Monday, 15 June 2020

Measure your feet for t-rockets

To start get sufficient paper and a pen and ruler. Draw the outline of your foot keeping the pen upright. If you tilt the pen it will change the shape of your foot which is unhelpful.




Now get the pen between the big and second toe and draw a nice mark at the deepest point. Do not push in too hard but record the spot firmly.




The next step is to mark the Medial and Lateral Malleolus. This is the bump that forms the inside and outside of your ankle. I am pointing at the lateral malleolus in the pic below. Carefully trace an arc that shows where your malleoli are when you are standing with legs (or lower legs) upright. You must mark the malleolus on either side of your ankle. The position of the malleali is very important to get the sandal to sit squarely on the foot.




Once you have marked them get a ruler and mark a series of 1 centimeter intervals. Scan this diagram and send it to me. When I print it I need to check that the calibration is right. This is why you need to put in the centimeter intervals. (If you only have inches mark as such). Finally write down your normal running shoe size  UK SIZE or US SIZE.




Your final pic will look like this above.

Send your diagram to me at orders@t-rockets.co.za. Send the right foot diagram only. If you feet are significantly different sizes, then send a diagram for both your right and left foot.

Should you have any other questions mail me and I'll be happy to assist.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Running Free on Easter Island - Rapa Nui


Like a dog with a Pavlovian response I’d come to expect the aroma as I crested the rise. The climb up the hill away from the small harbour of Hanga Roa had me breathing hard, but it was that pleasant warmed up feeling of physical exertion one gets when you hit your stride. The sweet smelling fragrance of freshly baked bread washed over me. I slowed down to savor the moment inhaling deeply as I did so.


Around me the residents of Rapa Nui were rising in the dawn. Trucks, workers, coffee and cigarettes, the hallmarks of blue collar workers world-wide starting their day was no different on Easter Island. The men on Rapa Nui have fantastically long hair, which is either worn in dreadlocks, braids or tied up with colorful bandanas. This combined with an obviously passionate interest in tattoo art gives the dawn work gangs a pirate and outlaw appearance.


From my edge of the village I now have many options to explore the island on foot. To the North directly ahead is Maunga Terevaka. I know it well having run through a tropical rainstorm and over many false summits the day before to claim the highest peak on the island. Half way up and in the identical place on the way down the local Manu Toke Toke hawk, cries out, a lone sentry to my ramblings in the wilderness. From there you can look over the entire island. 

To the south is the volcanic crater of Ranu Kau, home to Orongo the sacred village of the Bird Man Ceremony or Kavi-Kavi as the locals call it and the final resting place of the first king of Rapa Nui, Hotu Matua. To the southeast is the distinct shape of Ranu Raraku, the birthplace of the mystical and Megalithic Moai, which have become synonymous with Rapa Nui worldwide. Beyond that is Tangariki, perhaps the most well-known of all the Ahu’s, a place where fifteen giant Moai stand lined up watching over an ancient village which is now long gone. 

The sentries remain, quiet and impressive monuments to what must have been an extraordinary devotion. Further still to the south east is the Poike point, the most dangerous point on the whole island. High cliffs, huge waves and strong ocean currents make this a place local fishermen and ocean goers treat with respect.  


Today I choose the footpath of the secret caves, known as Ana Kakenga which lie half way along the west coast. As the dawn unfolds in glorious cotton wool colours, each minute unwrapping itself to reveal a startling sunrise. The scene is complete with black storm clouds and a tropical rainbow. The summit of Maunga Trevaka slumbers in a cloak of thick cloud. I love the myriad micro climates that all co-exist at the same time on the island. The path winds along a low cliff infused with the smells of the ocean waves below. I see puddles in amongst the lava strewn pathway which tell the story of a rain shower that preceded my passing.

I wonder how Konui would run this trail. Konui is the island’s greatest athlete. In the tradition of the Rapa Nui he runs, swims, climbs, dives and paddles his outrigger canoe except he does it better and with more humility than anyone else. He is a descendent of the Bird man athletes of old who competed annually in the ‘Kavi-Kavi’, a test of courage and skill designed to avoid warfare and settle leadership for the ancient clans. In this event the best athletes from each clan on the island would race down a 500m cliff, paddle across a ferocious current to a small offshore island. There they would seek out the nest of the Manutara bird and steal one of the eggs. The first man back to the sacred village at Orongo on the top of those giant cliffs with his egg intact was declared the winner and secured the leadership for his tribe for the following year.

“Heee-hooo… Go, go go!” Chanted Konui in his wonderfully warm and friendly voice as he showed me an opening in a reef pass several days before.

To say I’d been bowled over by the warm hospitality of the Rapa Nui residents was an understatement. As I ran the ancient trail my thoughts wandered to how closely to nature the Rapa Nui live. Their island bears them the most beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables and the ocean provides them with a bountiful supply of seafood. They have a very strong spiritual connection to the island and the ocean around it. They share both their spiritual awareness and the bounty of their island paradise with a love that is difficult to describe. I found myself profoundly affected by the people and customs of Rapa Nui.

As I felt the salt spray settling on my skin and the sun’s first touches of warmth on my face I experienced that feeling we humans sometimes get when moving through the landscape, powered by our own means, alone with our thoughts and connected to nature. In a word, freedom!


In my case perhaps enhanced by the fact I’d chosen to bring no conventional running shoes to Rapa Nui. Instead I decided to experiment with a recommendation from a friend, the Yeti from t-rockets, more a ‘Jesus sandal’ than a shoe. My children tagged me in ‘Kook of the day’ on Instagram when I first wore it, and my running friends laughed openly in my face when I arrived to join them for a trail on Table Mountain in South Africa. It was me who had the last laugh on Rapa Nui though. The lava rock is merciless. There is absolutely no way you can move swiftly over the terrain barefoot. The T Rocket let me feel the terrain but protected my feet from being butchered. I was free to run as far or as fast as I liked but I still felt connected to the land while I did so.


This run would be my last on the island after an incredible two week stay. During this time, I’d sensed a spiritual dawning taking place inside of me every bit as spectacular and beautiful as a Rapa Nui sunrise. As I turned to run back downhill towards the pretty little port town of Hanga Roa, my stride lengthened and I ran with confidence down a trail I knew well. The landscape blurred around me as my speed increased and I reveled in the joy of simple movement.

Doing anything you love in an exotic location is a wonderful adventure and food for the soul. Sharing those adventures with old friends and new builds special bonds between you that can transcend age, gender and even language constraints.

As I re-entered the little town, I slowed my pace to accommodate the bustling pedestrian traffic. With the sun truly up it wasn’t just the construction gangs and the bakery that were up. Everywhere people went about their business in the time-honored way of island life. A friendly toot, a wave, no rush. The women all wearing beautiful flowers in their hair.



As I turned my final corner and hit the rutted path to where I was staying I pondered just how valuable this time on Rapa Nui had been for me. You can’t grow unless you step out of your comfort zone. I realized just how much coasting I’d been doing until this trip. I’d had my eyes opened by my friend who had just swam 40 miles non-stop around the island in nineteen hours, becoming the first person ever to do so, but that’s another story entirely…

In the meantime, I resolved to dig a little deeper and reach a little higher with my own endeavors and run free every chance I got.

For an account of Sarah Ferguson’s successful circumnavigation swim of Rapa Nui you can find it here: https://plasticoceans.org/swimming-rapa-nui/?fbclid=IwAR2qj8SND1_L-Hh_Bdj5yqt0xTiEhUnWecscyfg9dc53fea7ZiUZGtfZh0s

Images by Wofty Wild






Tuesday, 10 September 2019

A new lacing option or not?

It is known that the mid-line of the foot is where the 2nd toe meets the 3rd. It begs the question if a sandal using this mid-line point as a toe-post would work. I had ignored this possibility for a long time but eventually got around to crafting this "innovative" lacing system. I was curious to know if it would work and I could take minimalist running into a new realm of natural movement!

It took a while to work out where the ideal new point would be because the gap the between the 2nd and 3rd toes is not that well defined ... or my toes are a little stumpy!  A little digging with a pen marked the point but was this to be trusted? I also used the normal toe-post location between the big toe and 2nd toe as a guide to help locate the new anchor point which interestingly was located slightly in front of the aforementioned - in other words closer to the front of the sandal. 

As a safety measure I also inserted a tiny loop at the traditional "correct" toe-post point just in case I wanted to ditch the new innovation and restore my new sandals to trusted legacy lacing!


And so I set off. At first it felt very awkward and unbalanced. I wasn't sure how to position my feet and I wasn't able to rely on the foot sitting naturally in the sandal. Much of this was due to the fact that the laces were not tensioned properly and this created a new problem - how to tension the laces?

Trying and trying again was all I could do and I must admit the difficultly in getting it right. Even when it was working I knew the tension was not perfect, especially in the heel strap which I couldn't set correctly. As a result of this the sandal sat well for short walks but for anything longer it tended to be unstable.

Much of the lacing difficulty was due to the fact that it was simply too painful to put too much tension in the laces. It really hurt. This was very interesting because, as regular sandal runners will attest, a lace between the first and second toe is never painful and remains pressure free if setup correctly.

I tried for a couple of weeks to get accustomed to the new lacing. I kept these sandals on all day for days at a time. But in the end I gave up. There was simply no point in pursuing this painful exercise. 

While it felt good to have a little more freedom of the big toe and slightly better proprioception, there was no apparent benefit to the new lacing. After a month I cut off the radical toe-straps and inserted new ones using the tiny loops I had inserted during early construction. My sandals were restored to traditional lacing.

Now they look like this:


And now I have even used them for a few short comfortable runs!





Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Why a Yeti X? Developing a ridiculous sandal


In truth I had been thinking about this for some time but was too lazy to act on my ambition. This changed when the Doc of Moove (aka Stuart Hutcheson) asked me if I could build a "hard-core" sandal. He wanted something that would work on extreme terrain and in bad weather.

Exactly what that meant was not clear. Does more extreme mean more rock? More water? Almost certainly more mud ... and I hate mud more than the devil himself. I had a vague idea. I knew that our Yeti, although working well on trails, was more of an all-purpose tool. The Doc wanted something that would work well when the degree of elevation increased, when the surface underfoot was dangerously broken-up, when the risk of misplaced feet and incorrect weight distribution was very high. With the Cape winter looming I knew he was also keen to offer trail runners a product that made the outdoors more enticing.

And so I started pondering the options.

Many years ago I made a sandal with a single lace looped through three anchor points. It had felt pretty close to wearing a shoe and I had discarded it because at the time I was aggressively pursuing minimalist design and anything that looked like it could be reduced or eliminated was reduced or eliminated. This early taught lacing system was needed now. It was robust and secure.

I am seriously embarrassed by the hillbilly look from at least 5 years ago. Importantly look at the different lacing on the sandals.

Another memory crossed my mind. In my library of failures (and marginal successes) was buried a sandal that I once built for the Magaliesberg Challenge. I used it for the 40km race and it's hyper sticky sole impressed me as well as countless other runners who I did not crash into, as we bounced across the ancient orange rocks of this little mountain range. When I built this one-off sandal the tread pattern was so deep that I  had to use a surgical scalpel to trim each protruding lug from an estimated 7mm to about 4mm. It took a day of hard and erratic slicing but it worked well. The resultant tread pattern, a random matrix of rectangles, worked exceedingly well despite it's low-tech origin.

This semi handcut sole worked very well on some technical trails.


And so a plan emerged for Doc's hardcore Yeti, the Yeti X, as he already called it. I had an idea for a tread pattern as well as a robust lacing system.  The next question was how to actually build this Yeti X sandal. Traditionally Yeti's have had a hard footbed with a softer midsole and a grippy outersole. I wanted to change this and make the footbed a little softer without losing any protection offered against sharp stones and sticks. Could it be done?

My first few attempts were unremarkable failures. I decided to throw caution to the wind and go against my initial thinking. I would build the Yeti X with a very hard footbed, harder even, than the Yeti. The result was a sandal as stiff as a surfboard. My mood deteriorated as I tried to work the soles loose and make them more pliable. This attempt has now gone to Coachdion for testing and to see if the sole actually will soften in time.

In the depths of misery and close to the midnight hour I worked to fashion yet another new prototype this time using a combo of hard and soft polyurethane mixtures. I needed something to wear on a pending Cape Town visit and I was damned if I was going to Table Mountain without something to try. And luckily, the next Yeti X prototype emerged from the workshop. It was pretty good I thought ... it might actually work!

In the preceding weeks I had been sourcing heavy duty webbing and lacing fittings from the USA. I knew as I built my next prototype that it would be pretty tough.

Quickly I contacted my old climbing mate suggesting that he send me the Table Mountain Right Face route description (which I had long forgotten) because I now had a plan. Not only was I going to test my new Yeti X's but I was also going to recapture a moment of long past youth. I was going to climb Right Face in my new extreme sandals.

Classic routes on Table Mountain just left of the cable station. Source: Table Mountain Classics by Tony Lourens 2011.

On the day that I arrived to climb this old classic route my plans were thrown into turmoil as I couldn't even find my way across the classic Right Face Arrow Face traverse which led to the rock climb I wanted to ascend.

Navigating my way across Africa Face

Half way across the traverse I was stranded at a 12 inch wide ledge overgrown with stout bushes with a 150 meter drop to the side. There was no way I was going to navigate this narrow ledge in my Yeti X's while simultaneously doing some recklessly extensive gardening. Dismayed and turning back, I returned to the India-Venster route later making my way down Skeleton Gorge to Newlands Forest.

The next day I was back with Richard and with his help we got across the traverse. I had missed a small step upwards which led to an easy path across the expansive rock face. It brought home to me how easily mistakes can happen in the mountains even to those like me who regard themselves as pretty seasoned.

And so we got to the start of Right Face. Me in my new Yeti X's and Richard, by the way, in climbing booties and a chalk bag! "That's serious over dressing, Dude!"  "Not so" he said ... "I need to have a firm grip if I have to grab you and haul you up". And rightly so because the first step off the ledge was a damn tricky undercut pull-up to a crouching position below an overhang. Darn! Was I rusty?!!
Richard laughing at the prospect of a sandal failure. Note his climbing booties and chalk bag for this elementary outing!

It got better as we worked our way upwards, me sometimes taking a very long time to work out the most simple moves. Not only did I want to avoid falling off but I also wanted my sandals to do what I expected of them. We climbed higher and higher, at one point moving up the "Shell House" pitch named at the time after a tall building in the city center.

Maybe this was the Shell House pitch ... another 25m up.

What an engaging and wonderful outing. This exposed rock climb (an easy one by any standards) tested my brain more than the Yeti X's as I struggled to work out very simple moves ... often above a 1000 foot drop. The Yeti X prototype performed!! Remarkably.

Classic "smearing" in the Yeti X.

After 2 full days on Table Mountain and much "smearing" the test soles looked pretty good.

At one staged Richard asked "What if they break?"

"I never really thought of that" I retorted. And I never really had.

Picking my way up an exposed section of Right Face.

The final Yeti X is now only a few steps away. I know what is needed. At least I think I know. It will work very well and while it might be a compromise between an ultra and a sprint sandal, it will definitely stick like glue to a hard technical trail and allow pretty rapid movement and a little extra confidence.

Yeti X ... find your Vertical.

My hurriedly made Yeti X's with optional 70's style side posts.

One more pic at the top for fun, before trotting down.













Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Yeti Review by Coach Dion

This review is shared from Coach Dion's blog. Coach Dion is the University of Cape Town athletics coach. His original blog is available here: http://coachdion.blogspot.com/2019/03/t-rocket-yeti-sandals.html


t-rocket Yeti Sandals

For my birthday in December I was lucky to score a pair of T-Rocket Yeti Sandals.

Now having run over 500km in them it's time to look at them and share a couple of thoughts:

Where does one start? Well I can start by saying I don't wear flip-flops! I don't like them! Never felt comfortable with something between my toes! That said I didn't mind 5 fingers so, lets put these on and see what happens...

Ok, putting them on the first time took a bit of time:
• I set the back strap
• I set the tension around the ankle
• I set the tension of the thong through the toe.
All set... and like a mad athlete with a new toy, I just had to head out for a run!!! Only 1.6km around the block but it was enough to test if I had the straps right, if I was ready to do some real running.

I did tinker with the straps a bit, but it's easy.

Most of you would wear flip-flops, these are not flip-flops, these are sandals, so they 'stick' to your foot! So if you shake your foot around it doesn't come off!

Let's run:

No wait, let me tell you this first, I have been running in 5-fingers, Vivobarefoot shoes, and NB minius for years now so what I'm about to tell you about my runs not everyone can do!

• Run 1 (2 Dec), 1.6km around the block
• Run 2 (5 Dec), 4km pushed for time, but had been wearing them in the house.
• Run 3 (8 Dec), was wearing them as I drove to the track... ran in to enter a couple of track races!!! It felt comfortable! Kept them on for a 3000m track race, a 1000m race and the Mile.
• Run 4 (12 Dec), 14km on the road.
• Run 5 (15 Dec), 21.1km not a race, just a run 88:47
• Run 7 (22 Dec), 30km 2h25 half road, half easy trail over 500m climb
• Run ? (23 Feb), 14.3km 2h06 real trail, single track on Vlakenberg 700m climb.
Wow, I've run a bit of everything in them... from the runs above you can see I've run road, gravel road trail, rocky single track trail and track! yes tartan!
Only pic left of me on the track, with me 40 years ago!
Now what do they run like?
I'm having a ball in them!
Really?
Yes!
But it's just a hard piece of rubber under your foot!

Truth be told, it's not that hard, it bends and wraps around anything and has enough give! Have you ever been on a tartan track? Well next time take you shoes off and go for a run! That was what it feels like! Don't ever get near a track? How about the carpet at home? Jog down the passage!

When running I feel someone has rolled out thin rubber mat in front of me, yes I feel the rocks and stones but you want to feel the ground so all is good. The rubber is thick enough so sharp rock aren't a problem.

What I can say: that 3rd run, the track races, my toes felt a bit of a burn, the type of burn you might feel running on the beach... so start easy for a couple of runs, till you get use to running in sandals.
Blisters? No problems, No NOT even between the toes, the foot doesn't move! I can say, the little plastic that connects the straps was uncomfortable for a bit, but I sanded the ruff edge off and I don't feel it anymore.

Another thing I've noticed is that in the wet, while the soles might still grip to every rock and road, my foot wanted to slide a bit... this just meant taking turns a little slower. No problem on the road, but on a twisty trail... if you are a racing snake you will be loosing a bit of time!
I also felt, due to the fact you don't have big lugs, some loose rocky down hills slow you down... ok they slowed me down. That said I'm old and take them slowly in any case!
Some real single track heading to Blackburn


In the mean time I have a 2nd pair, The Streetlite, They are a little softer, thinner and lighter. (and the foot slips more in the wet, but this will improve as the sandal molds to your foot. The sole mean while grips to anything!)
Raced 30km in them on the weekend

Who should own/run in a pair of sandal?

Well, I would say everyone, yes you, you, and even you... but that said not everyone will be racing track races and running 30+ km long runs in them...
Most of you will just put them on for a jog round the block, to walk to the beach, to go shopping in! A sandal is not a flip-flop it allows your foot to relax and move freely strengthening it. Strong feet, good for running.
So your feet get dirty