May 2013 archive

May 26

Ian Hicks – Welcome to Barefoot Beginner

xero shoesIan was one of the very first barefoot runners I came into contact with when I started Barefoot Beginner. When I was looking for one or two real barefooters to share their experiences each month, it only seemed right that Ian should be one of them. We bumped into each other at the running show last year and I intend to get down a for a run with the Wiltshire Barefooters some time very soon.

Chris has very kindly and bravely asked me to write a post once a month for his excellent web site. So I do hope my ramblings don’t damage his viewing figures!

Listening to other barefoot runners over the past couple of years, my path into barefoot running was different to the majority of barefooters. Whilst shopping for a pair of trainers at my local running shop I saw a display of VFFs. As soon as I saw them I knew they were for me. I soon got myself a pair and started down the path of barefoot/minimal running not realizing what I was letting myself in for! I ran for over a year in my VFFs and absolutely loved it. Having learned much more about barefoot/minimal running, I wanted to move onto barefoot but just kept procrastinating. One day, on one of my usually runs over a year ago, I just took off my VFFs and carried them for the rest of my run. Why on earth had I not done this before? I felt so alive and free! I sprinted the last 300m. Ah yes – I learnt my first lesson in barefoot running – DON’T do too much too soon! I had two large blood blisters to show for my first barefoot efforts. I hobbled around work that day. My work colleagues just thought I was completely bonkers. But I knew I was onto something very special! Probably the biggest surprise for me was the reaction of my wife. I really thought she would think I was mad, but she started to tell her friends how proud she was of me. With my wife’s approval there was no stopping me.

Ian Hicks

A couple of months later I met Simon Bridges from Barefoot Running UK facebook group. I had great delight telling my family and friends I was meeting a complete stranger that I found on facebook for a barefoot run! And so started “Wiltshire Barefoot Runners”, our own little running group. We’ve had a few laughs over the past year, which includes Simon slipping in the mud and grabbing a wire fence not realizing it was electrified – which he soon was! Ah, we were also running barefoot in a snow blizzard at the time! I myself have had my share of incidents. One being when I tried to run through a stream with algae covered rocks! – well yes probably not best idea I’ve had. My first step sent me flying backwards and landing heavily on a twisted foot breaking it in two places! But the worse bit was not being able to run for six weeks! Well cabin fever soon set in and I drove my wife nuts!

A few weeks ago, Simon and I completed our first half marathon, this being my foolish idea. Looking back with hind sight, this was probably not the best half marathon to choose for first time barefoot racing! The first eleven miles was gravel with stones which I’m sure in places were the size of apples! The next few miles was worn out tarmac, which looked like it had been laid in the 1940s! The last few hundred metres was grass, a very welcome relief for tired feet! The feeling of achievement was fantastic and thinking to myself I have finally arrived as a barefoot runner. The cold beer was also worth the wait!

Two other members of Wiltshire Barefoot Runners completed the marathon that day. Steve Bailey and Stephen Richards both wearing minimal shoes. I take my hat off to them, this course was very tough going and there is no way I could of done the whole marathon!

Unfortunately there was blood, my blood, but not from my feet. Before the race had even started, I looked at this very long queue for two very sorry looking port-a-loos. A lot of the guys were jumping over this fence (which happened to be a barbed wire fence) to make use of a couple of trees! So I thought no harm could come of this, just hop over the fence like the  young spritely guy I am! Well, things did not go exactly to plan! I got my left leg over – okay so far, but stung my foot on stinging nettles, lost my balance and impaled my leg on the wire, stumbled and dragged my right leg over bringing the barbed wire with it! So, I’m standing at the start line barefoot on a gravel track with blood dripping down my leg. I will leave it to your imagination to picture the looks I was getting!

Yes the looks. Well, when I first started barefoot running I was very conscious of the looks. This was probably the biggest hurdle I had to overcome. I remember once diving behind a garden wall when somebody was walking towards me. But now, thankfully I actually enjoy seeing their faces, it really makes me smile! Barefoot running has help to give me confidence as I’m not one for leaving my comfort zone.

Anyway, have fun running my friends, barefoot or minimal. I hope Chris invites me back next month.

Thanks Ian!. You will be very welcome. Hope to get down and see you for a run sometime soon.

Ian is an active member of our Barefoot Beginner facebook group. Come and join in with the chat, you will be made very welcome.

May 24

39 marathons in 40 days – Meet Chirunning coach Stuart Hardie

The Friendly Barefoot StoreThe JOGLE (John o’ Groats to Land’s End) has fascinated me since I followed the adventures of Colin from my local club Darwen Dashers as he attempted it.

It is mammoth and it caught my attention when Stuart contacted me about his Chirunning coaching. I have added Stuart to our list on our coach page.

Check out his website:

Here is a quick summary:

Stuart Hardie lives and works in Guernsey and is a certified ChiRunning and ChiWalking Instructor . Stuart attributes ChiRunning for his success in running 40 marathons in 40 days, from John o’ Groats to Land’s End, in 2011 aged 65 Primal Running (PR) “where form comes first” and The Primal Run Club (PRC) resulted. PR offers regular workshops to all levels of runner and PRC provides an opportunity for running with like-minded souls intent on the ongoing improvement of their running form. Stuart works with the other UK ChiRunning Instructors providing a professional approach to the coaching of running around the UK and the Channel Isles.

Stuart hardiexero shoes

May 23

John Woodward’s Natural Running Course – Great to see him back with new dates.

I had an email yesterday from John Woodward. It made my day.

Many of you will be aware of John and his barefoot and his commitment to barefoot running up here in the northwest of England. He runs full weekend courses at the La’al Barn, Kirkby in Furness in the Lake District and when I first started out, I enjoyed reading his posts and advice.

He hasn’t run any courses for a little while because of a bereavement and you can read about John’s 80 mile barefoot run in support of the Furness Alzheimer’s Societyby clicking on the picture below.

JOhnVisit John’s website for more information about him and his course running on the 8th and 9th of June.

I am looking forward to getting up and meeting John for a run sometime very soon.


May 20

Tim Hines – Welcome to Barefoot Beginner

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Barefoot in the park

Tim Hines is a barefoot runner from Sale near Manchester. He is a founder member of the Northest Barefooters and will be giving us his thoughts each month. Thanks Tim and welcome.

I am a runner. Of late I have been doing much of my running barefoot. A good few years ago I was a broken runner. I had foot pain, knee pain, a foot flaring out at about 70 degrees off straight and back pain. If you are reading barefoot beginner then I am sure there is a strong chance that you have suffered with some of these problems too and that is what has brought you to minimalist running.

My doctor told me to stop running and go to see the chiropractor. The chiro told me not to run anymore and that I would need orthotics from now on. I explained that I would run again. He told me I was crazy. I agreed.

With my new orthotics I found a whole new pleasure in running. I was feeling strong and enjoying some pain free miles. For a while at least. After a couple of years I found that I was falling apart again, as were my orthotics.

I needed a new plan.

After much internet research I purchased some Newtons. I switched to a forefoot strike and a decent running form and everything changed. Suddenly I could run again. I could run faster. I could smile when I ran.

In time the Newtons were replaced with VFFs, Trail Gloves and Lunas, along with several generations of homemade sandals. The sandal making culminated in my crazy conveyor belt huaraches, which are my favourite form of footwear and are now being used by a couple of other members of our Northwest Barefooters group.

Natural progression took over and I ditched the shoes. Now I would say that I’m predominantly barefoot with sandals and Merrells available when needed.

One of the things that I have been enjoying the most about running barefoot is the social aspect.  In the past when I have run with groups, it has generally been about times, places and rivalries.  Conversation always seems to revolve around performance.  The Northwest Barefooters group as well as the other online groups (mostly centred around Facebook) are much more concerned with enjoying a run and running than with beating each other.  Maybe it is because there is such a wide range of abilities that a race would be silly, but I prefer to believe that it is because we have come together through a love of the act of running.  For many of us it was a love which we thought had been taken from us and has only been given back to us by barefoot.

I used to run along thinking about the different niggles that I had and whether or not they were getting worse.  The biggest concern I have right now is how I will get hold of more conveyor belt for more sandals.

This coming weekend is the Great Manchester Run. I will be there. I will be bare. I look forward to hearing the exclamations that always accompany a barefoot run in public, something which I’ve started to track as a separate category on my blog,, as they seem to be getting more regular and more amusing. My favourite one from the last couple of weeks was the kind lady who stopped next to me near the Mersey as I was putting my sandals on.  She had a concerned look on her face as she asked, “are you ok?”  I believe that she was referring to my mental state, as I don’t think there was anything about me that suggested I was anything other than fine physically.

Right now, after two years of running properly, well over a year committed to minimalism and a growing number of months building up my barefoot mileage, I now finally feel like I can run barefoot. I’m not trying to anymore. I’m not struggling anymore. I’m not wincing with every step. I’m just running and enjoying it. Thanks to Chris, I am now enjoying it every day.

Chris challenged me to sign up to do a barefoot runstreak.  It turns out that he was not aware of the dual meaning of streak.  He is not challenging me to run naked. We, along with others, are trying to run every day.  You don’t have to run miles, just run.  The motivation to get out and not break the streak is enormous.  The satisfaction of another day done is brilliant.  The annoyance that Chris is 31 days ahead of me is something I will have to learn to deal with.  Right now I am only up to day 7, hopefully when I write my next update for Barefoot Beginner I will be at a significantly higher number, 35 ish I think.

Next month I also hope to give an update on the state of my soles.  I have always been over eager.  I push too hard too soon.  I am often damaged as a result.  Right now the soles of my feet look like I let my kids loose on them with some black and red marker pens.  I have blisters, blood blisters and dead skin all over them.  It doesn’t hurt, not now anyway.  It is entirely my own fault.  I ran too fast on a BBB (See the Barefoot Beginner barefoot route ratings guide) route a couple of weeks ago on my way to a 20:44 parkrun.  It was great fun and I’m happy with the time, but my feet suffered.  I’m hoping that a more sensible approach and daily runs will help me to toughen my feet and that they will look more like feet again soon.  The Great Manchester Run may well set me back to square one though!


As for my soul, I think that’s in considerably better shape.

We have a fantastic community of barefoot runners contributing on our Barefoot Beginner facebook group. We are a mix of barefooters, minimalist and shod runners with a common interest. The chat is warm and friendly. Come and join in.

The Friendly Barefoot Store

May 19

A tale of 2 parkruns – Barefoot reviews of Heaton park and Bolton Parkruns

xero shoesI am a big fan of parkrun. The fact that there is an organised timed run close to home at the same time every Saturday is excellent but it is the atmosphere that I enjoy. They just seem like happy places full of people with nothing to prove other than to themselves. I enjoy the giving out of t-shirts to the 50 and 100 up runners and thanking the volunteers. It reminds me of a time when we all stopped and applauded a 50 up blood donar whilst waiting to give blood a while ago. A nice way to begin the proceedings.

Heaton Park – (BBB – Difficult) 

Read more about our barefoot grading system or submit a review here.

A few of us Northwest Barefooters headed over to Heaton Park near Manchester last week. I was pretty early but the organiser for the morning spotted me in my Xeros. It seems that he knew we were coming and his welcome was warm and friendly.

The paths at Heaton Park are a bit of a challenge for a barefooter. Rough coloured tarmac with a surace covered in tiny loose stones. We decided to give it a go and once the initial shock had worn off, I sort of got used to it. As we started, Tim Hines leapt on to the grass at the side of the path and was gone. I attempted to keep up for a short while and then settled down at a pace a little quicker than I had anticipated. We hit some beautifully smooth tarmac and I opened up a little passing quite a lot of runners until we went round the back of the lake. This is quite a long section on a very rough stony trail. Everyone I had overtaken came past and one or two were surprised to see I had a big grin on my face as I made may way the best I could over the stones. Then onto the smooth again and I was off, passing people as we climbed Angina Hill.

My form is completely different when I barefoot and I rarely try and run fast. Here I was pitter-pattering as fast as my legs would carry me and I thoroughly enjoyed being on the edge of what I could do.

The last half mile or so was pretty rough underfoot but I kept form well and bent my knees. Tim was at the finish line clapping me in. He had run just over 20 mins and I came in at just over 24mins. It was nice to make it onto the Heaton parkrun news and onto Run247’s roundup of the weekend.

Bolton Parkrun (BBB – Difficult)

Read more about our barefoot grading system or submit a review here.

This weekend saw me run the Bolton Parkrun at Leverhulme Park with my son. He is 10 and it was his first 5k. He has spent most of waking hours for the last few months barefoot or in Vivobarefoot Neos (He loves them even though they are now trashed) or football boots. I warmed up with him round the track in my Xeros. He tried to sprint away from me down the back straight and I surprised at how quick he has become.

We have travelled all over the place watching athletic events and he knows the theory of running a distance race. I am so impressed with him. I slipped off my shoes and we headed from the start for a lap of the track. We were moving a good pace but I knew he was pacing himself. The route heads out along the park paths which a mostly tarmac and gravel. I could run on the grass beside the path for long sections until we came to the first of the steep downhills. Very hard for barefooting. Broken tarmac and gravel. Pretty nasty stuff to descend on and nowhere to detour. It slowed me down and he pulled ahead of me slightly. Once at the bottom, we were on a muddy path and I caught him up. We descended that hill 3 times in all and each time slowed me right down. The run in was along tarmac and with the finish in sight, he opened up and we raced along passing quite a few runners. We enetered the track and raced the last 200 metres. He was Ovett and I was Coe. Great fun. Ovett won – Just!!

He came in at just over 28 mins which he is pelased with considering it was his first time on a hilly course and he had stopped for a couple of minutes for a wee in a bush. He now wants to go back next week and see what he can do. I think I will wear my Xeros or Moc3s next time so that I don’t slow him down!

Extract from Heaton Parkrun news:

Barefoot in the Park


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There were reminders of a Hollywood movie as barefoot runners made their parkrun debut at Heaton on Saturday, whilst a clutch of talented runners vied for the top positions and created two new records along the way.


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The Northwest Barefoot Runners

Some of us in the older age categories will remember Barefoot in the Park as the story of a young man who throws caution to the wind and runs barefoot in Washington Square Park in response to his wife’s repeated complaints about his sober and cautious demeanour. The 1967 movie starred Robert Redford, whereas our version had Heaton regular Greg DIMELOW in the lead role (could you tell the difference?) with his fellow Northwest barefooters as the supporting cast. Most of the group wore some minimal footwear as a nod to Heaton’s occasionally stony paths, but I was mightily impressed as I trailed around behind Tim HINES who ran completely barefoot and finished his parkrun debut in a very respectable 20:44. We look forward to welcoming back Greg and his barefoot buddies in the future




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Giving Robert Redford a run for his money! Matinee idol Greg Dimelow (l) and Tim Hines.

Read our other race reviews from real barefooters here. We would welcome your reviews.

For barefoot  race reviews and news like our Facebook page.

We also have a fantastic community of barefoot runners contributing on our Barefoot Beginner facebook group. We are a mix of barefooters, minimalist and shod runners with a common interest. The chat is warm and friendly. Come and join in.

Soft Star RunAmocs

May 17

A classy selection of posts this week. Take a look – Pick of the Barefoot Posts #36

The Friendly Barefoot StoreOnce again I have read lots of posts this week and I am finding my interest awakened my a gradually wider range of bloggers. I am fascinated by the lives that folk choose to live in addition to barefoot running. They seem to go hand in hand in many cases.

podcast1. Post of the week goes to one of the best things I have heard in ages. A podcast interview with Steven Sashen.

I love my Xero shoes. They are simple and much more comfortable to run in than they look. Steven and his lifestyle is also fascinating for me. He is one of the coaches that respond in our ‘Ask the coaches’ feature. He is usually the first to respond each time. Even when preparing for Shark Tank, he was there with a response within a couple of hours. The podcast shares his thoughts on being a successful entrepreneur. Have a listen.


Post 2 this week is from Adharanand Finn writing in the Guardian.

Many of you will have read Adharanand’s book ‘Running with the Kenyans’. It was a fascinating tale. Here, he visits Ben Le Vesconte at Vivobarefoot. Some great analogies in here. I like the one about banging your head against a wall. Either get as much cushioning as you can or stop banging it. Your choice. I also like the fact that it is about form. You need to address the software as well as the hardware. Well put. I have found that the thinnest soles do not necessarily mean I run well in certain shoes. Some just work for me and others don’t.

born to run3. Great interview with Chris McDougall. he updates us on the movie adaptation of ‘Born to Run’.

There are many interviews with Chris but this stood out because the old story of the movie makes an appearance. It is revived and sounds exciting. Chris is most concerned here about the focus on shoes and not on running form that seems to have taken over, Could it be that the shoe companies are hijacking the whole barefoot thing?

hoof trimmers4. Post 4 is from the UK Hoof Trimmers website.

It is not a post but a whole website full of good stuff. When in read Ken Bob’s book, the story of the bare hoof movement was one of my favourite chapters. It makes total sense. trying to convince people seems even harder than making the case for humans running without shoes. The whole things seems like common sense to me. I spent a fascinated time exploring their site.

Vanessa runs5. I discovered Vanessa Runs a little while ago. If you want to change your life, this is a good place to start.

This is Vanessa summing up the lessons she has learned from living in her RV. It is quite something and one of the best things I have read in a while. She gives you ‘calls to action’ and I yearn to do what she has done. Her life seems so much more simple than mine and far happier. There has to be something in it.

I now have a Barefoot Beginner facebook page that I would love you to visit and like. We also have a Barefoot Beginner facebook group. It is growing steadily and there are now over 230 of us. The members tell me they like its positive nature and friendly chat. We don’t put up with profanity or negativity, I am a headteacher after all. We frown on that sort of thing. Come and join in, you will be made very welcome.

xero shoes

May 16

Barefoot and Beer is the future – I am not going back!

Soft Star RunAmocsIt has been a busy old time and getting the balance right has been difficult. My barefoot running store is now up and running and my wife has been doing the honours and getting the orders out on time. It is great to do something like that together. My main priority as far as the store goes is proving to everyone that an online store can be run with integrity and a smile. Happy customers is the main thing and hopefully always will be. I am about to add Xero shoes to our store. That is exciting because I love them so much. It doesn’t seem right to have a store and not stocking them. It is rare that I head out for a run without them tucked in my pocket just in case.


I spent a while being coy about my store. I got over it. I would love a few of you to visit and buy one or two things. There we go, I feel much better for saying that!

My blog has just had its first birthday and I have just completed my first month of running at least a barefoot mile every day. Long may it continue. I have just started a Facebook group for anyone who wants to join in.’ Barefoot Mile a Day’

I have been racing away at a couple of events. A year in, I am finding that speed is returning and I feel much more competitive. I am far too heavy and so I am going to lose at least a stone as quickly as I can. No messing, I need to get down to a more competitive weight. I love a race and for the first time in years, I am running without the fear of something going when I put the peddle to the metal.

The barefoot runstreak is an interesting one. It doesn’t seem sensible and yet at the same time seems like the right thing to do. It is almost a compulsion. I am better for it. I am learning a fair bit about my body as I go. In the last month, I have been as bouncy as a lamb at times and cold and lethargic at others. I am learning when I need to back off and when I can ride the wave. One thing is for certain, I have never yet been sorry that I have made the effort to get out of the door and run. It always makes things better.

At the same time, I have been working with friend Phil (the barefoot procrastinator) and setting up our beer concern ‘The Original Beer Deli’.

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We both love beer, not your average beers but beers with a tale to tell. We have spent many an evening comparing and contrasting local and international offerings and giving an opinion.

When you try and move your life towards the one you truly want to live, you need to find those bits of your life that you really enjoy. Tasting and discussing beer was one of ours so we have jumped in with both feet. Our first market is just over a fortnight away. We both work full time in education but who knows where this might take us. For the moment, it is an exciting diversion. Folk make their living doing the things they love. Why not us?

The balance has been tricky but I think I have got it just about right. All this has coincided with the busiest time of the school year. I love working with my staff, they are an amazing bunch and I am not ready to give that part of my life up either, it is too much fun.

I have never been so busy and yet so fulfilled. I no longer watch television. That is how I am managing to fit things in. When I am on my death bed, I don’t think I will be wishing that I had spent my precious time on earth watching more Emmerdale.

To be honest, it isn’t the school, the beer or the running that I love, it is the people(OK, it may be the beer). The social side of life that I have missed out on for long periods when I dropped my bags and crashed on the sofa until it was time to start again.

I have great admiration for Pete Larson who gave up his day job and now blogs full time. This week, Tracy from Barefoot Britain handed in her notice to follow her dream. Wow! If you ever needed a role model, there you go.

Following the things you love is invigorating and energy giving. I have watched myself closely, gone to bed early when I have needed to and I am not going back to the old way of life. I am excited and the best thing is that I have no idea where this adventure is heading. I just know that it will be fun.

So…what is it that you would do with your life if you won the lottery and didn’t need to work again? It is a question that I am asking more and more.

I now have a Barefoot Beginner facebook page that I would love you to visit and like. We also have a Barefoot Beginner facebook group. It is growing steadily and there are now over 230 of us. The members tell me they like its positive nature and friendly chat. We don’t put up with profanity or negativity, I am a headteacher after all. We frown on that sort of thing. Come and join in, you will be made very welcome.

The Friendly Barefoot Store

May 15

Going with the flow – Gray Caws

CR-1-728x90-bbsMy ‘process of personal change and development’ to mindful running

I often get asked why I chose to study and teach Chi Running rather than other techniques. It is often considered a soft option or a little bit ‘hippy’ but I can assure you this is not the case. Chi Running can take your running to a level you never imagined. If you are prepared to put in the work, be patient, persistent and approach your running as a skill that needs to be nurtured, you will reap great physical and mental benefits.

When I first read Danny Dreyer’s book it made complete sense and as I started adopting the principles into my running I found it actually worked. I like Chi Running for it’s simplicity as well as complexity. A straightforward drill to ensure your arms swing correctly can quickly improvement your whole body movement, whilst working on relaxation and meditation can become a life-long process. Also, as a minimalist runner, I like the fact that Chi Running was promoting mid-foot strike and quick cadence well before any running magazine dare mention barefoot and five fingers were attached to your hand. The fact that I transitioned from a supportive Brooks Adrenaline shoe to Vibram FiveFingers and barefoot without any issues (allbeit gradually) suggested to me that my technique supported barefoot running.

In a previous life (not literally) I was a graphic designer and web developer. I loved the groundwork of creating a structure for a project (web coding) then allowing creativity to take over (the design process). At school German was one of my favourite subjects – learning the complex structure then allowing the mind to take over to become as fluent as possible in the written and spoken word. Chi Running works in a similar way for me. Focussing on technique (doing the groundwork) and then building on this by allowing yourself to relax – to go with the flow!

At mile 10 of the 2010 Bath Half Marathon just as I was expecting things to start getting tough quite the opposite happened. All of a sudden everything fell into place. I felt calm and relaxed, my breathing was deep and steady. My body was working harmoniously as a whole with flowing, no-interrupted movement from one step to the next. I felt a surprising amount of power from very little effort. Movement was happening with no pushing, my legs seemed to be floating underneath me, momentarily supporting my body weight with each landing. It was an amazing feeling. I saw then how Chi Running had improved not only my physical fitness but also general health, well-being and mental focus so, after over 20 years designing, I made the decision to change career. I wanted to incorporate my love of running with a business that helped others attain their goals and realise their potential. In 2011 I took a course in personal training then certified as a Chi Running Instructor.

So what does Chi Running have to offer which other programmes may not?

Chi Running is based on various T’ai Chi principles – think slow down (not necessarily speed), simplicity, balance, appreciate opposites, whole body movement, a connection between mind and body. Chi Running creates internal, mindful, smooth movement. You gain strength, calm, inner focus, energy, balance, better proprioception (awareness of where your body is in space), a controlled body.

Exercises and drills are your building blocks to create good running form. They are easy to learn and practice, not just when you’re running. The main components of Chi Running are practical and teach biomechancially correct movement patterns: how to develop good static posture and translate this into movement; how to allow gravity to help with the intention of forward movement; upper body stability and arm swing; optimal cadence; how to relax muscles that don’t need to be used – check your neck and shoulders now, are they holding tension? Muscles that don’t need to be worked should be relaxed. Unnecessarily tense muscles waste energy. Neck tension suggests that the chin is pushing forward forcing muscles to overwork and carry most of the weight of the head (around 5kg). When your posture is correctly aligned your head will be sitting on top of your shoulders, distributing the weight throughout the whole structure of the body. Imagine your head is suspended above your body, lifted by a piece of string from the crown. The neck gets longer and muscles release.

Once confident that you are progressing with the main components, Chi Running allows you to take your training to another level and to me this is one of the big differences from other techniques and where creativity can really begin. All to often we’ve got one eye on tomorrow and the other on Facebook and don’t spend time in the moment. Focus on the moment and a whole new dimension to your running can open up. Chi Running becomes a life-long practice such as T’ai Chi or yoga. Progress happens gradually with each stage of training forming a stable foundation for the next: learn good basic technique and get a real understanding of how this feels in your body; good technique is a stable foundation for increasing your distance; with good technique and increased distance your body becomes conditioned to allow speed to happen naturally rather than pushing or forcing – my 10k PB was two weeks after running the 2010 London Marathon.

When you take your running to this level, training programmes become multifaceted, much more interesting and lots of fun. The development process is emphasised rather than focusing purely on performance goals. Here’s a few examples of some of the more advanced focuses you can try:

  • run a hilly route at the same effort level (or heart rate), total nasal breathing and shift the focus to the upper body on the uphill
  • increase speed by relaxing and creating more of an intention to move forward and see how much easier this feels
  • create a pyramid with your ‘minds eye’ (point at centre of forehead) and ‘eyes’ at each of your shoulders and direct your energy towards an object ahead, feeling yourself being drawn by this point (perhaps a runner in front of you in a race); focus on a point on the bottom of each foot at the front part of the instep (beware not to run on your toes) and feel energy from the ground feed up from this point to your dantien (a point three finger widths below belly button and about 2” in towards the spine) and a point in the middle of your lower back – a great focus for barefoot and minimalist runners.

On my long slow 10 miler last Sunday – in preparation for a 10k race this coming Sunday – I practiced the following breathing focus:

  • looking at your body side on visualise a circular flow of energy (chi). Your breath pumps this chi continuously through two of the largest energy channels – one up the front and one down the back of the upper body
  • breath into the belly (dantien) keeping the chest relaxed
  • as the in breath hits the dantien it pumps chi from the base of the spine, up the spine, up the back of the neck to the crown of the head
  • as you exhale the chi runs down from the crown of the head, through the forehead and down the chest, through the dantien to the perineum
  • be sure to keep breathing and chi flowing continuity in this way with each breath
  • as you run keep the pace slow so your breathing is controlled but keep a high cadence of 170-180 strides per minute
  • hold the focus for 1 minute on, 1 minute off (breathing interval training)

I did total nasal breathing but to start with your normal breathing but make sure it’s deep into the belly and not shallow. This ensures maximum oxygen intake which in turn leads to more energy efficiency. You can progress to total nasal breathing as long as you have no restrictions in your nasal passage.

These focusses, and many more, can be combined with the standard intervals, fartlek and long slow runs and resistance training to spice up your training programmes keeping your body alert, responsive and constantly challenged and your mind active and engaged. At a recent workshop when I asked the group what motivated them to book the session one replied “I want to look forward to and enjoy a run. Not just think I want to get it over with”. Chi Running can change your approach to running.

I cannot emphasis enough how important it is to get a solid grounding in technique but sometimes we can spend too much time focusing on detail and not letting ourselves relax and go with the flow – focusing on a particular part of the body rather that the body as a whole – why do my calfs hurt? Am I landing correctly? If you are prepared to put in the work, be consistence, patient and precise you can then relax and let things happen. You’ll develop your inner power of intuition, be able to listen to and trust your body and be amazed at what you can actually achieve, not just in fitness and running but in your health and life as a whole.

PS if you are wondering about the subtitle, blame The Xfactor – I can’t bear to use the word journey!

Book a Chirunning workshop with Gray here. He is now doing half day introductions and refreshers to Chirunning which are a great idea.

© Gray Caws

Soft Star RunAmocs

May 14

Xero Shoe reviews – 5 quality reviews of the Xero Shoe

xero shoesI have been running in Xero shoes since before their re-branding and I always knew them as Invisible shoes. I love them and usually have them slipped into my pocket when I head out for a longer barefoot run. I will be heading out into the hills this morning and will have them tucked away just in case I need them. They are lovely to run in but I thought I would share 5 Xero shoe reviews from some of the other testers out there.

Untitled1. First is a great comparison between the 4mm and 6mm versions of the Xero shoe from Justin at Birthday Shoes.

When deciding which Xero to buy, I didn’t know which one to go for initially and Justin’s review was a great help. I now have both and always reach for the 4mm pair when heading out. It depends what you are looking for and Justin’s review is very full and may point you in the right direction. Read Justin’s full Xero review.

inclined2. Post 2 is from Jeff at his Barefoot Inclined blog

Jeff is responsible for me being on a barefoot runstreak and I trust what he says. He also started out in 6mm shoes and now has the 4mm Xeros. I love this post because he takes you through the making process. I wish I had read it before I had my making day with the kids. We all have Xero shoes in our house! Read Jeff’s full Xero review.

arizona3. Xero shoe review from another blogger I trust. John McCLung from Barefoot Arizona.

John is an experienced trail runner and I know him mostly from his great barefoot running children’s book and the fact that he loves his Luna Sandals. This was John’s review of the 4mm Xeros. John’s posts always make me smile and he was on good form here. A positive review from someone who knows. I disagree with him slightly because I do run trails in mine but I know what he means. Read John’s full Xero review.

dig4. I am new to the Begin to Dig blog but enjoyed MC’s Xero shoe review.

It tackles the question of why you would want Xeros shoes if you already are into the minimalist thing and maybe run in Vibrams. MC was in that camp but ended up wearing Xeros a lot. They amplify your footfall and help with form correction. I know that feeling. I find myself working to reduce the slap. Of course, I often just slip them off and run silently. A good, thoughtful review. Read MC’s full Xero review.

salad5. Another blog I follow is ToeSalad and this is a Xero review from Damien.

I hadn’t visited for a while and I enjoyed the new, slick feel of ToeSalad with a healthy bunch of comments following up the Xero review. A good sign. I like this review as it focuses on the experiences of a 10 year old. My own son is 10 and loves his Vivobarefoots and his Xeros. That camp fire looks good fun. Read Damien’s full Xero review.


I am just about to start selling Xero shoes in my store. Like the Barefoot Beginner facebook page and I will let you know where I am upto and post further reviews.

We also have a growing Barefoot Beginner facebook group. The mood is warm and friendly and you will be made very welcome. Come and join in the chat.

The Friendly Barefoot Store

May 11

Barefoot Beginner’s 1st Birthday Walsh Zero drop giveaway goes to……

Well…Happy Birthday to us!

Had a great day parkrunning with the Northwest Barefooters and tomorrow will see me running my 31st consecutive barefoot day with a good friend up here in the West Pennines.

As part of the celebrations I am giving away a pair of Walsh Zero drop fell shoes. The winner is…

Walsh PB UltraOliver Mitchell from Bristol in England. Thankyou all for joining in. I care deeply about these shoes which are handmade to order in my home town of Bolton. They are a class act.

They are normally £85 + postage but for the next 48hrs, I will be offering them at £65 with free postage (even for overseas customers).Click here. A saving of well over £30.

I also care about the success of Freet Footwear. I met and ran with founder Andrew up in the Yorkshire Dales and have been running regularly in Freets ever since. I have a limited selection of my first stock left and will be speaking to Andrew shortly about my next order.


Freets are usually £50 +P&P. Again for the next 48 hrs, I will be offering them at £39 with Free UK P&P. You will need to be quick. I have most sizes but only a limited number. When they are gone, they are gone.

Xero shoes are also getting in on the act and they are currently 50% off for selected summer colours from their site in the US. Even with P&P, they are a bargain and I know a few people already taking advantage and stocking up on a few pairs. Have a look by clicking on the image or here.


To keep up to date like my Barefoot Beginner facebook page here or pop over and visit my barefoot running store.

We also have a very active Barefoot Beginner facebook group. About 220 of us so far and growing steadily. The atmosphere is warm and friendly. You will be very welcome.