CF Reviews

Excruciatingly Honest Opinions About Health and Fitness Products.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Spark! A "Spark People" Book Giveaway

So I kept hearing the words "Spark People" floating around the web, and I knew it was a fitness website of some sort. I kept meaning to investigate, but I never got around to it.

And frankly, there was something that seemed vaguely amusing and possibly cultish about the name "Sparkpeople." I even got kind of a science-fictiony picture in my head: fit and cheerful aliens coming together to share tips. Live long and prosper, Sparkpeople!

I was thinking sort of like this, only maybe with
actual sparks coming out of their heads.

(Image: Serendigity)

But, it turns out that Sparkpeople are not aliens. And their website is pretty cool! It has all kinds of tools and advice and a whole community of determined people who have helped each other lose over 9 million pounds, burn 7 billion calories and drink 218 million cups of water. (No word, however, as to how many million bathroom trips were logged in the course of drinking all that water.) And they have a blog called the Daily Spark that has some great info in it too.

Anyway, the three niftiest things about Sparkpeople, in my opinion?

1. Their website is free and has a hell of a lot of stuff on it;

2. They don't promote a particular diet or exercise plan but instead they "encourage small steps," and stress goal attainment, accountability, education, and community;

And, best of all:

3. They have a new book that just came and they're giving us 5 FREE COPIES for a giveaway!

The only thing I'm not 100% on board with? According to their website content editor, "most everything we promote is upbeat and optimistic."

Well, nobody's perfect.

So what's in the book?

I haven't read it yet, but it apparently it crams a lot of the best and most helpful stuff from the website in there, plus some inspiring success stories, and it includes a 28-day plan to change your life.

Oh, and it's got "27 proven secrets of success." And I am SUCH a sucker for lists like that, that if I do nothing else I'm going to at least have to get around to finding out what the 27 secrets are. I'm hoping to see "eat more chocolate" and "take more naps" on the list. You think?

And if you'd like to win a copy of the book (Sorry, U.S. residents only) please leave a comment below! Contest closes Sunday, January 3rd, midnight PST, and I'll announce the winners (chosen by random number generator) on Monday. Do check back to see if you've won and email me by Friday the 8th, or I'll pick some new winners!


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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Kuru Shoe Review

So as I mentioned back on the main Cranky Fitness page, after whining about my sore feet on the blog, I recently got to try a pair of Kuru shoes. The Kuru people sell active footwear, including shoes for plantar fasciitis, and they let me try a pair for free to see what I thought of them.

IMPORTANT NOTE FOR POST SKIMMERS: Sorry, at this point this is just a review of the shoes, not a giveaway. So please don't go thanking me in the comments for the great giveaway! You'll just make me feel all guilty for not giving you my shoes. But face it, unless you're a size 10 and don't mind my smelly feet having been in there first? You probably wouldn't want my pair anyway. Plus, the good news, is: a Kuru giveaway still remains a distinct possibility for the future!

Let's keep it simple, shall we? First the things I liked, then the things I didn't.

Some Awesome Things About Kuru Shoes:

1. The technology makes for an extremely comfortable, supportive shoe.

So they bill these things as having "the world's most anatomical midsole." The idea is that the Kuru sole is made out of stuff that enables the shoe to mold to your foot, offering "the support of a custom orthotic."

I'm not a podiatrist or anything, and of course every shoe maker says their stuff is the best in the world and they can't all be right. So I can't evaluate the science behind it.

But I can notice how they fit. And as soon as I put these on my feet and started walking around I said: Whooee! Yes!

I often find shoes to be either too hard and unyielding, or too springy and floppy and unsupportive. This pair of Kruzr's somehow managed to be both cushy enough inside to be comfortable on my sore heel, but firm and supportive enough all around so that I feel like I'm getting maximum protection from the kind of impact (and pronation problems) that got my foot messed up in the first place.

It's too early to tell whether these shoes will help my plantar fasciitis, because I'm nixing the long walks for now and not looking to risk irritating things by pushing it for the sake of a shoe review. But the shoes sure seem to be much better than my previous shoes at giving me the kind of support I think will help a lot in the long run.

2. They're Not Running Shoes But They Feel As Good.

I like to walk a lot, but generally if I'm going more than a couple miles or so I've learned to put on a pair of trail running shoes. Even "casual" non-running shoes tend to chafe or not offer enough support. Problem is, sometimes I don't feel like wearing running shoes if I'm walking, say, to a restaurant. Plus, how am I ever going to go to Europe again wearing shoes that scream "lazy American who can't ever manage to change out of her trainers?"

Kuru shoes are exactly the type of shoes that I've been looking for: athletic in terms of how they feel, but a slight step up in formality from your basic trail runner.

3. The Price Seems Very Reasonable.

A lot of times I've reviewed great products but then felt kind of guilty recommending them because I personally might be too cheap to spring for 'em myself if I hadn't scored them for free. The Kuru's, however, are in the $80-$90 range and seem well worth it. Most shoes this well-engineered would cost a heck of a lot more.

The things I didn't like as much about Kuru shoes:

1. They only sell online.

I like to try things on first. Now on the plus side, the Kuru folks let you send the shoes back for free, so there's no risk. But I'm lazy and I hate even the thought of having to send things back.

2. Depending on the model, the shoes look pretty wide and kind of clunky when viewed from the top.

This is partly my own fault--the model I really wanted to try wasn't available, and I went with color over style. I wanted a go-with-everything color scheme so I chose a gray and black pair, even though I had some fears about the width of the grey Kruzr's in the picture.

And sure enough, just as my feet were saying "ahh, these are so comfortable," my vain ego was saying "Eeek, my feet look so damn wide!"

Scary View of Kuru Shoes

In my own mind, I was seeing:

Photo: mliu92

And it's not that I have particularly fat feet--it's the shoes, I swear.

However, when I whined to the Lobster, she said, "really? They look pretty cute to me."

And I thought, how could this be? Doesn't she see my elephant feet?

Then she pointed out that no one else would be looking straight down at them like I was doing. She suggested I look at them from the viewing angle of other people. If I was going to let vanity threaten my enjoyment of my new awesome comfortable supportive shoes, I might as well get a more accurate idea of what they looked like to other people.

And sure enough, that helped a lot.

Much less scary from the side.

And fine from the front too!

And as further proof of Kuru's aesthetic coolness, here is Mizfit sporting a different pair. (And check out her Kuru review too).

See? Like I said, it was my own fault for picking the wrong pair. If you look at their website, they've got tons of other styles and colors.

Anyway, I am very happy with the shoes so far. I may even spring for the pair I really wanted with my own money! As a tight-fisted tight-clawed crab, that says a lot.

So when you guys find a comfortable, supportive pair of shoes do you fret about what they look like?


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