Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Earthing and the 'Bare' Barefoot

I have more running shoes than I do regular ones.  In fact, add up mine and my partner's regular shoes and I still have more running ones.  I like running in different shapes, types and heel drops.  About half of them are 'barefoot' shoes.  By this I mean that they are zero-drop (have no heel-raise at all), and have no cushioning, just 2-4mm of rubber to protect from grit and stones. But of all my shoes, these are the ones I use least.  Don't get me wrong, Vibrams and Vivobarefoots are great shoes, but they can't beat the onslaught of sensory feedback that the 200,000 subcutaneous receptors in your feet are itching to provide.  But there's more...

There is something about the bare barefoot, something shamanic, yogic, some electrical neuromagic that works between the soles of the feet and the brain.  The feeling after a barefoot run is somehow different to a shod one.  I always knew it was.  Could this be the reason?

There is a movement called 'earthing'.  Its basic tenet is that our bodies now spend a great deal of time disconnected from the earth. In evolutionary terms, this is a recent phenomenon.  It is thought by the earthers that our bodies build static, positive, charges relative to the earth.  Earthing the body, returns the voltage differential to zero and this is thought to provide benefits for mental and general well-being.  Some evidence for the health benefits of earthing has been provided (and you can read about it here.) But there has been a good deal of bad science, too.  More evidence is needed to substantiate the claims that "Reconnection with the earth’s electrons has been found to promote intriguing physiological changes and subjective reports of well-being." (Journal of Environmental and Public Health Volume 2012, Article ID 29154).  

Some studies have begun looking at the way that barefoot running shoes change our natural gait.  Vibrams have been linked with an increased propensity to heel-strike, for example (see Pete Larson's blog entry, here.

For me, earthing seems intriguing and provides an answer to a difference of experience that I had already noticed between barefoot running and running in barefoot shoes.  I would love to know more about the real physiological and psychological impact of earthing.  

Monday, 13 May 2013


[this post has nothing to do with running]

How do you feel about your Kindle? I can't fall in love with mine.

It occurred to me today as I sat in my bath reading Tolstoy’s The Cossacks that my Kindle makes me feel uncomfortable.  Why?  It has so much going for it.

1. It is lighter than a book.
2. It is backlit, so you don’t need to sit at awkward angles to catch the right light on the page.
3. It fits in a jeans pocket.
4. I can carry my library around with me.
5. I can make the font bigger - tiny font was the reason that it took me about fifteen years to get round to reading Crime and Punishment.
6. I can highlight passages that I can easily refer back to
7. I have no emotional connection with it, so when I do finally drop it in the bath I won’t care.
8. you can flip back and forwards between footnotes and pages.
9. you can 'search' a book.

When I first thought “You know, I just don’t like this thing.”  It was because I was sick of the light catching the entombed “KINDLE” logo that shouts out at me from below the screen.  "Kindle!" it screams, with every glint of light, like a crap toothpaste commercial.  I bought the thing, is it really necessary to advertise itself to me?  I have thought of attacking it with a piece of sandpaper but that would ruin it.  After that I started thinking that all the reasons I thought I liked the KINDLE! are actually quite tenuous.

1. Books aren’t heavy.
2. The contrast level between ink and page is still not matched by the KINDLE!.
3. But I never carry it in my jeans pocket.
4. I have never wanted to carry a library around with me.
5. Fair dos - this one is just better.
6. I highlight so many passages that it becomes completely meaningless to highlight passages. When I write in one of my books, I know that I really mean it.
7. I have never dropped a book in the bath, and what’s more, I like having emotional (real) connections with things.
8. Real books are much quicker at this.
9. ... really slowly and unreliably.

I’m also currently reading Susan Greenfield’s The Private Life of the Brain, and on the cover is a Penguin logo.  Is this any different to KINDLE!?  At first I thought not, then I realised that it differs in a number of ways.  The Penguin logo is not on every single page of the book, when I’m reading I’m not distracted by the Penguin.  Even if the logo were on every page, Penguin were the organisation that invested time, energy and money in the publication of this book.  By paying for this book I’m contributing to the continuance of a company that wants to produce more excellent books like this one.  I am also paying tax. Penguin pays its tax.  The shop that I bought it from pays its corporation tax. KINDLE!, does neither of these things.  It contributes to a fast-forming monopoly and does not use that money to invest in the writing of the future.

My KINDLE is going to be my emergency reader from now on.  I have flirted with the digital life, so it’s vinyl for me.

"No, it's not you. It's me. I'm just not ready for this level of commitment..."