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!

How to put on Classic Vibram Five Fingers without using your hands [How-to]

Awhile ago I asked the following question to forum members: can you put on your fivefinger Classics without using your hands? At least a couple responded they could (Kevin even sent me a short video to prove it).

I, too, can put on my VFFs using naught but feet (As I pat myself on the back). There are two default starting positions from which you can pull off this "fivefingers foot feat:" either with the elastic strap as loose as possible or with it cinched up tight.

How? Let me see if I can explain:


Note: Both methods require enough toe dexterity to find and insert your toes into their respective toe slots. If you try this little trick, make sure you do it in an area where if you fall from losing your balance, you won't hurt yourself!

If you have questions or comments, let me know! And yes, I did say "do do" in the video. And I know, this is probably one of the weirder how-to videos on YouTube.

Regardless, don't be too jealous of my toe dexterity, k?

A lesson on shoes from Sesame Street: "Monsters don't need shoes. We can do everything in our monster feet!"

Why am I watching Sesame Street? Well, my toddler nephew is a big fan of Sesame Street. When a recent episode featured the "fairy shoeperson" played by Neil Patrick Harris and included a bit of commentary on shoes by way of Telly and Abby, my brother told me all about it. Just the other night, I finally got to watch the clip, and I have to admit, it was pretty entertaining.

You can watch the relevant clip via the two YouTube videos below (about nine minutes total).

The first clip is a little introductory song and dance that is hilarious in its own right as we get to see Neil Patrick Harris doing a song and dance in a suit with wings. He parades about giving shoes to unwitting humans who, of course, break out into song and dance. Note the mop shoes:


And the second clip:


If you want to skip to the punchline, in the second clip the "shoe fairy" keeps trying to find the right shoes for Telly, who finds them all seriously wanting. When the shoe fairy has had enough with trying to please Telly, he disappears leaving Telly unshod [Around 5:00 in the video]. Telly doesn't realize he's barefoot and exclaims, "Hey now these shoes make my feel great! I can move in these! These shoes are perfect!" Here's the remaining dialogue:

Abby: But you gotta have shoes, Telly.

Telly: I don't want any shoes.

Abby: Huh?

Telly: No, no, no shoes. I like my toes to roam and roam free!

Abby: No shoes?

Telly: Yeah, see, shoes are great for people and fairies to protect their feet, but I'm a monster and monsters don't need shoes. We can do everything in our monster feet!

Abby: You mean everything?

Telly: Yeah we can run and jump and dance and hop!

[Both laugh]

Abby: I didn't know that!

Of course, Telly's logic for monsters is just as applicable for humans, but well, you knew that already, right? Perhaps the shoe fairy should have tried to outfit Telly in some Vibram threefingers.

Chalk one up for monster logic.

For a full synopsis of this episode of Sesame Street including a few thumbnail snapshots, see the Muppet wiki entry on episode 4162.

"Monkey Shoes" and Dog Paws from Vibram Five Fingers fan Erik

"Monkey Shoes" and Dog Paws from Vibram Five Fingers fan Erik

In the mailbag comes the above photo of canine and human (both male and female) paws photoed together — the human ones in Vibram Five Fingers. Looks to me like the dog paw is on top. Here's what Erik had to say:

Yosemite's Tuolumne Meadows.

My wife hated my "monkey shoes" initially, and now she can't wear anything else. The dog, obviously, doesn't wear the things. Lucky [guy] with his naturally protective pads.

"Monkey shoes" is definitely one of the various names people give to Vibram fivefingers. That said, since human beings are much more closely related to apes than monkeys from a genetic point of view, I submit that VFFs are more appropriately nicknamed "ape shoes."

Then again, "ape shoes" doesn't quite have the same ring to it as "monkey shoes." Oh well.

Latest Vibram Five Fingers Reviews 8/02/09

And the past week's latest Vibram Five Fingers reviews are:

  • VFF KSOs: First Impressions at the Road to Comrades [KSO]:

    Yesterday morning I headed out for a 3K walk in my KSOs. That meant another struggle to get into the things, but I found I was getting better with practice. (There are minimal instructions on the box the KSOs come in about how to put them on. But, to tell the truth, the process is more of an Insertion than a Putting On. Maybe someone should write a manual ...)

    The walk was good. I really missed the feeling of road, sidewalk, grass, etc. on the soles of my feet. But the payoff was that I could walk more easily than I had on my recent barefoot walks. Just that little bit of protection at the bottom of my feet meant that I could adopt a more natural stride and gait. That, in turn, meant, I wasn’t punishing my feet the way I had been previously. Less pain, more comfort, resulting in more pleasure. (To say that I’m essentially a pleasure -oriented animal is something of an understatement.) Got a couple of odd looks from the few other folks I met along the way, but they normally see me barefoot, so for them it was probably just another “Here’s the old guy being weird again” moment.

  • Review of Vibram Five Fingers Shoes at Clinton Lake Ultra [KSO]:

    I've had my Vibram Five Fingers shoes for 3 weeks now and have walked on both roads and trails quite a bit...and done a few short trail runs too. My quick summary review: They are great!

  • Barefoot Running in the Vibram FiveFingers at Christopher Cooper's blog [Classics]:

    I found them to be a mind opening experience on any surface that is softer than asphalt. It really was amazing to feel all the intricacies of the ground - the small twigs under your feet, the variations in the level of the dirt below, the tiny bumps here and there, the grass softly cushioning your foot-fall. It was a different experience than I had imagined. Now, I don't typically run barefoot, had I done that on a normal basis, perhaps my first experience with the FiveFingers would not have been so enlightening. Beyond the surreal feel of the earth below your feet, I also found there to be a significant increase in my ability to grip the ground and properly predict how my foot may need to be positioned, my weight balanced, and even how my next push-off should go. I certainly am not a 'professional runner', but I genuinely did notice these new aspects of each step when using my new freak-feet.

  • Vibram Five Fingers SPRINT Review at Smiling Skepticism [Sprint]:

    They’re sturdier than they appear. I do a lot of walking and after each outing I’ve checked the soles for signs of wear and tear. Each time I been pleasantly surprised. Even on the couple occasions I stepped on a sharp rock - an experience you will be profoundly aware of- I didn’t notice any cuts or marks on the sole.

  • Review: Vibram Five Fingers Shoes at All Climbing [KSO]

    I have high arches myself (my footprint in the sand is two unconnected imprints) and have not had a single problem. Two days after my track workout (complete with sprinting) my arches were killing me. And then a strange realization – was this the first time in my life I’d ever felt the need to stretch my arches? It was. The next day I felt fine – and my feet were stronger than ever before.

If I missed any (worth mentioning, of course!), please let me know!

Previous week's reviews:

Sterling Purdy Gets Primal (And primally fit!) in his Vibram Five Fingers Sprints

Sterling Purdy shows off his VFF Sprints while sporting a Mark Sisson "Grok on!" tshirt!
Sterling Purdy shows off his VFF Sprints while sporting a Mark Sisson "Grok on!" tshirt!

Sterling Purdy shows off his VFF Sprints

Name:Sterling Purdy
Birthday:February 28
Regular shoe size:10
VFF shoe size:M41
Feet are:Bueno!

What prompted you to get Vibram Five Fingers?

I first heard about Vibram Five Fingers from Mark Sisson on his website marksdailyapple.com. After reading about their utility and their barefoot mimetic quality I decided to investigate their usefulness and safety; I could not find one negative thing about VFFs anywhere on the internet. In fact, I found multiple articles on the benefits of 'barefooting' and of course VFFs mimic going barefoot (I like to call them barefoot mimetics - a sterlingpurdyism). John Sifferman also had a great write-up on barefooting and referenced several sites that supported VFFs as running shoes, hiking shoes, etc. VFFs takes the pressure and work off of the knees and hips and shifts the work to your calves (the way it should be). If you are a virgin VFF user, then be prepared to have some very tender calves after your first running or sprinting encounter. Good stuff!

What type and color Five Fingers do you have and how long have you had them?

I chose the gray VFF Sprints because of the strap that velcros across the top of the foot. This has allowed me to use them in the water without fear of watching 80 bucks float down river. I've had my VFFs for 5 months.

What do you do most while wearing your Five Fingers?

Sprint, bike, jog, hike, repel, zip-line, plyometrics, lift weights, procreate (just kiddin'...or am I?)

Any unusual experiences while wearing them?

Lots of looks of bewilderment and amazement from locals in Puerto Vallarta.

How do Five Fingers fit in with who you are as a person?

They are totally me. I've always been an out-of-the-box person and I consider VFFs not the norm. I'm a different breed: I know it and embrace it. Wearing my VFFs to the movies supports that premise. As a father of 5, you learn to adapt and roll with it and my VFFs help me roll with it in a unique, fun, and healthier way. My kids love them and they all want a pair. My 15-year old is the only one big enough to fit into a pair, but he'll have to earn and pay for his own :)

You were featured on Mark Sisson's blog after transforming your lifestyle to be more in keeping with our hunter-gatherer biological/genetic roots (See below for "More on Sterling's transformation"). Could you briefly talk about how you've changed over the past few years, and what you tell people when they react to your improved health and physique?

Wow, a loaded question! As you'll read in Mark's post about my transformation [See teaser and link below!], I was a big ole boy - 225lbs @ 5'8"; a change had to be made. I changed my life - not a diet, not a 90-day plan, not a get-ready-for-summer plan — none of those. I changed everything I did. I began exercising — everyday. I began eating right — everyday. I began thinking differently about everything — everyday. It was not a fast process. It was a battle for my life. Now that might sound dramatic. But it sounds that way because it was dramatic; I made dramatic changes and had dramatic success and results. I credit 4 people for my success: my wife Donna who is the consummate encourager, Tony Horton, Mark Sisson, and Tom Venuto — google them all (except my wife of course) and you'll find a wealth of information about health & fitness.

Regarding people's reactions? People have freaked out! You have to remember that I went from a size 40-42ish waist to a 28-29ish and a bodyfat of 'really fat' to about 9% at present, so naturally people are going to freak out. It's funny though because when they ask me what I've done to make those changes, it's not the typical answer (and I've sustained my results). Most don't want to hear that I work my butt off through weight training and eat the right things — lots of protein, lots of fat, limited carbohydrate intake, very few grains. Their response is usually a 'well, I really want to get into shape like you are now, BUT...' I could go on on all day about health and fitness...

Anyone looking for insights of VFFs, nutrition, fat loss, weight & resistance training questions feel free to contact me through twitter @sterlingpurdy. I'd be glad to help.

Thanks Justin for the opportunity to share.

Thank you, Sterling!

Below are a few action shots of Sterling climbing in his Vibram fivefingers Sprints. Click any image for a larger version!


* Birthday Shoes readers are encouraged to go check out Sterling's transformation. For just a snippet of the post at MDA, check out Sterling's "Before and After" shots:

More on Sterling's transformation:


Here's a teaser that gives you a glimpse of just how drastic the improvement was in Sterling's life:

Within the next 3 months, not only did my weight get down to 170 lbs, and my waist shrink to 31.5”, but my life had changed forever. Remember the litany list of medications I mentioned before? Depression medication: Gone. Blood pressure medication: Gone. Testosterone: Gone. And for the first time in 30 years…let me say that again…for the FIRST time in 30 YEARS. Asthma medications: Gone. Done. Finished. Wow! What a concept. Proper nutrition and exercise – the best medicine available to mankind. Big Pharma and FDA beware! We are coming after your business.

How did this happen? I started to live more like Grok. I cut way back on whole grains and legumes. I was eating lots more plants and animals, whole lean proteins, fruit, and tons of veggies. I lifted heavy things often. I got 8+ hours of sleep every day and napped when I could; even if only 30 or 40 minutes.

You'll have to read the full entry at Marks Daily Apple for the rest!

Sterling's story is a fantastic example of how your life can be transformed by changing your lifestyle for the better. In addition to to the above "after" shots, check this photo of Sterling at the beach. Hello six pack!

Vibram Five Fingers for Webbed Toes? Introducing "Vibram Four Fingers" [modification]

Vibram Five Fingers for Webbed Toes? Introducing "Vibram Four Fingers" [modification]

For a long time, I thought webbed toes were limited to Labradors and Kevin Costner's better-forgotten movie Waterworld. Then I heard would-be VFFers lamenting their webbed toes making it impossible to use Vibram fivefingers. What a bummer*!

For a primer on webbed toes, allow me to quote from wikipedia:

Webbed toes is the common name for syndactyly affecting the feet. It is characterised by the fusion of two or more digits of the feet. This is normal in many birds, such as ducks; amphibians, such as frogs; and mammals, such as kangaroos. In humans it is considered unusual, occurring in approximately one in 2,000 to 2,500 live births.

If I do the math right (using 1/2000), that means that only about 150,000 people in the United States have webbed toes, which is almost certainly too small a number to make it worthwhile to make a four-toed version of Vibram fivefingers.

So what's a webbed toe individual to do?

Modify your fivefingers to make them into Vibram fourfingers!

One webbed-toe individual named Philip saw fivefingers and had an idea on how he could modify them to work with his webbed feet. First, below is what Philip was working with:

Philip's idea was to cut a U-shaped slit between the two toe pockets that matched up to his pair of webbed toes. The cut needed to go slightly higher than the actual webbing between the two toes were webbed. From there, all that was left to do was to sew together the cut fabric across the toe gap. For this, Philip had help from his significant other who used monofilament nylon thread to join the two toe pockets.

Do that and here is what you get:

V4F Sprints modded for webbed toes

In Philip's own words: "I snip the fabric from the inside using sharp scissors, cutting slightly further than the webbing of my toes. We use nylon monofilament thread to sew the edges back together."

Philip has had such success with this modification that he's also made KSO fourfingers:

As you can see, there is a solution for those of you out there who want to wear Vibram fivefingers but have some amount of webbing between your toes! Mind, it's probably a tough pill to swallow to have to slice into your Vibrams, and your mileage may very in performing this mod.

To conclude, Philip's "Vibram Four Fingers" mod is very workable solution—the only solution I've seen—to wearing fivefingers with webbed toes. I want to thank Philip for allowing me to share this on birthday shoes**!

* A "bummer" only because it overtly eliminates the ability to wear Vibram fivefingers, of course. Webbed toes are actually kinda cool as they are a fascinating reminder of the diversity that frequently lurks unseen within our DNA.

** Philip originally posted this solution to the minimalist runner google group. I asked him if I could share this "at large" on birthdayshoes.com and he graciously accepted.