Category Archives: Life

A Damn Good Shave – Part 2 Lathering Technique

In my last [post] I told you about the process of wet shaving.  This time I’ll be going over the details of lathering.

As I mentioned, you begin with a hot soak or a shower to soften the hairs and prep the underlying skin.

Manly men use real shaving soap!The next step is to build the lather.  Now if you’re new to the process, I’d recommend spending a good amount of time just trying to build lather and get that part down, before you begin to attempt shaving.  As you might imagine, having good product is a key to this, but if you’re new – how do you know what’s good or not?

Easy.  Ask around.  There are plenty of [forums] with reviews and descriptions of commonly used items that can get you started.  Don’t get hung up on picking a particular scent, just take a sniff and if it is pleasant enough – go for it.  Depending on your location and proximity to various stores, you should have a few choice product options.  Every mall has a Body Shop store, so I usually recommend a tub or tube of their [Maca Root cream.]

I’ll talk about creating lather in a bowl here, though many users lather up on their face.  The process is pretty much the same for either, as well as for soaps or creams.  I’ll talk about the types of bowls in another post.

The brush should be moist, and I normally do so by filling the bowl up with hot water and letting the brush soak in it for a minute or so to absorb some of the liquid and soften the badger hair much as we do for the facial hairs.  The water should be dumped, and the brush gently wrung out to remove excess water.  You “load” the brush by constricting the brush hairs into a clump using your thumb and forefingers, and then continue either by swishing this in small circles on the product to get it to stick to the brush, or spooning out a small dollup (typically half a teaspoon) into the bowl and then begin.After a beating

The goal here is to create a lather that is thick, like cool whip with formed peaks, but not too thin, airy, or runny that collapses back into soapy liquid shortly after being whipped into being.  Sometimes, between the soap on the brush, and the water absorption in the badger hair, you hit that sweet spot right away.  Other times you might need to whisk the brush ’round and around in the bowl, pumping it a bit to impart some air into the mix to fluff it.  And yet other times it might be too dry with not enough liquid, making the swishing and lather creation stiff and difficult to swirl up.  In those cases I’ll typically dip just the very tips of the loaded brush into water, or just add a few drops in to liven things up.  You can always add more water, but once you’ve got too much it can be difficult to compensate, so start small.  Frankly, it can be difficult to build a good lather, or even recognize when you’ve got it just right, until you have some experience under your belt doing so.  Here’s a [video] that can help.

The last step in lathering is applying it to the face.  Simply take this out of the bowl using the brush, and swirl this in small concentric circles.  I usually begin just below the ear in the side burns area, and move across the face, then down the neck.   Feel free to gather more lather from the bowl as needed.  You may find other online tips mentioning “painting” the face, as though you have a paint brush, rather than a shaving brush.  I also do this, but usually after having swirled the lather into place, to help even it out.  You’ll know at this point if you’ve formed your lather correctly, if it seems to expand a bit after it rests on your face a few moments, softening the edges.  If you’re face lathering, the only difference is that instead of building lather in the bowl, you’re doing so directly on the face after having loaded the brush.

One last reminder for lathering.  Make sure to practice as a beginner.  Set aside a half hour or so, and practice loading the brush, then whipping it up just in the cup of your opposite hand.  Get a feel for the water to product ratio, and intentionally use too much of one or the other to see the results.  Once you feel you’re a pro, move onto doing so in the bowl, and repeat.  You may find yourself going through a bit of product, but most of the time your initial purchase can last for a year, so a few practice batches at the start can be well worth it, and get you up and running quickly.

I hope you’re taking these posts to heart.  Feel free to comment and let me know if I’m not telling the whole story, or skipping over the details.  I’ll next describe how to handle the razor and efficiently remove the hairs from your chinny chin chin and more.  (Part 3)

See you next time.

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A Damn Good Shave – Part 1 The Basics

My Shaving GearAn old friend recently reached out to me, because he had had enough of the newer, better, greater claims of Gillette and Shick, and their ever rising costs with lackluster results.  The disposables are poor quality at best, and even some of the alternatives from Merkur and Parker have been said to be prone to pitting and breakage.  He had heard, and I confirmed, that old style double edge razors, from the likes of Gillette and others from a half century ago or more, are far superior in results, comfort and closeness than any of the modern day equipment.  I can’t speak much of the failure of the modern variants from Merkur, and would only add I myself have not experienced this myself.

I thought to lay out the recommended steps of traditional wet shaving in a series of posts, both for his benefit, and yours. :)

So I’ll begin with a description of what wet shaving is all about.  Whether it is referred to as classic shaving, wet shaving, barbershop style, DE (double edge) shaving, traditional shaving, or straight edge shaving, it is all the same process.

You begin by moistening the face, either by use of hot towels or taking a warm shower to open the pores and soften the facial hairs.  Sometimes if I don’t feel like taking a shower, I’ll just splash water as hot as I can take it, on my face and neck continuously for 2-3 minutes.

This is followed by using a shaving brush, usually made of badger hair of varying degrees, and a specialized shaving soap or cream to whip up lather.  Canned creams are known to dry out the skin, and contrary to popular belief facilitate the shave, but leave the face in worse shape than before it began.  Sometimes this lathering is done directly on the face, and other times in a bowl, scuttle or mug.

This lather is applied to the face, usually with the brush itself, and then is shaved off with the razor in a series of angled swipes.  If done correctly, it will minimize razor burn and cuts, while removing the facial hair and lather one stroke at a time, and progressing from spot on the face to another.  The remains are splashed off with warm water, the razor briefly rinsed, and the steps repeated, with a different direction used for the swipes to achieve an even closer shave.  Each cycle is also called a shaving pass.  This is usually repeated for a total of 3-4 passes, depending on beard thickness and desired closeness, with an ideal of “baby butt smooth” (BBS.)

After the final splash removes the lather and cut stubble remnants, a topical astringent is applied to the face and allowed to dry, usually Witch Hazel, and sometimes in conjunction with a block of alum for accidental shaving cuts.  After it dries, a cold water rinse is next to close the pores, and followed by applying aftershave or balm to soothe and care for the skin.

While the steps may seem a lot, in practice this can take perhaps 20 minutes on average for an experienced shaver.

Shaving in this manner is typically more cost effective, more comfortable and with better shaving results, and can turn what many see as a dreaded chore, into a luxurious time of enjoyment for a regular manly ritual.

My plan is to follow this post with the details of lathering and razor techniques, the aftershave, and suggested gear.

Check back soon!

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Running updates and new minimalist shoes

trueglove2So I noticed my last running update was nearly a year ago, and thought it overdue to bring things up to speed.

I’ve kept up with the running, and have managed to get an official half marathon under my belt.  After the 10K I ran last May, I continued to push myself and grow my mileage each time bit by bit, and mile by mile.

I ran a few more races, including another 10K in the fall, and then signed up to commit to a half marathon.  13.1 miles and the near equivalent of a 21K.

Despite my planning, training, and the countless blisters, the half ended up getting canceled due to Hurricane Sandy.  It was frustrating, but my problem wasn’t nearly as bad as those who lost homes, cars, or lives so I took solace in that.  Despite the cancellation I ran a nice circuit around town and managed to achieve my goal time of a hair under 2 hours total.  And I do mean a hair, as the final time came in at 1:59:51.

Once the cool winter weather rolled in my shoes went into the closet, and didn’t see the light until late March.

Getting myself back up to speed took some time, but I began slow with a 6 mile loop, and again worked my way up.

2 weeks ago, on May 5th, I ran my official half marathon.  This was the same lcoation as my first 10K – the Redding Road Race for the Cows.  Again there were hills galore, but I managed to tough through it, and in better time than I expected as I was still ramping my mileage up.  I didn’t break the 2 hour mark, but came decently close at 2:06, and a better time than the lower 43%.

So with that under my belt, I have a handful more half marathons to run this year, plus a Tough Mudder and Super Spartan.  More than enough to keep the twinkle in my eye, and the rolls off my belly :)

I’m finding I am at a new level now.  It is actually pretty cool because I’m the kind of guy that likes mixing it up.  When I plan my routes, I typically do so using either mapmyrun.com or Gmap Pedometer.  Not only can it tell me how to get from A to B, but how far, so I can plan out a 9 mile run, a 5 mile quickie or a 13 miler for the weekends if I’m up for it.

Lately I’ve been plugging in a wide circle starting from my home, around 9-10 miles, but the best part… I don’t care about where it goes.

What I mean is that I feel like I have finally gotten to a plateau where I can run anywhere – hills or flat, and I love a route that takes me on meandering tours (like my meandering blog post.)  The other day I found roads that take me past no less than 5 farms, and all the beauty that they hold.  The wide expanses of fields, the picturesque fences filled with animals, and the rise of the hills overlooking the opposite side and all the greenery I love to enjoy.

It is a really, really good feeling :)

I’m also finding that using the minimalist shoes I like so much, are more dependent on proper lacing.  Over time it seems I’ve pulled the laces tighter and tighter each time I put them on, leaving no wiggle room as my feet naturally expand when I hit the pavement in the rhythm the music beats out over my headphones.  So in turn, the shoes rub, the blisters grow, and I hobble just a bit more a day or two after the run.  I’m sure it affects my gait, and proper form, and now the shoes I’ve been using have burned out barely a year later.

I spent time figuring out which ones are best suited for me, as I often do with entirely too much time sorting out the balance between cost, quality, needs and desires.  In the end, I chose an updated version of the shoes I already use and enjoy.  From the Merrell True Glove to the Merrell Flux Glove .  I’m not the only one who loves these shoes either, as many reviews rate them at or near the top of minimalist rankings.  An updated outsole, liner, and footplate that better suit mid to fore foot strikes, all tell me they should work out great.

To the pavement!!  {insert batman whoosh}MerrellFlux3

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Adirondack Backpacking

Backpacking High Peaks Trail Imagine you went on a backpacking hike with an old friend.

Now head up to the high mountain peaks of the Adirondack Park outside of Lake Placid.

Lets begin with a nice relatively level 2 mile hike into base camp.

Now lets make it a 45 degree incline.

Now lets put in some large rocks and boulders to climb over as you go up.

Now lets add ice & snow on top of the trail, rocks and everywhere your feet should go.

Now bump up the weight of the pack close to 50 pounds.

Now take your boots and make them a half size small so your ankle rubs into blisters the whole time.

Add in 5 more miles up and downhill (one way), 15 degree nights, sleeping in bear country, and rules dictating no campfires.Backpacking the ice

THIS is what backpacking with Brian Cernik is all about ;)

IMAG0665SMALL

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A Treefort Grows In Woodbury – Part 2

So now, three months after kickoff, with a backache and a handful of splinters later, and the treehouse is almost usable (as long as we keep our balance) :)

I picked up where I left off, laying 2×6 boards across the top of the bolted 2×8 boards. Hardware was a big component, as I felt that the nails and bolts could only hold it together so much, without attaching it properly.  I went back and forth to Home Depot and grabbed some 90 degree plates that could hold the boards upright so they wouldn’t tip side to side.

For the underside there were some 6 inch metal twists, called Hurricane Ties, that also provided further vertical support, and kept the beams from moving off the foundation.

I know that the recommended spacing for beams is 16″ inches on center, but due to the trees getting in the way I adjusted this (smaller and larger) to accommodate the three, as well as the opening for them to come up on the ladder.  Finally it got to a point where I could lay some temp flooring on top, and the boys lent a hand (mostly decorating the boards.)

They say you can dangle the decking as far as 3 ft off the side without a problem, but I was over that, as you can see in the picture.  This was mainly due to the shape of the foundation, so only the corners protruded, but I was a little worried about stability.  Back to the Depot!

After some more discussion with a surprisingly helpful guy there, I opted to install a support beam running the whole length, with columns underneath. This was a bit involved.  I had to dig a set of holes nearly 4 feet deep, fill the bottom with gravel, place the posts in and attempt to get them as level as I could with temporary boards attached.  AND THEN, I had to make sure the posts were aligned the same way so they were parallel to each other.  Whew!  Being a one man job this took time, but I got them in and filled the hole with some concrete.  The boys did their part again here, mixing and scooping with joy as the stuff slorped and plopped its way into place.

All was going along, and then tragedy nearly struck.   We had a crazy storm blow through, and the trees, having been already weakened by prior severe storms, waved frantically about until the top fork on one of the trees snapped off.  We were amazingly fortunate in that it missed the structure by inches, so I set to it with a chainsaw, and the boys lent a hand once more cutting the branches down to size and pitching them over the side of the nearby fence into the woods.  My hope is that we can incorporate some of them into the railings when the time comes.  Bonus!

Each step took time, and I was really only able to work on this, on those weekends when we were not running around somewhere else, and not trying to wind down too much :)  But in the end, I was able to get to the wonderful step of removing the temporary flooring, pickup some additional boards, and begin placing them in, making the finished size just over 8×12 feet.

The idea of a treehouse to me, always meant using whatever you had on hand, and making do.  Most of the grainy pictures you see in movies all look like some hackneyed attempt, that is barely holding together, yet lovingly adored and revered by the kids.  With that in mind, I rummaged through what we had in the garage, and combined the old (cut to size) and new 1×6 boards.  I realize the older boards are not pressure treated, and will have a much shorter life span, but the finished look is so much better for it with an unintended zebra effect.

I have a few tips for placing the boards and spacing them, as well as accommodating the curves around the trees – but I’ll save that for another post.

In the meantime we all get to enjoy the fruits of our labor, and plan out the railing and roofing to go in.  Though if the boys had their way I’d be figuring out secret passages, one button trap doors, and a zip line entrance.  What a great time :)

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Running Like The Wind (so long as its at my back)

So here I am, just over a year since I first began running. Things are pretty good.
I’ve run just over 8 miles at a clip, been in a bunch of races, and improved my distances, race times, and personal best times. My feet have transformed into hobbit feet, unshapely masses, and a series of connect the dot bunions and blisters.
Frankly, none of those matter a whole lot, but it does make it easier to gauge how well I’m doing, and how I’ve improved.

I’m finding running is a series of setting goals.
In the beginning it was simple – get to the end of the road, and don’t kill myself on the way back.
My goal yesterday was to run for 7 miles without choking on the car fumes thanks to local Boston traffic.
Success!

But sometimes it is different.
Try out a new route and finish it full circle.
See how far I can go after not having run for the last week and a half.
See if I can go my usual despite the current back pains.
Try for a run in the woods and avoid getting mauled by a bear.
Or lets see if I can run that far, and just push my limits without rubbing out my nipples.
Btw if you don’t get the nipple bit it sucks.
In the hot weather I find I sweat so much over a 6 mile run I get some serious chafing going on. I’m not alone in this, and await a delivery of runners lube.
Sounds like something you’d get in a porn flick…

But even without the goals, or the joy of just being in shape, there are the additional rewards.

I’ve just wrapped up a 4 day stint for a Boston hotel. Yesterday while out for a run I came across a pile of IDs, credit cards, cash, and security access cards. Some poor soul dropped his wallet.
Time to Samaritan up!
One of the cards was a student id from Harvard.
I called the campus police, and to his good fortune it was back in his hands before the end of the night.
Kudos to karma.

Here’s to running :)

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A Treefort Grows In Woodbury – Part 1

So this year, after much procrastination, we’ve decided to finally build a tree fort for the boys.

Now, I never had a tree fort growing up.  It was the kind of thing every kid dreamed up, but few ended up with.  We would climb around in trees all the time, and made forts consisting of branches and old blankets down on the ground.  But nothing as formal or engineered as one with planks, turrets, and a spyglass.

I began this project, in the same way I begin most of the unknown – I Googled it.

This turned up a number of sites, but most were plans to purchase, with few tips.  I flipped through a book at home called The Dangerous Book For Boys and found some helpful hints there to mount the boards onto the tree, and lay them at 90 degrees to form a subbase.   After that it was your typical construction.

So a jot later with a basic plan, and we headed out to the local Lowe’s hardware store.

After finding the bolts we needed, we grabbed a friendly salesman who seemed to have some semblance of knowing what he was doing, and got some advice.  2x8s for the frame base attached to the tree, and 2x6s for the flooring base on top of it, with planks on top of that.

I figured we’d build a base, and sort out the top (covered roof, railing, etc…) later on.

So we got home, unloaded and began to work.

Step 1- bolt the base to the trees.  If you look at our “plan” you see three circles representing each of the trees we’ll be using.  I put one in using a single 1/2×6 inch bolt, then attached the other side with a lot of up & down to make sure it was as level as I could get it.

I quickly found the leveling part was the tough one, as these boards were heavy, and lifting them solo 10 feet above the ground wasn’t easy.  After some quick thinking I placed some 4 inch screws just below where the boards will be attached.  This way I can lift them up slightly to drill it out and bolt it into place, while the other end is resting on the screw.

Then I go back to that end and attach it too.  Repeat this to wind up with 3 bolts at each point where the boards meet the trees.  Needless to say I now have the boards up, but still need to put 3 bolts through at each spot. The bolts themselves are very hard to get in, and I’m using just a hand ratchet, not an air gun like some folks have for their Indy car racing.

It will take some time, but we’re off to a good start. Next step is to finish off the bolts, then the 2×6 boards go on top roughly perpendicular.

In the end I’m hoping for a platform somewhere between 8×10 and 10×14.  Final dimensions depend on how far it will stick out away from the tree, and how easy I can put up support columns underneath the corners.  Fun, fun!!  :)

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I Want Just The Right Boot

I have one pair of shoes I wear to work every day.

For a while there I had two pairs, and I would wear the black ones some days, and the brown on others.  For the last 12 years or so, my favorites have been Doc Martens ever since I found a nice pair of two tone wing tips when I was working in NYC.  Some years I’ve had Chukkas, but it has been mainly oxford styles.  With my last pair (the current), it seems the quality went down some though.  As with a lot of manufacturers, they decided to outsource more, and most of their stuff comes out of China nowadays.  So the leather isn’t quite as nice as it had been, and the stitching wore out faster than it had before, and I decided it might be time to look at something else.  Besides, if you’ve ever worn Docs you know they’re not light on your feet, and I was getting tired of lugging  around the extra weight.

After my usual casting around the internet, I decided American made was the way to go.  This seemed to come at a higher price though, but I figured if they lasted me twice as long, then twice the price is worth the quality and craftsmanship.  The taller Chukka styles appealed to me, and I eventually found myself looking in the 6 inch boot category.  I needed something that was dressy enough to go with my daily work clothes of ‘country club attire,’ while casual enough to avoid the overly shiny look most dress shoes have.  I came across an article at The Art Of Manliness, and I fell in love with the throw back design of the dress boot and the Wolverine 1000 Milers.

Now comes the kicker – the price.  I expected to pay more, but the Wolverine’s run $350 on average.  I’m not the type of guy who’s going to spend that much on shoes, even if they do last longer than most.  So I looked to see what was just as good, but at a more reasonable price.

I almost went for a pair of Red Wings.  The Iron Rangers had a nice blend of rugged and classy, and I found a site I could get them for $240 shipped.  Orvis had some rebranded pairs on closeout, but I missed them by a day while I thought about it too much when they were listed at $130.  Still, I hoped I could do better – and did.

In the end, the LL Bean Katahdin Iron Works Engineer boots won me over.  Originally $159 (now $179 after the new year,) I scored a pair on sale for $134.  Solid leather, quality hooks, goodyear welted soles, and made in America with a lifetime satisfaction guarantee.  It turns out they are made by Chippewa, another brand well known and respected more for their work boots than dress boots.  People have stated over and over their pairs have lasted 10 or 20 years, and that was the tipping point for me.

So how’d they do that?  If you have a good pair of shoes or boots, and care for them properly they can last as long just as easily.  It seems to boil down to three aspects – Cleaning, Oiling and Protection.  So long as the last two are covered, then the shoes almost clean themselves.  Build up wipes off with your basic moist rag very easily.

I’ve been wearing the boots just 2 days now, and I had read it takes anywhere from 2 weeks, to 2 months for them to fully break in.  To speed it up a bit, I applied some mink oil to the boots.  Even though they are brand new, they sucked up the oils like a sponge, and made the leather more pliable and softer so it molds to my feet faster.  In the picture above you can see the boot on the left untouched, and the one on the right applied with the mink oil.  As a side effect it often darkens it as well, but I preferred them a deep dark brown anyway.  Once the oil seeps in overnight, you want to apply protection.  I’d been using SnoSeal on my hiking boots for years, and others agree it gets the job done right, along with Obenaufs Leather Protection as top tier products.

Repeat the clean, re-oil, and reprotect every 6 months and you’ll be glad you did.  Quality products not only look better, and can last longer, but remember that price doesn’t always end at the register.  You pay yourself back with care as well.

Make ‘em last and do it right.  See you in 20 years.

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Wishin and Soapin’, Running and lovin’…

So I thought I’d put out an update of how things are progressing, and fortunately it is all good news (unless you ask my wife that is).

Starting with soaps, I’ve gotten the first batch out as you know.  The Orange spice has a great aroma kicking up in the bath every time we use it.  Sadly though, we’ve burned through it in about 2 weeks, and far faster than I expected.  Since then I’ve come up with both a second and third batch.  The second was my ode to the Woodshop, with scents of Pine, Fir and Cypruss with some self rendered tallow in the base, and a small kick of ground pepper.  That’s still curing until the end of July so no test washes just yet.

The latest batch (3rd) was a nicely scented Lemongrass.  Lots of Lemon, lemongrass, and bits of lemon rind to round it out.  Smells wonderful!  I tweaked my base formula to make the soaps a bit harder, so while it loses some of the Conditioning qualities, I think it needed hardness more to make ‘em last longer.  I think I’ll whip up a coffee based soap, or perhaps an Oatmilk Honey next :)

As for running, here come the good depending on your perspective.  In a nutshell, I’m still going strong.  Just ran tonight as a matter of fact.  But, the wife doesn’t like how my feet are getting very Caveman-like.  Toes are spreading, and they’re getting wider.  A little wierd, but my back issues have all but disappeared as a result.  I’m finding however I have a mild case of Plantar Fascitis.  As a result I’m going back & forth between shoes & barefoot sandals.  There was a Moonlight 5K in New Milford I managed to run, and despite the light on & off rain I managed to get a decent time.  Nothing spectacular to be sure, but I was happy to have run my first and finished it.  On to the next, here in wonderful Woodbury come Sunday.  If all goes well I’m shooting to run this one in the barefoot sandals too :)

Its funny when people see me walking around in them.  Lots of comments, and I think overall people are interested, but its hard to tell if they’re humoring me, or if they’re genuinely curious as to what it entails.  In either case I don’t mind spreading the word around.  What works for me isn’t for everyone, but I’ll chew your ear off about it if you’ll let me :)

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Barefoot update

My feet hurt.

Not exactly unexpected, but here I thought I was taking it easy.
The other day I had purchased and received some Invisible Shoe running sandals.

I was all excited to use them as my feet have been tenderized on the tiny road pebbles.

So I strapped in, and took off.  Running was definately a bit easier, and it seemed I could focus more on the running itself, than worrying about the abuse on my feet.

As I approached the turnaround at the end of the road, it felt like the burning lungs I’d get from running – wasn’t really there.  In fact, I felt like I was in a  rhythm where all I needed to think about was moving my legs, and the discomfort had passed.

My guess is that I got too cocky here.  On the way back, I could feel my right arch starting to feel pains, and the top of my left foot (tendon?) was beginning to throb.

No problem, I thought.  I’ll tough it out and finish my run and be the better man for it.

That was not the way to go.  After stopping and resting a bit at home, I began to hobble.  I could barely walk down stairs with weight on my left foot, and my right arch felt like it needed a serious massage.

To the internet I went, and I found that despite what I thought was taking it easy – I probably was not.

Most people say to start out easy with the barefooting at one quarter to one half mile at first.

That seemed pretty paltry to me, so I pushed it to around a mile and then just over within days of starting out.

Turns out it isn’t just your soles needing to toughen up, and just your arches and muscles accomodating the change, but you actually run different, and that can affect your feet differently in turn.

Needless to say, I think I’ll run 3/4 mile barefoot to the end of the road, then slip on some regular shoes and keep going from there.

If I only get such small amounts of barefooting it’ll help my feet, but doesn’t do much for overall exercise, so my hope is the shoe running will allow for that to happen.

Time will tell :)

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