Friday, June 14, 2013

Smooth Operator: Sherwood Valley Juice Co Smoothie Review and Giveaway!

Mmmmm.... smoothies! If you are like me and my family, you know that a good home made smoothie is a healthy and delicious way to start the day.  As a matter of fact, I even wrote a blog post about how we got on the smoothie band wagon about a year and a half ago, and you can read that post HERE.

One of the main reasons I like smoothies so much is that you are in complete control of the ingredients going in, so you can decide what kinds of healthy, clean eating, ingredients you want to put into your breakfast each morning.  And, when your kids aren't looking, you can dump all kinds of stuff they would turn their noses up at if they saw!  Yes.. I'm not above jamming kale and spinach in our kids smoothies if they aren't watching.   That being said, even with a speedy Vitamix, there are occasions where you just don't have the time or energy to make a smoothie.  And here is where Sherwood Valley Juice Co. comes in.  

Ok... I know what you are thinking.  Yes... processed foods should be avoided, and who knows what kind of weird stuff gets thrown into instant mixes etc... right?  That is where Sherwood Valley proves this normally appropriate philosophy wrong.  When I was contacted to try out these instant smoothie mixes, I was a little hesitant.  But, after reading all of the info on their website, and perusing the ingredients list, I was impressed.

Basically, Sherwood has managed to combine a lot of great, healthy ingredients, and then suck every last drop of water out... leaving it to you to reanimate it... well, not make it come alive really, but you know what I mean.

Here is a great example from one of their five flavors of smoothies. I love an ingredients list that I can completely understand, and includes things that I, for the most part, could and would toss in a blender if I had them all.

Ok... so great.  Terrific ingredients in a convenient package.  But, do they mix well? Do they taste good?

So, to find out, I grabbed the Cascade Berry Bliss packet, from the 5 pack sampler I was sent.  For this initial testing, I didn't use a blender, I simply followed the directions to add 12 oz of water and to shake for 10 seconds.  That's it!  Still a little wary, I poured it directly into to glasses... and yes, gave it to our boys first :-).  If it passed the kids test, that was a good sign. 

They loved it!  And so did I!  And, as you can see above.. even with a quick 10 second shake, it looks very similar to the smoothies I blend up every morning, and tasted terrific.  Now, it was not as cold, since it was not blended with frozen berries, but besides that it was excellent... and talk about super easy and super fast!

Needless to say, we worked our way through the other packets quickly.   There are five flavors available...three which I would call more of a fruit smoothie which are Cascade Berry Bliss, Citrus Sunrise, and Tradewind Islands.  The other two flavors are what I would call "green" smoothies, which carry more of a unique flavor, and less fruity. 

We really enjoyed the fruity flavors, kind of liked Farmers Market Blend, and really really tried to like the Produce Row Blend..... but both my wife and I just couldn't get into the flavor. I think what stood out was the strong clove flavor, combined with the other ingredients...   we actually didn't finish that one.  BUT.. to each his or her own...  my guess is that this flavor is like cilantro... either you love it, or you think someone washed your mouth out with soap! 

Last but not least, these packets are not inexpensive.  Currently, when ordered on their website, the individual pouches run $3.79 each.  Granted, that is still cheaper than a Frappuccino, and certainly much better for you!  And the convenience is tough to beat. However, you can reduce that cost by buying it in bulk tubs of your favorite flavor.  Also, for the month of June you can get free shipping on your order by using the code FREESHIP06 .

But! If you have been following Barefoot Inclined, you know what's next.  YES... you can win a 10 pack of pouches (mixed pack of 2 of each flavor, and a $39.99 value) by entering below! In the comment entry, let me know what the weirdest thing is you've put in a smoothie!

I'll run this contest until 10pm MST, Thursday June 20th.  Open to residents of the U.S. only. 

Good luck and happy trails!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received Sherwood Valley Smoothies for free from Sherwood Valley Juice Co as coordinated by Deep Creek PR an Outdoor Industry Public Relations Company in consideration for review publication.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Huaraches you say? No...."J"uaraches! Muddy J "J"uaraches Review!

June 5, 2014 UPDATE:  Sorry to say that "J"uaraches are no longer available to the public for purchase.  

FINALLY!!  Well, at least that's what I am sure my buddy Muddy J is thinking...  it's here, the much anticipated, full review of the Muddy J "J"uarache Sandal!!  Wait, you weren't muchly anticipating this review?  Well, you should have because these are great!  Stay tuned through the review for your chance to score free shipping on your own pair :-) .

So... what are "J"uaraches exactly?  Well, they are custom designed, hand-made, leather running sandals created by the barefoot mud/obstacle/ultra/triathlon running wild man know as Muddy J (or Jason DiPane when he's not wearing a cape).

As you can see, Muddy J custom creates each pair of sandals with unique embossed lettering and a serial number!  My Barefoot Inclined sandals are series BFI01.

Now.. what makes these different? First of all, they are made from leather and reflective elastic cord, and they utilize a very unique lacing style that I really like.  The lace is doubled and loops through the toe post and around the ankle.  They include a leather heel strap and crossover strap that are amazing comfortable.

Rather than a knot under your foot, the strap simply loops under and sits slight recessed, providing a super flat and smooth sole for the huarache.

If you are wondering how these are constructed, and what it takes to get them road ready, follow along below with the process I followed (including great pics from Muddy J documenting the "birth" of my "J"uaraches).

Muddy J has some very clear and easy to follow instructions on creating the pattern  required for him to cut the sole material to size.  Custom cutting is awesome because my right foot is just slightly longer than my left in the second toe area, and the resulting sandals fit both of my feet perfectly!

The cord lacing is lightweight, stretchy, and very comfortable. Also, they include a reflective material which makes them really pop out at night when needed.  As you can see below they really light up!  Plus, I just love the "Incline Addicted" embossing on the heel straps.

Now, when you first received the "J"uaraches, they are not really shaped at all. Since they are a natural material, the process is to soak them through, dry them off a bit and then wear them until they dry.  This ensures a customized and molded fit to your feet.  I actually went through this process twice to ensure a really good shape.

After going through this process, you'll find that the huaraches dry out a bit "crunchy" and stiff.  I thought this would be a problem, but since they were molded to my feet, they didn't chafe at all.  These sandals do require a bit of work to get them where you want them, but certainly worth it.  I took a number of shorter runs just to get them softened up, and they just continued to get more comfortable every run. The strap tension was very easy to adjust. Once dialed in, I have yet to ever touch them again.. they slip on and off easily and stay attached very well while running.

And eventually, after 50+ miles or so, the "J"uaraches become like a second skin...  which leads me into the running performance and versatility of this huarache.

Ha! When I originally created this meme, I just thought it was funny that many minimalist shoes are marketed to be the equivalent of barefoot.  But, we know this is not true, and often not even close.  However, that being said, I think that the "J"uarache has to be the closest to true barefoot running that I have experienced in a running sandal.  Before this, I would say that the XeroShoes Connect (4mm) held that title, but the 4mm "J"uaraches takes that minimalism a step further.  Much of it has to do with the leather sole.  It literally becomes a second skin for your foot, which makes sense since it is skin!

It is for this reason that I would highly recommend this huarache for those that primarily run barefoot, but occasionally need some protection, more so than to those than run shod in minimalist shoes that are looking to get a little more proprioception.  I carried these sandals with me during my attempt at a 10K barefoot run during the Bolder Boulder 10K.  They were light to carry, and a lifesaver when my feet were done 3 miles in.   As I noted, the fit is outstanding, and they are extremely comfortable all around.

Ok...  now that I've covered all the highlights of the "J"uarache, I need to just note a few limitations.  Again, these are from my personal perspective and may not be an issue for others.  First, since they are all leather, running in very very wet conditions can pose a problem.  The soles will absorb the moisture and get heavy, and soften up and get floppy.  In these cases, a rubber sole would have the advantage. I didn't experience this, although a few runs I did hit some water in a few spots, and I didn't have any issues.   Second, the smooth soles may not provide as much traction in some cases as a patterned rubber sole, but that difference wouldn't be huge.  The sueded bottom grabs fairly well.  Personally, I like these as a road running huarache first, and second for easier trails.  Much of this has to do with the condition of my feet (very novice barefoot), and they don't always provide the protection I like on rugged trails.  However, I had no issue getting up the Incline to my favorite photo stop (above) in front of Pikes Peak, and then back down Barr Trail.

Finally, if you are a believer in the benefits of grounding/earthing, I know that these leather soles can actually ground you, once there is a little moisture in them (foot sweat etc.. yum).

So.. to summarize, the "J"uarache is an outstanding, super-minimalist running sandal.  All of the features and construction are well thought out (and developed over time and a lot of miles).  They are unique in construction and the performance is stellar.

Now, you don't just have to take my word for it... below are just a few comments from Lorraine who won a pair of "J"uaraches as part of the Happy and Healthy 2013 contest that I ran in January:

" I won them on Jan 1st, and had them in hand in about a week, and most importantly, they came with the friendship of the ever amazing Muddy J! He not only walked me through the step by step process of measuring my foot, but also the crafting of my 'J's, with pictures!"

"When they first arrived, I was very doubtful, as they were stiff as a board, however, once you wet them they go all flippy floppy. I would suggest not trimming the cord, or the leather until you have them dialed in a bit. I put them on wet, tied them up, then walked around in them until they dried. They mold right to your feet! "

"The price is right, they are super comfy, they are hand crafted one at a time, and they come with Muddy J for life...what's not to love?"

Considering the customized construction, quality of materials, and the performance, I would expect to spend $50+ for these.  Fortunately, you can get a pair of these from Muddy J for $35 (plus $9 shipping/handling).  An excellent value in my opinion.   If you want to order a pair, click HERE for a link to Muddy J's ordering page.

But.. before you order, enter below for a chance to get free shipping, making your sandals only $35!  I will select one winner (U.S. residents only) next Weds, June 12th after 10PM MST.  Good luck!

As always, if you have questions/comments/feedback, just leave a comment below or email me!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Happy trails!