Follow up: Point6 Merino Wool Socks…

Point6 Merino Wool Socks

Point6 Before…

 

One of the major attributes we had factored in to our Sock-Off 2011 testing is Durability.  I think all of us (me, Adam and Bill) pointed out in our reviews that we had a limited amount of time testing these Merino wool socks before writing and so the durability of the product was not really put to the test.  In my review of the Point6 Hiking Tech Merino wool socks I was impressed that the socks looked completely unaffected by a 9-mile hike through rugged desert terrain.

Now, these socks have been through another 60 to 80 miles of hiking, logged a little over 90-miles worth of running, about 60-miles biking and have simply been on my feet more than most other socks I own since my initial review.  I am happy to report that they STILL look as good as they did the day they arrived in the mail.  They have not faded, worn or lost their shape in any way.  They show, literally, NO signs of wear at all.  These tanks can take anything you throw at them.  I am very impressed.

Point6 Merino Wool Socks

Point6 After…

Gear Review: Injinji Synthetic Socks – #SockOff2011

 SockOff2011 continues after a long, reluctant hiatus!  Due to the fact that I am still recovering from my injury, the hike was not exactly the same as my last Sock-Off test.  This time I ventured out to the Overton/Go John loop in Cave Creek to log in 6.5 miles with my Injinji Lightweight Ultra-thin Toesocks.  The terrain and hiking conditions were pretty much the same as the last hike with loose rock, gravel, sand and other aggressive terrain conditions.  The shoes were still my handy Brooks Cascadia Trail Runners. The socks revealed some surprises for me and I am happy to release my findings…

Price and availability

Injinji synthetic toesocks pricing ranges depending on the style you choose.  They range from very light no-show running socks to the heavier, crew-socks to full calf compression socks.  The pricing of the socks mentioned in this review range from $10 to $16 which is very competitive for a specialty sock.  This review centers around the Performance Series Lightweight Ultra-Thin Mini-Crew and the Original Weight Moderate Mini-Crew.  Injinji has also come out with an Outdoor Series Original Weight Mini-Crew which I look forward to trying out.  Injinji socks are available almost anywhere.  Unfortunately, their full line is usually not in stores.  I have found that even though I can buy these socks at almost any apparel store, they typically only carry one or two styles and only one or two colors.  For the full spectrum of what Injinji offers, you really need to hit up their website.

Here’s a little about the product from the Injinji website:

Injinji has embraced the changing world, specifically identifying the need for a biomechanically and medically advanced product that would allow the foot to perform at its best. Makers of “The Original Performance Toesock”, Injinji modified the basic structure, shape, and fiber of the traditional sock. “Optimal foot health is a key part of our overall wellness”, says Jason Battenfield, CEO. “Our toesocks provide each wearer with proper toe alignment which improves posture, gripping and balance, strengthens the muscles in the foot and leg, encourages healthy circulation, manages moisture, and prevents skin on skin friction.”

Comfort and Fit

So, it took me a while to try these on.  I have to admit, they sat for a while as I pondered the strange idea of a sock that wrapped around my toes.  Once I began my recovery I found myself excited to get outside AND excited to test out these socks.  So I took them with me over my Thanksgiving trip and tried them out on some basic, flat running trails.  Initially putting them on is awkward.  That first time slipping them on and trying to get your toes in each little pocket is taxing, but once they are on (properly!) the fit is pretty pleasant.  I actually wore them around the house for a while before taking them out for a spin and I found them so comfortable I almost forgot they were on.  This was not the case with the original-weight socks, you always feel those.  But with the ultra-thin socks, it’s like not wearing socks at all.  The synthetic material does have a lot of stretch to it, so the fit is very nice.  They cling to your feet and conform to the shape of your foot instead of the other way around.  I give them full marks for comfort and fit.

Padding and Support

Here’s where Injinji is weakest in my opinion.  The socks are uniform in padding so they’re either thin all over, or thicker all over and don’t offer any technical support for specific parts of the foot.  It’s a very minimalist concept for a sock.  The ultra-thin would make a great running sock, in the right shoe and with on a paved route.  For me, my trail runners are a little big to allow for padded socks when I hike, so there was a lot of extra room in the shoe with the ultra-lights on.  They seem to fit much better in my road-runners which are a half-size smaller.  They offer nothing for padding making them a very poor trail sock.  The Original Weight socks are much more appropriate for the trail, but still lack the padding and support I like to have on rugged trails.

Durability

These socks were put through the paces much more than the Point6 socks I reviewed before.  I took them out for two 6-mile runs and a 6.5-mile hike.  One of the runs was in a rain storm, so I got to see how they handle being wet.  The Light-Weight Ultra Thin’s were already showing signs of wear after the two runs.  They seem to be wearing at the heel and at the top of the toes.  I imagine the Original Weight socks will not wear out as fast, but the thinner socks don’t really seem to be holding up.  They became saturated in the rain very quickly I did notice a little slipping on the foot when they were wet which worried me a little.  When the run complete, I did not have any blisters or hot spots on my feet so I guess they did their job.

Overall Performance on the trail

Overall impressions are mixed.  On the one hand, these are very comfortable socks to have on.  The material between the toes is not as invasive or bothersome as I expected it to be.  In fact, if anything, this is what makes the socks comfortable in the first place.  The material is a mix of synthetics (70% CoolMax 25% Nylon 5% Lycra) that makes for a very comfortable sock against the skin.  They are soft, pliable and breathable.  However, they just don’t offer the padding or support that is ultimately desirable in an outdoor trail sock.  This is why I am excited to try their Outdoor Series.  If they can offer the kind of padding needed, these could be a great trail sock.  I don’t even mind the fact that they are 100% synthetic because they do feel nice.  I just don’t expect them to have the lifespan of a well-made 100% wool sock.

I had an extra pair of the lightweight socks when I did the hike so I offered them to my buddy who did the trail with me.  I wanted to see if he would have a different perspective on the socks.  He communicated a lot of the same things I mentioned above: shoe felt looser due to thin sock material, padding was not sufficient for rugged trail hiking, comfort and fit was very nice and the sensation of the sock around each toe was very comfortable once you got used to it.  He speculated as well, that the socks would probably perform much better on pavement in a tighter shoe.

Don’t forget to visit Hiking the Trail and Diary of a Day hiker for their own comprehensive reviews of the Injinji hiking socks for SockOff2011!

Stay tuned for my next SockOff2011 review featuring the  Thorlo-CoolMax Synthetic trail running sock.

A Thankful Year…

Well, it appears to be that time of year again…  Winter heavily lumbers in, the frantic holidays quickly approach and our minds instinctually seem to review and quantify the accomplishments of the previous year.  Most of us take special time each year to focus on the happy successes, the wonderful gifts and the hard won accomplishments that make up the highlight reel of our lives over the last 12 months.  It’s a time to give special attention to the things that are so easily taken for granted throughout our hectic, time-crunched day-to-day existence.  Each Winter season, if we are doing something right, the list of things we are truly Thankful for gets longer, stronger and more meaningful.

This year especially, has been a year filled with things to be thankful for.  Even though the year has not been easy and I still struggle in many ways to improve many aspects of my life, I find myself feeling happier and more accomplished than ever.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve struggled with some health issues over the past several years.  I went from a very healthy, active athletic man to lethargic, sedentary and overweight suffering from pain and mobility issues.  Over the last couple of years I’ve managed to get my health problems identified and under enough control for me to take my life back.  I am now back to being healthy and active and feel like I’ve got control of my life again.  This has allowed me to get back to enjoying a life in the outdoors as much as possible.  It’s allowed me to recover a part of myself I felt I had lost and would potentially never find again.  It’s incredibly satisfying to feel like myself again.

For many years, growing up, my family and I had enjoyed and active lifestyle.  As a family, we traveled and spent time outdoors being active and finding adventure.  I took this enjoyment of the outdoors into my adult life after I left California and spent a lot of time exploring the wilderness here in Arizona.  Losing this part of my life was devastating and now that I have it back I am amazingly thankful for being back in to an outdoor lifestyle (I’m sure REI is thankful for this as well!).

This blog is a testament to my renewed excitement at being a part of the outdoor community again.  In rebuilding my sense of self and my attachment to the outdoors I’ve stumbled across an amazing local and on-line community of outdoors enthusiasts and wilderness athletics that share my passion.  Through this blog I’ve been able to share myself with this community and it has served to reinforce and strengthen my relationship with, and passion for, the outdoors.  I’m thankful to ALL of you for visiting, reading, sharing and collaborating on this part of my life.

As thankful as I am about all my new friends this year, I can not be more thankful for old friends who have stood by me through the years.  I’m thankful for the friends and family that have helped as I struggle through maintaining a business in a weak economy, for the friends that have been there for me as I bounce in and out of town and for the friends who have given me a reason to smile and laugh when it seems too hard to do so on my own.  For the rounds of drinks, the trips to and from the airport, Sundays watching football, making sure the dogs get fed when I’m gone, Tuesday Steak Night, the encouragement to get back in shape, for making sure I don’t always hike alone, for help fixing the house, help fixing the truck and a thousand other things that make you guys great…..thank you.

Most of all, I am thankful to have the most amazing, beautiful, fun, energetic and exciting woman in my life.  Though our time together these days is limited, we make the most of it.  And this summer she gave me yet another wonderful thing to be thankful for when I asked her to marry me and she said ‘YES’.  So this year, I am very thankful for an amazing relationship with an incredible woman who, by this time next year, will be my beautiful wife.

Hardships and challenges aside, this has been a great year and is hopefully just a hint of the happiness to come.  I wish EVERYONE a happy, healthy and successful Holiday Season.

How my training diet ruined my life…

As many of you know, I have been having some major problems with my health lately.  Since mid September I have dealt with varying degrees of pain, swelling and inflammation that have left me temporarily crippled.  It’s a bad situation, but not as rare as I suspected.

About six or seven years ago, I began having problems with my feet.  After several years of dealing with pain I discovered I was suffering from Gout (and Gouty Arthritis).  Initially diagnosed as a stress fracture, it took many years and many doctor visits to discover this problem because I am not the typical Gout sufferer.  I did not have any of the typical habits, behavior or associated health problems typical of most Gout sufferers and blood tests did not show high Uric acid levels.  After much research and experimentation, I was able to control my problem through diet.  Until recently, I had not had an attack in almost two years.

In September of this year I met with a personal trainer/nutritionist.  My goal was to work up a training plan to cut some body fat and build some lean muscle.  The trainer provided me with a nutrition plan high in natural, lean animal proteins and filled with raw vegetables while, also, eliminating sugars and dairy.  All in all, a very clean, healthy diet.

Within a week I noticed a problem, but didn’t catch the hint right away.  After 5 weeks on the diet I was on crutches and in such ridiculous amounts of pain I could not focus, work or sleep.  So here’s how it developed…

Towards the beginning of the second week I was experiencing pain in my right foot, making it uncomfortable to walk.  The pain was intermittent and would come and go with varying degrees of intensity.  The pain was not as acute as I had typically felt during a true Gout attack, but the result was the same: immobility. Sometimes there was swelling and redness associated with the pain, and other times there was no swelling at all.  The pain seemed to move throughout the foot as well, often feeling like the source of pain changed from one day to the next.

This lasted for about 3 weeks before it seemed to leave my right foot, tricking me in to thinking it was gone.  Within a day or two, it manifested in my left foot with exaggerated intensity and quickly attacked my ankle making it nearly impossible to walk.  I struggled to get around for about a week before the Gouty Arthritis attacked my left knee leaving me no choice but to rely on crutches.  Every move resulted in huge amounts of pain, even sitting still the pain was, at times, unbearable.  My foot, ankle and knee experienced massive swelling and inflammation.  By this time, I had realized what the diet had done and was taking strides to change it.

Now, after dealing with getting the pain under control, I can break down what happened.  People with a disposition for, or history of, Arthritis (Gout, RA, Gouty Arthritis, Pseudo-Gout, etc.) should limit their consumption of animal proteins.  According to a Mayo Clinic web-article outlining a healthy “Gout Diet”,

“Animal proteins are high in purine. Avoid or severely limit high-purine foods, such as organ meats, herring, anchovies and mackerel. Red meat (beef, pork and lamb), fatty fish and seafood (tuna, shrimp, lobster and scallops) are associated with increased risk of gout. Because all meat, poultry and fish contain purines, limit your intake to 4 to 6 ounces (113 to 170 grams) daily.”

My training diet prescribed 12 to 15 ounces of animal protein per day.  In addition to this I was consuming two protein shakes per day and a breakfast consisting of a 7 egg-white omelette.  The animal based proteins are the biggest problem.  Though some people have reported problems with Gout attacks when taking supplemental Protein Shakes, it is usually admitted that the protein shakes are a part of an already high-protein diet.  In fact, most Protein Shake supplements these days are dairy based Whey Protein and in a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine,

We found a strong inverse relation between consumption of dairy products, especially low-fat dairy products, and the incidence of gout. The ingestion of milk proteins (casein and lactalbumin) has been shown to reduce serum uric acid levels in healthy subjects because of the uricosuric effect of these proteins. Conversely, a significant increase in the uric acid level was induced by a dairy-free diet in a four-week randomized clinical trial. Since dairy products are low in purine content, dairy protein may exert its urate-lowering effect without providing the concomitant purine load contained in other protein sources such as meat and seafood. Although other nutrients in dairy products may be responsible for the inverse association, there is currently no relevant biologic or metabolic evidence available.”

The above referenced study points to the second major flaw in my training diet: the elimination of dairy.  Dairy products like low-fat milk, cheese, cottage cheese typically have sugar and salt levels we were trying to avoid in the diet plan supplied by the nutritionist.  As it turns out, eliminating dairy from my diet may have been the catalyst that enabled the severe problem I developed on this diet.  This from a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, “…consumption of dairy products, especially low-fat dairy products, is associated with a substantially reduced risk of gout.”

It also seems that the overall goal of attempting to reduce my body fat may have played a factor.  Over the last 18 months, I have lost nearly 60 pounds.  I have been very careful to lose the weight safely and gradually using a combination of exercise and healthy eating.  In an article discussing obesity and Gout from the Mayo Clinic, “…avoid fasting and rapid weight loss because these can promote a gout attack.”  Though I never had fasted and certainly do not consider my weight loss “rapid”, the fact that I was working to lose weight may have played a role in my issue as well.

Aside from Gout, there are many studies that point to high-protein diets as the culprit for chronic pain issues.  There is a condition commonly referred to as Protein Arthritis, which can cause chronic pain and inflammation in the major joints, back and legs.  Pain usually comes on during times of rest and can be mitigated through activity.  From The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery,

“There is a definite relation between high protein intake and chronic joint pain; this is not always indicated by high uric acid content in the blood, although it may be. There is a definite form of arthritis due to or associated with incomplete metabolism, poor elimination, or both. This condition is found in the young as well as in the old; in the lean as well as in the fat; in those of active as well as those of sedentary habits.”

The associated paper, written by Paul B. Magnuson, M.D., describes many case studies where a patient’s chronic pain issues where a direct result of a high-protein diet and could be managed and/or eliminated through diet.

So, what do I do now?  Well, I am going back to what was working before, following a healthy, clean raw-foods diet with a limited amount of animal protein. I will also reintroduce dairy to my diet and continue to limit over-processed foods with high sodium and sugar content. This from the New England Journal of Medicine,

“A diet designed to prevent gout should derive its protein content from egg whites (instead of whole eggs) and milk products, and should eliminate or substantially reduce consumption of meats and seafood.”

“A higher total intake of animal or vegetable protein was not associated with an increased risk of gout. Actually, our results regarding vegetable-protein intake suggest that protein from vegetable sources may have a protective effect, although its magnitude appeared to be smaller than that provided by dairy protein.”

And from the same article,

“Overall, however, our findings provide prospective evidence that meat consumption and seafood consumption are associated with an increased risk of gout, whereas consumption of dairy products, especially low-fat dairy products, is associated with a substantially reduced risk of gout. In contrast, moderate intake of purine-rich vegetables or protein is not associated with an increased risk of gout.”

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If you have experienced seemingly random joint pain, chronic pain, or any other related issues I would love to hear your story.  

If I can help any single person rid themselves of pain, or find an answer to a chronic problem that is continually misdiagnosed, I will be very happy about having told my story.  Understanding how your body metabolizes proteins and what problems can come from consuming too much protein is important to feeling better and being more active.  Mine was a problem that, multiple times, completely wrecked my health.  Doctors have a difficult time diagnosing these nutrition related issues because the symptoms are so general and misleading.  If you suspect you may have an issue, simply try reducing (or eliminating) your protein consumption for a month and see what happens.  What could it hurt?