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!

Barehoof Horseplay and FiveFingers with Nichole

Barehoof Horseplay and FiveFingers with Nichole
Nichole rides her horse in her "birthday shoes" — KSO FiveFingers (in the soon-to-be-discontinued brown color!)
Barehoof Horseplay and FiveFingers with Nichole
An upclose shot of Nichole's VFF-clad feet and her horse's horseshoe-free hooves! "Barehoofing" (must be a better word for this!) is a growing part of the natural horsemanship movement!
Barehoof Horseplay and FiveFingers with Nichole
I think Nichole's horse likes her VFFs, but I'm no horse whisperer.

Nichole (@nickel07 on twitter) sent in the above photos of her wearing brown KSO FiveFingers alongside her horse who is, himself, free-hoofing it — no horseshoes!

Here's Nichole:


My name is Nichole and I have been really enjoying following your stories of people with their various barefoot activities!

I have been a VFF KSO owner since February of this year, and have recently begun running in them. I am not a runner, in fact I have always hated running because of shin splints, so-called bad knees, and my flat pronating feet. I had been reading a few different blogs on barefooting and decided I would give it a try a few weeks ago, since I love walking everywhere in VFFs.

Lo and behold, I discovered I could run WITHOUT PAIN for the first time in my life, in my knees, feet, or shins. I am still in awe, and have had six or seven successful 2-3 mile runs since then, still pain free and feeling strong and connected to my feet in a new way! I sound like such a gushing convert when I explain to people that yes, I can run in these shoes and no, they don't have support. LOVE THEM!

Anyway, my main hobby is my horse. I am a student and instructor of natural horsemanship, and along with a holistic approach to equine behavior, I do my best to keep my horse's life as natural to him as possible. This includes keeping him barefoot, meaning with no horseshoes. Believe it or not, putting steel shoes on horses can create problems in their gait and health of their feet by restricting blood flow and preventing flexion of the hoof (a very live thing!). In fact, it was a few close horse friends of mine who actually introduced me to the barefooting idea and to VFFs in the first place! My horse has healthy feet and loves being barefoot, and I have recently joined him! I found that playing with my horse barefoot causes me to be much more aware of where my feet and his feet are, as well as causing me to be more polite in my communication!

Happy to hear that you are able to run again, Nichole! Furthermore, thanks for sharing about natural horsemanship.

It seems that natural horsemanship is a kindred movement to barefooting and/or minimalist footwear, which I'll characterize more generally as the "don't fight nature and expect to win" movement. Incidentally, Nichole's account above is the second time I've heard about "barehoofing." The first time I heard about it was via forum member barefootpony, who had this to say about how horses are negatively affected by horseshoes:

There's a lot of evidence that horseshoes are damaging in the same way that people shoes are: they restrain the natural expansion and retraction of the hoof as the horse moves, make it more difficult for the horse to feel the ground (thus more stumbling, which potentially can catapult a rider right off), and generally just weaken the hoof. The horse's hoof also has a structure at the center of the sole called the "frog" (it's made of soft tissue sort of like a cuticle), and that structure acts as a pump to keep blood flowing properly through the legs and feet when the horse takes a step. When you shoe, the frog doesn't properly contact the ground, so the horse also suffers from poor circulation.

Informative stuff all around!

Thanks for sharing, Nichole!

Update / Addition from Fran:

Wanted to append to Nichole's story an email and photo I received from Fran who also practices natural horsemanship:

Just wanted to pass this photo along in response/to go along with the recent article submitted by Nichole Bryant, with her VFFs and barefoot horse. Nichole is a friend of mine, we study the same horsemanship program. She did a brilliant job of sharing about natural barefoot in horses, as well as what these shoes have done for her (and for me, too!) , so I'll spare you that ;)

However, I did want to share my own barefootin' picture! The picture attached was taken last April, just after I had trimmed my horse's feet. (I too practice barefoot hoofcare for my horse). I thought the photo would be fun--natural barefoot for all! Hope you enjoy!

The FiveFingers in the picture are Palm/Clay KSOs, I also own a pair of Black Flows that I'm enjoying now that the weather has cooled off! Loving them so much, they've really done wonders for my posture and body awareness!

Here's Fran's feet alongside her horse's "free hooves:"

Thanks, Fran!

Bernard Finishes 100km Trail Race in Singapore in his KSO Vibram FiveFingers

Bernard Finishes 100km Trail Race in Singapore in his KSO Vibram FiveFingers
Bernard chows down on a banana prior to his 100km trail race in FiveFingers KSOs.

Below is a race account I received from Bernard, an ultra runner in Singapore, who recently completed a 100km race in KSO FiveFingers — his first race in minimalist footwear.

Bernard also talks about getting into barefooting and then "minshod" running. It's an encouraging story:

Hi Justin,

I've come to know about your website and am excited to know how Vibram has transformed so many people's lives. In a similar way, I'd like to share my experience and the recent event I did last Saturday, 24th Oct.

I had never heard of barefoot running or minimalist running when I started doing endurance events. It was in one of the recent ultra trail race (Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc) when I did, when I heard of Vibram Fivefingers. They had a booth at the race expo and it did not catch my attention. Anyway, to cut the story short, I had my first DNF at UTMB in August (I had run non-stop for 150km and was short of 16km to complete). I was in terrible pain and had cramps everywhere. My legs hurt so badly ... It was in a moment of post race reflection that I came across barefoot running and its benefits. "I am not going to run barefoot, it will be so painful," I thought to myself. I looked for other alternatives and that is when I come across Vibram Fivefingers ... I thought "Why not?" The rest is history. Now I am a true convert and practitioner of minimalist running.

Last Saturday, I took part in the longest ultra running event in Singapore. It was the The North Face 100 Singapore, part of the TNF100 series in the world. Because of my experiences, I was selected and invited to take part in the first 100km solo event. I decided to do it using Vibram KSO. I wasn't sure if I was sane to run 100km in Vibram. To "train" for this, I ran fully barefoot to strengthen my feet and thicken my calluses. I ran 4 times a week about 5km every morning barefoot for almost 1.5 month. Next, I did progressive trail runs from 10 - 30km in Vibram. All this while friends were asking me, "Are you sure you want to do this?"

Some of my close buddies encouraged and supported me, and I was grateful for their words of support. Race day came and I was one of the 30 participants in the field at 4am. I knew I had to start slow as this was 100km and not 10km. I had the company of my close buddy with me and we looked out for each other. In fact, I did not face any major problems for the first 20km on the trail. The problems came between 20-30km where the trail changed to rocky trails (nothing but just rocks and rocks). Every step you took was difficult and painful. Trying to read the trail was also challenging as it was all the same. I knew this part of the route was going to pose me bigger problem when I had to complete it in the 2nd loop. I managed to survive the first 50km in 5:48hrs. However, my feet were also hurting quite badly. I decided to take an hour's break to rest my feet and was contemplating whether I should change into my shoes (Yes, I brought my shoes as a back-up plan).

I was not ready to give up without trying. I put my Vibrams back on and decided to continue. The next 20km was even harder than I had expected. I had to improvise my strategy. I had to run on flat surfaces and downhills while walking up hilly trails. Finally, the nightmare came again at the 70km mark (the rockiest trail). Forced with a hard decision, I opted to do a power walk for the entire 10km of this trail. I knew it would affect my overall timing but my aim was to complete the 100km event. Thankfully, I persevered and completed the 10km in about 1:30hrs. By this time, my right feet seem to have a blister forming, so I got it bandaged by a medic.

I was feeling horrible as the heat was intense at that part of the day. Then, a message from my cell phone came and it read, "Bernard is still in the race and he is going to be the first Singaporean to run 100km in barefoot." That message lifted up my spirits. All of sudden, I was fired up and thanked the volunteers. I got up and continued my run. Every ounce of energy seemed to come back and I was running again for the last 20km. What made it sweeter was the fact that family and kids were going to be there at the finish.

As the distance became shorter and shorter, I was running even faster. At the last 2.5km, i was running at a 5.43min/km pace. Finally, Isaw the finishing line and saw my kids waving at me. I held my son's hand and we ran into the finish line together. Happy and tired I was! Nevertheless, I was proud that I had earned the right to be the first to do a 100km trail event in the minimalist style.

Check this out. This is the 2nd day after my 100km, I am not feeling any injury / muscle aching on any part of my legs. My calves felt sore the next day after the race. Right now, the soreness has disappeared. I am truly surprised and this event has just proven the benefits of barefoot running.

Apologies for the long story — I am excited to share with everyone the benefits I've received from both being barefoot and in Vibrams.

Best regards,


Great to hear that you persevered to the finish line and had such a warm reception waiting for you. The "foot massage" you get running on rocky terrain can certainly be an intense experience. Encouraging to know your recovery went quickly!

Thanks for sharing, Bernard! May you have many more injury-free races in VFFs!

Tim Runs the Marine Corps Marathon in his Sprint Vibram Five Fingers

Tim Runs the Marine Corps Marathon in his Sprint Vibram Five Fingers
The night before the Marine Corps Marathon (October 24, 2009), Tim Kelley has all the necessary gear laid out and ready for the big race — of note, Injinji toe socks and red and black FiveFingers Sprints!
Tim Runs the Marine Corps Marathon in his Sprint Vibram Five Fingers
Here's Tim rounding the corner of the Marine Corps Marathon this past Sunday in his VFF Sprints.
Tim Runs the Marine Corps Marathon in his Sprint Vibram Five Fingers
Almost there!
Tim Runs the Marine Corps Marathon in his Sprint Vibram Five Fingers
Tim got his feet in a pair of brand new, not-quite-released Injinji toe socks at a booth at the MCM race. These knee-high compression toe socks look promising. Perhaps these are not only a way to improve blood flow in the lower legs, but also a nice cold weather solution for VFF running!

Tim Kelley, who we've seen previously hiking mountains and finishing triathlons, now adds a marathon to his list of VFF-shod accomplishments. Tim ran the Marine Corps Marathon this past Sunday, and sent in the above photos as well as the account of the race below:

Hey Justin,

I just wanted to check in and let you know that I successfully finished the Marine Corps Marathon in my red VFF Sprints and Injinji socks with a time of just under 6 hours. This was my first marathon ever and my longest run more than 18 miles. As usual, pictures are attached!

I got lots of looks, and just for the fun of it, I kept track of the number of comments or conversations I personally had with people along the way about the shoes: 31 total! One major difference I noticed with this marathon compared to past races is that so many more people’s comments were less “What ARE those things?” to “Oooh yeah, I’ve heard about those barefoot running shoes thing—it’s suppose to be good, right?” People are starting to come around!!

I didn’t see Bob with St. Judes from one of your earlier posts, or anyone else out on the course wearing VFFs, but I did share a Metro car with a guy in a pair of Classics.

And one last piece of news, Injinji was at the race expo and I stopped by their booth during packet pickup. I bought a pair of gray micro Injinji’s, but I also got a pair of knee high Injinji compression socks! I was told they aren’t going to be out in stores for another couple of weeks, but that the sales rep grabbed them at the last moment to bring along to see what the reaction would be. I’ve gotta say, they feel great! I’ve tried a couple different brands before and these are definitely the tightest and most “compressive” I’ve ever used.

Now that the marathon is over, what’s next? I’ve got my eye on a VFF Ironman in 2010 ...

Hope all is well, keep up the great site!


An Ironman, huh? We'll look forward to hearing about it, Tim! And I'm sure I'll hear from Bob about his MCM race in VFFs soon.

Sounds like more scuttlebutt from the field that the tide has turned on fivefingers awareness. Thirty-one comments or conversations! That really is incredible — I've got a new slogan for Vibram, "Make Friends, Wear FiveFingers!"

And one update from Tim about the race:

Runner in regular running shoes, “Don’t your feet hurt?!?”

Me, “Probably not any more than your feet do!”


I saw mention of the compression Injinji's on their website (just leave the screen up for a few seconds and the splash will change) — looks like more useful complimentary products for FiveFingers!

Sergey Brin has blue camo KSO VFFs

This guy will come onstage in 20 guess who he is? #w2s on TwitpicJohn Battelle (@JohnBattelle) recently interviewed Sergey Brin, Co-Founder of Google, at the 2009 Web 2.0 Summit. Prior to the interview, Battelle tweeted a pic with the caption "This guy will come onstage in 20 guess who he is? #w2s." The answer, of course, was Sergey Brin. And below is a video of that interview where Battelle's first question is about Sergey's "shoes" (The other 16 minutes are interesting interview material if you're into Google and Web 2.0, but up to you if you want to watch that!):

Apparently, Sergey has had his blue camo KSO fivefingers for awhile now but recently sprained his ankle while playing Ultimate Frisbee in cleats. So he was wearing his VFFs for comfort. Battelle's comment, "Those are just ... freaky."


H/T Nikola for alerting me to this video!

Admin note: Been away for the past few days in the Smoky Mountains so apologies to those who've sent in photos and stories — I'm not ignoring you and will get things back on track in the next day or so! — Justin

Latest Vibram Five Fingers Reviews 10/25/09

This past week's latest Vibram FiveFingers reviews:

  • Vibram Five Fingers KSO early review at Andy Oakley [KSO]:

    The idea definitely appealed but I held a few reservations: will they rub against my feet, what happens when they get wet, how will they handle rocky ground, walking on hard surfaces like concrete, smell and maintenance. I’ve been pleasantly surprised. The fit is ideal, no complaints there, even when wet. Crossing rocky ground is a little interesting, you definitely feel everything although jumping onto small rocks is probably to be avoided. That said, the hike up to Rattlesnake Ledge today was easy and the lighter weight is definitely noticable on climbs. Concrete and other surfaces are a bit less forgiving and I would probably worry about my knees over time. So far, I haven’t have enough time to comment on how the hold up over time.

See last week's Latest 5 Fingers reviews here.

Allan "Survives" a Race through Edinburgh, Scotland in VFF Classics

Allan "Survives" a Race through Edinburgh, Scotland in VFF Classics
Allan is pictured here alongside his team before the "Survival of the Fittest" 10K race through Edinburgh, Scotland.

In the mailbag this week comes an email from VFFer Allan who recently partook in a very unusual 10K race through Edinburgh, Scotland. The race was a mixture of running and running through, around, or over various obstacles. Allan completed the race in his grey and orange Classic FiveFingers.

Here is Allan's account of the wily race through Edinburgh:

Hi Justin,

First of all, I love your website! Birthdayshoes is brilliant to find out about other fivefigner wearers and what they get up to, as well as finding out about all the latest news.

Last sunday, I took part in the final challenge of a three part "survival of the fittest" running event in Edinburgh, Scotland wearing my grey fivefingers classics ... The run was 10km through the centre of Edinburgh, but this was no ordinary run, as several “challenges” tested the runners throughout.

The race began on the historic Royal Mile, which connects Edinburgh Castle & the Scottish parliment. One hundred meters down from the start line, runners had to clamber over a series of hay bail walls, before continuing down the narrow side streets & stairwells of the Old Town before reaching 'Jacob's Ladder' – three hundred narrow steep steps connecting the city's lower level with it's upper level. Soon after this came the climb up Calton Hill, a one hundred meter elevation that forms part of Edinburgh's former volcanic landscape. A combination of stepped & off-road track led the runners to their next challenge – an army assault course comprising cargo net climbs, rope swings, monkey bars & crawling under cargo nets.

Runners then received a welcome aid as the course flowed back down the hill, down 'Jacob's Ladder' & back into the Old Town, where runners met their next unique challenge – a short clamber through two wrecked cars (in the boot, out through the front window).

The next couple of kilometers offered the nearest thing to a conventional running race, although contenders still had to deal with the undulating nature of the city. After a short time, runners arrived at the centrepiece of Edinburgh's volcanic iconography, Arthur's Seat, where the runners enjoyed a brief moment of fun with a thirty foot water slide down the hillside.

The next challenges took runners through artificial spiders webs & a 'wall of water' provided courtesy of two of Edinburgh's fire engines and their hoses. A five hundred meter long sub-terrain disused railway tunnel took runners further towards their finish line, leading runners toward Edinburgh's night life centre, the Cowgate. Here, runners had to navigate a comical tribute to the city's current bain – a building site, complete with rock climbs, blockade hurdles and a trek up and down a four-storey derelict building. Runners then faced a sharp uphill climb back to the Royal Mile where the next (inflatable) assault course brought a smile to some tired faces. Heading back through the Cowgate, runners approaching the finish had to navigate a series of skilful Parkour challenges before entering the finishing straight – or so runners thought...

An unwelcome route diversion took runners one hundred meters up the side of The Mound, a volcanic throne for Edinburgh Castle, before competitors raced down to the finishing line to face an eight foot wall – get over by any means necessary. The finishing line followed to mark a memorable and challenging ten kilometer run .

I completed the race in a team of six, wearing my grey VFF classics (with socks for comfort). This was the first time I've run any significant distance in my VFFs, but i thoroughly enjoyed it (except for the sharp rocks in the building site :( ). Without any prior training for the event and with several stops to wait for some of the other fifteen hundred contenders to pass through, I finished in a reasonable time of 1 hour 15 minutes (normally a slow time for 10k, but given the circumstances I am satisfied). I will certainly be trying more events like this in my VFFs!

Thanks very much,


Sounds like it was quite a wild 10K! I'm impressed that you managed it so quickly, particularly given it was your first race in FiveFingers. It's also good to know your VFFs managed such an adventurous obstacle course with ease (sharp rocks aside)!

Thanks for sharing with us, Allan!