After reading and being inspired by Born To Run, I picked up a pair of Vibram FiveFingers at MEC and have started barefoot running. I could have decided to push for longer distances and train for my first full marathon, but instead I’m starting from scratch with a new running style. I’m hoping that by learning to run barefoot I’ll be able to run longer distances without wearing out my body. And even if it doesn’t, it should be a fun challenge.
Benefits of Going Barefoot
By removing your ankle-supporting, anti-pronating, super cushioned running shoes the atrophied muscles in your feet strengthen and your stride becomes more natural, which lessens the impacts on your joints. I have weak ankles and I’ve had problems with strained knee ligaments in the past, so I’m hoping that barefoot running can help.
Finding a Fit
FiveFingers are designed to fit like gloves for your feet, but my feet aren’t exactly standard shaped. My right foot is half a centimetre longer then the left, my second toes extend past the big toes, my baby toes are tiny, and my ankles are skinny. I found a pair of FiveFingers that fit the length of my right foot well, and made sure I walked around in MEC for a long time to ensure they fit right. It is weird having something between your toes, but otherwise they’re very comfortable. I tried on a few of the models, but decided on the Komodo Sport. They have a heal strap, but they don’t tighten enough for my skinny heels – it hasn’t been a problem so far, but I’m worried about rocks getting in when I run on trails. Sometimes my baby toes pop out of their pockets when I’m walking, but they stay in place when I’m running.
Relearning to Run
Barefoot running is harder then I expected, but a fun challenge. I’ve had to try forgetting my old stride and learn to run more on my toes. Once you get used to it, it feels really good, but it’s really tiring on your calves. I’ve been slowly increasing the distance on my runs and I’m up to about 10km now. I’m hoping to run a trail race with the FiveFingers this summer or next.
Barefoot running seems to be trendy, but I still get a few weird looks when I’m out running and haven’t seen anyone else wearing FiveFingers. If you’re looking for a new running challenge, I recommend trying them.
Since posting, I’ve received a number of warnings cautioning me to take it slow. Apparently, calf strains and metatarsal injuries are common when long distance runners transition to barefoot running.
I have been running in my VFFs since the beginning of the year, and LOVE Them. I want to pass on a warning though – do not increase you milage quickly, and start out very slow and short distances! I strained my right calf whiel beginnign to use them, and worked my way up to 6-8 mile runs after it healed. Then I did a run that included a large down hill, and strained my left calf! Be careful of any sort of big change in them – as your body is used to running “Shod” from doing it all your life!
Thanks for the advice. Considering how sore my calves are after each run, I can definitely see calf strains being a problem. I’m keeping my runs short, under 10 km (6 miles), and only once per week in my VFFs.
Also, if you notice any pain in the top of your foot – in a very pointed area, stop running. By starting out with such long runs right off with the VFFs (your normal distances are almost irrelevant), you run a strong risk of stress fractures in your feet. There are plent of stories of marathon runners and other long-distance runners that jump into the the distance way to quickly, before the bones have had a chance to adjust to an impact level that they haven’t felt before. This has lead to stress fractures for some! Just be careful wtih ’em!
I was googling barefoot running and your blog post popped up! I was already thinking about picking your brain on this topic. I’ve found that I have less pain just walking in minimalist Nike Frees, so I’m wondering if barefoot running will work better for me than running with cushy shoes.