Category: Ian Hicks

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.

Feb 12

Slaughterford 9 Race Report – Review by barefooter Ian Hicks

Many thanks to Ian for his review of the Slaughterford 9 race. He gave it a barefooters Severe (BBBB) rating. You can read more about our barefoot ratings here and check out other events to see how they suit barefooting here.

If you barefoot a race, we would love to hear from you. Our aim is to build up a community resource. Use the contact form at the top of the page to get touch.

Over to Ian:

It is billed as a multi-terrain race over 9 miles of steeply undulating countryside, carrying a “sting in its tail”. Whilst tackling 900 feet of ascent/descent in the Slaughterford valley runners will encounter tarmac, stony paths, fields, tracks and green lanes.

I had been looking forward to this race for some time, as a cross-country, multi-terrain course is something my feet love. My only conundrum was whether I should race barefoot, wear Paleos, my homemade sandals or Sensori Venture!

I had ruled out bare feet on this occasion because parts of the course are rock laden tracks, having the added delight of steep ascents! I was unsure whether sandals would be suitable for such muddy terrain – although looking back with hindsight, sandals would have been fine. I had just received a pair of Paleos with “Paws” – see my January blog – from GoSt Barefoots in Germany so the Paleos it had to be.

Slaughterford 9

My good friend and barefoot runner Stephen Richards and I arrived at the Slaughterford 9 registration point, on a rather cold and wet morning at the end of January. 350 runners turned up for what was going to be a very wet and muddy run. The start was on a narrow country lane which led down into Slaughterford valley, following mostly gravel and rock laden tracks we made it to the bottom.

After running along the valley, we were sent up a very steep, wet and muddy farmer’s field, walking was the name of game here! Along the top of the ridge – with good views to be had, if you are not blinded by the rain!

Back down into the valley and then a small section where we ran along the river, which was up to our knees! – good fun though. Then came the final push back up to the top. Again the majority of runners, including myself walked up. Half way up a marshal was kindly shouting encouragement by saying “it’s all up hill from here”! A short section of tarmac, around the corner and the finish line was in sight, a very welcome sight indeed!

At the finish we were given a very welcome Mars bar and a bottle of water. No medal for this race but a t-shirt that said “I made it to the top”! Stephen had been waiting at the finish for sometime – Stephen is a far faster runner than myself!

The marshalling was excellent, with marshals on virtually every corner. Two drink stations were set up at about 3 and 6 miles with the 6 mile station offering orange segments. This race is “cracking” good value for money, £10 for un-affiliated and £8 for affiliated. The organisers, Chippenham Harriers laid on a very good event, my thanks to them

I have to give this a BBBB – barefoot server rating! Mainly because of the rocky paths and the steep gradients but also because of the mud on the steep ascent/descent, it would be virtually impossible to get any traction barefoot!

If you have a race review to submit, we would love to hear from you. Check out other reviews and submit a review here.

p.s. I would be grateful if you would head over and like our facebook page here.

p.p.s We also have a very friendly discussion group. Come and join in the chat, you will be made very welcome. We are a family group (my kids read over my shoulder). We don’t do profanity and we don’t do negativity. We run, we chat and we smile.

Jan 13

Paleobarefoot Paws – A barefoot review by Ian Hicks

Jörg from GoSt Barefoots very kindly sent me a pair of Pronativ just before Christmas, but this was no ordinary pair! This pair has been fitted with “Paws”! For an additional cost this new option is now available for the existing ULTRA range. The “Paws” are resin spots that are bonded to the underside of the mesh soles. The idea behind this is, to give them good grip on smooth surfaces.

The fit is better with the “Paws” fitted. The spots give the ULTRAS a bit of structure, creating a more shoe-like shape, although these are still more akin to a sock (performance sock) than a shoe. Anybody who has read issue 9 of Barefoot Running UK Magazine, would have seen my long term review of the Pronativ. In the review I talk about a slack feeling over the toes, this is now much less noticeable.

The barefoot feel is not as good with the spots fitted. The mesh is now raised very slightly off the ground. As my preferred option is barefoot, I probably notice this more than a minimalist runner would. Having said this, the barefoot stimulation is far better than the majority of minimalist shoes on the market.

Performance however has definitely improved. The grip now on hard surfaces is much better with the “Paws” over the standard Pronativ. I am able to run on roads now, which was not really possible without the spots. They are great for running on roads in the rain. Water just drains straight through them. Unlike closed shoes where they can hold so much water, it’s like running with a pair of sodden sponges strapped to your feet!

Overall, the “Paws” are definitely an improvement on the standard model. Having run in a standard pair and a pair with the “Paws” fitted, I would choose the “Paws” option. Their ability to grip on smooth surfaces far out weights the slight loss of ground feel. Thanks Jörg, I thought you had made the ultimate minimal shoe with the Pronativ, but I was wrong. Now with the “Paws” option, barefoot running just got even better!

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.


Nov 17

BBC Radio Wiltshire Calling – A barefoot November with Ian Hicks

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

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

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

Happy running my friends.

Nov 09

Paleo Barefoot review – Ian Hicks