December 2014 archive

Dec 16

Why you can’t spend your barefoot way to success

I have spent a small fortune on trying to cure my running injuries over the years. A couple of decades in, I realised that it just doesn’t work.

The Barefoot Beginner approach is different because it asks you to let go of your consumer values and go back to basics.

The big problem is that in modern life, whenever we have a problem, we look for a way to spend our way out of it. I did it for many years.

…and there was no shortage of people willing to sell me the solution!

Whatever problem we have, someone will be out there ready to take our money and sort it out for us.

Where there is no problem then someone will happily create one for us. They convince us that we are doing things wrong and then sell us the solution.

It is so common that we don’t see it anymore. In modern life, whenever we have a problem, all we need to do is throw money at it and it will go away.

Barefooting is not like that. Money is not going to help. It is a great leveler and you cannot spend your way to success. We are are so used to buying shortcuts that we think that looking for the cheat is the best way to do things. It isn’t. We can’t just hand our problems to other people.  We need to change our mindset and realise that this one is down to us.

Success will come with honesty, experimentation, diligence and patience. You are going to build a lasting solution that works for you from the ground up. Sure, you can buy some advice and coaching but check with yourself what you want to get out of it. Don’t attempt to hand the responsibility for your success over to someone else. Grab hold and take charge of it. Spend your money wisely.The cost isn’t anywhere near as important as the time. It is all about you and your willingness to be in the driving seat.

It has taken me decades to wake up to the fact that I have always been looking for someone else to sort my running injuries out for me. I couldn’t see that the problem lay with me.

I did the classic consumer thing. In my late teens, I was running well but was suckered in by the shiny ads for running shoes in the magazines. I bought into the dream they were selling me. I felt that if I wanted to be a ‘proper’ runner then I needed a ‘proper’ pair of running shoes. Up until that point, I had been running and competing for years in cheap flat shoes. I didn’t have a problem but the magazines convinced me that I did. I saved long and hard for my first pair.They were Reebok Royales and within a month, I was injured for the first time ever.

Crazy as it seems, I didn’t connect the shin splints to the new ‘proper’ shoes. I mean, the shoes were ‘proper’ so how could the problem be with them? The running magazines were so full of tales of injury that it was seen as normal and they had plenty of solutions to sell me.

My first injury related purchase were called ‘Runners Wedge’. They sat in the back of my shoes and raised my heel a little. I then developed a problem with my arches and after paying out for physio and advice, bought some arch supports. I then had half length and full length inserts and then eventually went for gait analysis. This led to motion control shoes. Then it was motion control with inserts that cost more than the shoes themselves. I had neoprene calf supports and eventually after 20 something years of tinkering, coaching and physio, I ended up running wearing a calf support whilst having wedges underneath my orthotics in the most expensive shoes I could afford… and I was still breaking down with injury after less than a mile. My calves felt like they must have been made up of mostly scar tissue.

In the end, I just threw them all away and started again but it took a while for my head to get out of that consumer mindset. It is as prevalent in barefoot/minimalist running as everywhere else. I know lots of barefooters who have more shoes now than ever before…and they are not cheap.

We can fall into the trap of thinking that a pair of Vibram Fivefingers or Vivobarefoot will sort the problem out for us. They won’t. It doesn’t matter if they cost well over £100, they do not have the answer. It took me a little while longer to realise that before I ended up putting them to one side as well.

It is all about you. If you are willing to be patient and catch yourself when you are trying to buy a shortcut then you will make progress.

The parallel is the diet industry. Billions are spent trying to take a shortcut to the new thinner you. It is so enticing. If you are overweight then just throw money at it and everything will be sorted out for you. We know that It just doesn’t work like that. Throw out the orthotics in the same way that you throw out the diet products and that stuff in the fridge pretending to be yoghurt.

Look back at your running career. What injury related products have you invested in? Did they creep up on you? Where are you at now? List them and count the cost. Not just the money but the time. For me it has run into decades. How about you?


Dec 14

In a world of barefoot generalisations, we are all exceptions to the rule!

I must admit that I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet at the moment about the way scientific studies are interpreted. I have no problem with the studies but it when the interpretation leads to us being be told how we should run, I get hot under the collar.[spacer height=”8px”]

The thing with generalisations is that they are just that. One way or another they average things out. They are useful as a starting point but they should not become rules to live by. In a world of generalisations, we are all an exception to the rule. [spacer height=”8px”]

I believe that we can find a way that works just for us. We should celebrate our individuality, not be slaves to what works for the masses.

My latest article for Barefoot Running Magazine tells you how to build your understanding of what works from the ground up. Click the image (or here) for a handy pdf of the article.

BFrunning mag


You can download the whole issue here. It is worth a look. Excellent as always.


Dec 01

Training Blog November 2014

Sat 1st Nov 14

4.2 miles barefoot this morning. I was up early and waiting for the light because I wanted to go off piste a little and run somewhere new. If I am going to run exclusively barefoot then I am going to develop a whole new set of routes to run that keep my interest up. I have decades worth of old familiar routes and then a pretty much all on rough man made trail. I can run them but it isn’t fun. There are still beautiful places to run but I need to dip in and out of those old routes and just run short section of man made trail for now.

I had a hot spot on the upper outside of my left ankle. Not muscle and so I don’t worry too much. The sections that I chose along field paths were very slippy this morning and that needs to be a consideration too. I ended up walking them more than the rough sections.

Sun 2nd Nov 14

A mile barefoot this morning to keep the streak going. Day 11 was one ot get rhough. We were out very late last night and full of curry and beer with all the parents from my son’s football team.

I was very wheezy and didn’t roll my arches before I set off. I could feel the difference in my calves as soon as I set off. Glad that I went out though. I must be more committed to the little runstreak than I thought.

Mon 3rd Nov 14

4.2 miles barefoot this morning. it was very dark setting off and the ground was damp. that always makes my soles burn more than usual and i found myself weaving around looking for puddles. I ended up thinking about repescting temperatures and weather in general. Hot tarmac can burn and the cold needs full respect and lots of experince before you tackle it. Felt good and ended up feeling like i was running quickly and on the edge of sustainable. A good way to start the week. it would be good to keep this barefoot mile a day going and keep logging my thoughts to form the basis of a year of barefoot running journal.

Spent last night putting together a HACCP plan ready fpr inspection for our food producers grade.


Tues 4th Nov 14

Day 13 of this little barefoot runstreak and I suffered this morning. Yesterday I scrubbed the skin off the end of the 4th toe of my left foot. I knew when I was running that I was pushing through some general discomfort from my soles but had no idea about the tip of my toe until well after I got back. I was also marvelling yesterday at how on very dark stretches my feet were finding their way and moulding round some quite sharp stones. One of them caused a nice bruise on the underside of my left foot. I decided on just a barefoot mile this morning and my soles were burning from the off. I concentrated on lifting my feet and kept my toes upturned. Yesterday I ran well and quick on the last 2 miles. I was enjoying the feeling of being on the edge and had to keep stopping myself getting tense and pushing off ever so slightly. It is almost not there. it is just a lack of emphasis on the lift and I ended up creating friction and scrubbing my toe. Live and learn. Tomorrow is another day.

Wed 5th Nov 14

My soles were protesting pretty soon into my run this morning. They have been telling me to take it easy for 3 days now. I ignored them on the first day and ended up with the skin scrubbed off one toe and a bruise on my left foot. I used spray plaster on the tip of my damaged toe last night to offera little protection this morning. i will continue to do so for a little while until it heals. My legs are feeling good and I fell better for the run but I will respect my soles and back off. Just a mile barefoot this morning. My runstreak is now 2 weeks old.

Thursday 6th Nov 14

A barefoot mile this morning. First headtorch run of the year. It was cold and dry underfoot having been at around zero ovrnight. The barefoot burn was there but not as much as yesterday. Running in the dark was fun but I caught a stone in the middle of my heel. Ouch! I then caught another in exactly the same spot on the way back. I am limiting my distance because of teh scrubbed skin on the end of my toe. Not becauswe of the toe, I have 2 layers of spray plaster on it but because I know that i protecting it when running and so my form is altered and i don’t want to pick up anything else. My legs feel realxed and good and I was concentrating on lifting. Using the spikey roller on my arches is enjoyable. There are some real hotspots in there and getting at them feels good. Day 15 of little runstreak.

Friday 7th Nov 14

Tip of my toe feeling much better so will be back out tomorrow as usual. Just a barefoot mile this morning to give it one more day to recover. Spray plaster worls well for me. It was 2C yesterday morning and although wetter, it feels about that today. The puddles were cold and my breath kept fogging my vision in the beam of my headtorch. I had not been n the trails for a while and think i had been avoiding them so i went along a very rough manmade trail this morning in the dark. i didn’t really get much beyond a walk and wouldn’t choose to do it but it shows that I can do it if i need to get to the other side for some good running. I need to put some into my barefoot routes to break them up a bit.

Sat 8th Nov 14

A barefoot mile. My soles and toe are feeling better but I was really pushed for time because I had been looking a headtorch reviews and thinking about cold induced vasodilation. It was cold underfoot this morning and that contributes to the burn a long wiht the damp conditions. Good to keep the streak going and being at day 17. I am really struggling to breath at the moment. i seem to be allergic to something in the air. My throat is very itchy and my breathing wheezy. i am atking antihistamines and inhaler and they help but I also have a nagging cough that i can’t shake off. Still running though and enjoying it.

Good to go through an exercise in finding out the reasons why I run. I will be posting it soon so everyone can have a go.

Sun 9th Nov 14

I really struggled with my barefoot mile this morning. My breathing was laboured and I nearly had to stop going uphill. I have been struggling with my breath for a while. i have gone from someone who never needs to take their inhaler from one year to the next to needing it just to get through the day. the back of my throat is itchy. Either i am having an allergic reaction to something in the air and then this is making my wheeze or I am wheezing, taking my inhaler an it is making the back of my throat itchy. Whatever, I need a checkup. Just got notification through that is time so I had better get in there this week. Day 18.

Mon 10th Nov 14

Checked peak flow reading after run yesterday. Down to 380. That is very low. 320 and I am in trouble. My normal reading is about 650. I was 510 this morning and 600 after inhaler. 2.8 barefoot in the dark this morning. Still wheezy but I am OK to run if I use inhaler. I think it is linked to the dust thrown up by the heating. Feet felt fine this morning. I could feel the tip of my toe but it is pretty well healed now. My left calf had a bit of a tight spot. Just a little but nothing to stop me running. I did not use the flat roller this morning, just the spiky one and I think that may have been the difference. Good to be out. Not too cold. Day 19

Tues 11th Nov 14

Day 20 was a barefoot mile in the wet before dawn. It was very dark and I ended up fiddling about with torch and putting it over my cap. Time for wooly hats if I am going to run with headtorch. I enjoy the splashiness of the wet much more than the damp. It is much more pleasant to run on. Toe tip was protesting early on so ended up curling my toes upwards. Lots of tension in my shoulders which i needed o keep dropping. I seemed to be in a hurry this morning. kept slowing myself down and relaxing and then when I came to, I was bombing along with tense shoulders again.

 Wed 12th Nov 14

3 miles barefoot this morning. I felt fine other than my legs feeling heavy during the day. it is a curious feeling that I recognise from my last run streak. it is like my legs are pulling me downwards into the ground. Not sore. Just heavy. 3 weeks so far.

Thursday 13th Nov 14

A mile barefoot. The ground was dry for the first time in ages and it felt wonderful and cool and smooth until I hit the damp roughr section half a mile in. Then the tip of the same toe began to protest. I was pushing along at this point and may have been gripping bu then i gues that is what toes are supposed to do. I concentrated on a different kind of focus which was lifting and form and tried to let the speed come. I do revert back to forcing myself along though. Chose that word carefully. I am not pushing off my I am developing traction top sort of pull myself through. Day 22

Fri 14th Nov 14

A mile barefoot. It just rained really hard for the 10 mins that I was out. I got soaked. My feet protested almost straight away and although I could have gone much further, I think that I needed to listen to them and stop. It will be interesting to see if this is a phase and I come out of it or whether my feet cannot cope with the mile a day. Day 23. I ended up engaging my core this morning and thinking abut Jae’s advice and Chirunning etc. I do feel better when I extend my spine but find that my natural as state is not as extended and I pull myself along.

Sat 15th Nov 14

Funny, broken nights sleep. I ended up getting up for a couple of hours and going back to bed at 5am. That interupted my plans for an early run because it was an early start anyway for football and normal Saturday morning stuff. Just a mile barefoot. I could feel tenderness straight away. I went onto a steep muddy slope at one point but it was much too slippy barefoot. I might need to get my barefoot mile in and then go out for a run later in the day shod. I will see how that goes.

Sunday 16th Nov 14

2.3 miles barefoot in inky blackness this morning. On a market today but wanted to get a run in that was longer than a mile so I was out very early. Day 25 was Ok. My soles are sensitive at the moment. I kept looking for puddles to run through. I would love a dry day to go at.

Monday 17th Nov 14

A mile this morning. I struggled to get up this morning. I rolled out of bed because i wanted to get my run in. If I hadn’t been running this morning, I would have stayed in bed for a while. I knew that if I went through the day then getting the run in this evening would have been difficult. All my little calf niggles have come running in the evening recently. My soles feel like they are wearing out. they don’t feel robust. the barefoot burn came on pretty quick this morning. I enjoy dropping into a relaxed pitter-patter of a rhythm that I feel I can sustain but I consistently find myslef pushing hard. I must have gone up the steep hill this morning with no problem because I can remeber nothing about it. I am wondering how robust my soles would feel with aftwer a few days off.

Tues 18th Nov 14

4.86 barefoot miles this morning. I stretched arches with roller and headed out into the damp darkness thinking that I would struggle to do a mile. The damp is the worst for me but after a mile I carried on fine. I am struggling to judge whether my soles have had enough or whether I am just going over a rough piece of road. I ran just short of 5 miles and felt great by the end. I could have gone further but time was a constraint. I think that time is a big factor in barefooting. you need to give yourself space to take your time. Rushing doesn’t work.

Wed 19th Nov 14

4 weeks of barefooting  and a barefoot mile this morning. I forgot to take my inhaler and so my breathing was very wheezy at the end. No problem with headtorch and I was jumping on and off kerbs with no concern as to what was under my feet.

Thursday 20th Nov 14

5 miles barefoot this morning. That is my second 5 miler of the week which is a turnaround on how I was feeling last week. i find myself plotting and planning and scheming on how to get to 20 miles a week barefoot and then I stop myself. I am feeling good today but it might be different next week. Who knows? I want to be a lifelong runner, I need to learn how to ride the waves and keep things ticking over gently in the dips between them.

I got to thinking about snow. My plan is to try and keep the barefoot mileing up as long as possible but if i can’t so be it. the snow won’t last forever and I am already looking forward to the spring.

I think that adding some gradients into your running is useful. It makes you think about friction in particular both going up and going down. Chris McDougal also trained by running fast uphills, I seem to remember.

Friday 21st Nov 14

A barefoot mile that started with the burn and carried on that way. I waore my headtorch and ended up experimneting. Jason Robillard uses a hand held torch or so I believe. I assume that is all to do with posture because you do tilt your head. I think that i would be doing that anyway to look at the ground but I wouldn’t mind giving a handheld a try. It would certainly help in the cold when my breath fogs up my vision in the beam.

My 3rd toes on left footwas catching again and I will need to watch that as it gets colder and my feet look their feeling. I have been using the spiky roller before running. it gets the blood flowing and I think it helps. my feet felt sensitive when i got up but the roller got rid of that although I couldn’t have gone far this morning. Day 30

Sat 22nd Nov 14

Just short of 3.5 miles barefoot this morning. The ground was wet and nice to run on. A few steep hills that were OK. Much easier barefoot. A good running week so far. I think that is a full calendar month of barefooting every day.

Sun 23rd Nov 14

1.4 miles barefoot in the daylight today. That is a novelty and I enjoyed it. My feet felt cold and tender afterwards but I have not got a single issue anywhere in my legs or feet at the moment. I spent around 10 hrs in the car yetserday but any stiffnedd or wrinkles where ironed out this morning. I don’t care why barefooting works. It just does for me and that is that. I could not run like this in shoes.

Mon 24th Nov 14

1 mile barefoot in zero degrees C. The first morning with ice on the windscreen. The baredfoot burn was there straight away and I grinned when it almost made me stop. It took me back to when I first started walking the dogs round the block barefoot and I got stuck and couldn’t go back wards or forwards because my feet were protesting so much.

Tuesday 25th Nov 14

5 miles barefoot this morning aqnd I knew from getting up that it would be OK. My feet feel fine. It was cold and I am not sure if there was some rocksalt on the busiest road. I ended up running pretty quick for me in places. Day 34 and i have just realised that I will need to be running when I am on the residential; with the children in a couple of weeks. Should be fun in the Pennines with my headtorch.

Wed 26th Nov 14

A mile barefoot. I could tell that my feet needed a bit of a break today but they held up better then I thought they would. It helped that it was wet. I seem intent on getting out of bed and continuing this run streak. I felt bouncy and alive yesterday which is one of the things that I get most out of being a runner. I also felt in better shape generally than I have for a while.

Thur 27th Nov 14

Day 36 was a barefoot mile. I could have gone further but my soles still feel a little tender from Tuesday morning and I decided to respect that and back off a little and wait until tomorrow until I go further. I got to thinking about friction and how we reduce it. I am not pushing off but I do pull myself through using the friction of the sole against the floor. it would be handy if we could do without friction but just like calories we need some and that is where the problem lies. I am grabbing the floor and pulling myself forward and then I lift. No sign of getting fed up with the runstreak. This morning run is becoming a habit. The spiky roller felt good this morning.

Fri 28th Nov 14

5 barefoot miles this morning. …and what did I learn? I learnt that I can switch the feedback off from my soles and do too much. I have been too preoccupied with my soles and have forgotten that they keep me from doing too much and hurting the underlying structure of my feet and lower legs. Towards the end of the run I got an ache in the inner heel of my right foot that I have not had before. It then worked slightly round towards my arch. I also have had a pain in my right knee cap. I found this yesterday when i went to sit down at a dining table with the children at school. I put my weight on my right leg as I bent down low and nearly fell over. It is top centre of my knee cap and I do not feel it all when running or walking. it just comes on when I bend my knee significantly. I don’t remember banging it on anything. It is sore and I will need to keep an eye on how much it is affecting my running technique. I had 2 big sneezing fits last night and my whole back of throat is itchy and sore too.

Sat 29th Nov 14

Running when I get up has meant that I have a good routine to follow and it is working for me at the moment. It is all about giving myself time and space to run and not beating myself up if I oversleep and run less than planned. My feet felt good after the 5 miler yesterday but as sonn as I set off, I could feel a couple of hot spots on my soles and expected to struggle. I got to my half way point and the barefoot burn just hadn’t arrived and I ran no problem today. Day 38. My knee is still sore and I don’t have an explanation at the moment. I may be keeping my right leg a little more straight than my left and I will need to watch that.

Sun 30th Nov 14

6.85 miles on bridleways and quiet roads. I slipped and went down hard on a muddy section. It was one of those that could break a wrist. I proceeded cautiously. I am in the middle of an EdD weekend and the run gave me space to consider things. I am learning more about the narrative approach that I can see myself using to learn about barefooting. I moved off the white lines in the middle of the road because they were slick andIi was worried about going down again. A big message is about time. Time to be patient but allowing time to run without the need to hurry. Runners tend to be people in a hurry.  Day 39 rounded off a week with over 20 miles of barefoot running. i have not run in footwear for a long time.