Small Stones

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I noticed today out running that I’d stopped noticing small stones.  They are pretty much all you notice when you first removed your shoes and go running, or walking.  Our feet have become so used to wearing shoes that our soles are so delicate that detect and find uncomfortable the smallest of stones.  And they are everywhere.  On the paved street and pavements of our built-up world there are painful tiny bits of stone left over from the various roads works that have gone on over the years.  Landing in the wrong spot on your foot really hurts and is the biggest off-putter for running bare.

It gets worse.  Running past a driveway that’s been gravelled was the worst.  Some of the gravel is inevitably spilled out from the drive onto the pavement.  Landing on one of these right in the middle of your pad would not only hurt, but could actually damage my sole.  This happened a few times and could lay me up for a couple of weeks while it healed.  I used to actually wince as I ran past these drives waiting for the pain to come.

But today, and the few runs before that, I noticed that this isn’t happening anymore.  I just don’t notice the stones anymore.  I must still be landing on them, there are too many and impossible to avoid.  So the only conclusion I can come to is that my feet are now used to it.  I also used to keep getting small stones stick to my soles, so that I had to stop to flick it off, rather than repeatedly keep landing on the same stone.  I don’t remember the last time that happened, I’m not sure the reason for this.  Maybe my feet are less sticky now.  Who knows.  But it’s good.

Currently doing two miles three times a week.  Going to step this up in a week or so to three miles which will be a lap of Clapham Common.

Three Years

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I got an email this morning from Tumblr, telling me that my blog, ‘barefoot’ was 3 years old today.

That blog is no longer on Tumblr, I moved it to its own website a while back and I’ve been working hard to complete the accompanying content since.  I can’t believe I’ve been doing this barefoot running experiment for three years now; it’s been quite a journey.

The website is still officially in beta, although this will change in a month or so once I’ve had chance to promote it a little, get some traffic and hopefully obtain some feedback.  There is still so much more I’d like to do to it, but I guess no website is ever finished.  It’s finished enough to start showing it off and that’s exactly what I intend to start doing.

The point of the website is to try and inject a little sanity into the subject of barefoot running.  People tend to have very polarised views on this; 100 per cent with or against it.  Whereas most normal people will probably fall somewhere in-between.  There’s nothing out there to cater for the in-betweeners and that’s where I hope this website will fulfil its brief – to cut through the fog of hype and self-interest regarding barefoot running, and also to look further on the subject, expanding into shoes themselves and related science.

So take a look around and please let me know about anything you like, dislike or even disagree with.


New Year – new start

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It’s been two months since I last ran.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  I went on holiday in November last year and didn’t want to obtain an injury just before I went that could have spoiled my holiday.  Then when I got back I succumbed to various cold/flu-like illness that were doing the rounds as they usually around Xmas.  I’ve literally only just got over them.  Whilst I was ill, running was the last thing on my mind.  And also the current cold snap really isn’t helping.

It’s within this context that I tell you about my first run of the year; or rather my first couple of runs.

Prior to Xmas I’d built myself up to running 2 miles, 3 time a week.  And I’d been doing this for around 3 months.  This was to try and build up a tolerance in my soles without damaging them, that the previous strategy of trying to build up to longer runs fast was causing.  I kept having to be out of the game for weeks at a time due to overdoing it and ending up with blistered pads.

So I set out on a very cold Tuesday evening after work.  It’s dark before I even leave work at the moment, and this combined with the treat of rain didn’t make it a very nice environment to step out into.  I planned to do just one circuit of a mile loop that starts at my house.  The ground was almost frozen, probably about 1 degree.  My feet soon became numb and it’s this that I blame for my choice to continue running when I’d finished the first loop.  I decided that what the hell, I’d do two loops, with is the two miles I’d spent a month building up to at the end of last year.  It feel okay, even though I kind of knew that I was kidding myself as I couldn’t feel my soles due to the temperature.

Oddly though, it wasn’t my soles that had suffered that day, but my calves – yet again.  Although this wasn’t a patch on this injury.  That time it took several weeks before I could even walk properly again.  This time round it was just uncomfortable to walk for about 7 days.  I guess the past three years have seen some changes in my legs.  But I’m still amazed that I can’t have 8 weeks off and then not be able to run just 2 miles without bother.

Anyway, having left it 10 days, on Sunday I once again braved the cold.  This time I made my mind up to do just the one lap, 1 mile (1.6k), no matter how I felt.  I completed this no problem, again with numb feet.  The morning after I’m happy to say that there are no problems with my calves.  I’m going to do a few days in a row with this shorter 1 mile route, then step it up to twice around next week interspersed with rest days and other 1 mile runs.  Let’s see how I get on and how fast I can make it back to where I was back in November.

Keep on running

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So although I’ve not posted much lately, I have still been running.  I’ve been sticking to 2 miles (3.3k), 3 times a week in order to accustom my soles ready for the stepping back up to 6k – a complete circuit of Clapham Common.  I’ve been up to that distance a few times before, but I think each time I’d not given my soles enough chance to toughen up and I usually ended up with some sort of issue that stopped me.  So this time I’m really taking it slowly.  I’d like to get up to 6k, 3 times a week and be able to hold that distance.

Well done fella

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So I’ve kept up the current running spree and it must have now been 7-8 weeks since I started again post holidays.  I’ve taken it really slowly this time and worked my way up from 1/2 mile twice a week to 2 miles 3 times a week.

The restraint has rewarded me with no problems at all; things are really back on track.

Today as I was running down Clapham Common Southside a guy driving a taxi shouted, “well done fella”.  I had to laugh, as that’s a change from the usual, “have you forgot your shoes”, etc.  Just before the end of todays run, I had to stop on a narrow footpath to ask someone to excuse me as I ran by them.  They were very polite, but noticed my lack of shoes as I started out again and said, “where’s your shoes?”, to which I replied as I ran off, “Shoes?  Who needs shoes?!”.  And I didn’t as I ran off to complete another two mile run.

My cardiovascular fitness will be catching up with me soon if I keep this up.  However my feet have never felt better, they are not sore at all these days after a run as the skin on my sole has thickened slightly without callusing, giving me just the protection I need.

Things are good. 🙂

Back in the saddle

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It’s been a while since I posted here.  Mainly as I fell out of the habit of running because of my deliberate stop prior to a trip to Croatia and then Glastonbury.

Okay so it’s been 7 weeks now since Glastonbury, so why have I not been running?

Well I had some tightness of my calves prior to stopping and also I felt that my right foot wanted to shed a layer of skin under the ball of the foot, about where I’d gotten some glass in it weeks before.  So figured a few weeks off to allow this to happen would be good.  Sure enough the skin came off and the new skin underneath needed time to thicken.

So all in all I think it was good to take some time off.  However now I need to get back to it and that’s just what I’ve been doing for the past couple of weeks.  I’ve been running about 2-3 times a week, and only distances up to a mile.  I want to know that my legs and feet can handle this before stepping up the distance.  Surprisingly everything was fine, despite nearly 3 months off.  I guess the previous conditioning has stayed with me a little, which is really good news.  I’d hate to have to start again every time there had been a hiatus.

Are you sure about that bruv?

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Due to a trip abroad (Croatia, as you asked) I’ve had a hiatus of a week from running.  Keen to keep my feet thinking that they have to continue toughened up, I tried to be barefoot as much as possible, although didn’t do any actual running.

So with this in mind I was a little apprehensive about running last night.  I’ve spent the past 2 months running 3 times a week and building up to 6k each run.  I really didn’t want to stop this momentum.  I need not have worried.  The run was very easy on my feet and legs, the thing that was a bit of a struggle was my cardiovascular fitness level.  Not surprising really after a week of drinking and smoking.

I’ve had a few witty people trying to heckle me as my runs have now extended onto a very public Clapham Common.  I should really keep track of them here.  Last night on Clapham Common North Side, someone from a car shouted, “get your shoes on!”.  Mmm, very well thought out I thought.  A couple of weeks ago in the same spot someone shouted, “you’ve forgotten your shoes!”.  At least this was an attempt at humour.  I’ve also had a, “well done!” from a women in standing traffic on The Avenue about a month back.  But my favourite has to be the guy who was standing on Abbeville Road about 6 doors from my house where I usually end my runs.  As I stopped he stood there (in his overgrown rappers’-fashion trainers) and looked at my bare feet in horror.  As I started to get my breath back he said to me, “are you sure about that bruv?”.  I smiled back at him and replied, “yes mate, you’re the only one who’s unsure”, I then ran off around the corner grinning.


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Tried the 6k again tonight, no problems at all.  In fact didn’t feel anything in my foot where the glass splinter went in from the moment I removed it.

One interesting thing tonight was the fact that it had been raining and much of my run was on greasy paving stones.  I’ve mentioned before that you’re really not supposed to push off with your feet, rather lift them, driving with the glutes instead.  So having the ground underfoot slippery really makes you aware if you’ve a tendency to do this or not.  Either way it’s good training for form, which as regular readers should know is everything in running, shod or barefoot.

Abort, abort!

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So today was go have been my fifth 6k run in a row, every two days.

About a kilometre into the run I noticed intermittent discomfort in my left foot when it bore weight.  In fact it was a kind of shooting pain, localised to my metatarsal heads and toes.  I carried on for another half a K before I decided to abort and walk back home.  Even this wasn’t completely comfortable, as every tenth step or so I the shooting pain happened again.  Before I got home I’d decided that I must have a splinter of some sort that was touching on a nerve, causing the uncomfortable shooting pain.  There was nothing to see, I couldn’t see any evidence of anything, except for what looked like a tiny blood blister.

Based on this I had a long soak in the bath, and sure enough, when picked at with a needle, I could hear something in there.  It took some getting out as it was deep, but eventually I extracted a small piece of green glass that must have measured 3x2x0.5mm.  There was no pain digging it out.  It was wedged in the now thicker skin under my second metatarsal head. Had I had a needle or something similar with me I reckon I could have extracted it out on the route and carried on.  I only really noticed it as the end was obviously just touching on nerve.

Looking back I do remember stepping on what I thought was a small stone in that area about 300 metres into the run.  It must have taken the rest of the first kilometre to work its way onto the nerve.

Now that it’s out, I can’t feel a thing.  I’m going to do the run again tomorrow night and fingers crossed everything will be fine.

Considering I started barefooting and bare shoe running over two years ago, and I’ve been running completely barefoot for the last 11 months, I think that’s not bad; only having one piece of glass in my foot this whole time.  I think I’ve probably have more splinters in my hands over that period, and nobody thinks anything of that.