Toe Wrestling: The Bizarre Sport Sweeping the World Off its Feet

Toe WrestlingPhoto: Sarah G

Take off your shoes and socks, folks – it’s toe-wrestling time! Although you might not believe it, toe wrestling is a real sport complete with its own world championship. And if the steely grip of five interlocked digits isn’t enough to knock the competition’s socks off, the names of the participants certainly will!

This quirky sport has its origins in the UK. It all started at the Royal Oak Inn, a pub in Wetton in the Peak District National Park. In 1976, a group of walkers at the Royal Oak decided it was time to invent a sport that Brits might actually be good at, and toe wrestling was born. Unfortunately, however, a Canadian tourist smashed those Brits’ hopes when he won the first Toe Wrestling World Championship, and the sport was put on ice.

Nevertheless, nearly two decades later, toe wrestling was brought back to life by George Burgess, a new landlord of the Royal Oak. Since then, the sport has gained surprising popularity amongst bizarre sports enthusiasts. Event organizers even went so far as to apply (unsuccessfully) for admittance into the Olympic Games.

As you might be able to tell from the pictures, toe wrestling revolves around a fairly simple concept. Contestants stick their feet onto the “toedium”, the umpire yells “toes away”, and the match begins. To win, the rival’s big toe must be forced to the ground two times over the course of up to three rounds. The first round is held with the right foot, the second with the left, and the third (if it’s necessary) with the right again.

Toe wrestler Alan “Nasty” Nash has won the World Toe Wrestling Championship title multiple times. With over 18 years of toe wrestling experience under his belt plus nine broken toes, Nash is a force to be reckoned with. For example, as he revealed in an interview with the Metro, “In 1997, I broke four toes but I just packed them in ice, returned to the competition and won the title.” And as in all good sports, there’s a healthy amount of competition – and funny nicknames – with Nash’s biggest rival known as the “Toeminator” (real name Paul Beech).

Nash explains that most of the new competitors are in their twenties – and that some of them travel from as far away as Australia, Japan and South Korea – but reckons the young upstarts are “easy to beat.” Apparently, being in your mid-thirties is the optimum age for toe wresting – and it isn’t a sport for couch potatoes, either.

Toe wrestlePhoto: Sarah G

Nash was left infuriated after being knocked out of the 2008 World Toe Wrestling Championship by Italian competitor the “Itatoelion Stallion”. As a result, Nash upped his training and even began going to the gym. What’s more, the hard work paid off, as he went on to regain his crown at the 2009, 2010 and 2012 Championships.

Today, the World Toe Wrestling Championship is staged at the Bentley Brook Inn in Derbyshire and in 2013 will take place on July 14. So how about putting your best foot forward and giving it a go?

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4