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


Saturday, March 06, 2010

Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon 2010

Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon CUMM 2007 (the second year for me)

Tomorrow, March 7, 2010, will be the start of the running of the 2010 Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon.  I ask all of you to send good energy to all the participants this year. 

To have been blessed to be part of this event has been life changing.  To have gotten a chance to come to know and love the Raramuri people and all the friends of the Tarahumara has been a true honor...a major blessing for me, adding richness and insight to my life in doses so large that it continuously boggles my mind and leaves me with a deep sense of gratitude and thankfulness.

Indeed the Raramuri culture of korima is something that touches all of us with its simple beauty and trust in the human-divine spirit of sharing and mutual love.  Let that spirit live on in all of us as we recognize it in our own lives and in our own circles of friends, family and colleagues...and other co-inhabitants on this incredible planet.

Someday, you too may be blessed to run in the Canyons, to meet Caballo Blanco and touch fingertips with Arnulfo or some of the other local legends.  In the meantime, you can always try and book a trek in the canyons with the ole' Caballo himself (see: www.caballoblanco.com) or support the Norwas de Raramuri - Friends of the Running People - non-profit founded by Caballo (see: www.norawas.org).

May the Raramuri continue to run free and strong...and you too.


PS.  The photo montage above I made in 2007 shortly after returning from my second year of participating, the year after McDougall came down, the year following the year covered in the book "Born to Run".  It is an amazing tribute to the beauty of the experience.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

As far as I know, this is the first ever public review of the book.

This is a masterpiece. A work on running that will define running for a new generation of runners.

Christopher McDougall asks a simple question: Why does my foot hurt?

His answer spans the centuries and brings us to the cutting edge of running revelations that are as old as our genes.

Our generation of runners have seen it all. Many today thinking that to run is dangerous and that the foot is a death-trap injury appendage waiting to happen. Makes sense, for many runners running today have never known of any other way to run than with big, overly cushioned orthotic boots...cuz our feet are no good and need lots of help, right?

Christopher tells a great tale using an obscure race and race director, a tribe of beautiful people and a rag tag group of ultra runners to weave a story that brings us to a place where rediscovery of our primal connection to running...free of marketing and big bucks and bad science...leads us to new possibilities and a change of thinking that is applicable to any human being wishing to locomote herself on two legs.

This book is at-one-and-the-same-time an adventure tale of impossible possibilities and a cutting edge running research journal entry.

Take a wild trip and read this book. You're gonna love it.


PS. The book I am reading is an uncorrected proof. Actual book to be published on May 7, 2009.

PSS. Did I mention I am one of the most garrulous characters in the book? Buyer beware.

PSSS. For the latest information about the race, i.e., the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon, be sure to check out Caballo Blanco's website here: www.caballoblanco.com you can read this year's race report here.

Link below takes you to Amazon.com to preorder ORDER:

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

Link below to audio book preorder ORDER:


Now available Born to Run T-shirts

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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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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Caballo Blanco Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon


Passing through the middle of Urique

Race report by Race Director Caballo Blanco see www.CaballoBlanco.com
Photos from Josue Stephens and Chris Labbe
Click here for all photos

Primary result: Beauty

The seventh running of the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon, and the fourth annual running of the CCUM in the Urique canyon had about 100 starters and 37 finishers. There is nothing quite like it, anywhere. I am just the RD horse. What do I know?

Leading a group to Los Alisos two days before the race

There was almost $6,000 in prize money spread among the top 10 finishers, $1,000 of that for the top three women, and all finishers split 30,000 pounds of maiz accordingly. ALL participants will also be awarded maize.

A big thanks to all who care enough to read about it, and especially to those who have participated over the last few years and have become Mas Loco!

Caballo Blanco

3--Isidro Lechuga--Piedras Verdes, Urique--6:49
4--Florencio Quimare--Ocorare, Batopilas--6:58
5--Arnulfo Quimare--Chepatare, Batopilas--7:11

6--Cervando Gutierez--Huisuchi, Batopilas--7:14
7--Antonio Luna--Munerachi, Batopilas--7:19
8--Silvino Cubezare--Huisuchi, Batopilas--7:32
9--Dolores Estrada--Huicorachi, Urique--7:35
10--Corpus Estrada--Huicorachi, Urique--7:36

11--Arnulfocito Mendoza--Santa Rita, Batopilas--7:42
12--Silverio Ramirez--Tatoguichi, Guachochi--7:51
13--Ignacio Nacho Palma--Chawaloco, Batopilas--8:04
First woman!

Second River Crossing

16--Leanardo Cleto--Piedras Verdes, Urique--8:38
19--Epitanio Quimare--Chinivo, Batopilas--8:52
20--Santos Reyes--Basiguare, Guachochi--8:56
21--Sebastiano Gutierez--San Jose, Batopilas--8:57
22--Sergio Mancinas--Urique--9:01
23--ABI STEPHENS--LA LINCE--OREGON--9:07---Second woman!
24--Enrique Moreno--San Rafael, Urique--9:09
25--THERESA DO--LA PALOMA--COLORADO--9:15---third woman!
28--Luis Cleto--Piedras Verdes, Urique--9:32
29--Jose Cruz--Piedras Verdes, Urique--9:32
30--Arnulfo Gonzales--GUadalupe Coranado, Urique--10:00
31--LEAH JUREK--LA ALMA HERMOSA--WASHINGTON--10:23--fourth woman!
33--Lorenzo Catsro--Guadalupe Coranado, Urique--10:31
34--Margarita Lerna--Panalachi, Bocoyna--10:38---FIRST TARAHUMARA WOMAN, fifth woman overall!
35--Jesus Perez--Munerachi, Batopilas--10:38
36--Carlos Concheno--Urique--11.00

Race Brochure in Spanish

Sunday, March 2, 2008 was just another beautiful day in the deep canyon country of La Sierra Madre.

On the previous Wednesday they came, 4 gringo runners and El Caballo Blanco walking over from the deep canyon town of Batopilas, encountering 14 Batopilas canyon Raramuri en route, and walking together over la Sierra then down into the 6,200 foot deep canyon town of Urique, where we encountered more Raramuri and the rest of the gringo runners, men and women.

There were 136 running participants, of which about 100 started the
47 mile ultra. 36 local townspeople and a few international runners
participated by running one of the two 18 mile loops with us, either
the first loop upriver, or the second downriver loop. Many excited
children ran short distances with us when we were entering and
leaving the deep canyon small town of Urique beginning and ending
each loop. EVERYBODY participated!

The ultra run finishes with an 11 mile out and back after the two
longer loops.

Out of the 100 or so ultra starters and 38 finishers, 15 were from
the United States, France and Italy, 6 Mexican runners from
Chihuahua, and one local Urique Mexican man, whom finished near to
last, and was awarded $100 for being the only towns-person runner to
do so.

First place went to a humble and relatively unknown young Oregon Man named Joe Grant-
-El Tortuga Lluvia--Rain Turtle. The 24 year old turtle does not run, nor looks
much like his animal helper. In Fact, the Turtle broke Scott Jurek's-
-El Venado, the Stag Deer, course record of 6:32, lowering the
record to 6:24!

Nevada speedster Josh Brimhall--El Antilope Desierto, Desert
Antelope, was second, followed by 8 Raramuri--Tarahumara runners
rounding out the top 10. ALL United States, and our new Italion friend, Franco--
El Aguila del Alpes, Eagle of the Alps, finished.

The first place woman was Amanda McIntosh--La Yegua Negra
Peligrosa, Dangerous Black Mare, from Texas and Leadville, Colorado. Amanda
generously gave her $500 winnings to the 3 Tarahumara women
participants. Yes, Raramuri women came, And the bridge between
running cultures has now been constructed and crossed by our lovely
Mas Loca women runners, acting as the messengers--Andale!

Josh and Joe also gave their combined $2,500 winnings back to the
Raramuri people in the form of sharing some of their winnings with
the 8 Raramuri rounding out the top 10, and putting the rest into
the CCUM Seed Farm--sustainable agriculture project we have begun in
cooperation with Native Seeds Search. Nobody had to do that; and
they Did!....Korima.

Theresa Do--La Paloma--Dove, won cash and corn by finishing 3rd woman.
Abigail Stephens--La Lince--Lynx, finished second and
won $300. Yes, we have prize money for the top 3 women. There was a
grand total of about 9 women ultra runners....not bad odds -:

As well as the cash prizes of about $5,000 for the top ten overall
and another $1,000 for the top 3 women--who have a chance to
double their winnings when taking a top 10 overall spot, a ton of corn is
awarded to each of the top 5 finishers, and a half ton to the 6-10th
place finishers. ALL finishers after that are awarded 500 pounds of
All gringos gave the corn back to the people however they wanted to do
so, and we now have to deliver, I can only guess at this early point,
about 30,000 pounds of corn....A horse`s work is never done -:

Thanks for mucho help and support in many ways from Chris Labbe-
-El Cabro Colorado--Mountain Goat, whom also printed up beautiful
calenders from last year`s race event and gave them to the Urique towns-people.

The CCUM is sponsored by this kind of generosity, called Korima in
the Raramuri language--sharing, a gift, unconditional and beautiful,
the reward for giving being whatever may come back around in the
circle. And what does, along with whatever else, is always beauty.


May the Raramuri and all of us contunue to run free.

Caballo Blanco de La Sierra Madre - see www.CaballoBlanco.com

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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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Monday, April 16, 2007

NativeSeeds.org & Club Mas Loco

The mission of Native Seeds/SEARCH is to conserve, distribute, and document the adapted and diverse varieties of agricultural seeds, their wild relatives and the role these seeds play in cultures of the American Southwest and Northwest Mexico.

Micah True's (Caballo Blanco' s) Club Mas Loco is working with Native Seeds to help support the Tarahumara' s way of life.

A letter from Suzanne Nelson to Club Mas Loco Members:

Hey Ted,

A quick update......the 'official' name for this project (internal to NS/S at any rate) is now the Batopilas Canyon Seed Project. You can use this to earmark checks for growing seeds for the Tarahumara that will be distributed via Micah's efforts. Our bookkeeper will recognize anything with Mas Loco or other such title, but just wanted to let you know how to tell your friends to earmark their checks.

Thanks again for your interest and help in getting the seeds back to Tarahumara communities.
Please visit the NativeSeeds.org website and donate what you can.


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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon - Week in Review

The above slideshow complete with Phillip Glass music was put together using photos from taken by several members of the Grupo Animales otherwise known as Club Mas Loco.

These photos cover the beginning to the end of the trip, including the hike over from Batopilas to Urique the pre-race ceremony, the race and post-race celebration.

Results from (www.CaballoBlanco.com) : The Ultra Marathon had 38 starters and 20 finishers.

1) Scott Jurek (33)--El Venado--Chumari'--Washington-- 6:32
2) Arnulfo (27)--Chepatare--Batopilas canyon 6:50
3) Billy Barnett (22)--El Rana Lobo--Wolf Frog--Virginia 6:59
4) Jenn Shelton (23)--La Brujita--Little Witch--Virginia 7:00
5) Manuel Luna (42)--Gavilana--Batopilas canyon 7:47
6) Arnulfocito (18)--Santa Rita--Batopilas canyon 8:00
7) Nacho Palma (42)--Quirare--Batopilas canyon 8:03
8) Martin Gallito (21)--Chepatare--Batopilas canyon 8:10
9) Leonardo Cleto (22)--Piedras Verdes, Urique canyon 8:12
10) Jose Hilario (22)--Piedras Verdes, Urique canyon 8:13
11) Sebastiano (37)--San Jose, Batopilas canyon 8:16
12) Mike Adams (38)--El Perro Grande-Big Dog-Washington 8:48
13) Micah True (54)--El Caballo Blanco--White Horse--???? 8:58
14) Barefoot Ted McDonald (42)--El Mono--Monkey--California 9:44
15) Charlie Crissman (38)--El Buho--The Owl--Washington 9:54
16) Chriss Labbe (37)--El Cabro--The goat--Colorado 10:02
17) Jamil Courey (22)--El Carnero--The Ram--Arizona 10:16
18) Deborah Bezanis (49)--La Cebolla--The Onion-Chicago 11:33
19) Samuel Warren (38)--El Girafa--The Giraffe--Washington 11:33

20) 36 miler: Leah Jurek (30)--La Venada--Dear--Washington 8:20


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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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Friday, February 23, 2007

Bags Packed Ready to Go - Mexico or Bust

I stopped by Rick Wilson's office today and picked up about 30lbs of Clif Bar products that were donated to the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon. The green bag is filled with Clif Bloks, Shots and mini Bars and some replacement drink powder which I will hand over to Caballo Blanco for distribution to race participants. Thanks Rick.

Some of the other goodies that I am bringing with me include some Zombie Runner caps and some Vibram Rubber Sole material. These will be given as bonus prizes to the top finishers.

I am also bringing my video camera, so I fully expect to get some great footage of the beautiful Sierra Tarahumara, Mexico's Copper Canyon known as the Barranca del Cobre in Spanish.


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Monday, February 12, 2007

Bob Francis Memorial

Photos of Bob Francis at last year's Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon by Joe Ramirez (Luis Escobar's father).

Rest in Peace Amigo. Click photos to enlarge.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Tarahumara Huarache Sandal Rocky Trail Running Test

I took my huaraches out to Hansen Dam in Los Angeles and put them through some thorough testing today. I ran about 10 miles on some of the rockiest trails I could find. My 5mm thick, four ounce Vibram-rubber soled sandals worked perfectly.

You can usually trust indigenous design when it comes to active footwear. These sandals and others similar have been around for 1000s of years, and I know why. They have no frills, just exactly what you need and not a bit more. Elegant design.

What I am also finding is that nothing gets trapped under the foot. The strapping system is the very minimum, and with no straps and other excess, the stones, sand, etc., don' t stay in.

I will be wearing these sandals in the upcoming Copper Canyon Ultramarathon on March 4th in Mexico.


PS. By the way, I am able to run barefoot in all places you see me running in the video. It is just a lot easier to do with the huaraches. The point is that wearing huaraches does not mean you can plod your way down rocky hills safely. The real trick is learning how to be LIGHT on your feet.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Tarahumara Huarache Sandal Test cont.

Indigenous Design

Trail Home

As mentioned last week, I received some rubber sole material from Peter, Vibram sole designer. I quickly made a pair of Raramuri-style huaraches. The sole on these sandals is quite thin, just 5mm which makes them much lighter (about 4 ounces) than my truly authentic, Manuel Luna produced, huarache sandals and significantly more flexible.

Rock Climbing

I took them out on a 10+ mile hike-run in the mountains above Burbank, California. Today was quite clear. The ocean could be seen in the distance along with Catalina Island, Griffith Park and Downtown LA. The sandals performed perfectly. I think I am getting addicted.

Crest Running

My goal is to wear a pair of huaraches during the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon on March 4th in Urique, Mexico. The race is nearly 50 miles on mountain roads, so I am doing all I can to prepare. These modified sandals may be the answer.

Ocean View

Burnt Rock

New Tree

I have much more testing to do with these sandals, but today was a huge success. I did not need to constantly adjust these sandals. They stayed snug the entire journey. I did not get any hotspots or blisters. My feet are getting used to the leather straps. I do not like the feeling I get when I sweat a lot in these, so I plan on trying to add a rice straw or hemp top cover.

These really are the most elegant solution to portable ground that I have found. With only one small strap of leather coming up over the top of the foot, rocks and pebbles do not get stuck, they just roll out. Indigenous design at its best.

More tests are necessary. Perhaps a slightly stiffer rubber would be better.


Will Survive

Mountain Lion

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Tarahumara Sandal Experiments cont'd.

North from La Tuna Canyon

Tarahumara Sandals: Elegance of Design

Nacho's Feet, Urique, Mexico, March 2006
Photo by Luis Escobar

Manuel Luna, he made my sandals...

Spent the last couple of days doing some long runs in the mountains with Raramuri huaraches direct from Urique in the Copper Canyon . Learning how to wear the sandals comfortably for hours is not easy. I have been studying all of the photos that Luis Escobar took while we were in Mexico in March. I am trying to figure out exactly how to best tie them.

The pair that I have are a little too heavy. Next time I go to Baranca del Cobre, I will get me a lighter, thinner pair.

Today after 12 tough, hot mountain miles, I had enough. Got some nasty blisters between the toes. This skin will get tougher if I keep wearing the sandals. More testing with tying methods is necessary.


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