March 2014 archive

Mar 30

Run for the Animal Half marathon – Barefoot Review



This is a review of the Run for the Animals Half marathon by our group member Barefoot Runner.

The HM is a lollipop course with an ~3 mile stem and an ~7 mile loop. The 10K is simply out and back on the stem. The course is basically about 50% smooth blacktop (Easy) and 50% chip seal (Moderate). An experienced barefooter should have no concerns with the course, but a beginner might have to slow down on the chip seal especially if a section is newly gravelled or if the soles start getting sensitive towards the end. So overall, I’d rate this course a BB (Moderate) for its barefoot sole friendliness.

On the loop portion, there are a couple long curved banked sections about which some shod runners have complained as too hard on the ankles. There’s also a quarter mile section on the 6-foot wide chip seal shoulder of a 2-lane highway which could have broken glass, mainly the safety glass of windshields, etc. but possibly broken bottles too, so you might have to watch your step or maybe chance running either on the grass with its hidden dangers or even on the white stripe of the highway. In more than 6 years of barefoot running I’ve only gotten 2 tiny pieces of glass in my feet. In contrast, I’ve gotten lots of sand burrs in my feet by running in the grass, although now my feet are so tough that burrs are only a nuisance. Since the race is in the spring, burrs should not be hidden in the grass.

I’ve run this race a couple years but did not do so last year because I had sprained my ankle then gotten a stress fracture in the same foot. Alas, the weather was perfect for running last year but the year before when I ran this race, it was dry, very hot and extremely windy and I was a full minute slower off my pace.

Everyone gets a finishing medal and the better runners (not me yet) get hand made trophies (overall, age, sex). The after party has a band, lots of beer, excellent food and home cooked deserts. Just be sure to not gain back all the weight you just finished running off!


Thanks Barefoot RunnerYou can see barefoot gradings for other races and events here. It is a community list made up of reviews from readers. It would be great for you to submit a barefoot review of a race near you.

There are well over 400 posts on Barefoot Beginner. Have a look at the new Start Here page here. You will be made very welcome.

Mar 30

Barefoot running is impossible for me, isn’t it?

So…what do you do when you hear about other people being successful barefooting but can’t see how it could be possible for you?

You want to give it a go (You are reading these words after all) but the whole thing just feels impossible.

Well, the first thing to realise is that you are not alone. I speak to people who feel like that all the time. Some have never really done any running and some have a lifetime of running behind them.

My dad is one of them. He is now over 70 and has been a runner all his life. He looks at my barefoot exploits and shakes his head. He is determined that he couldn’t do it. For him,he says, it is impossible.

He has no real injury worries and runs with beautiful form and so he has no motivation for even trying it out. He will continue to believe that he can’t possibly do it even though I know full well he could if he needed to.

I think that is the point.

Many of us come to a point where we can no longer continue doing the same thing we have been doing for years.

It isn’t working for us anymore.

For me, I feel like running in conventional running shoes is impossible rather than barefoot running. I think that my point of view is more reasonable. I was designed to run barefoot rather than in built up shoes. But…..My dad will never accept it.

Unless…something or other means that he needs to.

There is a reason that you are reading this. You can see that there are plenty of  runners successfully adding barefoot running to their lives. However, you may also have heard tales of barefooters breaking down injured and are convinced that you would be just the same.

It happens but…..It doesn’t have to be like that.

It is perfectly possible to find a simple and safe way to make barefoot running a reality for you.

Here are few things to consider:

  1. Why are you reading this? What is your story so far?  Is running the way you do working well and allowing you to run safely and relatively free of injury?
  2. If the answer to the last question is Yes….. you are fine and running really well…… then good luck to you. You are one of those rare souls who is just like my dad. If not then consider why you are continuing to do the same thing but expecting a different outcome. I have heard that described as the definition of madness. It may be time to look for a new approach. Barefooting might just work.
  3. What is the specific thing or things about barefoot running that you think is impossible? Tough question. It can be hard to single out a particular reason especially for an activity that feels so alien to you. Have a look at our list of 33 barriers to barefoot running. Do any resonate with you? Sometimes it is good just to acknowledge those worries and say them out loud.
  4. Read a few success stories. You could start by having a look at our Real Barefooters page and joining our facebook group.
  5. If you have still think it is impossible, post your thoughts in our group. We have a family friendly community and there will be people who thought exactly the same and overcame it.
  6. Find a safe way of beginning that starts where you are at. Downloading the Barefoot Beginner guide (In the sidebar to the right) is a good place to start. It will guide you through your first steps at your pace.
  7. Let us know how you go on. My first barefoot run was 40 seconds. Think about that. I didn’t begin by taking off my shoes and running a half marathon. I managed 40 seconds on a smooth road before I had to slip on my shoes and walk home.
  8. Finally, remember that barefoot running is not superhuman, it is very, very human. If you are human (make up your own jokes) then running is the thing you were designed for and we don’t arrive in the world with Nikes attached to our feet. We arrive barefoot. As I heard Matt Wallden (Primal Lifestyle) once say. He comes from a long line of barefooters. He was born barefoot and so was his mother before him. You are just the same. Why on earth do you think that you are not?

Still thinking that it impossible for you? A few more things to consider:

So…If we know that going barefoot is as human and natural as breathing, why have some people got to the point where they just think it is impossible for them?

We live in a modern world, where we have lost touch with the fact that we are animals just as much as all the other species that inhabit the earth. In the hurly burly of everyday life, it is easy to forget that we too were made to survive on this earth we inhabit.

Shoes can be used very well to protect our feet so we assume that they are a universally good invention.

This is not the case.

They can protect our feet but also be the cause of so many problems. We can learn a lot here from the treatment for horses. If a horse is lame, one of the first things to do is remove its shoes. Shoes are often the cause of the problem.

We became adapted and our feet are one of the most amazing structures in the animal kingdom. They are part of a system that allowed us to move around quickly with minimum body contact with the floor.

It must stand to reason that the part that is designed to touch the floor is superbly adapted to provide feedback to our brains that allow us to move around quickly and safely.

But….only if we let them actually touch the floor. T

The foot is designed to work in a complex way. It needs to be able to splay when it touches the floor, the toes need to spread. We need those nerve endings to feel the ground beneath them.

At school, we learn about our ears being responsible for our balance and of course they play an important part.

But..they are not the only part.

The soles of our feet also play a vital role. The way the foot moves fires muscles in our legs and lower back at just the right time. Those who say they can’t barefoot because of a muscle problem or back problem are exactly the people who should give it a go.

It is a belief thing.

Sometimes we just can’t see ourselves doing something because it seems so far from our normal experience.

So…..challenge your assumptions and make sure that what you think is the case is actually true

Choose one barrier at a time, overcome it and get out there. It might just be the best thing you ever do.

I asked the Barefoot Beginner community what they would say if they had a minute with someone who said, ‘Barefoot Running is for other people. It is impossible for me.’

We had lots of responses and the final word goes to Nichola

I’m so lucky. I’ve gone barefoot most of my life and I’m almost 60 now. I only wear shoes to work or when going out and even then I’ll often slip them off. My early school photos show many of the class in bare feet.Now I wouldn’t class myself as a barefoot runner because I definitely don’t run as much as I should. My feet are bare more often than not. I don’t have leathery soles or cracked heals.What I’m saying is Take your shoes off wherever possible. Get used to being barefoot more than shod and then it won’t seem so unnatural when you go out to run barefoot.

It really is possible if you take it one step at a time.

Happy Running



Mar 28

Bath Half Race Report – Ian Hicks

I had been keeping my eye on the weather forecast, in the vain hope that I would see warm, dry weather for the 2014 Bath Half on Sunday 2nd March! Unfortunately my prayers went unanswered and I was left with the prospect of running the race on a cold and wet day. I also had the fear that I had not done enoughbarefoot training over the winter. This was mainly because I had been reviewing three separate minimal shoes for Barefoot Running Magazine. Were my feet ready to cope with 13 miles of wet, cold tarmac?

UntitledFinally, the day arrived and I awoke to a wet and cold Sunday morning. I arrived with plenty of time to spare to have a look round the “Runners Village”, which unfortunately because of the wet conditions there were just a few baggage tents and Portaloos! I had decided before-hand to start running with my Sockwas on if the race was going to be wet. So wearing my Sockwas …… I took my position at the start line. I took the opportunity while waiting for the start to check out the tarmac!  I’m sure I was probably the only runner there who was taking photos of the tarmac. I’m still waiting for a reply from Bath City Council about my complaint on the condition of the roads around Bath. They are wholly unsuitable for barefoot runners!


Untitled112,000 runners lined up for a cold and wet race, but this did not stop the spectators coming out in there thousands to do a fantastic job of cheering us on. The course is on a loop, generally flat with only a couple of slight gradients. Water bottle stations and two Lucozade stations were spread over on the route. The organizers did a very good job of marshalling 12,000 runners around Bath.

The last few miles were hard going for me, as my energy had gone. I realised that I had not done enough training over the winter. I made it over the finish line in a time of 2:10, which I was pleased with as I was barefoot for the majority of the race.

Untitled2I will give this a BB-Blue-Moderate rating. No real problem for the moderate barefooter who is up to half marathon distance.

Thanks Ian – You can see barefoot gradings for other races and events here. It is a community list made up of reviews from readers. It would be great for you to submit a barefot review of a race near you.

There are well over 400 posts on Barefoot Beginner. Have a look at the new Start Here page here. You will be made very welcome.

Mar 25

Barefoot Tips from Paul Cairns

I had this email in from Paul Cairns in response to my question about those who say that barefooting is impossible for them.
Here is Paul’s advice:
Hi Chris,

I am writing as a confirmed barefoot hiker and runner – hiking for decades and running for years.  I have run in traditional trainers and all kinds of minimal footwear but barefoot is best without a doubt.

As you will know, endless views & opinions about all this abound on the internet.  One of the most interesting and helpful things I have found recently (which might help answer some of these 33 “doubts”) is this :

I particularly like Ted McDonald’s fifth point: “5. TUNE IN TO YOUR BODY” – I have almost always run alone and don’t own any headphones or other contraptions and would never consider running so encumbered, anyway.  Shorts and top are enough!

Tips of my own I can suggest sharing with anyone interested but not quite convinced include:

  • Go barefoot routinely indoors and around home
  • Walk barefoot.  I used to walk barefoot to work and home (1.5 miles each way in the very hilly mid-Pennines).  This helps “calibrate” a sense of good and bad surfaces.
  • Pick your route – walk round it first and look for smooth surfaces – pavements and roads (cobbles even) are excellent as long as they aren’t rough.
  • Run in daylight so you can see what you are stepping on.
  • At least at first, run in mild/warm weather when the ground is dry
  • After running, a good hot bath is best for the feet & legs (though not essential)
  • Wash your feet with an antibacterial liquid soap (the sort made for “hygenic” hand-washing)
  • Use a moisturiser  on the soles and sides of your foot (a mid-strength urea-based forumlation like Flexitol Moisturising Foot Cream, but keep higher-strength variants such as Flexitol Heel Balm back for any severe dryness).
  • Tune into your body and don’t worry about the clock to start with!

Thanks Paul!!

It is advice and stories like this that can help tip people over into believing. It can be done!

Mar 24

8 km barefoot/minimalist Rhino Run – May 1st Kensington

Those lovely folk at Barefoot Running Magazine have organised a barefoot/minimalist event for May 1st.

  • 8km (easy fun run in London)
  • All runners receive a ‘Save the Rhino’ African bracelet. Please email your intention to run to by April 18th to get your bracelet.
  • Your £3 donation goes to the Save the Rhino Foundation
  • Start 2pm at Kensington Close Hotel, Kensington
  • Route Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park and surrounds
  • Facility for leaving a small bag at the start.
  • Luck Draw for a handcrafted pair of T-Rocket running sandals

Rhino Run

Mar 24

Training Log wb 24th March 2014

Mon 24th March 14

A barefoot mile at sunrise this morning. I am putting in this layer of daily barefoot miles as a foundation for my other running. It seems to keep things loose and smooths out any tightness I might have. I am making the surface progressively more challenging and woke up determined to run a half mile section of the most horrible road surface you can imagine. When I reached it, I needed to slow down and relax. When I relax my feet (or try to) it certainly helps with challenging surfaces. I made it no problem. In fact at the end, my mind had drifted off onto other things and I was back on smooth road again. I had to jump on to the pavement because of the rocksalt. It was very cold in the night and the gritters had been out.

I started my attempt at squatting last night. I think my broom handles are too thick. I might need to start with thinner ones for my inflexible toes and work outwards. I managed a full squat with my heels supported on the rear pole. I need to know how long to do that for.

Tues 25th March 14

Another barefoot mile in the rain this morning. On the very rough section, I found myself picking out those areas covered in water to run through. It seemed easier. It is the morning after the night before with my new spikey roller. I rolled my right calf pretty hard last night. the spikes got into a spot on my calf really well. I was able to do it without having to apply much downward pressure. I could feel it as soon as I woke up. When running though, it went away. Now I can feel it again. I also started to squat last night. I didn’t last long. I am hoping that it helps the tightness that I have in my hip and groin.

My feet are standing up to the daily barefooting better then I thought. they have clicked back into gear. Looking forward to going a bit further on the rough stuff.

Wed 26th March 14

2 miles this morning. The first mile was barefoot along the very rough road from home and then I slipped on my Sockwa and ran home. That is real progress. I am surprised at how well my feet are handling this very rough road so soon into the Spring.

I did not do much barefooting over the winter but did run a lot in the chainmail Paleos which are very unforgiving and may be a contributing factor to keeping my soles conditioned.

The session I had two nights ago with the spikey roler in my calf is still there. It feels tight and I feel like I need to use my more gentle roller to ease it out.

The Sockwas are confortable and easy to slip on and off. Good fun.

Fri 28th March 14

A wet barefoot mile at daybreak this morning. The spikey roller and the barefooting seems to have done its job on my tight right calf and it feels loose and normal again this morning. I used the normal GRID roller last night and that may have smoothed out a few wrinkles too.

Although wet, I had no barefoot burn feeling this morning and was even looking forward to the rough section of road coming up. I felt every little stone and had to slow down a little but not much. I got to the end of the first section no problem and when I ran it on my way back, although I could still feel it, it didn’t hurt.

Maybe my brain is just interpreting the feedback from my feet differently. I could still feel every stone but the sensation wasn’t pain, it was was a slight discomfort but not in a way that was ever going to stop me running. I hit the smooth section just before home and sped up. I could feel the friction increase near my toes and slowed back down again. That is something to practice.

Sun 30th March

About 2.5 miles this morning in paleobarefoots with barebottom shoes underneath. It was over rough trail and I managed it with no problem. however, I felt tired and cut my planned route short. My right calf was protesting and that travelled up into my right hamstring. I am pretty run down at the moment and feel a bit grotty. I think that I need to keep barefooting for a few days to ease out the wrinkles.

Mar 20

Training log – wb 17th March 14

20th March 14

It is the first day of Spring and I celebrated by running a barefoot mile as the sun was coming up. Perfect conditions for barefooting. The road was dry and the air was cool and still.

Three weeks ago, I completed a race and then did some speed training a couple of days later. It all built on top of a calf niggle I had from running in shoes for a few consective runs and left me with some serious tightness in my right calf. I couldn’t seem to isolate it with my roller and so have given it a rest.

The first day of spring seemed a great day to get back out there. I have been sensible and lived to run another day. In the past, I would have ploughed on and ended up out for the long term. I am learning. It is an emotional thing. I need to let let go and accept that I needed a bit of a rest.

In my own set of principles, I am allowed to run in shoes as long as it sits on top of a base layer of barefoot running. The barefooting helps keep things loose and imprint my form for when I am in shoes.

For a few weeks, my balance had shifted and my running was not built on solids foundations. My calves let me know about it.

Fri 21st March 14

The second day of spring and a second barefoot mile at dawn. Yesterday, I had perfect conditions but today was the worst. It is when the ground is damp but not wet through.

When it is like that, my feet seem to get coated in what I can only describe as an abrasive paste of road dust and grit. The barefoot burn comes on quickly. I ran on the section of road, i least look forward to.

This is about 300m long and is unsealed tarmac with lots of small, loose tarmac chippings on top. I am picking them out of my feet long after i have returned home.

I am putting myself through this gradually so that the whole length of the road does not become a barrier to longer barefoot runs. I have been avoiding it altogether but no more! Slowly, slowly etc.

The niggles I had after speed work have gone completely and it is good to be back out there each morning.

Sat 22nd March 14

Another barefoot mile this morning. The ground was damp and the barefoot burn came on almost immediatley. I could feel every little stone this morning. On my way back, i took on the broken chop road road again. I slowed down and relaxed. It was unpleasant at first and then I cam to realise that I could probably keep going for quite a while as it wasn’t getting any worse. I am determined to condition my feet to this surface as it will open up more runs for me.

Sun 23rd March 14

About 3 miles this morning in VFF EL-X. This means that my Spring barefoot runstreak has been broken before it even got going. That was a conscious decision. I did a barefoot runstreak of over 100 days last year and at times my legs felt like lead weights. My running improved when I had a couple of days rest at the end of the streak. having said that, I did enjoy the challenge and so aim to put in at least a barefoot mile on most weekdays to give me that regular barefoot base on with to layer my other running. Whenever I miss a few barefoot runs, the niggles start to return so Spring is in the air and barefooting is on the agenda.

I enjoyed my muddy VFF run this morning and decided that to keep the mileage nice and low. that just feels like the right thing to do at the moment. My right calf was tight in places and i think this is a hangover from the speedwork and racing I did several weeks ago. I bought some broom handles yesterday. I am not one for drills but I have been putting together some advice for those beginning their barefoot journey. Lifting the feet is definitely one I would do as is running silently and with the eyes closed.

Squatting is something that fascinates me but I really struggle. I want to do it right and so will be following the advice given here by Tony Riddle. I will let you know how I go on.

Mar 18

33 barriers to barefoot running- The wisdom of the group

Barefoot running can be as simple as taking off your shoes and running. Why then, do so many people think that it is complicated?

I was interested in the reasons we give and the reasons we have heard for putting off beginning for another day.

I asked over 1000 barefoot runners from the Barefoot Beginner community for their views. Here is the wisdom of the group:

So….we sometimes don’t start because:

1) We think it is impossible

2) We think we are old and our bodies aren’t up to it

3) In fact, we think too much. We are all runners at heart but our cognition gets in the way

4) I won’t know when I’ve done too much and my feet will get sore

5) We care too much about what other people think. People will think that I am a nutter

6) The time of year is wrong. It’s too cold….it is too hot…it is too wet

7) I am looking for just the right time and place to barefoot because I want don’t want to hurt my feet.

8) If I could find someone else to run with, then I might just get going.

9) I wear orthotics so I can’t possible barefoot

10) It will hurt and I will probably end up injured

11) My feet are hypersensitive. Barefooting is for other people with feet not like mine.

12) ..but I like shoes. Especially when I get a new pair.

13) Being afraid of failing in public. I hate running over rough stuff in public. I feel pressure to not go ‘Ow!’

14) Fear of failing and being told that ‘I told you so’.

15) A surgeon told me to give up running altogether.

16) I am afraid of develping hard skin on the soles of my feet.

17) Dog poo!!!

18) I need to toughen my soles up before I begin

19) I underpronate so it isn’t for me

20) My feet are just not that good at shock absorbtion

21) It will slow me down

22) My mileage will drop off a cliff.

23) There is so much stuff to learn before I start.

24) My feet will get dirty. That is not a good thing. Surely it is unhygenic

25) You get all the benefit of barefoot running in minimalist shoes without the drawbacks.

26) It was OK for our ancestors but they didn’t have to run on concrete

27) I need to lose a few pounds before I start. At the moment, I need cushioned shoes to handle the impact.

28) My idol is Mo Farrah. He wears shoes as do virtually all top athletes

29) Our ancestors wore shoes to run.

30) I want to get started but don’t can’t face doing a whole load of drills.

31) I just need to rid of this niggly problem in my _______(insert a body part of your choice). Then I’ll get going.

32) I keep meaning to begin but I just don’t seem to get round to it. I am busy, you know.

33) I have a race or event coming up and then another. I will start after that.

I am interested to hear if any of these strike a chord with you. Which do you think is the most common reason?



Mar 13

Barefoot Running.. the first 40 seconds

In the Barefoot Beginner guide, I talk about my first barefoot run. I set off from my front door and managed 40 seconds before slipping on my shoes and turning round.

The feeling is still imprinted in my brain and it is the most important 40 seconds that I have ever run (Ok a bit over the top but you get the point).

The reason that I refer to it so often is because it so unimpressive.

It proves that there is nothing special about my feet. I mean, 40 seconds is not anything to shout about but the fact is, I have been shouting about it ever since.

When I chat with someone who thinks that they just can’t do it, I tell them about my first 40 seconds and urge them to give it a go. Just set off with a shoe in each hand and go for as far as you can.

Some people don’t quite manage 40 seconds and some manage much further. It doesn’t matter. This is not a competition, it is just the very human act of running.

I have a serious question for you that will help some of those who haven’t taken the plunge so far.

1. If all we have to do is take off our shoes and run, why does it seem so difficult?

2. If you haven’t taken the plunge can you articulate the reason why not. What is the barrier to beginning?

3. If you have started, did you have to overcome a mental barrier before getting on with it?

I would like to help as many folk get going as possible and so am fascinated by your answers.

You can leave a comment below or join in the chat on the subject here.

Your contributions make the barefoot world go round. I would love to hear from you.

Mar 06

Running with eyes wide shut or…Avoiding dog poop in the dark

Non-barefooters often ask about the problem of dog poop. I have to say that it has never been a problem and that includes when I run in total darkness. If you haven’t tried barefooting in the dark, I urge you to give it a go.


Barefooting in the dark heightens your senses.

I have to admit that when it comes to barefoot running or even running in general, I have never been one for drills. I always seem to be fitting my running into a busy day and never get round to them. There is one drill that has stood the test of time with me though and I thought that I would share it with you.

It came from Jason Robillard’s excellent Barefoot Running Book and involves running with your eyes closed. It was part of Jason’s ‘Run like a Ninja’ section. At the end, he mentions running with the eyes closed as being a good way to allow the brain to interpret information from the soles of the feet and the rest of the body.

So…I found a section of straight road (traffic free!), closed my eyes and ran. It helped if I imagined a point a little way ahead and ran to it. Immediately, I found that I was listening to my feet much more clearly. It was exhilerating.

I don’t do the drill very often but regularly run barefoot in very dark conditions. I find that I look forward to it. One of my favourite routes has a smooth tarmaced section and one that is made up of a broken, unmade road. They are both very dark and the rest of the my senses come alive.

Unfortunately, the area is also frequented by dog walkers and although most are pretty good at picking up the poop there are always those who don’t. Running in complete darkness through this area should be a nightmare but it isn’t. I can smell the poop a mile off and just seem to avoid them.

In all my barefooting, I have only had one nasty incident whilst running through long grass. Unpleasant but nothing that continuing to run through the wet grass didn’t sort out.

I joke about being able to echo locate the poop but of course that is not correct. It is down to my sense of smell. I watched a programme recently about the sense of smell in dogs. The producers showed a dog sniffing its way through a landscape. As it sniffed, pictures appeared in its mind of what was around it and I feel pretty similar when it comes to poop.

During the winter, most of my running is in the dark and I do wear a headtorch for most of it. However, when I get to these two very dark sections, I often switch off my torch and let my other senses take over. It is exhilerating. Why not give it a go.

We have an excellent Barefoot Running discussion group on facebook with new members joining every day. We are a family oriented group and you will be made very welcome. We run, we chat and we smile. Join in here.