First run in Vibram Five Finger shoes
18Jul09

*File under totally unrelated stuff*

I have just taken my first ever run in a pair of Vibram Five Finger shoes. They look crazy, generate funny stares and comments from passers-by and…..are amazing.

Vibram Five Finger Shoes

Vibram Five Finger Shoes

The theory behind Vibram Five Fingers is to simulate barefoot running and return us to the way humans were meant to run.

The introduction of bulky, heavily padded running shoes about 30 years ago has led us to develop an unnatural, heel-first running style. With Vibram Five Fingers there’s no way you can run that way, its simply too hard on your heels.

They say it takes a while to adjust to running in Vibram Five Fingers and that you should start out slowly. So I did.

My first run was just 3 km on mixed terrain. I started on a crushed gravel bush track, progressed to looser, rockier path then finished on bitumen so that I could test how they feel on different surfaces.

Shoes with a view

Shoes with a view

Running in Vibrams on crushed gravel surface

Running in Vibrams on crushed gravel surface

Loose rocky surface

Loose rocky surface

The first thing you expect running with Vibrams is that they’re too thin and you’ll feel the rocks and stones too much. Don’t worry, its not as bad as you’d think. in fact, its just like back when you were a kid and ran around barefoot all day with super-tough feet.

My first few hundred meters of running immediately forced me to start changing my ingrained gait. If you strike with your heel in Vibrams its going to hurt, so you automatically begin changing to a mid-to-front foot strike instead. Once you adjust it feels great.

As I progressed to a rougher, rockier surface the shoes felt fine and i didn’t feel any pain at all from the rocks. In fact, part of the theory is that running over uneven surface like this is good for you as it forces all the bones and muscles in your feet to perform as they were intended. Certainly I discovered a few foot muscles I hadn’t used for a long time.

By the way, you might expect stones and pebbles getting into the shoe and causing problems. I didn’t get one grain of dirt in the shoe because they fit like a glove.

The surface was most hesitant about was the bitumen. I’ve been training on a local bike path in my expensive Nikes for the last few months and pull up extremely sore from the repeated impacts on this hard surface. I expected the glove-like Vibrams would not offer enough protection on bitumen.

Wrong.

Running with the new gait, landing front-to-mid foot is much more forgiving and doesn’t hurt any more than running in my Nikes.

The most painful thing is the funny looks as you go past other runners, riders and pedestrians. I ran into local advertising agent John Church (the man Jerry Seinfeld replaced in The Greater TV ads) who looked a little bemused. Rugby league legend Paul Harragon drove into the carpark as I was leaving (Paul and I were in the same class at school) but he didn’t see the shoes. He probably would understand them though because one of his old team-mates, Adam MacDougall now trains in Vibrams and swears by them.

Anyway, my initial verdict on Vibram Five Finger Shoes is very positive. I don’t think I’ll wear them in the 10k race I’m doing tomorrow, but that’s only because I need a few weeks of adjusting to them. After that race I doubt I’ll run in traditional running shoes again.

In case you’re interested, I got my Vibram’s from Sharon Clark, the owner of Stretch-Rite in Newcastle. She picked them up from Kit Laughlin, the Canberra-based Posture and Flexibility guru who has recently taken to running in them. Funnily, I discovered later that a business just 500m from my office, AOK Health, sell them, but I couldn’t find them when I Googled “Vibram Five Finger Shoes Newcastle”. (Give me a call Brad, I can fix this).

Latest: check out my Comparison Guide to barefoot and minimalist shoes

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Written by Craig Wilson