Dear Mark: Conditioning Bare Feet for Rough Surfaces, and Residual Weight Gain After a Miscarriage

BarefootFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I answer two good questions from readers. First up, I discuss the conditioning of bare feet for the purposes of walking across a multitude of surfaces. Believe it or not, much of the conditioning happens upstairs – in the brain. Then I give a little advice to a woman who’s having trouble losing stubborn weight after a miscarriage. She’s doing everything right without getting anywhere; could that actually be the problem?

Let’s go:

I recently started really conditioning the bottoms of my feet. I am interested in the lower leg-strength benefits, as well as ‘blister-proofing’ my feet for better performance in sporting events.

My question is, how long until it stops hurting to walk across surfaces such as gravel? Also, any tips for conditioning the bottom of the arch? The pads are toughening up nicely, but the arch lags far behind (I do not have high arches).



A few tips:

Avoid excessive callouses. Experienced barefooters talk about turning the bottom of the feet into supple leather, not hardened callous. You want to feel the ground to facilitate the boost in proprioceptive awareness between mind, body, and environment offered by barefooting.

Step straight down. Don’t slide your foot along the surface. Don’t drag your feet. Don’t stub your toe. Place your foot down. Any rough, abrasive surfaces or protruding sharp objects you encounter will be a lot less bothersome if you’re coming straight down on them, rather than dragging your soles across.

Step lightly. Ideally, you’ll be taking shorter, lighter steps when barefoot. This reduces the weight of your footfall, which has two benefits. You’re not coming down so hard, so it’s less painful when you step on gravel. You’re also not committing so much to your step when you take a short one, allowing you to respond to an inhospitable surface more quickly and remove your foot from the situation.

Change your perception of “pain.” Pain hurts, yes. That’s the point of it – to keep us out of harm’s way. But I think the key to barefooting over any surface is the remodeling of how we perceive pain. And the pain of walking over rocks or gravel with bare feet is just the shock of a sheltered foot suddenly thrust into a new situation. The “pain” doesn’t ever really go away. You don’t stop feeling the gravel bits. You do, however, start thinking of the pain as information. Data for a fuller picture of the environment. After that, it stops hurting so much.

Hope it helps! Keep at it!

Dear Mark,

I am hoping that you can help me! Four years ago, Primal Blueprint changed my life. I have been living primally ever since I finished your book. I initially lost about 25 pounds and I have kept the weight off. Over the past two years, I have gradually lost weight, maybe about 10 pounds or so. I have experienced plateaus before but have pushed through them and continued to effortlessly lose weight.

I got married a few months ago and the ladies at the alterations place were getting a little irritated with me because every time I came in for a fitting, they had to keep sizing down my dress!

I also recently experienced an early miscarriage, the doctor said it was due to a chromosomal irregularity so my body rejected the pregnancy. I had packed on 10 pounds up until the miscarriage. Now I am finding it next to impossible to lose the weight. Because I was experiencing such difficulties, I have really been vigilant regarding my carb intake. I have eliminated dairy completely (no more full fat raw cheese snacks for me!). I also eliminated fruits and just allow myself to have some berries for a snack or dessert occasionally. I’m exercising more than I have in the past: walking two miles in the mornings, biking four miles in the evening and lifting heavy things three times a week. So I don’t understand why the weight isn’t melting away as it has done so easily and consistently before. I’ve really just been eating high quality grassfed meat, wild caught local fish, pastured eggs, pastured bacon that my husband and I have cured ourselves, organic vegetables and organic berries.

I even went back to the doctor to have my hormone levels checked along with a complete blood panel and everything came back perfect!

If you can shed any light on this, I would really appreciate it!!

Thanks in advance, Mark!


In your case, I’m actually going to suggest that you ease up on everything. The diet, the carb and cheese elimination, the berry fears, the increased exercise, the micromanagement of your lifestyle, all that.

I know lots of women who have had a miscarriage, and almost without exception they’ve all experienced residual, nagging, stubborn weight gain in the months after. And growing more and more strict with the diet and exercise doesn’t really seem to work. In fact, it’s actually counterproductive (which, I think, is what you’re experiencing). The more you fine tune, the more stubborn the fat becomes. It may not be your food that’s the issue. Rather, it may be your mindset. You’ve gone through what can be a pretty traumatic experience, and you certainly don’t need any more stress in your life at this time.

Take full advantage of the 80/20 rule. Ease up on the diet. Stick to Primal fare, but eat the things that you’ve been consciously eliminating, like berries and even other fruit.

Eat that full-fat cheese. Besides, a recent study just confirmed that people with the highest blood levels of certain dairy-related phospholipids and fatty acids are the most insulin sensitive. That’s right: eating full-fat dairy likely increases your insulin sensitivity and carb tolerance.

Exercise: Stick with the walks, but don’t force yourself to do them. If you honestly feel like walking, then walk. If you’re lagging one morning and feel like snuggling up under a blanket with some tea, skip the walk and go with the blanket.

I’d ditch the bike rides, unless they are truly leisurely and meandering. No hard bike sprints, no uphill climbs where you’re gripping the handle bars til your knuckles run white and your jaw muscles clench.

Lift twice a week. And opt for heavier weights, lower reps. Less volume overall.

Try to replace two or three of your workouts with play bouts, or playouts (as Darryl Edwards would say). If you’re out of ideas, try some of these on for size.

Try all (or some of) this for a few weeks and see if things start moving in the right direction. Be sure to write back if you need anything else. Good luck! It’ll get better, I promise!

That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading and keep the questions coming!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!