Thiem has recurring problems with feet. We don’t know details, but these are probably chronic blisters and never-healing wounds. Of course this must have an impact on his movement and consequently on his whole game.

We don’t know, if he is not a flat foot case. If he is, this changes a lot and for an athlete it’s very important to take special care, for sure use special orthopedic insoles, which is standard these days, even for recreation.

Dominic may need very special shoes and insoles, specialist foot care and … maybe long-term training to change his feet conditions.

First short-term treatment and prevention read here

Could Federer’s footwork (or call it Tarahumara running) help as long-term solution? Not only to avoid blisters and other potential injuries, but to improve the movement and save energy?

Who’s interested to know more about exciting Tarahumara story, can read these articles:

or watch this video

If you put into Google “Tarahumara”, “Born to run” “Caballo Blanco”, you will find lots of other publications.

What is the whole Tarahumara thing about?

It’s about running ultramarathons on roads in high mountains of Mexico wearing simple sandals (no, not from Adidas ;)) Or barefoot.

What has this common with Federer?

It’s basically the same “style” of running (or walking). Starting the feet contact with the ground not with heel, like most Europeans do, but with toes or forefoot or flat, actually never touching the ground with heels.

What has it common with Thiem’s problems? It’s completely different in terms of load put on joints and tendons but also in terms of injuries to the foot soles, including blisters. Blisters can bring pain, sometimes very acute and make the affected to put feet on edges rather then whole foot soles. This must have influence on the movement and overall performance, because of partial loss of balance, overloading joints, making it difficult to get good positions for hitting.

Of course there is medicine to help and there is the manufacturer of shoes, which must be customized to the individual shape of feet and specific problems of the player. In case of Thiem this is adidas 🙁

But besides of this, is there any long-term solution? I think it could be to learn Federer’s footwork and Tarahumara-like running.

Is this possible for someone who does not have it inborn, like Federer or Tarahumara or many people in Africa, first of all in Kenya have?

This was scientifically investigated but we are not scientists or shoe manufacturers.

Let’s stay with the evidence we have in tennis with Federer.

So how to learn it?

Well, I’m not specialist. Even if I’m running just forefoot style, both with jogging and while playing tennis, have no African or Tarahumara roots and I was not aware of this and was never learning this consciously. After having noticed the specifics of Federer’s footwork I was curious to know and asked tennis friends to tell me, what they can observe, when I’m playing. They were all surprised and telling me, I’m just running on forefeet and once again they were surprised to learn, they were doing this differently, namely with heel striking.

If I could learn this “by accident”, a performance athlete, having fitness coaches a.s.o. can do this with ease.

Here are some links I found about how to do it:


And you can find lots of videos and articles about how to switch from heel to forefoot running.

Why not to give a try if it works so well for Federer?

And how to help avoid blisters in short term?

This is something Thiem should let do taking medical timeout, if things go wrong – quite a young Rafa is the model here. Never seen Thiem asking for such help during the match, even if he was visibly hurt and no more able to run somehow well 🙁 Dominic! It’s not a shame! Look the big, hard Rafa doing just this !!!

And here are 2 interesting links from @Michelle Blaydon (thank you, Michelle :))

An short ad hoc comment to the above article. If blisters come from shear between bones and the skin, bot between skin and shoes, applying Federer’s footwork, based on flat foot or forefoot striking, may reduce this shear and thus be the perfect mix of blisters prevention and making the complicated movement in tennis more effective.

Updated 7.03.2018, 21:59

Just not to be misleading. There are 2 aspects of footwork in tennis:

  • Movement sequences
  • Running form

Every player has his own movement sequences . They must fit hitting technique. Cannot be the same for half-volleyer like Federer and deep-swinger like Thiem.

So to learn Federer’s footwork is meant here to learn his running form, as explained and shown in details, mainly forefoot or flat foot striking.  So don’t think about movement sequences – these are actually perfect for Thiem’s game. Think about running form. This one is not perfect, not allowing the game to be fully flexible, at the same time to save energy and … to avoid blisters.

Updated 9.03.2018, 08:57

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  1. It was a pleasure to watch that video about the tarahumuras and their fabulous running abilities. Amazing really what some people are able to do.
    Btw their indian brothers in the US probably used to have comparable running indurance. Did you ever here of Jim Thorpe ? Thorpe, a half breed native indian from the midwest state of Okhlahoma (where I spend some time as an exchange student many years ago) was known for his incredible athletic ability and exceptional running indurance as well. Jim was also a very humble person who didn’t like to be admired as a celebrity or be looked at as someone special. Sounds familiar doesn’t it ? Look for the description of his way of moving in following article…

  2. Thanks, Wilfried, for the link. Of course the name is not new to me, but I didn’t know the whole story.
    In one of Tarahumara articles some of Tarahumaras says, he knows about an Apache being better in running than them.
    So I think, it was not only Tarahumara. They got world-known by incident. There were and are for sure many others like Tarahumara. Including Mayas or Incas from times before Columbus.
    When watching Tarahumara running, I could only think – how good and happy their life is,and how simple 🙂

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