One foot at a time | One sole at a time | One hell of a good time


Friday, September 18, 2009

Living Barefoot Show Interview

From the www.LivingBarefoot.info website: We Interview Barefoot Ted: An avid barefooter, Barefoot Ted tells us the story about how he became a barefooter, started his own line of huarache running sandals, and was featured in the best selling book, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.

Duration: 60 minutes

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Friday, July 03, 2009

Minimalist Runner - Barefoot, Huaraches, FiveFingers...

Howdy Folks

You may have found your way to my blog after reading "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall. If so, welcome.

Many of you are probably looking for answers to the question how to run barefoot or with Vibram Fivefingers or with huarache sandals. You can learn from my experiences over the last 5 years recorded in this blog or participate in one of my coaching seminars.

However, to be up-to-date and part of a larger and growing community of footwear minimalists and barefoot explorers I suggest you check out the Minimalist Runner Google Group I started a couple years ago. You will find many like minded folks who are sharing their insights from a growing body of research and personal experience.

The mission of the Minimalist Runner Google Group is to share experiences running with minimalistic footwear, footwear that allows the foot to feel and to develop strength naturally, barefoot being the gold standard.

This group seeks to dispel the
myth that you need an overly supportive, cushioned, orthopedic shoe-boot in order to push the limits of human potential in running and exploring the world. As a matter of fact, many in the group like me suggest that not only do you not need them, you are better off without them.

Please feel free to join and share YOUR experiences and YOUR adventures, big or small.


PS. The photo above ALMOST became the cover of "Born to Run" but I did not have a high enough resolution photo of it...a kind of self-portrait taken in the Verdugo Mountains near Burbank.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

2008 Leadville Trail 100 - 28:33

Photo by Lorraine Gersitz, leaving Winfield

I did it! I may have set a record for lateness leaving Winfield and time back to finish. I actually had one of the 13th best Looking forward to getting the data (Note: check out Chris Labbe's website on Leadville statistics for some very interesting data and charts, LT 100 Data Project).
Actually, the data is now available here.

Ran most of the course in Vibram FiveFingers, some with huaraches and quite a bit barefoot!



1. Spending a week in Leadville acclimatizing and meeting old and new friends.

2. Doing the entire race carrying all my own gear from start to finish except for food which I had in drop-bags at the various aid stations.

3. Running over half of the trail from Half Moon to Twin Lakes barefoot and going up to Hope Pass aid station barefoot...just too muddy for shoes and finding a great hiking stick somewhere along the way.

4. Dealing just fine with freezing cold wind, slippery mud, icy rain, hail so thick the trail was unseeable and snow. Crazy.

5. Being treated like a king by the best volunteers ever at each and every aid station. Thank you!

6. Feeling strongest while leaving Half Moon on the way back, running and running and running.

7. The joy of putting on my VFF KSOs after running and hiking for so long barefoot.

8. Staying consistent with my nutrition all the way through the race. Every aid station I would mix up my sports drink (maltodextrin, hemp protein, green magma, rehydration salt), chewed two Clif blocks and slurped some of my Hammer Gel with shelled hemp seeds. Never felt nausea, never felt low energy.

9. Realization that huaraches DO NOT work well in mud and rain!

10. Seeing the finish line after 28+ hours of adventure.


A huge thank you to Vibram Five Fingers for getting me through this race. Five Fingers are the ultimate footwear for those who want to learn to run with the trail. It is not about beating oneself up or enduring more pain, no, not at all. Rather, it is about learning to run gently and thoughtfully through a rugged environment. Learning how to feel the trail and respond to it. It is about subtle balance that the toes need to be part of. It is about freedom and elegance and simplicity. Give them a try.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Why Huaraches?

Yes, most of you know me as a barefoot runner or a runner who endorses Vibram FiveFingers barefoot shoes. Both of these things are true. But I have been fascinated by the Tarahumara (Raramuri) Indians' footwear known as huaraches (or in the native tongue akaraches, ah-ka-ra-cheese) for a long time. Some old hippies call them Jesus Sandals, and some history buffs might think of them as gladiator sandals. But that's another story.

Running in Huaraches

My fascination with huarache sandals goes back to when I first read about some Tarahumara who had run the Angeles Crest 100 mile trail race wearing such seemingly unconventional footwear. How could it be done? Didn't they need more support? What about cushioning?

My research eventually led me to try barefoot running. A decision that led to great improvements in my running ability. Learning how to run well barefoot seems to be a fundamental first step in finding the best way to move your body on two legs, a fundamental step that is the beginning of a path of stronger and healthier running and living.

But what about rocky trails? What about urban environments and hard surfaces? Is barefoot always best?

Some folks enjoy being purists. They want to be barefoot everywhere and always. It can be done and is a viable option. However, I think some of the purists make the mistake of assuming that ALL footwear is bad in All situations. True, so much of the sports shoe industry has been built on junk science and mass marketing, but does that mean all footwear is bad? No, I don't think so. I am looking for balance.

My thinking has led me to study indigenous people and the footwear they use. You can learn a lot by studying shoes worn by people who survive on their feet, people who rely on their speed and agility for survival. The Tarahumara of Northern Mexico are such a people. They don't use footwear because of brands or logos, they pick it for practicality and effectiveness. It is always quite comforting to find shoe designs that have lasted for generations, footwear designs that are made by the people who wear them. The huarache or akarache is such a thing.

Other times and places have come up with designs and materials best suited for those environments. Yet, the huarache is designed and worn by people known for their long-distance, mountain running skills, worn by a people whose name for themselves, Raramuri, means fleet of foot. The fact that these proud running people wear huaraches made it clear to me that I was going to have to give them a try.

My first opportunity to try huaraches came in March 2006 on my first visit to the Copper Canyon. I was invited to participate in the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon put on by Micah True a.k.a Caballo Blanco (see his site here) in the town of Urique deep in the heart of the Sierra Tarahumara. While on the trip, I spent a lot of time trying to understand the huaraches. I even got so lucky as to have famed Tarahumara runner Manuel Luna make me a pair of huaraches. That started my love affair with these amazing sandals.

So, starting in April 2006, I began trying to run in the huaraches that Manuel had made for me. It was not easy learning how to tie them. I made a lot of mistakes. Furthermore, the pair he made for me were quite heavy, for he used the thickest, most expensive tire tread available (you buy section of used tire tread in little shops in Urique. They display the pieces like dried fish on hooks...He picked the best for me, so he thought).

I started imagining that perhaps there was a better material to make huaraches. I talked with one of Vibram's sole designers and asked if he had any material that he thought might work as a sandal sole. He sent me some stuff that I tested and liked. I have been experimenting ever since trying to find the perfect balance of lightweight, grip, cushion, style and strength.

Then I went back to the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon in 2007. This time I ran the race in a pair of my own huaraches. I also paid even more attention to the Tarahumara, learning the nuances of tying and designing the huaraches. This was a fantastic experience and greatly deepened my understanding and appreciation of the sandals.

I started selling huarache sandal-making kits and started making custom huaraches, learning as I went. I started experimenting with different sole materials and different strapping materials and different ways of building the sandals. I shared what I knew as I went forward and learned a lot from others on the internet.

At the same time I kept testing and using Vibram's FiveFinger shoes. They helped me to complete the Angeles Crest 100 mile race two years in a row. Something that I knew I could not do barefoot, and something that I was not sure my sandals where ready for.

Now I have come to the point where I think I have learned how to make a sandal that can handle the rigors of a 100 mile trail race. My newest huaraches sport a leather top footbed to add strength to the sides and comfort. I am also quite intriqued with a new neoprene sole material that is lightweight (less than 4 ounces) with surfside sand-like cushioning and strength. I think they are the best ever.

I believe that there are a growing number of runners and outdoor enthusiasts who are looking for time-tested solutions to the challenge of traveling on foot over rugged terrain. The huarache is a viable alternative, and it is an alternative that you can learn how to make yourself.

The sandals I am wearing in the photos above are my 6mm Vibram neoprene soled huaraches with leather footbed (for strength) and leather laces.


PS. You can get a kit to make your own huaraches here. There are also instructions on how to make a pair to download for free.

PSS. You can learn how to tie you huaraches here.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

AC 100 Training Night Run: Chantry to Finish

We started at Chantry at around 10:30 PM and headed for the finish.

The course was as dry as I have ever seen it. Most streams are now dry. The trailwork that has been done between Idle Hour and Sam Merrill is very evident. Great work. Also, the Mt. Wilson Toll Road has been graded and was like running on fine powdered snow.

I decided to test both 6mm double-hemp huarache and a 6mm latigo leather huarache...again.

On the way up the first long climb, the leather sandal pulled through the toe hole. I took the sandal off and continued climbing with one barefoot. Really no problem going up. As I climbed, I repaired the sandal, so by the time we took a rest, I could pop it back on, no worse for wear.

I had the toe knot come loose on the hemp sandal on the way down Sam Merrill. Repaired it on the road and continued.

I purposely went out with sandals that had been heavily used last week. I need to become completely confident in using these sandals including being able to repair on the road while moving if necessary.

Thanks for a great night training run.


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Sunday, July 01, 2007

San Gorgonio: 11,502 ft. Barefoot Up Huarache Down

Me, Larry and Jeff: Summit of San Gorgonio

Headstand on the Summit

One Hemp and One Leather Huarache with 6mm Vibram
Coming down in huaraches

What a great climb. Barefoot runner Larry Miquelon of Moreno Valley, CA invited me to climb Mt. San Gorgonio, the highest peak in Southern California, with him and his son Jeff. He had recently purchased some huarache kits and was eager to test them on a real mountain run.

Spent the night Friday, got up early Saturday and headed for the South Fork Trail. On the way to the trail, we ran into
Angeles Crest 100 veteran Angel Perez running along the highway and said hello.

From parking lot to summit is 11.6 miles. Larry and I went up barefoot.
Barefooting is much easier than it seems when going up, even steep rocky trails. We both summitted barefoot. It took 4 hours to make it to the top.

Coming down we switched into
huaraches. As you can imagine, we got interesting comments and questions both ways.


PS. Read about my barefoot climbs of Mt. Whitney, tallest mountain USA (except Alaska) click here.

Mt. San Gorgonio, tallest peak in Southern California, 11.502 ft. (3,505 meters)

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Double Hemp vs. Latigo Leather Huarache Test

Leather on 6mm Vibram & Double Hemp on Elephant Bark (6.34mm)

Vibram vs. Elephant Bark

Broke a hemp strap

Took the two thicker soled huaraches out for a tough, hot and fast run up and down La Tuna Canyon's Hostetter Fire Road. Almost 4 miles up and 4 miles down.

The soles performed wonderfully on the hard rocky road.

A problem developed with the double hemp on the way up. I broke one of the straps. I believe that I have the holes too far in on the ankle holes on this version giving much more surface area for the hemp to touch the ground under a weight bearing area and get abraded.

Otherwise, the double hemp felt AS GOOD AS the leather. If I were to have added wetness to this run, the double hemp would have become the clear winner, but the break makes me have to go back to the drawing board.

I am fairly certain that I can fix the problem. So, this weekend will be a hard one testing several version getting OH SO CLOSE to a production model.



Sunday, June 17, 2007

Double Hemp Elephant Bark & Grommet Huarache Tests

Great weekend for huarache testing here in Los Angeles.

Angeles Crest: Test Course

On Saturday, I ran 20 miles of Angeles Crest 100 trails testing out some new huarache improvements. Unfortunately, the first part of my experiment failed when incorrectly sized rubber grommets failed and I tore the ankle hole out on a pair of Elephant Bark huaraches with leather straps.

6mm vs 4mm: Rocky Running

The last 10 miles of the run was mostly rocky, downhill single track. I wore a 6mm VIBRAM Cherry soled huarache on one foot and a 4mm on the other. Both with hemp.

The 6mm Cherry is a much better mountain sole. The 4mm Cherry is best suited for situations where you want a little protection and a lot of feel. 4mm acts more like a second skin which makes it a better choice for shorter, less technical runs.

New Hemp Discovery: 2 better than 1

Sunday had some great discoveries (see above) including the realization that 2 strands of the 5mm braided hemp might be better than one. It IS better. The feel is very nice and it looks good too. Much more testing necessary, but it is very promising.

Brass Grommets: very nice

I also tested some brass grommets on a 4mm Vibram Cherry sole. The grommets are too big, but the idea is good. More work needs to be done.

Finally, I repaired some tears and problem grommets using rubber grommets and donuts with Rhino glue.



Friday, June 15, 2007

Holy Huarache Sole and Hole Tests

Holy Huarache Sole and Hole Tests

Holy Huarache Sole

Took an old (pre-Cherry) Vibram sole rubber (Q487) and filled it with 7/32" (5.55mm) holes to see if it would be "airier" and a little less slippery when wet or sweaty.

As for making it less slick, the holes worked. However, for whatever reason, the sole felt hotter than the sole without holes!?

Holy Huarache Hole

Also, tested out a hole repair idea for torn ankle holes. Using excess material from a pair of sandals, I punched out some rubber donut/washers and Rhino glued them to the footbed. Worked perfectly. Only drawback, a little too thick, otherwise perfect.


Click here to view my latest huarache running sandal kits and custom made offerings.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Elephant Bark Huaraches: Big Tujunga 20 Miler Test Run

Big Tujunga Valley with Condor Peak in Background

Hot Rough Pavement
Took my Elephant Bark Huaraches for a midday HOT ASPHALT run.

Rubber is NOT an good insulator. It will get hot, and one must be aware of that.

In most trail situations, it is not a problem, but it could be on an open stretch of black asphalt in the middle of a sunny day.

So, I decided to see what would happen.

I will get into details later, but the most important thing to say is that I made it through 20 miles without any serious difficulties.


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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

What's wrong with this ad from the 1980s?

What's wrong with this ad from the 1980s? Plenty.

Fellow Club Mas Loco member, Jenn Shelton, sent me this Bill Rodgers sportsware ad from the 1980s. This is exactly the kind of thing that Club Mas Loco Presidente, Micah True aka Caballo Blanco, loves to hate. And who can blame him?

In reality, it would be a much more interesting ad if it were from the perspective of the Tarahumara runners trying to help us backward, so-called civilized runners appreciate Raramuri technology.

Or show how people like those at the Native Seeds Organization (Ancient Seeds for Modern Needs) help preserve traditional plant varieties in seedbanks to be distributed freely when needed.


Backwards into the sunset.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Verdugo Mountain Huarache Test Run

Looking Down from the Top of My Journey

Aluminum Washer Fails

Aluminum Washer Before Run

Today I wanted to test a new material that I am very impressed with, i.e., aluminum cut from a beer can which I glued directly to the rubber with Rhino Glue.

I used the aluminum washer to repair breaks on an earlier pair of test huaraches. It held for nearly 10 miles of very steep hiking/running.

The strength of the bond of the aluminum to the rubber was better than any other material that I tested. Unfortunately, the way I made the washer, or the thinness of the aluminum, caused it to fail after climbing up an extremely steep, loose-graveled trail.

I barefooted home.


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Saturday, June 02, 2007

New Google Group: Huaraches - Indigenous Running Sandals

Photo Copyrighted Luis Escobar

I have started a new Google Group (forum) titled:

Huaraches - Indigenous Running Sandals

Join with link below:


The mission of the group is to:

Share experiences running in and making huarache running sandals and other indigenous and minimal running sandals and shoes.

Dispelling the myth that you need an overly supportive, cushioned, orthopedic boot in order to push the limits of human potential in running and exploring the world.

Please feel free to join and share YOUR experiences with using minimal and time-tested sandals and shoes on YOUR adventures, big or small.


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Saturday, May 26, 2007

How to Tie BFT's Hemp-Strapped Huarache Running Sandals

Watch this video to learn how I tie my hemp-strapped huarache running sandals.

Organic Hemp Huaraches

My newest huarache running sandal uses braided organic hemp for strapping and Vibram Cherry soling material. This is a 100 mile mountain trail running sandal. Sole and hemp could handle 500 miles in stride.

You can make your own. Within one year of focused pursuit, I can't imagine why anyone with a desire to make their own 100 mile shoes couldn't do it, so just DO IT!

My Latigo Leather Huaraches
After Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon 2007
Photo Andrew Labbe

I am now offering huarache running sandal kits and custom made sandals, go to:




Sunday, May 20, 2007

27 Mile Mountain Training Run - Hemp Huaraches

Coming into Eagles Roost Aid Station
Angeles Crest 100 Training Run*

Decided to put my latest hemp-strapped huaraches to a good, tough mountain trail training test run. I fully expected to be doing repairs while on the trails, and those expectations proved accurate.

Firstly, I want to say that I am still very pleased overall with my huarache sandals. But, there is still room for lots of improvement, and I am constantly trying to find the perfect solution for a running shoe/sandal that is both effective, minimal and green.

Close-up on the new huaraches

Hemp is proving to be a fantastic material for straps. The material is soft enough to not tear into my skin. It is stronger than leather and becomes tighter when wet. Just like with the leather straps, these can be repaired on the fly with extra material around the ankle.

Close-up on the new huaraches 2

The biggest new problem I encountered is the side holes on the huaraches breaking. I am afraid that this is a problem that all my huaraches up to this point will be susceptible. The Vibram soles that I have been using are only 4mm thick!

All went well today. After 27 miles, my feet are pain free with no blisters or significant scrapes from today's run.


PS. This test puts me one step closer to making a pair of sandals entirely out of yucca that could handle the rugged terrain of one of the toughest 100 mile races in the USA.

*Photos by Christina Hennessey

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Hemp-Strapped Huarache Sandals

My New Hemp-Strapped Huaraches 3.7 ounces

My latest experiment includes using hemp twine instead of leather on my Vibram-soled huaraches.

I went for a 15 miler yesterday in the hot afternoon LA sun. I took these new huaraches up and down rocky trails and on the road. They handled beautifully.

These sandals bring me one step closer to my ultimate goal for this year's Angeles Crest 100. I want to run the race in a pair of yucca sandals similar to the sandals that the original Los Angelenos wore. Hemp twine is a good temporary substitute for yucca cordage.


PS. I bought my hemp twine at cord at DownBound.com

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Tough Feet - preserved?

My Feet After 2007 Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon

My feet continue to get tougher even though I have been doing a fair amount of training and racing in my thin-soled huaraches and my Vibram FiveFingers.

Foot toughness is not built simply by exposing the bare foot to the ground.

As many of us barefooters have said regularly, you don't want your feet to become hard and desensitized. You want them to feel. Some things will always feel bad on a barefoot. Those things hurt because your foot is telling you that you are not ready for that, bare. Your feet are training YOU.

Foot toughness comes as the WHOLE FOOT develops and learns. So, minimally protecting the sole, as long as the rest of the foot can do what it is supposed to do, should not stop the overall development of the foot.

My feet are as strong as ever, even stronger than ever before. I expect that they will continue to develop the more I nurture and train them, the more they nurture and train me.

We shall see. So far, so good.


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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Wild Mountain Runner Club - Condor Peak

Condor Peak (far peak in middle of photo) viewed from home.
Elevation 5440 ft.

The last 4 Sundays have been spent running with the San Fernando and Hansen Dam Wild Mountain Runners.

Today was one hell of a run. Starting at Sunland Park, Freddie Perez and I ran up into Big Tujunga Canyon all the way to Gold Creek Road. We were heading to the famous Condor Peak. We didn't plan on going all the way to the top, but we tore of a pretty good chunk out of it.

In the 80s and 90s, WMRs would park at the entrance to Gold Creek Road and do training runs to the top of Condor Peak. This is extremely wild country despite how close it is to LA. Amazing.


PS. Wore my huaraches. These made the insanely rocky trails totally tolerable.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

How to Tie Huarache Sandals Part 2

A couple more videos showing the tieing of huarache sandals. Videos taken while participating in the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon 2007.


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Monday, March 12, 2007

Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon in Huaraches

Crossing the bridge at mile 10

My huaraches after the race

Successfully completed the race in 9:44, an hour better than last year. The entire race covers between 47 and 49 miles. Wore my hand-made, Vibram-soled huaraches for the entire race. They worked perfectly. My feet were fine after the race...only a little dirty!

I learned more secrets about the huaraches on this trip. For on thing, the name in Raramuri is akarache or akahuarache. Secondly, I learned a better, simpler way to tie them. Finally, I learned that most of the Indians use their huaraches in daily life as workboots etc. They are not particularly interested in a thinner sole. The Vibram soles on my sandals are only 4mm thick. You can still FEEL plenty and they are extremely flexible.

I like to put myself as first place in the division of gringos who ran the race with shoes that they made themselves!


PS. Photos by Chris and Andrew Labbe

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon - Walking the Course

This footage is from two days before the race. We all walked the first section of the course together.

Some of the walkers include Arnulfo, winner of last year's race, and Scott Jurek, winner of this year's race.

Having fun hanging out with our Raramuri friends.

After the hike, we had fun at a swimming spot under the bridge complete with diving.


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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Verdugo Mountains Training Run - A Little Bit of Everything

Today's run had a little bit of everything:

Got in about 12 miles wearing huaraches, 8 miles barefoot and 5 with FiveFingers. The weather was perfect, hot but not too hot with winds blowing storm clouds in at the horizon.

Barefoot Freedom (at Experimental Forest)

Barefoot Freedom 2

Huaraches, Rock and Agave

FiveFingers Rail Walking (video below)

There are SO MANY great trails around here. I am looking forward to introducing more (but not TOO MANY) to this wonderful mountain playground we have in our backyards, with full-size cats to boot. These mountains deserve an ultramarathon. Winter 2008, let's make the first Verdugo Mountains 50 Miler.

Proposed Course: Start at Village Christian School go to Brand Library and on the way go down and up all the side trails.


Although it does not look like a big deal, that rail is razor thin at the top.
I just could not resist that background and my new joy of balancing.
Music by Deep Purple

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Huarache Training Run - 20 Miler on AC 100 Course

Elevation guide showing Sam Merrill

Short clip running down El Prieto Trail from Upper Brown Mtn. Trail
Music by System of a Down from my daughter's iTunes purchased list

This past Sunday was a good test for the huaraches. I took them over to the last portion of the Angeles Crest 100 Endurance Run course to see how they could handle some nasty, rocky switch backs.

I started up the mountain near where the AC 100 ends at Johnson Field. Caught the El Prieto Trail to the Upper Brown Mountain Trail over to Millard Campground. In the early part of the course, I was having to go through a bunch of little streams and puddles, so I had some more testing of wet sandals.

From Millard I headed toward Echo Mtn. eventually on the Sunset Trail, and then from Echo Mtn., I got on the Middle Sam Merrill Trail which brought me up to the junction of the Mt. Lowe Road, Idlehour Trail and Inspiration Point Road. Elevation 4700 feet. So total run had about 4700 feet of climbing.

On the way back I got to test the huaraches' ability to handle downhills on some potentially slippery swithbacks. Not a single stumble. Not a single stubbed toe. I was on my game.

Map of my run, 10 miles up and 10 miles down...

Per normal, I took my FiveFingers along in case of huarache malfunction, but I didn't need to use them.


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