Author Archives: Ryan McElhaney

Wimbledon and Running on Different Surfaces

By | July 13, 2015

wikipediaWimbledon was this weekend and as most of us are aware Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic won the women’s and men’s titles, respectively. Wimbledon is the oldest, historic, and most prestigious of all the tennis tournaments in the world. Ignoring all of those other pretty lofty superlatives, Wimbledon is also the last major tournament to be played on grass courts. Since the late 1980s every other major tournament has switched to hardcourt or clay surfaces.

Of the four Grand Slam events in tennis only two are played on similar court materials, the Australian and US open on hardcourt, while the French Open is played on clay and Wimbledon, as we mentioned before, is played on grass. Professional tennis players have to be able to train and condition their bodies to handle the different stress and rigors that each surface provides. While the majority of us will never play tennis at a professinal level(Serena could be a fan of us here at, you never know), we can all probably relate to having exercised on different types of courts and fields.


We can break these surfaces down into two broad categories, natural and man-made, and then work our way into more detail from there. The first one we’ll go into is natural surfaces. Anyone that runs as a hobby will tell you that there’s a big difference between running on a nature trail and running down at the local track. Generally speaking natural surfaces are softer and much, much easier on your joints. Speaking as someone that’s blown out a knee that wasn’t great to begin with, running on grass or a trails is so much easier to deal with from that aspect of it. But that softness also comes along with the fact that those trails, fields, and paths aren’t perfectly flat and smooth. These surfaces are uneven and often unstable, which means you’ll work more muscles in an attempt to keep yourself stabilized. Think about the difference between running on a track and running in the sand down at the beach and how much more tiring the sand is to run in. That unevenness and instability is where all of the extra benefit of the run comes from, but it’s also where increased risk of injury does as well. The track might not be quite as much of a workout as running on the trails, but you also didn’t need to make sure you keep a focus on watching out for errant roots or holes.


So what about man-made surfaces? When we say man-made we mean asphalt, concrete, and tarmac/rubber surfaces. The first thing we can say is that concrete is bad for your body when it comes to running. Which is a shame because there are miles and miles of concrete sidewalks all across the world. The exact qualities that make it a dynamite building material, it’s durable and extra hard, make it awful for running. That extra hardness means that whenever your foot strikes it while running it hits you back just as hard. Running on concrete without taking extra precautions can shatter blood vessels, which compounds the damage because even less blood can carry oxygen to the parts of your body that need to be healed. If you have no other choice than running on concrete, make sure to wear shoes with maximum cushion. Asphalt is the second most common surface material and luckily isn’t nearly as bad for your joints as concrete. It’s not great, but it’s less hard and widely available. It does have serious problems with the fact that running on asphalt often means running the street which exposes runners to traffic, blind corners, and the effects of car exhaust on health. In an ideal world when heading down to the park or the local trail system isn’t one of the options, you’d find a tarmac or rubber surfaced track. Tarmac and rubber are much softer than concrete and asphalt and do substantially less damage to your joints. All of these materials share the similarity of being much harder and more damaging than a natural surface material, they have the advantage of being much more efficient in terms of distance covered. That damaging hardness and stability means that most of the energy you put into pushing off it with each stride is going to propel you forward making you faster and able to go further.

And what about treadmills? I didn’t put them in either surface because you don’t wander through the woods and magically finding them waiting to be ran on. Even if you did, you should avoid it. Because of the way they simulate moving forward using a rotating belt, it forces an awkward running form that uses extra force and causes a lot more strain on the body than is necessary.

If we, and by we I mean sports physiologists, had to rank running surfaces in order of most preferable to least it would go like this:
Grass – Grass is great because it has a lot of natural material to cushion your stride. The combination of the actual grass and the dirt it grows in do a lot to absorb the impact of running instead of taking it all on your joints.
Dirt trails – Dirt trails have the same advantage as grass, you just have to watch out for loose bits of debris that could cause an injury.
Rubber/tarmac tracks – The most soft and absorbing of all of the man-made surfaces. When natural isn’t available this should be your go to.
Asphalt – One of the easiest to find, but can also do some damage to your joints if you aren’t prepared for it.
Concrete – Do whatever you can to avoid running on concrete. There’s a reason they build infrastructure that needs to last out of the stuff, and it’s not befcause it promotes joint health.

Choosing the Right Shoes For Kids’ Feet

By | July 7, 2015

baby-george-crocsLast week the Royal Family was setting trends once again. As Prince George was seen running and playing with the Duchess and Duke of Cambridge, also known as mom and dad, the world couldn’t help but notice what was on the royal feet. Crocs. Navy crocs with white soles had a 1,500% increase in sales last week thanks to the Prince George effect. Crocs have a lot of parent friendly qualities, cheap, tough, easy to clean, but are they the best shoes for your little one to be wearing?

When it comes to picking out shoes for your kids you really have to focus on three questions. How does the shoe fit? What is the shoe made out of? And is that shoe the type of shoe your child should be wearing? Let’s start with the first question, because well we listed it first, and look at how fit is important to your child’s shoes. Fit is important because a poor fitting shoe can cause all sorts of problems for tiny little feet. A shoe that is too small can cause ingrown toenails, hammer toe, bunions, etc and a shoe that’s too large won’t provide enough support for feet that are still developing. Because none of us are experts in everything, we recommend going to a shoe store and having your child sized by someone trained in measuring for shoe sizes. This probably seems like overkill for something the average toddler will outgrow in six months, but feet are especially susceptible to having issues later in life when children are younger and their feet are less developed.

Just as important as fit, is what material the shoes is made out of. Just like how no one would suggest gym shorts during the middle of winter, there are definite right and wrong materials for children’s shoes. A point we constantly harp on here at Socks4Life for adults is how important it is for shoes to be breathable. Children’s shoes should be made of breathable materials like leather, mesh, or canvas for example and you should avoid materials like plastic. Children’s feet tend to sweat a lot and keeping feet dry is very important for foot health. It takes years for feet to develop issues with either flat or high arches so that’s not an issue to really worry about, you only need to make sure that the insoles are absorbent and padded to provide cushion for tender feet. The last part of material to worry about is what the sole is made of. You might think that a sole with a lot of grip and thickness would be helpful, but they can actual make it more difficult for children just beginning to walk. Having shoes that will instill the mechanics of a normal walking step is important here.

The point we made about picking correct materials also applies to choosing the correct type of shoe in general. Just like you’d never try to put a toddler in a pair of heels, there are right and wrong shoes for different age groups. We can break this down into three categories based on age and ability: pre-walking, toddler, and school age. Pre-walking shoes are for babies and infants that are still only crawling. Because these children aren’t walking yet these shoes don’t need to provide any support. They only need to be soft, warm, and able to protect feet from usual household obstacles. Toddler shoes are where the issue of support starts to come up. Once kids start walking, usually around nine months, and the time they spend walking is fairly short, shoes need to be breathable before you worry about support. Once the adventures start to get longer, you need to make sure that the shoes are still breathable, provide support, high top shoes are a good choice for this, and that the sole they have is flat and doesn’t have too much grip. For school age kids your biggest worry will probably be making sure they just wear the things. At this point the shoes are pretty standard and the kids are pretty solid on walking. Worrying about fit is the only thing to watch out for, so if you hear lots of complaints about rubbing or chafing go to a shoe store and get them measured and sized.

There it is, 700 words all about big facts for tiny feet. It might not seem like something that needs all that much thought, beyond small feet = small shoes, but it’s something that can have big effects later in life.

Recovering from the High Heel Hangover

By | June 24, 2015

Huffington Post

After last week’s article did you spend the weekend stretching, lifting, and jumping to be ready to survive a Jurassic World level disaster in style? Did you set a new 40 time in some four inch heels? Or are you dealing with the pain of de-feet? Do your feet need a few days on the couch and an aspirin, or three? Instead of naps and aspirin, we’ve got some tips on how to get over that high heel hangover.



There’s a lot of pressure to look good on the weekend and that pressure becomes literal when you’re doing it in heels. The day after don’t worry about looking chic, make sure you wear something that spreads out the weight of your feet evenly. In an ideal world this is a pair of cushioned sneakers with thick socks, like our Excell Full Cushion Socks, but flats will work too. The goal here, just like having a king size bed to yourself, is to spread it out.



North Shore Athletics

Those same exercises that make it easier for you to be extra graceful on heels can also help with fixing the pain.  Just like how stretching can help prevent or treat shin splints when running, stretching after a long night on heels can help. Yoga poses like downward dog and sitting in a verasana position and range of motion exercises like writing the alphabet using just your ankle and big toe are good for helping reducing swelling and pain. If the pain is focused more on the back of the foot, closer to the Achilles, try a wall stretch to get the blood flowing there.


Mens Health

These two are a little more preventative, but when’s a better time to start preventative care than after something you swear you’ll never do again? Treat your feet well. We already know that high heels put a lot of pressure on certain parts of your feet so don’t make the problem worse by having things like poorly trimmed or outright ingrown nails. Make sure your nails are trimmed and that there aren’t any odd spots of extra pressure when you’re in your shoes. This is especially prevalent in pointy toed shoes. While you’re down there, keeping things trimmed and in line, check for any calluses you may have. Remember way, way back to two sentences ago when we talked about avoiding extra pressure spots? That applies doubly so to calluses, since they’re more likely to form in places that are already experiencing extra pressure. Make sure to moisturize your feet, especially on callused areas, and if the callus is bad enough, soak you feet in warm water for five minutes and then rub the callus with a pumice stone to remove dead skin.


Speaking of soaking feet. Soak your feet. Softening the skin up is helpful in the prevention of those pesky calluses we were just talking about. The warm water will open up your blood vessels and help get all the oxygen and nutrients where they need to be faster. Adding epsom salts or other mineral baths is extra helpful for this. Certain minerals, like magnesium for instance, can help speed up the healing process since magnesium is a regulator in over 300 different enzymatic processes in your body.


Consider getting a massage. If you spend a lot of time in heels and your feet constantly hurt you may have strained a muscle in your foot or even have a muscular imbalance which causes the way you walk to create more strain on your feet. A deep massage can help with the muscle strain fairly quickly and be the beginning of the process of fixing an imbalance.



If it’s really bad the next day, treat it like any other foot injury and RICE it. By this we mean Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. So spend a day in bed or on the couch with pillows under your feet to keep them up above your heart. Try wearing a pair of compression socks while alternating 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off with an ice pack to keep the swelling down. Make sure to stay hydrated and consider ibuprofen if the pain is a bit too much to just deal with.

How To Get Jurassic Park Ankles

By | June 19, 2015

The opening of Jurassic World was really good for a number of people this weekend. Chris Pratt, Colin Trevorrow, and Bryce Dallas Howard’s podiatrist. As awesome at it was to watch Howard run away from a T-Rex, spoiler alert Jurassic World has dinosaurs, in a pair of heels, once my brain turned back on my first thought was about how bad that would be for your feet. So in our love for all things feet here at Socks4Life, we figured we’d talk about how you can improve your 40 yard time in a pair of four inch heels.

To successfully be able to run in heels, your going to need to focus on two things: Ankle strength and balance. If you’ve ever worn a pair extra tall heels you know exactly important having strong ankles are. For anyone that’s never worn heels before, try to remember the first time you ever went out on ice skates. That weak, wobbly feeling you probably had trying to balance on a quarter inch piece of steel. Wearing high heels works those same stabilizing muscles. Besides being helpful for our hypothetical high heel footrace, strengthening these muscles will help prevent things like ankle sprains in the future.


One of the best exercises for this can be done using just a belt, but a resistance band is ideal. Put your foot in the belt or band, stretch it all the way out until you have resistance, and try to rotate your foot in one direction until you can’t stretch it anymore. You can use that same belt or band to hang small amounts of weight that you can then lift using just your ankle muscles.


Calf raises are a great, do it anywhere kind of exercise to help strengthen ankles. There are a number of variants that are all just as good to do, such as heel drops, where you start out standing on a slight platform with your heels over the edge before dropping them down to the floor, or calf raises where your feet are pointed out 45 degrees.

If you’re planning on doing any actual running or anything requiring any sort of quick, cutting motion, I can’t recommend lateral hops enough. You balance on one foot and then jump back and forth over an imaginary line on that one foot for however long you want that set to be, usually 30 seconds.



Strength is important, but so is balance when all of your weight is carried on the same area as the average baseball card. This is going to sound really obvious, but that’s because it’s so simple. Simply stand on one foot for a certain amount of time. Start off by simply raising one foot off the ground and then progress to standing like a flamingo and then you can get fancy and start swinging that other foot back and forth in front of you for some dynamic balance practice. Practice standing on uneven surfaces. Beds are perfect for this if you’re not too put off by having feet all over your bed. Any uneven, unstable surface works for this. You can buy a balance board, but an air mattress or a couple of rolled up towels are a lot cheaper. If you feel like you’ve got all of those exercises totally under control, try balancing on one foot and trying to catch a ball when someone throws it to you. It works on hand eye, helps increase your body’s awareness of where exactly the different parts are, prorioception, and is a great test of balance.

We hope these suggestions are helpful in your pursuit of ankles as a strong as steel and the balance of a cat. Don’t use these new found abilities for evil and please don’t use them to actually run in heels.

Building A Summer Wardrobe

By | June 11, 2015

We’re just a little under a month away from the official start of summer, even if feels like it’s already been summer for the last month, so that means it’s time be able to look good outside without suffering a case of heat stroke. Building a wardrobe can be hard, and expensive, especially for just one season, but we’re going to give some advice on pieces that’ll stay stylish for a long time that also won’t break the bank.

Our guide is going to start from the ground up with shoes. Summer is bright, hot, and if you share the misfortune of us here at, humid. All of those things can lead to a bad situation inside of your shoes during the warmer months. As good as we look in wing tips and oxfords, save them for the office when it’s hot out. Your goal when it comes to shoes should be light and airy. Since they’re going to be worn with a lot of different outfits over the course of the season, try to pick shoes in a either a neutral color or one that matches a lot of your other clothes. We’d recommend having a pair of sneakers, a casual loafer/slip on, and a pair of sandals for the summer.  A pair of white Chucks are both timeless and go with most outfits. Boat shoes are a great way to look a lot nicer with little effort. And, hopefully, at some point you’re going to be outside in the sand, grass, or water and if you’re not wearing sandals you’re going to look like someone’s grandpa. A quick side note when it comes to shoes in the summer, wear socks. Bare sweaty feet in shoes is simultaneously bad for your feet(Hey there, stinky feet) and for your shoes(Misshapes and wears them out). If you’re worried about how it looks then buy a pair of no show socks, just don’t have gross feet.

Well we’re moving on up, to the front side, to a fashion suggestion for the guy(s), moving on up, to the back side, shorts are just pants but only on the thigh. For anyone born after 1985 who doesn’t get that, we’re talking about shorts. 100 degree days with 95% humidity are just too much for jeans, no matter how cool you look in them. Luckily you can still look good in shorts as long as you take the time to try. Leave the gym shorts at home and burn the cargo shorts, because a pair of stylish should be made out of something like khaki and hit just above the knee. Try grabbing a couple pairs in neutrals and don’t be afraid to throw some color in there either. In true, Socks4Life style, we’re going to go off topic and talk about chinos too. Sometimes you’ll have to go somewhere where shorts aren’t allowed, so we’d recommend grabbing a pair or two of chinos in a neutral color like off-white or navy for special occasions. Or maybe you’re someone who can handle long pants and heat, grab them in some actual colors then. I can’t tell you what colors look good on you, but I can tell you everyone gets out of the way of a man who owns wearing a pair of bright red pants. As always, the key is confidence, and to a lesser extent, friends who will tell you when you’ve achieved pants hubris.

Summer may be the time of year to be shirtless down at the shore, but most places still operate under a no shirt, no shoes, no service mantra so we should probably take a second to discuss them. There’s a ton of variety and choice for shirts in the summer, when it’s hot out the only limitation is your ability to deal with the heat. Personally I’m someone built for winter, so my go to is t-shirts and the occasional button up when I have to look like an adult. T-shirts are cheap and go with everything, so grab a bunch in different colors and use some common sense when it comes to color combinations. Polos are a good way to strike a good balance between formal and casual, just don’t believe their performance claims. Tucked into a pair of decent looking shorts and you’ll be good to go for some country club living or let it fly free while you’re teeing off on the public courses. A lightweight, breathable button up is a godsend when you have to look presentable during the summer months. Ideally made out of cotton or anything else breathable, a button down does a great job from transitioning from put together to letting it all hang out as easily as rolling up the sleeves and untucking it. An oxford collar button down, or OCBD as the cool kids say, is on the casual side of things when it comes to dress shirts for work, but that’s not what we’re focusing on here so go for it. Unless you’ve got the body of a modelling mannequin, we’d suggest getting your shirt tailored to fit you a little better and also to keep it from trapping warm air.

Let’s wrap this up with a discussion on hats and other accessories. The best part about summer fashion accessories is that for the most part they’re all practical as well. Let’s start with hats. Hats are great during the summer, and the rest of the year too, because they keep the sun off of your skin. Our brother blog has actually covered this in fairly deep detail for this summer already. The single most useful summer accessory has to be a pair of sunglasses. From lying on the beach to being in an outdoor wedding, there’s almost no situation where sunglasses are inappropriate to wear. Two aspects to think about when it comes to picking sunglasses, UV protection and style. In regards to the first point, make sure your glasses are UVA/B certified to block the worst of the sun’s rays and if you deal with a lot of glare consider getting polarized lenses to block out reflected light. For the second, the big thing is to pick a pair that fits your face. What this really comes down to is creating contrast. If you have a round face you want frames that make your face look longer and thinner, a long face wants frames that make it look rounder and less pronounced, etc. The last accessory we’ll focus on is belts. Summer is the only time you can really get away with crazy colored belts and we highly recommend it. If you’re sticking with standard light summer colors a lightweight belt in a bright color is a good way to add some flair to whatever you’re wearing. Just remember that summer belts should typically be thinner and lighter to match what you’re wearing.

There we have it. Our quick guide to what you should try to get into your wardrobe this summer.