Running Shoes: the worst idea ever


Have you ever noticed that running magazines never publish a negative shoe review? It doesn’t take an MBA to figure out why. Ad revenue has to come from somewhere and running has to be the sport that, theoretically, requires the least amount of equipment.

A year of suffering from a painful plantar fasciitis, which I blame, in part, on shoes gives me the right to rant. Allow me to note that:

  • Shoe designs come not out of any kind of bio-mechanical research but simply out of the derriere of the handful of companies that make these horrid objects. Note what Daniel Lieberman of the Skeletal Biology Lab at Harvard has said, that there is simply not enough evidence to make any conclusions on how people should run or whether running shoes are a good idea or not. Remember that cushioned running shoes did not exist until the early 1970s.
  • They cost an obscene amount of money, little of which goes to the sweatshop workers who make them.
  • They are FREAKING UGLY. Who decided that all the principles of color theory should be thrown out the window when designing a running shoe? They look like the result of a dog eating pool toys and barfing them up.

Let me review my own sad running history. I ran in shoes for many years. Then I got a case of Plantar fasciitis. I cured that with barefoot running but, several years later, injured my knees due to (I think) weakness in my hip muscles. I decided to switch back to fencing for my cardio. This went well until I got a new pair of fencing shoes. Old style fencing shoes were very minimal. Then the shoe manufactures decided we needed the same cushy heels you find on running shoes. My bad PF came some months into a new pair of fencing shoes.

After almost a year of work at the gym and many trips to my doctor, I’m close to beating my bad case of PF. My running will, most likely, be barefoot. If I’m able to return to fencing I’ll follow Daniel Lieberman’s minimal footwear advice:

  • The thickness of the cushioning in the rearfoot and forefoot should be about the same, and not too thick.
  • You should be able to easily twist the shoe along the long axis and bend the shoe at the midfoot.
  • There should not be a stiff arch support that prevents the natural movement of the arch of the foot.

And here’s a thought for an enterprising publisher: how about a running magazine modeled after Lucky Peach? In other words, a running magazine with integrity made up of honest reviews, research-based injury advice and thoughtful essays.

An interesting article on Plantar fasciitis (thanks to Kathy Turk for the link)
The Skeletal Biology Lab at Harvard
Barefoot Ken Bob’s website (note his free running clinics in Southern California–I went to one and it was great).

German Rye Bread Recipe

IMG_6938 (1)

You know those people who are so excited about something that they immediately post it to the interwebs without even a thought about, say, accuracy. Sometimes those folks are us. When it came time to teach a German rye bread class for the Los Angeles Bread Bakers, I took another look at the recipe on this blog and sent it to fellow LABBer Dana Morgan for testing and revision. Thanks to Dana I have now revised and re-posted that recipe here.

If you’re into sourdough, this is an easy loaf to bake. There’s not much in the way of shaping and you don’t even have to slash the loaf before it goes in the oven. And unlike the white bread that passes for rye in the US, this loaf is actually made out of mostly rye. It does have some white flour in it, but just enough to allow making a hearth loaf.

If you’re in the LA area, I’ll be teaching some more rye classes this year. Sign up for the Los Angeles Bread Bakers on and you’ll get all the announcements and invites.

A Brief Note About the Podcast


A brief programing note here instead of a full podcast–the next few months are going to be busy ones around the root simple compound so I’ve decided to produce the podcast every other week–twice a month rather than four times a month. On next week’s episode we’ll have an interview with tomato breeder and farmer Fred Hempel. In the meantime, if you’ve got a commute you want to fill with a DIY podcast, you should also subscribe to our friends at the Garden Fork Podcast which you can find at Thanks for listening and we’ll be back next week.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

Rucola Selvatica A Foglia D’ulivo: the arugula you’ve never heard of

If I could boil down my vegetable gardening advice to one sentence it would probably be: just grow stuff that does well and tastes good. Let some other schmuck fight aphids on those Brussels sprouts. Another bit of advice is that you can never have enough arugula. The stuff at the market is wilted, tasteless crap. Grow your own and you’ve got an incredible diversity of arugula varieties to choose from.

This year I grew two varieties from Franchi, Rucola Coltivata Sel. Ortolani and Rucola Selvatica A Foglia D’ulivo. Arugula falls into two categories, “wild” and “cultivated,” though since a seed company is cultivating and selling “wild” varieties it does seem strange to call them “wild”. It might be more accurate to describe them by taste with the cultivated varieties being mild tasting and the wild types being sharp and spicy. Plants in the Brassicaceae family such as arugula cross readily and there’s a befuddling array of popular names, but I think both of these varieties are Eruca sativa.

The Rucola Selvatica A Foglia D’Ulivo or olive leaf arugula has a much sharper, almost bitter flavor. It also doesn’t look like the cultivated varieties. Were it not for the distinctive taste, I wouldn’t even recognize the plant. The leaves are indeed shaped like olive leaves and the edible flowers are yellow rather than the usual off-white.

I sow blocks of arugula seed every two weeks in the winter to guarantee a continuous supply. We had some hot weather so it went to seed a little faster than usual. One of the reasons I like arugula is that there are no insect problems, at least here in Los Angeles.

My mom’s late Greek neighbor used to grow at least four varieties of arugula every year and treasured the different flavors. He also used to refer to arugula (and many other greens) as the “Greek Viagra.” There is, apparently, a history of the use of arugula as an aphrodisiac in Mediterranean cultures. According to some sources, you have to cut the arugula with lettuce (a calming plant) so that the salad bowl doesn’t lead too directly to the bedroom.

Find more arugula varieties at

Do you have a favorite arugula? As usual, I love hearing from our Italian readers about the special culinary uses of specific varieties. And, in this election year here in the US, I’m a little surprised that arugula has not come up as a campaign issue like it did in 2008.

Saturday Tweets: Pre-Peeled Oranges, Fine Fiber and the Dome Revival