Monday, July 18, 2016

Sandal Reviews - Xero Z-Trail

This is installment #2 for running sandal reviews.  Last time we looked at the Bedrock Gabbro, which is a great all-around trail sandal.  Today we'll take a look at the Xero Z-Trail sandal, which is basically a 2.0 version of the Xero Z-Trek.

Introducing the Xero Z-Trail

Here are your sandal stats:
Zero-drop sandal, 10mm thick
3-layers (BareFoam comfort layer, TrailFoam for protection, FeelTrue outsole)
5.4 ounces (for men's size 9)

Price: $79.99
Xero offers a 5,000 mile warranty for all of their sandals.

Out of the Box:

Right out of the box, the Z-Trails are very easy to set up.  You'll notice right away they don't have a toe-post, they are much like a Chaco, except not...because they are so darn light and have no arch support.  A toe-post can provide some level of security for your foot staying on the sandal, but I find the Xero Z-trail overall does a nice job as long as you get the straps fitted correctly.  The main strap is adjusted at the ankle and if tight enough can prevent most of sliding your foot might do when running down a steep hill.  I don't like my sandals super tight, but even in that case, my feet stay on the sandal except in the most extreme conditions.  The heel strap is velcro and very secure.  I use the heel strap to get the sandal on/off easily.

I generally like to cut excess off of my sandals.  Out of the box there is a "lip" near the heel of the sandal.  I took kitchen scissors and cut the lip off since I didn't need it.

Trail Capability

The Z-trail gets a grade of excellent after having tested it during the Ultimate Direction Dirty 30 earlier this summer.  The tread pattern is similar to other Xero outsoles.  In this case, they have used two separate densities of outsole to keep the weight of the sandal very light (the brown outsole is actually the TrailFoam midsole carried through).  In areas needing to withstand more abrasion, they have a higher-density (black) outsole.  As you can see from my sandals, the black tread is wearing away much slower than the brown treat along the arch and a small section near the toes.  The tread pattern seems to work very well in most trail conditions (as well as wet rocks).  Just keep in mind this pattern is not a deep-lug pattern and there may be cases when you want a deeper lug pattern for grip.
The high-density outsole is very resistant to abrasion.  Xero shoes offers a 5,000 mile warranty on all of their soles.

The Z-Trails performed very well on this 32-mile trail race.  The race was mostly single-track with a mix of dirt and very rocky terrain.

(holy shit amazing)

I have probably logged a couple hundred miles on the Xero Z-trail sandals thus far and have noticed no major breakdowns other than the following exceptions.  Exception #1: I tend to create a lot of friction near my great toe (first metatarsalphalangeal joint), and I have rubbed the BareFoam comfort layer raw in that location.  This may not be an issue for others...and it has not affected the performance or comfort of the sandal.  Exception #2: The low-density outsole will likely wear down much more quickly but will not actually affect the performance of the sandal.

The fact that Xero shoes offers a 5,000 mile warranty demands respect and that's why I rate the sandal durability at holy shit amazing.  Thus far any wear and tear noted has not affected the performance or the comfort of the sandal which makes this sandal a very good buy.


Technically some runners may feel that this sandal is holy shit amazing as far as comfort goes.  I think it depends a little on foot-type and I am going to be a stickler for a moment.  When I first started wearing the sandal, I had a short period of time where I kept getting irritated over my big toe where the strap holds it in place.  Loosening the strap over the big toe fixed the problem.  That said, the essence of not having a toe post, means for me at least, that my big toe might get pushed inward more than I would like from time to time.  Remember I have deformed feet (bunions) so I really like sandals that support good, straight big toe alignment.

The sandal is very light-weight and flexible, which goes a long way in making it a comfortable sandal.  You truly can wear this sandal all day and barely notice anything on your foot.

The BareFoam layer is extremely smooth and soft and yet provides a grippy-feeling that keeps the sandal in place well despite not having a toe post.  As much as I love my other sandals, it's really nice to have a pair of sandals without a toe post.

(holy shit amazing)

For a sandal with this much protection (and a dreaded midsole), it maintains amazing ground feel.  It's hard to ask for more from a sandal.  You get reasonable trail protection and a foot bed that is super soft to the touch without sacrificing your ability to feel the ground.  This sandal allows your foot to flex and move in a completely natural way without any interference.  One of my pet-peeves is a shoe company calling their product "minimalist" when it has no flexibility at all.  You'll never have to worry about this with Xero shoes.  They understand that part of letting your foot be the miracle that it is is allowing it to move freely.

The Xero Z-Trail maintains excellent ground feel, flexibility, and light-weight features.


Honestly, I'm not sure who really cares about personalizing their sandals...not to say you're silly if you trick out your footwear...I only mean that whomever is considering Xero shoes (or active footwear) will likely prioritize function and comfort.  You don't have much option to personalize the sandal unless you want to get really creative.  The Z-Trails come in three colors (for the straps); black, mocha, and red pepper for both men and women.

If you think Chaco sandals look good, then you should like how the Z-Trails look on your feet.  They're very similar except I think they're much more comfortable and user-friendly.  These would make excellent travel shoes as well as you can comfortably wear these sandals all day for all of your activities (land and water) and then wear them to dinner later in the evening.

Z-Trails along Rampart Reservoir.  Comfortable, affordable, and high-performance.
Who are they for?

* People who like the look of Chacos but want something more minimalist.
* Cheapskates like me who like shoes with warranties.
* Sandal runners, great for road and most trails.
* Sandal wearers who would like an alternative sandal without a toe post.
* Travelers who want a sandal for everything

Stay tuned for a review of the Bedrock Cairn sandal...

Friday, July 15, 2016

Eating Well Does Not Have To Be Hard But It is Most Important for Your Health

This post comes from Natural Performance Rehab Co-Owner Dr. Miller's Mom Harriet Smith.  Ms. Smith has been a life long learner when it comes to eating healthy and preparing quick and health meals for her and her family.  She was self-employed for many years, running many business with a very busy scheduled but was able to make fresh and healthy meals on a daily basis.   Please, enjoy this well researched and thought out blog post:

Every person has the responsibility for his or her own health.   

Too many people seem to think they can do whatever they please and then if there is a problem, a doctor will "fix" it.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Of course, there are the obvious things -- smoking cigarettes, too much alcohol or taking drugs -- but mainly it's an overall commitment to a healthy lifestyle.  And the major portion of that healthy lifestyle is concerned with what you eat.  Gaining healthy eating habits is the most important step you can take on the path to taking charge of your health.

Healthy eating will require a commitment on your part -- a commitment of time and energy. 


Think of it as an investment in your health.  You can also think of it as another "project" - just like painting the spare room or expanding the patio.  

Some tips:


  1. Don't try to do it all at once.  Make little changes at a time.   Don't think you have to eliminate all the things you love, even if they are not "good" for you.  The object is to have the bulk of your food as basic and healthy as possible while adding small "treats" for yourself.  (No, a banana split does not qualify as a "small treat.") 
  2. Don't worry too much at this point about calories or "macros" -- that can come later. 
  3. Make time for grocery shopping.   For me, a supermarket is a bit overwhelming, so I try to focus on the things I know I need or want.  Standing and looking at 35 brands of balsamic vinegar will only serve to muddle your thinking!  But do your shopping leisurely, looking at what the supermarket has to offer.  Read the ingredients for every packaged item you buy.  If it has anything other than actual food ingredients, put it back.  Chemicals, various forms of sugar, dyes -- these are not food.  Don't be fooled by the words "natural" or "healthy."  Make your own decision about whether it's healthy or not.  And forget "low-fat."Remember that anything you make from scratch with fresh ingredients will be totally under your "quality control" so no worries about the surroundings or just who handled it. 
  4. If you are concerned about the time it takes to make a meal from scratch rather than just pick up something or use a prepackaged meal, then use one of your days off from work to do some of the work ahead of time.  Many people use Sunday for this -- and store or freeze the results for later in the week, making sure you have a quick but healthy dinner where you make a double portion that you can use for lunch the next day.
  5. In the beginning, keep a food journal and weigh all your food.  "Ugh" you say "too much work."  Remember when I said "project?"  You need to know what you are putting in your mouth.  Make a commitment to weighing and noting all the food you eat for one week. 
  6. Make a menu plan for one week.  Put on it the foods you like but emphasize fruits and vegetables.  Lean meats, eggs and fish come next and then nuts.  Grains next to last and then dairy products.  Yes, I too love cheese!  However, cutting back on dairy products will be a good thing.   

Some sample menus:


Breakfast - Oatmeal cooked with 1 tbsp raw sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon and a small apple cut up.  Add toasted almonds on top to serve.   On the other hand, one egg and two egg whites with piece of whole wheat toast and some fruit.  (No, jelly does not qualify as a fruit!)

Lunch - Generally leftovers from dinner the night before (easy!) but also could be sandwiches of various kinds or a huge salad with lots of veggies and either tuna or chicken or roast beef on top.  Serve with baked tortilla chips.

Dinner - Pasta with vegetables, chicken or fish.  Instead of a thick tomato sauce, try using just a tablespoon or two of olive oil and add some herbs.  A teaspoon of Parmesan or smoked cheese will add to the flavors.   Remember -- you want to enjoy the actual food and its flavor and not totally cover it up.  Let it shine!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Sandal Reviews - The Bedrock Gabbro

I've had the opportunity to road and trail test some of the best running sandals on the market over the past 18-months.  I started my journey with running sandals at a time when I was having a lot of trouble with shoes.  I am sure many runners can relate.  Turns out I just needed to let my foot be a foot and nothing does that quite like a running sandal.

Instead of back-tracking to some of the sandals I have been using for a longer period of time, I really wanted to shine a spotlight on a newer pair of trail-running sandals which has seemed to outperform them all.

Introducing the Bedrock Gabbro

The Bedrock Sandal company was started by two geologists in Northern California just a few years ago.  They came from humble beginnings (kickstarter) with a simple goal of creating footwear that harnesses the innate power of the human foot.  Today they make four different types of sandals to meet a multitude of outdoor adventures.  Notably, all of their sandals come with their ROCK SOLID WARRANTY.  As long as you have at least 1mm of Vibram sole remaining under the ball of the foot of your sandal, they'll fix any sole or strap issues for free and cover the cost of shipping both ways.

Their lineup includes:

7mm thick, 4.2 oz (size 9)

9mm thick, 4.5 oz

11mm thick, 4.3 oz

14mm thick, 7.8 oz

Comparison chart from the Bedrock website.

The Bedrock Gabbro will set you back $84, which isn't the absolute cheapest running sandal on the market.  That said, I challenge you to find a running shoe that lasts longer or offers a better warranty.  The chances of your sandal outliving your typical running shoe is...nearly 100% guaranteed.  Thus far I've had the opportunity to run about 116 miles in the Gabbros over the past couple weeks.  I'll break down their performance in no particular format (that's just my style).  Feel free to leave questions for me if there's something I missed you would like to know more about.

The Sandal Rating System:





Holy Shit Amazing

Trail Capability

The Gabbro really shines as a trail minimalist shoe, providing enough protection for highly rocky terrain while still allowing the foot to be a foot.  With a weight of only 4.3oz, it feels as though you are wearing nothing at all.  The strapping system on the current version of the Gabbro is the same strapping system as the Earthquake and Syncline versions.  I have found for mountain running, the sandal is secured to the foot except in the most extreme conditions (primarily if your foot is muddy or soaking wet AND you're descending a steep hill).

To be fair.  The Gabbro's trail capability is the best I have had on my feet to date.  I am withholding the holy shit amazing 5-sandal rating simply because Bedrock will be shipping their all new Cairn Adventure-Minimal Sandal soon and it promises to be even more amazing on rugged trails.  I have to save a rating for it, obviously.  Perhaps the Cairn will be good enough to run Montana's infamous THE RUT 50K?

My beautiful pair of Gabbros ("gently" used).
A nice shot of the Vibram tread.  This Vibram tread is not unique to Bedrock and can be found on other sandals. 

(holy shit amazing)

I wish I had the Gabbros for all of my previous ultra-marathon trail races.  They have now become my go-to shoe for their comfort, especially in the toe post region.  There are many methods and materials to use as a toe post between your first and second toe.  On longer runs over uneven terrain I have found that some of my previous sandals (Luna, Shamma, Xero brands) would cause some discomfort at my web space.  Many of us in the sandal world like to refer to this condition as "toe wedgie" and it can be quite painful.

All of the bedrock sandals (excluding the Cairn which I will be testing soon) have the same comfortable and grippy footbed.  In the running shoe world, we only think about the outsole of the shoe and how well it might grip the earth.  In the sandal world we also have to consider the footbed of the sandal.  I think Bedrock has done an holy shit amazing job at creating a strapping system, footbed, and toe post that are amazingly comfortable in all but the harshest conditions.  For a lightweight and minimal sandal, they do an exceptional job at staying in place and keeping my foot centered on the sole.

Also nice to note, once you have your sandal lacing system adjusted well, they can be easily slipped on/off without further adjustments.  The heel strap includes a small elastic section that aids with this and yet the heel strap itself is quite secure and does not slide down when running.  Bedrock also sends you a small set of instructions on how to adjust the laces to fit your feet.  It took me just a few minutes to get right and I haven't needed to adjust them since.

Bedrock's toe post design is unique in the running sandal world and has proven thus far to be the most comfortable for long runs over uneven terrain.  My guess is the double thread system offsets the load so not all of the pressure is placed in one area of the foot webbing.  The stitching you see (footbed attached to the sole) is comfortable and has not cause any rubbing.



We may need to consider that the durability of a running sandal (and minimalist shoe) will naturally be better than a regular shoe with cushioning and support.  Basically once the cushioning wears out and people start to feel more discomfort, they feel they need a new shoe.  This can happen with as little as 300-500 miles on a shoe.  In theory, a minimal shoe will last hundreds of additional miles so long as the outsole is durable.  For example, my Soft Star trail running shoes have lasted over 700 miles and by looking at the sole I would guess they'll go at least 2,000 additional miles.

The sole used for the Gabbro is thick enough that you should expect to get 1,000 miles or more out of the sandal (unless you're dragging your feet, then you have other problems).  It is likely that you will wear down the forefoot area more quickly and eventually render the tread pattern useless in that part of the sandal.  Still, the sandal itself should last awhile.  Also remember Bedrock's Rock Solid Warranty is far better than almost everything else on the market (Xero shoes also has an excellent warranty).

Also important to note when looking at the bottom of the sandal...the lacing system is reinforced with a rubber strip so that your laces have excellent protection where they might come into contact with the ground.  This is the first lacing system I have seen with this feature.  After >100miles on the trail the laces are like new and I have no concern of them fraying part way through the Leadville 100 trail run this year.

(holy shit amazing)

When I rate minimalism, I hope to stress how true the sandal stays to the ideals of not interfering with the function of the foot.  Despite the thickness of the sole, the Gabbro offers amazing protection to the foot without any real downsides.  I have found that I can still feel an excellent sense of the terrain I am running and adjust my stride and movements to that terrain while enjoying protection from sharp rocks underneath.  The Gabbro compliments the function of the foot by remaining highly flexible, extremely lightweight, and sturdy against the foot when in motion.  It feels more a part of you than something you're wearing on your foot.  Sandals especially shine because they are the perfect footwear to allow your toes to splay as much as they desire.  And I must confess, there is nothing quite like the open air on your freedom!

Flexible footwear allows the foot and ankle to act as the natural spring they are.
Despite the excellent protection (11mm), the Gabbro is still very flexible and allows natural loading.


It's possible to give the Gabbros a lifestyle rating of 5-sandals, but I'm withholding that rating simply because the sandal is so darn simple.  Personally I love the classic look, but there may be folks out there who wish to personalize and snaz-out their sandals a bit.  For fashionistas, Xero shoes offers a DIY kit where you can easily add beads or other lacing styles to give your sandal a different look.  Luna sandals also offers a variety of sandals that are as appropriate for jeans as they are your running shorts.

I love the simple and clean look of the Gabbro sandals for every day wear.

Who are they for?

I would recommend the Bedrock Gabbro sandal to anyone looking for a durable, lightweight, and comfortable sandal for the trails.  I think the sandal especially shines for runners because it is so light and still manages to offer excellent protection over a wide range of terrain types.  I suspect the Cairn will be the ideal sandal for runners over the toughest terrain (sharp rock) and for hikers carrying heavier backpacks for long distances.

If the Gabbro is a Jeep Wrangler, the Cairn will be an M1-Abrams Tank.

Stay tuned for a future review of the Bedrock Cairn sandal.