Saturday, October 3, 2009

Barefoot Running & Vibram Five Fingers

Hi Everyone!

As I was discussing in my last post, it's time to reinvent myself as an ultra runner. Recovering from knee surgery has been interesting. One conclusion that I've come to is that patience is highly overrated! I am so eager to start running again but so far all I can do is walk. Much better than where I was a couple of months ago. On crutches. Back to the drawing board!

I have started doing research on running, injury prevention, anatomy etc. and here's some of what I've discovered:

The soles of your feet have millions of nerve endings which sense the pounding and stress of running and walking. Your brain and body work together to adapt to this stress by constantly adjusting your gait. This normal protective mechanism keeps you from being injured. When you cover your foot with a shoe, you interfere with this adaptive mechanism. The result is a diminished ability by the foot to adapt, with potential damage to the ligaments, fascia, cartilage or bone in not only the foot, but the leg, thigh, pelvis, knee, low back and many other areas.

Conclusion: Barefoot running is best because there is no interference with the nerves that sense your contact with the ground.

Wow! I have been running in protective trail shoes and orthotics for many years now. The only time I go barefoot is around the house because I like pretty feet. Boy, was this ever going to require a lot of pedicures. Yes, I like to get dirty on the trail, but my idea of roughing it is when room service answers on the second ring!

This week I decided to conduct an experiment of one. I started out by walking my dog, Rusty, around the neighborhood barefoot. The first thing I noticed was the feeling of excitement as my bare feet touched the warm earth. I felt like a kid again. Luckily, we live close to the beach. The beach sand feels like velvet against my feet. The second thing I noticed at the end of day one is that my feet are wimpy, wimpy, wimpy! Boy, were they sore.

But I wanted to get back on the trail and was not sure if Ms. Wimpy's feet could tolerate all the rocks and dirt. That's when I discovered the shoes I'm wearing in the picture. They are called Vibram Five Fingers. They were originally designed to keep from slipping while working on the deck of a boat and have evolved for sporting uses. The model I purchased called the KSO's (keep stuff out) are designed for trail running.

Yesterday, I met Rico at our favorite trail running spot to give them a test. We did five tough trail miles and I loved it. My toes were able to grip the rocks and trail. I could feel my posture improving. I could feel muscles, like my calves and gluteus, (we all want cute butts) working in ways they have been unaccustomed to working. By the end of the workout I was sore. So what did I do? Headed over to the 9 am Bikram Yoga class to loosen up.

I am here to tell you that I think I'm on to something. This is a great workout! I woke up this morning refreshed and yes, sore. In a good way. My legs are talking to me. I think they are saying "thank you, we've been waiting for that!"

Eventually, I would like to give the trails a try completely barefoot. Again with that patience thing! If you want to give it a try, I would recommend easing into it. Relax and have fun with it. Our feet have been so de-conditioned from wearing shoes all the time that it's going to take some time to re-condition them. I, for one, am willing to go for the ride. How about you?

(Also see my upcoming review of Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall.)


  1. Great blog! I will bookmark it and check it frequently. Check out my blog while you are at it. Thanks!

  2. Love reading your Blog! You are my inspiration to get fit and lose the extra tonnage I've gained ! LOL!
    Had my first tennis lesson yesterday and really enjoyed it. Its easy to see how tennis can really help with a fitness plan, it burns a boatload of calories!!

  3. Just watch out for rusty nails...but seriously walking barefoot feels great! It was actually hip to go barefoot back in the 60's . It showed ones willingness to reject authority and embrace ones inner become one with Mother Earth. Your explanation of how the foot protects itself from injury has inspired me to try it again. ( Not at school this time).