Category Archives: fitness

The Result Of 4 Months Of Walking Barefoot

img_0677Just over 4 months ago, I noticed that after 45mins of exercising in my expensive running shoes, my feet ached for the rest of the day. Rather than buy a different pair, I wondered about exercising barefoot. It was a complete success and since then I’ve been barefoot for part or all of each day. I am really pleased with the results so wanted to share them with anyone wondering about trying it.

However, this does come with a disclaimer – on asking around, I’ve discovered that some people who try going barefoot have really bad results. Hopefully it’s possible to have a go, but stop if you think it’s not for you or you notice damge

I was apprehensive about barefoot exercise because I assumed that sports shoes have cushioning for a reason. So I researched the matter and found that changing the way you land on each foot, so that you don’t land on your heel, allows the muscles in the leg to engage and prevent jarring. This is naturally done barefoot, whilst the shape of shoes encourages a heel-striking stride.

I suddenly remembered that this was how I used to walk as a teenager, when I’d spend each summer barefoot. I also remember a sporty friend teaching me the “correct” way to walk by heel-striking, and subsequently losing my natural stride.

So I switched to bare feet 4 months ago, and found that my stride reverted automatically. This is because it’s hard to heel-strike without shoes because it either hurts or feels very jarring to do so.

I had to build up slowly, both to give my soles the chance to harden up, and to give the muscles in my feet, ankles and legs the chance to re-strengthen for movements they haven’t done in years.

Here are the benefits I’ve experienced.

  • Feet don’t ache or smell
  • Better grip, especially for climbing
  • Enjoying the sensations of walking on different surfaces (once soles are thick enough)
  • Stronger feet and ankles – injury less likely and can grip the ground for better balance. I actually twisted my ankle (as in landed sideways on it) the other day without injury.
  • Silent stride – great for sneaking around the house when others are asleep.
  • Smooth stride – noticeably less jarring on all joints, both when walking, running and even jumping.
  • Better circulation – I now find it too warm to wear shoes at temperatures that previously had me reaching for my boots. Will be interested to see how this pans out in winter.
  • Walking/running faster – no heavy shoes.

Yesterday I went out for my longest barefoot walk yet – 2 1/2 hours, on asphalt and gravel. I actually enjoy the sensations under my feet believe it or not. Walking barefoot feels like regaining something natural, even if many walking surfaces are man-made.

But what about the downsides? Dirty feet? Danger of injury from sharp objects? Objections from others? Yes, actually these are all quite real problems. I’m selective about products I recommend but what’s solved these problems for me is Xero Shoes. They are basically the most minimal sandals you can get – thin enough not to interfere with your natural barefoot stride, but thick enough to protect your feet from sharp objects and dirt. I leave the house barefoot, but carry these just in case. I reckon they are good for the environment too since they take less volume of materials to make than shoes and come with a 5000 mile guarantee (that’s 10 years at 10 miles per day)

Please share your experiences of walking barefoot.


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Fat vs Fit – What’s the skinny?

This year I turned 30 and two things happened – I became the fittest I’ve ever been and by co-incidence also the fattest.

Up until now I thought that obese fit people were either mythical creatures or sumo wrestlers, but it turns out I’m IT. On the fitness side, this year I worked with the fitness DVD set “Insanity”. I didn’t complete the program as set, but worked with the DVDs 1-3x per week for 6 months, leaving me in the best shape of my life! To be sure, I had my vitals checked, and my heart rate is in the “athlete” range for my age, and my lean mass is the highest it’s ever been.

IMG_3687 fattest & fittest

Changing room reference photo. I was trying to decide about buying my first set of 38inch waist jeans, since I’d grown out of my 36’s.

On the fatness side, my weight peaked at around the same time – over 13stone, with a BMI of 30 and 38% body fat, making me obese for my height (5ft 5.5”). What does that say about my health as a fat fittie? Although I’ve always been known for taking on physical challenges, such as my fixed year bike year (2012), cycling 130miles in one day on a single speed bike (2013), becoming obese made me wonder – am I healthy?

Well first of all, I’m proud to have proved that it’s possible to be both fit and fat. So much pressure is put on people from the media to be skinny, that health and fitness seem to come as secondary goals, and many people’s idea of their ideal weight unrealistic. I’d advise anyone to prioritise health and fitness over being stick thin.

When I first joined a gym in my early 20s, I remember overhearing fitness instructors trying to talk countless newly-joined women into adding some strength training into their regime, but they were only interested in weight loss.

We’re programmed to think that if we don’t feel good in our bodies, or like what we see in the mirror, that the problem is body fat. Many people yo-yo diet, not knowing that they could be upping their body fat percentage by doing so, and wondering why they seem so flabby even if they are lighter than ever.

This society is definitely more pre-occupied with appearances than with health. Ask anyone if they’d like to get fit and they’ll likely respond with “Yes, I really must lose some weight”, looking sheepishly down at their midriff. But in any case, if appearance is the name of the game, fitter people have better toned figures, whether they are fat or thin.

So, I’m fat and fit, but can I be healthy? Well my heart-rate and blood pressure are excellent. Not only that, but my visceral fat (fat stored around the organs – associated with health dangers) is low. I neither drink nor smoke, and whilst I eat lots, including too much fat and sugar, my diet is low in processed foods and includes enough fruit and veg.

So what’s the problem?

Well, whilst I may be healthier than a skinny alcoholic, layabout or junk food junkie, I still go through my life carrying over two stone of extra weight, which as the years go on will take their toll on my joints. There’s risk of cancer (no-one is sure exactly why) and I could get Type 2 diabetes by wearing out my pancreas which has to process all the extra food I eat every day to stay fat. We could also say that I could likely cycle further, run faster and do more push ups if I were thinner. So all in all, it’s better to be fit and slim.

But for now, standing proudly at 13stone, I’d say it’s better to be fat and fit than to be crash dieter or weight obsessive. I can’t remember the last time I met someone who wasn’t trying to lose weight. But being fat hasn’t so far affected my ability to keep fit, feel great, and “let’s be perfectly splendid about this”, look great!

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