There is no disputing Barefoot Teds abilities but as you’ll know from previous posts I’ve wondered how sustainable an ‘introduction’ to barefoot running in the way Barefoot Ted  promotes would be for people.  Inspired by BFT’s adventures I decided to go to one of his workshops and find out for myself his methods of teaching and knowledge of human movement.

BFT’s approach to teaching is all about FEEL.  He started on a spiritual level describing how the Indian God Hanuman needed to be reminded of his own abilities and related this to us and indeed himself, i.e. every single human being on the planet is an extraordinary product of evolution.  On a Mental level he discussed the nocebo effect of heel cushioning and support that has become conventional wisdom.  On an emotional level he related this to his own journey to barefoot.  It’s a familiar story of running in progressively more technical running shoes, feeling stiffer, working harder and leading to more injuries.  You can view more about this side of his story in the video below.  He covered the psychology of ‘performance’ and how we have turned human movement into more of a pain endurance sport of quantification rather than the joyous light travelling of the earths surface that is a fundamental element of what makes us human.  Yet today it’s common for people to want to hide away and almost detach themselves from the part of our bodies that connects directly with our environment.  He talked of the positive impact that POSE  had on his barefoot epiphany and in particular to the effect POSE had to Barefoot Ken Bobs technique from which he learnt a lot.  However BFT does not prescribe to one technique but rather has been influenced and learnt from many.  I agree with BFT’s belief that correct movement is healing.  For example if you feel a little out of place, instead of seeing a chiropractor just do some natural movement to root cause the issue, restore the natural relationships and realign yourself – One System.

Flat Feet or High Arches?

So BFT helped the participants understand why most people today feel that they CANNOT RUN BAREFOOT and turned this round to show that all human beings absolutely CAN RUN BAREFOOT.  He backed this up with his experience in working with thousands of people.  Now he wants to teach us HOW TO RUN BAREFOOT.

BFT highlighted 4 focus areas, all aligned to a POSE approach:

1.  Quiet Gentle Landing – being quiet ‘internally’ as well as interacting lightly and relating this to a primal need for hunting

2.  Cadence – increasing number of steps per minute to create circular energy rather than plodding

3.  Posture – head over shoulders over hip

4.  Elasticity – showing how an elastic landing position places your feet in the right place under your hip

Although we were in a beautiful grassland setting he insisted on using the hard asphalt surface of the car park for the practical coaching.  BFT talked about how actually in the real natural world there are much more challenging surfaces and in fact the common road is something of a dream like smooth surface for your feet.  This approach was interesting to me and I learnt some new techniques on how to increase clients perceptions of barefoot.  People enjoyed the gradual progression BFT made from walking to running.  I was particularly impressed with BFT’s energy to learn more with his encouragement for me to contribute to the learning for the group helping explain some of the POSE science behind cadence and elasticity.  We also had an interesting discussion around the differences between FiveFingers and Vivo Barefoot shoes together with Matt Wallden.  Based on my work with clients I made the point that FiveFingers are terrific shoes for people with already well integrated toes and strong feet but going straight from weak toes to FiveFingers can cause issues.  I recommend the Vivo Barefoot Aqua shoe as an intermediate step that allows for the ligaments to strengthen more naturally instead of being held in a particular position dictated by the shoe.  BFT’s vision for sustainable, local and customised production of his Huaraches sandals would be a healthy boost to the barefoot boom.

With BFT’s focus on FEEL there was understandably no video analysis, no mention of motor engrams, etc.  For me as an ‘introduction’ the BFT approach is a valuable lesson to folk and works well as an ‘introduction’.  However for a sustainable progression I feel there is a need for a deeper analysis of an individuals technique with a need to intervene in faulty bio-motor patterns that most people have and which are difficult to eliminate.

We discussed why some of the techniques he recommends would work well for people who already have a good bio-motor pattern and good feeling. An example of this is running up stairs.  If you do this with good posture picking up your foot and using gravity to move forward then indeed I believe this is an excellent exercise.  However if someone tries running upstairs with an existing push-off bio-motor pattern then this could further engrain faulty engrams.  The difference being picking up a small percentage of your body weight (your foot) to move forward as BFT does ‘vs’ pushing up your full bodyweight to move forward.  This difference is what allows some people to easily climb stairs while others may move inefficiently ‘pushing off’ and is the reason why many people get out of breath going up stairs.  Efficient evolutionary movement turns VO2 max on it’s head.  Just move right and it all falls into place with much less effort leaving your senses free to enjoy the movement.

In short I love BFT’s ‘FEELING’ approach and hope more people will experience it as a stepping stone to a more joyous life of natural movement.  I look forward to the collaboration opportunities we discussed and wish BFT good luck in the Copenhagen Marathon!  Thanks to the organisers at Primal Lifestyle where you can use coupon code ‘akram552’ and save £5 on FiveFingers or visit my Running Shoes page for more options.

Happy Running

Naeem