October 2013 archive

Oct 29

Barefeet that are freezing can lead to sneezin’ – A cautionary tale

Barefeet that are freezing can lead to sneezin’ – A cautionary tale

Not the best, I know and not even factually correct but it was best I could come up with under pressure.

This morning, I was caught out in a hailstorm and the old ‘numb feet are dumb feet’ thing was preying on my mind for the second half of the run.

I did a couple of thing wrong this morning and got away with it. I just thought that I would share the experience.

Firstly, I set out with a barefoot goal in mind – I was determined to run a challenging route barefoot all the way. When I have that mindset, I can overide my soles feedback and hurt myself. Oh yes, there is no limit to my willpower when it comes to doing stupid stuff. If I had listened to my feet, I would have put my shoes on for some sections. I managed it but am not sure of the cost yet. It won’t be serious this time and I got away with it but as I am always telling people that their soles will keep them safe, I think I had better add a caveat. Your soles will keep you safe, if you have the sense to listen to them and not be as stubborn as a not very bright mule.

The other mistake was allowing my feet to get cold. If the weather had been dry then there would have been no problem. It was wet and muddy however and I was running in pools that were full of very cold water. The feedback from my feet was not as good as normal and I landed more heavily than usual on a few sharp rocks. We will see how that pans out over the next 24 hours or so. No real damage but I could have avoided it by slipping on my shoes.

So…’numb feet are dumb feet’ is definitely true.

My own version is: ‘Feet too cold, I get too bold’. OK, not as catchy but true all the same.

I started to use Dailymile recently. Some people want to know the details of my runs but I don’t want to bore the general population. If you do want to know what I am upto then you can have a look at http://www.dailymile.com/people/ChrisF64

Heres is my Dailymile log of the run:

6.38 barefoot miles this morning across the rocky bridleways of the West Pennines – I had been worried that I had not been barefooting enough and that it may be the cause of my right hip feeling stiff. Barefooting tends to keep it loose. The sun was shining although it was a little nippy as I set off. The ground was just wet enough to pick up all the little bits of grit and stick them to my soles but not wet enough to wash them off. This leads to a sort of grinding paste and makes barefooting tough. I ran through every puddle I could find. Then the rain started and then driving, stinging hail. I was running in mud and cold water and the old ‘numb feet are dumb feet’ was going through my mind. I stopped a few times to slip on my Sockwas but couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. That brings me to another cautionary tale. If I set out with a goal, I can overide the feedback and hurt myself. I know this but still carried on. Maybe I have issues. The last 2 miles is on tarmac road. I was worried that my tenderised soles would be flayed but they stood up to it suprisingly well. My hip feels great. 2 hours skiing later though and then I can’t even describe what I will be doing this evening for Barefoot Running magazine. I may not be able to walk tomorrow!

Our Barefoot Beginner group now has over 460 members and we also have a facebook page for you to like. I would welcome your success stories as they can be a real help when looking for a bit of inspiration.


Oct 24

Two upcoming workshops from Jae Gruenke

I have just added two London workshops from Jae Gruenke to the events calendar.

You can find the events list by using the top menu.



Oct 21

How to make huaraches from an old tyre – Ian Hicks

A little while ago, Ian kept us enthralled with his mission to make a pair of huarache sandals from an old tyre. He agreed to write us a post to put the whole thing together. Thanks, Ian.

Driving to work one day, I passed a lay-by in which a kind person had dumped four worn-out tyres. So being a barefoot runner, what do you think went through my mind? Yes, you’ve guessed it, I can make a pair of huaraches out of one of those!

Below is the diary I kept during my tyre to huarache project!

Day 1 of my attempt to make huaraches out of an old tyre. First problem how to cut through it – keeping in mind there is wire in the rubber! Jigsaw with blade for metal cutting I think! I will keep you posted with how I get on.

Day 2 of my attempt to make huaraches out of an old tyre! Unable to use the sides as they are too narrow (low profile tyre – 215/45). Have cut main tread out ready for marking out. The wire is not as much of a problem as I first thought. It is not very thick so is easy to cut through.

Day 3 of my attempt to make huaraches out of an old tyre. The photo shows what will be the underside. Marked out shape and cut down to the wire with sharp knife. Cut out each section with power saw to make it more manageable. Not a good idea to cut through rubber tyres with a power saw – the smell of burning rubber seriously stinks! But it got the job done. Next job cut out final shape with hacksaw. I will try this tomorrow.

Day 4 of my attempt to make huaraches out of an old tyre. Found a solution to the wire problem. Sharp knife run just above the top of the wire! Sandals now cut out ready for lacing. Sandal thickness now 3mm!

Day 5 finished! I’m really pleased with how they’ve turned out. Cutting across the top of the wire has worked very well. They are thinner more flexible and have a softer foot bed than using the full depth of the tyre. They just need a road test now!!!

Day 6 road test day. 5 mile run wearing them this morning. Verdict, AWESOME! Well worth cutting across the tyre just above the wire. Makes them thin and soft to wear. There will be a version 2. I need to make them a bit neater and to put what I’ve learnt into the final version.

They are actually really good, far better than I had anticipated. I have started on my second pair which I will take a bit more care to cut out. I’m not sure how much I will be wearing them- not because they are not comfortable,  but because I’m a barefoot runner and there is no substitute for my own soles!

Ian is a member of our Barefoot Beginner facebook group and a founder member of the Wiltshire Barefoot Runners. The Wiltshire barefooters are one of the groups on our group page.Why not have a look.

Oct 21

How to get hold of a pair of the new Xero Shoe Sensori Venture

I have been waiting for the Sensori venture from Xero shoe for ages. I am looking forward to getting hold a pair soon. Click on the image.

Xero video


Oct 19

The barefoot path is becoming clearer

So…I have been wrestling with the question of what Barefoot Beginner is all about and where it is going?

The truth is that it doesn’t have to be about anything and it doesn’t need to go anywhere. That just isn’t me though. Those of you following my posts will know that I have been wrestling with where my future lies. I have a deep seated need to make the next 10 years count.

I believe that if you are persistent and keep yourself moving forward, opportunities often present themselves. I set up Barefoot Beginner in the May of last year to record my own experiences of using barefoot running in an attempt to become an injury free runner. I had no idea that I was going to be involved in setting up a running group or that I would write a guide to help other injured runners find a way forward. To be honest, I thought that I might end up selling shoes and I do (I will be carrying on) but I think the future ultimately lies elsewhere. I can feel myself being pulled in another direction.

This week, the persistance paid off and I am off and running along a new path. I think that it will help shape how Barefoot Beginner develops over the coming months and years.

I am more interested in what might collectively be known as the ‘helping’ professions. I am not a therapist or a counsellor but I do use professional coaching as part of my everyday work. It is a fantastic way of helping people to be break out of a rut or work on something they want to improve. I have been searching far and wide for a postgraduate qualification that would allow me to study in depth and give me a professional qualification. All the courses I found were simply too far and wide or just too expensive. I just couldn’t see how I could fit them in alongside my day job as a headteacher in a primary school.

I wasn’t prepared to give in however and booked myself a day listening to Gerard Egan (author of The Skilled Helper) in a couple of weeks. Gerard is the man behind the majority of the professional coaching used in schools over the last decade or so. I have been using his methods since my own training and to find him speaking in the UK so soon was surely a sign that I was on the right track.

Then….I got an email from a friend and colleague and it was one of those moments that made things click into place. It feels like it was meant to be.

We have been working together to plan some training for new teachers next year. Tagged on the end of a list of training was:

‘The chance to study Coaching and Mentoring at Masters level’

Manchester Metropolitan University would be running the course less than half a mile away from my own school and it was affordable.

….and it starts next week!

I couldn’t believe it. I had genuine goosebumps and my heart was pumping. I made a phone call and although I am past the original enrolment date, I am in.

I did a little dance and then went round to find everyone at work who knows how much I want to do this. They smiled at me and nodded words of encouragement but I can see that can’t quite see why I so elated.

So…what is it all about? – I am coming to the conclusion that helping others may just be where my future lies. This is another step in that direction. It may also see me shift the emphasis of Barefoot Beginner a little. Not much, because the most fun I have is helping barefoot runners sift through the debris for the nuggets of gold out there on the web. I enjoy hearing success stories and sharing them. I now have the best part of 400 people who have downloaded my barefoot guide and I would like to hear how they are going on so that together we can provide a route map for those out there who are at the end of the line due to persistent injury.

If I can persuade one person to get out of the gym (the graveyard of broken runners), take off their shoes and help them find a way to run again then I will be happy.

I also think that it about time I nailed my colours to the mast and developed things from own standpoint instead of being such a broad church. I have plenty to learn. I am a minnow but I am no longer a beginner. I have something to offer.

I would also like to set up a beginner running group locally for those people who just can’t see themselves as runners. I hear folk talk about how they just couldn’t run but secretly I think that they wouldn’t mind giving it a go. I think that I can help. I am going to head off and get UKA qualified as a group leader.

I can feel a mission statement coming. A year and a half of finding my way and now I am beginning to find a little clarity of purpose. The balls have been up in the air, swirling around and now they are dropping into place one by one. Bring it on.

The path is becoming clearer. Don’t get me started about beer. A whole other story.

I would love it if you liked my Barefoot Beginner page and joined in the chat at the Barefoot Beginner facebook group. This week, we went over the 450 member mark. The chat is warm and friendly, we wouldn’t stand for anything less. We are a friendly, positive group that welcome those who run exclusively barefoot to those who run in traditional shoes and are thinking of finding out a little more. We run, we chat, we smile!!



Oct 14

6 reasons why our barefoot group runs work so well

Each month the Northwest Barefooters meet for a run in a different part of the northwest of England.

So…what makes this diverse bunch of barefoot runners drive miles for a group run each month?

A good question and one that barefooter Lionel Jones and I were chewing over as we barefooted our way around an excellent route on the Wirral hosted this month by Rowena Eakins. I love our group runs and look forward to them. I have been a member of a number of local running clubs and they formed a huge part of my life for many years. I dropped out of circulation when injuried kicked in and have missed the camaraderie and banter. I think our barefoot runs give me that much needed hit of both. Although we have been running together for less than a year we have formed good friendships and enjoy the gentle mickey-taking that characterises a group of friends when they get together.

Every run so far has brought us a new member and the group is so open and welcoming. Barefooting can feel a little lonely and it is great to run with like minded souls now and again.

There is a definite lack of competitive edge in our group. A few of us have run competitively in the past and eventually broken down with injuries. We are just glad to be out running again and enjoying the experience. That doesn’t mean that there are not serious runners in the group. It is a knowledgeable group but I think we know that running is at essence a simple, joyous, social experience. There isn’t a smart-arse know it all amongst us. We are more of the live and let live, run and let run mindset.

This months run summed up all that is good about our group runs:

  1. I was looking forward to it. A good sign. This is not a chore, it is a pleasure.
  2. It took me to run somewhere completely new
  3. We had 2 runners join us for the first time. A good thing, we would love a few more folk to join us next time out. Being barefoot is not necessary. We have had quite a few traditionally shod runners join us on our runs.
  4. It was planned by one of the group (We take it in turns)
  5. It was about 6 miles of gentle, chat fuelled running (some barefoot and some shod and just about everywhere in between)
  6. It ended with cake. This seems to be becoming a feature. We ended up in a very nice cafe/cake shop and to be honest I would stil be there now if they hadn’t let me take cake away with me.

1383975_10151664287850866_1923391837_nOur first run was last December at Rivington near Bolton. I created a facebook event and was scared that no-one would show up. In the end there were 4 of us and the group has grown steadily from there.

Barefooting can feel a little lonely at times. If you fancy organising a group run in your part of the world, I would go for it. If you want a hand with the facebook side of things, let me know and then post it the Barefoot Beginner group and anywhere else you can think of. It might just end up being the best thing you have done.

You can join our Northwest Barefooters facebook group here or have a look at some like minded souls on our barefoot running groups page.

We are toying with the idea of a Northwest Barefooters weekend away. It would be great if we could link up with one or two other groups next summer. Working title – The Great Barefoot Gathering – who could resist.


Oct 12

Barefoot running review of the Bournmouth half marathon – Amit K Baswal


Thanks to Amit K Baswal for this barefoot running review of the Bournmouth half marathon. Amit graded it as BBB Red (Difficult). See other barefoot running race reviews here.

Bournemouth Half-Marathon 2013 – 06/10/2013- Most fun run I’ve ever had at half-marathons. I’ve been running half-marathons for some time now but I have always run shod before. This year after being introduced to barefoot running I completed this half-marathon completely barefoot. This was an excellent run for number of reasons – no injuries after or during the run, no shin-splints, no knee pain and my PB(1.38 whoo woo!!). Really pleased how changing running from shod to barefoot has improved my overall running.

Around 2850 runners took part with only 3 barefoot runners – Tim Armitage, Rik Vanhoutteghem and myself. Run started at Kings Park through smooth tarmac for the first couple of miles but turned into very rough surface with large stones in the tarmac mix felt like a cheese grater especially along the prom. I kept looking for painted lines on the roads but there were too few!! A good organised event overall with water stations after every few miles and spectators cheering us all the way. Though I did get funny looks and comments!


If you enjoyed Amit’s review, please join in the chat at our Barefoot Beginner facebook group. We also have a facebook page for you to visit and like.

Submitting your own barefoot running race review is easy. You can follow the link on our race page or just use the contact form at the top of the page. It is a community list and growing all the time.

Oct 08

Sockwa review – Video review from Barefoot Beginner

I have been running quite a few miles in my Sockwas over the past few weeks. This is because I have been out early in the morning before it has become light. I thought that it was about time that I did a quick video to let you know how the Sockwa is performing in my quest to be an injury free runner.

You can find Sockwa online at www.barefootrunningstore.com

You can see an overview of all the shoes that have worked well for me over the past year or so at http://www.barefootbeginner.com/recommended-footwear/

sockwa1Don’t forget to like our facebook page and join in the chat at our Barefoot Beginner facebook group.

Oct 07

Barefoot running review – Saddleworth Edges fell race – Greg Dimelow

Thanks to Greg for this barefoot running review of the Saddleworth Edges fell race

This race report is incomplete because ……….it was a DNF ! Now that might not seem that bad but in my entire racing career this is only my third ever DNF. My first was a bike crash in a regional triathlon championship that put me out of racing for nearly a year. The second was the final race of my triathlon career and ended racing for nearly 15 years, so trust me this is a big deal. Anyway to the race…..

The race route info states:

 “The race starts at Tanners mill and starts with a steep climb up a grassy field. ”

That is an understatement ! It was nearly vertical well to a softy road runner like me. Then it just kept on going up and up and up !!! Being at the back from the start,getting left behind and watching everybody else just float up the fell through knee deep heather was an inspiring sight if I had not been dying. My legs and lungs wanted to explode. As i was working that hard my legs filled with blood and swelled to full pump. This whilst wearing skins compression shorts meant that my legs couldn’t work properly and felt like they were going to burst.

The climb to the stone shelter and trig point at the summit is unrelenting but offers fine views.

I guess it did but I couldn’t breathe or feel anything but pain in my legs by this point. Basically everybody had left me a long way behind by the time I reached the top of Alphin fell. The Marshall was very kind and pointed me in the right direction off over the peaty fells to Wimberry Rocks before climbing again to Stable Stones Brow.

The edges turn narrow and rocky from here to Chew Reservoir but pleasant running and beautiful views if you can afford a look.

And here lies my main issue……..I cannot run….no I don’t know how to run on boulders and knee deep peat bog.

By the time I had left the checkpoint the runner in front of me had disappeared from view and was just a spot occasionally in the distance and as if that wasn’t bad enough emotionally, another runner who had turned up late , mooched up the fell and passed me laughing saying he didnt know the route and had set off late and wasn’t this jolly or something ! I asked him to let the Marshall know I wasn’t dead , feeling fine, moving slow but still moving. He took my race number and said he would let the Marshall know. Nice guy really but right at that time it just emotionally destroyed what little confidence I had left that I could finish the race. It’s one thing being last its another being passed by somebody who set off ages after we had all started. It just did me in. After that I concentrated on moving a quickly as I could and trying to figure out what I didn’t know that others did ? And how to move on this style of terrain.

Being relatively local to dovestones I have walked the area a bit and knew where I was even running past a previous brew stop. But there was no time to stop or enjoy the views today as I was painfully aware of how slow I was moving and how hard the terrain was to run on. Paths 6 inch wide with a huge drop to the side, heather attempting to trip you up with every step and loose rocks underfoot are not easy for a softy road runner to move over. My confidence increased and waned with every step with occasional ridiculously humorous moments when I was following footsteps across peat sections only to sink to my knees in peat bogs. I attempted to follow the stud marks from all the other runners. Walsh fell shoes leave a distinguishable tread print in the mud and they became strangely comforting to follow considering that I couldn’t see anybody anymore. They at least let me know I was on roughly the right track.

Then I hit what can be at best described as a rocky set of drops. Now all the real fell runners out there wouldn’t even think twice about this bit of the run but I just stopped at the top and laughed to myself at the drops in front of me and couldn’t figure out how to run at any pace down them. Walking, scrambling yes but running no. Then it went from what was the ridiculous to the sublime. Long gullies in the peat all churned up by the other runners that I sank into generally mid calf but up to knee deep. That was when I saw the Marshall at Chew reservoir about the 4 mile point.

I would like to thank that Marshall hugely. When I approached him there was no hint of impatience or ridicule in his support for this heavily overweight, vibram wearing, obviously out of his depth road runner. Just support for making it that far. We discussed the route on and the option of my DNF. He stated …..it gets easier from here but the next bit is the same until the next trig point. That was it I had had it ! The road back to the start was too tempting and just knew I didn’t have the will to finish just to say I had finished. We chatted about the run and he suggested that I was doing the right thing by knowing my limits and that was it finalised. I ended my race and thanked him for marshalling and waiting for me.

As I set off down the access road I felt like a weight had been lifted. But then the analysis started. What went wrong? Why ? When ? And how? Also what did I have to do to become a fell runner ? As I walked / ran back to the start I reflected on my race and a few things became painfully clear

I am too overweight to run up fells. Simple as that. Gravity is nobody’s friend less so mine.

I’m not fit enough to run up fells. Again simple get fitter.

Compression clothing is great but not when it stops your legs from working because it is too tight. I never knew my legs swelled up that much when working really hard.

You NEED grip it’s not negotiable. Vibrams are great on roads and trails but are just pointless on peat moors. I’m not ready to put shoes back on but both Walsh and inov8 now make minimalist zero drop fell shoes with the midsole removed that I need to take a look at.

I don’t know how to run on fell and moorland terrain. The skill set used on roads generally transfers to trail running but trail running is not fell running. It’s another world with an entirely different skill set and I have not got a clue how to move over that kind of terrain at all. I need more time spent training on the fells. It’s a skill set that can be developed , its just going to take time.

On roads it’s as simple as keep putting one foot in front of the other, on the fells it’s not that simple. Route choice and being able to read the ground is crucial to ground speed. Again it’s a skill I don’t have.

If you choose to bail on a race……don’t bail at the furthest point from the start/ finish ! I still had a 3.25 mile walk back. Trust me its a long and lonely walk.

I had a great time and learnt loads. As with my other fell race I have come away feeling like fell running is where I belong. I have so much to learn about the sport it’s like starting running all over again and whilst daunting its very exciting. I love being out there on the fells and the sense of camaraderie and genuine concern for your fellow runner is refreshing. As is the belief that it is my responsibility and nobody else’s to keep myself safe and get my sorry butt off the fell when i dropped out. On the roads somebody would have had a bus to take me back to the start and taken all responsibility off me.

A huge thank to you to the organisers Saddleworth running club, all the marshals, support crew, everybody who talked to me and made me feel welcome, brew run for stocking a great post run chilled lemon drink and everybody else out on the fells that day.

As far as giving it a barefoot rating…..well I’m not sure it would be possible to “race” over this terrain fully barefoot. It would be possible on a dry day to run the route. It would be a great challenging barefoot walk where pace is irrelevant. Running on fells is like stepping onto the moon, everything you think you know about running stops working. As such I’m rating it as a BBBB (severe) but this still feels lacking as I don’t believe that our feet have enough grip.


Greg is a member of the Northwest Barefooters running group and an active member of the Barefoot Beginner facebook group.


Oct 04

My 5 favourite barefoot posts of September

It has been a while since I have listed my 5 favourite posts and I have missed it. I always do. It makes me read lots of posts from around the world and my own blog becomes better for it.

There is so much barefoot writing out there so I tend to whittle it down to the ones that I feel drawn to rather than try and predict what other people will enjoy. They really are my own personal choices and I figure that if I enjoy them, then you might do too.

man1. Post number one is a great article about an Indian barefoot runner.

At first glance, it seems so detatched from my own experiences and way of life but on closer inspection reveals some universal truths. This is about the struggle to quit smoking and deciding to ditch then technical t-shirt (I ditched mine a while ago). I love the part about looking people in the eye (I can relate to that). I wouldn’t mind a long run with this chap, I bet the conversation would be interesting.

hua2. Post number two is a set of intructions for making huaraches. I needed them a little while ago.

My friend and fellow northwest barefooter Tim Hines fashions his own huaraches from airport luggage conveyor belt and I brought a piece home and had a go at making my own. Could do better! Wiltshire barefooter, Ian Hicks is currently making his own pair from a tyre. Always good to have a sneaky peak at few ideas before getting out the knife.

bbc3. I am always interested in seeing what the BBC thinks about barefooting. This article is more in depth than most.

I am often asked what surface to start out on. I usually say something firm that won’t allow a masking of bad form and this article agrees. It compares the thoughts of Dr. Wilkinson (Northumbria University) with the thoughts one one or two other experts. I am with Dr. Wilkinson, he seems to talk sense. I also think that barefoot is best.

teeth4. Post four has nothing to do with barefoot running directly but I am a sucker for all things that hark back to a more simple lifestyle.

It is an article that links dental health to diet. OK, not exactly rocket science but it was more involved than simply being to do with refined sugar as I thought. that is certainly a contributing factor but Vitamin D also plays a crucial role in the bodies ability to absorb calcium. The human body is a medical marvel. We certainly do our best to screw it up.

BB5. I couldn’t let Tracy’s Color Run post pass us by without giving it a mention.

Many of you know Tracy of Barefoot Britain and the last post this week is her account of the Brighton Color Run. There is something joyous about people getting together to do something that is just plain silly. It is an expensive event but under sixes go free which I think is apt because looking at the adults they are grinning with pleasure in a way only usually enjoyed by small children. I need to find one near me.

 We have a Barefoot Beginner facebook group with well over 400 members and a facebook page to like. Come and join in the chat, you will be made very welcome.