Merry Christmas From Beginning Barefoot!

Beginning Barefoot will be taking a well-deserved break over the holiday season, but fear not! We have all sorts of great articles and reviews planned for the New Year. Of course, #BareChat will also be back too (January 9th 7pm MST), so we’ll see you there!

We wish you all a safe and happy holidays!

To say thanks to all of you for your support, here’s a little poem I wrote for you last year ūüėČ

Merry Christmas!

TwasTheBarefootNightBeforeXmas

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A Day Out With Slackline Australia

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

Slackline1As a runner, it can be very easy to fall into the trap of ONLY running, which is one of the leading candidates for overuse injuries. A great way to avoid this is to add some cross-training activities into your routine, to mix things up a bit and strengthen muscles, tendons and joints, that otherwise may not see much work.

In my experience, the best type of cross-training is one that you enjoy, so it’s important to try new things to see what else you might like.

Recently, my own cross-training experimentation has led me to Slacklining. Slacklining looks a lot like tightrope walking, with a few noticeable differences. It consists of a nylon rope strung between 2 anchors, such as trees or boulders. Unlike a tightrope, which is taught and rigid, the elasticity of the nylon allows the rope to bend and flex, making it a real challenge to balance on.

Slackline7I haven’t done much slacklining, but I was recently lucky enough to have the opportunity to join Phil Piper from Slackline Australia for a day of slacklining. Phil was a huge help, and took us through the basics of what gear to use, how to set it up, and ultimately how to get up and start balancing on the slacklines.

Gear

At its most basic, a slackline is essentially just a rope that’s tied between a couple points, but in practice, there is some essential gear that makes the experience safer and more enjoyable.

  1. Slackline4Slackline
    No surprise here. The first thing you will need is the rope itself. As slacklining has grown in popularity, so have the number of styles, widths and brands available. We used 50mm and 35mm Elephant brand slacklines. These are the 2 most common widths, but lines are available in a variety of sizes. For barefoot slacklining, the 50mm was a lot more comfortable and slightly easier to use.
    With regards to length, how much you will need is entirely dependent on how far you’re willing to take it. To start out a 10m line should be more than adequate. Slacklines can last for years though, so future-proofing by buying a longer slackline is not such a bad idea.
  2. Ratchet
    The Ratchet is the scary-looking metal bit that’s used to tighten the slackline up. It’s actually a fairly simple machine. All you need to do is thread an end of the slackline into it, and crank it until you’ve reached the desired tension.
    When choosing a ratchet, the main consideration for the beginner is size and weight. If you’re planning to just throw your gear in the car to bring it to the local park, then a heavier, larger ratchet is not an issue. If however, you want to carry it in a backpack, a smaller ratchet could be the better choice.
  3. Carabiners/Shackles
    Most slackline kits will include some form of metal loop that makes it easier to attach the line to the tree opposite the ratchet end. This can be a locking carabiner or a shackle. The main thing here is to find one that it large enough to accommodate the width or the line so that it doesn’t get twisted or squished when tension is applied. Generally, the included parts in any decent kit will be sufficient.
  4. Tree Gear
    Since a lot of slacklining tends to be done between two trees, it’s important to pick up something to protect both your line from the tree and the tree from your line. Enter Tree Gear. It comes in a variety of materials but it’s essentially a mat that sits between the rope and the tree to stop them from rubbing on each other. An optional extra, but well worth the small investment as it can dramatically increase the life of your line, and is more environmentally friendly.

Getting Started

I honestly think that if you’re at all interested in getting started with slacklining, that you should take an hour or 2 course at a minimum. This will help ensure that you know how to correctly position and care for your gear, and will get you up on the line quickly and safely.

That being said, there are a few things that you can expect to learn on your first outing.

  1. Preparation
    Before you even think about stepping up onto the slackline, there are a few things that need to be done.
    First, you will need to find a suitable location, which should be flat, ideally with a soft area below the line. This is ideally grass or sand, or even mats if you’re that way inclined.
    Make sure that you don’t set the line up across a walkway or high traffic area, and be mindful of any low branches, etc that might get in the¬†way when you’re standing on the line.
    Once you’re all set up, take some time to warm up with some dynamic stretching, or a bit of yoga. Being nice and limber will help you stay balanced and reduce the chance of injuries.
  2. Assisted BalancingSlackline5
    When you first get up on a slackline, you’re going to be surprised at how tricky it really is. When you see the videos or watch the pros, it looks simple, but in reality it will be mere seconds before your legs are shaking and the ground is rushing up to meet you.
    For this reason, it’s a good idea to start with a buddy. Get them to help you on to the line, and use them as support as you get the feel for standing up on the slackline.
    Don’t worry about walking just yet, just try small things like standing without support, or crouching down.
  3. Assisted Walking
    Once you get a feel for the slackline, you can try a little bit of walking. Get up on the line, and with your friend walking next to you (on the ground), slowly place one foot in front of the other. Keep¬†your hand on your friend’s shoulder for balance.
    Focus on a point in front of you to keep your head up. Try not to look at your feet. Slowly ease your foot along the line and gently transfer your weight onto your lead foot.
    Try going forward and backwards, and gradually try removing your hand from your buddy’s shoulder. This is great practice, so do it as much as you can until you start to get a bit more comfortable.
  4. Slackline2Unassisted Balancing
    When you’re ready, you can try doing some unassisted work on the slackline. Try sitting on the rope and balancing with your feet off the ground. Shift your weight around and see how this affects your balance. Try spinning around to face the other way. Again, just take the time to get familiar with the feeling of the line.
    You may find that it’s easier to start out near the ends of the rope as they will be more stable.
    Eventually, you’ll feel confident enough to stand up on the line by yourself. Try stepping up, then back down a few times. Don’t try to do too much too quickly. It’s going to take you a while to get used to doing it on your own so don’t get discouraged. Take your time, keep practicing, and you’ll get there.
  5. Slackline6Unassisted Walking

    Eventually, you’ll be ready to try walking on your own. Start with a step forward, then a step back. Take your time, remember to breathe, and make your way slowly along the line. Most people won’t get to this point until they’ve a had a good few sessions on the slackline. If you can’t do it on your first go, don’t worry, just go back a step, keep practicing, and you’ll get there eventually.
  6. Tricks
    If you decide that you like it, and persevere, there is some pretty cool stuff you can do on a slackline. It may take a number of years to get to this point, but have a look at some of the videos below and tell me it’s not worth it!

Slackline3Slacklining is a great way to improve your balance, core and foot strength. It’s also a lot of fun to do. If you’re interested in getting started, then I strongly recommend getting some professional guidance. There are a lot of great companies out there, and short, afternoon courses are pretty easy to find, and relatively inexpensive.

If you’re in Australia and are interested in purchasing some gear, exclusive to Beginning Barefoot readers, you can get 5% off any order for slacklining gear from Slackline Australia, just use the code ‘barefoot‘ when you make your purchase!

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank Phil and Logan from Slackline Australia for taking us out and showing us the ropes (literally!) Also, a big thanks to Sam Dunworth for taking all of the pictures in this article!

Review: Luna Sandals Leadville Huaraches

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

Luna Sandals LeadvilleIf you’ve read Born To Run, you probably remember the story about how Barefoot Ted met Manuel Luna of the Raramuri, and learned how to make huaraches from salvaged car tyres. What you may or may not realise, however, is that Ted later used this knowledge to create a line of hand-made sandals, named in honour of his mentor – Luna Sandals.

Luna Sandals started out relatively simply, featuring leather straps and a Vibram sole, that mimicked the construction of the car tyre version, but using lighter, high-tech rubber. I’m sure that if he had wanted, Ted could have just ridden the tide of Born To Run and sold his simple sandals, but what he did next is what sets Luna Sandals apart.

Since the first version of Luna Sandals, Ted and his ‘Luna Monkeys’ (as his staff call themselves) have proceeded down a track of innovation and experimentation that has transformed the simple huarache into an incredible piece of footwear.

Luna SandalsI have recently been lucky enough to try out the latest pinnacle of this process – the Leadville.

Featuring a thick Vibram sole with a no-slip MGT footbed and the clever ATS Lacing system, the Leadville really looks like a high-tech huarache. What’s most exciting about this sandal though is that it’s been race-tested by Ted himself at the 2010 Leadville 100 ultramarathon. If this isn’t enough to make you want to try a pair, I’m not sure what will.

Construction

As mentioned, the Leadville comes standard with an MGT footbed. MGT stands for Monkey Grip Technology, and refers to the thin layer of textured rubber that your foot sits on. This seemingly simple feature is actually a marvel for trail runners, as it’s waterproof, comfortable, and as advertised, non-slip.

The sole of the Leadville is made of 10mm thick Neoprene rubber and has a great zig-zag tread on it to help grab onto those rough trails.

Luna ATS LacingArguably my favourite part of the Leadville is the ATS lacing system. At its simplest, it’s a nylon cord with a plastic buckle for adjustment. However, it’s clear that a lot of tweaking has gone on, as beyond being a simple cord, it includes elasticised sections to make it easy to take them on and remove them, while also keeping them very comfortable.

The toe attachment point is hidden using a plug made of similar material to the sole, so there’s no problem with wearing down the knot on the underside.

Performance

I’m not quite ready to test out these sandals on terrain as harsh as Leadville, but I have had a great time tramping around the local trails in them.

When I got them, I spent a couple minutes getting acquainted with the ATS laces. They are a bit different to anything I’ve tried before, but they definitely simplify the huarache tying process immensely. Getting the initial tension just right is a bit finicky since the laces are threaded through a couple holes and wrapped around each other, but this is par for the course for any huarache.

Once I got them adjusted just-so, the top buckle made any final tensioning quite easy. What I really love though is¬†the¬†elasticated heel strap. This is a great feature as once you’ve got your sandals set up how you like them, you can easily slip them on and off. The elastic also reduces rubbing on your heels, and I haven’t had any issues with chafing at all.

Once the Lunas were fitted, it was time to hit the trails. As luck would have it, I got caught in a rain storm on my first excursion. This was actually quite a lucky eventuality as I got to see first-hand how my Lunas performed in the wet.

The first half of the hike was great. The Leadvilles are quite light, despite their sturdy construction, and my feet were cool and comfortable the whole time. With 10mm of sole underfoot, there was minimal ground-feel, but since I was hiking on some pretty rocky terrain, this didn’t really bother me. I was at least able to get a full range of motion, and my toes could wiggle.

Vibram LogoI really like the treads on these sandals. They’re very grippy, yet don’t use lugs. Instead, they have a great zig-zag pattern that seems to shed dirt and mud very well. If I had one complaint, it would be that there are Vibram logos peppered among the treads. These logos tend to fill up with dirt and are tricky to clean. It’s not a deal-breaker, but a mild annoyance. Given the choice, I’d just have the zig-zags.

When the rains arrived, I turned back and headed home. As I walked, it was great to notice all the dust and dirt just wash away from my feet and shoes, leaving them looking brand-new again. I did, however find that my feet slipped a little bit on that first outing, though tightening up the laces helped out considerably. (EDIT: After wearing my Lunas daily for over a month, I’ve found that they slip less as my feet are making impressions, helping my feet to stay put).

Again, the treads behaved remarkably and shed mud just as easily as dirt. When I got home, I left them out on the porch, and found they were dry shortly thereafter.

Impressions

Overall, I loved testing out the Luna Leadvilles. It’s always a treat to wear shoes built and tested by the people that wear them. The quality and thought put into these sandals are reason enough to buy a pair, but their performance has secured them as part of my regular go-to rotation.

I’m planning on racing the Oxfam Trailwalker 100km race next year, and up until I tried Lunas, I never considered wearing sandals for it. Now, however, I think I’ve found my main footwear for the race. Yes, they’re that good.

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank Luna Sandals for providing a pair of Leadville huaraches for testing. If you enjoyed this review, why not visit (and Like!) the Luna Sandals Facebook page, or better yet, buy a pair for yourself (or a loved one!).