Pistols and your ankles/achilles

westsider19

Level 1 Valued Member
So after a few weeks of practicing Pavel's KB/bodyweight stuff, the area that is lagging the most are my pistols (I was able to do 1AP's in about a week).

I'm 38, with flat feet, and ditched my orthotics (which I've worn since a teenager) a couple years ago after getting serious into powerlifting. Since then I've walked around orthotic-less with zero problems, much to the horror of podiatrists. Then, maybe a year ago, I started squatting and deadlifting barefoot. I remember not being able to run or play basketball without orthotics when I was a teenager, now I was sprinting, wearing whatever shoes I want (or none), and doing whatever my heart desired with zero pain. I can't break down how much my feet improved due to powerlifting vs powerlifting barefoot, but both have been wonderful for my feet.

Then the lockdown happened, and after two weeks of just walking (and no lifting), my feet began to hurt. Shortly after I discovered Pavel (thanks Louie Simmons/Donnie Thompson), and here I am. I am grateful to Pavel and the community here for keeping me occupied and excited during this time.

So with the pistols, I have been making constant (albeit slow) progress. In terms of perfect form, I'd say I can pistol down to an 11 or 12 inch box (anything below that is ugly). The problem is, they hurt my feet (where shin meets ankle and achilles). It's possible I was practicing them too much. I'm also wondering if perhaps, I should not have been doing these barefoot, maybe this is the one time I want to wear shoes? There is also a third possibility I hope to uncover after lockdown ends - once I start powerlifting again, my pain will go away?

I am well aware of the barefoot community, especially in powerlifting (building arch, splaying toes, Kabuki/Duffin, Donnie, etc.). I have gravitated towards this obviously. I do not think it was a mistake to ditch the medical establishment on this, and I have the opinion that unless you have the absolute flattest feet known to mankind, you are hurting yourself if you use cushioned shoes and/or orthotics. But I could be wrong; that's why I'm here seeking opinion not from experts, but from people with skin in the game.
 

bluejeff

Level 5 Valued Member
NOT MEDICAL ADVICE:

My suggestion is to keep practicing them barefoot. Gripping the floor with your toes will likely help you engage all the proper muscles. In my opinion, wearing shoes will keep you from engaging all the muscle that were likely under-active in the first place. That may be why you saw improvement by going barefoot.

I would also suggest learning about the tibialis anterior. It plays a role in both dorsiflexion AND maintaining the arch of your foot:
 

westsider19

Level 1 Valued Member
NOT MEDICAL ADVICE:

My suggestion is to keep practicing them barefoot.
My question then becomes, what shouldn't I do barefoot? And is there a threshold?

For example, I've been walking in the park barefoot for a month or two now, and I wonder if there's a certain amount of walking past which it would be better for me to wear shoes.

I have to say that despite doing pistols (and goblets) barefoot and walking around as much as possible barefoot, my flat feet do not feel nearly as good as squatting and deadlifting barefoot. I believe it's the stress induced from powerlifting that transform my feet from weak and frail to healthy and functional.
 
Last edited:

Coyotl

Level 6 Valued Member
My question then becomes, what shouldn't I do barefoot? And is there a threshold?

For example, I've been walking in the park barefoot for a month or two now, and I wonder if there's a certain amount of walking past which it would be better for me to where shoes.

I have to say that despite doing pistols (and goblets) barefoot and walking around as much as possible barefoot, my flat feet do not feel nearly as good as squatting and deadlifting barefoot. I believe it's the stress induced from powerlifting that transform my feet from weak and frail to healthy and functional.
I used to have "flat" feet - really my arches just were collapsing. Lifting, kettlebelling, and barefoot running (or at least as barefoot as possible) actually gave me arches that don't flatten. I never had foot problems, but I always had knee problems, I overpronated and so was told to wear awful high-arch mobility control shoes that were just painful. I've found swinging, around the worlds, and as-barefoot-as-possible running to be sufficient for my feet. None of that is medical advice, just my experience. :)
 

bluejeff

Level 5 Valued Member
My question then becomes, what shouldn't I do barefoot? And is there a threshold?
Once again, I'm not a medical professional....so this is some generic advice:

Ask whether your feet/ankles feel worse after doing different activities. There's not going to be a clear threshold; it's going to take some trial and error on your part. It would probably be best for you to see a specialist (or take Karen Smith up on her offer). It is also possible that you have certain muscles compensating for others that aren't doing their job (thus my tibialis suggestion), so a specialist can give you corrective exercises that may help. Getting a form check on skills that you feel bothersome would be a good idea too.
 

westsider19

Level 1 Valued Member
Is it normal for one's achilles' to be nonsymmetrical?

I have one slightly thicker than the other, not very noticeable, but not invisible if looking. I have read this indicates tendinosis. However, this achilles feels much better than my slightly thinner counterpart.
 

guardian7

Level 6 Valued Member
So after a few weeks of practicing Pavel's KB/bodyweight stuff, the area that is lagging the most are my pistols (I was able to do 1AP's in about a week).

I'm 38, with flat feet, and ditched my orthotics (which I've worn since a teenager) a couple years ago after getting serious into powerlifting. Since then I've walked around orthotic-less with zero problems, much to the horror of podiatrists. Then, maybe a year ago, I started squatting and deadlifting barefoot. I remember not being able to run or play basketball without orthotics when I was a teenager, now I was sprinting, wearing whatever shoes I want (or none), and doing whatever my heart desired with zero pain. I can't break down how much my feet improved due to powerlifting vs powerlifting barefoot, but both have been wonderful for my feet.

Then the lockdown happened, and after two weeks of just walking (and no lifting), my feet began to hurt. Shortly after I discovered Pavel (thanks Louie Simmons/Donnie Thompson), and here I am. I am grateful to Pavel and the community here for keeping me occupied and excited during this time.

So with the pistols, I have been making constant (albeit slow) progress. In terms of perfect form, I'd say I can pistol down to an 11 or 12 inch box (anything below that is ugly). The problem is, they hurt my feet (where shin meets ankle and achilles). It's possible I was practicing them too much. I'm also wondering if perhaps, I should not have been doing these barefoot, maybe this is the one time I want to wear shoes? There is also a third possibility I hope to uncover after lockdown ends - once I start powerlifting again, my pain will go away?

I am well aware of the barefoot community, especially in powerlifting (building arch, splaying toes, Kabuki/Duffin, Donnie, etc.). I have gravitated towards this obviously. I do not think it was a mistake to ditch the medical establishment on this, and I have the opinion that unless you have the absolute flattest feet known to mankind, you are hurting yourself if you use cushioned shoes and/or orthotics. But I could be wrong; that's why I'm here seeking opinion not from experts, but from people with skin in the game.
I have no medical qualifications. I had plantar faciitis and wore orthotics for years. I started to go barefoot and started Muay Thai for fitness, started jumping rope, going barefoot more often and training barefoot when I could. Now I only have slight discomfort after walking for a long time. Most of the medical profession doesn't understand the role of strength in alleviating many common conditions. The other thing that I do is just sit in the "Asian squat." You may need to hold on to something to start but this provides a deep general stretch. The other thing about foot problems, actually all joint problems, is that the cause is often not at the point of pain, so you want to stretch your calves, which are often part of the problem of foot conditions. Most people with foot problems have very tight calves which compensates for foot weakness.

1. Try the airborne/skater/shrimp squat as a progression before the pistol.
2. Stretch your calves and lower body both actively and passively. Relax into Stretch by Pavel is a good book. Ying yoga also for long slow easy stretching.
3. Continue to reduce foot support but gradually. People who jumped into barefoot running for example often ended up with problems. Like calluses on your hands when you start kettlebells, your body needs time to harden and adapt. Minimal footwear is probably the best option rather than barefoot outside. You can step on glass or something easily and be set back.

Again, this is just from my own experience but I have gone from cortisol shots in my heels for pain and orthotics to skipping for a couple of minutes for my Muay Thai warmup..

One final point. After taking the bodyweight course, I found that it is sometimes hard to distinguish between mobility problems and a strength deficit. Some may blame mobility when they actually need more strength. Karen would be better qualified to assess that. I was surprised that I had enough mobility for the pistol but not enough unilateral strength and balance. to complete the upwards part of the pistol.
 

Jak Nieuwenhuis

Level 6 Valued Member
sounds like you've been practicing the pistol too much

- pistol volume is best kept lower than you think you need - less volume, more stretching

-rucking, calf raises, hindu squats, hack squats, and stretching your feet and toes with your hands will do wonders for increasing pistol volume pain free

- pistols work better in the context of holistic leg program - pistols one day, hindu squats the next, glute bridges the next day, calf raises the next..
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Is it normal for one's achilles' to be nonsymmetrical?

I have one slightly thicker than the other, not very noticeable, but not invisible if looking. I have read this indicates tendinosis. However, this achilles feels much better than my slightly thinner counterpart.
If you drive, it’s quite normal for your right ankle and foot to be larger/stronger than your left.

-S-
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
I have no medical qualifications. I had plantar faciitis and wore orthotics for years. I started to go barefoot and started Muay Thai for fitness, started jumping rope, going barefoot more often and training barefoot when I could. Now I only have slight discomfort after walking for a long time. Most of the medical profession doesn't understand the role of strength in alleviating many common conditions. The other thing that I do is just sit in the "Asian squat." You may need to hold on to something to start but this provides a deep general stretch. The other thing about foot problems, actually all joint problems, is that the cause is often not at the point of pain, so you want to stretch your calves, which are often part of the problem of foot conditions. Most people with foot problems have very tight calves which compensates for foot weakness.

1. Try the airborne/skater/shrimp squat as a progression before the pistol.
2. Stretch your calves and lower body both actively and passively. Relax into Stretch by Pavel is a good book. Ying yoga also for long slow easy stretching.
3. Continue to reduce foot support but gradually. People who jumped into barefoot running for example often ended up with problems. Like calluses on your hands when you start kettlebells, your body needs time to harden and adapt. Minimal footwear is probably the best option rather than barefoot outside. You can step on glass or something easily and be set back.

Again, this is just from my own experience but I have gone from cortisol shots in my heels for pain and orthotics to skipping for a couple of minutes for my Muay Thai warmup..

One final point. After taking the bodyweight course, I found that it is sometimes hard to distinguish between mobility problems and a strength deficit. Some may blame mobility when they actually need more strength. Karen would be better qualified to assess that. I was surprised that I had enough mobility for the pistol but not enough unilateral strength and balance. to complete the upwards part of the pistol.
Lots of good things in this post.

-S-
 
Top Bottom