Media Coverage

Monday, 9 August 2010

Barefoot Hiking - September 2010

Canadian Geographic Emblem

Barefoot hiking
Barefoot hikers get in touch with the land, but can they climb a mountain?
By Scott Berdahl

EIGHT HUNDRED METRES off the valley floor, blades of rock jut out from the mountainside. A cold wind whips across the ridge, but the ground itself is warm in the evening sunlight. Two dozen Dall sheep gaze down at us as we pick our way across vertically-bedded shale, favouring the soft patches of alpine grass, heather and arctic lupine that line the way. My girlfriend Jessica and I are halfway up Caribou Mountain, a 1,900-metre peak about an hour south of Whitehorse. Neither of us is wearing shoes.

Our climb is an experiment of sorts, a sojourn into the world of barefoot hiking. In Canada and abroad, a subset of hikers has done away with footwear, choosing instead to hit the trails unshod. While the idea sounded painful to me at first — perhaps even dangerous — the more I looked into it, the more I wanted to give it a try.

“We’re made to have a lot of feedback from the ground,” says Richard Frazine, author of an informal guidebook called The Barefoot Hiker. Feet are one of the more sensitive parts of the human body, yet we keep them stuffed inside jackets of leather, canvas and rubber, robbing them of tactile input. By ditching shoes, Frazine says, we reclaim a lost sense.

When I trained for this hike, walking sections of my route home from work barefoot, it didn’t take long for Frazine’s point to sink in. At first, grass tickled and almost everything else hurt; the only real plus was that I could cut right through Ottawa’s Rideau River to shave 10 minutes off the commute. As my feet toughened, though, I started to appreciate the different textures underfoot: concrete sidewalks, asphalt roads and even some gravel walkways, which reminded me a bit of crunching on potato chips.

On Caribou Mountain, Frazine’s point is driven home. The trail up shifts from cool, dark soil in aspen groves, laden with hints of the previous day’s rain, to dry ridges, where warm dust envelops our feet as we step between rounded stones and the occasional rose bush. More than just experiencing a new texture, it’s like I have a stethoscope on each stretch of ground that I cover. I’ve done a lot of hiking, but it’s an entirely new experience.

And apparently, I’m doing myself a favour. A growing stack of scientific literature suggests that modern shoes are behind many foot troubles, from athlete’s foot and corns to joint problems and flat arches, to name just a few. One recent study compared modern feet to those of ancient, unshod humans, finding that before we took to shoes, our feet were much healthier.

It makes sense. We’ve had millions of years to evolve since early humans began walking upright. Given the chance, shouldn’t our feet be able to fend for themselves? This thinking has led to a resurgence of faith in the foot, with companies such as Vibram going so far as to release glovelike shoes to simulate barefoot walking.

Wolf Starchild, who runs a guided trekking company in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario is a firm believer in bare feet. Interested in hiking with various clubs, Starchild got sick of hearing people protest that he’d get hurt and they’d have to carry him out. “I really wanted to prove them wrong,” says Starchild.

So in the summer of 2009, he walked the entire length of Ontario’s Bruce Trail in his bare feet. He was fine. “How many people,” asks Starchid, “can say they walked 850 kilometres in a summer without getting a blister?”

But for Jess and I, pressing farther up the ridge, the shale is starting to hurt. While Starchild, who has done some barefoot mountaineering in British Columbia, might not have any difficulty with the terrain, it’s clear that us tenderfoots have wandered out of our league. We stop for a minute to take in the view — the dunes of the Carcross desert spilling over boreal forest in the valley below; the long, blue arms of Bennett Lake stretching away into the peaks of the Coast Mountains — and then start hobbling downward.

A couple of hours later, back at the car, I gaze up at the ridge and then proudly down at my feet. “That,” I say to Jess, “with these.”

Before we head home, however, I put on socks and shoes. My feet revel in the softness, as though they’re hitting a luxurious bed after a hard day. I take a few steps without worrying about where they’re landing. Then I break into a run, down into a ditch, up the far side and onto an outcrop of jagged rock exposed by the road cut. I launch myself out over the scree below and touch down without incident. For all their shortcomings, shoes suddenly don’t seem so bad.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Featured on the Living Barefoot radio show

May 1st, 2010 Episode 12

We speak with Wolfmaan about his setting a world record hiking the Bruce Trail barefoot from beginning to end.  We also speak with Gary Berenbroick, a kettle bells instructor, about training barefoot. Finally, we speak with Johnny Bird about this struggle to loose wait only to find that barefooting was the answer all along.

Living Barefoot Show 
37 Minutes, 32 Seconds  Download mp3 - Click Here (Size )

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Business hopeful's hunt for a Dragon

Business hopeful's hunt for a Dragon
Posted By Don Fraser, St. Catharines Standard Staff
Saturday, March 27, 2010

It was Wolf Starchild's time in the sun.

Starchild was vying for a chance to shine on the CBC business reality show Dragon's Den on Friday.

He joined a throng waiting nervously for interviews inside the St. Catharines-Thorold Chamber of Commerce education centre.

Those making the cut will pitch their ideas to a panel of Canadian business moguls called "dragons" to try to secure an investment.

Starchild — his real name — is at the business plan stage of Wolf Trek Walking Tours.

He is an outdoor educator and travel writer and leave-no-trace instructor for outdoor treks.

His dream is to set up Niagara ecological tours with themes like waterfalls, wine and Native American culture.

"I love the outdoors and have a passion for the wilderness," said Starchild, 32 of Niagara-on-the-Lake. "Niagara offers so many wonderful opportunities to visit wilderness and culturally significant areas."

As for a future dragon verdict: "I hope they (invest) because I think there's nothing out there that's similar to this in the area.

"I think they'll like it."

Starchild being fitted with microphone

For the first time, there's added Dragon's Den incentive for environmental proposals like Starchild's, with SunChips offering $100,000 for the best "greenvention."

People can pitch their green inventions at auditions, or online at

For Season Six of the hit show, producers are holding auditions at many other Canadian locations.

Those appearing in front of the dragons are notified within two to four weeks, with the taping in Toronto occurring in late April and May.

Glenn Timak, 47, is a St. Catharines promoter who hopes to get that Dragon's Den call.

"I'm doing a female version of the Harlem Globetrotters," said Timak of his "bikini basketball" concept.

The touring business will involve teams of models and athletes from Canada and the U.S.

"They're not going to be in string bikinis, it's just a name," he said, adding the games will be tasteful and fast-paced.

"They'll be wearing sport (clothing) ... and we're going to be lowering the nets."
Article ID# 2510251