Vivo Barefoot Transitioning

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Vivo Barefoot are one of the companies that I recommend as a good starting point for purchasing minimal shoes.  Their YouTube channel offers some great info and exercises for transitioning well to minimal shoes and barefoot adventures.  Below is a playlist for some simple exercises they recommend to help with foot strength and safely moving towards a more minimal shoe.  Click on the button top left on the video to see the full playlist.

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Connecting to Something Bigger…

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I have been struggling over the last few months.  That feeling of something missing, being stuck, being lost and then running around trying to gain some semblance of control.  As is often the way, a little bit of magic comes along and you set off on the next stage of your journey feeling a bit less lost.  This post isn’t really about elaborating further, it was more a way of saving one of the stepping stones that came onto my computer today… a reminder that it is possible to connect with something deeper and more meaningful than any single experience, good or bad, that might be happening in life right now, that there is a way to find your purpose and become something greater.  So this is Oprah and me saving this video somewhere I can return to it over and over again, and the Pharrell Williams clip for a quick ‘hairs on back of neck standing up tear jerking happiness’ boost.

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DIY TOPO Mat

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Being the over-achiever that I am, not only do I run a couple of businesses, instruct Pilates several times a week, I also do glass lampworking, a hobby of mine which I love, but which isn’t particularly movement friendly.  One would find it quite tricky to create a molten glass bead with a huge flamethrower whilst moving around the garage.

Standing still for long periods of time is just as bad as sitting still for long periods of time, perhaps even more so when standing on a cold, hard garage floor.  I needed a solution and heard about the Topo anti-fatigue mat by Ergodriven, but they’re bloody expensive and I couldn’t find one in this country anyway.  Solution, DIY!

Given that I own a Pilates studio, it wasn’t difficult to run off with a few old mats.  I then probably broke the law by pinching some stones from the nearby beach (guilty).  BBE provided the wood – he’s a man, I’m constantly amazed and often scornful at the crap he saves, but always highly impressed when I request something and he immediately pipes up, “I have one of those.”  This has included among other things, a massage table, a small van, a big van and a trailer, scaffold planks for making a low table (next project), various weird tools and apparatus to make or do just about anything, a boat – the list goes on and on.

Step 1 – pile up the mats in the area I intend to work. Check.

Step 2 – put different size and shape stones under different layers of matting to provide texture and variation for tootsies.

Step 3 – make rolled up thingies for stretching calves etc.  I used wood in the centre of mine as I thought the mats would flatten a bit over time, so this just gives them a bit of structure.

The finished article.

I did consider gluing it all together and making it look pretty, but this way, with everything loose, I can kick it about and move it as I see fit, which changes the feel of it under my feet.

CFPete, if you’re reading this, just ignore the fact that I’m stood on a non-flat surface in bare feet with glass and stuff 🙂  I wouldn’t advise anyone else taking this short-cut to healthy and safety hell, I make my own decisions about what I consider appropriate for me and my body.  However, the DIY anti-fatigue mat would work for anyone with a standing work station or who wants to create one, is REALLY cheap (always a bonus), and keeps your feet, ankles and legs happy while you’re standing and can be moved out of the way if you need to sit.

If you can afford one here’s a link to the Ergodrive site for the actual Topo mat. From their website:

TOPO DRIVES HEALTHY DYNAMIC STANDING.

The patent-pending calculated terrain features encourage frequent movement, and are specially designed to engage the blood pumping mechanism of your calves. Add in the cushioning but supportive material, and that means more movement, more blood flow, and a healthier you.

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Move Your DNA

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This weekend was spent in the beautiful Loch Lomond area of Scotland with my Wilson on our first Move Your DNA Workshop as part of our ongoing study to gain the coveted title Restorative Exercise Specialist.  One of the best CPD courses I have ever been on.  Jeannette Loram of Great Strides in Helensburgh was our instructor for the weekend, guiding us on vitamin texture walks, beach picnics and through some serious learning content.  Having spent the last few years following Katy’s work, I was still a bit lost with structuring it and working through it logically.  This weekend has been a godsend and one which I think me and Wilson will repeat ASAP.

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The Squatty Potty

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So as previously mentioned it was my fortieth birthday on 12 March and we decided to have a bit of a do (a do-do to be precise pun).  I’m not big on do-dos to be honest, I’d rather be curled up under a duvet with a book, but BBE (best boyfriend ever) cajoled (bullied), persuaded (threatened) and bribed me into it with promises of lots of cooking (I like doing that), lots of wine (I like drinking that), and an early night (start early finish early, in bed by 9).  He knows me so well.

My Wilson (keeps me sane, as per Castaway, fellow instructor, awesome friend, wonderful person and my life saver on more than one occasion) had been wandering around the studio giggling (more so than usual) and generally far too happy, going as far as to comment that her excitement was due to the birthday present she’d bought me, but which wouldn’t be revealed until my party.

Said party arrives, Wilson arrives, fairly big present arrives… Wilson hopping up and down with excitement hands it over.

Despite being a very grumpy, socially constipated (pun), individual, even I was caught up in her evident delight as she thrust her gift towards me.  Upon removing the wrapping paper, I was just as excited (almost) as she was.  A SQUATTY POTTY.  She knows me so well too.

I had been coveting one for a while, it was on my to-buy list, but being the minimalist that I am, I was still pondering such a purchase. Wilson stopped that procrastination dead in its tracks.  She also halted the slow destruction of the up-turned washing basket (and my colon) that I was using instead, which was slowly losing shape under the weight of my feet as I sat upon the throne.

As you can probably imagine, the arrival of the SQUATTY POTTY was the source of much amusement and piss-taking from my so-called friends.  Notwithstanding, I retained my smug composure, safe in the knowledge of what this small lump of plastic was going to do for my shitting capability.

So there it is, happily installed in my bathroom.  BBE was a bit sceptical until I explained the hows and whys.  He promised to try it.  After an appropriate length of time (I didn’t want him to think I’d been listening outside the door!) I enquired whether he had had the need to test our newest instalment.  Bless him, his little face lit up, “It’s amazing, it comes out so quick.”  I nodded sagely, “Of course it does. That’s what it’s for.  No more blockages and straining.”  Unfortunately for some blokes that might mean you don’t get to spend half an hour (or more) reading the newspaper or whatever it is you do in there… but that’s a small price to pay for the health of your colon, right?

You can purchase your very own poo enhancer here http://www.squattypotty.co.uk/

And watch the educational video below for the whys and wherefores

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Shoe Amnesty

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I very much doubt that I am the only woman ever to declare an endless love affair with SHOES.  Shoes, boots, sandals… pointy toed, skyscraper heel, the sort of thing that BBE describes as ‘car to bar’ shoes – only able to get me the short distance from the taxi inside the nearest bar and absolutely no further.

I remember being about 12 years old, choosing my own shoes for school.  I was in charity shop mode at that point and found the perfect pair. Heeled, of course, very very pointy, lace up – like something Victorian I suppose, with the little holes in a pattern on the toes – almost witch-like (think Wizard of Oz).  Anyway, I fell in love with them, and it really didn’t matter that they were a size too small, the pain was worth the pleasure of seeing my feet transformed into dainty, pointy beautiful appendages, with slim ankles and never-ending legs.

So I definitely fell prey to the NEEDING of high-heeled, pointy shoes to look a certain way, to give me longer legs and a slimmer silhouette.  They also looked really good with the type of clothing I wanted to wear, which tended then to be tighter and more fitted.  As I got older I moved towards more comfortable clothing, but could still be found in heeled shoes.  As a side note we are all (men included) absolutely convinced that we NEED trainers of a certain type for our feet and we’ve certainly been bamboozled by the marketing on that front, but for ladies and their daily shoes, we’ve been fed a stereotypical image of women in a very specific type of shoe.  This is not a feminist blog though, it’s a movement blog, and wearing positive heeled shoes is a recipe for movement disaster.

Which is why I finally took the heart stopping, jaw dropping, gut wrenching step of throwing out all of my positively heeled shoes….

Ahem!… all except one pair of New Rock boots, which I keep simply to look at as I physically cannot get my foot in them anymore.

Why, would I do such a thing?  I promised myself that if I managed to go a whole year without wearing a positively heeled shoe, then I would (as the minimalist I am) turf the lot out.  I did it. A whole year with people looking at me strangely when I was in bare feet wandering about, and even more strangely when I was in my Vibrams.  I spent a year working on my feet, improving their strength and flexibility (an ongoing battle), spreading my toes and stretching the muscles in and around the foot.  When I tried a pair of previously slightly large boots on at the end of that year, I found that I couldn’t get my foot in – it had spread, widened and would no longer conform to what wasn’t even a particularly narrow toebox.  Most people would probably want to cry at such a widening of their forefoot, I however saw it as a victory, a sign that my exercises, diligence and the occasional stubbed toe and stone in my heel were absolutely worth it.

So here’s a tiny fraction of what I threw out (left/top) and here’s my current shoe collection (right/bottom).

My personal journey from heels to minimal shoes has been a bit of a disaster if I’m honest.  When I started (approximately five years ago) I hadn’t a clue about transitioning from a ‘normal’ shoe to a minimal/barefoot lifestyle.  I just cracked on with it and gave myself shin splints and other issues.  It then took me another couple of years to really get properly clued up and start to work on the mobility and strength of my feet as well as reducing the structure of my shoes.  So now all my shoes are zero drop (no difference in height from heel to toe), minimally soled (approx 3mm, less if I can find it), with a wide toebox (or toes like my Vibrams) which allow the toes to move, spread and flex like they’re supposed to.  I have a pair of Altra zero drop cushioned shoes which I use for all my concrete (non-natural terrain) walking in an effort to reduce the impact.

Why did I bother?  I used to have shin splints, knee pain, heel pain, collapsed arches, a right big toe joint that’s damaged and doesn’t move well and was incredibly painful, constantly cold feet, cramp in my feet and calves, immobile toes, toes that were hooked over each other, with my big toes starting to point towards the little toes, and intense pain on walking barefoot on non-smooth surfaces.

The benefits.  Now my feet are no longer cold (even when it is fairly cold temperature wise my feet don’t feel like blocks of ice), I no longer get cramp, my big toe joint is still damaged but it doesn’t cause me as much pain and I’m hoping to avoid surgery now.  My toes actually move, spread, and I’ve reversed the trend of the big toe pointing across which ultimately would have been a bunion.  My feet are still fairly flat, but I’m working on it, and they’re still a bit sensitive when they’re out and about naked on stones and stuff, but they’re a lot tougher than they were.  The major benefit however is being able to dance – and when I mean dance I mean DAAAAAAAAANCE, flinging myself around like an idiot and making a complete tit of myself on the dance floor.  Not just that I can dance without pain in my feet, but I can do so for hours and hours and hours.  It’s like a whole new lease of life.  No longer am I mincing about trying to hide my grimace of agony, or trying to dodge vomit, glass and the bouncer who’s trying to chuck me out for refusing to put my ‘foot coffins’ back on.

My feet as I started to transition… notice how my toes are still quite close together and my big toes have a definite lean towards the others.

Here’s my feet now… Notice the better spread of the toes and my big toes are a lot straighter.  Still some work to do, but a definite improvement.  There’s even the suggestion of an arch in the shadow and hollow between the feet.

I have forgiven myself for the years of abuse.  I’ve learned to embrace my feet, to love them for the amazing structures and feats of engineering that they are, and with that love comes respect and a desire to look after them as they’re the base of support that I’m going to need if I want to keep the rest of my body moving well into old age.

Barefoot Walking on Natural Terrain

  

Whilst doing some work researching shoes and especially women’s attachment to them, I found an interesting blog post on the subject of forgiveness and acceptance in relation to feminism and shoes.  I include this slightly more feminist, serious viewpoint here because I have felt this way about shoes, clothing and my place in the world in the past and I’ve had to search for my own internal forgiveness and find the courage to step outside the norm and be brave for the sake of my movement despite the resistance of others (see the sofa post).

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to programme myself as a good consumer.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to create a belief within and as me that I need to have certain items of clothing and shoes to fit in and be desired or attractive in this reality.

I forgive myself that I have allowed myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to become excited within and as me when I was given my very first pair of heels, or dressing up at around 6. 

I forgive myself that I accepted and allowed myself to cripple my feet, to the point that I am in absolute agony and can’t walk any longer for the sake of fashion and sexy footwear.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to get a kind of ‘kick’ out of high heels in that they accentuate my legs and make me taller.  Thus I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to create a belief within and as me that I will be taken more seriously and if I am taller than others and within this I see that I have some authority over them because I am towering above them, or am the same height as most men.

Thus I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to become a ‘power dresser’ because I am wearing heels and I am almost six foot.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to derive pleasure from owning a pair of high heels and then trying to find a nice outfit to wear with them and within this place so much attention on what I was going to look like that I have missed the point of the occasion and spent so much time in my mind planning my outfit, so that I will attract attention and ‘feel’ good about myself.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to pile tissues and plasters into my shoes to stop them rubbing my feet, and to continue to wear the shoes all along knowing that they are going to hurt me.  Thus within this I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to literally fear wearing a certain pair of shoes because I have known that after an hour I will be in pain and wish I hadn’t worn them, but yet I allow myself to tell myself that it doesn’t matter because they will look great.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to put fashion first – over and above my own welfare and human physical body.  I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to judge myself as stupid for falling hook, line and sinker into the pre-programmed design of womanhood, and within this I have told myself off and felt regretful that I didn’t consider my feet first…

http://7yearjourneytolifekims.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/day-357-all-girls-love-shoes-dont-they.html

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