Monthly Archive: December 2013

Dec 28

5 Barefoot posts from December that you shouldn’t miss

About a month ago, I started to list a barefoot post a day over on our facebook page. You can see them by visiting and liking the page here.

When going through them to select my 5 favourite of the month, I found myself drawn to those posts that were joyous and uplifting. With the exception of post number one which is all about the despair of not being able to run at all.

I needed something to lift me out of my dreary December surroundings. Here we go:

Untitled1. Post one is from Patricia Bowmer and speaks of the despair of not being able to run.

Patricia is an author and puts the feeling into words much better than I can. As a young teacher, I worked for a head who sat down and cried on the curb when he finally succumbed to another injury. I have felt like that. How do you explain it to someone who doesn’t run. Your whole life can abe tied up in running. My social life and wellbeing were directly linked to my ability to run. Thankyou Patricia. Hope you are back out there again soon.

 

 

Untitled2. Following Patricia’s tale, I needed something uplifting and this video did the job.

Post two is from Bedrock Sandals and is a lovely video with Ultra runner Naresh Kumar. I just found that Naresh made me smile whilst I was watching him. I love the footage of him running through the hills in his sandals. It is the perfect antidote to the fine, cold rain that is falling here.

 

 

Untitled3. Post three is from the excellent blog of Lynne Allbut.

I enjoy reading Lynne’s blog posts and remember her posts about about a barefoot year. She is planning a barefoot run across Wales in May and had just started training. Her posts are always warm and make me smile. You can hear about her first barefoot training session for 2 years and visit her excellent blog by clicking on the image.

 

Untitled4. Post number four is from Thea Gavin and helps remind me that not everywhere is the same as the West Pennine Moors where I run.

I met a group of barefooters the morning I read this post and we chatted about how cold it is getting and dodged muddy puddles. If you are the same have quick look at her post. It will make you smile.

 

 

Untitled5. Post five is from the excellent Sea Legs Girl blog on the subject of running and medicine.

It is mostly about the use of running as a theraputic activity. I believe this deeply and have always known it. It is only recently that I have felt it explicitly. My well-being and my running are directly linked. It is good to read a post from someone who feels the same. The landscape also seems so fresh and clean. It looks vibrant.

 

 

 

You can see my picks from previous months here.

To keep upto date visit and like our facebook page and follow us on twiiter.

 

Dec 27

My 3 worst running new year’s resolutions ever – Will I ever learn?

We are entering that most dangerous of time for a runner. We are reviewing our accomplishments for the year and beginning to plot, plan and scheme for 2014.

We enter the deadly realm of the ‘New Year’s Resolution’. We set ourselves targets for the coming year and although most folk have forgotten about their resolutions pretty quickly, we runners are a breed apart. They stick with us and guide our actions even when deep down we know that we are heading down a dangerous path.

Now, I am not against a good target or two. They keep the motivation up and give us something to aim for. It is just that we need to give a bit of thought to the way we frame our desires.

I want to share with you 3 resoloutions that I have made in the past that have led to disaster and how with a bit of thought, I could have kept a bit of perspective and stayed healthy.

Resolution 1 – I am going to do the Cross Bay half-marathon this year.

That seemed like a reasonable thing to aim for. I was running well and putting in a few miles. I entered nice and early told everyone about it. I was running pretty well and then about 2 months out from race day, I got a bit of a niggle in my right calf. I backed off and about 5 weeks from race day, I resumed training fully only to have the problem recur.

I had fallen into a classic trap. I had all my race eggs in one basket. I had attached so much importance to the event that my perspective on its importance had vanished. The more I talk to runners, the more I see this. In retrospect, I had pushed myself a little bit harder in training than I should have and then not given myself recovery time. All I could think about was whether I would be firing on race day. I came back too soon and didn’t make it to the start line.

The feeling in the pit of my stomache was dreadful. The sense of relief when I finally accepted that I wasn’t going to run was immense. It was like a weight off the shoulders. I had been running with fear as a companion for a while. The really stupid thing was that I did the same thing the year after and failed to make the start line again.

Solution

Aim for a race by all means but don’t build it up into something it isn’t. There will be a race next week and the week after that if you need it. When I started barefoot running, I finally made it to the start line on the 3rd attempt. I had entered and almost forgotten about it. It was important but not overly so. When it came, I just took it in my stride.

Resolution 2 – I am going to run a sub 40 minute 10k

My 10k pb is 38:02 mins  and I was 20 years old when I ran it. 25 years later, I do still think that I have another sub 40 minute in me. About 7 years ago, I ran a couple of sub 40s and a couple of 1hr 28min half marathons. My method was simple. I used speed training.

I figured that there was no point in running slow, I already knew how to do that. What I needed to do was practice running fast. I followed a 12 week prgramme from Runner’s World and cracked it. However, I broke down with injury very soon afterwards. My calves couldn’t cope.

When I started to barefoot and my calves were feeling great, I started to dream again. Before I knew it, I was beginning to time runs and judge against my old self. I have a loop of about 2.5 miles that I run regularly and know good split times for every feature of the route.

I was flying and with 400 yrds to go was looking at my watch. Not a record but not far off. My new pitter-patter style was eating up the ground but I was tiring. 200 yds to go and I slipped into my old style and began to drive off from my toes. I felt my calf with about 20yds to go and in the last 3 strides it went completely.

Bang – and that was that. I stood at the end. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

But, it is easy to do. I was seduced by the lure of a 40 minute 10k. I had fallen hook, line and sinker.

Solution

The solution is not to run slow. That would rob me of the joy of feeling the speed. I am no class athlete but it is all relative. I love the thrill of running quickly. I just need to do it without attaching more importance than I should to an abritrary number. Some line in the sand that I had drawn.

I now add speed to my runs but with more control and it is more about maintaining form than throwing my head back and thrashing at it with wild abandon. I still feel the challenge and the speed but am not willing to put myself out for months for a couple of seconds here or there.

Resolution 3 – I am going to run 1000 miles this year.

We all love the mileage and I am no exception. 1000 miles seems such a reasonable thing to aim for. It is only about 20 miles per week. That is about my average. When I hit 20 miles per week consistently, I can feel myself becoming that young runner again.

In the 10 years prior to barefooting, I didn’t make it to 1000 miles once. I always broke down for some reason or other. A contributing factor was this thing that I seemed to carry around with me all the time. If for some reason, I missed a run, I felt compelled to make up the mileage and ended up running without recovery time. I could do it for a while but sooner or later, I broke down.

If I was returning from injury, I would get back up to 20 miles per week as soon as possible and break down again. I still made the same resolution year after year. I didn’t say it out loud but it was still there in the background niggling away at me.

Solution

1000 miles simply isn’t enough. I plan to run many, many thousands of miles. The thing that has changed is the timescale. It has extended to the rest of my life. I plan to be a runner into my dotage.

I am not going to be dictated by another arbritrary line in the sand that I have drawn for myself. I need some motivation to get me out of the door but there have been times when running would not have been a good idea and I have given it a miss. My solution is to be wise enough and live to run another day.

Now don’t get any notions about a lack of desire. It is still burning bright. I love to run long and I love to run fast. I crave the butterflies in my stomache when you do something on the edge. I might find myself in a position where I am willing to push myself close to the edge and risk hurting myself.

I am a runner and a competitor and there will be times when I think that it is worth the risk. But I am not going to give it away cheaply by setting myself sloppy targets or following a plan designed for someone else.

My new year’s resolutions therefore are:

  • Enter a few events rather than a single one and do the ones that feel right at the time. I am not going to put all my eggs in one race’s basket.
  • Add some speed work to my runs and concentrate on maintaining form rather than speed. When the form starts to go, the speedwork ends.
  • Run the miles that feel right. Be prepared to go with the flow and live to run another day if needed.

………..and most important: …Sod all that:

If I am racing and can feel the wind on my face and it is joyous then I am going to give myself over to it and fly. I have the rest of my life to be a runner and will be a long time dead. There are times when the risk is worth it. I wouldn’t want to end up taking myself too seriously now would I.

Happy new year everyone. I hope 2014 brings you joy on the trail!

Chris

 

Dec 23

Trailball arrives in the UK – Ian Hicks

TrailBall has arrived in the UK. TrailBall is the brainchild of Christian Harberts, President of the French chapter of the Barefoot Runners Society (BRS). It is a mix of trail running, cross-country and football. It comes from an ancient game played by the Tarahumara Indians from the Copper Canyons in Mexico. The Tarahumara would kick a wooden ball about the size of a tennis ball over hundreds of kilometres. Now the game is played using a soft PVC or hemp ball over a lesser distant (at the moment). There are many different variants to choose, so all fitness levels can play.

indexI had the pleasure of playing in the first UK event. TrailBall Team was chosen as the first international event with a French team playing on the same day. On a bright, but cold, Sunday in November, 13 players congregated in the car park at Lydiard Park, Swindon, Wiltshire. Paul Beales as Race Director divided us up into three teams and he explained the rules to us – kick the ball over the 5km distance between team members, handling the ball is not allowed unless it gets stuck, in this case, all team members must stop and restart where the ball was last kicked. He had mapped out a 5km route around the park, giving each team captain a route map and a TrailBall. To start, each team member had to place a foot on the ball.

I had the honour of being team captain of Team A. Team members were, Ian Hicks (Captain), Stephen Richards, Rik Vanhoutteghem and Nick Goddard We had our tactics worked out. We were to run in single file with the lead runner dribbling the ball. “1..2..3..” Paul called and we were off. I started as the lead runner and straight away remembered that I had two left feet! I had to concentrate as much as I could to keep the ball on the path. We shot off left across the field and soon realised that team tactics were harder than we thought, with me swinging right of the main group! We picked up the path again and we settled into a pace, which was proving to be a bit too fast for me being at the back of the group and struggling to keep up! Navigation became my job, with me yelling “left, right or straight on” from the back of the group. After completing around 4km we came back around the house and met a very bewildered Jack Russell! Luckily he took one look at us and decided it was not worth trying to keep up with us! The wooded area above the lake was the best part for me. This type of terrain made ball control much harder. Keeping the ball on the path was proving to be difficult. It was very tempting to kick the ball hard and then run fast to catch it up. But it would hit a root or undulation in the path and go bouncing off into the undergrowth! As we neared the end I kept one eye on the GPS watch, one eye on the map and one eye on the ball! As we approached the last few hundred meters I said jokingly to the team “SPRINT we are nearly there”. Well they certainly had far more energy left in the tank than I did because they shot off! At reaching 5km we each placed a foot and the ball and stopped the clock. We finished with a time of 26:29. Which I think was very respectable being the first time any of us had tried this before. I want to thank Paul Beales for introducing TrailBall into the UK and organizing such a great event. I must also thank Christian Harberts for establishing TrailBall and of course the Tarahumara Indians for giving us the ancestor of TrailBall. http://trailball.net/en/

index1

Dec 16

Paul Beales – Real Barefooters number 14

Paul Beales is our Real Barefooer Number 14.

imageFrom following your posts for a while, you seem to have moved from being a dedicated barefoot walker into running. How long have you been walking barefoot?

The last long walk I did in hiking boots was in August 2012. It was around this time that Adam, a fellow heart patient friend that I met on Twitter started trying to get me to run, AND TO RUN IN BARE FEET! I eventually bowed to his persuasion and bought myself a pair of New Balance Minimus Trails to try in November 2012. The first actual barefoot walk/run I did was in June this year.

Injuries often set us off down the barefoot path. Was that the case with you?

Not at all Chris, I kicked off my shoes for the fun of it and the challenge, and in the hope of strengthening my feet and leg muscles to be able to run properly of course.

So.. what is a typical week for you. Do you balance running and walking?

I consider myself as a runner not a walker now, but due to my medical condition, I am not yet able to run for more than about two minutes at a time before my leg muscles run out of oxygen and insist that I stop and walk for a while; particularly on uphill sections! Initially, I couldn’t run for more than about 30 seconds, so I am getting better at it, and I am hoping to keep increasing the running portions next year – I would love to be able to do a 5K next year without any walking breaks. I am however a total fair weather runner and I hate running the streets, so I only get out once or twice a week at the moment at weekends.

I am concentrating on 5K runs now and I love to do parkruns. It is a 14 mile drive to my nearest parkrun though, and 9am in the morning is not the most convenient of times! My current PB is 00:35:32, which I did as a Freedom run at the Bryn Bach parkrun up in the Welsh valleys the other week.

I know you sometimes have Sockwa on your feet. How are the X8?

Haha, I ALWAYS have Sockwa on my feet Chris – I rarely wear anything else these days! It occurred to me the other day that I have forgotten what it actually feels like walking in shoes with any heel or cushioning. In terms of muscle use and ground feel, I am basically barefoot all the time now. Of course I am not getting the same amount of proprioception that you get when truly barefoot, and true barefooters will tell me here that I am not getting any of the electrical earthing benefits!

I haven’t actually tried running in the X8 yet. They have the same footbed as the G3 and they look great, so I don’t foresee any issues, but I am saving them for the warmer weather next year, as they are breathable. I wear Amphibians for work as they are fleece lined and warmer than my G3 and the X8. Unfortunately, this model has been discontinued by Sockwa and is no longer available. My favourites are still my bright yellow G3 though.

A 5 minute plank! – What was your first attempt like? Are you feeling any wider benefits?

This was the MPE300 challenge posted on Facebook by Paul Mumford, a barefoot running PE Instructor from Essex. He suggested that everyone start with a 10 second plank on 1st November and add 10 seconds every day to finish with a simultaneous 5 minute plank at his gym on 30th November. I had a go just to see what I could do. I started to struggle after about three days, but I stuck at it and with help from Paul and encouragement from all the other participants, I worked on my technique and I got better and better at it. The simultaneous plank was scheduled for 8am on 30th November, and I was supposed to be joining the group in Paul’s gym via a Google+ video link, but that didn’t quite work out and I ended up getting carried away the night before and doing a 5½ minute plank! I did of course stick to the schedule and do my five minute plank later on the 30th.

Yes, I notice quite a big difference when I run, in that my core feels much stiffer and I am a lot less unstable on my legs when landing on uneven ground. I also practice Qigong two or three times a week and I noticed that I could sense my Dan Tien much more. The odd thing is that we all asked Paul what we should do next, expecting him to say to do a 1 minute or a 3 minute plank every other day or something, but he said no, do something else like squat jumps, which surprised us all, but as Paul also teaches barefoot running, and I still can’t believe he had me a do a 5 minute plank in the first place, I have to believe him, and I am now doing leg strengthening exercises twice a week instead – Just out of interest, I tried a plank last night to see what would happen and I did 3 minutes no problem, so I’ve still got it! (https://www.facebook.com/pauldmumford.)

I was running yesterday and came to the conclusion that I need to stand up at my desk and then I read all about your standing desk. So..first of all why? and second..What was it like at first?  and third…Can you feel a difference?

1467398_10202312659325257_912511914_nHaha, you have been following me closely on Facebook and Twitter haven’t you Chris?

Well, since you asked …. sitting down all day is one of the worst things you can do for your body.

Standing whilst I work burns around an extra 280 calories a day. I know this doesn’t sound a lot, but an extra 1400 calories a week is actually the same as an extra day’s food every week for me! Standing also naturally improves my posture and helps to strengthen my muscles. It allows my body the natural movement that it needs and takes the pressure off my back and joints. Standing up at my desk also keeps the blood flowing and keeps me feeling vibrant and alert instead of sluggish and slovenly, and I feel more energised throughout the day.

I am only on my second full week at doing this and I have to say, it is not easy. At the end of each day I feel like I have had a full day’s shopping trip with the wife, and I am glad to be able to sit down when I get home. I expect like anything, it will get easier with time though and I’m not giving in. It is too early yet to notice any actual health differences. One thing that I have noticed though is that it is so much easier to set off somewhere, like to pick up documents from the printer etc. now that I don’t have to struggle out of my chair, and my colleagues have also commented on how much easier it is for them to discuss things with me when they come to my desk.

 

You recently posted a picture which I think was comparing your weight in 2009 with recently. Many people talk about it but you have done it. If you have 30 seconds to share a couple of bits of wisdom with someone looking to do the same, what would you say?

Yes, I was 105kg then! This morning I was 91.8kg. A lot of the weight was water retention due to my then undiagnosed heart condition. Other of it was due to inactivity … also down to the heart condition I guess. I also liked my beer then and used to drink at least one or two cans a day – possibly the cause of the heart condition! I had also been a smoker until 2006 when my youngest son Jonty was born. As soon as my condition had been corrected diagnosed and treated I immediately felt a hundred times better! My cardiologist also told me that I must not drink any more alcohol and I have not touched a drop since August 2011. It was at this time that I started walking, and I enrolled on a number of charity walks for heart charities like BHF and Heart Research. I also did a Sugar Challenge earlier this year and weaned myself off lots of sweet things like Coca Cola and cakes etc. – though I have been known to have the occasional lapse on this.

So I guess my weight loss is down to water tablets, more exercise, no alcohol and less sugar? I wouldn’t recommend anyone else have to follow this particular weight loss plan, but I would recommend that people look at the surprising amount of sugar, glucose and dextrose etc. that there is in the most unexpected things like bread, cooked ham and baked beans etc.

I love the area where you run. I recognised one of your pics as looking down towards Tintern Abbey. It was a view that stuck in my head from when I walked Offas Dyke in my teens. What would be your perfect route for a run?

Yes Chris, the Wye Valley, Monmouthshire and the Forest of Dean are all perfect places for barefoot running – though I have never met any other barefooters on my walks and runs!

1465176_472149839569582_198313119_nMy perfect barefoot run was actually done in Morocco on our summer holiday this year though. I used to fall out of bed at 6am every sunny morning and run through lovely clean streets, with a cheery wave to the street cleaners each day, down to the brick paved promenade and back along the beach with only the occasional other keen runner or seagull for company. I was dead chuffed to achieve a marathon distance in just the first week of our holiday!

I have wanted to play the ball game since reading BTR. How on earth did you get involved with the whole Trailball thing? Is it as much fun as it looks? and what are the plans for the future?  Where can we find out more?

Errmm, Twitter again. I connected with another barefoot runner Christian in France, who was organising running sessions for other barefoot runners in Paris. He was looking for ideas to make his runs more interesting and came up with the idea of TrailBall. I volunteered myself to help him introduce the sport to the UK and he made me UK Ambassador and sent me three prototype TrailBalls to work with.

We held our inaugural UK TrailBall event on 24th November this year. Christian had teams running in Paris and we had teams, mostly made up of Wiltshire Barefoot Runners, running in Swindon, Wiltshire. The French team won the race and set a new world record of 00:25:58 minutes for the 5K speed challenge. Our A team came a close second only 7 seconds behind. We have a rematch scheduled for 22nd December, when we are hoping to have Welsh teams running in Newport, as well as Ian Hicks running English teams in Chippenham. Hopefully one of our teams will get our revenge and take the 5K speed title for the UK.

Yes, it is great fun Chris. It’s like being 10 years old again when you throw caution to the wind and chase after the ball. It is great for runners that want to do more than just run faster and longer or need motivation for running. I also noticed the other week that all the twisting and turning chasing after the ball was straining a whole new set of muscles not worked when I run.

Anyone with a TrailBall and a GPS tracker can form a team or run solo and set a new world record. There are many different and exciting variants of TrailBall described on the websites to suit all ages and abilities. The official TrailBall site is at http://trailball.net. The TrailBall UK Facebook page is at http://www.facebook.com/trailballuk and on Twitter at @TrailBall_UK. Anyone who wants to know about upcoming events in the UK should click Like on the Facebook page. TrailBalls can only be purchased from the official website.

You seem to enjoy having a challenge to focus on. Have you anything coming up soon?

You’re not wrong Chris, since I got my new-found energy I can’t seem to stop moving, haha.

On 1st January next year I will be setting off on a 605 mile (virtual) run from Land’s End to John O’Groats being held in aid of my Facebook friends Julia and Sandra’s favourite cancer charities. (https://www.facebook.com/landsendtojohnogroats2014)

On 1st March next year, Julia and I also will be launching the Amis Sans Shoes Global 10K Barefoot Run/Walk/Hike in aid of Care International UK. This will be taking the craze for virtual runs one stage further and we are looking for barefoot runners and hikers to organise barefoot events in their local areas so that barefooters can meet up with other barefooters and run or walk and socialise together – something that is still quite a rare event despite the rising popularity, and then share their experiences on Facebook .  I should say here that when I say barefoot, I really mean BAREFOOT – no shoes, socks or sandals will be allowed for ANY of the 10K!

I will be organising my local 10K barefoot run around the world-renowned Three Cliffs Bay on the Gower Peninsular in South Wales – and everyone will be welcome to join me. If I can time it right with the tides, at least half of the 10K will be on the beach! I might even make it a weekend event and include a night under canvas at the camp site overlooking the bay!

The Amis Sans Shoes Facebook page is not quite ready to be launched yet, but if anyone wants a sneak preview, it’s at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Amis-Sans-Shoes/284889931636079. Anyone that is interested should click Like to keep up to date with developments and so that we can get a feel for how many people are interested. We are hoping it will be hundreds worldwide!

I am also considering forming a team or teams of four to do the Camelot Challenge Multi-Terrain Half Marathon run by Julia in Dorset in September next year with a TrailBall, and set a new TrailBall Enduro world record. (https://www.facebook.com/CamelotChallenge.) If anyone is interested in joining one of these teams, please ask them to let me know.

Phewww!

Thanks Paul. Check out the rest of our Real Barefooter interviews here.

Pauls’ interview is our barefoot post of the day on our Barefoot Beginner facebook page. To keep up with other barefoot posts, visit and like the page here.

Dec 11

Paleo Barefoot video – Chainmail running shoes – First impressions

I always seem to be trying out one pair of minimalist shoes or another and I must admit that my family are in a sort of barefoot running fatigue.

Trying to stir up a bit of interest can be tricky.

……that was until they heard that I was expecting a pair of chainmail shoes.

I had been chatting with Jorg from GoSt Barefoot about the PaleoBarefoot shoes for a while and was fascinated when Ian Hicks reviewed a pair for Barefoot Running Magazine.

Gost-Barefoot Ltd
Gost-Barefoot Ltd

I have lots of shoe boxes all over the house but the Paleos arrived in a shoe ‘tin’. They were sparkly and new and the whole family could not wait to get their hands on them.

They are light and flexible and feel incredibly smooth. Jorg included the winter kit which includes a selection of fabric and neoprene that sits on top of the foot but leaves the underside bare.

I went out for a couple of miles in conditions that were wet and just above zero. For my first run, I left the winter kit at home and went barefoot to metal. They did well and I was surprised at how much I could feel the ground. I got a swish at first with each step as the chainmail flicked forward from my toes but that sort of settled down after a while.

It is nice to feel the elements and you get wet, muddy feet if you run in wet muddy conditions.

Next was a 7 mile run early one morning wearing my headtorch. After about 3 miles, the light came up enough to make a quick video of my first impressions. You can see the neoprene winter kit holding in some of the warmth.

 

They are extremely comfortable and hug the feet. I like that feeling although my running friend Anne thought that they looked too tight. She was worried that my toes would not be able to spread. I don’t find that a problem. The liner is clever. It makes them extra comfortable and does seem to hold some of the warmth in.

On muddy slopes they performed well and I was secure and didn’t slide around. I will get them up of the fells at some point soon. I think that they will do well.

My next run after the video was a group run with the Northwest Barefooters. We did about 5 and a half miles and again they were excellent. I can see why Ian was making a fuss.

These shoes are the real deal and not a gimmick.

  • Although not feather light, they are not heavy.
  • They are the most flexible shoes I have.
  • They give excellent grip off road.
  • Ground feel is good and they still expose the feet to the elements.
  • They are surprisingly comfortable – My second run in them was 7 miles and there was hint of abrasion anywhere.

I will keep you informed.
We have a facebook page for you to like and a Barefoot Beginner facebook group which is growing all the time. Come and join in, you will be made very welcome.

Dec 10

My First Barefoot Steps . . . By Thea Gavin

My first barefoot steps . . .
. . . probably didn’t happen when I was learning to walk. Back in the late 50s, station-wagon-driving parents were big on Buster Brown shoes with Eisenhower-stiff soles to “protect” babies’ feet. Yikes. (What’s even worse: in the 70s, I put my kids in shoes right away, too . . . which is one more parenting mis-step that I’m trying to atone for by encouraging my grand-kids to lose their shoes when Grammy G comes for a visit.)
My first barefoot steps . . .
. . . in “nature” might have been at the beach, where even proper parents couldn’t force shoes onto all us kids hyped up by listening to Boss Radio and then running wild in the waves.
My first barefoot running steps . . .
. . . were definitely at the beach – Corona del Mar State Beach. I have vivid memories (was I ten or twelve?) of running full-tilt over the jetty of giant boulders that poked out hundreds of yards into the very heart of the Pacific Ocean (at least it seemed that way to my younger self). My game was to hurtle myself from rock to rock and just let me feet find their way . . . it worked then, and it still works now when I barefoot trail run; I just “hurtle” a bit slower these days.
My first (intentional) barefoot hiking steps . . .
. . . happened in January of 2010; I was at a bird-watching event and noticed two young men in their early 20s wearing homemade wool pants and no shoes. I elbowed my big-booted friend sitting at the campfire next to me and we chuckled at those crazy kids. It was winter; why were they barefoot?
Why were they barefoot? I couldn’t stop wondering, and when I got home, thus began my descent into the convoluted internet labyrinth of all-things-barefoot.
The next day I went for yet another rehab hike at my “usual” 1.8 mile dirt loop; I was six years into my quest for recovery from a variety of running injuries fueled by my desire to run 50 miles the year I turned 50. I was 50-and-a-half. And not running at all, per doctor’s orders.
I carried a pair of old sandals in my little day-pack, just in case. There was no just in case. The cracked clay—and its scattering of rain-released grit—was a revelation. My feet hummed and vibrated for hours afterward.
Thea2
My first barefoot running steps . . .
were interspersed with walking on this same trail. A lollipop loop, the “handle” from the parking lot was decomposed granite, a sole-shocking challenge that has morphed from “ouch!” to “meh” over the years.
My first barefoot running steps . . .
did the same thing for me that they seem to do for almost everyone: they made me feel like a kid again. Hills pulled me to their summits; rocks beckoned me to jump off them; mud invited me to squish around; soft poof-dust sang like Springsteen: “Baby, you were born to run.”
And the odd, after-run “buzz” of my soles was the strangest part of the initiation. That has diminished, but I continue to suffer, with fellow members of the church-of-the-enlightened-barefooters, the odd looks and hilariously inane comments of ignorant shoddies, including the classic, “Barefoot, huh?”
My first barefoot running steps . . .
turned me into an exuberant evangelist who wanted to share the barefoot love with everyone I met on the trail (and I only do trails; cement sidewalks do not interest me). I am now older, wiser, and silent unless asked specific questions by people who seem sincerely interested in opening their minds to new ideas.
My first barefoot running steps . . .
were almost four years ago. I continue to work through gait/mechanics-induced pains that pop up when I increase the intensity and/or duration of my runs. I continue to learn about my amazing body, including what to fuel it with, and I look forward to running barefoot until I am chased down and eaten by a mountain lion who thought I was a deer, moving so gracefully through Orange County’s wild hills at twilight.
You can visit Thea’s excellent Barefoot Wandering and Writing blog here. I recommend that you do. When the cold weather sets in, Thea’s writing will help you remember what summer is like.

Dec 08

My first barefoot run – Kimberley Davis Milwaukee, WI

Thankyou to Kimberley for sharing her first ever barefoot run. Over to Kimberley:

About six years ago I crafted a renaissance costume to wear to the annual faire and created some leather slippers to wear with it. Even though I stepped hard on a jagged stone and bruised my foot I still felt wonderfully free in these ‘shoes’ and decided to try running in them.

Now I don’t consider myself a runner by any stretch of the imagination but every couple years I get an overwhelming urge to run and always quit because of shin splints. But suddenly I was running without pain and without a care as to my form, I just felt like a kid and an American Indian at the same time, I could run at night and not be heard, I could run and no one would know I was there.

I’ve always been self conscious of my running form, my step mother told me I run like a guy (whatever that means) and I just knew I was doing it wrong. So to be able to run suddenly without drawing attention to myself was a wonderful feeling...but then I decided to try running without the slippers….

Running totally barefoot was an exhilarating experience, but of course it again draws attention….so I prefer my slippers or minimal shoes like Lems, my form stays comfortable and my feet are a little more protected. It’s all good.

Kimberley Davis
Milwaukee, WI

I would love to hear about your first barefoot runs. Here is quick guide to sharing your story on Barefoot Beginner. Get posting.

Dec 04

8 ways I have changed my response to injury since barefoot running

About three weeks ago I got a serious niggle in my right calf. It was enought to make me slow down and cut a run short. It was in the week after I had played football for the first time in years. I had been nursing a sore hip and compensating when I ran.

What interested me was my response. It was completely different to the way I would have reacted before becoming a barefoot runner.

  • I was calm – Before I started to barefoot, I had run with fear as a companion for a number of years. In particular, fear of my calves going. I felt the discomfort in my right calf and just observed it for a while and played with my technique to try and get it to melt away. You cannot fake fear, it is either there or it is not. The truth is that although I didn’t like it, I am not scared anymore.
  • I didn’t panic – I played with my technique but it didn’t go away. In the past, I would have been devastated and I know that it would have been the beginning of something that may have put me out for a lengthy period. Worse than that, it would just have been a continuation of a long standing problem that had really stopped me running with any consistency for years. This time, there was no despair and no feelings of panic in my stomach.
  • I backed off – I kept observing it and backed off. I ended up almost walking at the end of my run home. It felt pragmatic and I made the decision to only run as far as I could over the next few weeks. That is sensible and obvious however like many runners, I have not always done the sensible and obvious thing in the past. Barefoot running seems to have given me a bit of perspective.
  • I ran barefoot – Barefoot running seems to work best for me and I made the decision not to attempt footwear until I felt like things were better. I run in shoes but only as a layer on top of barefoot running. When injured, it seems to make sense to strip things back to basics and only layer shod running over the top when I can handle it.
  • I trusted my feet – My feet tend to be a good guide to how much I can handle. At first, I only ran barefoot and stopped when my feet couldn’t handle any more. As I started to add some shod running back in, I set off barefoot before adding some footwear. My soles reacted differently each time. Some mornings they were sensitive and I backed off and didn’t go far and other times they felt robust and I went further.
  • Deep down I knew – The more that I chat and work with runners, the more I am convinced that deep down we know what we can handle. We are just really good at burying our heads in the sand. When I stripped it back, I had a good idea what I could and couldn’t do. No point pretending otherwise.
  • I ignored generic plans designed for other runners – Over the decades, I have searched for hard and fast rules for returning from injury. I have tried quite a few and ended up injured again. I decided to dispense with all that and do what felt right for me.
  • I rollered – This is a new one for me and replaces the physio and massage I would have spent money on. I think that it helps me pyschologically and it may just be that it keeps me feeling like I am moving forward and doing something pro-active. I think it helps my head more than my calves but then running is a cerebral activity.
  • I lived to barefoot another day – The more I work with runners, the more that I am convinced that having a race to head towards can be a major source of injury. Having that fixed date means that we sometimes cram in training that we cannot handle. This is particularly true when recovering from an injury and leads to all sorts of scouring the internet for training plans and rehab schedules. I’ve had it with all that. My goal now is to be a runner and I have the rest of my life do it. There is no rush. I am going to live to barefoot another day.

I am convinced that barefoot running has slowed me down and given me a new perspective on many areas of my life. I value the simple things more and roll with things that would have caused me panic and distress previously.

3 weeks later and I am back running with no problems. In the past, a niggle like this would have put me out for months. I love barefooting.

 If you have a tale to tell about the way barefoot running has changed your outlook on life, I would love to hear from you. Find out how to share your experiences here.

Dec 03

I kicked off my shoes and I ran – Like kicking off 40 years! – Paul Beales

Hot on the barefoot running heels of Lisa from kindazennish comes this post from Paul Beales describing his first barefoot run. Run Forest Run!

Paul is  in the process of organising a 10K Barefoot Walk/Run/Hike global charity event to take place next year. ‘Watch this space for further details’

Over to Paul:

I started doing long walks in a pair of New Balance Minimus Trails that I asked my parents to buy me for my 54th birthday in November 2012. I used to walk in a great clunky pair of Karrimor hiking books that I always did hate – but that was just what you wore when you hike.

I was persuaded to try ‘minimalist running shoes’ by a fellow heart patient friend that I met on Twitter, who was trying to get me to run instead of walk, and what’s more to get me to do it barefooted! Barefooted I thought, whoever heard of such a thing?! Anyway, he won, I started walking in my Minimus and he was right. I absolutely loved it!

As I think most barefooters do, I then went through all the phases of trying different brands, Freets, VFFs (three different types), home-made huararches, Sockwa etc. It was during this phase that one day, whilst walking the last half mile of a walk around Wentwood Forest in Monmouthshire, South Wales, down a lovely warm, quiet, smooth tarmac B road that I kicked off my shoes and I ran! Wow, I could do it! It felt great! Like kicking off 40 years! I must have looked like Forrest Gump when he kicked off his leg braces.

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From then on, it was hard to get me to keep my shoes on. I was walking and running barefoot in forests, hills, parks, running tracks, roads. (Still haven’t managed to run around my home town in bare feet. I am still very wary of debris in town streets and much prefer kicking my shoes off in the ‘dirty’ forests and fields.) I was even wearing Sockwa to work and kicking them off under the desk every day by now.

My target was always a half-marathon in September this year, that I really wanted to do in bare feet. I didn’t care how long it took , as long as I did it in bare feet. After being kicked off one hike in Yorkshire when they found out I was planning to do it in bare feet, I managed to find the very amenable Multi-Terrain Camelot Challenge Walk/Run in Dorset and rocked up at the start line fully-expecting to have to put my Sockwa at some stage of the route, but I am very happy and proud to say that my Sockwa never left the back of my running shorts for any of the 13.1 miles, and I became a barefoot legend in Dorset overnight! 🙂

I have also done a couple of 100% barefoot 5K parkruns this year. My target for next year is a barefoot 10K run. I am still a 50/50 walk/run runner at the moment, but will be working (slowly) on getting the running portion up next year.

I never was a runner, so I never had any major problems transitioning to barefoot running. I did have a few problems and worries last year during the training for my half-marathon, but they have all gone away now since I stopped pushing myself so hard. (It was you Chris that taught me to let my feet tell me when I am doing too much. I used to PFFFT! at this at the time but I now know from experience that you were absolutely right.) I do a 5K in my Sockwa or VFFs at least once a week now and suffer no aches and pains at all.

I can’t wait for better weather next year so that I can get ’em off and get ’em out more often. (I am a fair-weather runner and I HATE running the streets!)

PS – I love the barefoot ‘feel’ so much that I wear nothing or Sockwa all the time now, with an occasional run in VFFs when the ground conditions dictate. Next year I will be trying out the Unshoes that I won on the BRS forum.

I would love to hear about your first barefoot runs. Here is quick guide to sharing your story on Barefoot Beginner. Get posting.

Paul’s post is one of our barefoot posts of the day on our facebook page.

 

Dec 02

Norman Walsh Footwear – Why do I care about these running shoes so much?

So…..why is it that I care so much about Walsh fell running shoes and the well being of Walsh as a shoe manufacturer?

 They are great shoes but why on earth does it seem to matter so much to me. The answer seems to lie in the West Pennine Moors, a little part of the running world with a distinguished history. When it comes to running shoes, Bolton has a tale to tell.

4585574700_255x206In 1890 J.W. Foster and Sons of Holcombe Brooke (just north of Bolton) made some of the first known running shoes with spikes. By 1895, the little family firm were making shoes for some of the most distinguished athletes of the day. The film ‘Chariots of Fire’ told the story of athletes during the 1924 Summer games. They were mostly wearing J.W. Foster and Sons shoes.

Two of the founders grandsons went on to start the firm ‘Reebok’ in Bolton in 1958. My first pair of running shoes were a pair of Reebok Royals. They were dreadful. I have never worn a pair of Reeboks again.

In 1948, J.W. Fosters and Sons were asked to make shoes for the athletes preparing for the London Olympics. They put their best shoe maker on the job. A young man by the name of Norman Walsh. Soon after, Norman went it alone and set up Norman Walsh Footwear. He produced shoes for all manner of top athletes. The northwest of England is a hotbed of fell running talent and in the early 1980s, Norman introduced the now famous PB sole. You can recognise a Walsh footprint on a hillside in twilight with the mist coming down.

imagesIf my first pair of shoes were a disaster, my second were anything but. My dad took me and I knocked on a door in the side of the factory. I selected two similar shoes from a pile of seconds and carried them home. I was in my teens and getting those shoes was like a rite of passage. They felt serious. No more messing about. They were quick and I was in business. I did a lot of miles in those shoes. They saw mud, blood, sweat and a lot of laughter.

I have watched and been part of the move to a more minimalist form of running. I watch the other shoe companies churning out shoes for this and that. My beloved Walsh have just carried on making the same ever popular shoe. As they say, ‘We keep making ’em and they keep buying ’em.’

Walsh have such a loyal following. Their shoes are not made in China. They are made right here in Bolton. They are the antithesis of turning up at Sports Direct for pair of whatever they have on offer.

So…why am I worried and why does it matter?

I am worried because nothing lasts forever. I don’t want to pick up the paper to hear about yet another quality British brand vanishing or even worse becoming like Karrimor (Don’t get me started).

…and secondly and most important. They are superb. A class act for those wanting a pair of minimalist shoes to take on to the fells. I would happily travel the land telling people about them. For the moment, they are making each pair to order with a delivery time of 8 weeks. I would love enough people to take them up so that they just became one of their normal lines.

Here are a couple of videos I made about their shoes over on our store page.

You will see how flexible they are in comparison with their traditional fell shoe and also how I fared in them in the rain and mud up on the West Pennine Moors. Have a look.


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