Now, there’s one sport that’ll keep you on your toes: the fierce, competitive game of toe wrestling. The bizarre sport has just held its annual world championships in the village of Fenny Bentley, Derbyshire, England, with veteran Alan “Nasty” Nash clinching his 12th title. The game, where two athletes lock the toes of their bare feet and try to pin their opponent’s foot down, traces its roots to 1976 when a group of pub patrons created a game that would ensure Brits would always have a world champion in a sport. Metro spoke to Nash, 55, an earthmoving equipment specialist by trade, about the peculiar pursuit and its appeal.
Q: How on earth did you get into toe wrestling?
– For me, it all began in 1994 when the very first official championships were held. I was doing the lighting for some bands that were on and decided to put my name down to have a go as a laugh. I won the first world title that day and decided that it was going to become part of my life from then on. The main idea is to have fun and raise money for charity at the same time, but that does not stop the competitors from being serious about winning as it is a very prestigious title to hold.
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Q: Is toe wrestling harder than the most celebrated, arm equivalent?
– I personally think that the sport is harder than arm wrestling as it is a full body sport needing core and upper body strength as well as powerful legs.
Q: How do you prepare for the sport?
– I train all year round at least 4 days a week and coming up to a competition I can do anything up to seven days as well as doing a full-time day job. I also do some special training to power up the calf and toe muscles, but I keep that training to myself. It’s a big secret that competitors would love to find out – sort of like the recipe to Coke or Kentucky Fried Chicken. I also have frequent foot massages and pedicures just to keep my “weapons” looking good.
Q: What main attributes should a toe-tussler possess?
– The perfect size foot for toe wrestling is UK 9s to 11s (27cm to 28.5 cm). If the foot is over size 11 (28.5 cm), it looks impressive but it is harder to get the correct angle and therefore reduce the pressure available. I have studied the best angles to hold the foot and the angle to bend the knee against the angle to bend at the waist and hold the shoulders. This might sound a bit technical but if you get the calculations right it can add 50 per cent more power to the foot.
Q: What advice would you give someone trying out the sport?
– Don’t make the mistake of just building up your legs – the arms are just as important. Be prepared to get injured as it’s easy to break the odd toe. I myself have broken nine toes, once breaking four in a semi-final, but I still fought on and won the final.
Q: How many titles do you have?
– People keep asking me when I am going to retire, probably so that they have a chance at winning. [Laughs] And after 21 years of competing and 12 world records, I still have the same response: when someone from England is good enough to keep me from the title I will happily put my feet up and retire. I now compete with challengers who are 30 years younger than me and they cause me no trouble at all.
Q: Let’s be frank: you must think it’s a downright weird sport…
– A lot of people think this is an odd sport and I don't blame them, but when they actually watch a competition and feel the atmosphere they change their minds and really get into it.
Q: What are your future plans for toe wrestling?
– I consider myself the guardian of the one sport that England can always win and will not retire until I know that the title will remain safe in English hands… or feet.