I’m getting ready for my next run in SF. But today I don’t want to talk about the actual run. I want to talk about the gear I’ll be using: my Vibram 5 fingers. After I ran the Ragnar in Vegas, my friend Jen convinced me to try them out. I was a tad bit skeptical about the advantages of barefoot running, but I decided to bite the bullet and buy them.
I’m on my 2nd pair now.
Many say that you should ease into the Vibrams. Nike has a series of shoes where they gr adually lessen the sole cushioning until you get to a very minimalist shoe. Perhaps this might work for some, but for me, it took too much time and money (how many pairs do I have to buy until I reach the minimalist running shoe?!). I went from a SUPER-cushioned support Brooks shoe straight to the Vibrams, and I haven’t looked back.
Here are the things I’ve noticed about wearing the Vibrams:
1) YOUR SHINS IMMEDIATELY HURT. Many vibram runners notice this right away. Supposedly, it is from running “the wrong way” where you strike your heel first instead of the pad of your foot. When you strike the heel, all that shock goes up your leg and to your knees. Cushioned running shoes train us to run incorrectly (heel strike), so when you switch over, you need to train yourself to run differently, and your body needs time to re-adjust. On that first run, be ready to come back with your shins a little sore.
2) ROCKS HURT. With cushioned shoes, you have protection. With Vibrams, you feel EVERYTHING. Little rocks and sticks that you would normally stomp into the pavement, now prove to be road hazards for your feet. Within the first few runs, you’ll probably step on a rock accidentally, and immediately know what I’m talking about. *Don’t even think about going offroad with a street-running pair!
3) DOWNHILL IS DANGEROUS. I live in a hilly area, which is nice unless you want to go for a quick run. Downhill in Vibrams is hardest on the knees. You have to re-train yourself to run differently. You have no cushion, so your muscles have to do a little more work absorbing the strike of your foot. My buddy who is a PT had to work on my knees after a few downhill runs. I would take it slow. Better slow than blown out knees.
4) UPHILL IS HEAVEN! Now for the good stuff. When you run uphill, you suddenly realize you have the use of your TOES. Yup. Toes help grip the pavement as you run uphill. The first few times you do it, you feel like you’re flying. It honestly has a sensation of going faster! Try it, you’ll like it.
5) YOU FEEL FASTER. Some swear they run faster with Vibrams. I am of the camp that believes you only FEEL faster because you don’t have much “shoe” on your foot. With less shoe to lug around, the lighter and quicker you feel on your feet. Sort of like when the High School waterpolo team makes all the dudes shave their legs to cut seconds off their time.
6) NO SOCKS. Some stores may try to sell you the toe socks, but don’t do it. Waste of money. I have never felt the need to wear socks when the Vibrams are on. Your feet may sweat a little, but there’s usually enough ventilation where it dries quickly with low odor. For longer runs, you may need to put some duct tape on hot areas for blisters, but that’s no different for cushioned running shoes.
7) REPLACE WHEN THE SOLE WEARS THIN. Over time, the sole will get thin and the traction will be lower. I don’t have a strict rule about replacing them after X amount of miles. The great thing about minimalist running is that when the sole wears thin, you’re running isn’t compromised much! So what if you have to throw off your shoes and run barefoot?! You’ve been training for this!!
Now get out there and show the road who’s boss.
**This post was written before news of the lawsuit came out. Ironically, I scheduled it to post at this time.