Barefootin’ (almost) Vibram Five Fingers

Since last winter I’ve been binge exercising. I’m not training for a marathon, but according to the new Nike + gps iPhone app, if I wanted to train for a 25k run, I just need to keep doing what I’m doing. Maybe a little bit faster.

What surprises me the most is that I don’t seem to have much sense of fatigue. It could be that I don’t know how to listen to my body, that I get it like everyone else, only I define it differently. It could be that so many years of floor nursing with little sleep is what has my tolerance level set to “involuntary collapse” on the high end.

The last time I tested myself, I did 13 miles on the treadmill and didn’t feel tired or sore. I stopped because I had things to do. I have no idea how far I could go before I’d feel it was time to stop.

While this seems like a good thing, I wonder if I’m doing a lot of harm to my joints. I’ve seen too many young patients have to get joint replacements due to jogging, so I try to stick with uphill power walking for about half the workout. It’s still a high impact sport, though, and I have had trouble with my feet, so much that I’ve had to tape them like a ballerina or take some time off here and there. Now this is from years and years of exercise abuse. I started running as a teenager and switched to walking about ten years ago.

Things changed around New Year’s, when a work buddy of Blane’s was wearing some strange shoes.

It’s like a foot glove, each toe is separated into its own little shoe. The sole is very thin with no arch support. They look really stupid and hipster, these Vibram shoes.

Blane’s work buddy said he and his wife had stopped jogging because of bad knees but were able to start up again after getting these shoes. They were not only running again, they were distance running. He claimed that a traditional sports shoe has the foot strike in an unnatural way which causes injuries to the joints. The Vibrams mimic barefoot walking/running. The way cave men walked.

So when Blane told me about them, it immediately made sense as I have often thought if I took my running shoes off and went barefoot, it would feel better. Actually, I’ve done better than that, I tried it. Problem is, the treadmill belt gets scorching hot from all the friction. Bare sock running doesn’t cut it either.

I was having so much trouble with foot pain that I ordered those shoes without having seen or trying them on. I was a little worried about how they’d feel as I have never been able to wear toe socks for longer than 30 seconds. I was desperate.

Surprisingly, they didn’t feel so odd or uncomfortable when I first put them on and I overdid the first workout. You’re supposed to wear them for 30 minutes the first few times and gradually work your way up to wearing them the entire workout. I did about 4 or 5 miles. Since the foot strikes the ground at the ball of the foot, it causes a different bunch of muscles to get worked out. The next day, my legs were so sore I could hardly walk at all.

But NO foot pain.

No ankle pain.

No knee pain.

No hip pain.

And that is why I’m binge exercising. Because I can. And if I want to climb a mountain, I can try it. Or climb 500 steps. I can do it without stopping and with a rucksack on my back.

I don’t wear these shoes all the time, only while exercising. The sole is thin and after 9 months of using them it is about time to get another pair. I will never power walk or run again without them. Because I can’t.

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9 thoughts on “Barefootin’ (almost) Vibram Five Fingers

  1. Oh man, I tried those on while I was on vacation in Oregon last month – I saw them in a shop window. They are SO cool. [Alas, I did not buy them – I could not get my pinkie toe in!] I love them though.

  2. Max, these are the best running shoes I’ve ever had.

    Michele, you have to have the shoe flat on the ground when you put them on. It is a little tricky at first, then you get the hang of it. You should try again, maybe one size bigger or another model?

  3. Kitty, I made fun of these when I first saw them, but so many runners I know swear by them. I’m going to give them a try–I’m tired of my feet hurting after walking on the treadmill.

    When I went to that link, there are several versions of that shoe–which specific version did you get?

    • I probably would have made fun of them too had I seen them before hearing about them. I rarely wear them out of the house, but I wish I had worn them while on vacation this year. I came back with some awful foot pain from my Sketcher sneakers.

      I got the Sprint version, they are perfect for the treadmill. The classic looks like the same thing but without the strap across the top of the foot. When I replace these, I’m getting the exact same ones.

  4. Go to the site and read the instructions on measuring the foot. Maybe the guy gave you the wrong size? Or maybe you were trying the one with the leather uppers. The Sprint version is a spandex type upper and it should stretch so the toes just slide in. Like a glove, exactly like a glove. (I notice the Vibram size for me and the Euro size is the same)

    • You probably work out more than you realize, you use public transit.
      It is car everything over here, so we tend to be weaklings unless we have some sort of work out. True.

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