Experimenting With the Vibram FiveFingers: Running Practically Barefoot

While I stopped training for a marathon a several months ago due to my persistent psoas muscle problem, the good thing is I'm still able to run. Maybe not really fast or really long, but I'm still running, which is good. I'm thrilled that I can continue running through a nagging, puzzling injury.

So this past Saturday I was instructed by my wife to take my 8 year old over to Jack's Shoes in Westlake Village to buy him a pair of Teva sandals. I like Jack's Shoes as it reminds me of the good old days when you get great customer service by knowledgeable people at a family run, non-chain business.

I noticed they carried those goofy looking shoes made like a glove, with a compartment for each toe. While for the most part I've been ignoring all the hubbub about barefoot running, seeing these shoes up close made me curious.

So after outfitting my boy with his shoe, I tried on the Vibram FiveFingers Komodo Sport model, which my helpful sales guy said was pretty popular with some runner types. I told him I run long distances. Putting the shoe on was kind of fun. The same process as putting on a glove...make sure you get the toes aligned with the toe compartments, then account for each toe to make sure they're in place.


These shoes literally felt like a glove and of course you can't wear socks inside of them. First thing through my mind was, I wonder who else tried these on and placed their smelly feet where my mangled monstrosities were now residing. But I quickly got past that.

A few jogs around the store felt fine. I sat down and thought about it. Up to that point I hadn't even asked how much they were. $100. Damn, that seemed a lot to me, but...after further thought...I figured, why not give it a try. Worse comes to worse I have a pair of beach shoes.

Two days later, on the 4th of July, I decided to try out these new shoes for the first time. No forethought, no research, no using common sense. Just slip my feet into them and away I went on my typical 45 minute run.

Within 12 steps I thought, holy crap, what am I getting myself into? I immediately thought about turning around and lacing up my regular Mizuno Wave Precisions, but then just figured, let's just give this a try.

I can definitely see what people are saying about these "barefoot" type shoes making you run on your forefeet. There's zero padding in these things to cushion the blow, so you are practically forced to land on the ball of your foot.

The other thing I noticed right away was that my cadence was faster than normal and my stride was shorter. As a result my pace definitely picked up. And it didn't feel "forced."

Then a few blocks later I ran on a dirt patch. For the most part it was fine, except I had to focus a lot on not stepping on the larger rocks, which would have really beat up my poor, nearly naked feet.

So I continued on my run, feeling decent, but also noticing that my calves were really taking a beating from all this continuous, unpadded forefoot running. Ran about 6.5 miles in 46 minutes, got home, took off the shoes and went on with my day. But my calves were not about to relax. My calves were angry with me for running that far with no padding. Today, Tuesday, I could barely walk normally, kind of the way I walk after a marathon.

I definitely need to experiment more with these Vibrams, but I have to ease my way in to them more gradually. Maybe a couple of times a week at first. Yes I did run faster with these shoes, but I'm wondering if that was simply because they are so light.

Could be. Only 6.4 ounces per shoe (I wear a size 42, which equates to a 10 3/4 regular shoe). Compare that to my Mizuno trainers at 11 ounces and my ASICS DS Racers at 9.1 ounces, and that is one damn LIGHT shoe. No wonder my calves are having a COW!

So, for those of you considering trying out some of these "barefoot" running shoes, my main recommendation is, ease into it. Do what I say, not as I do :>