Hi Bob – Thanks for agreeing to take part in our Real Barefooters series.
That’s my pleasure Chris, thanks for asking me!
I am pretty sure that yours was the first UK barefoot blog I found. I have to ask about the name ‘Toad Shoes’. Where did it come from?
The name ‘Toad Shoes’ was formed when my daughters nicknamed my first pair of fivefingers ‘froggy shoes’ because of the weird toe pockets. This became ‘toad shoes’ which was a play on ‘toed shoe’ while still retaining the amphibious reference! When I decided to start a blog the fivefingers were my only running shoe, and I couldn’t think of anything better!
I know that you started running in about 2009 in a pair of conventional Mizuno shoes, what prompted the change?
I never did the gait analysis / shoe fitting thing when I decided to start running. I just went online and bought a pair with the biggest discount! Luckily they fitted and were an OK match for starting out in. When my mileage started to increase I got a couple of niggles; my hip and knee. I eventually went for gait analysis and switched to Brooks, which got me through my first half marathon in 2010, but the niggles soon crept back again.
I had run a couple of miles barefoot on the beach in Devon in 2010, and became aware of fivefingers. It wasn’t until February 2011 when I finally took the plunge and got my first pair of bikila’s as a birthday present.
I struggled for a few weeks to find the correct form, and was probably heading for a stress fracture when I just decided to take them off and run barefoot. CLICK! It was like a switch had been activated and running in the fivefingers seemed so comfortable and natural. A couple of weeks later and I had ditched the Brooks forever!
I recognise the scenery around Foxton Locks in Leicestershire. I love the sweet boat. Do you spend much time running the tow paths? What is your favourite terrain for barefooting?
The Candy Boat is Sweet!
I love running on the tow path. I live 2 minutes away so it’s convenient. It’s also traffic free, flat and has fields on both sides so there’s a lot of wildlife. Unfortunately it’s a compacted stone path for 6 miles to Foxton Locks and beyond, so not very barefoot friendly and I’ve bruised my feet whenever I have tried.
My favourite terrain for barefoot running is sun baked footpaths over fields, followed by smooth back roads out in the countryside.
My shoe collection is pretty similar to yours. I would love to try a pair of Seeyas. Have you got a pair that you are craving at the moment?
The seeyas are lovely to run in, but struggle off road. I’m really looking forward to putting some decent miles on my 4mm Xeros this year now I’ve found a lacing method I’m happy with. I keep reading glowing reports on Luna Sandals so they may be my next purchase. The trouble with minimalist shoes is they last so long, and it’s difficult rationalising purchasing new ones!
What do your family and friends think of your running? Slightly mad?
I’m not sure what people think! Maybe pretty mad at first, but after almost three years since my first barefoot run they know it’s not just a phase I’m going through! I felt 2012 was a strong year for minimalist / barefoot running in the UK. Most shoe manufacturers have introduced a ‘barefoot’ model to their range, so it’s not quite such a strange concept now.
My eldest daughter and partner wear vivobarefoot shoes, and my youngest daughter walks barefoot with me while taking Fergus our family dog for walks, so they are aware of the benefits. I have just ordered some 6mm Xeros for my daughters so that should be fun.
Give us 10 word description of the soles of your feet.
Slowly returning to their former toughness after frostbite last December!
500 miles barefoot a year is good going. What is a typical running week for you? How do you fit it all in?
The barefoot miles were about a third of my total mileage last year. Training for my first marathon certainly boosted my miles over the two previous years!
I run with the local club on Tuesday, usually running barefoot there and back, with a long run at the weekend. Training for marathons has meant a midweek speed session followed by a recovery run. About 30 – 40 miles per week. I have been running at night in the week and early Sunday mornings to try and fit it all in, although it hasn’t been easy.
If you had a minute in a lift with an injured runner wearing a pair of Asics Gel Kayanos and a knee strapping, what message would you try and get across?
I would comment they must really enjoy running to be doing that to themselves! Then explain I had been there (I had to wear ITB knee straps to get past 4 miles) but there is a more natural way to run that minimises damage and is more enjoyable. I guess most runners are aware of barefoot running now so it would be more a case of encouragement.
I have just read about your Stratford marathon and your upcoming ultra. Tell us a little more about that.
My first marathon went well last year and I felt I could have run further. I thought about running a 50k soon after but felt I had spent enough time away from the family training. When I found out there was an off road 35 mile ultra marathon 15 minutes drive away I just thought, it’s now or never! I’ve run two marathons as training runs but they haven’t gone as smoothly as the first. My finishing times were OK but the final 4 – 5 miles felt quite hard. This was probably due to running the first 20 miles on food rather than energy gels. I’m planning on using both for the ultra, but it’s still 9 miles further than I’ve ever run before!
My red running hat has been with me for years. Do you have a piece of kit that has stood the test of time and you wouldn’t be without?
My trusty bikila’s – They have over 1300 miles on them and have been kept alive with bike tyre repair patches on the outside and lens cleaning cloth on the inside!
I am not the best cross-trainer in the world. Are you simply a runner or do you do other things as well?
I do a kettlebell workout once a week for core strength, and try to walk a couple of miles a day which I find helps with recovery.
I started running as mountain biking was taking up too much time, and I thought it would be a more time efficient way to stay fit. I haven’t been back on the bike for over a year but fully intend to one day, maybe duathlons?
After your ultra, do you have any other big plans for your running coming up?
Nope, I’m having a rest!
I do have a desire to run a full marathon barefoot one day, after running a barefoot half marathon last year in 1:44 hr. I started quite far back and it was fun overtaking so many shod runners, although everyone was friendly and encouraging! My longest barefoot run last year was 16 miles, so only another 10 to go!
I’ve also just volunteered to be a guide runner for visually impaired runners so I’m excited to see where that takes me (no pun intended!)
If we want to keep up with all things Bobblesop, where can we look?
There’s my blog (http://www.toadshoes.co.uk/) but I don’t post on my blog nearly as often as you Chris! so the best place for my barefoot running shenanigans is probably dailymile (www.dailymile.com/people/BobA4)
Thanks Bob. 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. We also have a facebook page for you to visit and like.