Posts Tagged ‘Barefoot Running


Hertford 10k race report


Or what used to be known as The Hertford Charity Run – I have run this race a few times now and I still really enjoy it. It could be the proximity to my house (I walked to the starting line from home – took about 15 minutes). The picturesque, well marshaled route – out along the Cole Green Way and then through a number of small, Hertfordshire villages before rejoining the Cole Green Way to head back to the finish. Or it could be the finish itself – a tough uphill that sees many give up and walk before a big finish right in front of County Hall and the crowd of cheering spectators.

I did get caught up a little at the beginning, positioning myself too far down the field before the start, meaning I had to try and pick my way through the runners on the narrowest and most congested part of the course. So the first mile or so was spent in a bunch of 6-6.30mins/km paced runners when I wanted to be doing 5.30mins/km. Also, I was running in Vibrams along a bridle path so needed to try and keep a little distance between me and the runners in front to ensure I could see enough ground in front of me to avoid landing on any stones of bits of tree branch.

Once out onto the road, the race opened up and the sun/breeze combined to create almost perfect conditions – if a little windy on the exposed sections. Marshaling, as always, was frequent and encouraging with an added water/Jelly Baby station just before 5km.

Because I have run the race before, I am aware of the big hill at the end. Subsequently, I began to slow (not sure if it is consciously or unconsciously) around the 8km mark and a handful of people slowly overtook. I think I have some inbuilt mechanism that tells me to ease up and conserve energy for the hill at the end. Once at the hill, many of my “overtakers” end up just ahead of me and walking up the hill. Some were run/walking. I am always intent on not stopping to walk, although my legs and lungs protest. The encouragement from the crowd and the knowledge that the end is imminent make it bearable but it is still one of the toughest and most satisfying finishes.

My only criticism from a few years back was that the race used to be “approximately 10k”. I am not sure if the organisers have taken heed and tweaked the route to find and extra 500m (the race used to be about 9.5km) or whether my Garmin had mis-measured, but Sunday’s distance showed as 10.11km

Incredibly, this was my first race this year and therefore not as quick as previous years (approx 3 mins slower than last year. Also, I think the combination of mixed training I have been doing (forsaking some runs for longer cycle rides) and getting stuck for the first 1-2kms contributed to the slower time. It’s still a great race though and I’ll be back again next year.


random distances, diminishing returns

Fourteen Kilometres. Eight miles, one thousand two hundred and thirty yards in old money: Six months ago when training for the Berlin Marathon, this would have been considered a “short run”. I would have cheerfully kissed Mrs Eatingtrees goodbye and, with a spring in my stride, bounded off. On a grey and cold February morning with limited running in the previous four weeks due to illness, it feels like a massive effort. Almost from the off, my legs are heavy. My breathing doesn’t ease up until about 5km in by which time my legs are so leaden that it feels like I am wearing sandbags on my feet rather than my trusty Vibrams. I cunningly avoid hills but even short inclines feel like hard work. I grit my teeth and get on with – using the time to daydream and try to distract myself from the effort and discomfort.

Once the end was in sight, I realised I was going to come up about 200m short of 14km so continued on past my turn just to round it up. Like 13.8km really wouldn’t do but 14km would. And 14km was just an arbitrary minimum distance that I decided that I wanted to run that morning. Us runners really are an odd bunch when you think about it – we set ourselves goals and then when we beat them, set ourselves tougher goals (gotta beat that personal best) and then feel devastated when we don’t pb every time. Or we decide on a distance that we want to run and coming up 200m short is not good enough. My own personal peccadillo is that if I have to stand and wait at the side of the road for traffic to pass, I feel like I have stopped for a rest and therefore not run the full distance. Which is why you’ll often see me running on the spot whilst waiting to cross. Or running along the kerbside, up and down the traffic looking for an opening that I can nip through. This sort of compulsive behaviour in any other pastime would be seen as odd or possibly borderline compulsive. But not us runners. We positively revel in it.

Soundtrack to this post: Atoms For Peace – Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses


Xero Shoes

Here’s something a little different this week. Rather than bore you with yet another blog about my Marathon training (the taper begins this week so only 24kms were run on Sunday, thanks for asking…), I thought I might try out a pair of Xero Shoes which are now available in the UK through Born Barefoot.

Anyone who has read Born To Run (which, by now, is probably quite a lot of you), will be aware of the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico who run in homemade sandals consisting of a sole and a cord that fastens the sole to the foot. They cover enormous distances and “running related injuries” are practically unheard of. The Xero Shoes are a modern day take on those sandals and the kit I ordered contained a pair of pre-cut soles, some cord and a metal punch.

There is something inexplicably exciting about assembling your own shoes and once you have the kit, it is just a case of logging on to, watching the instructional videos and then creating your own footwear from the kit of parts. The videos are easy to follow and have many different tying and customisation options once you have the basic construction complete. I opted for a “slip-on” style which allows, once the cord has been adjusted, the sandals to be put on and taken off with no additional tying.

They are more comfortable than you imagine they are going to be too… I have now done a couple of short runs with them and, once the initial adjustments regarding the “lacing” have been done, they stay on remarkably well. It is an odd sensation as you run – the sole affords some protection from the ground but the feel of the breeze over your feet makes you realise how much shoes shelter your feet from the world around them. For me, they are perfect to take on holiday somewhere hot – they take up virtually no space in a bag and it means you could get out and run (virtually) barefoot without your feet getting too hot or the soles of your feet roasting on hot tarmac.

The kits are available with either a 4mm sole (the ones that I have) or with a slightly thicker 6mm sole. Normal running shoes are designed to be changed after about 500 miles – Xero Shoes are guaranteed not to wear out for an astonishing 5000 miles which means they should last 10 times longer.And they cost about a quarter of the price of a normal running shoe.

Born Barefoot are also stockists of Vibram Five Fingers (I have been eyeing up a very nice pair of Vibram Spyridon Ls for after I complete the Berlin Marathon and I can start running sensible distances again) and next day delivery on the Vibrams is free.


Vivobarefoot Training Session

Imagine being given a computer and, having no experience, you teach yourself how to work it. You use it as best you can until someone upgrades your software and shows you how to use it. Properly.

This is what I felt like after attending a training session at the Vivobarefoot store in Covent Garden yesterday. Beforehand I wasn’t sure what to expect or what I’d be asked to do. I arrived at the store with my running kit and a bottle of water and was met by Natalia, my trainer for the session, who took me through to a glass roofed room at the rear of the store. We chatted about the type of running I currently do, how long I’ve been running, how far I run and whether I get any injuries, before she asked me to step onto the treadmill so she could film how I run at the moment. I’ve been using “minimal” footwear for a couple of years now so hoped that I’d have good running form, landing beautifully on my forefoot with easy, relaxed strides.

A quick look at the resulting video and I am disappointed – it shows me lumbering along, a kind of controlled stagger and not at all like the fleet-footed image of my running style that I had in my head. I have stiff hips, I lean forward too far and lead with my head… but before I have a chance to despair, I’m quickly told that it can all be fixed.

I’m taken to a pressure sensitive mat to check my stance – to see if I favour one foot more than the other or concentrate all my weight on one part of the foot. I’m then asked to run across the mat so I can see how my feet land and where the weight is distributed.

And so I am shown a series of stretches that I can do for ankles, hips, toes. I am instructed how to squat, properly, with feet flat on the floor and a weighted bar held above my head to ensure correct posture. It’s all quite gentle stuff and my trainer explains the stretches and then subtley corrects me when I do them wrong.

Then it’s back onto the treadmill. I’m asked to jump, with both feet, like I’m skipping and then continue running, take smaller steps, look forward, keep my head up. Then my trainer places a small digital metronome on the arm of the treadmill, it’s emitting a series of fast, tinny bleeps. I am asked to time my paces with the bleeps. It all feels strange…so different to how I usually run and yet… easy. Like gently running on the spot. This too is filmed – it is to be the sequel, the “after” sequence compared to the disaster movie of the “before”.

Before (left) / After (right)

Before (left) / After (right)

I leave the treadmill to watch the footage, side by side with the footage from the start of the session. It’s been less than an hour but Natalia has managed to take my clumsy running style and sculpt it into something neater, tidier and way more efficient. I am pleasantly surprised as I thought it would take far longer to make such a change. Natalia patiently answers the many questions I have and I leave the store feeling positive. I am more aware of how I move but more importantly, aware of how I should move. I’ve learned that a barefoot running technique is more than just buying some new shoes and avoiding a heel strike. Most of all I’ve learned that, with the correct instruction, changing your running style for the better is easier, and more enjoyable, than you think.

I did my training session at the Covent Garden store:

Vivobarefoot Experience Store
64 Neal Street
Covent Garden

t: 02073795959

One to One training sessions are chargeable and need to be booked in advance. However, if you are curious, the store offer free breakfast clinics which happen twice a month and a Running club every Tuesday (also free of charge which anyone can attend – shod or unshod). For more information, contact the store or log on to:


vivobarefoot breatho trail – shoe review

With the onset of training for the Berlin Marathon on the horizon, I’d been giving some thought to my choice of footwear. 26.2 miles is (give or take) twice as far as I’d ever run before and I needed to find a suitable shoe – I’ve been running in “minimalist shoes” for almost 2 years but have always reverted to “proper” running shoes for any race over 10k. And almost always regretted it as the normal shoes would feel clumsy and I’d find myself tiring quickly as I forced myself back into a different running style. I felt that I needed something that was the best of both worlds – a zero drop “barefoot” shoe that looked and behaved more like a traditional running shoe without sacrificing the feel of the ground beneath my feet or forcing me to transition back to normal trainers.

And I may just have found it. Vivobarefoot are a well established brand. They created the “barefoot shoe” back in 2003 so know a little bit about engineering a functional running shoe. There is plenty of detail on their website here and I had been impressed by what I had read and heard so was intrigued to see whether the shoes lived up to expectations.

The shoes did not disappoint. They are comfortable straight from the box, they have a removable insole to soften the blow for those transitioning to a zero-drop shoe for the first time (or to insulate the shoe if running in cold conditions – clever, eh!). The lacing has a system of reinforced material leading from the sole to each lace hole ensuring that when the laces are tightened, it pulls the entire shoe snugly around your feet and not just the area where the laces are. The shoes fit incredibly well, are light and roomy enough around the toes to allow you to splay your toes whilst running, exactly like you would if you were barefoot.

I walked around in them for a day or so until the opportunity arose for me to get out and run in them. Ordinarily, I would take it easy on the first run in any new shoe, but these had felt so good whilst walking around, I went straight out and ran 14 kilometres. They performed exceptionally well. As these are designed as “trail shoes” they have quite an aggressive tread pattern and I was concerned that a) this would diminish the feedback from the ground to my feet and b) that if I ran on tarmac, I would feel the tread pattern through the 3mm puncture resistant sole. In both cases, I was proved wrong –  the sole is flexible and responsive giving plenty of “feel” of the ground beneath your feet and affording a good deal of grip on muddy inclines and grassy banks – something which has always been an issue with my current “barefoot” shoes.

When the weekend came around, I went out for a longer run, taking in 18kms of trail, pavement, gravel, grass, mud and puddles. The shoes were great and I had no rubbing, no blisters, no aches and pains from having to get used to a different running style. I have struggled to find a fault with them – the fact that the laces supplied are a little long and need to be tied in a double bow is really the only criticism I can find.

Add to this that they are very reasonably priced (about the same as a regular decent pair of running shoes and about two-thirds the price of some other “barefoot” brands), look great, feel great, are produced sustainably in ethical factories and can be worn without people pointing and staring at the “barefoot weirdo”. They also have a London based Vivobarefoot Running Club which meets every Tuesday to help people better enjoy “barefoot” running. I was genuinely impressed by these shoes and really glad that I took the risk to try them -I would recommend anyone interested in minimalist running to get out and try a pair too.

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Vision Treadmills at Fitness Superstore