About Me, About Rory, and About Pia

About Me:

I am a Harvard University researcher who loves stuff. If I am interested in something, I research the heck out of it and seek to become “in the know”. For example, I was in the market for a new mattress last year and after thorough self-education, I called a mattress distributor with my exact requirements to which he asked “are you in the business?” and then confessed that he’s never sold that particular luxury mattress for nearly as cheap as I just got it.

In my quest for consumer knowledge, I find plenty of redundant information recounting the dry marketing specifications of an item. I hope that my reviews give a more human and concrete idea of how the item performs. I will try to provide as much rater information as possible so that you can tare my evaluations to your needs.

On a more personal note, I am hopelessly in love with animals and cry at any sob story involving the death of a pet. As such, please do not be surprised nor displeased at the intermittent sharing of pictures of my cats. 🙂

I enjoy reading science fiction. I am nearing the end of “Wool”, and eager to begin “Annihilation” by Jeff Vandermeer. At the risk of alienating myself, I did not much enjoy “Dune” by Frank Herbert.

I am a tomboy who likes to snowboard, skateboard, golf and jog. However, I am also a skincare freak, all about the natural ingredients, and will happily share thoughts on the products I try.

About Rory:

A back-sleeping 10 year old shelter rescue,  Rory is solely responsible for converting several cat-apathetic or cat-slightly disliking friends into cat-lovers and even cat-parents. This is due to his happy go lucky personality and clumsiness, as any of his attempts to jump onto the lowly coffee table can result in a slip and crash. He is the most connected cat I have ever known. He walks into the room and says hello, but if you had him locked out for a while, his “hello” sounds much more like an internalized grumble. If you sneak up and scare him, he will fall on his rump and “row ROW ow” that he was scared. He loves belly rubs and is okay with anything you throw his way.



About Pia:

Pia is 5lbs of fury. She was rescued as a 5 year old from a shelter and clearly had a colorfully wild past. She sees dogs walking down the sidewalk and stands in their way, nary an intention to move. She’s befuddled a neighbor carrying bags of groceries as she made them walk off the sidewalk to circumvent her. But her street persona is most betrayed by her sweetness up close to me and to others. She is a tiny package who will balance all four paws on your forearm and purr happily. She loves nothing more than to corral us human monkeys outside to enjoy the fresh air with her. She stays with you and loves a good chase. Her tail becomes a playful arc and she gallops up a tree and back down to chase you back.


Processed with Rookie
Processed with Rookie

Nike Zoom Wildhorse trail shoes- REVIEW

This is a first impressions review because I only ran 6 or 7 miles in these over two separate runs.

I got these to counter my minimalist trail running shoes so that my achilles, calves and arches can rest a bit. (Side note: you should really be careful not to push yourself too hard/long in minimalist shoes or you can injure yourself!) The Nike Wildhorse shoes are much more supportive and cushioned than the New Balance 00, 10, and 20 series shoes, and certainly more supportive than my Mizuno Evo Feruses , but not as supportive as the really heavy trail running shoes like the ones from the Salomon brand (e.g. these ).

Out of the box, they felt narrow at the base of the toes. Nikes have a tendency to be more narrow than other brands. However, their minimalist shoes like the Free 3.0 and even Free 5.0 do not seem follow this tendency. The Wildhorses were narrow, though, to the point that I felt the need to stuff the toe box with some golf balls, particularly where the first metatarsal (big toe) joint is. This helped a lot and I felt confident enough in the fit to take them for a trail run.

First impressions: cushy! The heel and forefoot are nice and squishy, despite the lugs. They are very sole-heavy– the top material is a light mesh like the Free shoes, but the midsole and sole are very solid and stable. This is pretty  much what I was looking for. The lace fit is such that it is nice and tight in the middle of the foot across the top, but not very tight closer to the ankle or near the toes. As such, my heel doesn’t seem as secure as in some of my other shoes and the front of the foot feels more “slidey” as well. Mind you, this is not grotesquely so…I am just trying to be as thorough as possible in my report! This fit (or lack thereof) really isn’t because I wasn’t tightening the laces enough- I tried tightening in various ways and just couldn’t get a sweet spot between uncomfortably tight and too loose.

In my warm up walk up the trail, the shoes felt reallllly comfortable. However, the lack of foot hugging meant less stability running up/down the rocky trail. On steeper descents, it definitely seemed like my foot was sliding towards the front, which would mean angry toes and toenails after a while. I also felt my ankles and lower leg muscles having to compensate for the heel movements to keep my feet stable on the terrain. It seemed like more work to keep stable, but in return I got extra bounce and momentum from the cushioned sole.

The lugs are fantastic. I felt very gripped on a variety of surfaces, even somewhat slick, mossy boulders. The side to side flex of the last is wonderful. The laces never came undone, which is very important in sketchy trail running!

I decided to take the insole out and compare with the Mizuno Wave Evo Ferus and Brooks PureDrift insoles. You can see that the Nike Wildhorse (leftmost insole in the photo) is the most narrow. Despite the pronounced arch component, the thin insole doesn’t provide much arch support. Interestingly, the Mizunos felt the most supportive in the arches because the middle of the insole was raised like a speed bump from the outside (pinky toe) to the inside (big toe) edge along the arch.

Overall, I don’t think these fit my needs for nimble, stable trail running. These would be just fine for more casual trails (flatter terrain without really zigzagged, narrow paths) and casual road wear. I think this is a better fit for people with narrower feet and longer toes who wear relatively thick socks. I have a pretty skinny heel so the average person might not have the same heel slip feeling. IMG_8861 IMG_4962 IMG_7584 IMG_2044 IMG_2682 IMG_8529 IMG_8645

SHARK Wheels on my Penny Nickel

I have no idea where I first heard of Shark Wheels but I backed them on Indiegogo and received my 60mm orange wheels last week. I have since taken them out around town in Cambridge, MA commuting to the Harvard campus and generally just joy-riding. Here is my review!

I think the standard Penny wheels were 60mm, but I had a hard time riding over the mountainous terrain that is Boston. The sidewalks are musical sequences of ridges and cracks as well as the occasional tree root just busting up the concrete like it ain’t no thang. The roads aren’t much better–large gravel/stones galore, cracks, potholes, etc. A lot of Boston-area sidewalks are actually brick, so it gets pretty bumpy. All of this made me think “I would love a smoother ride”, so I got bigger, soft wheels in the form of Cloud Rides, 66mm, 80a. They stuck out a lot more on the sides and I had to get used to that (read: I would hit the wheels with my shoe sometimes and get my own sort of wheel-bite). However, they did feel much softer and smoother, and I enjoyed riding around town all last summer. They held up great, too.

I came across Shark Wheels and was mostly captivated by the claim that the wheels actually flick rubble aside rather than just try and mow over them like a standard wheel. This would theoretically help the skateboard ride over road blemishes more easily as well as providing me with a smoother feel. With another harsh winter gone and the freshly scarred spring roads for conquest, I decided to give them a try.

I freaking love them. Even though they are much smaller than my Clouds, they really do go over bumps and rocks more easily. The first afternoon with these wheels and I felt much more confident approaching obstacles. My usual “ready to jump off at any moment” attitude began to wane.

I can’t speak to the slide as I never learned how to do that, sadly. But I definitely enjoy carving/pumping up and down driveways and obstacles, and pedaling full speed down the streets. They still bow once every few blocks to a harsh sidewalk ridge, but the overall riding experience has been great.

FYI I ride a Penny Nickel board with Reds bearings and Bones soft bushings, with griptape (I don’t understand how people ride without–the slightest moisture on the board/shoes and your foot will slide right off!). IMG_0608 IMG_0609 IMG_0610

Former wheels: Cloud Ride Mini Slide 66mm 80a
Former wheels: Cloud Ride Mini Slide 66mm 80a

Brooks PureDrift REVIEW

My Ronald McDonald shoes! Here is a review after approximately 35 miles of road running.

My partner teased me about the wide toe box of the shoes and called them Ronald McDonald shoes, but I don’t think they look that bad. I bought these specifically seeking a really wide toe box, so at least I got what I wanted!

I tend to wear minimalist type shoes like the New Balance Minimus Trail Zero, so the PureDrifts were pleasantly cushy out of the box. They feel squishy and supportive, but not bulky. They almost make you prance a bit in celebration. The profile of the shoe is a bit rockered with the toe part curling up. This added to the “I want to move” feeling after putting these shoes on, as though they weren’t designed for you to just stand statuesquely still.

The burrito tongue flap is really comfortable. It hugs the top of my foot beautifully. The laces are rarely adjusted–I just slip out of the shoe with the laces still tied, and need to untie the bow (but not pull out any more of the lacing) to get my foot back in. The laces are a tad long and make for extra large ribbon bows, but this is a negligible con.

This shoe doesn’t have a whole lot of arch support, even though the inner lining looks very arch-supportive. It doesn’t feel deficient in this regard, just mildly supportive.

I got these to replace my work out Nike Free 5.0s which were equally cushy and flexible. The Nike’s felt much steeper in the heel-toe drop, and had a narrower toe box, though not uncomfortable. In comparison, however, the PureDrifts feel nice and flat and with a very unstructured toe area. There is ample room for the toes to spread apart as well as up.

My only gripe with these is the hot spot I got under my right big toe after mile 3 or so. It might have to do with the assembly/stitching of the inside, but I haven’t been able to fix that problem. For this reason, I would argue that these shoes are fantastic for walking/casual wear. If I didn’t get the hot spot, I would highly  recommend these for road running.

Feel free to reference my foot measurements to gauge how my experience might stack up against yours. IMG_0620 IMG_0621 IMG_0622 IMG_0605 IMG_0624

My feet physiology to help you interpret my shoe reviews

It’s hard to use my running shoe experience to predict your experience without a bit of quantitative reference points. I am including some measurements of my feet while standing up (weight on feet).

I didn’t measure my arch in the second photo, but I hope you can use it as a visual reference. I would describe myself as having average arches but when I take the footprint test or see my footprints in the sand, it would seem that I have high arches.

I run without over-pronating or under-pronating–the wear of my shoes says that I roll from the middle/slightly outside of my heels and then take off with my big toe. This was not always the case, which I will describe in further detail at the end of the post for those who are interested.

IMG_0626 IMG_0628

As I mentioned above, my gait has changed a bit in the past two years. I used to under-pronate, walking on the outsides of my feet. My shoes always showed wear along the outside of the soles. Two years ago, I began to address this as well as my mild bunion. I consciously tried to strengthen my feet and simultaneously loosen my legs, hips and glutes so as to “stack” my legs as straight as possible. I worked on increasing toe splay with gel inserts and by wearing Vibrams around the house. With the foot tendons more flexible, I then began to try and strengthen the different foot muscles, training my toes to spread away from the center of the foot. I used to get cramps in my arches a lot during these exercises, which I think indicated weaker adductor muscles for my big toe.

Really important in my work towards healthy foot/ankle/leg alignment was stretching. I stretched my feet a lot but also my hip flexors and glutes. Having a tight piriformis makes me walk duck-footed, with my toes pointing outward, and I can tell I need to stretch out my glutes when I walk down the stairs this way. A lot of the lower body muscles are thick and run deep, and benefit from deeper muscle releasing apart from the usual stretching. I use foam rollers and baseballs to pin a deep knot while I stretch the muscle until I feel the knot release, or at least feel much looser. For those of you who want to address your gait, I would recommend focusing on obtaining and maintaining relaxed achilles/calf muscles, hip flexors, IT bands, gluteus medius, and piriformis muscles.

Mizuno Wave Evo Ferus- Women’s-REVIEW

The dry and dirty specifications of the shoe such as weight, heel-toe drop, etc are available on plenty of websites (This one is good:Specs). Here is my review of the shoe after 70 miles in them.

I use them ~60% of the time for trail running, ~25% off-road running (dirt surfaces parallel to roads), and ~15% on roads. First impression out of the box was that they fit great. They hug the heels and the inner lining pushes up nicely against my arches. Of course, this fit will vary depending on your foot anatomy ( here is some information about my foot measurements) and other review sites tend to describe this shoe as having minimal arch support.

The tongue and lace feel is snug as well. It feels secure without hot spots. The hugginess of the shoe loosens a bit as you move toward the front of the shoe, as the very flexible last and wider toe box allow for wiggle. The shoe feels very flat and flush with the ground, no rockered sole in any way. The lugs are like little asterisks and they do a good job on the trail, but feel surprisingly comfortable on asphalt. You can feel the texture of the lug shapes but they are cushy enough to run on the road for 3-10 miles at a time without feeling uncomfortable.

The word that keeps coming to my mind is “accurate”. The stable but snug feel of the shoe makes me feel very nimble. It’s a shoe you forget about and have fun in. I have more supportive trail shoes (Nike Wildhorse) as well as extremely minimalist trail shoes (New Balance Minimus Trail Zero), and the Mizunos feel appropriately in the middle of any scale in terms of softness and support, maybe a little closer to the minimalist end.

They are holding up very well and I really like these shoes. Great purchase if you love light trail shoes with wider toe boxes and minimal support. IMG_0625