On Saturday I ran/walked/crawled 20 miles of Noble Canyon in training for the fast approaching Noble Canyon 50k. Every run out there kills me out. It’s a beautiful route that basically consists of running down a mountain, running back up, and running a few stretches at high elevation. It’s a run that you can both love and dread. Incredibly challenging.
I’ve tried to experiment with hydration, fuel, and footwear out there. In the process I’ve found some products I like. Here they are, from toe to head:
1. VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Trails
VIVOBAREFOOT has been good to me and I’m impressed with their high customer service quality. They’re quick, I feel like I’m dealing with a real human being, and they generously rushed two free pairs of new Neo Trails for me and Shacky to use on Saturday’s training run.
I should point out that I haven’t worn shoes for running (minimalist or not) in almost a year. My previous Noble Canyon runs have been in Invisible shoe huaraches (more on those later). So I had no idea how I would handle a run in VIVOBAREFOOT’s product.
I was very pleasantly surprised. First of all, they look awesome. I was also very surprised by the ground feel. I was expecting little to no ground feel, but I felt the rocks a lot more than in my Vibram KSOs. I like that because I feel closer to being barefoot. I still felt like I had to watch my step and plan my strides. Post run, my feet suffered no ill effects.
Here are some stats on the Neo Trail:
- Sole thickeness = 2.5mm base and 4mm lug height
- Weight = Men’s 248g, Women’s 198g
- Hydrophobic mesh (non toxic, lightweight, water resistant thin mesh)
- Toe guard
Shacky tested the hydrophobic mesh with some creek crossings, and we were surprised at how long it took for the water to soak through the shoe. He basically had to stand fully immersed in water for a minute or so. Running, they wouldn’t get wet. However, once they WERE wet, the sloshiness was hard to dry out.
I’d like to get a few more trail miles in these and then post a more thorough review. So far I’m very much enjoying them. I think the fact that I could go from completely shoeless to running in these for 20 miles without an issue, says a lot about the quality of this shoe.
2. Injinji socks
Already a staple for barefoot and minimalist runners, I mostly wanted to mention this to direct people to the great Toe Salad Injinji giveaway that’s going on this week. You can enter HERE. Injinjis are awesome and if you haven’t tried them yet, definitely do.
3. Dirty Girl gaiters
Until last week, I didn’t even know what gaiters were. I saw my trail buddy Christine wearing them and they looked super cool, so at first I thought they were just for style. Then I saw several people wearing them at the Stairway to Heaven 15k so I asked what they were for.
Gaiters are basically funky looking sleeve things (Kate called them ankle warmers) that prevent stones and pebbles from falling into your shoes. Trail runners use them. You don’t need them when you’re barefoot.
Because we’ve been testing out some trail shoes on very rocky terrain, Shacky was kind enough to pick up some gaiters for us. He got Dirty Girl gaiters which I loved because they’re all made by hand. He got me the scissors print which I was SO EXCITED about because I have a shirt that says, “I run with scissors,” and for a while I was.
Back in my woods in Toronto I would carry scissors on my runs so I could forage for dandelions and other greens. I’d use the scissors to cut into the dirt for wild dandelion roots. Running with scissors is badass and my scissor gaiters make me feel hardcore. Dirty Girl has so many awesome prints, it’s hard to choose just one favorite.
But the best part is probably the woman behind the gaiters. I was told that Dirty Girl once opened her shirt and asked Kirby (fellow Dirt Devil runner) to pour ice cubes into her boobs during a race. To further solidify her awesomeness, a quote from her website regarding design prints: “There is no such thing as too much leopard.” And regarding shipping: “Slow is the new fast.”
I am honored to wear Dirty Girl’s gaiters and would buy a thousand more.
4. Zensah calf compression sleeves
I don’t like to trail run without my compression sleeves. I already wrote about these, so you can read more HERE.
5. Sport Kilt
This is the company that sponsored me and Shacky to race Noble Canyon. I didn’t wear the kilt on my training run, but I will be wearing it for the race. Last year, Shacky raced this in a non-Sport Kilt kilt (another company’s kilt), and overheated. I love the kilts because a) They’re super cute and b-f) They’re light weight, easy to wear, and ideal for runners. I also love the deep, discreet pockets. And they keep you cool.
6. Navitas Power Snacks
Nutrition is a never ending experiment for me. I tend to shy away from the mainstream runner’s gels and aim for whole foods as much as possible. Convenience is obviously an issue – I need to find fuel that is both natural and compact. Easy to carry and tastes good.
I am pleased to report that the new Navitas Power Snacks fit all of the above criteria. Not only are they natural, the ingredients are also Paleo (fruit and nuts), so Shacky was happy to fuel on them as well. He was pleased with the fat/protein ratio and the fact that they were low in sugar. They are also gluten and dairy free.
We had some Navitas Power Snacks at the midway point of our run and shared with some other runners in the group. Then later we sat down again on the trail and ate more.
The snacks are small, bite-sized pieces. I packed a few in a ziplock bag and carried them in my hydration vest pockets. They were easy to pull out and eat while walking or running. I also loved the texture. They weren’t as hard and chewy as a bar, but not as watery as a gel. They were soft and easy to break down, but didn’t leave you with a mouthful of sticky goo.
I received two flavors from Navitas – Citris Chia and Cacao Gogi. Shacky liked the chia and I loved the gogi. We’ve almost finished both of them.
Here is some more info I received from Navitas via email:
Offered in an 8-ounce re-sealable and recyclable pouch for a SRP of $8.99, Navitas Power Snacks are chewy, bite-sized nuggets that provide robust flavor. It is a healthy bonus that they contain no refined sugar, and are gluten-free and dairy-free. Navitas Power Snacks and other Navitas products are available at a wide variety of retail locations throughout North America including Whole Foods Markets, Wegmans and HEB, and at many online stores such as Amazon.com and NavitasNaturals.com.
The mission of Navitas Naturals is to provide premium organic superfoods that increase energy and enhance health. Nutrient-rich whole foods are at their best when they are produced via organic agriculture and minimal processing methods. That is why all Navitas Naturals products are certified organic, and use methods such as freeze-drying to ensure maximum nutrition. Food safety is very important to Navitas Naturals, which is demonstrated by the rigorous third-party testing of their superfoods. Since its founding in 2003, Navitas Naturals has been committed to socially responsible business. Their direct purchasing partnerships expand fair trade opportunities for farmers in developing regions around the world. For more, visit www.navitasnaturals.com.
The experiment for optimal gear and nutrition continues for me. I’m lucky to have so many great friends and companies willing to help me find my place on the trail.