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!

D.C. Snowpocalypse fun runs with Jeff in KSO Vibrams

Jeff runs through snow-laden Washington D.C. in KSO Five Fingers.  Despite the snow, seems his feet stayed relatively warm — barring the occasional wet slush!
Jeff runs through snow-laden Washington D.C. in KSO Five Fingers. Despite the snow, seems his feet stayed relatively warm — barring the occasional wet slush!
During the middle of Jeff's six mile run, he and his significant other stopped for some impromptu reflecting pool ice skating!
During the middle of Jeff's six mile run, he and his significant other stopped for some impromptu reflecting pool ice skating!
Jeff's KSO VFFs and the frozen reflecting pool before the Washington Monument make for a nice photo opportunity!
Jeff's KSO VFFs and the frozen reflecting pool before the Washington Monument make for a nice photo opportunity!

Above are photos sent in by Jeff (and his significant other) taken amidst the Washington D.C. "Snowpocalypse." They went for a six mile run which included "ice skating" on the reflecting pool. Check out Jeff's account:

Just got back from one of the most exhilarating runs ever and felt I had to share. Went for a 6 mile run with my wife during the DC "Snowpacolypse" in my VFF KSO's. Most of the run was down the middle of roads on packed snow, though there were times when I had to hop through 2 feet of snow. Feet were definitely a bit cold, but were better than expected (especially after a mile or so). Worst parts of the run were when we had to cross slushy intersections...I can handle cold, but cold and wet is rough. Anyhow, we finished our planned 3 mile route and were having so much fun, we went back and did another 3. During the middle, we stopped to "ice skate" across the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial. All in all, one of the best runs of my life! Also, have yet to wear anything but VFF's while running since getting them in October (and I do all my runs outside), so it's definitely doable (albeit in temps above 10 degrees or so)!

Between Jeff's fun run in the snow in FiveFingers KSOs and Bob's massive FiveFingers snowball fight in Flows, it sounds like the D.C. Snowpocalypse has been more fun than anything else!

Glad you all are having so much fun amidst such "chaos." And hope the snow you get on Wednesday doesn't cause too much of a stir.

Have fun!

Latest Vibram Five Fingers Reviews 2/07/10

Below are this past week's latest reviews (and boy were there a lot!):

  • Gloves for your feet at the edible perspective [Sprint]:

    I started running in the 5 fingers again about 1 month ago. My plan was to not push it as hard this time, and it’s working! I started by running .5 – 1 mile every other day for a week or so and felt great. I amped it up to 1.5 miles and now am up to about 2.5m after 4 weeks. I have felt a few twinges of pain/soreness in the tops of my feet but then they’re fine in the morning. [I should start icing to be extra careful!] The only frustrating thing is not getting in my normal mileage for so many weeks. It’s a bit frustrating to start so slow and take so long to work up to my typical 4 mile runs throughout the week.

  • Five Fingered Footwear at Running Over Mountains and Around the World [Sprint]:

    Another amazing discovery with the Vibrams was how light my feet felt. I didn’t have a few hundred grams of gel and fabric laced to my foot like when I’d be wearing my normal running shoes. Instead I felt like I a kid again running barefoot, only this time the thin soles taking away my adult fear of hurting myself underfoot.

    Thanks for the shoutout!
  • Gear Review: Vibram Five Fingers KSO Trek at Josh Snellink's Running Blog [KSO Trek]:

    While the KSO's do not offer anything spectacularly new beyond the whole-foot fit, the Treks offer a whole new tread design. The kangaroo leather is cool, and the new tread is a real bonus on bad terrain. Trundling over snow, mud, and ice is not always the best experience with the basic tread design. The lugged out bottoms give excellent traction, and even provide a bit of cushion from stone-bruising. With the added thickness, they feel almost too similar to regular shoes, but they are meant for extreme trail situations not walks on the beach. Some times the ground is punishing enough that I'm happy to have the 'volume turned down' so-to-speak on the sensory input coming in from my feet. Adding traction and protection requires thicker soles, and the trade-off has to be made somewhere. Hopefully they will remain the thickest soles in the VFF lineup. I'm very happy to use them for their intended purpose, and will happily keep them on standby during all the runs I do not need them for.

    And glad you liked my KSO Trek review — yours is quite informative, as well!
  • Vibram FiveFingers: Lessons Learned on the Nearly-barefoot Trail at Rise Up Runners [Flow], [KSO]:

    There are some practical matters worth thinking about before making the FiveFinger KSO a primary pair of shoes. They get soaked very easily in a puddle and take a long time to dry out while wearing them. They aren't nearly as comfortable in wet weather. This is less of a problem with the Flows, but they never feel quite as comfortable to me wet or dry.

    Thoughts on acclimating to VFFs, Flows, and KSOs; the joy of toe shoes at work as a pediatrician; and persevering despite a fractured toe on the trail!
  • Product review: Vibram Five Fingers KSO at The Normans in North Africa! [KSO]:

    My initial results have been positive. I’ve only run about a dozen times, each between 2 and 4 miles, but my joints feel great. The change from shod running means that different muscles are being exercised — specifically the calves. If you decide to try these out, expect your calves to be in some major pain until your body adjusts. Which reminds me — if you’re going to make the switch, do it gently. Don’t run 10 miles your first day running barefoot. Take it easy and you’ll find the transition much more enjoyable. Also, stretch your calves a lot.

  • Vibram FiveFingers -- The Runs at RoadBunner [Sprint]:

    Right now I view the VFF's as cross-training. They are a way to use muscles I have obviously not been using when wearing running shoes. I can also try to get a feel for a more forefoot strike stride. I do not foresee myself running in them much farther than a mile or so in the future. I don't see myself converting to minimalist shoe runner. But I do hope to try to run in them at least once a week for a quick spin.

Go here for last week's latest Vibram Five Fingers reviews.

Bob's VFF Flows at Massive Snowball Fight in Washington D.C.

In the video above is Bob wearing black Flow Vibram Five Fingers. The video was shot at Dupont Circle, Washington D.C. at a massive snowball fight. If you didn't already know, D.C. got nailed with a snowstorm that shutdown the city.

Here's Bob on what went down:

Hey Justin!

It's Bob. We're deep in the midst of Snowpocalypse 2010 in Washington DC. We got over two feet of snow in the last 20 hours. It's totally insane. The whole city is shut down. About 6,000 people signed up on facebook to attend a huge snowball fight at Dupont Circle. Antonie and I went. I wore my Vibram FF Flows. It was super fun!

Cheers!
Bob

Looks like everyone was having a great time! Glad the VFF Flows were keeping your tootsies insulated from the snow and cold.

We've previously seen resting his feet in KSO Five Fingers on top of Castleton Tower and training for the Marine Corps Marathon in KSO Five Fingers here.

Thanks, Bob! Stay warm!

Meet Tuck's Shoes. Custom Russell Moccasins / Minimalist Shoes

Meet Tuck's Shoes. Custom Russell Moccasins / Minimalist Shoes

I did an hour hike up and down a back-country ski trail the other day in a custom pair of minimalist shoes. Packed snow, nine degrees Fahrenheit, and my feet were toasty the whole way. They have no heel lift, no cushioning, an anatomically correct design, and are the only shoes I've found other than FiveFingers where I can actually splay my toes; they have excellent traction. No need for snow shoes, or Yaktrax.

A new start-up minimalist shoe company? Nope, this company has been making minimalist footwear for over 100 years. It's the Russell Moccasin Co. of Berlin, Wisconsin, and the shoe in question was produced for me as a prototype after a conversation with the 80-year old owner.

Like many of us, after starting to wear Vibrams on a regular basis, I realized that traditional shoes were no longer going to cut it. I'd been able to find decent, but not great, alternatives for office wear, but the one problem remaining was cold weather. How to get a boot that would be suitable for hiking in the winter in snow and on ice? After a good deal of research, I found that the Russell Moccasin Co. makes custom boots, and some of them sounded close to what I was looking for.

I called them up, mentioned what I was looking to do, and was told that I would need to speak to Ralph. Ralph turned out to be the owner, Ralph Fabricius, who's been with Russell for 56+ years. I explained that I had gotten into running in Vibrams, explained a bit about barefoot-style running and how popular it's becoming, and Ralph cut me off. "We can make shoes like that, we've been making shoes like that since the Army study came out in 1915. Have you seen the Army study? I'll send you a couple of pages..." Ralph was very interested in my story and my project, and asked me to speak to Richard Sanders, who handles marketing for Russell.

Richard and I had a number of discussions. Since Russell has a long history of making barefoot-style shoes for hunters, both Ralph and Richard understood immediately what I was looking to do, and wound up teaching me quite a lot about what I should be looking for. Richard mentioned that the sole he would recommend was the Vibram Newporter, which is a totally flat sole designed to be non-slip. He talked me out of the Vibram Sierra, pointing out that the Newporter was almost half the weight. I wasn?t sure, but went along. He called Vibram and they explained that the Newporter in the regular rubber wouldn't work well for snow and ice, so they sent Russell some soles that were made up in a rubber that would work well on snow and ice.

Ralph had some ideas about what would be ideal for a barefoot experience, and made up the shoe I'm writing about.

An overhead view of Tuck's prototype minimalist shoes made custom by Russell Moccasin Co. of Berlin, Wisconsin.  They have no heel, are built on an iconic foot-minded
An overhead view of Tuck's prototype minimalist shoes made custom by Russell Moccasin Co. of Berlin, Wisconsin. They have no heel, are built on an iconic foot-minded "last" called the Munson Last, and have a wonderfully warm but breathable suede exterior.


I've been wearing these shoes at this point for several months. I've worn them running, I've worn then walking the dog in sub-zero temperatures in Vermont, and I've worn them chasing the dog through deep snow in the woods. I?ve worn them hiking on wet rocks and leaves. And I wear them to the office almost every day. I wear them with and without socks, with wool socks for the cold and cotton in warmer weather.

They don?t look minimalist (which is a selling point!), but you?ll note that there is no heel whatsoever, no cushioning under the heel or the forefoot, and a wide flare at the fifth metatarsal to allow my foot to widen naturally. I can splay my toes in these walking downhill. The only other shoe I can do that in is my Vibrams. To compare them to my Vivo Dharmas, I once tried taking the Dharmas on a hike. My feet slipped around in the shoe, the shoe slipped on the side of the trail, and, in general, it was an experience I will not repeat. The Russell, on the other hand, with lacing over the instep and excellent traction, have been just fine on hikes.

Hiking in them is a different experience from Vibrams, and yet similar. Obviously you have much less ground feel than Vibrams, since the sole is much thicker. You can still feel rocks under your feet, however, and the total lack of cushioning means you must walk the same way as you would in Vibrams. Under foot there are three layers of leather and the sole. They?re unlike the Vibrams in that they have much better traction (even than the Trek), and they are much warmer. I?ve yet to have cold feet in them, and I?ve taken them out in below zero temperatures several times. (I wish I could report at what point my feet started getting cold, just to be thorough.)

The Newporter sole is terrific. With Vibram?s ice compound, the only thing I?ve found that they slip on is smooth ice. They get traction even on rough ice, and anything less slick than that is not a problem at all. I?m happy I took Richard?s advice.

I will point out that the toe spring (the curvature upward at the toe) looks excessive. The curve you see is actually what has occurred from my walking around in them. Wearing them, they feel no different from my Vibrams.

I like them a lot. In fact they're my favorite shoes. I wear them almost every day instead of my Vibrams or my Vivo Barefoot Dharmas, as they're less odd looking than the Vibrams, and fit and breathe better than the Vivos. They're much warmer than both, with the fairly thick (but flexible) Vibram sole. Plus I can wear them to work!

Surprisingly, they're the most breathable leather shoes I've ever worn. I prefer leather shoes after having a bad experience with man-made materials, but I?ve never experienced leather like this. They're so breathable that I regularly find my feet dry and the end of a day, which does not happen with any other shoe I?ve owned. I discussed this with Russell, and indeed their suede is known for this trait, which is of course why Ralph picked it for me. (As I said, I've learned a lot, I wasn't a fan of suede shoes prior to these.)

These shoes are made with the Munson last*, a product of the Army study that Ralph introduced me to. Ralph may have been one of the few people alive who was still aware of this study. Only three companies that I've been able to find still make shoes or boots on the Munson last, and Russell is the only one that will make a minimalist shoe on this tried-and-true barefoot-style last. (More about Munson later).

The Munson last was designed to allow natural foot movement, and it works as advertised. It's a far better design than what Vivo uses, since the Vivo lasts still constrict the toes while simultaneously being too wide through the middle of the foot.

Russell makes each shoe to fit your foot; so your first step in ordering a pair of Russells is to take detailed measurements and a tracing of your foot, and mail it to them. Email or fax is not OK, because the transmission process can alter the tracing. The only major drawback I?ve found is that since the shoes and boots are made-to-order, there is a bit of lead time to get yours, and they're not cheap. (Compared to Vivo Barefoot, they?re a bit more expensive.) But, as I'm learning, they're worth it. Russell also says that they have customers who?ve been using Russell moccasins for year or decades, and that they do hold up in the long run. I?m a happy customer of a product that is expensive up front but lasts for a long time.

My only complaint with these shoes has been that they were a bit snug around the ball of my foot. They?ve since stretched out, but, as Russell likes to say that you don?t have to break in a Russell moccasin, they suggested I send them back and they?d stretch them for me. I declined. I didn?t want to be left without them.

They're also making up the boot that originally inspired me to contact Russell. The first draft of that prototype was the nicest-looking boot I've ever seen. I can't wait to wear it out in the woods and the snow.

Russell also makes dress moccasins a.k.a. loafers. They can make any shoe or boot in their lineup with a Munson last and without a heel.

Tuck models his custom new minimalist shoes he helped design in conjunction with Russell Moccasin Co. The shoes are keeping his feet nice and warm while affording his toes the ability to splay about comfortably. Though you'd not know it to look at them du
Tuck models his custom new minimalist shoes he helped design in conjunction with Russell Moccasin Co. The shoes are keeping his feet nice and warm while affording his toes the ability to splay about comfortably. Though you'd not know it to look at them due to their more traditional styling, these are very foot friendly, minimalist shoes!

* A last is a term used by cobbler's to describe the platform-like device shaped like a foot that a cobbler uses to build out a shoe. The shape of the last dictates the ultimate shape of the shoe.

James' Classic V5Fs and the Aurora Borealis

James' Classic V5Fs and the Aurora Borealis

Hey,

Just thought you might like this pic! I got my Classics (my first pair of VFFs) yesterday and fell in love immediately. I was wearing them round my apartment to break them (and my feet) in, when I looked out the window... and there was the best display of the Aurora Borealis that I've seen during my time in Iceland. I grabbed my camera bag and ran out the door. I ran a good 5 minutes to my usual photo spot, and loved every second of it in my VFFs. No pain at all, despite my feet never having ever experienced this before. ...

So there you go. Beautiful shoes, and a beautiful view. What more could you want? Ok, maybe some warmth...

Cheers,
James

I'm impressed James was able to catch such a beautiful picture with not only his FiveFingers but also the Aurora Borealis to boot. Apparently this photo was taken in below freezing temperatures (and of course, at night, so you gotta get a longer exposure!).

Glad you had such a great induction into VFF foot freedom! Beautiful shot!

VFF Lore: A 2006 Interview with Robert Fliri, Inventor of [what we now know as] Five Fingers

VFF Lore: A 2006 Interview with Robert Fliri, Inventor of [what we now know as] Five Fingers

Robert Fliri is the original creator of what we now know as Vibram Five Fingers. Fliri was a student at an Italian design school back in 1999 when he originated the concept of a foot glove for outdoor use, specifically in the mountains. It was only later when Fliri met with Marco Bramani, the grandson of Vitale Bramani, the founder of Vibram (Vi-bram, pronounced "vee-brum," get it?).

Nelleke Don interviewed Fliri in 2006 for Body Conscious Design about the origination of FiveFingers. The interview can be read in it's entirety here (PDF, but the link employs the Google Doc reader).

For VFF and/or design junkies, it's worth reading in it's entirety, but below are some selected quotes which I found particularly interesting:

On the origination of the idea:

I was in my first year of the design school in Bolzano and one of my professors started a project: sports is fun. It was about sports as leisure, not as a profession or a power-thing. I decided to work on my idea of going barefoot in a protected way and with this professor tried out all kinds of solutions. Instinctively it was clear to me that it had to be a glove. We have five toes: when they can move and grasp the ground independently, and when you can really sense the surface under your feet, your body is able to do what it is designed for by nature. That is a powerful feeling. ...

Was it difficult to develop the five fingers or did you get a lot of support?

There were times that I thought “I quit”, not because of the product as such, but because of the environment I worked in. The concept is totally new and very different from what is usual in the footwear-industry. I had to fight for every step on the road. I had to convince the people I worked with that it had to be a glove and that a glove is not a shoe. Shoe-people think a shoe needs shock absorption, cushioning, support. Innovation means more spacey material, more technology – not a totally different concept. So it was difficult for people to accept. But I was also very fortunate. I had this opportunity to work in the special office of Vibram’s owner, where we have a platform to develop the five-fingers. ...

Q: What distinguishes this five finger’s concept from a normal shoe?

The biggest difference is the five toes which make the foot move like in nature and you have much more body-smartness. You can move better, you can feel, you can have more power. With the five-fingers every toe can spread out, can work independently from the others, can grasp the ground, can feel the ground. It is totally different from a shoe where the toes are stuck together, even if the sole of the shoe is very thin and flexible.

It is very joyful to move around on the five-fingers, you will become really happy to move. Your movements will be more flexible, more supple. For example if you walk in the mountains on heavy boots, you will loose around 20% of your energy to the shoes, because of their weight, their stiffness and the impossibility to move your feet. On the five-fingers that doesn’t happen. I have experienced myself you just want to go up and up. When I see a rock or a tree, I want to climb it. It makes you become very playful and energetic. ...

In the first year I was wearing these shoes, old mountaineers said I was crazy, because I was on these flat, low shoes, instead of on high, heavy boots. Among mountaineers, young and old there is one rule: wear high shoes, over the ankle. That is true for normal shoes. With a rigid, hard sole your feet cannot adjust to an uneven surface and you can sprain your ankle. With a thick sole, you are suspended from the ground and whenever there is an unevenness and you go out over the side, you are not warned by your senses in the forefeet. But barefoot, that never happens. Your body is too smart. Whenever you risk loosing your balance, the senses in the forefoot will register it and your muscles will adjust. The sign doesn’t even need to travel all the way up to the brain. Every sense of misbalance will go directly to the muscles and they will adapt themselves. Your body knows perfectly well what is going on - in a way you become more animal-like. ...

Q: Do you think the market is ready for this product?

Maybe not. Because working and thinking with the body is not a common thing yet. But things change. We are now creating five fingers for indoor use, with a thinner sole. And we are also developing aqua-socks fro use in water. People also ask me if we can do them for children. Well, I say, maybe in the future this will be technically possible, but actually I think this product is more suited for adults. As adults we are growing older every day and we become more closed off, even in our movements. Children are playing. They do the same thing in a different way every time. We as adults do the same thing in the same way. I say with this shoe you will be happy on chaotic surfaces, it will inspire you to explore and discover something and play with it. You will receive pleasure by moving, which is a good thing for adults. Children are playing anyway, shoe are no shoe. We are not playing, so it is better for us. At least, that is my opinion.

It's great to read about Fliri's persevering against conventional thought regarding footwear. Now that we have them, it's hard to imagine a world without VFFs.

So much of what Fliri says resonates with me in my experience with VFFs. At the risk of sounding a bit mystical, it is amazing how being more connected to the ground connects us all in a common, if not chaotic, experience.

Additional reading: a blogpost from Foot Talk on the origination of VFFs.