Saturday, February 13, 2010

Five Fingers Thoughts

Just over four miles after getting the Vibram Five Fingers I am still happy about my purchase. For those of you unaware (Though how could you be? I know you follow my updates like I was Chad Ochocinco tweeting), Wednesday I bought Vibram Five Fingers shoes. These are shoes in the loosest sense of the word. Really, they are just foot-coverings. A rubber sole connected to your foot with GorTex mesh. The idea behind them, which I will get to in a minute, is barefoot running is better for you than running in shoes, even very expensive running shoes.
Thursday I ran three miles, my normal distance for workout days one and two. Going in, my plan was to run until I was too sore to keep running. I was expecting to stop early. I’ve never run any real distance barefoot before, which is basically what I was now doing, and so I didn’t think my legs, ankles, knees, and feet would be terribly pleased with me. I figured the new stresses and pressures would not hurt, but cause sufficient soreness as to make running a pain. I was, as I so often am, wrong. Was there soreness? Yes. But nothing so bad I had to stop. My feet started to hurt, the outer edge and the balls of my feet to be specific. You see, you run differently without shoes on. You cannot heel-strike because there is no cushioning on your heel. All the meat is on the side of your foot. So that’s where you connect with the ground. Not being used to that, the muscle quickly got sore, along with the front of my foot. Like I expected, my gait adjusted itself with little input from me. Having worked out for so long, I know my body. I know when I’m hurt and when I’m just sore. I know need-to-stop-now pain and how it differs from new-sensation pain and good-workout pain. This was merely my body doing something new.
After my three miles I went downstairs and did shoulders/biceps. In the locker room I was stopped by a guy who asked me a question I had asked myself the first time I saw these shoes. “Hey, you gonna work out in those? You bettah watch you don’t drop a weight on your foot.” Like I said, this was an initial concern of mine as well until I thought about it for about two seconds. Two things: 1) I’ve been working out for nearly 15 years and I’ve yet to drop a weight on my foot. So that shouldn’t be a real concern. 2) Check out your Nikes. You really think that’s going to protect your precious piggies from a 45lbs plate?
Instead, I felt as grounded as I have ever felt when lifting. Solid, with a very strong base. Feet are an amazing piece of evolution and when you let them do what they were meant to do they won’t let you down. It’s all in trusting your body. So performing the same lifts as I always do became a unique and revitalizing experience. And stretching, which I would do barefoot any chance I could, was wonderful. The whole experience made me think of lifeguarding, and that always a good thing.
But, I assumed that I would pay for it the next day. Foot soreness would become more apparent as adrenaline wore off and as the muscles made me pay. Wrong again! Woke up this morning feeling no pain. (On the feeling no pain note: the reason I was looking at new shoes in the first place was my knees were starting to hurt. That means my shoes were wearing out and new ones are needed. My knees during the first run? Painless. Woohoo!) Went back to the gym this morning and did leg/triceps day, which means a shorter run of only a mile. And I ran it a little faster than normal. I felt good. Leg presses were strange because I could feel the diamond plate under my heels but other than that it was another day at the gym. A goodness.
Barefoot running sounds insane to us when we first thing about it. You can’t run barefoot, you’ll ruin your feet/ankles/knees/hips! Really? Who wins the New York marathon every year? Some African who has never owned a pair of shoes in his life! How did our ancestors catch food? Did they have fancy kicks? There are people all over the world who go barefoot the whole day through. Not in industrialized countries, we’ve risen about such barbarism. I ask you to consider the foot. Gaze upon it. Hold it in your hand and feel the musculature, the bone structure, the design. It’s a structure built to support the human frame, to make it able to catch food and run from things that would make it food. Shoe technology has gotten increasingly “better” over the last 60 years, yet running injury rates haven’t changed. Look it up, truefact. 7 out of 10 runners have issues with their bodies every year. Why aren’t these new shoes changing that?
These arguments show up in all the literature supporting barefoot sport. And it was the natural aspect that made up my mind for me. The evolutionary support, and the trusting in my body. Barefoot feels better. It’s more fun, and it’s better for you.
Also, these shoes are catching on. I went two places to find them and both told how their stock gets bought up as soon as it comes in. I’ve seen two or three other people in the gym with them on. Saw one yesterday. I was going up the stairs and he was coming down. Our eyes noticed our footwear and we shared a Cantaloupe Allergy Moment.
I would suggest you go try on a pair. You get to wear nifty toe socks with them. Try them on and I dare you not to smile and hop around a little. I think, after two workouts, that I’m going to be very pleased with these for some time to come. I’m a convert. And, since they have no padding to wear out, I’m not going to have to buy new ones until the Velcro dies or the rubber sole does.
Feels more solid already.


  1. I'm just excited that not only did you go into a health food store, you bought something! I'll convert you yet...

  2. One comment and then I'll shut up. Africans now and our ancestors from hundreds of years ago don't/didn't have shoes - yes. But since we have, our anatomy has evolved. I would encourage you to take it slow so the padding on your feet has a chance to build up. You're not hurt now, I just worry you might be in the near future.

    Of course, this is assuming you're running on something hard and not sand or dirt, which would lessen the effect of running barefoot.

    I'm glad you like them so much! Matt showed me a picture...