Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Vibram Five Fingers Report

Pies descalzos:

I sought out a pair of Vibram Five Fingers yesterday. First I went to Boulder Running Company, one of the most popular running stores in the country to discover that they didn't carry them; maybe they are in denial. As I browsed their great variety of footwear I overheard salespeople counseling runners, would be runners, and soon to be injured runners about pronation, stabilization, motion control, etc. Of course they can't sell them because everything they would say to sell them would counter everything they say to sell running shoes. They sell lots of other footwear that is clearly not for running.

I ended up at the Pedestrian Shop where the clerk told me that they can't keep them in stock so instead of asking for a particular color I should just tell her my size and she would bring out the options. Turns out the display model was the option. I probably wouldn't have been able to buy them if it wasn't payday and I wasn't expecting a nice refund check from the IRS within a couple of weeks.

I felt like I had already switched to barefoot running although I still wore my Asics running shoes. I've been running off-road and off-trail and picking my steps more carefully almost as if I were hunting partridge. So, when I read the advice on Barefoot Ken Bob's website and saw he said to switch over carefully, maybe walking around the house a bit barefoot, I decided that I was already a few steps ahead of others switching to barefoot running.

I worked each of my toes into the toes of the Vibrams. The temperature was about 34 degrees and the skies were overcast. I considered driving up to the open space I like to run on so as to avoid the pavement, but figured I need to get used to that as well. Barefoot Ken Bob urges people not to transition to barefoot running using a minimalist shoe, but there are nasty goat head thorns where I run and I did not want to be digging them out of my soles. I will probably run truly barefoot but I will have to be careful about where.

I noticed that after the first mile (on pavement) the low side of my calves were hurting. I haven't had sore muscles from running since, well, really never. I figured I must be doing something right if I was using muscles that have had little use. I interpret muscle soreness as a good thing; what I also noticed was I had wasn't wincing from plantar fasciitis and come to think of it my big toe joint wasn't hurting either. I also often get something akin to a cramp in my middle toe and have to take my shoes off to crack it. My lower legs still ache like I had a work out; isn't that normal though, after a workout?

Once I reached the open space I went to the fields and ran uphill and downhill on the bogs, pasture, ice, snow, mud, grass clumps, etc. They recommend barefoot running on a variety of surfaces; I think I hit all of them. They're not great on ice but at least I had a good feel. They're slippery on clay mud but I suppose bare feet wouldn't be any better. They are OK in the snow but they aren't warm; the wet comes in between the toes. I had to stop once to take them off and warm my toes with my hands and the cotton gloves I was wearing. While I was sitting there a man and his dog approached and he said, "I thought I saw some barefoot footprints." I hadn't thought about it, but I checked and they do leave a footprint just like a bare foot.

I ran 5.7 miles all together. I did walk a bit toward the end just to be prudent; the calf muscles, or certainly some other ones down around there were definitely spent. My feet didn't hurt and don't hurt but the proof will be in how everything feels tomorrow and other days. My pace was a little slower but not much. I was running a bit over 10 minute miles on the trails in my Asics and today my pace was a little less than 11 minutes per mile.

So, for today, I endorse the VFF. Happy trails.


  1. I guess you don't want to make screw shoes out of them!

  2. Follow up report: The only evidence this morning that I ran "barefoot" yesterday is that my gastrocnemius muscles are sore and particularly noticeable going up or down stairs. So I still give the Vibrams a thumbs up, or big toe up.