I started running distance when I was 10 years old, and continued throughout high school. I was never particularly fast, but it was enjoyable and something athletic I could do.
I had shin splints, hurt ankles, and all the rest of runner’s woes – to the point that I slowly tapered off in college.
I was re-hooked.
But I still wasn’t a fan of the old injuries and general hurt of distance running.
Both books spens a fair amount of time talking about the physics of running.
And I wondered if most of my injuries and hurt were from running all the wrong way, ie heel to toe with cushioned heel athletic shoes.
So I started to test. I started running incredibly boring laps around athletic fields – barefoot.
Without the shoes, I did notice that my feet wanted to land mid to fore foot first. I just ran the way that felt most comfortable.
The problem was that when I wanted to run somewhere not so boring – my running shoes didn’t feel comfortable running that way.
The slope and weight in the heel kept pulling me back to my old ways of running heel to toe.
Just once – I did an experiment (and incredibly stupid mistake) of running barefoot off the manicured fields of the UGA Intramural Fields and out into the world of hot pavement and all the various reasons a lot of people support charities to provide poor children with shoes.
Pure barefoot running is not a smart idea. There is a reason we wear shoes.
However, running barefoot on manicured grass was still as awesome as ever.
How to do both?
That’s when I went out and bought a pair of Vibrams FiveFingers Bikila Sport Shoes.
I bought them in late August of 2011 – just in time to start training for the Athens GA Half Marathon.
And have yet to look back.
I can’t go on about them enough. They let you run “barefoot” anywhere.
I’ve run on rock hard gravel, on 110F asphalt, on glass, anywhere.
They protect your feet – without “influencing” them the way I always thought cushioned heel shoes did.
Side note – just because you wear Vibrams doesn’t mean you run correctly. In fact, if you run heel to toe in Vibrams – you’ll get injured even faster than if you wear cushioned shoes. Minimalist shoes help you run correctly just as well (I’ve heard) – but if you like to run barefoot, but want protection for your feet – there is nothing better than Vibrams FiveFingers.
Vibrams is all I run in now. They have completely changed my running life.
I ran a Half Marathon in them in October, and a Marathon in March of 2012. They held up great.
I’ve put on a ton of miles, and even after a year – they seem to be in great shape (really good considering being 100% broken in)
What To Know When You Buy FiveFingers
1. There are a lot of models. I got the Bikila because they are made for runners (ie, low cut ankle, etc) – and they have a bit of extra hardened rubber on the bottom to make off-trail a bit more comfortable.
2. FiveFingers are nothing like you’ve ever run in before. You have to take it easy at first.
I took about a month before venturing over 3 miles in them.
3. Better technique doesn’t eliminate the stresses of running – it just transfers them.
But, correct technique transfers the stresses to body parts that can handle them, ie the achilles, calves, and knee ligaments – instead of bone structures.
However, your achilles, calves, and knee ligaments aren’t used to the stress – so it takes them a while to get strengthened.
Make sure they are in shape before going hardcore.
4. Bikilas will protect your feet – but they aren’t cushioned. You’ll need to pay attention to where you are running, and let your feet get toughened up a bit.
5. The sizing is really weird. And the trouble is that they get “bigger” as they are broken in, and your feet get used to them.
I wear a size 11 shoe, and a 43 EU in Vibrams. They were just right when I tried them on at the shop, but now they could do to be just a tiny bit smaller.
6. They will be half impossible to put on at first, so you are really kind of guessing with the size.
After using them for over a year – they slide on like my socks.
But I do remember that putting them on was an ordeal for several months after buying them.
7. Given 1 to 6, Vibrams are really a product that you kind of have to buy into from the beginning. They take some work and commitment. If you aren’t sure – run barefoot at a football field for a bit.
If you are unsure, but still want to work on better technique, consider minimalist style shoes as well. Vibrams really are a different beast.
However, I am a True Believer – and absolutely love them.
8. If you do go with them – they attract attention. Even now that they are pretty well known – you still get noticed, especially at races.
Right now I’m training for another Half and Full Marathon – with ideas in my head about an Ultra, and I’ll be wearing Vibrams the whole way.
I’ve run more this past year than in any year since I started running – and haven’t had a single injury. No shin splints, especially.
My Achilles, calves, and knee ligaments feel stronger than ever.
And most of all – running is fun. There’s nothing like running Cook’s Trail in “barefeet” without having to worry about getting pricked by a splinter.
But again, you don’t need them to fix your running form – you can do that now. But if you like the feel of running barefoot, or just don’t like the feel of minimalist shoes…go for the Vibrams (I love the Bikila model) – you won’t be disappointed.
- Rated 4 stars
- Vibram Fivefingers Bikila Sports Shoes
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Changed the way I run and exercise for the unbelievably better. They take getting used to - but once you're comfortable, you'll never look back.