Almost four years ago, I saw an article in a magazine about barefoot running. I was intrigued. The idea of running barefoot in the UK never seemed like an option, but when I read about bare feet shoes, shoes that fit your feet like gloves, I was keen to try them and ordered my first pair online.
When my first Vibram Five Fingers shoes arrived, I opened the box to fine glove-like, rubber shoes. They looked peculiar with separate areas for each of your toes..just like gloves.
My first run in the Vibram shoes was actually in Australia on a treadmill. I’ve run in gyms for years and no one had ever said anything to me. That day, though, my shoes attracted the attention of at least five people…and that was just the beginning. Attracting attention has been a constant theme for the last four years.
As for the running, it was weird at first. Running without proper shoes, without support. However, I loved the light feeling and quickly got used them, alternating with my Aisics at first, before running in Vibrams everyday.
Then the injuries started. The day before I was due to leave Australia and return to the UK, I went for a run and got a sharp pain in my foot. It wasn’t good and it turned out that i had torn a ligament.
It took me a full month to recover from that episode. However, despite the advice from my great Podiatrist, Sally, I stuck with my Five Finger shoes and even bought a new pair, one with laces that looked more normal despite the webbed feet look.
My running continued without any major problems, although many minor problems lie painful toe splits and blisters on my feet, one of which led to a nasty infection.
In time, I bought some five finger socks which helped and also took me through the winter.
I ran races in my Vibram shoes- 5ks, 10ks and even the the 8.2 mile Kingston Breakfast Run.
However, a big problem occured at the start of 2013 when I got a stress fracture in the top of my foot – the third toe to be precise.
That took a full 8 weeks to recover, and worst still, I was on crutches for most of that time and couldn’t even walk around the block -very frustrating!
Now I am not saying the five finger shoes caused the fracture (although Podiatrist Sally is in no doubt), but I am saying that they probably contributed.
I’m back on my feet now and running again, but I’m back in my Aiscis – a nice gold-coloured pair. It has taken me a while to get used to running in these ‘breeze-block’ shoes, but i’m there now.
Do I miss running in my five fingers? You bet, but for me it’s just not worth the risk of getting injured again.
If you’re into Barefoot running, or thinking about giving it a go, don’t be put off by my experience. Just learn from it by taking things slowly. It’s important to allow your body the time to get used to a big change, and changing the shoes you run in IS a big change!
After a year or so of running in the Vibtram shoes, I cam across a few sensible guidelines…which i wish I’d followed before i got started: Unfortunately i had to learn the hard way!
1) First and foremost is to TAKE IT SLOW. Unless you are already a barefoot runner or go barefoot most of the time you are going to use muscles, tendons and ligaments which are very weak. Follow the sticky on these forums located HERE and slowly move into your VFF mileage.
2) VFF KSO’s are NOT waterproof. If the ground is wet or muddy, your feet will get wet. If the ground is cold, your feet will get cold. You may wear Injinji tow socks, but the bottoms of the VFF’s have cuts in them which allow moisture to go up straight to your feet and the Vibram rubber conducts heat and cold.
3) KSO’s do take some time to break in for some people. Read this post for ideas on making them mor eflexible or stretching them out.
4) There is only a very thin layer of rubber between the bottom of your foot and the ground. Please avoid rocks and sharp objects or you will pay the price.’