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!

Frank Forencich on Paying Attention (Via barefooting)

Frank Forencich, writer, philosopher, human advocate, and founder of Exuberant Animal (website | blog | book), has a fantastic post today about barefooting as meditation. He starts the post off talking about Mick Dodge a.k.a. the Barefoot Sensei (photo inset):

If you ever have the chance to hike the mountains and river valleys of the Olympic Peninsula in the Pacific Northwest, you just might run into a charismatic movement teacher by the name of Mick Dodge. Mick has been barefooting for almost 20 years and is a passionate advocate for the practice. Not only does Mick walk the walk, he also spreads the word wherever he goes, talking the talk in coffee shops, university bookstores, campgrounds and parks. He tells a story of personal transformation through barefooting and teaches people how to get back into their bodies. People call him “The Barefoot Sensei” and for good reason. Mick has found a way to reinvigorate human life and experience, by way of the foot.

When The Barefoot Sensei gives presentations on the virtues of barefooting, he often begins with a simple question: “What’s the first thing that happens when you take your shoes off?”

People grope for an answer, searching their memory banks for the last time they actually went barefoot, suspicious that this might be some sort of trick question. But before they can get their words in order, Sensei answers for them: ”You start paying attention!”

Frank goes on to discuss how barefooting focuses attention out of necessity. Paying attention* through barefooting means being aware of the ground beneath your feet, to avoid sharp rocks, to take purposeful steps, to adjust your weight when the earth gives way. It's likely this forced focus that corrects a barefoot runner's form—Christopher McDougall said as much about running in his fivefingers, "they keep you honest."

The rest of Frank's post is very much worth reading. If you don't have the time to read it now, just open the link in a new window and set it aside to read later. And if you enjoy Frank's insights, you'd likely benefit from reading his book Exuberant Animal, which is a series of essays that are, at their base, about getting in touch with your humanity.

Finally, the Barefoot Sensei is currently doing a 1,000 mile journey to deliver "the antidote to modern living." You can follow Mick Dodge's journey at his blog.

* The simple axiom "Pay attention" is a theme of another book I've recently finished reading called Constructive Living, which is about focusing attention on what you are doing, as the things you are doing now are the only things you can control (This relates to Morita Therapy).

Maria Hikes the North Cascade Mountains in her VFF Sprints

Maria Hikes the North Cascade Mountains in her VFF Sprints
Maria Hikes the North Cascade Mountains in her VFF Sprints
Maria Hikes the North Cascade Mountains in her VFF Sprints

click any image to enlarge!

Maria Coryell-Martin sent in the above photos taken on her recent, two-night backpack in the North Cascade Mountains, which she completed wearing her Vibram fivefinger Sprints (and injinji socks). Maria wrote about her experience on her site, Expeditionary Artist, describing it thusly:

This past week I completed my first backpack wearing only my Vibram FiveFingers Sprint toe shoes on my feet along with a pair of Injinji toe socks. I’ve worn FiveFingers for a couple of years ago and am delighted by how they’ve strengthened my feet. My sweetie Darin Reid and I left Stehekin at the head of Lake Chelan (1200 ft.) in the North Cascade Mountains and completed a two night backpack for 21 miles, climbing up to 7400 ft. My feet felt remarkably good as I scrambled over and around logs in burned regions of the hillside, traversed boulder fields, and crossed snow patches. My shoes did show some extra wear, particularly between the toes from the debris and abrasion, but it did not affect their performance. For up the mountains and down, I had no blisters, no knee pain, and the delight of the world beneath my feet!

Seeing Maria's photos and reading about her experience makes me want to drop everything and get outside. Hiking is a truly humanizing experience. How much more fantastic is it when you get to feel the diversity of the ground beneath your feet!

Be sure to check out Maria's site where you can find some beautiful examples of her artwork such as her watercolor paintings of the North Cascades!.

Thanks for sharing, Maria!

Latest Vibram Five Fingers Reviews 7/12/09

And another week of Vibram fivefingers reviews:

  • Vibram FiveFingers KSO and Classic Running Shoes at Wired.com:

    Running in FiveFingers is much like running barefoot, except without the mincing "Ow-ow-ow!" moments as you hit a patch of gravel or sun-baked asphalt. You have to use the same stride (and the same, probably atrophied, calf and arch muscles) as you do when running with naked feet. The end result is good: By forcing me into a more efficient stride, the VFFs helped subtract nearly a minute from my admittedly slow per-mile pace.

  • Vibram Five-Fingers Shoes and “Barefoot” Running at Rambling outside the Box:

    If you’re going to be a “barefoot runner,” you are naturally tempted to forego socks altogether with your Five-Fingers. I’ve now experimented quite a bit with and without socks. My current preference is to use socks only for hotter temperatures and runs of more than an hour or so. I don’t bother with socks for runs of an hour or less. The primary issue is that I start to develop hot spots after my feet start to sweat significantly. Socks help reduce the chafing and wick away the sweat. I don’t seem to need very much sock; I use very thin Injinji “liner” socks made from bamboo fiber, and I’ve had good luck up to the maximum run of about 12–13 miles I’ve tried so far. I

  • Vibram Five Fingers Shoes at Finding stuff to do in Nebraska:

    I did, however, find that running in the grass, or on uneven terrain is much more fun in these shoes. Running on pavement is almost boring when you have all that extra dexterity and balance in your shoe! I also plan on wearing these for our weekly Ultimate Frisbee session on Monday, as my current shoes tend to roll sideways when I try and change direction too fast.

  • Taking the plunge with Vibram Five Fingers by Drew Price: This is sort of a review in the making, with some updates on VFF experiences. It also gives mention to other barefooting alternatives.
  • Going “Barefoot” In Vibram Five Fingers at SmarterFitter:

    They’re very comfortable to walk in, but my feet became tired over the course of the walk. This morning, the outside of my left foot feels tired, like I’ve been using weird muscles. Calves were also differently tired. But otherwise they felt good, and there was no chaffing or rubbing between my toes. I like that they’re very light. I like them.

It's fun to see Wired.com talk about VFFs (They also have an article on running barefoot or with VFFs that accompanied their review). As always, let me know if I missed any!

Tim Finishing Triathlons in Five Fingers

Tim Finishing Triathlons in Five Fingers
Tim Finishing Triathlons in Five Fingers
Tim Finishing Triathlons in Five Fingers

Above are photos of Tim Kelley taken as he was finishing the Dextrose ITU Triathlon in Washington D.C.

Tim wrote in about his positive experiences with Vibram five fingers, going from knee injuries to pain free running, ultimately completing triathlons in his VFFs! Here's what Tim had to say:

I picked up triathlon about a year ago after getting a bike to commute to work. I could never really get into a good weekly running rhythm because I would always have problems with my IT band around my knees. Expensive running shoes and orthotics seemed to help a little but things would flare back up even after extensive periods of rest and stretching.

To combat this, I got a foam roller, which felt good (I used it so much that I ended up “breaking” it—the middle is all crushed and out of shape) and I even went to a sports therapist who specialized in Active Release Therapy which is awesome, and really works--but I ended up with pretty nasty bruises from it. All these things were treating the symptoms and pain, but not treating the cause and my knees would start hurting again after a few more days.

I ended up picking up a pair of red Sprints, and once my calves and achilles got over the initial adjustment period, I could run pain free. I would heel strike in my running shoes, whereas the Vibrams cause me to land on the balls of my feet, quicken my cadence, and keep me from pounding the pavement with so much pressure. Now my knees never hurt and I can finally get in the long training runs that I need to.

In the last triathlon I did, the Dextrose ITU World Championship series in Washington DC, as part of the amateur age group sprint-distance, I got tons of looks from spectators, “Mommy, look at that man’s shoes!” and other races were asking me how I liked them, mid-race! Another benefit is that it saves a few seconds in the bike to run transition because I don’t have to put socks on. I’ve convinced two friends to get pairs and am slowing convincing the greater Washington DC area of how great they are!

Some great information from Tim. Tim also told me that he picked up a second pair VFFs for casual wear &mdash black KSOs. Unfortunately, Tim realized he was missing his right KSO after a trip to the beach! Of course, this is a time when being able to buy individual left and right fivefingers would be a huge help.

If any of you happen to have an extra, size 43 black KSO VFF or would like to try two different sizes for right and left feet (whereby you wouldn't need your right VFF), please let me know.

Maybe we can help Tim out!

Could VFFs (or barefooting!) ever go mainstream?

It's a question we've kicked around on the forums: could Vibram fivefingers, specifically, or barefooting, generally, catch on and "go mainstream?"

No one can really say. However, the predominant initial reaction by fashionistas and style-punditry to "shoes that look like feet" could be summed up as ranging from "Those things are hideous" to "Those things are hysterical and I would never wear them ever."

Just over the past couple of weeks, a few mainstream fashion and entertainment websites illustrated the above reactions flawlessly.

Dlisted.com ran the blog post And I thought CROCS Were Evil ... and had this to say:

These are called Vibram Five Fingers and they just may be the official footwear of HELL. They are like CROCS-made condoms for your feet. ...

I'd rather slip and crack my ass bone on a hard rock (sounds sexay) than wear those rubber lizard socks! You know UGGS is going to make a winter version of these things ...

Ouch! Of course, Vibram may have already beaten UGGs to the punch with the upcoming release of the Cortina.

Elsewhere, starpulse.com echoed dlisted's thoughts regarding Crocs plus the additional jab, "80 bucks for a shoe that looks like a foot."

Perhaps the most polite reaction emerged from I'm Not Obsessed dot com, "I'm not a surfer... but I can honestly say with conviction that even if I was I wouldn't wear this shoe. But that's just me!"

Some of the comments and reactions on the above sites are particularly humorous if you're looking to kill some time (or don't mind dumbbing yourself down reading them). Actually, a few commentators expressed they might still grab a pair despite their "fugliness." I can only assume that it's a positive thing when fashion followers throw aesthetics aside in favor of the merit behind being effectively barefoot.

Perhaps there's even reason to be optimistic — maybe VFFs could overcome the widespread anti-barefoot/VFFs-are-ugly bias. There are various examples of the minimalist footwear/barefooting/fivefingers—dare I say—movement gaining ground. You've got barefoot running gaining traction, becoming more popular via the efforts of various barefoot blogs, and barefoot running forums. You've also got community websites dedicated to barefooting as well as minimalist footwear discussion groups. Plus, fivefingers do have their own fan site!

Out in "meatspace," Chris McDougall's Born to Run is a mainstream assault on the running shoe industry while simultaneously giving serious consideration to barefoot or VFF-clad running (Notably BtR has spent over 50 days in Amazon's top 100 sellers, presently standing at No. 65).

A few Google search trends also seem to indicate a rise in interest for five fingers (See here, here, and here for a few examples).

It's all somewhat inconclusive. Then again, it's reasonable to assume that barefooting was "in style" for a few hundred thousand years. Could shoes be the fad? Hmm ...

Who knows? Maybe one day we'll be standing in line at the grocery store, and see a Paparazzi photo of "Brangelina" sporting matching fivefingers in public.

I'm not sure if I'd cringe or clap. Maybe both.

New Model Update on the Five Fingers Performa

A comment by Bryan over in Culver City indicated he had seen the elusive Vibram Five Fingers "Performa." Bryan said:

I was at sporteve here in Culver City to pick up my KSOs. They had a performa on the display rack. It resembled suede, but more like thin leather.

On further discussion with Bryan, I asked if the model he had seen looked like the Glove, and he confirmed that it did not:

No, not like [the fivefingers Glove] at all. It had the sole like a KSO, but the top was of the thin leather-like material.

This sounds like confirmation of one my suspicions — that the Performa has full-coverage over the top of the foot similar to the KSO while using the same kangaroo-leather of the Glove (which may be another name for the Moc).

Other posts regarding new Vibram FiveFingers models: