July 2012 archive

Jul 31

Running cadence – metronomes and 180bpm – What is it all about?

For a list of all the common barefoot questions click here.

I ran past a couple of women last year and they shouted after me for a few tips. My overiding impression as we passed each other was that their style of running seemed really hard work

There certainly wasn’t any joy in their faces about being out for a run on such a lovely evening. Their stride length was long, their up and down movement was huge and their steps were ponderous and slow.

I was running with a metronome set at 180 bpm in my hand  and  had passed them easily with little pitter-patter steps.

I am no running guru, far from it, I have a lot to learn and my biggest change has been to increase my cadence to 180bpm and significantly shorten my stride length.

The best way of doing this is using a hand held metronome. My first one went crazy one morning and I couldn’t shut it up until I hit it with a brick. My second has a vibrate mode which is really useful when running early morning, it is amazing how far the sound can carry when there is nobody about.

I set mine at 180 bpm and concentrate on geting my arms moving at that speeed. whatever my arms do, my legs will follow.

I know that if I run at this cadence with short strides, I have taken a significant step on the path to barefoot technique. Click here to have a look at the model I use.

After a while I took my metronome out for a run with my dad. He is 68 years old and has been running many years. It was amazing, he runs at exactly 180 bpm with little short strides and always has, I have just never noticed.

In fact that isn’t true. I have always been proud of my power running, loping stride compared to my dad’s choppy pitter-patter. I have spent much more time out injured than he has over the years. I now watch people running all the time and often see people who already have the secret and have been living amongst us all along. I want to run like them and stay injury free into old age.

Click here to return to common barefoot questions.

Click here for the next key post – Jumping at 180bpm cadence – Advised rehab for sore calves

Jul 31

Becoming a barefooter – How much should I run?

How much should I run when transitioning to being a barefooter?

This question is one that pre-occupies most people when they decide to learn a new way to run and become a barefooter.

It certainly was for me. I knew that probably the best thing to do was to forget that I had been a runner for most of my life and start from scratch.

This is not easy to do. I was concerned about my fitness, I had events coming up and I felt that I needed to keep my mileage at a certain level and just add barefoot runs into the mix.

I understand this and for many people it is possible to transition from one type of running to another and just gradually change the percentage of cushioned, minimalist and barefoot running so that the feet have time to adapt.

I tried this and just ended up injured with sore calves and strains.

How far should I run?

The biggest question

I have a golden rule: I don’t run any further in shoes ( including minimalist shoes) than I can manage barefoot.

This meant a significant reduction in running mileage to start with. I have found that being a barefooter has changed my outlook on life and I am more patient than I used to be.

I have answered a few posts for people regarding the limiting factors when running barefoot. One post commented on sore calves being the limiting factor. The soles of my feet are mine. I don’t run so far that I get blisters. I carry a pair of minimalist shoes in each hand. My choice are the vivo neo trail and the merrell trail glove. When my soles get to their limit, I slip them on and jog home by the same route.

I started out with a 40 second run from the front door. My soles were on fire. I slipped on the shoes and ran back. I can now run about 3 miles barefoot so that is my limit in shoes as well.

I have been swapping a few tweets about the best shoes to take on a run like this. I find that the main criteria is that they can be slipped on easily even when my feet are wet.

Invisible shoes are so light that a few people just stuff them in the waistband at the back of their shorts.

Should I run everyday?

I don’t run barefoot on consecutive days but I do run most days. It is important to give your body chance to catch up and give it a rest. It is learning something new and is going to protest a little. You may find that your achilles is tender because you are running correctly for the first time in ages. It need time to adjust. I have found that I can run a little more often than I could when only wearing cushioned shoes.

Listen to your body, you know whether you should be going out. If your body tells you to rest, respect it. When I don’t listen, I get sore calves and eventually strains. Click on my injury posts for evidence of how stupid I can be!

Many people motivate themselves by entering events and having something to train for. In the early days this can lead you to running when your body tells you that you shouldn’t, so beware.

There will always be another event, live to be a barefooter another day!

Return to common questions




Invisible Shoes - Barefoot Running Sandals

Jul 30

Sore calves – Thanks for the advice

I am finding it very hard to not run at the moment. My calf is feeling much better but I know from experience that if I go out now, it will set me back.

Blogging is helping me feel like a runner and getting to know people on the Facebook and forum pages is also good fun.

I have been ignoring a dull ache in my left knee for a while. I have never had a problem with my knees in all my years running so I have just pretended that it will go away. It hasn’t.

Having mentioned it on Facebook, I got a kind response from Lou, a physio from Cornwall. It could be patellofemoral pain syndrome and it aches like crazy on long car journeys.

Lou suggested some strength training for my quads, glutes and hamstrings. It is funny but when I had a hip problem a while ago, the physio pointed out that my left leg was much more heavily muscled than my right. I am right footed so that came as a shock. As well as stretches, she gave me strength work to do.

So at least I have something to keep me occupied whilst not running

Lou also gave me some advice on how to avoid running again too soon from the calf injury. Very useful.

Jul 28

Running cadence – 180bpm now feels natural

Decided to run barefoot this morning. There is a lot of chat at the moment out there about running  cadence. I try and run at 180 bpm and it now feels weird to run any slower.

We had our first rain for ages during the night. The sky looks fresh and clean this morning and the road is damp.

When barefooting, I always find it a bit more challenging on the soles when it is wet and thought it would be the limiting factor this morning but it turned out not to be the case.

This is only my second run following a calf strain. I stopped after about half a mile when it tensed up. It clearly isn’t ready yet and so I am going to give it another week with some massage and see where I go from there.

I have a nagging ache in my left knee. I have never had a knee problem in all my years running. it is at the front on my knee cap. Not a pain just a dull ache. I am convinced that it is sitting with my right leg resting on my left kneecap wheile watching TV. It is noticeable on long car journeys and I need to stretch it out.

Anyone any ideas what it might be?

I have really enjoyed getting to know some of the barefoot community and I am going to make a real effort to search out the best barefoot bloggers. If any of you have any suggestions for good barefoot blogs, leave a link below.

Jul 26

Barefoot beginner – My feet are changing -Will my shoe size change?


First run for 11 or so days this morning following a calf strain on a 10 miler. I had no plans to run today but sitting at the computer and typing away, I had the urge to get out and give it a go.

I was pleasantly surprised. I ran barefoot and thought I would run the 2 minute loop around the block but I felt in the mood and carried on.

My feet seem to have benefited from the lay-off. I was worried that they would begin to soften up but they felt at their resilient yet. I always struggle to describe the change in my feet. they don’t harder, they just feel stronger, more like a cross between plastic and supple leather. It is all relative and they are still in their very early days. I was in the pub last night and a friend suggested I do a series of photos of my feet as they change. I wish I was that organised.

My feet feel the strongest that I can remember. I have heard that some people need to change their shoe size as their feet become less slumped and more upright.

As I set off this morning, my calf was fine and I had the familiar hot feeling in my left achilles. It made me smile, it felt like an old friend and was strangely reassuring. As usual, it went after about half a mile. After a mile, I felt a slight tightness in my calf and rather than damage it, I walked home. I was going to walk barefoot but I want to give my soles a rest so that I can go out tomorrow.

I was carrying my new Vivi Neo Trails with me and they passed the test by slipping on very easily. My first impression of them is good. The build quality is better than the original Evos but they feel much heavier and more solid. They are very comfortable without socks. I will write a proper review once I have given them a proper testing.

I am looking forward to running barefoot again tomorrow and maybe getting my mountain bile out. I am also looking for to posting my latest Pick of the Posts tomorrow.

Jul 25

Pick of the Posts no.2 -The best 5 barefoot posts to see you through the weekend are…


Here are my favourite posts from the barefoot blogosphere this week.

I am always looking for genuine posts from real barefoot bloggers out there and try to filter out the trash to give you some quick reads to see you through your barefoot weekend.

Have a browse, there is something for everyone.

1. Post of the week goes to Bob at the toadshoes blog.

http://www.toadshoes.co.uk/2012/07/11/plodcasts/ – Bob responded to a comment on his blog and put together a review of his favourite running podcasts. He gets to listen while he works and so has managed to search out a few that I hadn’t heard of before. Click the link and have a listen.


2. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/magazine/running-christopher-mcdougall.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all – I have been struggling with a calf injury recently and a big thankyou goes to Neil Murphy. Neil responded to my request for advice on Twitter (Neil is @GoBarefootRun) with a link to Chris McDougal’s interview with the New York Times. There is a video link at the top of the piece and it shows Chris demonstrating the 100up exercise popular in the 1880s. Always good to learn a little more about the history of our sport. Anyone else think it looks similar to Harold Abraham’s training in Chariots of Fire?


3. http://barefoot-monologues.com/2012/07/21/review-new-balance-minimus-zero-road/– This is a good honest shoe review from one of the bloggers on the Barefoot Monologues. I always enjoy reading this blog, the posts are well written and remind me of why I am barefooting in the first place. I often call into the New Balance outlet in Shap on my way back from the Lake District. I am looking forward to these arriving in store, they are really cool.


4.  http://helsbels.org.uk/?p=176#comment-453 – high heeled barefooter – This is from the helsbels blog and made me smile. Helen is  a real runner blogging about many aspects of life. When you look at her blogroll, you can see that running makes her tick. A good, quick read although I did spend ages clicking through her links.


5. http://runbarefootgirl.com/2012/07/rbg-55-uk-coach-anna-toombs/ – This is a link to Episode 55 of the runbarefootgirl.com podcast. Caity interviews Anna Toombs from BarefootrunningUK. I am a member of the Barefootrunninguk facebook group and it great to hear a UK barefooter spreading the word in the US. The discussion goes way beyond form and into the fascinating area of why we do it in the first place. Two real experts chewing the fat, a good listen.

 Click here for Pick of the Posts no. 1
Click here for Pick of the Posts archive


Jul 25

Barefoot darts – You can see where this is heading

I have just been looking at a picture from Aranya Gardens (cool name), one of the contributors to the Barefoot Running UK. He cut his sole quite badly whilst putting out his recycling. It would have been disastrous if he had not been a barefooter.  I think that you need to be a member of the Barefoot Running UK facebook group to access it.


Barefoot Kenbob has his video piece about running across broken glass and whilst he was filming, he cut the top of his foot on a sprinkler head. I know most of you will have seen it but if not you can see it here.


Yesterday, I bought a dartboard, I decided that my son is 9 years old and he cannot grow up in a house without one. I have posted in the past on how he seems to be living and playing more  and more of his life barefoot – You can see where this is going.

My wife raised an eyebrow and told him go and put shoes on. I told her to stop wrapping him in cotton wool or words to that effect.

His first dart bounced out of the board and landed in the top of his foot. It put him out of action for all of 30 seconds.

As I am typing this, he has just wandered past and asked me if I would like a game. I am so proud, but not so proud that i am going to let him win.

My calf strain is almost there, I am going to get out in the morning and see the lie of the land.

Happy running!

Jul 24

Barefoot beginner – Don’t be alarmed, I was born barefoot.

My calf strain is improving but I am still not ready to run yet. I am walking our dogs barefoot each day and enjoying the feel of the ground. When I first started thinking about barefoot running, I started by walking our dogs around the block. My memories are of pain and standing on the corner of the road wondering how I was going to make the last 100 yards with my feet in one piece.

Yesterday’s walk was a good assessment of how I have progressed. I walked the same route and even scuffed my soles deliberately on the floor a few time for the fun of it. I was tempted to break into a trot but I seem to be getting more sensible as time goes by.

An alarm was going off on one of the houses nearby and a neighbour was out checking it out. I gave him some company and we picked our way down the side of the house together. It was a false alarm but I could see him looking at me and wondering what use I would be if a burglar had leaped out and found me barefoot. To be fair, the neighbour was wearing carpet slippers and I reckon if needed I could have moved much faster than him.

I hate this kind of layoff, I can feel my hard earned fitness slipping away. I need to get out on my bike and see if my calf will let me cycle.

I reckon I will be back running within the week.


Jul 22

Barefoot beginner – Newsletters, Can anyone help?

It is very embarassing to be sitting here with a calf strain when writing a barefoot running blog on becoming injury free. However, that is the way it is. My calf is a little tender and is a way off being OK to run on.

I have been doing the exercises recommended by Lou from Cornwall physio a couple of posts ago. He recommended calf raises at 180 bpm on two and then one leg. When that causes no problem to get back out running barefoot again. It seems like really common sense. I have been reading a good selection of barefoot blogs and really enjoy people’s experiences. I will compile a list of my favourites over the next couple of days. I am thinking of creating a regular barefootbeginer newsletter and would welcome any advice from experienced bloggers out there on a good plugin to use for that.

I have also been reading back some of my old posts. I need to point new readers towards some of my early posts so that they can see how the journey has progressed. I want my barefoot blog to be honest and positive and be of some use to those broken runners looking for some help. It is a dark place when you think that you finally have to hang up your running shoes and give up. We know that you can throw away the shoes and start again but we all need some help along the way.

So does anyone know of a good way to set up a newsletter from your blog?

Jul 21

Vivo Neo trails

Thinking of buying a pair of Vivo Neo Trails for walking in. I will let you know how I go on.