November 2013 archive

Nov 28

5 barefoot posts you shouldn’t miss – November

Picking my 5 favourite barefoot running posts of the month is still my favorite thing to do. It makes me stop writing and read some of the fantastic barefoot blogs out there. I always pick the posts that hook me in and make me want to read more.

Here are my favourites from November 2013…….

 brad-pitt-fight-club-workout1. Post number one comes from barefoot runner and writer, Jason Robillard on his Barefoot University blog.

I aspire to write as well as Jason. This post fascinated me because I had just finished writing about whether or not we are born to play. Born to fight is interesting. If fight or flight is a natural response then maybe barefoot fighting is as natural as barefoot running. A good balanced piece about our history and social groups which doesn’t sensationalise anything.


 2. Post 2 comes from the Kinda Zennish blog and is a well thought out piece about the whole 180 bpm cadence thing.

I can relate to this post. I think that upping my cadence was the biggest contributing factor to my change in barefoot running technique. 180 bpm will always be a point for debate in barefoot running circles but seems as good a place as any to begin. Interesting to read about a runner going through the same journey. I ended up hitting my meronome with a rock to shut it up.


3. Post 3 is a great piece from Emilie Reas about the journey to becoming a full-time barefoot runner.

I really enjoyed this post and it struck a chord with me. Emilie is finding that barefoot running has gone from an interesting experiment to something that is completely necessary. It is well written and tells a sensible, pragmatic story of the issues faced when becoming a barefoot runner all the time. I found myself nodding in agreement as I read. Great post.

happy feet4. Post 4 is from Wendy Powell and is entitled ‘Changing Habits, Barefoot Running + Cow Poop’ on  the MUTU system blog

It celebrates barefoot running (or in this case running in minimalist shoes) for the joy it brings and also tries to demystify it. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the tidal wave of barefoot running related writing out there.  Wendy chilled out and just did it. Bravo!


5. Post 5 if a really useful post from Jae Gruenke ‘How to Deal with Tight Muscles During a Run’

I trust Jae and her barefoot running advice. I was coaching a runner this week and we were discussing just this issue. Jae’s post arrived at the perfect time. I think that we all experience tight muscles during a run sometimes. Here is Jae’s advice on what to do.

If you enjoyed November’s pick of the barefoot running posts then you can checkout previous selections here.

We have an active facebook group which you would be welcome to join. The chat is warm and friendly. We now have over 530 members and are growing every day. Join here.

One thing you may not know is that we also have a Barefoot beginner facebook page for you to visit and like. I post different things on there that I think you may find useful. Have a look here.

Nov 20

16. How can I use the squat successfully? – Tony Riddle’s Guide

Tony Riddle of Gloves Boxing Club recently put together a series of 3 videos to explain his secret to squat success. It was in response to a topic that seems to be a popular point of discussion at the moment.

I didn’t want the series to be lost in the facebook ether and so asked Tony if he would mind if I collected them together and linked to them.

From now on all the commentary is from Tony and well worth a look.

Since reading yet another blog about the squat, advising people on squatting for long periods of time without any prep and seeing another facebook post of someone performing yet another squat; I have decided to give you my secret to squat success before the squat starts getting a bad rep!

For anyone that has been coached by me, this will be teaching some of you to either suck eggs or serve as a gentle reminder to get prepping. The plantar surface of your foot is your foundation, therefore it deserves more respect than just holding a mindless squat for X amount of minutes.

I am learning to stand on my hands, which involves hours of work to understand my bodyweight in my hands and with a big thanks to Ido Portal, I have been given numerous hand and wrist prep drills to perform this task. With out this prep, I would never be able to hold the position, even up against the wall , any slight change I make in my base of support (which could be lifting my little finger) can have a huge effect on my position and often results in me frustratingly bailing out.

So when you consider this, you have to respect the loading points and balance points of the foot too. If you perform a squat for 30 mins a day with a collapsed ankle and no understanding of your base of support, You are building the leaning tower of Pisa.

Janet G Travell, one of the main contributors to trigger point therapy, also studied Dudley Morton’s Evolution of the Human Foot, not only studied it , she applied it to her work and had related a large portion of the 620 trigger points in the human body came down the inappropriate loading of the foot.

A podiatrists yacht in the making:

Your foot is a very intelligent design, in fact it’s a really complex piece of engineering, You have specific loading points that can cope with four times your own body weight, this Dudley Morton referred to as a leverage line and the leverage line falls between the 1st and 2nd met-heads. If you could imagine you had units of bodyweight under each foot. Use a mental picture of squares, a large proportion of those units should be where the ball of the foot and big toe are, the rest would be divided up over the 3rd, 4th and 5th met-heads and the the heel.

The greater the perception of these areas the healthier the movement pattern.

All techniques not just the squat are effected without the knowledge of this foundation, culprits and victims model, joint by joint approach, what ever you wanna to call it, this to me is the biggest culprit of all and makes you the biggest victim!

So if two clients came through my door:

Client number one; sits for 80% of their day, poor foot mechanics.

Client number two; sits for 80% of his day, but has been barefoot foot all his life.

Who will perform the squat best?

The answer: Everyone should have the hard wiring to squat correctly, we have all made software changes to adapt to our new environment. Someone that sits down for 80% of their day and has worn winkle pickers all their life would take a longer transitioning period to the squat than someone that sits for say 80% of their day, but has been fortunate enough to be barefoot all their life. The base of support will still be effected, because of the weight of the human head, but they would have a wider base of which to load all the other segments.(Segmental alignment)

Putting First things First and getting your house in order:

Here is part 1 in a series of foot and ankle prep drills I use and would have these prepped with all my clients before encouraging the squat. The same as I use hand and wrist prep drills for the hand stand. I often refer to them as to-ega or anti-bunion drills and will expect these to be carried out throughout the day.

Seriously, as much effort and thought should be applied to this before the squat, if not your house of straw will be on the floor with one yoga breath from the big bad wolf.

Pole ski -Part deux in the toe and ankle prep

You will need to purchase three broom handles, Don’t panic they are around £1 each and far, far cheaper than £300 orthotics and one of the wisest investments you can make for healthy movement.

The next pearl in the squat series is to get you away from the current notion that squatting should be carried out with bodyweight back in the heel. The heel should be on the ground, but minimal bodyweight and should not be a position of load.

Apologies to any Personal Trainers out there, but you really need to use common sense on this one. Squatting with weight in the heel and squeezing your glutes as tight as you can is something we adopted from a bodybuilding culture and doesn’t exist in Traditional weight lifting and certainly not in the young or natural. If you were meant to load the heel in the squat then olympic lifting shoes wouldn’t have a solid block of wood behind the heel to force your weight forward onto the ball of the foot and big toe. If anything the wedge would be at the front!

The 1st Met head is 4 times denser than all other Met heads and can load up to four times your bodyweight, so why on earth would you load the heel in the squat. Oh, I remember, it’s because it creates lot’s of inappropriate muscle action to try to keep you from falling on your arse and will give you great big quads and gluteus, and now you have learnt a faulty movement pattern which will inhibit you in future rest and locomotion. That’s not to mention the ankle joint being compromised with weight back there. The ankle joint can collapse, this would then result in the knee and then hip joints having to compromise and there we have the victims and culprits model or joint by joint approach.

Try and jump from a height and land in a squat on a hard surface on your heel and you will soon identify the complexity of the bio mechanical squat.

Most clients I see are already compromised in the ankle joint and require a raise behind the heel. I will use a solid object as the majority of times the ankle can drop out within one hour. Remembering that we all have the hardware to squat, we more than often just need to trick the software.

The three broom handles are designed to do just this. The first phase of the clip is to be carried out until you can complete 5 mins for three attempts per day. Once you have conditioned the ankle joint to squat with the weight between the 1st and 2nd Met heads with the heel raised you can remove the pole from behind the heel. If required, use the two poles as an anterior support, remembering that the heel should have minimal load. The objective here is to separate the axis of leverage and Balance points and take out any sagittal blockade in the ankle joint.

This is not only a game changer for the squat; this drill will have you locating the ball of the foot and the great toe in no time.

The final part in the trilogy.

The magazine drop:

For those that have followed stages one and two and are looking to perform a flat footed squat, then you are ready for the magazine drop.

This came to me through one of those lightbulb moments when a young dancer came in and had difficulty with ankle mobility. Yep a dancer with ankle mobility issues, had been around the BS circuit and told her achilles was too short, well within 1 hour she could get the heel to the floor quite comfortably.

If you can squat with a block behind your heel, then it isn’t the ankle that is the problem, it is your mind that needs the support within the movement. If you don’t understand support you will go in search of it, resulting in inappropriate muscle action and tension. The ankle joint will not open up with a tense mind.

Simply provide the support with the magazines, choose ones that you like to read as I would recommend spending 5 to 10 mins playing around with this one. Start with the magazines a good inch high and then slide the magazines away the moment you settle back into a state of relaxation. You have the magazine to send you elsewhere and the time will soon fly by.

Tony Riddle is the founder of the Gloves Boxing Club. Read more about Tony here.

Nov 19

Xero Sensori Venture – First thoughts video

The new Xero Sensori Venture has long been anticipated and I was delighted to get a pair to try out. I have had them about 10 days and have run in them a couple of times. In my video, I wanted to let you know my first impressions and compare them against my original 4mm Xeros and my original Lunas.

The sole is noticeably thicker than the 4mm version and is stiffer because of that. I ran with a group of barefooters last weekend and for part of the run a couple were in their 4mm Xeros. They were silent and they looked so secure on their feet. I was in the Sensori Venture and was loud and flappy in comaprison. I know that I didn’t have the tension in the lacing right but it was like elves against dwarves.

They certainly look good and my first thoughts are that Xero have produces a really good shoe that is going to be enormously successful. They are right about the price point. There isn’t anything sitting in the middle of the Xero kit and the Luna for those wanting a huarache style sandal.

Xero Shoes Sensori Venture barefoot sandal

I love the lightness and flexibility of my original Xeros and the Lunas although much stiffer are a joy to run in. The Xero Sensori Venture does sit right in the middle in terms of sole and flexibility and will be perfect for some runners but the first thought of those running with me in the 4mm version was whether there was going to be a 4mm version of the Sensori Venture. Not at the moment. The recess for the underside of the toepost means that there wouldn’t be much left if the sole was only 4mm thick.

They love the look but I guess that is just honest feedback from committed Xero wearers.

My first impressions are that it is going to take a little time to get the lacing right but when I do then they are going to suit me well.

Find out more from Xero at their website. Some useful videos on there.

I will keep you posted.

Nov 17

BBC Radio Wiltshire Calling – A barefoot November with Ian Hicks

I had an email from Chris Fielding saying that BBC Wiltshire Radio would like to get in touch with me. They wanted to talk to me about the Wiltshire Barefoot Runners group live on radio! So, with much trepidation I contacted them. We arranged a date and I was asked to come to the studio for the live chat with Sue Davies. The day soon came around and before I knew it I was sat down chatting to Sue Davies about our group and barefoot running. I didn’t get to say everything I wanted to but I hope I managed to get some of what I know across. I had hoped to recruit some new members from the interview and thanks to Steve Bailey’s wife Tina we have gained one new member!

Now that the weather is turning colder I’m starting to think about my winter running. The cold, fresh morning runs are something I really look forward to. There is also the added bonus of coming home to a centrally heated house and a hot cup of coffee – the perfect way to start a winter’s day.

Last winter’s barefoot running went very well for me. I was able to run right through the winter with no problems. My feet just loved the cold and frosty ground and to have the opportunity to run barefoot in the snow is an incredible experience, truly remarkable. I’m really hoping for an early snow fall!

Happy running my friends.

Nov 11

Sue Kenney – Real Barefooter number 13

Sue and I had exchanged a message or two and I became fascinated by her tales of pilgrimage in Spain and her Dragon’s Den adventure. What interesting lives we barefooters lead.

Hi Sue, thanks for taking part. I am looking forward to hearing about your barefoot journey. We will delve in to that in a moment but first up can you tell us what a typical barefoot week is for you. Do you walk, run barefoot regularly?58314_10152135853230385_1263877344_n

Photo courtesy of Amanda Stillemunkes

In a typical week, I am barefoot or at least wearing sole-less shoes pretty much all the time. At some point everyday, I walk, run, go on my SUP (stand up paddleboard), do yoga or some other activity while barefoot. My favourite place to go is a 6 kilometer trail in the forest where I usually run, unless I am introducing someone else to barefooting, in which case I walk. For business meetings, shopping or going into establishments that don’t allow barefeet, I wear the soleless shoes that I designed for this reason. Occasionally I will put on a pair of heels if I am dressed up, just cause.

Sue cafe barefoot I know a little about your athletic background. Tell us a little about rowing and has exercise always been an important part of your life.

At the age of 40 I decided to start rowing as a way to deal with the death of my younger sister. After a couple of years of training with the Argonaut Rowing Club in Toronto, I started competing as a Masters rower. At the age of 45 I was selected as part of a crew of eight women (average age of 43) and we won a gold medal at the FISA World Masters Rowing Championships. This sport gave me a great appreciation for being disciplined, working through physical exhaustion and I developed incredible focus. Throughout my life I have always been active in various sports and dance like canoeing, running, SUP, tango, salsa, mountain biking, ice skating and swimming. I discovered yoga in 1991 and took up Bikram Yoga in 2001 and I still practice yoga. An important part of my life has been Vipassana meditation. Over a couple of years I did five – 10 day silent meditation retreats and this profoundly impacted my ability to be still.


Photo courtesy of Amanda Stillemunkes

Walking is clearly a central part of your life and I know that you now guide others. The Camino Trail sounds amazing. It is an ancient Pilgrim’s way in Spain that you have walked numerous times. I know that you describe yourself as a Pilgrim. How do you define the term and how does that translate into your everyday life?

After I was downsized from my corporate telecom position I walked 780 kilometers across the north of Spain, alone in the winter. I came to understand some basic virtues of being a pilgrim and decided to focus on them in my everyday life. Pilgrims live a simple life that involves carrying all they need on their back, walking in nature, sharing food and stories, being accommodated by strangers and helping others, displaying respect, as well as being compassionate and loving to others on their journey. When I came home I started by sharing stories. I wrote My Camino, a best-selling book about my first journey and followed it with another book as a way to inspire others on their life journey. Each spring I coach and guide a group of pilgrims on the Camino and this year will be my 9th group and the third time I have walked barefoot. I offer workshops, lead others on barefoot walks, do talks and offer advice. Mostly, I look for ways to serve others and graciously accept when I am being served.

I read about your barefoot awakening in the woods and how you felt your feet had become so tender whilst encased in shoes. For those who haven’t heard could you describe it for us.

Over the many years of walking since the first Camino, I noticed that the soles of my feet were very tender while in my boots and whenever I was barefoot at home. I thought the solution was to buy boots with thicker soles and more support, and I did. I also wore slippers and shoes all the time because it was so painful for me to expose the soles of my feet. At that time I had been walking in the forest a few times a week for several years. I received a message ‘in my mind’ to be still. One day while sitting still by the water on granite rock, I decided to take my shoes and socks off. I immediately felt a surge of energy enter my body. At that moment I knew I should connect my feet to the Great Mother Earth and that changed the course of my life. I started walking barefoot and read every book I could find.

It took several months for the sensory nerve endings on the bottom of my feet to trust that I was going to let them do their job: read the terrain, temperature, moisture etc. to adjust the systems in my body to adapt to what was being experienced. Walking in the forest helped me to adjust quickly because my feet were forced to respond to the constantly changing terrain. Once they did, the nerve endings ‘pulled away’ from the edge of the skin so that it wasn’t painful to step on rugged ground anymore. Shortly after. a layer of fat developed on the bottom of my feet. I felt more free than I had since I was a child. I soon learned that I could walk in the forest and not look down at the ground to see where I was going because my feet had become a new set of ‘eyes’ that longed to explore and adapt to whatever terrain presented itself. As well, my allergies to dogs and cats virtually disappeared. I’ve had asthma for about 30 years and since I’ve been barefoot, my lung capacity has increased and the asthma is gone. Because of this, I regained confidence that my body was capable of healing itself and could be adapt to any environment, as long as my feet were bare.

It is that time of year again. Any advice for those thinking of barefooting in the cold?

Go slowly! I live in Canada and we have four distinct seasons. I find if I go outside everyday then my feet and body adapt slowly to the shift in temperature. I also spend a lot of my time on a lake so every couple of days in the fall/early winter I go in the water and walk lifting my feet up out of the water with each step. It’s called Kneipping and it is one of the oldest forms of naturopathic healing.

I recommend newcomers to winter barefooting start with a few minutes at a time. Always carry socks and shoes when the weather is around freezing or below and stay close to home. Start off my taking the garbage out, shovel the walk, brush off the car and anything else that doesn’t take a long time.

Once a layer of fat builds on the soles of my feet and I am confident I can handle more cold, then I start walking in the snow for longer periods of time. I stay away from salt, melted snow and ice cold water.

Don’t hesitate to carry Hot Shots too. Be very careful and aware that freezing cold weather is not something to take lightly when barefoot. Be cautious and at the same time, you can have a lot of fun experiencing this season.

Beth and girlsI am fascinated in the whole area of barefoot healing. When you speak to groups about it, what is your message?

Firstly, I believe that being barefoot will not necessarily heal you but it will help your body to heal itself. When we are barefoot our posture, balance, flexibility and core strength improves. That alone is enough to go barefoot indoors. Better posture means we look younger, our spine is aligned, our feet (the foundation of our body) get stronger and so much more.

As well, I believe that a holistic approach to life is not just about eating organic, meditation, yoga or exercise and naturopathic healing methods. We are missing an important ingredient and that is connecting our feet to the Great Mother Earth. After a few months of barefooting in the forest my allergies to dogs and cats, and my asthma virtually disappeared! There are minerals and negatively charged ions that our body needs to help to heal itself. I believe it was because inflammation was reduced, my body was able to adapt to that environment and heal itself. We also become more environmentally aware when we notice what we are stepping on in our bare feet.

I also use life or personal coaching in my work. Are there any lessons you have learned from barefooting that translate into wider life?

Barefooting teaches us about trust, discerning judgment and making choices. They are the three fundamental principles I use in my coaching. It also provides a way to focus on being aware of where we are on our life journey, physically, spiritually and metaphorically.

Grounding is a controversial area. What do you believe?

As I said earlier, I believe that because our body is bio-electrical and there are negatively charged ions in the ground and our body needs to manage over-inflammation. This has contributed to my own personal healing. We know asthma is inflammation and my symptoms disappeared after going barefoot on the grass/ground/rock. I’m never sure about believing research because it is often funded by parties vested in the outcome, but I can trust in my personal experience.

More importantly, almost everyone I talk to has a fond memory about being a child and running around barefoot. It brings a smile to their face almost immediately. I believe the essence of connecting with the ground is primal for us and not everything has to be proven scientifically for me to believe in it’s healing power.

I also see that you speak about efficient thinking. Is that one of changes that you see in pilgrims as you guide groups on the Camino?

Yes. Efficient thinking is all about letting go of the thoughts that no longer serve us and instead focusing on what we want to create. When we walk, we sort through thoughts (consciously and unconsciously) and we become more creative. That’s has to be good.

I have a million and one ideas going round in my head. Where on earth should I begin?

Write them down and then read them out loud. As a writer I have learned that ideas are a dime a dozen and everyone has them. If you write them down and they still look good, that’s a start. If you then read them out loud or have someone else read them to you and you still like it, you are on your way. Hearing the ideas out loud will help you to self edit them as good or bad. That will get your list down from a million and one to about 10 to 20.

Dragon’s Den. More than just a little exciting. Tell us more.

Earlier this year I auditioned for the hit CBC TV series Dragons Den. I pitched a business concept idea for Barebottoms, a sole-less shoe I designed because I wanted to get into stores/restaurants while still being barefoot. I passed the audition and made it to the next stage to be filmed pitching to the investors they call Dragons. Since the true barefooter’s market would be seen as too small in the eyes of these investors, I decided to include the yoga/dance market of people who are presently barefoot indoors with a strategy to get them to eventually go outdoors bare-soled.  I took the shoes to the Toronto Yoga Show to secure some sales and prove it as a potential market for yoga shoes since they provide grip. In April I was filmed as one of 200 pitches made to the Dragons. They pick 60 to edit and broadcast on the show sometime before he end of April 2014. I can’t divulge the outcome of my pitch until after that time. My fingers and toes are crossed.Sandra gorgeous

My strategy with Barebottom shoes is to introduce people who presently go barefoot indoors to taking a step outdoors. So I am showing them to the yoga and dance crowd. So far I had 2 yogis who were a part of my photo shoot after a yoga class, decide not to take their shoes off and went outside in their Barebottoms! For some, it’s a huge adjustment just to walk barefoot indoors.

If barefooters want to find out more about Camino or your other work, where should they look?

My philosophy about barefooting is really more about the fact that it makes common sense to me. I don’t need all the research to convince me about what I have personally experienced from being barefoot. It feels right.

Order Barebottoms on line at

Facebook My Camino or Barebottom Shoes

Twitter @caminoperegrina or @barebottomshoes

Thanks Sue – For more interviews with real barefooters, see our archive page.

Sue is a member of our Barefoot Beginner facebook group. Come and join in the chat, you will be made very welcome.


Nov 11

15. How can I run barefoot/minimalist without inflaming my achilles?

A barefoot running question came in from TJ recently about an achilles issue. I know that when I started to run barefoot, my achilles was a little tender for a while so I was interested and sent it out to see what the coaches thought.

I have an ankle sprain that is almost 3 years old now and it is still bothering me on occasion. It’s clearly as “healed” as it’s going to get so I live with it. The
only thing that I find especially troublesome is that my Achilles tendon
occasionally becomes sore, stiff and swollen for no apparent reason. Maybe it’s
overuse??? It gets so bad at times, that I fear it will rupture. At any rate, I
cannot get the inflammation to go down without reverting to a period of wearing
heavily cushioned shoes with a raised heel. Is this the only solution or do you
guys have some other advice that might keep me in my minimalist footwear and
barefoot full-time? – TJ

Steven Sashen from Xero shoes

Reality has this funny way of winning all arguments. We may have ideas about how things should be, but reality rules.

My point is: when you’re hurt, you’re hurt. You do what you need to do to get better. I remember getting a big calf pull about 6 years ago (prior to becoming a barefooter) and being so thankful for my MBT shoes, since the big rocker bottom let me walk without having to actually use my calf.

Now, more importantly, injuries never happen for no reason, so it seems you haven’t found the reason yet. If it’s “overuse” then the question is, “What are you doing too much of?” The answer shouldn’t be “mileage.” Rather, if you think that *is* the answer, I’d contend that it’s really that you’re engaging your Achilles too much, regardless of the mileage.

Without seeing video of you running, I can’t promise that diagnosis is meaningful, but:

a) We often use movement patterns that we don’t know we’re using (or, often, are CONVINCED we’re not using)

b) I’ve seen many runners put excessive strain on the calf/Achilles by either overstriding, trying to land on the ball of the foot when a midfoot or flat-footed landing is better for them, trying to keep the heel off the ground unnecessarily, or pushing off the ground rather than lifting the foot off the ground by flexing the hip.

So, in short: Get better first, then start from the beginning to try to isolate the cause of your repeated injury. Experiment as you run by wondering “Is there anything different that I could do that would make running easier, take less effort, and be more FUN?”

Feel The World!

Steven Sashen, CEO
Xero Shoes • Original Barefootware

Rene BorgRene Borg of Champions Everywhere

I can speak from quite a lot of practical experience on this one as I suffered about 6 bad ankle sprains in my “hill running career” (dangerous game that in build-up shoes) and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in
both ankles and Achilles tendons in 2011. It was through working on my technical ability (with Tony Riddle) and improving my diet that I got rid of these irritations.

When I transitioned fully to barefoot and/or zero-drop, I would initially get the same symptoms: swelling around the socket of the Achilles that seemed disproportionate to the small irritations I was subjecting it to. I knew from working with Tony that the main fault came from foot mechanics (my foot was not a sufficiently stable platform as my big toe joint was out of whack) as well as some other technical issues (I was still landing too far
ahead of my body on the left foot which caused the most issues and running with too much tension in my body).

So the first thing I would do is recommend doing the toe drills that Tony demonstrated on Facebook recently. All his clients use it and all our runners use it at ChampionsEverywhere – three times every day or more. Without proper foot mechanics the ankle is always going to be overtaxed. There are several small tendons that get irritated around the Achilles that may also give the illusion of an inflamed Achilles tendon. It matters less which specific tendon is inflamed and more why the irritation happens.

The second part of the solution for me was to address the very aggressive inflammation I experienced. I found that I needed to improve my jumping skills on top of the foot mechanics work I was doing – so learn to jump on the spot at a fast rhythm and to jump down from a low step on two feet and one leg while landing with stability and control. It goes without saying this work should be done barefoot. Then I had to progress volume and intensity very methodically by adding more and more height and more and more
repetitions. This only works if you have already been instructed in proper posture as well – any issues with your posture and ability to relax while jumping will cause other issues. So once you are sure your posture, rhythm and relaxation is fine and you have worked on your toe mechanics and can perform basic exercises such as squatting without “lots of wobble” – then introduce at least 3 jumping sessions per week. You can start quite low with 5 to 10 jumps over 2-3 sets from a very low step (such as a Reebok step). A bit more inflammation can resolve from this – but as long as it clear within 24 hours it is not a problem – just an adaptive response. It should not get progressively worse over several days – then you are either overloading it or your jump technique needs to be looked at by a coach.

Finally, I looked at the nutritional side that controls the inflammatory response. About 1% of our daily fat intake needs to be Omega-3 and Omega-6 which are important hormonal regulators. The ratio between these should be 1:2 (double Omega-6 to 3). But most modern diets lead to a ratio of 1:12 to 1:20. Since the omega-6 fat regulates the inflammatory response and the omega-3 fat the anti-inflammatory, messing up this ratio can cause exaggerated inflammatory responses. Grains and other foods that cause low
levels of chronic inflammation and irritation can also turn mild inflammation into heavy inflammation so it would be worth your time trying to reduce such foods for a while and to supplement with Omega-3 or eat more foods rich in it (fish, grassfed meat and omega-3 eggs primarily as plant sources are poorly absorbed).

Lou NLou Nicholettos – Cornwall Physio/The Natural Running Clinic


This is a great question and one that I get asked frequently!

Achilles pain happens to be my area of special interest- for my Masters dissertation in 2012, I researched the pain mechanisms responsible for tendinopathy, or what ‘makes tendons hurt’. This might sound pretty straightforward but it’s actually an incredibly complicated and largely contentious subject.

An interesting finding from many clinical trials is that the tendons with the most degeneration are not necessarily the most painful. In fact structural change or ‘damage’ in tendons often shows no correlation whatsoever with symptoms, You say you’re worried about your tendon rupturing, well the good news is that tendons that rupture are usually asymptomatic before they give out i.e. its rare for a patient with a ruptured tendon to report a history of symptoms prior to their injury. So you’re (probably!!) going to be ok from that point of view.

There will always be a reason for an Achilles becoming sore and there are lots of different types of Achilles pain- this is where an assessment with a Physiotherapist is important rather than generic advice from the internet. I treat a lot of Achilles patients and will always go through their training patterns for the last few months as well as their medical history and lots of general health questions. No two tendon-pains are ever the same, which is why individualized assessment and treatment are so important. It might be in your case that your old ankle injury is contributing in some way. This might be through a lack of movement, stability, proprioception or strength (anywhere throughout the kinetic chain) on that side.

cornwall physioPrevention is always going to better than cure, so the first thing I’d recommend is that you see if you can spot a pattern to when your Achilles becomes sore. Training changes can massively influence the development of Achilles symptoms. Beware of change and monitor how your Achilles responds if you add additional mileage, speed work, or hills.

Tendon pain can also be caused, or influenced by a considerable number of non-exercise related things. Non-exercise factors can influence the body’s ability to positively respond to training and adapt. Things that are known to affect tendon response to exercise include: metabolic/ dietary factors, hormone changes, antibiotic use and certain medical conditions.

I would definitely recommend you going to see a good Physio in your area, to investigate what type of Achilles pain you have and why you are getting flare-ups when you do.

The next question is how best to deal with a flare-up. In general tendons like exercise and progressive mechanical loading- this encourages the healing process and keeps them as healthy as possible. When a tendon becomes acutely sore/ swollen etc (or ‘reactive’ as we call this is medical and research circles), a short period in ‘protection mode’ can be a good idea. It sounds like you have found an affective way of doing this. A raised heel and some cushioning will decrease load through the Achilles tendon, which, short term, when a tendon is irritable, can help symptoms to settle. If this enables you to run without pain (or with minimal pain) then that’s a good thing and something that I’d encourage you to continue doing whilst your Achilles is sore.

If an Achilles becomes too sore to run on, I recommend that clients cross-train on a stationary bike, which rests the Achilles from load but encourages increased blood flow etc to assist healing.

I like anything that enables a runner to keep running, without increasing their symptoms and find that usually, long-term, those who made adjustments but continued to do some running, do better than those who try to completely rest their Achilles. The problem is that tendons actually weaken with rest, as they don’t have the necessary stimulus to strengthen, adapt and repair.

If a patient says to me that they can run more comfortably at the moment if they wear a certain shoe (eg with a raised heel or more cushioning) then I definitely encourage them to do this, short-term.

Long-term the solution is always going to involve strengthening. There are lots of generic strengthening programmes out there for tendons, especially lots involving eccentric calf exercises on a step. I do incorporate some of these in my patient’s rehab, but I also include a lot of other exercises and usually for runners some heavy eccentric/concentric exercise. It’s worth noting that the famous heel drop exercise for Achilles pain has rarely been compared to any other protocol and has not been shown to be any more effective than standard eccentric/concentric heel raises.

The picture shows the commonly prescribed eccentric loading protocol for Achilles pain.

Your Physio will assess to see if and where you might be weak and will give you some specific exercises to address your weakness. I find that long-term, Achilles patients do really well with barefoot/ minimalist running, probably because it loads and strengthens the calf/Achilles and keeps them strong.

So don’t be afraid of returning to bulky shoes, short term whilst your Achilles is sore. If this enables you to keep running without increasing your symptoms then this is a good thing. As a long-term strategy though, I’d advise that you see a Physio to first establish why you’re getting the symptoms and provide you with an individualized exercise programme. And to keep up the minimalist running! Good luck!

Lou Nicholettos is the founder of CornwallPhysio, a specialist Clinic for Sports and Running injuries. She treats injured runners from across the South West of England and beyond.

As always thankyou to the coaches who took the time to answer the question. Please drop in on their sites and have a look at what they have to offer.

You can see previous questions here.

We have a Barefoot Barefoot Beginner facebook group which is a great place to chat about all things barefoot/minimalist running. We are a warm and friendly group and you will be made very welcome. We also have a facebook page for you to visit and like.

Nov 10

The Northwest Barefooters – Formby

The weather cleared and we had a beautifully sunny day for barefoot running today. The Northwest Barefooters met on the lancashire coast near Formby.

(You can see all the pics of our run here)

Each month a different runner organises the route of around 6 miles or so with careful instruction that the finish must have cake and refreshments. This month was the turn of Danny and he didn’t let us down. He chose a route that took in woodland trails, grassy footpaths, sand dunes and beach.

1391823_320720974737517_189492491_nOn arriving, I was greeted to a squatting demonstration going on the car-park. There is alot of chat going on about squats at the moment and I must admit that I find them really tricky. I have exchanged a few messages with Tony Riddle over the past few days and am putting together his excellent videos in one place so that they are easy to find.

We were soon off. I set off in my new Xero Sensori Ventures with the intention of finding out a little more about them for an upcoming review. I took them off in the first minute of the run though and ran barefoot the rest of the way. It was such a lovely day and the terrain was so inviting that it seemed crazy to have anything on my feet.

I really enjoy our group runs. They give me my hit of camaraderie that I miss from not being a member of a running club at the moment. I get alot of pleasure from running as part of a group and as we wound our way through some long grass, we resembled a group of persistance hunters (at least in my head). We were running at that sustainable, run all day pace that seems natural when barefooting and Danny was leading us single file with a relaxed barefoot style.

1462995_320720411404240_287423936_nThe sand dunes were excellent fun and then it was onto the beach and a paddle (one of us actually dived into the waves and went for a swim!). Then back to our starting point. I had brought a couple fo pairs of Freet with me and there was a bit of a trying on session before making our way in to the 14 real ale handpumps and chocolate brownies.

I got a message from Greg on my return asking if we could swap our planned runs so it looks like Bolton will be December’s outing. I will be out next weekend trying to find a route from a good cafe.

1460075_320719948070953_750984666_nIf you would like to join us next time out, then you would be very welcome. You can visit our page on Barefoot Beginner and join our Northwest Barefooters facebook group. You will be made very welcome.

Nov 09

Paleo Barefoot review – Ian Hicks