoes. And just in case you were curious, a kilo of airplane tire looks something like this (minus 4 pair of women’s size 7) 

 

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and is approximately 11 1/2″ X 32″ and is 1/8″ – 3/16″ thick. The material is relatively lightweight and incredibly durable and long wearing.

Its physical properties are such that you can’t glue the midsole to it like you can the cheaper synthetic soles that 98% of other manufacturer’s use; I reserve that remaining 2% for leather soled sandals.

The only way to attach a sole made out of this material is to stitch it on using a very heavy duty industrial grade machine that looks like this – 

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We are the only company in Mexico, and quite possibly in the entire world, that recycles used airplane tire for every sole of every sandal and shoe product that we make.