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RHR: Focus on Your Feet to Live Pain Free and Be a Better Athlete, with Graham Tuttle

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In this episode of Revolution Health Radio, strength and conditioning coach Graham Tuttle, aka the Barefoot Sprinter, joins Chris to discuss how our feet lay the groundwork for our health and athletic performance, why traditional shoes are bad for us, and how we can go barefoot to correct movement dysfunction and relieve our ailments.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Why feet matter for health, performance, and coordination
  • How your shoes impact your feet
  • Finding a balance between barefoot life and being shod
  • Fascia and how the entire body flows together as one unit
  • Running movement and mechanics

Show notes:

Hey, everybody, Chris Kresser here. Welcome to another episode of Revolution Health Radio. Most of us go our entire lives without thinking much about our feet. But as we’ll discuss in this show, that’s a huge mistake because our feet are the platform that supports our entire body, sometimes six feet plus and 250 pounds plus [of it]. Yet we have rarely developed the same sense of awareness and articulation in our feet and our toes that we have with our hands, for example. And while we don’t need that same level to be able to move in a healthy and functional way, we do need more, often, than we have. That’s what I’m going to talk about today with Graham Tuttle.

He’s a strength and conditioning coach [who] merges physical therapy with performance to help people get out of pain and be able to move better. Graham is known for many of his programs. The most popular is called Ready To Run. It’s a 28-day program to rebuild [your] feet, ankles, and lower legs for pain-free running and movement. I’ve been aware of his work for some time, and I know many people who absolutely swear by it. [They’ve] developed various injuries or lack of mobility throughout their life, either from being too sedentary or being too active in the wrong ways, and they’ve used his programs to recover their movement and get out of pain. This was a fascinating conversation. It’s something that’s of interest to me. I’m really passionate about the body and all the different ways that it works. As you may know, my wife is a Feldenkrais practitioner, so I pay a lot of attention to the neurology of movement and neuroplasticity and how that informs body awareness and movement. I think this will be a really interesting conversation for you if you’re also interested in these topics. I certainly learned a lot, [and] I hope you will, too. Let’s dive in.

Chris Kresser:  Graham, welcome to the show. It’s a pleasure to have you on.

Graham Tuttle:  It’s a pleasure to be had. Thank you for taking the opportunity to let me ramble a little bit.

Chris Kresser:  You have a bit of a unique story in that, growing up, you were not an athlete. You don’t have this history of, when you were five years old, you were crushing it in this or that. It came later for you. Tell us a little bit about that.

Graham Tuttle:  If there’s anything about my life that I think is of merit to describe to other people, it’s the idea that, for most people, the idea of athleticism didn’t come that naturally. I think that’s probably something that, ancestrally, we would have had a little bit more of a natural environment to develop that. I grew up with very poor eyesight. What’s your prescription of your glasses, by the way? Are you nearsighted [or] farsighted?

Chris Kresser:  These are readers that also have blue light filtering that I use when I’m close to the computer screen, like I am now.

Graham Tuttle:  Makes sense. For me, growing up with glasses, you don’t develop depth perception. Basically, I have very poor eyesight. I wear contacts now, but if you could imagine taking your hand to the side of your glasses and not being able to see clearly to the side, your brain doesn’t develop the neuromuscular appropriate receptive feedback of your surroundings. So things that move really [quickly] throw me off. I had all the desire to be athletic, to be able to run and jump and play and do this stuff. But I didn’t have the physical skill set or the capacity or the mental skill. So [the] process of backing into that was learning how to eat well, learning how to move, [how to] take care of myself, [and] kind of undo this stuff. It’s an interesting idea, [that] I think as humans, we’re meant to be in inertia. We are in motion [and] moving in a direction. And without a direction, we’ll end up going somewhere.

For me, for example, I was just eating whatever was put in front of me [and] doing whatever the meatheads in the gym were lifting, in terms of working out. I needed physical activity to go and move toward. But without any type of tangible skill or structure around that, I ended up in a place where I was in pain. A lot of joints hurt, my [muscles hurt], my fascia was stiff, and I was [a] very bound up person. I think it’s a cost of our modern society. Whereas if we were in a tribe where we sat on the ground and moved around all day, that is the structure. The formless existence we lived in would have been some form of a guide for our body to move. But when you’re sitting in 90 degree chairs, and you’re looking at computer screens, and you don’t have guidance, it’s [not there].

Ultimately, I backed into that stuff, and it’s been a process of learning how to have a body that can move, joints that are healthy, skin, hair, nails, organs, [and] brain function that works for me, so that I can go practice and play sports because that’s what I want to do—play sports and have fun and run.

Chris Kresser:  Right. That’s worth highlighting. There’s often a difference between the [type] of movement that somebody might do in the gym or [in a] sport, and what we call functional movement, which is how you inhabit your body with ease and power and grace. I think our ancestors naturally inherited and developed that ability, just by the nature of the way they lived. You’re squatting in a circle rather than sitting in a chair, and you’re moving around a lot, you’re moving on ground that is not perfectly level like a paved sidewalk, and you’re not wearing shoes that have a lift on the heel and a big, thick sole.

I know this is a major focus for you. It’s probably a good segue. We’re talking about the differences between our ancestral environment, in particular with our feet and the ground that we walk on. You talk a lot about the importance of the feet in movement, which not a lot of people focus on. How did that become something that was important for you in your work?

Graham Tuttle:  First, I think it’s valuable because I think we do tend to fetishize or idealize the ancestral lifestyle. “It’s all amazing. Everything’s perfect.” You obviously have done a tremendous amount of research and study. You’re an expert in the world of nutrition. I’m sure you get people [who] talk about the ancestral Paleo diet, and they have this idea that they’re walking around eating ribeye steaks and stuff like that. Things aren’t like that. Food wasn’t as plentiful. Life was very hard. We, as humans, have a very ingrained proclivity toward laziness. And I think that’s well merited. [If] you look at these ancestral tribes like the Hadza, what we see of them that are left now [is that] they’re sitting around. They [don’t] do that much; they don’t do a lot of work. So it’s interesting because a lot of people [today] are addicts for exercise combined with this weird lifestyle. Keep in mind that people struggle today because we still have that proclivity for [wanting] to take the easy way out and use technology [and] be lazy, but also now have access to all the basic activities of daily life.

To answer your question in terms of shoes and feet, what do you do for exercise? Are you a runner? Do you lift weights? What does your life look like?

Chris Kresser:  I do a lot. It depends on the season. Right now, it’s mostly mountain biking and hiking, and then some lifting and strength training on the off days where I’m not mountain biking. And I ski about 100 days in the winter. That could be downhill skiing, or it could also be backcountry skiing, where you’re skiing uphill and then skiing downhill.

Graham Tuttle:  How do you ski uphill? Do you have to lean into the handles and push off? Because I never understood that. I thought skiing was always just a gravity thing.

Chris Kresser:  Alpine touring is what it’s called. You have skins on the bottom of your skis that create grip on the snow, and then your bindings are different such that your heel will come up like on a cross-country ski. So you are moving forward, your heels are coming up as your ski slides forward, then because you have a skin on your ski, it grips, and as your next leg comes forward, you pull. You’re basically pulling yourself up the hill.

Graham Tuttle:  Do you notice a different set of muscles that you’re using when you’re wearing shoes that keep your heel flat on the ski versus that can lift up? Do you feel tired or fatigued when you’re doing it in different areas?

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, it’s definitely different. Different muscles are working in downhill versus uphill skiing.

Graham Tuttle:  Okay. And what shoes do you wear when you’re lifting and strength training?

Chris Kresser:  Usually, I wear a Vivobarefoot, and they’re pretty thin soles.

Graham Tuttle:  Okay, and then for hiking, what are you wearing?

Chris Kresser:  It depends on the trail. I generally try to wear a lower sole, more minimalist footwear, but there are some trails here in Utah that are extremely rocky. In those cases, especially if I’m carrying a pack and backpacking, I’ll wear La Sportiva lightweight trail runner type of shoes. I’m not wearing big hiking boots at any point. But it’s a spectrum.

Graham Tuttle:  Have you ever had any ankle sprains, foot pain, plantar fasciitis, [or] turf toe? None of those things?

Chris Kresser:  Not as an adult. I was a basketball player in high school, and I definitely rolled plenty of ankles then. But since then, I haven’t had any injuries like that.

Graham Tuttle:  Well, good. I guess the other question I have, and it’s appropriate for the answer to the original question, [is] when did you start to transition into more minimalist [shoes]? Understanding [that] a flat sole [is] not the norm for most footwear, especially hiking.

Chris Kresser:  Probably eight or 10 years ago, I would say.

Graham Tuttle:  What was the motivation to change that?

Chris Kresser:  I grew up as a surfer and not wearing shoes for most of my life on the beach. Running on the beach barefoot [on] the soft sand or on the hard sand, and [I also] did martial arts, and that was always barefoot. [I] just was more comfortable without big heavy shoes. Then around 15 years ago, I met Mark Sisson, and he was big into the whole Vibram FiveFingers thing, which I never got into myself. But I was exposed to that idea and started experimenting a little bit. I was never dogmatic about it, and I didn’t ever wear those particular shoes. But it was like, “Let’s look at it like an experiment. How’s it going to feel? What’s going to be different? When do I like having more of a sole? When do I like not having a sole? When do I like being completely barefoot?” I worked out something that I’m comfortable with now. And like I said, it’s a range depending on what the activity is and what feels best.

Graham Tuttle:  The FiveFingers are like my daily drivers, so to speak. I love thinking about your shoes like your car. What is it [about those]? That it just looked too weird [and you were] like, “I’m cooler than that”?

Chris Kresser:  I’m one of those people where my second toe is significantly longer than my first toe, so I can’t wear them. It’s super uncomfortable. It bends that second toe. They haven’t made one for the 3 percent of the population that has that issue.

Graham Tuttle:  Does that cause you problems with other shoes? Do you have to size up or do you just bump that toe up?

Chris Kresser:  [With] my La Sportiva backpacking trekking shoes, I didn’t size up because [it] caused other problems. I just suffer a little bit when I go backpacking. I have a sore toe at the end of the day.

Graham Tuttle:  Ultimately, that’s a perfect case study. There [are] two parts of the shoe dialogue. One of which is [that] we know cognitively that our ancestors, in some form, [existed] for millions of years without shoes. The Tarahumara tribe are an example of people [who] are in very harsh, hot places [like] a desert, [and] they have bare minimum foot protection, but they looked at the shoe as [a] form of foot protection. It’s cumbersome to wear a shoe that wraps around your foot. Because, as you say, our feet are kind of weird. There are different size toes, different widths, different heights, different lengths. Not to mention, it’s very hard to have a glove for your hand that fits [incorrectly]. If you do manual labor, you know there’s a difference between an oven mitt versus a big, blocky glove versus one that’s tight.

You think about the technology, whether it’s nylon or plastic or rubber, that has to be created in order to have something that actually gets function. For most of human history, shoes have been, “Okay, I’ve got this big rubber cloth thing that I wrap around my foot for protection from the cold, from the heat, or from pressure [and] impact.” But most of the time, kids don’t like wearing shoes. They want to kick them off and run around. Especially for you, being a beach bum going around surfing. By the way, I’ve got to give you props for surfing. I spent about three hours in the ocean trying to sit on a board. No one even tells you this about surfing. I get out there and, first off, the waves look so small when you’re walking out, and you get out there [and] oh my God, they’re like [a] tsunami, five feet in the air. No one tells you that it’s [so] hard to sit on the board. It’s the requisite [of] even being able to go [surfing]. I can’t even sit on the board.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, standing up is the easy part. It’s true. Sitting on the board, and catching the wave is the next hardest part. Standing up is the easy part, for sure.

Graham Tuttle:  I spent three hours over the span of two days and, of that, I got maybe 25 or 30 chances to even try it. It’s so hard to learn the skill because I can’t even get in the door. I can’t get in the door to try the skill because every time a wave comes, I’m too late [or] too soon. Too soon is always rough because then you get nailed. So props to you for that. When you grow up a beach bum and you’re playing and running around and doing stuff, you just learn to use your feet. So I would not be surprised if you had some inherent capacity to move your toes and wiggle [them] from years of doing it. Just like riding a bike or moving your hands. We take for granted that we can make shapes with our hands and fingers. Well, that’s what our feet can do, [too]. But when we incapacitate them and put them in a cast, we lose that.

We know that our feet have the capacity to do this stuff, but we also know that humans are designed to create technology that makes our lives easier. [The problem arises] when we forget that we have the capacity and we only rely on the technology. You’ve probably seen this [in] people [who] over supplement and then [focus only on] what pills [they] should take [instead of eating] real food. [There’s no discussion around] water, sunlight, and sleep. Those are the base nutrients our body needs, and people want to just supplement [instead]. They just want to go to the technology. They want to get the greens mix. [Technology] can be good, but ultimately, we are animals that evolved in an environment, and when we lose that environment, we lose the function.

I think there are two parts to this. One of which is [that] people have been conveniently led to think that the feet are weak and fragile. [The year] 1972 is when Nike created the Quartet. Bill Bowerman, who was a track coach at Oregon, has this idea that you could attach fabric over  the sole. It’s polyethene, [ethylene-vinyl acetate], ethylene polyacetate, something like that. Some fancy word. I’m just a personal trainer, so I don’t know these fancy science words. But they figured that stuff out and put it together, and he [started] selling these very thinnish foam-soled shoes out of the back of his car. This is right after he [went] down to New Zealand and [met] Coach Lydiard, who [was] the Olympic track coach in New Zealand and had come up with [the] idea of jogging. Jogging was created in 1967, and Bill Bowerman came back, wrote a book about it, and it took over the popular interface. Farrah Fawcett’s running, it’s all over, [and] people start picking up jogging because [it’s] supposed to be this bridge between walking and running. [When you’re] walking, you have one foot in contact with the ground at all times. It’s stance phase, meaning I’m balancing on one foot and I shift over. I’m always touching the ground. Anything that moves past that is jumping. So [with running or jogging], I’m basically hopping. Even at a low pace, I’m jumping from foot to foot.

You can visualize this. If you were to jump rope, there is no height at which you would jump rope that you would want to land on your heels. Even if it’s a baby hop, it’s very uncomfortable and it’s also inefficient. So they had this idea of this race-walk pace, and it’s meant to be done on your heels. Conveniently, Bill Bowerman says, “Well, this is really uncomfortable to do.” So he comes back and has pads under the shoe. Then it starts to take off. Jogging takes off, [and] you get 25 million Americans in the ‘70s start to take up running because, whether you call it seed oils, whether you call it technological advantage, whether you call it just excess food, whatever it is, we started to have these metabolic diseases cropping up in the ‘50s, ‘60s, [and] ‘70s. So somewhere around the ‘60s [and] ‘70s, people [were] like, “[We’ve] got to do something. We can’t just sit around. We need to add in activity.” Before that, fitness and exercise wasn’t part of the mainstream dialogue. So you start to see, “What can we do?” Well, there are no gym memberships on every corner like there are now, and people [thought] that lifting weights [was] weird [and] it was for the circus freaks [and] the people going into [the] strongman competition. Lifting weights [was] not [seen as] healthy. Doctors were still telling people to smoke cigarettes at this time, right?

Chris Kresser:  Right.

Graham Tuttle:  So, people [were] like, “Well, what can I do? Let me go for a walk. I’m going to try jogging. Did you hear about Craig? He’s tried jogging. [Do] you want to try it?” And we [went] out and [jogged]. It’s funny to us to think about it now, but it became [the] new thing, [and] everyone [wanted] to go and do it. But when you get people [who] have had the benefit of technology for 20 [or] 30 years, [and] they’re wearing shoes a little bit, but they’ve been sitting around, we have desks and people are more sedentary than they were in any previous point in history, [and] they’re not prepped for [it]. They’re not ready for that. What do you expect? They started to get injured. Shin splints, plantar fasciitis, the little aches and pains that crop up. And you see in response to this, it’s like [when] I sell you a drug, you get addicted to it. You suffer in actuality, so I sell you more of the drug. “Oh, we’re going to fix it with the next thing.” Literally drugs, like heroin and stuff like that. There’s this propagating thing where people sell you a shoe and tell you to go run on your heels. It causes pain, [and] I tell you, “You need a bigger shoe, you overpronate, you have a collapsed arch, you have a bunion.” [They] give you all these diagnoses, and they give you more products that ultimately are Band-Aids.

Our entire interface with shoes, speaking as a modern person, is the last 50 years where the shoe was [initially] something that looked like a foot [and] that became this massive, swollen, engorged thing like a Hoka, that is two inches off the ground, curved toe, curved heel, [and] comes to a point on each end like it’s like a boat. It’s like an elf met a pillow. And that’s what we’ve been told is footwear. [We’ve] also [been told that] your feet are weak. They’re incapable. They need support. What’s been conveniently lost is that your feet are the support.

If you want to lift weights and your grip is weak, I wouldn’t tell you to go wear straps or just say, “Well, your grip’s weak; it is what it is.” I would tell you to go work on your grip. How do you work on your grip? You go hang. You hold stuff. You use your hands. You embrace the burning of muscle engagement. You use your fingers [and] you get more coordination and dexterity. Yet, we don’t think about the feet. They’re the same, anatomically speaking. They’re obviously slightly different, but there [are] 26 bones in each foot [and] 27 bones in the hand. They have their phalanges, which are the little bones that make up the bendable components of the digits. You got your metatarsals in your feet, and [the] metacarpals are the long bones that make up the meat of the hand. You’ve got your carpals at the base of [the] palm of your hand, and your tarsal is under your heel. The same stuff. And yet, for whatever reason, it’s conveniently been told to us that your feet are weird. They’re like, “You’re weak and you need to have this shoe.”

Ultimately, that’s what gets people to the point where, unlike you, where you have 5, 10, 15, 20 years of being a beach bum running around, using your feet, or Eliud Kipchoge, who is the poster child for the Nike Alphafly NEXT%, this $270 shoe that’s amazing, don’t get me wrong, you feel like you’re flying, but when someone [has] been wearing little baby tiny Michael Jordan Air Force Ones since the age of one because they’re so cute, and they walk around and then they go to school and they say, “Well, little Johnny has to wear shoes,” it’s like if I took your hand and just wrapped it up, you would lose not only the muscle, but also the ability to control that. Then you have no choice but to continue wearing shoes. Then you don’t develop the tension in your fascial lines, your tendons, your ligaments, your muscles, the bones. Everything is weaker and collapses in [and] we get deformed feet. But in response to that, [they] say, “Well, it’s not that you didn’t use your feet. Your feet are just that way. It’s genetics. You are genetically predisposed to have a bunion. You have flat feet. It’s just it is what it is; accept it. But also, you’re going to need to wear orthotics that cost you $200, and you’re going to have to change your shoes every three months, and also get this brace and wear these socks and have this ankle compression sleeve.”

It’s so convenient for these companies. “I don’t know what those people used to do before 1970, but you need all these products.” You’re trapped. Does that make sense? I know, a little rant.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, definitely, it makes a lot of sense. My wife is a Feldenkrais practitioner, and one of the things she says a lot is the thing that’s different about your feet and your hands is [that] you don’t walk around on your hands. Your hands are not responsible for supporting your entire body. I mean, it’s kind of amazing, when you think about it. The feet are not really that big, [and] they’re not really that wide. Yet they support, in some cases, 250 plus pounds of weight and six feet of height. And not just standing there stationary, [but] moving around in lots of different ways. The feet have an incredible responsibility and job to do, and yet, as you pointed out, we’ve just consigned them to this. I think a lot of people really just don’t think about their feet at all.

Graham Tuttle:  Never.

Chris Kresser:  And if there is any thought, it’s more like, “What shoes should I get?” Because we’ve been conditioned to believe that. I can’t remember where the saying came from, it might be from Moshé Feldenkrais, the founder of that method, but I think he said, “We die from the feet up.” Which is a mind-blowing concept to think about. I’m sure it resonates with you, and you understand what he meant by that. It’s that important.

Graham Tuttle:  There [are] two parts of that that I think are fascinating. The way I try to describe this to people to help make sense is that you have one piece of skin on your body. The inside of your mouth is the same piece of skin as the bottom of your foot. You’re wrapped in one piece. There [are] no sutures on your body. Underneath that, we have fascia, which is [a] more nebulous concept that unfortunately now people are getting awareness of, but they’re using it as a bucket term of, “That’s just your fascia.” Basically, it’s a connective tissue that wraps around underneath your skin. It connects your muscles and your bones and wraps around your organs. It holds things together. Because there is one connected unit in your body, it’s like a shirt. If I take the bottom of my shirt and grab it and pull it down, it stretches everything else because all the fibers of my shirt are connected. In the same way, if I take my feet, and I contract them and hold [it], it creates a tension that pulls from the body, [causing] the loss of circulation. It’s interesting because [if] you look at someone with diabetes, one of the things you see long-term, I don’t know what you call it, but like edema [or] swelling, where they lose [circulation and] have to get their feet amputated.

Chris Kresser:  Yep, peripheral neuropathy. It’s often caused by peripheral neuropathy in the extremities, and they lose circulation and have to get that amputated.

Graham Tuttle:  Part of that obviously goes into the way that the inner portions of the body are functioning. You could think of the calves as a second pump for the heart because the veins don’t have an active pump. They don’t constrict and push blood out. They just have valves that prevent backflow. So if our muscles aren’t pushing lymph and fluid up, then we don’t have that. So if I’ve never moved my toes, it’s kind of like if you sit on the edge of a ledge and your feet hang and they fall asleep, and you hop off and it’s like pins and needles. Part of me is like, “Okay, well, obviously, there is metabolic dysfunction going on.” But I wouldn’t be surprised if a huge portion of that was just the fact that they’re not moving their toes. They’re not moving their feet and they get cold. They don’t have the capacity to do it. You see this loss of [the ability to] push fluid back up, then my feet get swollen, my skin gets stiff, and you start to die because the death is tissue stillness. Meaning, when we are still, we’re dying. I’m not saying still like, internal stillness. Our heart is always beating; our organs are always pushing fluid around. Our bodies are meant to move. When the tissues don’t move, we start to die because they lose circulation, they get dehydrated, and start to stiffen up and become necrotic.

So, same thing. When you start to lose that, you lose the function. You die from the feet up. It is amazing to think about. This is an interesting point on what you’re saying, [and] your wife’s point [that] you’re standing with 250 pounds or six feet up. One of the things, [if you do any yoga and] you’ve ever tried to do any hand balancing, like a crow pose, or handstand—have you ever tried to play around with any of that stuff?

Chris Kresser:  Yep.

Graham Tuttle:  For people, myself included, who [are] trying to learn all these skills like how to move, how to run, how to do yoga, how to hand balance, we don’t think about it like, “I have to use my fingers to press into the ground.” That’s one of the things, you have to get pressure. People just want to get up there and hold their hands stiff. But the best hand balancers use their fingers to actively push and find space. When we have our toes pressed together, [we] lose the capacity to spread [and] make a shape. One of the things people do when they stand is they don’t use their toes. Think about all the talk about chiropractic. Are you in alignment? You’ve got lordosis in your lower back or you’re rounding over. So much of that is corrected. I’ve not spent much time with the chiropractor, but I remember I got an adjustment [and] they took a video of me. The most striking thing was just watching a picture of me from the side, and I’m leaning forward [with] my shoulders hunched in. We talk about [how to] fix your posture, and it always centers around your head, your neck, and your shoulders. Pull your shoulders back, pull your chin back, stand up straight, push your chest out. What they never tell you is [to] push your toes in the ground. If I am standing and my toes are inhibited, I’m going to lean forward, especially if I have a raised heel. It’s like a tower. If I shift to one side, it leans me forward. My knees soften, my back slumps, and my shoulders come over to balance that. I soften all the joints.

The one cue I found is, just like your wife is saying, when you think about the toes and you restore the capacity to spread the toes, you give yourself a planting base and you can push in the ground; it leans you back. And by leaning back, it forces me to lean my head back [and] pull my shoulders back. Every single thing up the body lines up when you push your toes in the ground. There’s so much to be said for the semantics of words. “Ground yourself, find where you’re planted, look at your feet.” When you’re grounded and in contact with the ground, you have roots. That’s why I hate pine trees because they have a very shallow root system. [Whereas an] oak tree has these beautiful roots that spread out, [and] they’re very hard to knock over. So would you want [to have] spread roots or do you want [shallow ones]? If I were to push you over, which do you think is going to give you better resilience? Spread out toes or locked down balls [of your feet]? Think about most shoes with a toe lift; they don’t even touch the ground.

The feet are the foundation of the body. If they’re not healthy, everything else in the body is impacted. Learn about the barefoot approach to strengthen your feet and prevent injury in this episode of Revolution Health Radio. #chriskresser #barefootsprinter

Chris Kresser:  It seems to me that there’s also a neuroplasticity element here, where if your feet are in shoes all the time, especially constricting shoes, and your toes are jammed together like you mentioned, you’re not getting input from each individual toe to your brain and the mental map that your brain has for your feet is going to be incomplete. And we know neurons that fire together, wire together, right? So if those neurons are not firing, they stop wiring together, and you lose that mental map. I think there’s this element of people not being able to sense their feet and not being able to move each toe individually like they can easily with their fingers. When we were growing up, we did so many motor activities with our fingers that we developed this really fine motor map of our hands and our fingers. Whereas we don’t have that with our feet. It seems to me [that’s] part of the problem on how people have this disconnect between their brain and their feet.

Graham Tuttle:  There [are] two parts of that that I think are interesting. One of which is [that], if you look at babies, they’re moving their toes. You can press in the middle of their foot, [and] they squeeze down; it’s so cute. They’re rapidly moving and they’re feeling and engaging. There are thousands of nerve endings [in] the bottom of the foot. I’m sure a lot of the work you do centers around preventing neurodegenerative disease and [keeping] people’s brains healthy. One of the biggest [parts] of that, obviously, is food, getting omega-3s and making sure we have the nutrients for the brain. But it’s also stimulation, learning skills, getting feedback, trying to tune things. Think about [a] regular sock. Even just wearing toe socks can be a big thing because it’s the first time people actually feel in between [their toes]. If you have never pressed in between your toes, your brain forgets that there’s even a space there. So even wearing toe socks and pressing in between, getting that proprioceptive feedback, is one thing. If everything feels the same, you lose stimulation. People [who] have very ticklish feet [or] [who] are sensitive, [if] you go walk outside [or on anything that’s not perfectly flat and carpeted] and it hurts, then you’re losing stimulation.

Our brains would have been using the feet as a thermometer for our environment, the texture, the temperature, [the] gradient, the firmness, the dampness. All of these thousands of signals that our brain would have naturally been getting. It’s not that we have to be consciously aware of it, but think about how the stimulation is for the brain. Getting people to walk barefoot, [and] this is just my own perception, I don’t know if this is true or not, but it would seem to me to be an incredibly valuable part of keeping a healthy, plastic brain because the more things you can bring into your body, the better. And the other side of that is, when people go to actually correct this, it’s really frustrating. My main program that I do [and] the one I’m best known for is a foot fix program. Basically, how do you undo this stuff? There’s an emotional challenge to doing something that you’ve lost the skill to do. In a sense, [you] don’t even know how to know how to do it. For example, if you look at your hand, and I say, “All right, touch your pinky and your thumb together.” What did you do there? What muscles did you use? What did you think about? Did you just touch? I don’t know. Me, consciously, I don’t know what I’m doing to do this. It’s [just] happening. There’s embodied knowledge, in that sense. So if I want to learn how to use chopsticks with my non-dominant hand, I watch what this side is doing, and I try to put [it into] those positions and try to make those shapes again. It’s a very visual thing. But if I don’t have a foot that can move, I don’t know [what to do]. It’s amazing how little of a connection we have with our bodies. That’s why great athletes, for example, are often poor coaches. Because they’re like, “I don’t know how to tell you to run. I just do it. Just go from here to there. Just jump a hurdle.” There’s embodied knowledge that comes from watching, observing, [and] patterning after the people around us.

So when people try to fix their feet, the first frustration is an emotional one of, “I can’t even move my toes. I don’t know what to do.” [There’s] a process of a bunch of tips and tricks and tools to work through that. But when you’ve been told your whole life that you have flat arches, you’re overpronated, you have a bunion, it’s all genetic, there’s nothing you could do, and then you hear someone say, “Well, we didn’t wear shoes, and you actually shouldn’t be in pain. You’re not broken.” You want to believe that, right? No one wants to believe that they have to [be in pain]. It’s very disempowering when a 70-year-old geriatric doctor comes and says, “Well, Johnny, you’re 12, but [you’ve] got flat feet. We should probably put you in some custom orthotics.” That’s easy for him to say because he’s going to be dead in five years. But this kid [who’s] 12 has now been told that their feet are incapable and they can’t move. They put [him] into orthotics to fix an ankle sprain or plantar fasciitis for a short-term stint, and then there’s no path out of that. Five, 10, 15, 20, 30 years later, they [have] stiff knees, their calves are stiff, their ankles don’t bend, their feet have gotten weaker, [or] they’ve got peroneal tendonitis. [They have] all these things going on, [like] hip pain [and] low back pain, because they’re incapacitated and lost the ability to move their toes because they’ve taken away the ability to flex, extend, and make shapes. [All] because they’ll say, “Don’t be barefoot.”

When someone has been told that for decades, and then all of a sudden, it’s like, “Well, this doesn’t make sense. I want to be able to not do that.” It would be like telling someone that wants to lose weight, “Hey, let’s eat some real food. We can do that. Now go for a walk.” They don’t even know how to walk. How frustrating is that? When you see people [who] have [been] paralyzed [or] they have a spinal cord injury and they’re trying to walk again, the amount of focus and energy they have to put into every step [is so immense that] they’re sweating just trying to move their foot. It’s that kind of effort for your toes. [For] most people, it’s just as easy to say, “Well, no, it’s just my feet. [It’s] nice that you can do this, but my doctor told me my genetics are bad.” All that to [say], when people are starting on this journey, it really is an emotional thing at first because they have to challenge beliefs, and they have to really sit into something that is uncomfortable and really frustrating. But once [you] start to get to [the] process and give yourself a few weeks of momentum, it’s amazing how quickly your body bounces back and you can heal yourself from the ground up. It’s like unwinding that shirt and you feel the neck unstretch.

Chris Kresser:  Well, that’s the great news about neuroplasticity, right? It’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, if you don’t do something for a long time, those pathways start to atrophy and you lose that capacity. But the flip side is that we now know that the whole idea that we’re losing brain cells until the day we die and you can’t regenerate any neurons is completely false. We can build new neural pathways by changing our behavior. It’s a little bit like learning an instrument. If you’re starting to learn guitar, it feels super awkward. [You] play a bar chord or something like that, and you’re just like, “What? What’s going on here?” You feel like you have claws. Then after some period of time, your fingers are moving up and down the fretboard with no problem. I imagine it’s the same.

Let’s say someone’s listening to this, and they are wearing shoes most of the time, they feel disconnected from their feet, and they suspect that’s causing pain and limiting their mobility and movement. How would you recommend getting started? I’m pretty sure you’re not going to say just take off your shoes and start running 10 miles barefoot, which is sometimes [what] people do. There’s actually some risk there, if you just dive right into that.

Graham Tuttle:  Absolutely. There [are] a few rules of thumb. If you have sock tan lines, you’re not ready to go run barefoot. This [one] has to do with a little bit of body composition, but if you look at the back of your hand or the top of your foot, you should be able to see the tendon lines that run from the knuckle to the wrist. If you flex your hand and you start to see them in the shadow, [you have a] strong hand. This is relative strength, not objective strength, but strong hands and strong feet have evident tendons. Just like [with] the tension in a suspension bridge, [where] you can see that tension in the cable. Utimately, you have what I would want people to get to, which is [that] you have variation. You have a toolkit and you have a set of technologies. When I’m going on sharp rocks or longer distances, I wear more padding. When I’m doing something flat and stable, [where] I wouldn’t be able to feel the ground, then I wear less padding. When I don’t have to wear [shoes], I’m barefoot. That’s the goal. I’m never going to be dogmatic, and I think the problem is people get very dogmatic.

I’ve been doing this for years, and it’s still uncomfortable to walk around in Vibrams on rocks. It does not feel good. “Oh, it just feels like a massage.” No, it doesn’t. It feels like you’re being poked. Whatever you think it feels like [to] walk on rocks, that’s exactly what it feels like. They did studies [on] people [who] were lifelong barefooters and people [who] are not, and they found that even though the people [who] are lifelong [barefooters], like the indigenous tribes, have thicker calluses; the feet are just as sensitive. So part of it is learning to deal with discomfort. I think that’s of value because all of our marketing [tells] you [to] pick out a pair of shoes, [and] the number one question you’ll get asked [is], “How do they feel? Are they comfortable?” What? [What about], “Are they functional? Can I move my toes or are my feet falling asleep?” Those matter, too; it’s not just, “Am I on a pillow?” So expect and understand that it will be uncomfortable. I remember when I first started lifting weights and put a bar on [my] back. It’s like, “Man, this thing really hurts.” [There’s] pressure, the thing is pokey, [and] it’s in [your] skin. I’ve done a lot of coaching with youth athletes, and [you’ll] get a kid [who] squats, [and] they’re like, “Is there a pad? This hurts.” And I’m like, “I know. It hurts and you’ll just get used to it.” There is something empowering about the idea that your body is strong and capable and you can handle discomfort. When you can handle discomfort, you can enjoy pleasure and comfort so much more fully.

So the first part is to understand that you are stepping into a voluntary path that will be more uncomfortable. When you accept that, it sets the stage for everything else. The first thing I tell people depends on a few things. There’s [the] shoe route, and then there’s the foot function route. For the shoe route, there are four factors of a good shoe. There’s [the] width of the toe box, [meaning] it’s wide enough for your toes to wiggle and move. There’s flatness, which is your heel and toe on the same level, just like you would be if you’re barefoot. There’s the flexibility of the sole [and] how well it can bend. And then there’s the thinness of the sole, which is the least important. But you can imagine [that] if you have a two inch stack height, it’s easier to roll an ankle, right? You step on something and you flip because you’ve got two inches of leverage working against you. But in so much as you get the first three right—it’s flexible, it’s wide, and it’s flat; those are what matter. The padding is a personal preference. So my [first] recommendation is keep your shoes, but take the orthotics out. And again, I understand that for most people, orthotics help them out of a situation. Hoka has helped them out of a situation, so there is an emotional reliance on that. There is no rush to make this process because you cannot just change your shoes and think that’s going to solve it. You have to pair this with the other half we’ll come back to, which is moving your foot. But from the shoe perspective, because people are much more likely to say, “What shoe should I buy?,” you want to think about [starting] to move in one of these vectors. Can you get the shoe flatter? Can you get it wider? Can you get more flexible? And then eventually, lower the stack height for appropriate situations.

But first, take the orthotic out so that you can bend your shoe. Ease into it. If you do this well,  you’ll be moving your feet and you’ll get circulation. I’ve never had someone take their orthotic out [who] goes back to pain, and I’ve worked with over 2,000 people [at] this point. I’m not going to tell you it can’t happen, but I’m saying ease into it as you feel confident. I should caveat that [with], for things that are low stress, like walking, standing, daily activities, weightlifting, those are going to be things you can easily take it out [for]. For running, there’s a conversation to be had about form and strength and whether you should even be running if you have to have orthotics. But that’s a third part, which goes into ego and identity, [where] people [think], “I’m a runner; I can’t not run. I have to scratch my itch,” because they’re addicts and they have to do it. You [can’t] skip the foundation to building strength before you go and do an activity. I don’t drive on the highway before I learn to drive in a neighborhood, for example. All that to [say], stepwise down to that. What I recommend [to] people is going from something like a Hoka or any typical Nike shoe to something like an Altra Solstice or an Escalante. Or for hiking, [an Altra] Lone Peak. Altra is my number one company for the best of the conventional. It’s minimalist conventional, meaning almost all Altras are wide in the toe box, they’re flexible, and they’re flat. Then the Solstice and Escalante have about a half-inch of padding underneath. It’s just enough that it’s soft and you can transition movement, but they’re not overly padded. The Lone Peak is great because it [has] a little bit more grip and tread for hiking. Those are my three.

Chris Kresser:  I’ve got the Altra Lone Peak, as well. It’s a great shoe.

Graham Tuttle:  Perfect. Those are going to be good things. [It’s] like, “I’m going to live in this space while I start to move my toes.” The beauty is, those start to get your feet moving. From there, as your feet get stronger, in appropriate situations, you could do a more conventional minimalist shoe like a Vivobarefoot or a Xero. Those can be fine. They’re closed boxes. My personal bias [is that] I do the FiveFingers for everything because they are functional toe spreaders. You get separation to the toes. I wear toe socks [so] the shoes don’t get stinky. But they look weird. They’re not less comfortable than the Vivos because you still feel the ground, but I think they’re more functional [and] they grip. Especially for weightlifting, you can’t beat that shoe. But they look weird and people are not accustomed to seeing toes, even though we all have them. It’s so funny. I take my FiveFingers off, and I’m wearing toe socks, and everybody goes, “You’re wearing toe socks?” I’m like, “Yes, I’m wearing toe shoes. What did you think?” But you don’t have to [wear the FiveFingers]. I would say the next step would be a minimalist shoe like [a] Vivo[barefoot] or a Xero.

The next step is to get to a foot maximalist shoe, which I would say is a FiveFinger or one of those sandals. When people wear flip-flops, and I know this is a lot of information, but when people step, every single step we naturally spread our toes and splay them, because it’s like we’re catching the ground. When you catch, spread your hand to catch a ball, [and] you spread your toes to catch the ground. If you wear a shoe that doesn’t have a heel strap, instead of spreading the toes, you have to clinch down your toes to keep the shoe from coming off. [It’s] very unnatural, and that creates stiffness, like plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and stuff along those lines. So a minimalist barefoot sandal has a strap that goes around the back. Crocs actually work fine for that. They’re fine, but they’re not ideal. That’s the transition for the shoes. You go from something like an Altra [and] you’re moving down these metrics. And I would always recommend wearing toe socks with all [of] those because it does get you to that practice of spreading your toes [when] putting them on every single day. Those are going to be ideal. You have to pair that with movement. Because if you do not get the toes to move and flex and bend, you do not get circulation to the tissues, [and] you do not get the remodeling stimulus. Shoes will not fix your feet. Both sides, the minimalist shoes and the maximalist shoes, make the same lie. Shoes will not fix your feet. The best thing they can do is give you the space within which your feet can move and heal themselves. The only thing you can do to fix your feet [is] to start to move them and use them. I have a program that walks people through that. But ultimately, take your shoes off, be barefoot, walk outside for five minutes, stay on soft grass, feel the ground more, and you will start to develop this capacity.

The last thing I’ll say on this is [that] a single [thing] you could do right now [is] called the hand-foot glove. When you’re sitting down watching TV, or whatever you do in the evening, take your fingers and put them in between your toes. You can use some baby oil if you need, if you’re starting off at the beginning, or you can do one finger at a time. There [are] two things going on here. Proprioceptively, we’re getting the feedback from our physical touching of ourselves and we’re learning that this part of our body exists. But also, we’re doing an anatomically appropriate spacing of our feet. Your fingers are shaped in similar proportion to your toes. Being able to get your fingers in between your toes will be uncomfortable at first, but as you do this, you start to remodel the tissue with a gentle stimulus. Spend five minutes a day, [or] spend as much time as you want doing it every day. Eventually, you’ll need your hand for something else, so it’s kind of self-limiting, unlike wearing toe spacers, which I’m not a huge fan of. We could talk about that if you want to. But that would be the process. That’s a lot there, but you know, it’s really simple.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, that’s great. It’s important to break that down because, as we’ve been talking about for the whole show, a lot of this is, first of all, developing awareness of your feet, and creating that connection between your brain and your awareness [of] what’s going on in your feet and toes. It sounded like [it’s] also [about] building up the strength of the tendons and the musculature and fascia and all that stuff in the feet so that your feet don’t just feel like blocks down at the bottom, but that there’s actually a similar level of articulation and awareness and dexterity, obviously not the same as your hands and fingers, but closer.

From there, you’re thinking about footwear and what you’re putting on your feet. You gave a great breakdown of the different options and how that might evolve over time. But the third element is how you’re actually moving with your feet in those. We only have a few minutes left, but let’s talk [about] what some of the biggest mistakes [are] that people make from that perspective. Let’s say they’ve developed more awareness of their feet; they’re starting to go barefoot and have some minimalist footwear. If they are a runner, or even just walking. What are some of the common biomechanical mistakes or habitual patterns that aren’t even conscious that people have developed that they need to be aware of?

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Graham Tuttle:  That’s a great question. One thing I think is important to make a note of is [that] so many people will look and say, “I don’t need to do running. I don’t need to jump. I don’t need to do plyometric things.” But when you look at the tissue that wraps in and around, what you see in older people is that they get stiff. Their bodies get stiff and they lock down. They actually shrink. Their bodies are doing the Benjamin Button thing and collapsing down. Part of being a healthy, functioning human is having healthy, bendable fascia. That is the difference [in] someone [who’s] elastic and bendy [who] can fall and bounce back and get up, that youthful bounciness. Studies have shown that, even in people [who] are in [their] 60s [who] have been previously untrained, doing things like light jump roping and hopping [causes] that fibrotic tissue, which is that stiffened, hardened tissue, [to remodel].

So you have to have some form of rhythmic plyometric loading in your body for life. As a young kid, that could be sprinting. As an older person, it could be basic little hops like skipping and bouncing. Unfortunately, there’s a certain level of, once it’s too far gone, it gets harder for people. When you put someone in a pool and you take out gravity, they lose that stimulus. You have to have the rhythmic plyometric loading to remodel the tissue. It’s scalable, of course, but it is essential to have healthy tissue because if you do not have that stimulus on your body, you will age poorly, you will get stiff, and you will lose the mobility of your joints. And that literally hastens your death, in a sense. There’s a certain point after which falling is more deadly than cancer. I think it’s [age] 70.

Chris Kresser:  That’s right. Break your hip, die of pneumonia. That’s a saying in medicine.

Graham Tuttle:  That’s the thing—how do you not break your hip? Okay, that’s single leg strength and foot speed. I need to be able, if I trip, [to] pick my foot up and catch myself. If you want some inspiration, Google “91-year-old gymnast.” This woman is unbelievable. She will blow your mind. It shows what you can do if you never stop moving. It’s amazing. But all that to [say], that’s the underlying perception of why it matters. Just because you’re 45 and you haven’t run in 40 years, that does not matter. Because when you’re 60, you’re going to wish you could go back and start because your body will remodel, and it is of dire importance for you and for your kids and for your longevity so you don’t end up in a wheelchair [or] dead 10 years before you should. Our health spans are what matter.

That being said, the two biggest mistakes people [make are that they] don’t take the time to learn the correct form of movement. We talked a little bit earlier [about how] walking is a stance phase where one foot is in contact with the ground all the time. Anything more than that, even if it’s a slow jog, requires a shift because I’m now jumping from foot to foot. It doesn’t matter how slow I’m going. Tell me how low of a jump you need to do when you’re jump roping to not land on your heels so [that] there is [some] level of [landing] on the forefoot and [using] these 33 joints and dozens of tendons, muscles, and ligaments to absorb things like a spring. When I land on my heel[s], I don’t have that. Even [with] walking, if we walk on our heels and overstride, it’s very impactful and very painful. The first mistake is people don’t understand that there is a correct way to run. There are multiple variations and nuances within that based [on] the surface, the speed, the texture, the visibility of it, [and] the safety of it, but it is always going to be done on the forefoot. Now that’s scalable. Your heel may still graze. I’m not talking about your toes, but the front of your foot, the balls of your feet, [or] the heel may still graze at the lower paces. But once you understand that cognitively, you realize there is a certain amount of strength [you] have to have to be able to do this. Just like developing a skill, [for] most people the progression goes, they’re out of shape, they want to get healthy, so they start walking, and they do a couch-to-5k program. They don’t worry about running; they just want to get active. Because the point is not to learn how to run; the point is to lose weight and get healthy. So they do a couch-to-5k. Then they go, “Wow, that was really cool. It’s exciting that I did that. Maybe I could try a 10k. I think I could do this, [so] I’ll just keep doing what I did because it’s safe and it’s straightforward. Oh, I did [a] 10k; maybe I could do a half marathon.” Then they develop an identity about, ”I go and run because it gets me moving. If I don’t run, I’m going to get fat, and that was miserable. I never want to go back there, so I’m going to keep running.” But no one ever stops to say, “Hey, it’s not just about going to Fleet Feet and getting the fancy shoe.” It’s about saying that there is a set of skills and tissue strengths I [need] to have in order to run correctly.

That’s why you see guys like Eliud Kipchoge, who was a poor farmer growing up in Kenya. He ran two miles to and from school every day. There are [no] Nike outlets on the street corner in Kenya. [Over] the decades, [he] built the strength and resiliency that he can now go wear the shoes and get benefit from them, but it’s not like those are the things that got him where he was. So just take a breath and breathe, because it may [necessitate taking some time] off of running where you’re just walking, learning to jog and doing some striding, and having some barefoot resiliency. You can go biking, rowing, skiing, any variation that can get that cardiovascular thing up. Or just walking.

The mistake is people let the ego and identity [get] wrapped up, and then they won’t stop doing something to learn how to do it correctly. They get into a long pattern, develop overuse, and they won’t take time off. That’s the first mistake that people make. And the second is just not being mindful when they walk. The simple cue I would [give] is [to] slightly turn the feet in, feel the ground with the toes, and just practice this. Think about walking softly, letting the hips and spine move.That’s going to get you a lot, challenging yourself to walk softly. You know people [who] weigh 110 pounds, but it sounds like the floor is coming down when they walk across [it]. They slam with their heels. [There’s] a lot of stuff there, but if I could summarize [it] in one thing, [it’s] being intentional about it and treating it as though it is a skill to be learned as opposed to something to be ground through. It’s not about grinding through a run. It’s about learning to do it so that it’s a natural, fluid, effortless thing.

Chris Kresser:  Nice. I just wanted to put in a plug for jumping rope as one of these possibilities. When I was a teenager, I trained in Muay Thai. Most people don’t know that. Jumping rope was a huge part of that training, as you can imagine. Both for fitness, for conditioning, and building up stamina because it’s a pretty brutal sport, and also agility. I noticed a huge improvement in my basketball game once I started training [in] Muay Thai, and I think it was mostly from jumping rope and all the different ways that you jump rope in Muay Thai training. It’s something that’s stuck with me, and I love it. I always recommend it to people because a jump rope is what, 15 bucks or something. That is super cheap. You can take it with you and put it in your bag, you can do it in a hotel room, you can pretty much do it anywhere, and it’s pretty accessible for most people. And if you’re doing it barefoot, you really start to develop that felt sense that we’re talking about.

Graham Tuttle:  Yeah, and one thing that gets missed on that is, when you jump rope, you’re [either jumping rope] or you’re not [jumping rope]. You can’t grind through when you’re tired. When you’re running, there’s [a] passive forward cadence that happens with our gait that, especially when you wear shoes, you can just reach a little bit [farther] and get used to grinding. But [jumping rope] is very clearly ingrained [in] that I’m [jumping rope] for 30 seconds, and then I’m tired. I used those muscles. It’s a very clear thing where I can do it and [then] I can’t. And if I do it and train, I get better and better and better. If people treated running like that and just bit the bullet [in] the first few weeks [and said], “I’m going to be tired, and when I get tired, I stop and I walk,” you would pick it up so much faster. But because they say, “Well, you could wear heels. If you’re running and you get tired, just wear these shoes. It’ll help you run [farther].” No shoes are going to help you jump rope [farther]. That’s only your feet. So I really think it’s a valuable training tool in so many ways. I love that.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, that’s great. Well, Graham, this has been a fascinating conversation. I know you have some amazing programs on your website that help people dial in their movement and take the next step on some of these things, including the feet, ankles, and lower legs. The Ready To Run program [is what] I think you’re best known for. But there are a couple of more. Ready To Roll, Ready To Rock, and Unbreakable Athlete. Tell us a little bit about those.

Graham Tuttle:  Broadly speaking, just as a curious individual going through how [I] would do this, because I suffered from doing all the things wrong, so to speak. Even being a cross-country and track runner, I had no idea how to run and how the feet work. So it’s basically undoing and unbinding myself from the pains that I worked myself into. The goal is that each of these programs are a month long. The Ready To Run, Ready To Roll, [and] Ready To Rock [are all] a 20-day program with an accompanying [45,000] [or] 55,000 word book that’s broken down into 30 emails. You get a daily email with [the] program [that says], “Do this, and then this is the education.” [You get] the toolkit of what to do, the education to know why, [and] then you have the coaching there to empower you and encourage you. That’s the big process. Each of those are [a] one-month program, [with] live coaching [and] live group calls where you can ask questions. My goal is to get 100,000 people to go through those because that’s the process of nothing special, nothing unique, it’s just, “This is how the body works. These are the basic things to get your body back moving and how to engage in learning.” I think of it as an elementary school teacher. I’m just getting you the alphabet for your body. And if I get people to do that, they’ll be out of pain and have the capacity back. The rest of the world, they can do whatever they want.

For people [who] want to do a little more dynamic stuff, like sprinting and more athletic stuff, that’s where the Unbreakable Athlete [comes in]. It’s a three-month program that’s a little bit higher level with weightlifting and stuff like that. That’s the thing if you want to do it, but my big goal and driving passion in life is to get people [the basics]. We [don’t] go [to] people and tell them to write poetry, skipping the fact that we never taught them the alphabet. So this is the alphabet [for your body]. Let’s get you the basics of how you move your toes, how you think about your shoulders. It’s unwinding the mental [and] psychological damage that can happen when people walk into a [doctor’s office] and walk out with a diagnosis. “I’ve got hallux rigidus, whatever; I don’t even know what that means in Latin. But I have it and I don’t know what it means, but I can’t wear shoes anymore. Or I can’t walk barefoot anymore.” I hate that, and I would empower people away from [that]. [It’s like] what you do with the health and nutrition area, [you] explain about nutrition. [You say], “You don’t have all these things. You’re just deficient and you need to go eat some more of this.”

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, that’s great. What popped into my mind as you were talking about it [is that] it’s like basic literacy for the body. If you imagine skipping that, in terms of language and grammar and being able to read and write, you know what a tremendous disadvantage you would be at in life. Yet most of us did skip basic body literacy because we weren’t taught or we were taught the wrong way. This is a chance to correct that. This is awesome. What’s the best way for people to connect with you, Graham, and find these programs?

Graham Tuttle:  Right now, Instagram. TikTok and Instagram [are] where I put most stuff up. TikTok is a wash because you can’t actually message [me]. But reach out on Instagram @TheBarefootSprinter. I have a website, [and] I’m going to redo that and try to make it [better]. I’m in the process of building everything, and now it’s a year into the program, so it’s time to make [it] a little bit more outwardly focused and clear. Instagram would be the best way.

Chris Kresser:  Okay, great. Well, thanks for coming on the show. It’s been a fascinating conversation. [I] really enjoyed connecting with you. Let’s do it again sometime in the future.

Graham Tuttle:  I’d be honored to.

Chris Kresser:  Thanks, everyone, for listening. Keep sending your questions to ChrisKresser.com/podcastquestion.

This episode of Revolution Health Radio is sponsored by Inside Tracker, Kion, and Ava Jane’s Kitchen Colima Salt.

As a member of our community, Kion has a very special offer for you. Head over to GetKion.com/Kresser to save 20% on subscriptions and 10% on one-time purchases.

Inside Tracker has an exclusive offer for Revolution Health Radio listeners. Go to Insidetracker.com/chriskresser and get 20% off everything in the store when you sign up.

Ava Jane’s Kitchen is also offering our listeners a special offer. Visit Kressersalt.com to get a free 8oz bag of Colima sea salt with your purchase.

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<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper qc_box_container_wrapper gform_legacy_markup_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_9' ><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' id='gform_9' class='qc_box_container gform_legacy_markup' action='/focus-on-your-feet-to-live-pain-free-and-be-a-better-athlete-with-graham-tuttle/' novalidate> <div class='gform_body gform-body'><ul id='gform_fields_9' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id="field_9_1" class="gfield field gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_1"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_1' >Email<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk">*</span></span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_1' id='input_9_1' type='email' value='' class='large' placeholder='Your Email' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id="field_9_2" class="gfield health-concern field field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_2"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_2' >I want to improve my...</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_select'><select name='input_2' id='input_9_2' class='large gfield_select' aria-invalid="false" ><option value='' selected='selected' class='gf_placeholder'>I want to improve my...</option><option value='Weight' >Weight</option><option value='Energy' >Energy</option><option value='Digestion' >Digestion</option><option value='Brain' >Brain</option><option value='Overall Health' >Overall Health</option><option value='All of the Above' >All of the Above</option></select></div></li><li id="field_9_4" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_4"><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_4' id='input_9_4' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='16372' /></div></li><li id="field_9_5" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_5"><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_9_5' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='Heartburn/GERD' /></div></li></ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_9' class='gform_button button' value='Download eBook' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} jQuery("#gform_9").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='9' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_9' value='WyJbXSIsIjVkYTAyNjYxOTg4ZDNhZGQwOTU0Yzc4NDcyNDk5YmM4Il0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_9' id='gform_target_page_number_9' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_9' id='gform_source_page_number_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='popup_name=Heartburn%2FGERD' /> </div> <p style="display: none !important;"><label>&#916;<textarea name="ak_hp_textarea" cols="45" rows="8" maxlength="100"></textarea></label><input type="hidden" id="ak_js_5" name="ak_js" value="21"/><script>document.getElementById( "ak_js_5" ).setAttribute( "value", ( new Date() ).getTime() );</script></p></form> </div>
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<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper qc_box_container_wrapper gform_legacy_markup_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_9' ><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' id='gform_9' class='qc_box_container gform_legacy_markup' action='/focus-on-your-feet-to-live-pain-free-and-be-a-better-athlete-with-graham-tuttle/' novalidate> <div class='gform_body gform-body'><ul id='gform_fields_9' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id="field_9_1" class="gfield field gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_1"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_1' >Email<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk">*</span></span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_1' id='input_9_1' type='email' value='' class='large' placeholder='Your Email' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id="field_9_2" class="gfield health-concern field field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_2"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_2' >I want to improve my...</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_select'><select name='input_2' id='input_9_2' class='large gfield_select' aria-invalid="false" ><option value='' selected='selected' class='gf_placeholder'>I want to improve my...</option><option value='Weight' >Weight</option><option value='Energy' >Energy</option><option value='Digestion' >Digestion</option><option value='Brain' >Brain</option><option value='Overall Health' >Overall Health</option><option value='All of the Above' >All of the Above</option></select></div></li><li id="field_9_4" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_4"><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_4' id='input_9_4' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='16372' /></div></li><li id="field_9_5" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_5"><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_9_5' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='Gut Health' /></div></li></ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_9' class='gform_button button' value='Download eBook' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} jQuery("#gform_9").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='9' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_9' value='WyJbXSIsIjVkYTAyNjYxOTg4ZDNhZGQwOTU0Yzc4NDcyNDk5YmM4Il0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_9' id='gform_target_page_number_9' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_9' id='gform_source_page_number_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='popup_name=Gut+Health' /> </div> <p style="display: none !important;"><label>&#916;<textarea name="ak_hp_textarea" cols="45" rows="8" maxlength="100"></textarea></label><input type="hidden" id="ak_js_6" name="ak_js" value="157"/><script>document.getElementById( "ak_js_6" ).setAttribute( "value", ( new Date() ).getTime() );</script></p></form> </div>
[gravityform id="9" title="false" description="false" field_values='popup_name=Food Additives']
<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper qc_box_container_wrapper gform_legacy_markup_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_9' ><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' id='gform_9' class='qc_box_container gform_legacy_markup' action='/focus-on-your-feet-to-live-pain-free-and-be-a-better-athlete-with-graham-tuttle/' novalidate> <div class='gform_body gform-body'><ul id='gform_fields_9' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id="field_9_1" class="gfield field gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_1"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_1' >Email<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk">*</span></span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_1' id='input_9_1' type='email' value='' class='large' placeholder='Your Email' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id="field_9_2" class="gfield health-concern field field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_2"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_2' >I want to improve my...</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_select'><select name='input_2' id='input_9_2' class='large gfield_select' aria-invalid="false" ><option value='' selected='selected' class='gf_placeholder'>I want to improve my...</option><option value='Weight' >Weight</option><option value='Energy' >Energy</option><option value='Digestion' >Digestion</option><option value='Brain' >Brain</option><option value='Overall Health' >Overall Health</option><option value='All of the Above' >All of the Above</option></select></div></li><li id="field_9_4" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_4"><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_4' id='input_9_4' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='16372' /></div></li><li id="field_9_5" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_5"><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_9_5' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='Food Additives' /></div></li></ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_9' class='gform_button button' value='Download eBook' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} jQuery("#gform_9").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='9' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_9' value='WyJbXSIsIjVkYTAyNjYxOTg4ZDNhZGQwOTU0Yzc4NDcyNDk5YmM4Il0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_9' id='gform_target_page_number_9' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_9' id='gform_source_page_number_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='popup_name=Food+Additives' /> </div> <p style="display: none !important;"><label>&#916;<textarea name="ak_hp_textarea" cols="45" rows="8" maxlength="100"></textarea></label><input type="hidden" id="ak_js_7" name="ak_js" value="63"/><script>document.getElementById( "ak_js_7" ).setAttribute( "value", ( new Date() ).getTime() );</script></p></form> </div>
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<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper qc_box_container_wrapper gform_legacy_markup_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_9' ><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' id='gform_9' class='qc_box_container gform_legacy_markup' action='/focus-on-your-feet-to-live-pain-free-and-be-a-better-athlete-with-graham-tuttle/' novalidate> <div class='gform_body gform-body'><ul id='gform_fields_9' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id="field_9_1" class="gfield field gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_1"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_1' >Email<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk">*</span></span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_1' id='input_9_1' type='email' value='' class='large' placeholder='Your Email' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id="field_9_2" class="gfield health-concern field field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_2"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_2' >I want to improve my...</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_select'><select name='input_2' id='input_9_2' class='large gfield_select' aria-invalid="false" ><option value='' selected='selected' class='gf_placeholder'>I want to improve my...</option><option value='Weight' >Weight</option><option value='Energy' >Energy</option><option value='Digestion' >Digestion</option><option value='Brain' >Brain</option><option value='Overall Health' >Overall Health</option><option value='All of the Above' >All of the Above</option></select></div></li><li id="field_9_4" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_4"><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_4' id='input_9_4' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='16372' /></div></li><li id="field_9_5" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_5"><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_9_5' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='Diet-Heart Myth' /></div></li></ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_9' class='gform_button button' value='Download eBook' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} jQuery("#gform_9").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='9' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_9' value='WyJbXSIsIjVkYTAyNjYxOTg4ZDNhZGQwOTU0Yzc4NDcyNDk5YmM4Il0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_9' id='gform_target_page_number_9' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_9' id='gform_source_page_number_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='popup_name=Diet-Heart+Myth' /> </div> <p style="display: none !important;"><label>&#916;<textarea name="ak_hp_textarea" cols="45" rows="8" maxlength="100"></textarea></label><input type="hidden" id="ak_js_8" name="ak_js" value="57"/><script>document.getElementById( "ak_js_8" ).setAttribute( "value", ( new Date() ).getTime() );</script></p></form> </div>
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<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper qc_box_container_wrapper gform_legacy_markup_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_9' ><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' id='gform_9' class='qc_box_container gform_legacy_markup' action='/focus-on-your-feet-to-live-pain-free-and-be-a-better-athlete-with-graham-tuttle/' novalidate> <div class='gform_body gform-body'><ul id='gform_fields_9' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id="field_9_1" class="gfield field gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_1"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_1' >Email<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk">*</span></span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_1' id='input_9_1' type='email' value='' class='large' placeholder='Your Email' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id="field_9_2" class="gfield health-concern field field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_2"><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_2' >I want to improve my...</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_select'><select name='input_2' id='input_9_2' class='large gfield_select' aria-invalid="false" ><option value='' selected='selected' class='gf_placeholder'>I want to improve my...</option><option value='Weight' >Weight</option><option value='Energy' >Energy</option><option value='Digestion' >Digestion</option><option value='Brain' >Brain</option><option value='Overall Health' >Overall Health</option><option value='All of the Above' >All of the Above</option></select></div></li><li id="field_9_4" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_4"><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_4' id='input_9_4' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='16372' /></div></li><li id="field_9_5" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" data-js-reload="field_9_5"><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_9_5' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='B12' /></div></li></ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_9' class='gform_button button' value='Download eBook' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} jQuery("#gform_9").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='9' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_9' value='WyJbXSIsIjVkYTAyNjYxOTg4ZDNhZGQwOTU0Yzc4NDcyNDk5YmM4Il0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_9' id='gform_target_page_number_9' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_9' id='gform_source_page_number_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='popup_name=B12' /> </div> <p style="display: none !important;"><label>&#916;<textarea name="ak_hp_textarea" cols="45" rows="8" maxlength="100"></textarea></label><input type="hidden" id="ak_js_9" name="ak_js" value="121"/><script>document.getElementById( "ak_js_9" ).setAttribute( "value", ( new Date() ).getTime() );</script></p></form> </div>