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!

Colin takes two weeks to "mill around" France barefoot or in Vibrams (Classics)

click any image for a larger, uncropped version!

Colin emailed me about his recent "two weeks of barefoot bliss" as he was "milling around" on a camping holiday in France.

Here's a bit from Colin's post:

We had a fantastic time, but more importantly, it was two whole weeks for me barefoot, or nearly barefoot, and it felt fantastic. I tried my hardest NOT to wear any shoes whenever possible and succeeded. In fact, today is the first day in 16 days in which I've had to put on a pair of shoes and socks (for work) and I must say I can't wait to get them off.

I spent most of the time barefoot whilst milling around the campsites and driving. I wore my Vibrams when out and about sight seeing (because barefoot isn't always appropriate) and cycling and I wore my cheap aging flipflops when the grass outside the tent was wet - my wife would go nuts if I even contemplated walking into the tent with muddy or wet feet/Vibrams.

All in all it was fantastic, and great fun to see the looks on people's faces as I wondered around barefoot or in my Vibrams. The French kids loved the Vibrams, though surprisingly the Dutch kids didn't seem to fussed.

Those two photos really show off an amazing view — just beautiful! Anyone want to send a blogger to France? For barefooting and Vibram testing purposes, of course!

Colin has also written previously about his VFFs (including reviews and thoughts on sizing) on his personal blog, which you can check out here, here, and here!

Alternative Names for Vibram Five Fingers

(Update 10/07/09: See the alternative names for VFFs wiki entry here!)

Vibram FiveFingers wearers and gawkers alike all have come up with a slew of alternative names for "VFFs." I chalk this up to the unique footwear niche of fivefingers — they aren't quite shoes nor are they socks, and since they look like feet, well what on earth are they?

So here's an attempt to have the "definitive guide" to alternative names for Vibram fivefingers. If I am missing anything on this list, do comment below as I will update this post. From the obvious to the silly, here goes nothing:


Alternatives to "Fivefingers"

Similar names (those resembling "Vibram fivefingers" or that employ the "Vee-brum" name):
  • Vibram five toes
  • Vibrams
  • Vibes

Acronym-based names:
  • VFFs
  • V5s
  • V5Fs

Descriptive names (those based on trying to understand VFFs via descriptive or analogous words):
  • toe shoes
  • foot gloves
  • barefoot shoes
  • sock-shoes
  • water shoes (or kayak shoes)
  • ballerina shoes
  • freakish slippers

Names based on animals:
  • ape feet
  • gorilla feet
  • monkey feet
  • frog feet
  • gecko feet
  • cat feet

Names based on characters:
  • ninja shoes
  • pirate shoes
  • caveman shoes
  • Spider-man shoes
  • Aqua man shoes
  • muppet feet
  • hobbit feet

Names pulled from pop culture (TV in both cases):
??? names:
  • happy feet
  • second skins
  • claws
  • skinnies
  • foot condoms

Finally, there's this site's namesake — birthday shoes! Any I'm missing? What do you call your fivefingers? What about others? Let me know!

Hat tip to "kakez" for creating a forum thread to get the ball rolling on this naming task!

Ben finishes first half-marathon in VFF KSOs

Ben finishes first half-marathon in VFF KSOs

A shot taken by Ben's wife mid-race — click for a larger version!

I first heard from Ben back in May with regard to his question about how people are walking barefoot and then again after he submitted a shot with POSE running founder Nicholas Romanov.

As you might recall, Ben was planning on running the NYC half-marathon in his Vibram Five Finger KSOs. Well, just this weekend, Ben completed the half marathon and posted a detail account of the race at his blog — even despite a recent bone bruise. Here's a snippet from Ben where he describes persevering through the last few miles of the race:

There were some DJ's in tents every five to ten blocks or so who blasted some great tunes that lifted my spirits. I remember hearing Lenny Kravitz's "American Woman" and then the beginning chords to Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" a few blocks later. It seemingly took forever to get to mile 10, and then there were no signs for a long time. I figured the next sign I'd see was mile 12, and then I'd only have 1.1 miles to go. Sorry, Benny Boy, the next sign was mile 11. Ugh. Needless to say, it was slow going the rest of the way, and I just tried to keep up with the people ahead of me. When I saw the sign for 800 meters, I felt great. But after what seemed like 5 minutes there was the sign for 400 meters, I think I swore out loud. It's like time slowed in the last mile or something. I finally saw the finish line and made one last sprint to finish my first half marathon in strong fashion. Ahhhhh!

Must have felt good to cross that finish line. Congratulations, Ben! And thanks for sharing!

Conor Kayaking and Longboarding in Five Finger Sprints

Conor Kayaking and Longboarding in Five Finger Sprints
Conor Kayaking and Longboarding in Five Finger Sprints

Conor had uploaded to the Birthday Shoes / Vibram Five Fingers Facebook page the above photo of him on his longboard wearing his grey Vibram Five Finger Sprints. I sent him a message asking about how they performed. A bit of a conversation ensued and here is what Conor had to say:

Yeah Ive skated a bunch in them. They are really great. My foot moves more naturally than it would in a flat skate shoe. Doing slides and carves feels really cool because there's no padding do dampen the feel of the board.

I asked how the Vibram soles were holding up given I've heard that skateboarding can require a good bit of sole-breaking power, which might wear the VFF soles down excessively. However, Conor indicated that they are holding up great — though he doesn't foot drag at all in them.

Finally, I asked Conor how his Sprints fared with kayaking. He said:

They arent bad at all. It's generally pretty rocky where we were so I wasn't worried about sand and sediment getting in. And being able to hop out of my boat anywhere and not worry about slipping or hurting my feet underwater was awesome.

Thanks for passing on your experiences, Conor!

Tripp's 5K in Vibram Five Finger Classics

Tripp's 5K in Vibram Five Finger Classics

Got an update from Tripp in Austin regarding his Five Finger Classics. He recently ran a 5K race in them - the 5K for Clay. His conclusion: VFF Classics are fun and raceworthy!

Here's Tripp:

Hey Justin,

You'll recall that when I first got my VFFs, I said I might "eventually" think about doing a 5K later this year. Well, call it enthusiasm about the shoes (or just stupidity), but less than a month after getting my Classics, I decided to race in them.

The good news is that the race itself was fun. Didn't get a PR or anything (more on that later) but my feet, ankles, achilles and calves all feel relatively good. Amazingly, I wasn't the only one in the race wearing VFFs. One of my fellow Crossfit athletes ran in his KSOs, and did pretty well too.

I was particularly pleased that running on asphalt wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. (I typically run on the golf course in our neighborhood). But I think it was just because the pavement was a welcome relief from the gravel path we ran on for the second mile.

Now, the VFF's are great on jogging paths with cinders or fine grain gravel. But I'd never tried to run at a good pace on sharp, golfball-sized gravel. Gotta be honest: my soles took a beating. I'm convinced that, because I was dancing around the rocks, it added about 2 mins to my second mile split. (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it...)

As you can imagine, there were a lot of furtive glances at the shoes and a few folks asked about them before the race. After I finished, though, people were much bolder about asking what they were, where I got them, and of course, how did they do on the gravel! But, as you can see in the photos, I really enjoyed the run.

All in all, I'm sure I'll be a bit sore tomorrow, and I will probably have to get more work on trails in the VFFs. But these shoes definitely proved themselves to be race-able.

I'll be in touch!

"Tripp In Austin"

Thanks, Tripp!

Hiking Bethabara Park in Vibram Five Finger KSOs

The above photos, which I assimilated into a collage (click the image for a larger version), were taken by Calvin on a recent hike through Bethabara Park in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Calvin wrote in about the experience:

Hey Justin, I went for a hike through Historic Bethabra yesterday, and I took some pictures during parts of the walk. ...

This was actaully my second hike in my KSOs, I find hiking in them to be extremely eye opening — the feelings of the cold dirt, the warm pavement, the crisp grass its all very natural, very right. I love hiking in them.

Yesterday I played paintball in them, it was an interesting experience, the field where we were playing has a small stream running through the middle but the way thw "valley" was worn it left the wall at about 75 or 85 degrees and that was easily scalable with the KSOs, the only thing I don't love is sharp rocks; I landed on a few in the beggining, after a while I got used to watching my periphery and adjusting my selected path accordingly.

Thanks for sharing the experience. "Fivefinger view" hiking photos seem to capture the experience of covering varied terrain in VFFs — you really do feel the ground and experience the hike in a new, more elaborate and sensational way through the lens of your feet.

Sidenote: I think the smidgeon of EVA material in the soon-to-be-availble Vibram KSO Trek fivefingers is intended to help reduce "stone bruising."

The primary way to minimize the potential for hurting your feet while barefoot or VFF-shod when trekking over hard, rocky, rooty, and varied surfaces (like gravel) is to relax, take more steps, feel light and nimble, and let your feet (and knees and hips) handle the shock-absorbing calculations rather than trying to brain it and think your way through the terrain*. That's my take, anyway!

Feet are powerful pieces of equipment. Our goal is not to impede them from doing their job!

* this requires having logged some hours minimally shod or barefoot on varied terrain. I say this because most of us have learned a great deal of bad habits with regard to walking, running, etc. thanks to the "foot casts" that are modern footwear. These bad habits have to be unlearned and/or we have to reteach our feet how to handle shock absorption.