A Vibram Five-Finger Update

So I’ve had these crazy toe shoes for about two months now, and I’ve just gotten to the point where  I can go out and run for an hour+ like I used to do in sneakers.

The pain I had in my leg that eventually brought on this whole vibram curiosity? Completely a thing of the past. My entire running form has completely changed, and with every additional vibram run, I find something else to tweak in order to make running more natural and more comfortable.

Back straight, hips forward, upper body relaxed, knees up, heels kicking back, legs circling through, almost pedaling over the ground. The consistency in momentum is kind of remarkable with this running form — it’s not pavement pounding, it’s pavement gliding, I’d say, or maybe pavement…cycling? Whatever it is,  it’s a LOT more fun. About 80% of this change in form reflects what the “shoes” naturally inspire, and the other 20% has probably found its way into my runs through all of the minimalist books/blogs I have been reading. Things have been getting pretty dorky over here. I can’t watch someone run past without noting their form & their footwear. New level of creepiness attained.

And there definitely are people who run with excellent form while wearing massive padded sneakers, but, not to be rude or whatever, they seem to be the people who probably grew up running and learned good form, rather than the folks who took on running because “oh crap I’m out of shape and should start running”. Yes, I am completely judging people based on their body types. Whatever, I’m fat, I can do that. Shh.

When I first started running with these shoes, I would stop a run because my calf muscles were going crazy. Now my calf muscles are conditioned, and I have to stop running when the soles of my feet & muscles inside my foot are on fire, but as I continue to run with these shoes, my feet will get stronger and this won’t happen anymore. Until then, well. I’m spending a fair amount of time like this:

Yes, the bottoms of my feet are kind of nasty, but you know what?–I’d rather have monkey-esque leather feet and be able to run without insane leg pain than have delicate lady feet and not be able to run. I mean, my feet are 9.5 wides. There’s not a lot of potential for delicate.

The transition to comfortable “barefoot” running has taken a while, but each run truly does feel more comfortable, easier, and more natural. When started off as 1-2 mile treadmill runs every 5 or 6 days has become 4-8 mile outside runs every 2-4 days, depending on my biking desires and the speed of recovery of my feet. I don’t start a run if my feet hurt because there’s just no point in not letting my body completely heal between each run during this transition phase.

When un-vibramed, I find myself using my feet in different ways. I’m more aware of the muscles in my feet and can move my feet and toes a lot more than I ever could before. I use my toes when I’m walking around — I think the shape of my feet is changing a bit, too. Suddenly, I actually am a bit unstable and have a hard time balancing when I’m wearing sneakers, because I can’t feel the ground or grasp it with my toes. Seriously. I can balance on one bare foot on a raft in the middle of the ocean all day long, but put a sneaker on me and put a fan on in the room next door, and I’ll fall over in an instant.

Last weekend, I went running in the woods in the vibrams, as I’m sure you can tell from the pictures I’m including in this post. The coolest thing about them was how easy they made paths like this seem. In sneakers, this would be ankle twisting territory. In vibrams, it’s  way less scary, because I can actually FEEL the ground and use it to my benefit. My foot could grab onto the roots, rocks, etc, and push off of them. They were obstacles, but they weren’t obstacles that worked against me, but rather obstacles that made the run more fun. Running in the woods feels great, simply because dirt is softer than cement. In case you were wondering, my favorite running surface is barkmulch (it has a lot of give & bounce), and my least favorite is knives which are on fire. Second to that is unevenly placed bricks. Cement isn’t great, but I’m getting accustomed to it. I definitely run on grass/dirt/barkmulch when I can, though. Anything to avoid knives on fire…. I continue to run without music, which I continue to enjoy.  Every run is just. Like. A totally new, fun, everything. With every run, I am reminded of why I like to run. I am excited to continue to become stronger in vibrams and build up to and surpass the long run distances that I used to be able to do. Ooh, and long runs will be better for me, because I am running in a way which is strengthening my body, rather than pounding on joints and stuff! Awesome.

And if you argue that you need the arch support of real shoes, well, I’ll point you here, and suggest, like the stubborn hippie dork I’ve become, that arches are quite strong on their own, and are only weakened when force is applied to them from underneath. Like most things, our feet get stronger when we use them — wearing shoes with strong arch support, like most of us have done for, well, as long as we can remember, makes it so that we don’t need to use our feet all that much. Your arches will get stronger when you take away the “support” and actually use your feet! I told you I was a stubborn hippie jerk…

I am totally and completely confident that continuing on this vibram-treaded path will lead me to become the best, strongest, and most injury free runner I can be — if you’re thinking about it, just go to a shoe store, try them on, and walk/jog around the store. You’ll see what all the fuss is about.

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7 Comments to “A Vibram Five-Finger Update”

  1. So interesting! They kind of scare me, but I’m getting there. Why do you run without music now? did I miss something?

  2. Sarah,
    That trail run looks quite challenging. Way to turn an ordinary run into an adventure!

    I’m glad that you are enjoying your Vibrams. You are strengthening all the little intrinsic muscles in your feet and your leg muscles. The way you prefer softer and more even surfaces to run on makes me think you don’t have as much padding and protection in your Vibrams vs. running shoes.

    Either way, it’s great that you get out there and run!

    • I love it! I’m totally hooked, totally psyched that the vibrams have resolved the issues i was having with my leg earlier this year, and man oh man. this stuff is fun!!

      and i definitely don’t have as much padding in my vibrams as I do in regular shoes, but as I keep running in these crazy things, my feet will get more used to it, and harder surfaces will continue to get more and more comfortable. it’s cool stuff!!

  3. You may or may not be winning me over to the dark Vibram side. Maybe at least I’ll stop making fun of people that I see running in them.

  4. Wonderful site. Plenty of helpful info here. I am
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