Thursday, 19 August 2010

Barefoot to the Gianna Pass

Well as Baldrick is  carving out a new set of pipes (probably from some old boxes bits of string and wire) the weekly jaunt was in the excellent company of Mrs. Baldrick. We went up to the Gianna Pass which is a lovely trip of about 10 kilometers there and back and 756m height gain.There were a few wild campers on the river plain before starting to climb up and there was such an air of peace that I would have loved to sneeze in it. The first part of the climb is in woodland. There’s something really seething about wending your way up through open larch woods early in the morning and it makes the usually hard initial slog very pleasant.. Fortunately  climbing and eastern slope there was no sun until we were well under way but even when it came summer’s back has obviously been broken and it wasn’t that hot. The wind was pretty much constant too.It’s a popular trip during the summer and in fact we met quite a few people, Brits, New Zealanders, Belgians, French and Italians of course all enjoying the excellent weather and the most spectacular views. Though, as usual, everyone is very friendly and chatty I’ll be happy when August comes to an end and I get the mountains back to myself again.I did 375 m in height and about 4 km barefoot.  It was mostly large grain scree which meant added concentration. Crossing a boulder field I stood on a seemingly solid rock which rolled over spiking my heel so my first barefoot accident. I was pleasantly surprised that the only problem I had was with the cold. The ground was freezing until the sun got on it. This morning my feet are a bit sore and like last time I’ll be giving barefoot a rest for a couple of days. People are still interested and curious but not at all critical which I’m grateful for. I had my photo taken of my feet by a party of Belgians though, but everyone smiling nicely so no real problem there but it was still a bit embarrassing. Next August I might have to work out some form of covering; barefoot underneath covered on the top sort of thing so people  don’t notice. At the moment it’s a novelty but knowing me it’ll soon start to annoy me. Mind you after the end of august there won’t be anyone to see anyway.[Image]I’ve started to notice that starting out in shoes I have very little pain but after 5 minutes with no shoes I have no pain at all. The pain comes putting my shoes back on which I did coming down as the stones were too sharp to brake on safely. Literally 3 minutes after my shoes go on, my ankle starts hurting. Next time I’m going to go in boots and see if it’s perhaps just this pair of shoes that causes the ankle problem . Fascitis doesn’t seem to be that painfull today, probably covered by the general soreness of the foot. I get the feeling that the soreness is coming from the fact that the foot is not used to moving, a bit like how your muscles hurt after a day hefting a chain-saw about

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Barefoot Progress Report

Sunday the 8th  of August to Friday the 13th of August. After my mountain walk my feet were a little sore on the soles so this week I thought it wise to take things quietly and I reduced gravel walking to a measly 500 paces a day and missed out two days completely. I have found that using the 4x4’ square of deep gravel at the bottom of the steps going up to the balcony is more effective than patchy gravel in the courtyard so I pace on that instead. It’s more boring but worth it and I don’t burn my feet on the hot gravel. I’m still going barefoot all the time though. I can now walk across the gravel in the courtyard with no problem. It takes a couple of paces for my feet to get used to it but once they are relaxed (the most vital thing of all) I have no problem and stones that last week would have caused pain I hardly notice now. I took the kids out for a walk to see the cows, so a couple of kilometers along the gravel road, and down the tarmac and found that rough tarmac is a pretty good toughening medium. As from today, I’m going back to 1500-2000 paces a day in preparation for my next long hike and if I can find a good tarmac hill to climb away from prying eyes I’ll try that.I seemed to have gained much more from the hike to the Dar Moine Pass than gravel pounding. Probably because of the different surfaces and inclines. The feet were massaged much more on the irregular terrain. For a couple of days after the hike my foot stiffened up considerably. Though uncomfortable it was no worse than when I pounded six hours of gravel road in boots last year. I’m not actually doing any stretching exercises either as I wanted to wait until this week before I start them which meant that all the new tension brought about by this new freedom and mobility stayed in the foot. Apart from a bit of respite when I first started with new orthotics, today, (Saturday) was the first time in  well over two years that I woke up to no pain at all from my fascitis and no pain at all in my ankle. What I do have though is itchy feet right under the  pad behind my toes. Impossible to scratch but grinding my foot into gravel giveth wondrous relief. I think this might be a sign of the soles drying out so I’m going back to massaging cream in which I started last week but gave up on out of laziness. I thought of asking Baldrick to make me up some of the special cream he uses for the leather on his pipes (he’s an Uillean  pipemaker).which I seem to remember was a mix of beeswax and olive oil. BALDERS!!! HELO-OOOO! I tried to splay my toes today to see how this compares to right at the start and the result is quite startling. The toes on the left foot which I could hardly move at all are getting more flexible and I can actually move my little toe separately which I’ve not been able to do since I was  child. The other toes I can splay a little more than before but the underlying movement is there; the muscles seem to be developing and I sort of ‘feel’ like I could move them more even if I can’t  in reality. As an aside, I got a visit from Steph last week. She’s doing the same with her horse’s feet as I am with mine and going without shoes.  She’s getting more stick than I am though because that’s seriously weird. I mean, horses with no shoes, indeed!!. Chatting over the processes and results she’s experiencing with her horse there’s quite a lot of similarity especially regarding gait and posture and the care one takes when walking to my own experiences to date. The problem in the minds of the people seems to be more about what seems to be taken as an affront to accepted, inherited and unquestioned procedures or one of simply challenging orthodoxy rather than any knowledge or experience on the subject a bit like I’m experiencing. I also found out that two friends who I haven’t seen for a while (both hill farmers) have barefoot as their normal condition. This might actually get me off my bum and up to visit them

Sunday, 8 August 2010

First Serious Barefoot Hike

I have now done 12 days of foot toughening. So today I walked from the Barbara refuge (1,750m) to the Dar Moine pass (2,700m) for a total distance up and down of  11.5 km, 7.5 km of this and 650 m height difference barefoot.I would have walked right up starting from the refuge but that’s cow country and the suspected presence of bits of metal and glass and other nasties put me off somewhat. So I waited until I got well into the natural. It was freezing cold and my feet were soon numbish with cold but not so uncomfortable that I had to put my shoes back on. Walking across the first stream, the water actually felt warmer than the ground. It will sound like a bit of an exaggeration after only 10 days of foot toughening but the walk was really comfortable. No pain on the soles, no pain in the ankles (unusual) no pain from my fascitis either. It only took a few hundred meters for my feet to realize where they were and then they were all bouncy and happy like a dog with a stick. The further I went the better they felt. [Image]The changes in temperature and soil types are amazing to feel on your feet. Maybe that’s why kids like going barefoot so much. I only stubbed my toe twice each time simply because, not used to watching every step, I looked around me. The things you need for this lark at my stage of development are total concentration, relaxation (if you tense up it hurts and you start to stagger) and a slow pace. Until almost the top the going was just like walking in tennis shoes. The last part was on mica and needle sharp. The worst was some really soft mica earth with mica slices in. No cuts or punctures though and I think that with another few weeks of toughening would take away the pricking sensation completely. I examined my soles when I got back and no cuts, grazes or punctures. Amazing. I stopped barefooting though after 7.5 km because going down hill is of course harder than going up as you have to brake. My soles were beginning to hurt a bit which broke concentration and tensed me up so I thought it wise to revert to shoes.[Image]Going up the only pain was in my middle toe on my left foot. I think this was because of the splaying effect. In fact when I got to the top I tried to splay my feet and found that from no splay at all on the left foot I could quite happily have slid a pound coin between them.The pain started in general when I put my shoes back on. Maybe because I overdid it barefoot (although it didn’t feel like it)  but my ankle, knee and hip started playing up.I slipped and stumbled far more in shoes simply because I wasn’t concentrating on placing my feet.Near the top there is a stream delta about an inch deep in water and walking through this  had my feet tingling beautifully. A new sensation for me a bit like if somebody had taped marshmallows to your soles. In fact the whole walk was rainbow of new sensations.This evening my feet are a bit sore, no way could I walk on gravel now but I gave the tootsies a wash and massaged some cream in and hopefully tomorrow they’re back to normal. There is a lake near the top  which has to be the neatest place for a wild camp - 2,650m, three and a half hours away from anything, perfect views over hundreds of miles, water on tap, shelter from the wind if necessary. Perfect. I spent a good hour and a half there hunting round for signs of prehistory but didn’t find any signs of anything not even modern except the path of course and two rusty cans  exposed as the lake dries up. I could have been in any moment in time I suppose. It was a really odd sensation. When the wind dropped, total silence, totally still,  no movement at all, totally alone even the dog stretched out and basked, sleeping in the sun wasn’t making a noise. [Image]But it was Saturday in the first week in august and predictably there were quite a lot of late starters who began to arrive in dribs and drabs. So after spending 2 hours between the top and the lake in total solitude I headed off down. I’d been told to expect comments when going barefoot but surprisingly nobody had anything negative to say. Curiosity was the main thing. A couple in clunky, leather 4-season walking boots, check shirts and…. wait for it…. red socks were the most surprised but ended up saying that had they been 10 years younger they might have tried too. This gives me hope so perhaps I don’t need to be so furtive about it in the future. The first few people I saw I stood to the side of the track to let them pass and hid my feet in the long grass.This morning feet seem perfectly OK if a little stiff which is only to be expected

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Barefoot diary

So I don't bore the pants of everyone I thought I post a weekly diary rather than a daily one about my barefoot fascitis cure (says he hopefully) so that you can skip the whole lot in one go.
Tuesday 27th July
 took shoes off all day and did a couple of times up and down the courtyard on the gravel and that was about all I could manage. Painful to say the least. More than pain though it was more the sensitivity of my feet that I found uncomfortable. I thought, being an experimental animal, that I would film my progress. So I did the first sequence today. I’ll do others every few days or if I feel there has been some progress. Just so I can keep an accurate record I thought I count my paces. 
Wednesday 28th July did 500 paces. The same as yesterday and 500 at one go was about all I could have managed. 
Thursday 29th july 500 paces 
Friday 30th july 1000 paces. After a thousand paces my soles felt pleasantly numb. Like someone had  stuck a layer of something over them. On thick gravel it’s not uncomfortable but on patchy gravel it hurts.
Saturday 31st  july  1000 paces
Sunday 1st august 1000 paces + trip to bridge. I did two lots of 500 and felt so comfortable that I went down to the bridge and back again on mostly rough gravel sharp stones of all sizes. Not that comfortable going down but coming up hill was nice.
Monday 2nd august 1500 paces. I measured the width and length of my feet and filmed myself trying, vainbly, to wiggle my toes. The right foot is more flexible than the left if flexible is a word I can use in reference to my feet. I can’t wobble any of my toes individually except the big toes. It will be interesting to see if barefooting makes any difference to toe flexibility. Logically it should. 
Tuesday 3rd august 1500 paces before lunch. Only three stones that hurt a bit otherwise quite a comfortable walk. At the moment if I sit still for a long time my fascitis foot stiffens up much more than with shoes but, contrasting this once I start walking out on the gravel   have no pain at all. Zilch. Which is encouraging. This morning though I did have some trouble with my left knee but maybe this was due to kneeling down on cold wet ground at work (I’m underpinning a cow byre wall at the moment). As I write my soles are buzzing slightly which is unusual and a lovely sensation. I have read a couple of times of the analogy between taking your shoes off and taking earmuffs off. You hear the sound the ground is making really loudly. Well today the sensation is a foot verson of that ringbuzzing you get in your ears after a rock concert. I’d really like to get up into the mountains to vary the terrain and extend the time a bit but the thunder cloud build-up meant me postponing it till a future date. Instead I went up to our spring water-pipe  which is about  a 2000 pace round trip on gravel and loose stones and chippings. Not really any problems to speak of which surprises me after such a short time.When I got back I could feel my heel though.Apart from the barefoot training thingy I haven’t had shoes on since last Tuesday. I put them on today when  I went to get sand from the builder’s merchants and it’s quite incredible how soft they felt. Almost worth going barefoot for a while just to enjoy the sensation of shoes..I don’t know if this is just coincidence or not but I can almost touch my toes. I haven’t been able to do this for years and I haven’t done any exercise at all to make this possible .The whole leg feels less tense. If it’s not raining tomorrow I’m going up my favourite mountain barefoot. Well,  as far as possible  anyway without doing any damage