Hiking Despite Osteoarthritis in Barefoot Shoes

Hiking Despite Osteoarthritis in Barefoot Shoes

I recently got the above photo from Ron. Ron is a 60+ guy who was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in one knee—after some 32 years of running.

What follows is his story about what the doc's had to say about how he should handle the news, and as you might guess, some FiveFingers came into the picture:

I call this my victory photo.

Last year, at age 60, and after 32 years of running, I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in the left knee. It hurt to walk, let alone, run. My general practitioner doctor suggested minimalist footwear as part of a program that included stretching and strengthening. [Meanwhile, both the] knee specialist and the physical therapist said to back off and use orthotics.

I took my general practitioner's advice.

Well, here I am a year later, relaxing at over 14,000 feet on the top of Mount Bierstadt in the Rocky Mountains. This was just one of several hikes I took during a 6-day vacation. I totalled nearly 35 miles of hiking and every step in my Vibram KSO Treks.

I proved to myself that I wasn't too old to make such a big change after 32 years of walking and running in the most expensive and most cushioned shoes. Of course, I still have osteoarthritis in the knee, but I am back at it, thanks to the therapeutic value stretching, strengthening, and minimalist footwear.

(I go barefoot alot, too!)

Ron A.

Fantastic to hear, Ron! And kudos for following your intuition and having success despite adverse conditions.

Hope you have many more successful hikes!

Eric's first trail run in KSO 5 Fingers in Houston

Eric takes his brand new black and orange KSO FiveFingers for an introductory spin in a local Houston trail.  Nothing like a good mud coating to break them in!
Eric takes his brand new black and orange KSO FiveFingers for an introductory spin in a local Houston trail. Nothing like a good mud coating to break them in!
Justin -

Love the site. Got my V5s for christmas after my wife wouldn't let me open them for weeks. I'd been running barefoot in the gym on the indoor track for a few weeks getting ready. Took them out for a 5K on Christmas day, came back with the dreaded fore-arch blisters. Nothing a little duct tape couldn't handle.

The attached pic was taken just after my first trail run in the KSOs at Memorial Park in Houston, right before I hosed them down at the dog/bike wash.

The last mile on the loop is on a fire-road on the utility / rail easement. Over the last several wet months, parts of the road have become virtually impassible in shoes due to standing water/ruts. The KSOs, with a little trepidation of what broken, improvised former water crossing materials may lurk beneath the brackish surface, took the mud in stride.

Also, I should add that I was initially a little bummed that I didn't think my Suunto Footpod would attach to the KSOs. Even though that kind of telemetry goes against the barefoot/minimalist grain, I considered writing Vibram to request they add some kind of fabric loop to the top of the shoe in future models. But then, after some experimenting, I realized that you can simply velcro the holder clip into place when fastening the shoe, and then snap the pod in over that. Voila! Metrics On!

Keep up the good work.

Eric

Eric, good to hear you finally got to experience the wonderful world of Five Fingesr. And glad you braved the muddy road and made it safely to the other side. Mud can make for interesting experiences in VFFs (e.g. mud surfing!).

Also, good to hear you figured out how to make your Suunto Footpod work with your strap. Others have used similar methods for attaching the Nike sensor.

Travis hikes Loan Peak in Northern Utah (11K feet up) in his KSO FiveFingers

The view from 11,000 feet off of Lone Peak in the Wasatch Mountains of northern Utah a la Travis' KSO FiveFingers.
The view from 11,000 feet off of Lone Peak in the Wasatch Mountains of northern Utah a la Travis' KSO FiveFingers.

Justin,

Having been an admirer of birthdayshoes.com for some time, I finally found a VFF pic from this summer that I wanted to share. On the 4th of July 2009, my brother and I hiked Lone Peak in the Wasatch Mountains of northern Utah. At 11,253 feet, it's among the tallest peaks in the Wasatch range. This picture was taken on my phone from just below the summit looking west towards Salt Lake Valley.

Some fellow hikers spotted my VFFs and flipped out, as is customary. But as we spoke, another hiker passed us with a pair of Sprints attached to his backpack. He had elected not to wear them due to the snow. VFFs are definitely gaining in popularity here, and my local running store has had difficulty keeping them in stock.

I love wearing my KSOs hiking and running. On this particular hike, nothing felt better as I scrambled over the huge granite boulders near the top than wearing VFFs. They were grippy and just a lot of fun to have on.

Thanks for your work on the site,
Travis

Looks like quite a view from the top, Travis. Glad you're having so much fun in your FiveFingers, not to mention braving some chilly altitudes and snow in them!

Thanks for sharing!

Seret runs a Marathon in VFF Sprints and Surfs Mud while trail running in her KSOs!

Seret sent in the above photos (montage-ified) showing off her marathon finish in VFF Sprints and her muddy trail running in her blue camo KSOs.
Seret sent in the above photos (montage-ified) showing off her marathon finish in VFF Sprints and her muddy trail running in her blue camo KSOs.
Hi Justin

I can't believe it's almost eight months since I first bought my KSOs. In that time I've completed two marathons. One in June (which I ran in my old trainers) and one in December in my new Sprints! My finish time improved by 30 minutes.

My husband continues to wear his blue KSOs during strength training and also while out & about. He was able to get the KSO Treks when I purchased my Sprints in Northern Washington. I am so very jealous.

Although it's wet and muddy here I continue to run the local trails. While I'm anxious for the smaller sized Treks to come out next year I am proud to say - I've slipped down hill in the mud a few times but have yet to fall. It's almost like surfing down the mud!

Wearing FiveFingers has improved my balance for sure. I love these shoes!

Keep up the great site!
Seret

We've seen Seret and her husband donning matching KSOs before (here). It is good to see they are both still putting them their VFFs to good use. Congrats on your marathon time!

Anyone else experienced "mud surfing" in their KSOs? I distinctly remember a major mud bust while trail running here in Atlanta in my KSOs. The Treks have fared better though.

Thanks for sharing, Seret!

You don't say! "Running Shoes May Cause Damage to Knees, Hips and Ankles"

A new study that measured and compared stresses on the joints of the leg (knees, hips, and ankles) for runners in shod and barefoot running indicates that "running shoes exerted more stress on these joints compared to running barefoot or walking in high-heeled shoes."

The study involved 68 healthy adult runners, slightly more than half women, who ran at least 15 miles per week and observed "joint torques" at the hip, knee, and ankle while individuals ran on treadmills.

You might guess what they found:

The researchers observed increased joint torques at the hip, knee and ankle with running shoes compared with running barefoot. Disproportionately large increases were observed in the hip internal rotation torque and in the knee flexion and knee varus torques. An average 54% increase in the hip internal rotation torque, a 36% increase in knee flexion torque, and a 38% increase in knee varus torque were measured when running in running shoes compared with barefoot.

These findings confirm that while the typical construction of modern-day running shoes provides good support and protection of the foot itself, one negative effect is the increased stress on each of the 3 lower extremity joints. These increases are likely caused in large part by an elevated heel and increased material under the medial arch, both characteristic of today's running shoes.

It's great to see studies like this emerge. No doubt we all have reached a similar conclusion that, rather than first requiring proof barefoot running is safe, the burden of proof that running shoes do us any good lays squarely on the shoulders of the running shoe manufacturers.

It is fascinating that walking in high-heels is less stressful on your joints than running in running shoes though I also imagine it'd be a disaster to run in high-heels — not to mention that high-heels necessarily cram your toes into a narrow space.

Anyone else looking forward to seeing the release of the Lieberman study?

(H/T Chris!)

Channing Tatum runs in KSO Treks (via TMZ.com)

Channing Tatum was caught heading to workout in his KSO Treks.  This might be the first celebrity sighting of VFFs — will FiveFingers go mainstream soon?
Channing Tatum was caught heading to workout in his KSO Treks. This might be the first celebrity sighting of VFFs — will FiveFingers go mainstream soon?

Recent G.I. Joe, She's the Man, and Stop-Loss star Channing Tatum has been spotted wearing KSO Trek Five Fingers while on his way to workout.

TMZ had a video segment titled "If the shoe fits" on the VFF-sighting that aired on television on January 1, 2010. In the minute-and-a-half clip, they show Tatum grabbing his things to go workout. The Paparazzi present ask him how he feels about his recent successes only to notice his "toe finger shoes;" apparently, Channing runs in them.

As you might guess, TMZ takes the opportunity to mock Channing's choice of footwear. Thankfully, at least one TMZ crewmember is also a VFFer, though unfortunately it seems his reason fell on def ears. I got a kick out of the video clip:

[video:youtube:EWZAFk3cYHM]

Though Alex does a laudable job in the video espousing the merits of Vibram Five Fingers to the TMZ crew, they were still able to get some quality digs in on VFFs. Perhaps the funniest being an exchange where one guy asks, "What do they do for you?" and getting the response, "They make chicks not like you!" A comment from a questionable source at best:

TMZ had a field day mocking Tatum's "Avatar" shoes.  At least one TMZ crew member spoke up on their behalf, but others were less enthusiastic, to say the least!
TMZ had a field day mocking Tatum's "Avatar" shoes. At least one TMZ crew member spoke up on their behalf, but others were less enthusiastic, to say the least!

Anyway, whether Five Fingers ever go mainstream is an ongoing question here (I think they will!). And if I'm not mistaken, this is the first celebrity sighting (excepting Sergey Brin's wearing KSO Five Fingers). Anyone have a clue what is going on with Tatum's left KSO Trek? The strap seems to be missing and I have no clue what is going on with his left foot's middle toe, but it looks totally mangled:

What is going on with Channing Tatum's KSO Trek Five Fingers here?  Looks like a dog got a hold of his left VFF!
What is going on with Channing Tatum's KSO Trek Five Fingers here? Looks like a dog got a hold of his left VFF!

(H/T Shawn | @sdemeule)

Other links on Channing Tatum's VFFs:

Anthropological perspective on the barefoot-is-better meme from Greg Downey

Greg Downey, an anthropologist in Australia, wrote an exhaustive blog post on Neuroanthropology.net titled Lose your shoes: Is barefoot better? back in late July 2009 that has just recently come to my attention.

The post covers topics ranging from how we run unshod to how shoes affect our feet (e.g. how feet adapt to shoes over time, how shoes mute sensory information, etc.). He gets into when shoes first entered the scene in human history to modern adaptations of our feet to do any number of activities (such as paint or play guitar). Though Downey's answer to the "is barefoot better" question seems overtly ambivalent, I doubt you could read it without coming away with the perspective that our feet are strong, robust, and adaptable structures by themselves. Said differently, feet are only handicapped if we make them that way. Downey (with a bit of help from Adam Sternberg) puts it thusly:

Sternbergh explains the developmental influence of shoes simply: ‘This is the shoe paradox: We’ve come to believe that shoes, not bare feet, are natural and comfortable, when in fact wearing shoes simply creates the need for wearing shoes.’ Shoe designers are convinced that feet need to be protected against the ground, and the result is that our feet are so sheltered that they do become fragile.

Another section I found interesting in the post referenced Ross Tucker, who described how our feet function (or fail to function in the case of shoes):

uring barefoot running, the ball of the foot strikes the ground first and immediately starts sending signals to the spinal cord and brain about the magnitude of impact and shear, getting most of its clues about this from the skin contact with the surface irregularities of the ground. Take away this contact by adding a cushioned substance and you immediately fool the system into underestimating the impact. Add a raised heel and the shod runner is forced to land on it. Strap the cushioning on tightly with the aid of a sophisticated lacing system and you block out shear as well, throwing the shock-absorption system even further into the dark ... The cushioned midsole of the modern running shoe robs the system of important sensory information necessary for ankle, knee and hip response to impact. The arch support (or orthotic) in modern running shoes not only prevents the arch suspension system from absorbing energy by preventing flattening but eventually leads to intrinsic muscle atrophy and complete loss of active muscular control of the arch leaving only the inelastic plantar fascia as a checkrein to flattening. The barefoot runner’s ‘foot position awareness sense’ which relies heavily on sensory input from the sole of the foot minimizes his risk of sustaining an ankle sprain on uneven ground. The shod runner is at marked increased risk of ankle sprains because his ‘foot position awareness sense’ is handicapped by the paucity of sensations coming from his soles.

There's a lot more there, and I'll save you from further quotes. Suffice to say that our feet are incredibly adaptable, strong, and sensitive structures. For that matter, Downey's anthropological round-up leaves me believing that when you need your feet to perform optimally, it's best to get out of their way. That said, shoes/footwear do have a place in human evolutionary history, but the trick is in finding the right balance.

You can read the entire article here.

(H/T to Byron on the Minimalist Runner Google Group)