Doing the Ultimate Hike in FiveFingers - Help Alejandra Out!

Doing the Ultimate Hike in FiveFingers - Help Alejandra Out!

The following is a guest post by Alejandra Aldana

On May 4, 2013, I will be participating in Ultimate Hike, a 28.3 mile hike benefiting CureSearch for Children's Cancer. My goal is to not only complete this very long hike in one day, but also help raise awareness and $2500 in funds for CureSearch.

CureSearch for Children's Cancer, a National Childhood Cancer Foundation, funds and supports targeted and innovative children's cancer research with measurable results, and is the authoritative source of information and resources for all those affected by children's cancer. CureSearch funds both local and national research, ensuring that a cure will be found as quickly as possible.

I have decided to take this challenge for a number of reasons. I want the opportunity to help give back to those affected by cancer as well as improve my life and fitness. Part of what I hope to accomplish other than raising funds for children in need is becoming part of a community and pushing my boundaries.

I plan on completing the 28.3 miles completely in my Vibram Five Fingers and while many people are advising me against it, I just don't see myself doing it without them. It is going to take a lot of building my feet up, but I am more than confident I will be able to do so. If you are able to donate to my fundraising that would be great. If not that will be fine, too. What I would love to get out of this, is the opportunity to share my journey with others. There is nothing more powerful and exhilarating than a sense of community for a great cause. If you are interested in joining me on my minimalist journey please let me know as soon as possible (we have already started our first training session). If you would like to help follow and share me and my cause you can do so at 10littlepiggies.tumblr.com.

You can also donate directly by following this link.

Thanks again for your support and encouragement!

The Pose Method of Running - An Introduction

Photo Nicholas Romanov founder of the Pose Method of Running.
Photo Nicholas Romanov founder of the Pose Method of Running.

Guest post by Ben of Barefoot Benny Personal Fitness

At the beginning of 2009, I started looking around for a more efficient and healthy way to move, which first led me to barefoot types of shoes, like Vivo Barefoot and Vibram FiveFingers. During my internet searches, I stumbled upon a link to PoseTech.com, which promised a way to reduce running injuries through an extremely efficient technique. Dr. Nicholas Romanov, creator of the Pose method, asked why people were taught how to play basketball and football, throw shotput, and play other sports, but were never taught how to run. He believes there is a proper technique that can be used to run.

The existing technique of landing on the heel and then pushing off into a wide stride is just as inefficient as a new runner going out there and doing what feels natural. Over 50 percent of runners get injured every year, and a third of those are knee joint injuries. Even with the "advances" in the shoe industry, the injury rates have remained consistent over the past 25 years. Obviously, "just running" is not working for many people.

The Pose method looks at running as a technical skill of movement, and believes it should be taught like one with its own theory, rules, practice exercises, and more. Aerobic conditioning can only take you so far: an efficient movement is necessary to achieve maximal speed and distance. Pose breaks running down into three simple parts: the running pose, the fall, and the pull. Pose --> Fall --> Pull. Even simpler, all you have to do to run is to change support from one leg to the other by pulling the support foot from the ground. It sounds quite simple, but it takes a lot of practice to retrain your muscle memory to learn the movement, and to unlearn old habits.

The four forces acting up on the body in movement are gravity, muscle elasticity, ground reaction, and muscle contractions. These forces drive the body forward when they are unbalanced. The runner must create a constant state of unbalance to allow the gravity force to drive the body forward. Running comes down to the level of skill of the runner to interact with gravity throughout the gait cycle, and use the gravity to move forward. To break balance and fall forward, the weight of the body must be on the ball of the foot (BOF) exactly like in barefoot running. Landing on the toes or the heel is not as efficient as a BOF landing, and this may be one of the biggest adjustments for runners practicing the Pose method.

While it may be difficult to master, running in the Pose technique is quite simple. Your main goal, besides Pose-->Fall-->Pull, is to get your own body out of its way, and let gravity do all the work. Here are a list of errors that occur from either trying too hard or from incorrect form. And remember, pain is the body's reminder that you're doing something wrong, so don't ignore what your feet and joints are telling you.

Running Errors

  • Landing with the heel first - land on the ball of your foot (BOF)
  • Heel strike with a straight leg - recipe for hurt knee and joints
  • Landing ahead of the body, aka overstriding - keep your general center of mass (GCM) in line with your BOF
  • Using quad muscles instead of the hamstrings (push off), and pulling the swing thigh and knee forward and up - pull the leg up with your hamstrings
  • Landing on the toes with the body behind landing/foot - land on your BOF in line with your GCM
  • Landing with stiff ankles/leg - relax the ankles and let them absorb the impact
  • "Active landing" - don't place your foot on the ground, let it fall naturally with gravity
  • Overall muscle tension - remember to stay loose, not rigid, even in your neck, back, and shoulders
  • Active push/toe off, straightening the leg to propel the body forward - there is no need to push off and strain the calf muscle, just fall forward and let gravity do the work
  • Holding the rear leg behind after leaving the support - allow the foot to drop back to the ground
  • Leaning the trunk sideways or forward - lean from the ankles, not your waist, unless you want lower back pain
  • Keeping the shoulders up and stiff - just relax!
  • Arms pumping - keep elbows relaxed and back, with the thumbs alongside your ribs

There are many drills and exercises in the "Pose Method of Running" book that will help you retrain your mind to learn the proper movements. The most simple one you can do is to stand in the Pose position. Click the image to see full annotated version of the Pose running position (Source: Pose Method of Running</em /> by Dr. Nicholas Romanov)First, stand in a springy, S-shaped pose with bent knees and heels slightly off the ground. Then, using your hamstring, pull one foot off the ground, ankle in line with the knee, maintaining balance. This is the Pose position, the position you should always strive to be in when running. Now, from the ankle and hips, lean forward, breaking the delicate balance. Allow your raised foot to fall down with gravity's help, landing on the ball of the foot, while simultaneously pulling your other foot off the ground with your hamstring. The loss of balance and gravity's assistance moved you forward, with very little muscle interference. You've just taken your first step in running in the Pose method! Congrats!

All information was taken from the "Pose Method of Running" book or a clinic manual, both written by Dr. Nicholas Romanov. I highly recommend checking out the book and the articles and discussions on Posetech.com for more information. I also highly suggest attending a clinic with a certified coach to ensure you're properly running using the Pose method.

About the Author:

Ben is a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certified personal trainer and runs Barefoot Benny Personal Fitness, Here Ben poses alongside Dr. Nicholas Romanov at a pose method running clinic he attended - note the Vibram Five Fingers!"An NYC-based personal training company dedicated to getting you in the best shape of your life with natural and fun exercise programs."

We've previously seen Ben around birthdayshoes running a half-marathon in his KSO Vibram Five Fingers and hiking upstate New York in his KSOs. If you're in the NYC area and want to get hands-on personal training or consultation regarding fitness or the Pose method of running, be sure to look Ben up at Barefoot Benny dot com!

Amazing! KSO Trek Vibrams enable you to levitate off the ground!

Jesse points to his black KSO Trek Vibram Five Fingers after hiking to the summit of North Fortunate Mountain.
Jesse points to his black KSO Trek Vibram Five Fingers after hiking to the summit of North Fortunate Mountain.
Demonstrating the magical powers of VFFs, Jesse is seen here levitating in mid-air.  No FiveFingers don't enable you to fly but they do make your feet feel nice and light!
Demonstrating the magical powers of VFFs, Jesse is seen here levitating in mid-air. No FiveFingers don't enable you to fly but they do make your feet feel nice and light!

Well ... maybe not, but they do make you feel incredibly light on your feet. Above photoed is Jesse atop North Fortuna Mountain in San Diego. Jesse is wearing his Vibram Five Fingers KSO Treks. I asked Jesse to share his VFF story with birthdayshoes and here is what he had to say:

Justin,
I first heard about VFF's when I was talking with my brother about hiking and he sent me a link saying "these are the best hiking shoes ever." I quickly got interested and researched them like crazy. I went to REI to try some on but they only had the Sprints and not in my size. I went to another outdoor store who carried them and tried on KSO's in my size. Once I tried them on I knew I had to have some. I ordered the KSO Trek, Size 44 in Black so I could wear them at work too (black shoes required).

I knew when I ordered them that I wanted to use them for some trekking but probably mostly flat stuff. My initial reaction was that they felt very different and hurt after the first use. You really do use muscles that aren't normally used. My first time ever using them was just a walk around the block. The first time on a trail was a night hike on relatively flat packed dirt for about 5 miles. Getting them wet is no big deal, I was wading through foot high water. My feet definitely hurt afterwards but I knew after a few more hikes they would feel great. Putting shoes on after your first hike in them feels soooo wierd.

I wanted to be able to wear them at work too so I purchased some Injinji Wool socks. The socks definitely make them more comfortable but put a lot of fabric between your toes. After a while you get used to it.

I have now done 3 or 4 hikes in them and have done a full 10 hour day at work. I can comfortably say that I am very happy with them and am very interested in the rumored Flow Treks. Everyone at work couldn't stop staring at them and asking questions.

Although I have much good to say about them I have some negatives too. My main issue is that the name is KSO: Keep Stuff Out, but I get dirt in my shoes all the time, when worn with no socks (my normal hiking way).

Hope this helps ... Thank you

Jesse

Thank you Jesse for sharing your FiveFingers user story with the community!

Great to hear you've having success on the trails hiking in your KSO Treks! As for the Flow Treks, you may be out of luck unless you want to ship some over from Europe!

As for the "KSO" aspect of KSOs, it's definitely not perfect — perhaps we need to see a VFF KSO that goes up past the ankle like a boot like the discontinued Surge.

The Silent Majority and the Barefoot Running Debate (Or the Runners Who Never Were)

The Silent Majority and the Barefoot Running Debate (Or the Runners Who Never Were)

Creative Commons License photo credit: hectorir

The Barefoot Running Debate

It's impossible to miss — the media is paying it major attention, running shoe companies are finally breaking their silence, and at least one so-called expert is resorting to fear-mongering over pebbles and a world filled with glass shards waiting to rip your feet to shreds. How we should run is the topic of the hour — enter the barefoot running debate.

The barefoot running debate is curious. It feels backwards. Most know Occam's Razor: the simplest answer tends to be the best one. What is the simplest answer when it comes to what human beings were meant to put on their feet in order to walk or run? Nothing. We are barefoot by default — OEM human. Starting from the default human condition, the onus regarding the merits of shoes should be on the shoe companies.

But of course it's not. It's the opposite.

And just to be clear, the debate isn't simply about barefoot running. It is a debate about high-tech running shoes and biomechanical efficiency. It's about running form: "Which is less likely to cause injury: to heel-strike or forefoot-strike?"

Running is a passionate subject for both sides — passionate views bolstered by personal experience. On one side, you've got the formerly-shod-runners-turned-barefoot-true-believers proclaiming that, "Barefoot is better!" The barefoot runner's enthusiasm springs from leaving behind injury-prone shod running to being born again, bare feet and all, running injury-free. Meanwhile, you've got injury-free shod runners who have logged thousands of miles in running shoes saying, "I like my shoes and have no problems running shod, so you barefoot zealots need to back off!" With such convicted views, the discussion can get a bit heated.

The barefoot running debate is unlikely to be won by either side anytime soon. It's just impossible to overturn personal convictions, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" There are shod runners who have their form dialed in and don't get injured; for example, just take ultra-runner Scott Jurek. Also, whatever science experiments need to take place to provide a definitive answer have yet to be conducted.

For now, the question is left to be decided on a per-runner basis. For the shod runners who are biomechanically blessed with the ability to run injury-free in thick-heeled and/or significantly cushioned running shoes, more power to them. For those runners who can only dial in their running form by running barefoot or in minimalist footwear who practice natural running with a forefoot strike — they get to run injury-free, too.

It's in this line-of-thought that the barefoot running debate was best summed up by Christopher McDougall, "[The] debate isn't about Bare Soles vs. Shoes. It's about learning to run gently. Master that, and you can wear — or not wear — anything you please."

To each his own and we all run happily ever after. Right?

If only it were that simple. The reality is that when the barefoot running debate is only considered by runners, everyone else — the silent majority of would-be runners — is ignored.

The Silent Majority or (Or the Runners Who Never Were)

The barefoot running debate is only occurring within a self-selected group of runners (as well as the occasional shoe manufacturer). This distinction isn't trivial. Think about it. To become a runner — to take to running — you have to possess or do one of the following things:

  1. You natively possess a running form that is conducive to running in modern running shoes. You are able to heel-strike gently in running shoes or run in some manner (pronation, supination, whatever works for you) that lets you wear your cushioned shoes and not be uncomfortable.
  2. You adopt a natural running technique like Pose or Chi running.
  3. You take to barefoot running (or minimalist footwear running) and let the ensuing feedback educate your form.
  4. You run despite the discomfort of running in modern running shoes. You grin and bear it, assume "no pain no gain," and slog away running despite the discomfort. Maybe if you're lucky you hone in your form in such a manner that running becomes tolerable and you continue doing it out of a sense that it's necessary for your continued health.

The above requirements represent a selection process. This process specifically selects out of the running community individuals who try to run but find it too uncomfortable or painful to pursue.

I contend that there is a large body of individuals out there who have completely given up on running. Sure, some runners who never were are individuals that gave up because they were starting from a significant deficit of unhealthiness. I believe many more have tried to run only to find the ensuing ankle, knee, and hip pain; inflamed joints; or other negative effects to running too much to make the activity worthwhile. If that was you, would you keep at it despite the pain? Running should not be approached as some kind of Puritan punishment.

I know the runners who never were exist because I once counted myself among their ranks. "I hate running — it's not for me," that's what I'd tell anyone who asked. Though I could bike for miles without problem, when it came to running, I couldn't run a mile without experiencing pain in my knees. Why bother? I rejected running.

My former outlook on running is not unique. I say "former" because now I run naturally without pain.

The a-ha moment, of course, wasn't a new understanding of how to run nor was it some resolve to give running another go. My transition back to running came with a pair of "barefoot shoes" (Vibrams) that I got to work out and run sprints* in. I never bought Vibram Five Fingers with the intention of running any distance in them. It was only a year into owning a pair that I came to understand that my high-heeled, cushioned shoes were both encouraging me to heel-strike while muting the feedback from the ground. Running in a modern shoe, I just couldn't manage to nail down a form that didn't leave me pounding the ground, and in turn, pounding my knees. In short, my running shoes left me leaving running. Only running in my VFFs, which really did nothing more than let my feet be feet, was I able to run without heel-striking, landing lightly and gently on my forefoot.

I doubt I would have ever given running another shot but for having a shoe that allowed me to — forced me to — run naturally. Don't hear this as saying you have to get VFFs to run naturally — all you need to run naturally is your bare feet. Five Fingers were just how I rediscovered running.

How many more people out there will never give running another thought because they associate running with pain — because the last time they ran it was painful? How many more might benefit from giving running another try if they'd only change their shoes, allowing (forcing) their bodies to run lightly and gently? I'd put the numbers of would-be runners in the hundreds of thousands.

It's in this sense that the barefoot running debate isn't just a matter of "to each his own." Unless the shoe industry swings heavily in the direction of minimalist footwear, many more would-be runners will just give up on running. I don't want to see that happen.

This barefoot movement is about awakening the disaffected masses who have given up on running. This is why the true believing barefoot runners are so zealous to the cause. Realizing you can run without pain is astonishingly empowering — to know that your default human state is strong and not broken — who wouldn't want to share that life-affirming freedom with everyone?

I see this as one of the underlying missions behind birthdayshoes: blowing up the mainstream paradigm that running requires protective, form-correcting, thickly soled shoes; and that running shouldn't be painful (And if it is, you're doing something wrong).

As for the runners running happily in their shoes, I say "Have fun!" This debate doesn't really concern them. It does concern the runners who never were. It is those I want to tell, "Maybe you should set aside your running shoes and give running another chance."

We knew as children that running was play — innate fun for anyone and everyone to enjoy. It should be no different for adults. If we can change this paradigm, we can usher in a new generation of runners, but the barefoot running debate is central to that change.

* Sprints never hurt my knees, but then again, why would they? Why would I actually like running sprints and hate running a mile? This contradiction never crossed my mind until I understood that sprints required I run naturally with a forefoot strike.

P90X, Hiking, and Watersports in KSO Vibram Five Fingers

Above photoed is Scott and his KSO Vibram Five Fingers.  Scott is pictured wearing his brown KSO Vibram Five Fingers (a color combination that is no more!) hiking around Grandeur Park in Salt Lake City, Utah, balancing and even encountering some snow!  Th
Above photoed is Scott and his KSO Vibram Five Fingers. Scott is pictured wearing his brown KSO Vibram Five Fingers (a color combination that is no more!) hiking around Grandeur Park in Salt Lake City, Utah, balancing and even encountering some snow! The photo with the blue camo KSO Vibrams is actually shot underwater at Bear Lake, Utah.

Above we see Scott kicking his various pairsof KSO Vibram Five Fingers. Scott is hiking, kayaking, bodyboarding, and performing the P90X workouts in his VFFs — though they aren't pictured, Scott's first pair of VFFs were the now-discontinued Surge Vibram Five Fingers, which in accordance to their design, he frequently uses for water wear.

I asked Scott to share a bit about how he's been using his KSO and Surge Vibram Five Fingers—review how he likes them for P90X, and if he plans on picking any more pairs of (At present he has four KSO VFFs and one pair of the Surge!). Here's what he had to say:

There are a lot of balance postures that I do during P90X and by using the KSO's I can better balance myself. I feel it is a little more difficult without the casting of a regular shoe, but I feel that is better for me overall.

I got the Surge's first and use them with any water sports such as body boarding on the Pacific Ocean and Kayaking. I can run in sand all I want and hardly any gets in. As far as Keeping Stuff Out, the surge ones are so great!

I love these shoes and now have 5 pair! I will be getting my 6th pair soon. (KSO TREK)

With the high ankle coverage of Surge Vibram Five Fingers, it's no surprise they are the ultimate at keeping stuff out (and also keeping warmth and water in for that matter!). While the standard KSO Vibram Five Fingers keep larger debris out, the mesh coverage does have small holes in it, so smaller debris (fine sand or dirt) can tend to get in over time.

Good to hear you're putting your Vibrams through the ropes, Scott! If you do end up grabbing a pair of Vibram Five Fingers KSO Treks, I'm sure you'll enjoy them. They are style, comfort, and performance all wrapped up into one.

Latest Vibram Five Fingers Reviews 2/21/10

This week's latest Vibram Five Fingers reviews:

  • Feet, the way God intended them at MyNeChimKi [ Sprint, Performa, and Classic ]:

    Revolutionary Moment #2 came just the other night when I started my C25K program. Of course, I’ve done tons of reading that says that when you run in barefoot technology shoes that you naturally revert to the rolling motion that your foot should do, rather than striking on your heel. But I’ve been running (or trying to run since I’ve never really succeeded before) for nearly 30 years now. Heel-Toe is just the way it’s done, right?

    Wrong.

    Not in the Vibrams. Suddenly, I was running in a natural gait that felt wonderful. It wasn’t jarring, it didn’t feel like I was going to shake my head loose and my feet felt awesome! I truly never want to run in any other shoes ever again. Never never never again.

  • Running: Not so bad after all at Adventure Insider [ KSO ]:

    My run times (for the 1.5 mile fitness test that I’m required to take) have dropped by an average of 30 seconds over the last few months. Beyond that, while I’m still not a HUGE fan of running (you won’t see me in any marathons), with the Five Fingers I almost look forward to it. What’s more, I’ve not had to wear a knee brace at all since I’ve been using these shoes. Since running is more efficient and less jarring, the impact is less intense and my knees are very thankful for that. In fact, there have been times that my knees have hurt (from wearing dress shoes at work) when I began running, but stop hurting after running for a few minutes in the Five Fingers. I’m not sure if this is typical, but it sure has me sold! I’m considering buying a set of KSO Treks for light hiking this summer. I’ll let you know how that works out.

  • Primal Feet Update: Biomechanics of Barefooting and My Results So Far at Primal Wisdom [ Model uncertain ]:

    So far I consider this experiment positive. I will keep wearing the Five Fingers as my primary footwear for the foreseeable future. I have in the past three weeks (since starting the experiment) worn my New Balance walking shoes only a couple of times. Before wearing Five Fingers I didn't notice that the New Balance shoes confine the front of my foot and feel uncomfortable, compared to the Five Fingers. Now I prefer the Five Fingers even to my Birkenstocks, which have a pretty wide forefoot bed compared to other shoes. I'll update my report as time passes.

You can find last week's latest Vibram Five Fingers reviews here.

Go Spider-Man. Wall Crawling (Climbing) in KSO Vibram Five Fingers

Carl climbs a wall in KSO Vibram Five Fingers at Everett Vertical.
Carl climbs a wall in KSO Vibram Five Fingers at Everett Vertical.

Here's Carl on using his Vibram Five Fingers KSOs to go wall climbing:

Took my VFF KSOs out on the rock wall at Everett vertical world! Just found one more use for them and saved some money at rentals.

They worked pretty well, especially since you could put your individual toes into cracks and crevices. The only issue I had was that the rock climbing shoes had a hard rubber sole that was like a platform, while the vibrams did whatever your foot did. The rock climbing shoes also had rubber up on the sides, while the VFFs only had them on the bottom.

I've had my VFFs for about 2 weeks now and I use them in kickboxing and running. People think they're awesome and ask where I got them. I think this may become the new hot thing in the nation!

My adjustment's been good. Normally I wear flip flops and whatnot, so it was easy to get theses babies on and go around in them. I don't have the trouble that most people do of putting them on and off. The only trouble I have is that they get cold easy, soak up water like a sponge, and stink after using them for a week.

-Carl

Ah yes, the stink of KSO Vibram Five Fingers is the stuff of legends.

Glad you are putting your KSOs to such good use. Though they aren't rock climbing shoes, I'm sure the flexibility of Vibram Five Fingers will force your feet to be stronger on those holds! Keep it up — and keep washing your VFFs!