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!)
Fantastic to hear, Ron! And kudos for following your intuition and having success despite adverse conditions.
I was recently contacted by Adam, an individual who had to have his left leg amputated after suffering injuries in a car wreck. Adam's preferred method of getting around now is on crutches, making his remaining leg the central point of support and balance. It's under these constraints that he's turned to using fivefingers KSOs to aid in feeling the ground. Here's Adam:
I recently stumbled across your website and decided to write you a comment. I'm 20 years old and lost my left leg last year due to a car wreck during my freshman year of college.
I don't always wear a prosthesis because they're painful for me still. As a result, I'm stuck using crutches. My primary footwear of choice while crutching is the KSO.
The FF allows me to have an impeccable connection to the ground, which is essential for a mono-pod like myself, making sure that every step is safe and secure. My balance and agility are improved when wearing FFs as well.
I always get strange looks from people, and I can't help but wonder if it's because I wear FFs or because I only have one leg. Perhaps it's both? :)
Anyways, thanks for making such an awesome tribute site, and if you know of any amputees who still have their left foot, I have a brand new left KSO size 43 that I don't think I'll be using anytime soon!
I'm happy to manage a place where people can share how they're improving their lives by doing something so simple as improving their connection to the ground — Adam's case is unusual, but a great application of Vibram fivefingers.
Thanks for sharing your story, Adam, and I'll let you know if anyone else reaches out in need of your left KSO!
Rana emailed me the other day to let me know she had blogged about her recent experiences with her Vibram Five Finger Sprints. Rana's been busy putting her Sprints to all the usual tests: driving, walking, running, hiking, and, well, just playing in them. Here's a clip from Rana's blog post:
Some observations - grass is nice, as is pine duff (though you do have to watch out for pine cones). Gravel isn't pleasant, though fine-crack packed gravel is a lot better than loosely packed large rocks. Logs are fun. Kicking an Osage orange toe first hurts, but shoving it along with the ball of your foot gives a nice inner-thigh work-out. Jumping is fun, especially since it's amusing seeing your VFF-clad toes pointing in the air. The worst surface? Field stubble. The damn stuff pokes you in the sides of the toes. Ouch! Mud is interesting, though I didn't explore it too much since I didn't want to get the shoes too dirty or to sink in a bog.
The gentle pad-pad-pad sound your feet make when walking in the VFFs is also pleasant - and it's quiet enough that you can sneak up on squirrels, rabbits, turtles and cats without half-trying. (When one does try, one can walk very quietly indeed.)
So, to make a long account short, these shoes are so much fun! And they are helping me remember why I love being outdoors, and why bodies are meant for playing, not just sitting and working. Viva la VFFs!
As for the field stubble, I think in time you might find it's not so bad after all. I was walking through a gravel parking lot the other night and thinking both "Ahh a foot massage" and then "It's nice to have a bit of variation in the ground for once!"
We first got a glimpse of this new color combo for men back in late July via a blog post from KayakShed when they were pictured alongside another new color option for women, the all black fivefinger Sprints:
It seems that these new fivefinger color combinations are about to hit the shelves — note that we haven't yet seen anyone carrying the all black women's Sprints ... yet!
As evidenced by his poetry, Leif enjoys working within the constraints of a minimalist approach; for example, not only does that mean he runs a 100 mile ultramarathon in Vibram five fingers but he also enters the 109 mile El Tour de Tucson bike race on a unicycle.
It's Leif's passion for novel, minimalistic approaches to racing that have led him to start his own blog, specifically focused on this subject. It's called, Distance Minimally.
I asked Leif if he'd share with us what he would like to accomplish with his new blog, and here is what he had to say:
I find myself among small groups exploring two sports with one unique feature in common – going further while equipped with less than most other athletes. I run ultramarathons, any footrace longer than 26.2 miles, without traditional running shoes. This has usually been in Vibram Five Fingers, well known to readers of BirthdayShoes.com, but may also include other types of running sandals or simply bare feet. I also participate in distance cycling events, such as the 109 mile El Tour de Tucson, on a unicycle. By removing an element considered essential to most participants in these sports, but holding to the same standards as those with traditional gear, the challenges of the sport become quite different. The events are altered and added to enough that the sports are radically transformed. It is to these transformed sports that I dedicate my new blog DistanceMinimally.com.
Because participation in sports like these in this minimal fashion is currently rare, there are few resources available to those who are interested in them. We are often writing the book on these sports as we go. And so I've created DistanceMinimally.com as a site where I can gather and share these experiences of my own and those of others to shed light on the unique aspects of going the distance with less. I welcome input and experiences from others, whether minimalist runners, distance unicyclist, or some other minimalist endurance sport that few have yet imagined.
I'm looking forward to reading more of what Leif has learned about covering long distances as minimally as possible! And if this sounds like the kinda thing that interests you, be sure to bookmark his site or add it to your preferred feed aggregator so you can keep track of what Leif is up to!
More about Leif (including his thoughts on the new KSO Treks) that you might be interested in:
I did my ~10 mile run today wearing my new Treks. A wandering 2 hours on the network of trails in the Marquam Nature Park in Portland, Oregon. Full of hills, mud, rocks, lots of single track trail, and one stretch of large-rock strewn “road”. The VFF KSO Treks were pretty amazing. I could feel the trail under foot, but I didn’t have to worry about it every step. My feet could behave as feet, but with seemingly no threat of feeling the jabs of the rocks beneath them. I was actually a little concerned - I was able to tune out a little too much. I noticed my form slipping a bit, and was aware that the beefier sole would do nothing to prevent catching my toe on a log like I did on my last long trail run. I wish I had enough time to train in the Treks to have that reduced awareness catch up with me so I don’t have to learn the hard lesson on my long run next week. I’ll be reminding myself to stay focused, and won’t be listening to an audiobook as I was today.
I climbed up to the highest point in Portland. I never felt a lack of traction in my other VFFs but could tell I had greater traction in the Treks. I jumped on and over a log blocking the path, and my foot slipped a bit. That never happened in my other VFFs. It seems the Treks sacrifice a certain amount of the dynamic grip I’ve come to enjoy for the static grip of their increased tread. About 7 miles into my meandering run I reached the top of Council Crest, took in the view, and then bombed down the 3.2 miles of trail to my car. I haven’t been able to bomb down a trail like that since I wore traditional shoes. It was fun.
I fully expect that this will translate into improved performance on my race. There is a significant amount of energy that is available for running that was previously going into caution on every step. Part of me missed that awareness, and I am unsure if I’ll be trading out my Sprints and KSOs for Treks on all of my runs. But for next weekend’s 100 miler, it seems like a godsend.
My initial thoughts about the Vibrams was that I definitely need to work harder at sharpening my form, which is exactly one of the reasons people espouse running barefoot. I have become a notorious heel striker, and it only takes couple crashes on the heel to realize you should be landing midfoot and toe. Biomechanics aside, as the video shows, I was able to rock hop and not feet too exposed. I might not recommend it for racing gnarly rock laden courses, but one certainly becomes MUCH more vigilant about where their foot is falling when their are obstacles to be negotiated. In fact, one of the instant realizations was that occasionally I have used my trail shoes as more of a battering ram in some tricky terrain. More awareness of the trail, greater concentration on form and foot fall, and quicker turnover have already been observed.
As always, if I've missed any reviews for the past week, please let me know by commenting below or contacting me using the site form. I've got a couple preliminary testings of the new fivefingers KSO Trek to share with you this upcoming week, so stay tuned for that.
birthdayshoes [about] is dedicated to feet, which is to say barefeet, or feet as they were designed to be—unshod and free! As a way to foster foot freedom, birthday shoes is spreading the word about toe shoes — Vibram Five Fingers — the ground-breaking "barefoot shoes" or "foot gloves" that allow wearers to roam the earth as [Your Belief System] intended. Free your feet!
Note: This site is not owned, operated, or otherwise affiliated with Vibram or Vibram FiveFingers. The site is intended for entertainment purposes only. Per FTC regulation, it should be assumed that products reviewed on BirthdayShoes were provided to the blogger(s) for free or at discounted cost. Though this is certainly not always the case, we'd rather be in compliance with FTC rules & regulations governing bloggers and product reviews under the assumed "most biased" letter of the law. That said, if it's not immediately obvious, this site is a fan site for minimalist footwear such as Vibram Five Fingers, which is to say that there is a stated bias in favor of these products. Despite our stated bias, between the hundreds of user-submitted stories, the thousands of forum posts (both positive and negative, warts and all!), and the in-depth resources and guides, we do our best to provide in depth information on all products reviewed. In the end, though we strive to be a helpful resource and believe in integrity and honesty, we expect you to do your part — reading the research and making educated decisions (Read: take responsibility for your actions!). We have also passed on reviewing products (not VFFs per se) that were provided to us for free but did not "cut the mustard." If you have any questions about this disclaimer, please contact us!