October 2012 archive

Oct 30

Real Barefooters number 5 – Gary Sidders – The Barefoot Bristolian

Hi Gary, thanks for taking part. The ‘Real Barefooter’s’ responses have gone way

beyond my expectations and I get a buzz out of hearing the stories of real

barefooters out there.

Having read a fair few of your tweets, I am guessing that like many barefooters you have read ‘Born to Run’. Did it start you off on your barefootdness or was it something else?

I first started my barefoot path when running became painful, boring and quite

simply zero fun. I was an average low mileage runner doing 4/6 miles 3 times a week,

maybe train up to 10 miles if my one race a year, the Bristol half marathon got

closer. It became a chore and sometimes I’d look for any excuse not to run. I laugh

now because I honestly thought my trainers needed to have the largest cushioned

heels I could get to suit my heavy landing.  I heard about Vibram fivefingers and

this new strange style of running. The key for me was the idea that these shoes

could stop my pain, mainly in the base of my back. As a carpenter who runs his own

business looking after my back is a major priority, if I can’t work I don’t get paid

so health is always at the top of my list.

I did my research and thought I’m going for it and bought the vff bilkas. I knew I

had to drop my mileage and I’d be lucky if I got to 5 mile distance within 3 months.

However the gains of pain free running in my back and also my knees won me over. My first run was on road and field. I was amazed that I could feel the ground

underneath me and by landing on my forefoot it didn’t hurt.

From that point I slowly built up my mileage including messing up my technique and

blowing my calves with a bad muscle strain. I ran on my forefoot and never let my

heels touch the floor what an idiot!!! Finding video footage for good technique was

hard and words are open to anyone to interpret how they like. After overcoming the

injury I did more research in to technique and started back. I found my calves no

longer tight but loose and supple, I run with a forefoot touch and a heel and toe

kiss (words borrowed from ken bob saxton but its the perfect analysis of how to



For those struggling you land with your forefoot ball first followed by the heel and

toe kissing the ground at the same time, it looks flat footed but its not. Also the

key is not to push off but to lift the foot.


Once I was comfortable at 5 miles I started upping my mileage effortlessly, I’d

completely fallen in love with running which is when I came across Born To Run. For

me, to read then actively go out and do what I was reading about was such a buzz.  I

totally connected with the book but this is where I was faced with a crossroad. On

one hand the book was about ultra running of which I’d never heard of but wanted to

try and on the other was the bare naked feet running that intrigued me so much. I

went down the naked bare feet running which was the right decision.

Again I started from scratch,  I ran half a mile with the skin on my soles burning

through friction the first day, then ran every other day on paths and roads to

slowly build up my technique and skill to hit 10k distance. I had my fair share of

blood blisters where I was landing too heavy at times also not allowing the skin to

recover in time. I also refused to run on grass because that teaches nothing about

technique. If you run on roads you know when you’re doing it wrong! Finally I was

amazed that even with a tiny 7mm sole on my minimalist shoes nothing quite compares to naked skin on the ground beneath you!


I have never tried Chia seeds. For the uninitiated tell us a bit about how you got into them and why you like them so much.


I heard about Chia seeds in Born To Run. I was even more amazed that I could get

hold of them in a shop quite local to me. Holland and Barrett sell them but they

give you half the amount for double the price compared to my shop. I did my research

and the first reason I took them was for hydration. The seeds soak up water and

slowly release it in to your system as its digested. I feel more hydrated when I

run. I think that’s the story behind the guy in Born To Run feeling like he had a

new lease of life after scaling a mountain.  Secondly it’s high in omega 3s and can

also help lower your cholesterol/blood pressure. I’ve got some of my friends and

family taking them now but the main response back is how good there digestive

system/ bowel movements have changed for the better. More and more reports of how good these seeds are keep emerging and they truly are a super food.


 I know that you ran the Bristol 10k barefoot although it was very rough. Have you run many races unshod, any that you would recommend for barefooters?


I’ve only ran 2 naked feet races, Bristol 10k and my first race the Frenchay 10k

also in Bristol.

It’s a race I had in my mind as my goal to run completely barefoot. Not only did I

complete it but I was also the first person according to one of the event organisers

to ever run it barefoot, (naked feet) I got such a huge buzz. It’s not a bad

barefooters race, there are some nasty surfaces but the adrenaline was pumping to

much to care. However my own personal number 1 rule is always carry foot wear with

you. If you need to stop, STOP! You do yourselves no favours running in agony. The

reason we were good at it thousands of years ago is we did it from birth, we never

had to retrain our brain to barefoot, it was natural instinct.


I love my Lunas, I know that you run in them also What else do you put onyour feet?


I started In vibram 5 fingers which I now use as casual wear, I then went to nothing

just me and my naked feet. I’m now on my 2nd pair of Luna sandals. I started with

the original sandal then moved to the Leadville pacer because the ultra marathon I

was training for was a mixture of trail (awful rocky trail) and road so I needed a

grippy sole. Since running naked feet and in minimalist sandals my feet have

changed. They are now spread wide, so normal foot wear cramps my feet. I now wear

merrell barefoot trainers just for casual but mainly its a winter shoe, they allow

my forefoot and toes to splay naturally. My work requires me to wear steel toe cap

safety shoes. The pro is they allow my foot to spread the con is there is barely any

flexibility in the sole.


 I would like to say that I cross-train but I would be lying. You use  kettlebells. I wouldn’t know where to start with them. How do you us them, does it make a difference to your running?


I started lifting weights when my upper body started to loose size and all that

lactic acid from running just simply destroys muscle tissue. I also read that having

a strong upper body gives you better posture and endurance when you run. I keep it

light, I do a 20 minute weight session at home on my non run days. It consists of 2

sets of ten press ups, 1 wide armed and 1 set with a more traditional press up

stance. I then do 3 lots of kettle bell swings with a 12kg bell kicking out 30 reps

at a time. This is fantastic exercise which seems to work all the body in one single


It’s fantastic for good running posture. I recommend people go online and read up

about it and also to learn good controlled technique. I then do 2 sets of ten arm

curls and 1 set of 10 sit ups which I do as slow and controlled as possible. Finally

2 sets of ten vomiting cats. Go online and read up they are fantastic and an

exercise I got from 4hour body by tim ferris. (Great book highly recommended)

It’s a 15/20min workout it’s nice and short but targets all the right areas and

doesn’t eat in to your day, simple.


I was impressed with your laid back attitide getting ready for a half marathon recently. Has barefooting changed your outlook on life or have you always been pretty chilled?


I would say its definitely changed my approach to running. It simply boils down to

the fact that I’m not going to break any world records running so I let time go out

the window, I’m not Mo Farah!(Seems to be hard for many to grasp or accept)

For me it’s about enjoying my run and disappearing in my own little world. All I

need to do is concentrate on good technique which is why I no longer listen to music

when I run. I take my phone with me and use my run keeper app, I stick it in my

pocket on silent and when I get back I like to take a look at where I’ve been. (yes

if I’ve had a couple of quick miles I get a little kick out of it if I’m being


My most recent half marathon I was very relaxed, I’ve enjoyed my best runs on

weekends when I’ve had a heavy meal with a couple of bottles of wine the night

before. I’ve ran up to 18 miles nursing a slight hangover. So I don’t take it

serious unless I’m running an ultra marathon.

This year I ran the bristol half with a group of friends and ended up breaking my pb

by 8mins. I found when training for pace my enjoyment went out of running.


As a child, I visited family in Bath alot and I think I recognise the crescent from your website. I haven’t been for about 35 years but a relative has just bought a flat down there. Are there many barefooters around in your neck of the woods?


I’ve met only 2, myself and my wife. (oh and 1 random guy who tapped me on the

shoulder during a race he then shot off). She’s slowly getting into naked feet

running but only to perfect her technique when running in luna sandals. I see about

3 minimalist runners during races but sadly no naked feet runners. I’ve also got a

few friends who run in vibram fivefingers but they’ve yet to do a race in them.


 I have visited your sash window website. I also love your tweet about a client giving you home made soup. Sounds like a nice lifestyle. How do you fit your running around work? What is a typical training week?


I really like talking to my customers about my running. It raises a few eyebrows.

Some think its great, others are on the fence and some say its plain wrong. I’m not

gonna preach it, I’m certainly not a barefoot activist. When I run I get strange

looks sometimes a bit of verbal but because I believe in what I’m doing, it’s water

off a ducks back. My job does make a nice lifestyle because when I finish my job at

whatever time, I go home, I’m my own boss. There is an on going joke with my buddy’s that I never work, I’m always running, but I just fit it around my day.

A normal week consists of running every other day of which 7/8 miles is the normal

distance. On a weekend I try to go off and come home when I want so runs can vary

from 8, up to 10/12/15 miles. If I know I’m working in some stunning locations I

take my running kit with me, when my jobs done I change and go off for a run. 1 week

I’m running through amazing countryside of Somerset or Gloucestershire the next on

Weston super-mare beach, more commonly its running when I’m back home on my own routes.

The word ultra keeps coming up. Are you training for anything in particular coming up? Where do you think your running will be upto in 5  years time?


My personal feeling is we were “born to run”. (Yep that bloody book) I’ve got myself

up to a level I never knew possible until I read that book. I run for fun and by

doing that I cover long distances. I now feel capable of running an ultra when ever

one appears in the Calendar I fancy. It’s not smug, it’s because I’m in tune with my

body I know when something hurts I adjust my technique slightly, I know that when my

muscles are screaming at me that when I stop at the finish line the pain goes away.

Just by understanding a few basics you can run further than you probably thought.

The main bonus to all my running and research is that our barefoot running style is

so efficient.

It means we run for longer with less effort, it also means we don’t hobble around

the next day with stiff legs. Every now and then I’ll tweak something that requires

an extra days rest, it’s just a reminder to me to perfect my technique on my next

run. As much as I like to think I’m the perfect barefoot runner I still need to

watch my technique as much as someone just starting out.

I strongly recommend people watch or invest in the vivo barefoot app or visit there

website to watch the video on perfect technique.

Also books by Ken Bob saxton and Michael Sandler are great reads also Scott jureks

new book eat and run is a great read for those thinking ultra.

In five years ill be running, my goal is to keep running as long as I’m alive its my

long term project. I wanna see how I’m doing at 60 then 70 and beyond but the one

thing the born to run book tells us is its our natural instinct to keep running. As

long as I’m healthy I’m gonna be running.


You can follow Gary on Twitter

Check out more Real Barefooters at the RB archive

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Oct 30

Vivobarefoot Breezy Lites – Barefoot Beginner’s review

My quest to find my perfect minimalist running shoe has led me to the Vivobarefoot Breezy Lite. I choose my words carefully and stress that I am looking for my perfect shoe rather than the perfect shoe. We are all slightly different and what works for one person may not work for another.

In my quest, I had been looking for the thinnest sole that I could find and Vivobarefoot were kind enough to send my a pair of Breezy Lites to test out. My first impression of the shoe with its 3mm sole were excellent. The shoe is light, responsive and looks good. I have lived with them for around a month now and feel that it is about the right time to share my thoughts further.

I have always been a UK8 when choosing running shoes but he UK7 Breezy Lite was a perfect fit. This seems contrary to some reports on the Vivobarefoot coming up small. The UK7 was comfortable with a toe box wide enough to accommodate my feet even when wearing a pair of ‘Correct Toes’ to run in.

The area around the ankle is elasticated and although it makes it slightly more tricky to slide wet feet into them, it was worth it. The elasticated ankle lends an overall feeling of security and the shoes are snug.

I have worn the Breezy Lite both with and without socks and had no problem in either case.

The ability to wear them without socks helped them pass an important test for me in choosing my perfect shoe. I need to be able to take them with me when out barefoot. They are easy to carry and slip on when out barefooting and I could pull them on and off when I came to a section of my route that was too rough to handle.

The Breezy Lite is light enough to tuck into the waistband of my shorts and I have found that I can even run with the pair held in one hand and hardly notice that they are there. The lack of an insole is also a benefit as it makes it easier to get on and off when wet. I have found that the insoles bunch up and are a bit of a pain in my other Vivobarefoot shoes.

Over the past month, I have run on both road and some hardcore trails in some pretty adverse weather conditions. They handle both well. The sole is grippy enough even when completely submerged in water and thin enough to feel the ground extremely well. I have not been up on the fells in them but I would expect them to perform in the same way as the Evo in that respect.

My overall impression of the feel when running is that they are very light and at the more extreme end of minimalist shoes. I have been searching for that and now that I have found it, I am not as sure that it was what I need after all.

I run barefoot regularly and am used to feeling the ground but the Breezy Lites may be too thin for me. Strange but it may be true. I found myself yearning after a little cushioning. I considered trying them with a Vivobarefoot insole from another shoe but I thought that it would defeat the object. The bottom line is that I started to get niggles and running in them just didn’t feel quite right.

That is not the fault of the Breezy Lite, it does exactly what it is designed for. I know that it is down to my form and it seems that I found running with good form more difficult in the Breezy Lite than in the Vivobarefoot Evo. That was a surprise, I was expecting it to be the other way round. In my quest to find the perfect shoe for me, it looks like my obsession with the thinnest sole may to be rethought. I was convinced that the thinner the sole, the easier it would be to run with good form and injury free but it may not be the case.

So…..Given that there a lot of shoes to choose from, will I wear the Breezy Lite out of choice?

The answer is a definite yes. I have developed an affection for them. Over the past month, I have found myself in them all the time when just out and about with the kids. They are a good looking shoe at a good price and I will be buying a pair of lighter coloured ones for wearing out and about, next summer. They will continue to be my choice of shoe when running barefoot as they are so easy to carry and I will continue to run in them and work on my form.

They may not be the perfect shoe for me but if you are looking for a running shoe at the extreme end of minimal, the Breezy Lite may suit you down to the ground (which will only be 3mm away).

For email notification of all reviews, offers and upcoming events get Barefoot Briefs

Oct 29

Workshops and group runs from Anna Toombs and David Robinson of BarefootRunningUK

To receive notification of all upcoming barefoot events get Barefoot Briefs. To see all current upcoming events visit our main Barefoot Events page.

David Robinson and Anna Toombs are the founders of Barefoot Running UK, a company they created to help people embrace and enjoy injury-free running.

The host the popular Facebook Barefoot  Running UK group and are always generous with their advice and time. They are not affiliated to one method of teaching running form and come at things from a varied and knowledgeable background. Feedback about their days is invariably good. To find one of their runs or workshops visit the Workshops page of BarefootRunningUk

From Barefoot Running UK website:

As well as providing individual tuition, they also teach clinics and workshops and hold weekly club sessions at various London sites. Their aim is to  help clients run more smoothly, comfortably and efficiently and with less effort. The end result is a happier runner!


Anna has been coaching in health and fitness since 1997 and her persistent interest in new movement methods led her to study Pilates with renowned Pilates veteran Michael King, becoming certified over a number of years to teach both matwork and equipment based Pilates. Read Anna’s Bio at BarefootRunningUK


David has been teaching exercise and movement since the age of seventeen.  He first began by teaching martial arts  and then went on to become a Certified Personal Trainer and Sports Fitness Specialist with the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) in the United States. Read David’s Bio at BarefootRunningUK

Anna and David are also the authors of:


BarefootrunningUK also hold a monthly group run.

It is typically the first Saturday in the month at 10am from Clapham Common bandstand but Anna asks that you let her know you are coming in case of a change in venue. Contact Anna here.


To find one of their workshops visit Upcoming BarefootRunningUK workshops

To find out more about a group run visit BarefootrunningUK’s calendar

Barefoot Events page

To receive notification of all upcoming barefoot events get Barefoot Briefs


Oct 28

A quick tour of the Walsh running shoe factory with owner Dennis Crompton

I had a bit of a treat last week and was shown aroung the Walsh running factory in Bolton.

I am a Boltonian and have always been proud of my town’s history in the development of the running shoe. Right back from the first running spike and the subsequent emergence of Reebok to the Walsh PB, the definitive fell running shoe of a generation.

I have spent many walks in the Lake District spotting the familiar Walsh footprint at every turn.

My first pair of conventional running shoes were Reebok Royales and to be honest they didn’t live up to expectations but my first pair of Walsh fell shoes did.

About 25 years ago, in my late teens I followed my dad into some of the longer fell races that were held locally. Races like the Three Towers and the Anglezarke Amble seemed like the norm for a teenage lad running in the West Pennine Moors. After trying to keep up with a group coming down Rivington Pike one afternoon, it was clear that I needed something more serious on my feet.

My dad took me through the back streets of Bolton and I knocked on a battered door set in the side of a factory wall. It opened and I was told to take my pick from a pile of seconds in the corner. I found two size 8s that almost matched and my relationship with Walshes had begun. It felt like being part of a secret society, I didn’t realise at the time that Walshes fell shoes were sent all round the world.

That special feeling has not gone away and after meeting Dennis and being shown around, I am more sold than ever.

Dennis and his brother took over the factory when Norman Walsh retired in 1996. They had played football in Norman’s distinctive black trainers for years and Norman had told them they had to wait until he retired before they took over the reigns.

A quick tour of the Walsh running shoe factory by Dennis.

Meeting Dennis, I could tell that this is a labour of love and taking the leap from electrical engineer to the owner of a handmade running shoe factory was one he made willingly. He took me through the process from start to finish from the big cookie cutter press that cuts out the upper to the airbag press that applies the pressure when attaching the distinctive Walsh sole. In a time when most shoes are manufactured overseas, Walshes fell shoes are made here in Bolton using the famous sole which is sent all the way from Northampton.

The long  history of Walsh in British sport is evident with the factory even making handmade shoes designed for tug of war to order.

There are around 3 and a half staff hand making around 200 pairs of shoes a week. Monday to Wednesday is manufacturing, Thursday tends to be quality control and Friday shipping. Each skilled person knows their craft and Dennis knows his market.

He supplies close on 70 stores in the UK and took me through the fell/performance range. The PB Elite trainer and racer form the backbone of the range with many runners training in one and racing in the other. I guess the clue is in the name. The racer has a narrower fit as a response to requests from elite fell runners as they prefer a more secure feel when moving quickly through the mountains. The narrower fit also make it a popular choice for women runners.

The racer is built on a athletic spike last because again elite fell racers often ask for that extra toe spring.

The PB junior is also a very popular shoe and the factory has just gone through its busiest time of the year as cross country season comes round and the mud gets higher. I have done a fair bit  of cross-country racing but not enough to justify a dedicated pair of shoes. I always pulled out my PBs for these events.