I keep coming across references online to people who are starting to run barefoot or nearly so, normally this would hardly register on my radar, but one of the blogs I read from time to time did a really good article on starting to run using Vibram Fivefingers (http://zenhabits.net/barefoot-running/). After reading the article at ZenHabits I started doing some more research on these to see if it was mostly just hype, or if there could be something to running barefoot.
One of the most consistent benefits people mention when they talk about barefoot running is that it will strengthen the muscles in your foot and calf, which in turn should help with your overall posture which will lead to less back problems, etc. Great! One of my main goals for this last year was to strengthen my core muscles and work on getting my back more healthy since I have had back issues since I was a teenager.
The more I read about the Vibram Fivefingers, the more I wanted to give them a try, I was a bit worried that they were mostly just hype and that I would end up just wasting $100 on shoes I wouldn’t ever want to wear, but I decided to give them a try. I found a local store about half an hour from here that sells them so I decided to go down and at least try a pair on and get sized for them (the sizes are more precise than normal shoes). I don’t know that I would say it was love at first sight, but after trying them on and walking around with them, I decided to go ahead and get them, about $100 later I walked out the store with a new pair of Vibram Fivefingers TrekSport.
From my research I knew that I should expect about 2 weeks of my feet hurting pretty bad since they would be adjusting to doing more work than they were used to. I had hoped that somehow I would get to be spared the pain from adjusting, but I wasn’t. The two main things that hurt for the first couple weeks were:
- My little toe ached in the bone at the joint, my little toe has always curled just a bit under the next one, and the Vibram Fivefingers forced it to be separate.
- The balls of my feet and toes ached a bit because they were not used to flexing so much, in normal shoes your toes don’t flex as much when you walk as they will in the Vibram Fivefingers.
My little toe aching was the worst, the second I would put my shoe on it hurt pretty bad, but I mostly tried to ignore it and know that it was probably temporary (thought it felt like it would never end). However just like everyone said, by the end of the second week I was mostly adjusted to the new shoes. I made a point of wearing them everywhere I went so that my feet would adjust quickly, I also wanted to see how they did on different surfaces.
I have now been wearing the Vibram Fivefingers for about 2 months, I wear them to work everyday, I have worn them running, hiking, kayaking, and wading in the water. It is hard to describe how connected you feel to the ground beneath you. My balance and sure-footed-ness (Made up word, just go with it!) are much better than they have ever been. The first time I used them to walk in the Chagrin River it was incredible, I have always been very unsure of my step in the water as totally barefoot, I am a wimp, and with regular shoes or sandals I slip off rocks, stub my toes on boulders, etc. However the first time I walked into the river with my Vibram Fivefingers I felt as sure footed as I am on land.
I took a fairly long hike out through the woods a few weeks ago in them, and once again, it was incredible how much contact I had with the ground I was hiking over. The only issue I had while traversing through the woods (no trails, just hiking) was I kept getting ferns stuck between my toes, I wasn’t expecting that one! After a couple months of wearing these almost exclusively I would have a hard time going back to regular shoes, I actually just got my second pair of Vibrams (A pair of red KSO’s) so that I can use one pair for running and one pair for work.
** This is part 1 of a 3 part series I am going to write about my experience with the Vibram Fivefingers, you can look for an article on running in them and a FAQ article over the next few weeks.