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!

  • minimalist sandals!

    Xero Shoes - Barefoot Running Sandals

Ben and M-Cheezy Hiking Upstate New York in KSO Vibram Five Fingers

Ben and M-Cheezy Hiking Upstate New York in KSO Vibram Five Fingers
Ta-da! Ben and M-Cheezy make it to the top of one of the seven peaks at Harriman Highlands in their fivefinger KSOs!
Ben and M-Cheezy Hiking Upstate New York in KSO Vibram Five Fingers
Ben in the woods of Harriman Highlands, New York.
Ben and M-Cheezy Hiking Upstate New York in KSO Vibram Five Fingers
M-Cheezy perches atop a bouldered hillside in her VFF KSO-so rocky!

Ben emailed me about a post he did on his recent 8.6 mile hike up and down seven peaks at Harriman Highlands, which is "upstate-ish" New York. The above photos were taken from that hike, in which Ben and his friend "M-Cheezy" are showing off their FiveFinger KSOs (in black and grey, respectively).

Ben has a solid write-up about it over at his blog, which details a few VFF hiking mishaps as Ben tries to keep up with an ex-orienteering four-month pregnant guide! Here's an excerpt:

I got a bunch of comments from the fellow hikers about my shoes, but I had my friend M-Cheezy with me, who also rocked her gray and green KSO's. Some of the others thought I was going to hurt myself or roll my ankles since the shoes provide no support, but I informed them that I have greater balance and flexibility with these than traditional rigid hiking boots. Sure I'd be able to feel the rocks beneath my feet, but that's just superficial pain, nothing serious.

The lead guide was a four-months pregnant Australian woman who just absolutely tore up the trail at an incredible pace. This was no walk in the park. She had a background in orienteering, which is basically racing around with a map and compass, trying to get to checkpoints along the way. If you're not able to form your own opinion of it, it's badass. For the first half of the day before we broke for lunch I was able to stay to the front of the group and was having a great time avoiding sharp rocks and scrambling up steep passages in the mountain. Climbing up these steep areas with both hands and feet is called "rock scrambling", which turns hikes into full body workouts. My shoes handled the climbing just fine.

Things turned for the worse after our lunch break.

How's that for leaving you hanging? Go check out Ben's blog to read the rest!

Previously from Ben, a half-marathon in VFF KSOs.

Post-run Headstand Leg Drains with Jawa

Post-run Headstand Leg Drains with Jawa
Jawa practices a post-run leg drain headstand. Way to stick those blue KSOs up towards the blue sky!
Post-run Headstand Leg Drains with Jawa
I can tell Jawa has got this yogic posture down. He looks very relaxed and steady here!

Jawa sent in the above photos taken after a seven mile run in Diamond Bar, California (You might recall Dr. Jawa teaches mechanical engineering in his black KSO VFFs!). As you can see, Jawa is doing a post-run headstand, pointing his blue camo-clad fivefinger KSOs up towards a beautiful blue sky.

Why headstands? Glad you asked! Here's Jawa:

Hello Justin,

After a long run, it is good to do a leg drain. In my opinion there is no better way to do a leg drain than performing the famous Yogic posture Headstand, also known as King of all Asanas (postures). The main purpose of the headstand is to energize the whole body. Out of the 12 asanas, headstand is the first and considered the most powerful.

In the past I was unable to do a headstand with regular running shoes easily. Doing a headstand with Vibram is smooth and easy just like doing it barefoot.

I use my blue KSOs for daily street running. I do a two to three minutes headstand after each run. These pictures were taken after a 7 mile run in Diamond bar, California.



Though it's often mentioned that VFFers are using their fivefingers for yoga and running separately, I think this is the first-time I've heard of the two being mixed.

Good information to have! Thanks, Jawa!

Barefooting and FiveFingers in the News (LA Times, NY Times, San Francisco Chronicle)

There has been a lot of either barefoot running and/or Vibram Five Fingers news over the past few days, and I wanted to highlight this press for anyone who hasn't already seen it mentioned somewhere:

  • The Los Angeles Times' Tips on Barefoot Running — Covers some important things to remember for new barefoot runners—tips provided by barefoot running legend "Barefoot Ken Bob" (a.k.a. Ken Saxton of runningbarefoot.org) (Note: Article was taken down for unknown reasons).
  • The San Francisco Chronicle's Vibram's FiveFingers foot gloves runaway hit — A round-up covering the growing popularity of our favorite footwear. Article talks about stores selling out of VFFs and also mentions the importance of starting slow and not heel-striking!
  • The New York Times' The Roving Runner Goes Barefoot — Brian Fidelman, the "Roving Runner," goes for a barefoot run in Central Park with Christopher McDougall, the de facto spokesman now for both joyful and injury-free running as well as running barefoot. At this point, if you haven't heard of or read McDougall's Born to Run, you'd have to be living in a cave.

    Fidelman's article is a great read. Be sure to watch the video portion!

No doubt this new wave of FiveFingers-friendly news coverage will unleash another wave of VFFers!

Running San Pedro River Valley in FiveFinger KSOs

Running San Pedro River Valley in FiveFinger KSOs
The rugged terrain of the San Pedro River Valley, Southeastern Arizona (1 of 2)
Running San Pedro River Valley in FiveFinger KSOs
The rugged terrain of the San Pedro River Valley, Southeastern Arizona (2 of 2)

In the mailbag from "T" comes an account of finding a renewed ability to run painlessly across rugged terrain thanks to adopting foot-freeing KSO Vibram fivefingers:

Hey there!

I am writing today to let you (and everyone else) know just how much these shoes have benefitted me. I'm a U.S. Border Patrol agent stationed in the San Pedro River valley in southeastern Arizona.

I "thought" I was doing OK fitness wise when I got back from the academy, but I found running on the rocky terrain in this area to be very taxing. At one point, my knee was bothering me so much, that I had to stop running completely. Even after a month of rest, I couldn't run further than three miles before the pain fired up again. Then I read Chris McDougall's article in Men's Health Magazine. That was the turning point! I found a pair of VFF KSO's in my size and haven't looked back. I worked my way up from just wearing them around the house to wearing them a weekend at a time to clawing my running mileage back up to five miles a clip. Best part? No knee pain at all and I'm actually looking forward to increasing my mileage! I've also found the KSO's to be great when trail running through the washes or hiking along the river.

As far as the benefits, I'm in better shape obviously, but now that all those muscles I never really used before the VFF's are stronger, I'm able to go tearing across the rocky desert terrain and all it's challenges with much more stability, endurance, and confidence. I haven't rolled an ankle once since I started running in the VFF's, and when running in dim (or non-existant) light, I'm able to stay well balanced and stable when I step on the occassional "roller". Even when I'm just standing for long periods, my feet don't bark or growl at me any more. (That alone was worth the purchase price and keep in mind that while on duty I'm wearing heavy Danner boots!) Anyhow, I'm saving my nickels and dimes to get a pair of Treks as soon as possible.

The pictures represent just a small part of what we see in this part of the world. The washes can be nice and sandy like this one, but it's not unusual for them to be littered with river rocks and boulders. The scrub you see is typical, but so far the only hazard I've come across is the occasional mesquite thorn although I imagine a rattler would have no trouble biting through the KSO's. Even the roads near our home are dirt littered with 1" gravel bits, so you learn real quickly to relax when you run in the VFF's. My sincerest thanks to Vibram for these wonderful world-changers!

Keep spreading the word!

Great to hear you've had such success with VFFs and that your strengthened feet, ankles, and legs are making a booted work environment more comfortable! And definitely watch out for those rattle snakes and thorns — 3.5 mm of Vibram rubber is no match for some things!

Thanks for sharing!

Georgia Shaw Interview with LivingBarefoot

Just finished listening to the livingbarefoot.info podcast with Al and Tina in which they interview "Barefoot Moe" and then Vibram USA's Georgia Shaw. Moe's portion is certainly informative, but it lasts into the first 45 minutes of the podcast with Georgia's part in the last fifteen minutes or so. I took some notes from Georgia Shaw's interview regarding Vibram Five Fingers, so if you prefer to just get the gist, read on:

  • [minute 45] Barefoot Moe has fivefinger Sprints and Classics. Moe talks a bit about the pros and cons of VFFs.
  • [minute 53] Georgia Shaw interview begins
  • Is a women's KSO Trek in the cards? heard a lot of feedback from women who would like to have KSO Treks. Assurance that consumer feedback is always considered- "the more we hear back from women who are interested in trying this model, the more likely we are to answer that."
  • Why only men's KSO Trek? KSO top model for men in early 2008 when KSO Trek was considered. Sprint was first, then Classic, then KSO.
  • FiveFingers Moc design? Vamp higher for Moc for aesthetic purposes - men like the coverage to come up to the hemline.
  • [minute 58] FiveFingers Bikila: running-specific model. Released Spring 2010. Available for both men's and women's. Bikila will be released to retailers with running-specialty shoe space "carved out" will be carrying Bikilas. Mid-February and early March.
  • [minute 60] FiveFingers Speed: won't be released in North America. Could be exclusively in Europe or only a concept piece.
  • [minute 61] BirthdayShoes forum questions:
    Why difference in price between America and Europe? Products in Europe tend to cost about 50% more in Europe than in the United States. This is due to different distribution models in Europe than in the U.S. VibramUSA distributes direct to retailers in the U.S.; not so in Europe.
  • Waterproof model in the works? Premature to say they are coming out with a waterproof model, but they are always testing new designs out.
  • Wide options in the future? Traditionally FiveFingers can fit feet from A to EEE, so hasn't been necessary.
  • Production increases in the future? Yes. See [Vibram's note on availability and production per the official Vibram fivefingers facebook page]
  • Kangaroo leather. Is it more stretchy or less? Less. It has no stretch at all, but there is elastic at the collar to provide it some give.

My takeaways:

Though a lot of the material covered by Georgia has been covered here on the blog or in the forums, there are a couple things that were mentioned in the interview I have thoughts on:

It's informative to hear the rationale behind not carrying a women's KSO Trek. There's been a lot of gnashing of teeth about Vibram's decision here and many have opined about it in the forums. My hunch was apparently close to reality — the decision was due to gender specific demand. I had guessed this on looking at the results of the birthdayshoes sizing and fit questionnaire (still teasing that data for more insights!). Mind this data is just from a sample of those willing to respond to the survey, but even so, out of one hundred respondents, roughly three-fourths of all respondents were male.

Here's the FiveFingers gender breakdown by model:

Mind, the decision on the male-specificity of the Trek was made in early 2008, so things may have changed somewhat now. I'd also guess based on Georgia's comments that it was the popularity of the Sprint with women that drove the creation of the 2010 Performa Jane. The tipoff I picked up was that Vibram is keeping their ears to the ground — if there is enough interest in the KSO Trek for women, they are likely to produce it.

I also found the European vs. United States pricing discrepancy point interesting. It seems that one of the drivers of higher prices in Europe, in addition to things generally just being 50% more expensive there, is that the distribution model is more involved, meaning there are more layers between sellers and buyer, which tends to drive up price.

Finally, I have to wonder if the fivefingers Speed will ever see the light of day. Georgia noted that it may be released in Europe or it may just be a prototype (Like the hapless fivefingers Cortina)

Michael trail running Mueller Park in KSO fivefingers

Michael trail running Mueller Park in KSO fivefingers
Fivefingers make mid-trail-run relaxation look easy!

Michael sent in the above photo taken Saturday at Mueller Park near Salt Lake City, Utah—Michael is sporting injinji socks in his grey and palm KSO fivefingers.

Here's what Michael has to say about the photo and running in VFFs:

This picture was taken (10/3/09) about 3 miles up the Mueller Park Hiking/biking/running trail (near Salt Lake City) at a rest spot. It was a great cool morning for hiking/trail running. The trail was fairly dry just before a big storm hit. I have used a pair of injini socks and FiveFinger KSO's, after I got used to them (mainly my calf's - ouch!) I now run in the all the time.

Nothing like "kicking off your shoes," sitting back, and relaxing in the middle of a trail run!

Thanks, Michael!