Category Archives: How to

How to Buy: Running Shoes

How to buy running shoes

Maybe you’re one of those lucky few who have kept their New Year’s resolution and continued to exercise. Or maybe, you’re looking for a better quality of running shoes. We’re here to help you pick out the right kind of shoes for your feet.

Why good shoes are important:

We all have those pairs of shoes that we wear to do everything: going to the movie, work, eating at a restaurant, and jumping in the mud. Unfortunately, we’re so use to wearing them that we even use them to exercise.  You may think these shoes are perfectly fine for taking a light jog around the track or neighborhood, at least until you try it. All it takes is one painful experience running; before you realize you need to spend a little extra cash on a pair of running shoes that may not leave your closet. Just wearing a shoe around the store might feel comfortable, but when you take them out and start using them,  you’ll more likely get a different reaction.  Having a good pair of shoes that fit to your feet are beneficial in preventing shin splints, blisters, and other discomforts.

Are you a Road Runner or Trail Runner?

Before you pick out the exact shoe that is the right fit, you’ll need to decide what kind of running do you want to do? There are certain shoes which better match your running style. If you’re planning on running on pavement and asphalt, then road running shoes are a better match. However, if you like to run off the beaten path, then a trail shoe is a better fit for your needs.

The Road Runner

Beep! Beep!

Road running shoes are designed for flat surfaces and the occasional run through nature trails and wood-chipped paths. They are light and flexible. They are also meant to cushion and support feet during long repetitive strides on hard, flat surfaces.

The Trail Runner

One tough mudder

The trail running shoe is an enhanced version of the running shoe, made specifically for off-road routes. They are enhanced with aggressive outsoles for solid traction and strengthened to offer stability, support, and underfoot protection. If you encounter a lot of rocks, roots, muds, or other obstacles during your run, then choose trail shoes.

You and Your Feet

So you know where you want to run; now you want to know how to get the right shoes. First, you need to know a little about your own feet.

Foot Size:

You probably know your shoe size, but if you are unsure, it’s best to have them measured at a shoes store. In fact, measure both feet in case one is larger than the other. Our goal is comfort after all, so getting the right size for each foot is important. The device they use to measure your foot is called a Brannock device. It measures the length, width, and toe to ball of foot.

Arch Shape:

The arch of your foot is basically the middle of your foot between your heel and your toes. The simplest way to find the arch of your foot is by a water test. Next time you are in the shower, pool, or tub, take a look at the footprint you make on the floor. The shape of your footprint will tell you what kind of arch you have. The arch of your foot affects the way your foot moves as you run.

How you run:

Your foot shape is closely related to its movement as you walk or run. Understanding how your feet hit the ground will prevent injuries and help find the right shoe which stabilizes you correctly. Typically, your foot hit the ground with the heel first. It rolls slightly inward and the arch flattens to support your foot. As you exit the stride, your foot  rolls slightly to the outside and stiffens to create a springboard which propels you forward. As a runner, you may experience slight variations of this stride.

Pronation is the foot’s natural roll following when the heel hits the ground. Neutral pronation helps absorb the impact, which relieves pressure on the knees and joints. Many runners have natural pronation.

Overpronation is when you put more weight on the outside of your feet. This is a common risk for most runners and could lead to knee and joint problems. Overpronators need stability and motion control shoes.

Supination (under-pronation) is the opposite of overpronation. It’s when the runner put more weight in the inside of their feet. Although few runners supinate, those that do will need shoes with cushioning and flexibility.

So how do you know which one you have?

Ask a podiatrist or physical therapist. Either one could tell you.

An easier and cheaper way is to just check your closet. Find a pair of shoes and look at the bottom. Check where your shoes have worn out and that will tell you. If you have neutral or natural pronation, then wear will be near the ball of your feet and a little on your heel. If you have overpronation, wear will be on the inside edge of your shoes. Supination will have wear on the outer edge of your shoes.

Types of Running Shoes

Cushioning:

Cushioning shoes provide better shock absorption and a little medial (arch side) support. They’re best for runners who are mild pronators or supinators. Cushioning shoes are also good for neutral runners during off-pavement runs.

Stability:

Stability shoes help reduce basic pronation. They’re good for neutral runners or those who have mild to moderate overpronation. They often include a “post” in the midsole. Due to their extra support features, nearly all trail-running shoes fall into this category.

Motion Control:

Motion control shoes offer features such as stiffer heels to counter overpronation. They’re best for runners who exhibit moderate to severe overpronation.

Barefoot/Minimalist:

Barefoot/Minimalist shoes are supposed to be more in tune with your natural way of running. You may have heard or Vibram shoes. They basically look like gloves for your feet. They are designed to fit the contour and shape of your foot more naturally. A lot of people love them, but try them to make sure they are the right fit for you.

Useful Links:

RoadRunnerSport.com (Shoedog) – Useful tool to help you pick out the right shoe for your feet

Runner’s World Magazine – Useful tips,tools, and training exercises for beginner runners to professionals.

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How to Buy: A Diamond

Welcome to the World of Diamonds:

A Brief History:

Diamonds: women love them and men fear them. Surely they must be so expensive because of their beauty and rarity. Well, maybe half of that is true. In the past, diamonds use to be quite rare. They were first thought to be recognized and mined in India and used in religious icons. The rise in popularity began around the 19th century because of increasing supply, improved cutting and polishing techniques, growth in the world economy, and successful advertising campaigns. It is true that extracting diamonds is quite labor intensive and that very few are actually worth cutting into the diamonds you see. (Only about 1 in 1 million diamonds are quality one carat stones, only 1 in 5 million are 2-carat; and 1 in 15 million are 3-carat).

So they are not that rare, then why are they so expensive?

Let me introduce you to De Beers. If you haven’t heard of them, then try to imagine the biggest cartel that you can think of and multiply that times 100. They are that big and powerful in the diamond industry.  De Beers was founded by Cecil Rhodes, who also founded the state of Rhodesia which later became Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Rhodes Scholarship is also named after him, and funded by his estate.

He started by selling water pumps during the diamond rush in South Africa in 1867. Over the next 20 years, he expanded into mines and eventually created a monopoly by owning all the diamond mines in the country. De Beers controls the price of diamonds from the mines to the hands of your jewelers. In the early days, De Beers were believe to hold 90% of the market. However, today it’s more likely 60% to 75%. (Source)

Is there anything I can do to save some money?

Actually, there is to a small degree. We’ll go into detail on how to pick the right diamond so you aren’t getting ripped off. Retailers know  that diamonds are expensive, and they will try to up-sell poor quality diamonds to unsuspecting victims. Don’t be one of them. By having a basic understanding and shopping around, you can find a great quality diamond within your price range.

Choosing the right diamond:

For most people, purchasing a diamond is a new and scary experience. However, with a little basic knowledge, you can save a little money and feel more confident in your purchase. There are 5 main characteristics that you should be looking for in a quality diamond: Shape, Cut, Clarity, Color, and Carat Weight.

Shape:

Round:

By far the most popular shape of diamond. For hundreds of years, diamond cutters have been examining the light properties to maximize the fire and brilliance. Fire is the flashes of colored light reflected back from within a diamond, similar to a prism. Brilliance is the amount of light reflected up through the surface of a diamond.

Princess:

Is the most popular non-round diamond. It’s unique cut and brilliance make it a popular choice for engagement rings. Princess cut diamonds should be more square-shaped. Make sure you look at the length-to-width ratio. The closer you get to 1.0 the better.

Bluenile.com

Cushion:

This unique cut has been popular for more than a century. Cushion cuts are also known as “Pillow Cuts.” They have rounded corners and more facets (cuts) to create more brilliance. Cushions cuts look great in either squares or rectangles.

Bluenile.com

Marquise:

Marquise diamonds are known for maximizing carat  weight, giving you a much larger looking stone. Even the shape of the stone can make fingers appear longer and slender.

Bluenile.com

Heart:

The heart shape is a relatively new shape. The heart is the ultimate symbol of love. This shape diamond is becoming more and more popular.

Bluenile.com

Pear:

The pear shape is often called a “teardrop” because of its pointed and rounded ends. Pear shapes can also make fingers look longer and slender.

Bluenile.com

Oval:

An oval diamond has beautiful brilliance that’s similar to a round diamond. Oval diamonds are also very popular because they can make fingers look longer and slender.

 Bluenile.com

Emerald:

Emeralds have to be some of the cleanest diamonds you can purchase. Because you can see through the diamond, they often have the highest clarity. You’ll notice any imperfections quickly in an emerald cut. To get  the best quality, look for a Length to Width ratio between 1.30 and 1.40.

 Bluenile.com

Radiant:

Trimmed corners are the signature of this diamond, and they help make the radiant-cut a popular for jewelry. Similar to Princess cut, you should look for a square shape around a ratio of 1 to 1.05.

Bluenile.com

Picking out a shape is all a matter of preference. Certain shapes have more sparkle and other shapes maximize the diamond size. Pick something you like and you can never go wrong.

Cut:

Cut is one of the most important characteristics of getting a quality diamond. The better the cut, the more beautiful the diamond will look. If you get a diamond with a poor cut, then a lot of the light that should be reflected out the top will be lost through the bottom. Think about the light as “Sparkle.” If the diamond is cut too shallow, the sparkle will be lost out the bottom. If the diamond is cut too deep, the sparkle will be lost out the sides. An Ideal cut will reflect the light around and put it back out the top where your eyes can enjoy it.

  • Ideal cut: Represents roughly the top 3% of diamond quality based on cut. Reflects nearly all light that enters the diamond.
  • Very good cut: Represents roughly the top 15% of diamond quality based on cut. Reflects nearly as much light as the ideal cut, but for a lower price.
  • Good cut: Represents roughly the top 25% of diamond quality based on cut. Reflects most light that enters. Much less expensive than a very good cut.
  • Fair cut: Represents roughly the top 35% of diamond quality based on cut. Still a quality diamond, but a fair cut will not be as brilliant as a good cut. (Source)

Clarity:

Clarity is how clear the diamond is. Clarity is typically graded in 5 categories:

  1. Flawless (F)/Internally Flawless (IF)
  2. Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1, VVS2)
  3. Very Slightly Included (VS1, VS2)
  4. Slightly Included (S1, S2, sometimes you’ll see S3)
  5. Included (I1, I2, I3, etc)

The chart to the right explains what you can see at each clarity grade.

Once a diamond is set, a lot of the imperfections will be unseen. Just make sure that the diamond looks clean to your eye.

Color:

Color actually refers to the lack of color in a diamond. The clearer or the less color the better. (Note: there are diamonds which are blue, pink, yellow, and other colors. We’ll assume you aren’t buying one of these diamonds) The color scale starts from D all the way to Z. D is considered colorless and as you get closer to Z, the more yellow will appear in the diamond. Look at the chart below to see the differences in color:

Carat Weight:

Carats (ct.) are a measurement of the diamonds weight, not necessarily the size of the diamond. Remember, certain diamond shapes can make the size look bigger when the carat weight is lower. Marquise, pear, and certain emerald cuts look bigger compared to their carat weights.

What Carat Weight is Right for Me?

To choose the best carat weight of diamond, consider the size of her finger, the size of your setting, and most importantly, your budget. In the selection process, most women today aspire to owning an engagement diamond of at least 1 carat. Statistically, the average size sold for engagement is between 1/2 and 3/4 ct. Carat weight affects the value of a diamond by about 10-20% for each step in size difference. Also, “magic sizes” refer to major carat weight categories, for example exactly 1.00 carat, or larger, and can prompt “price premiums”.

The Hidden Characteristics: Price and Certificates

As mentioned above, certain size carats yield a premium in diamond prices. The “magical numbers” are .5 ct, .75 ct, 1.0 ct, 1.5 ct, and 2.0 ct. If you’re buying something bigger than this then you’re already aware of the premiums. If you’re looking to save money, buy a diamond that is under these price premiums. For instance, you can save a bundle if you buy a .98 ct instead of a 1.0 ct.

Certificates also play a big factor in pricing. A diamond certificate, also called a diamond grading report, is a report created by a team of gemologists. The diamond is evaluated, measured, and analyzed using trained eyes, a jeweler’s loupe, a microscope, and other industry tools. A completed certificate includes an analysis of the diamond’s dimensions, clarity, color, polish, symmetry, and other characteristics. Many round diamonds will also include a cut grade on the report. Some of the most well-known are GIA, AGS, EGL, IGI,  and HRD. Typically GIA and AGS are considered the best (and you’ll pay a premium for these).

If you choose not to get a diamond with a certificate, be forewarned, you could be getting ripped off. Jewelers will try to encourage you to buy one that they rated themselves and tout that they are as good if not better than the big diamond graders. They might even have GIA certificates, but they aren’t there to help you find a diamond. They are there to sell you diamonds. Their incentive is to maximize their profits which could mean selling a less than quality diamond. Let’s put it this way, if a jeweler knows that he can charge more for a 1 ct. diamond with a certification than a 1 ct. without, then why wouldn’t they get it certified? It makes no sense to us, so it should make no sense to you.

We recommend buying a diamond with a certificate because it will provide details and dimensions on the diamond and provide piece of mind that you’re getting what you paid for.

Online versus Retail Store:

You can save a lot of money buying online. The best deals in diamonds are available online. There is one problem, you can’t see the diamond before you buy it. You have to trust that the retailer is being honest with you about the clarity, cut, and color. Call us old-fashioned, but we like to “see” the diamond in person. You’ll get a better feel for the quality by being able to see it. You can look for any imperfections that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see online.

Useful Links

Holloway Cut Advisor Tool – This is a great tool if you’re buying a round cut diamond to determine how good of a quality you’re getting. Their forums are also extremely good resource of information.

Bluenile.com – Bluenile is one of the largest online diamond vendors. They have plenty of good material to help you do more research.

The Diamond Buying Guide – Also a lot of information in helping you buy a diamond. They have some handy “checklists” that you can take with you on your diamond buying hunt.

Whew. This was a lot of information. Hopefully it has been of some use to you. If there is something you would like to see us write about let us know.

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