Comment from: MikeB [Visitor]
MikeB

Great post! I got VFF's because I liked the idea of the shoe, not to become a barefoot runner. It just turns out that the VFF showed me how to run in a way that didn't result in joint pain for my large frame (6'5" 250). I don't feel the need to convert my friends that are established tri-athletes to VFF or barefoot running, but I do feel I need to tell people that have tried to run and failed or just can't seem to escape injury. I've tried to run in my Brooks, NBs, and even flats but I'm just not capable of performing the same biomechanical actions of barefoot running (that work very well for me) while wearing a shoe. Its just important that people know of this other option that appears to be crazy/radical but is the epitome of natural.

02/22/10 @ 18:20
Comment from: Joggling Joe [Visitor]
Joggling Joe

Thanks for this thought provoking post on an important debate. Good point Mike B, it's important to tell others about VFF/Minimal/BF running who left running because of injuries, not the ones doing fine with running. It's another option, and a viable one at that for a lot of runners who couldn't do the shod running thing. Share the info with those who might benefit is a good way to go about it. Seems like a logical and open minded approach.

02/22/10 @ 20:32
Comment from: Adam [Visitor]
Adam

This is such as relevant post for me since I have recently regained my love for running. I used to be a swimmer, and only ran when I was doing dry land training. When I went off to college, swimming stopped, leaving my limber 6' 170lbs body behind. Over the course of 3 years eating cafeteria food at school, I turned into a 230lbs, 6'1"(since I grew little bit) guy that did little more than walk 9 holes of golf twice a week. This past summer, I realized it was time to change, and started going to the gym (heavy weights and elipical was about it though). A few weekends ago, I was asked to run in a 5K along the beach in Alabama, and ended up going 26.2 (1 minute faster than my best as a teen), and getting 28th overall. This sparked a fire for the thrill of speed, and in the end, the pavement ahead. I have since, started focusing on running better, further and more frequently. I've taken my VFFs on two runs, the first only about a .5mi and today, about 1.5. I've been throwing my Asics on for the remainder of my runs, and have seen the change in my foot-strike since wearing VFFs. I have able to run over 5 miles a day recently, and have the fun motivation from wearing VFFs to thank. Not only are they fun to wear, but they give me a new motivation, and fun way to explore the pavement or dirt ahead of me.

02/22/10 @ 22:48
Comment from: Rana [Visitor]  
Rana

YES. The value of my Sprints to me is that they have made running _fun_ in a way it hasn't been for years. Wearing them even makes my treadmill work bearable (can't say it was _ever_ fun) and I am chafing at the cold weather that's keeping me from going out and playing in them.

I don't exercise if it's not fun, so I'm very pleased at how I'm still doing it half a year later. I give the VFFs complete credit for that.

02/22/10 @ 23:25
Comment from: Peter C.H. [Visitor]
Peter C.H.

Great post. Let it be known, however, that not all of us who run in Fives made the switch because of pain and/or injuries. Often that is the only pro-Five argument that is presented. If the regular-shoe running community thinks that injury and pain avoidance is the only reason to abandon their shoes, then it's not surprising that a good number of them see no reason to change. And because of that, they're missing out on all the other wonderful things about running in Fives. Such as:

1. the ability to run further
2. increased lower-leg strength
3. increased vertical-jump
4. better balance
5. better circulation (my toes don't get cold anymore when I ski)
6. better posture
7. that one-with-nature feeling
8. the ability to ENJOY RUNNING!!
... and so on

I never had any significant pain or injury issues when I was running in shoes. I never had any pleasure either, though. I ran because it was the most time-efficient work-out, but I hated it. It was a chore.

I decided to try Fives because I was intrigued by the science of it. But once I started using them (after my feet and legs had adjusted), I started noticing that I was looking forward to running. There were also times that I ran further than I had planned because I didn't want to stop. Such things would have been unheard of in my shoe-running days. In those days I'd do 3 miles and I was dang-near falling down.

So I'm just sayin', we're doing justice to Fives by describing them primarily as an injury-prevention tool. As we all know, they're so much more

02/22/10 @ 23:57
Comment from: Laura [Visitor]
Laura

Let me add the voice of another runner-who-never-was... I enjoy it now. : )

02/23/10 @ 10:52
Comment from: DeanB [Visitor]
DeanB

I am sick of the focus on running. The silent majority walk and perform every day tasks in shoes of all flavors everyday. Why is this about running, and not more about the basic biomechanics of the foot and how we have crammed it into a very basic form for centuries with no thought about how that impacts our bodies as a whole from the tip of out toes to the melon on top of our spine.

02/23/10 @ 10:52
Comment from: admin [Member]  

@DeanB,

I think the focus on running is because the case against supportive shoes is most clear when it comes to running. Makes it an easy point to rally around.

That said, clearly the benefits are across the board -- one of the most common user experiences with regard to VFFs is that when they went outside in them they felt like a kid again -- they naturally wanted to play, goof off, run, whatever.

It's just easier, in my opinion, to move awareness forward when it's focused on one thing rather than all things even though the end goal benefits virtually every activity.

Justin

02/23/10 @ 10:56
Comment from: Dave [Visitor]
Dave

I would be one of the silent majority, were it not for VFFs. I talk to many people who have given up on running. Just yesterday I heard "I need support because I have high arches", "I have bad knees" and my favorite: "You RUN in those!"

02/23/10 @ 10:57
Comment from: kismet [Visitor]
kismet

I think the average joe is getting their barefoot running awareness raised right now and will be able to at least consider the idea...I wear my VFFs to Zumba class, and I've always got a crowd of people around me wanting to find out what they are, how they feel, or, a lot of times, they've already heard of them and want to talk about them.

02/23/10 @ 11:10
Comment from: Ann [Visitor]
Ann

What your analysis ignores is that some people need form correction in order to perform the simple task of walking, much less running. If I wear shoes without arch support for multiple days in a row, my arches start to fall, which misalignd my knees (problematic since even with a good posture, my knees are already misaligned, and have been since birth). Running barefoot or in minimalist shoes could cause me to need surgery on my knees; they can get misaligned by something as simple and forefoot-strike-oriented as doing flipturns in a pool.

02/23/10 @ 11:53
Comment from: L S L [Visitor]
L S L

Thanks for writing this. I too would consider myself a runner-who-never-was. I have always hated running, couldn't do it, I could be on the move 3 hrs straight jumping, leaping, and dancing in Jazz & Ballet classes, but I couldn't for the life of me do a 12 minute run for gym class. I'm not sure what exactly drove me to purchase my first VFF's. I had no intentions of becoming a runner, I had just returned from a vacation and was walking home from work cursing my shoes, wishing I could be back on vacation running around barefoot in the grass. VFF's were an impulse buy, but one I'm glad I made.

I now wear my VFF's to the gym all the time, I've taken to running like I never have before. And during the summer... well, that’s when the fun begins! VFF's, the feeling of being barefoot, it just makes you want to run, jump, play, splash in the water, dance across the grass, monkey up tree, boulder some rocks and just explore everything around you.

02/23/10 @ 11:54
Comment from: admin [Member]  

@Ann,

I'm not ignoring it -- have you ever wondered if your form correcting shoes may be allowing your foot to be weak? That they might be perpetuating the problem or forcing your foot to depend on strong supportive shoes?

Think about your supportive shoes like casts for your feet. The stronger the cast, the less your foot can move, balance, adjust, etc. The more arch support beneath the arch of your foot, the less your foot arch can actually function like an arch is supposed to function (the strength of an arch is compromised if you push on the peak point of the arch). Just like if you had a cast on your arm for a few years, you'd expect your arm to atrophy and be weak. The same is occurring with your feet.

That said, clearly your feet are in bad shape meaning the road to strong feet could be long. But wouldn't you rather start the process of rehabilitation now rather than, at best, maintaining the status quo — weak feet?

The biggest con perpetuated in the shoe industry is that our feet are broken and need shoes to fix them. Meanwhile, it's the supportive shoes that break the feet! So long as you keep wearing overly supportive shoes, you perpetuate the downard spiral.

Best of luck -

Justin

02/23/10 @ 12:06
Comment from: Barefoot Michael [Visitor]
Barefoot Michael

Very good points! I don't know how many people I've encountered that have told me, "I'm just not built for running." I take that to be code for, "I tried it and it sucked and/or I got hurt." How nice it would be if people who are interested in running could find new legs with a barefoot stride.

Smiles,
Michael

02/23/10 @ 12:12
Comment from: Justin_P [Visitor]
Justin_P

Nice post, Justin. My experience was very similar to yours. I had pretty much given up on running due to knee pain (and because it was no fun) until I read Born to Run (and the UK DailyMail article that preceded it). I now run much greater distances (pain free) and actually enjoy it.

People assume barefoot converts are bio-mechanically gifted, and the exception to the rule. But just as McDougall has pointed out, it's actually the other way around. Most of us turn to barefooting and minimal shoes precisely because we can't run properly. If you can run properly in "normal" shoes, then you're the one who is bio-mechanically gifted, more power to you.

I think this article is right to point out that there are a lot of people who don't know what they missing. Their feet and their bodies are sleepwalking. I hope more people catch on to it.

02/23/10 @ 12:38
Comment from: J.P. Hamilton [Visitor]
J.P. Hamilton

Here's the thing. There is no debate unless you can backup what you are saying. I can. Others seem to be just talking and saying things that might sound good or trying to obviously protect their own interests.

I used to be a heel striker. I was injured all the time. In 2008, I was side-lined for 8 months. I had plantar fasciitis and knee problems. I had Achilles tendinitis. I had constant aches and pains.

I switched to a fore/mid-foot strike a year ago and have been injury free since. Oh, did I mention, I've more than doubled my weekly mileage as a result? Also, while I am not doing barefoot running yet, I have been running exclusively in KSO's for a month doing at least 2 1/2 marathons worth of trail running a week and 6-9 mile trail runs on the other days. I'm talking roots, rocks, sharp sticks, and other nasties. Injury free, of course, and my legs have never been stronger.

So, there's my science.

02/23/10 @ 13:08
Comment from: Andréa Maria Cecil [Visitor]  
Andréa Maria Cecil

My Vibram FiveFingers Sprints instantly corrected my running form, which was what I hoped would happen when I bought them in early August.

Being a CrossFitter, there is much emphasis on the Pose running form. But with my big ol' New Balance running shoes, I couldn't quite nail it.

I put on my Sprints and there it was: Pose running form, instantly.

Plus, VFFs are great for all things CrossFit: weighlifting, box jumps, kettlebell swings, you name it. And it has immensely helped my balance.

It wasn't until I'd had them for four months that I read "Born to Run," which was a great read.

VFFs have been fantastic for me. I love them.

02/23/10 @ 13:24
Comment from: Dave C. [Visitor]
Dave C.

The catalyst for me switching to minimalist footwear was the knee injury I sustained during a run last year. It really freaked me out and almost scared me away from running as an exercise ever again. Then I discovered the concept of barefoot running and minimalist shoes, like the Vibram Five Fingers.

I bought my pair of KSO's soon after, and have been running ever since! I've never been a well trained runner, so starting over again with the feel of the ground so clear, my body figured out what to do "naturally".

02/23/10 @ 13:30
Comment from: Barefoot Ted [Visitor]  
Barefoot Ted

Well written post. Loved reading this.

BFT

02/23/10 @ 15:06
Comment from: Joggling Joe [Visitor]
Joggling Joe

Protect thy feet! Insulate, correct, avoid, pamper, and shield from all the modern dangers out there (insert sarcasm). Especially in running :) Love that initial gut reaction that people have when they consider how less could be more.

Overcoddling our feet; a nice gesture to our bodies, but it is just a slap in the face to our bipedal ancestry.

Winning over the mainstream american psyche of "more is better" protection is quite a challenge. I think it's great that minimalist works for so many, and that more are gaining appreciation and experience in what it can do for them.

I got to go joggle in my KSO's. Need to get some fresh air. Keep the posts on running coming Justin :) It's a hot topic.

02/23/10 @ 17:32
Comment from: Claude diamond [Visitor]  
Claude diamond

I just love it when CV (conventional wisdom) is wrong. All we have heard about for the last 25 years is that we need more protection, bigger, heavier,controlling style shoes;in reality for many of us the opposite is true.
I groan when I think of all the shin splints and knee injuries that could have been avoided if I just kept running in my Keds™ and PF Flyers™ .

02/23/10 @ 18:56
Comment from: Brian [Visitor]
Brian

Justin - nice post. I was in your last category. A serious runner who bought into the lore that exercise as a person gets beyond college is just going to hurt no matter what. So I quit. I came back with a passion and interest in getting it right and finding a pain free solution (barefoot and VFF). There are relatively few of us out there that won't give up because of the pain, and so we're passionate about the solution we found. With your and others' efforts the debate HAS gone mainstream, so at least the information is out in the open. Hopefully it will captivate some of those runners that never were and will help prevent that situation in the future.

02/23/10 @ 19:41
Comment from: Michael Genovese [Visitor]
Michael Genovese

Why does this have to be a "movement." This all sounds way too political. Everybody is free to put what they want on their feet. Just get out there and run :).

02/24/10 @ 10:13
Comment from: admin [Member]  

@Michael,

That's actually the main point of this article -- that it's not just "to each his own" when the prevailing paradigm (the default position) is that you run in thick-heeled shoes. Thick-heeled shoes = heel-striking = pain/discomfort running for many, many people (the majority in my opinion). If you are in pain when you run, you simply won't run!

And if you're not running, you're not going to ask the question "Ok should I heel strike or forefoot strike? What kind of shoes should I wear, if any?" Thus, the "movement" is important because it can overturn the prevailing paradigm and re-open running (and all natural movement, for that matter) to the masses. The movement is about restoring a healthy paradigm around footwear -- not just keeping the discussion limited to the people who already run.

02/24/10 @ 10:17
Comment from: Matt [Visitor]
Matt

Justin -- This also extends beyond running. Other shoes that people wear are just as detrimental to natural movement. It's very tough to find shoes for walking, working, or hiking that allow one's foot to just be a foot.

02/24/10 @ 12:58
Comment from: admin [Member]  

I agree -- (see the parenthetical in the second to last sentence of my last paragraph).

I mostly see running as the easiest in to spreading awareness b/c it's so prevalent and the case for it is intuitively easy to make. You can barefoot walk with a heel strike but you can't barefoot run that way. As a species, we've been barefoot longer than shod, hence we must have run barefoot hence we shouldn't heel strike when running.

There's probably a better way to say that.

Anyway, I agree!

02/24/10 @ 13:01
Comment from: Ann [Visitor]
Ann

@Justin:

I was actually wearing thin-soled, minimalist shoes for a long time before I found out I had bad knees. They were part of the problem---without arch support in my shoes, my feet have no arch. When I started wearing corrective insoles, going for an hour without them caused my arches to collapse and put me in a lot of pain. Now that I've been wearing them for a while, I can wear unsupportive shoes or go barefoot for a day or two with no ill effects. This was not the case with minimalist shoes.

The problem is that our bodies are not error-free. Our ancestors didn't have glasses when they were primitive hunter-gatherer tribes, but that doesn't stop me from putting on glasses in the morning so that I can see. I see my insoles as something similar--not everyone needs them, but if some people do, that's not a part of some vast marketing conspiracy (mine were recommended by a physical therapist who wore Vibrams), any more than glasses are part of a vast glasses-industry conspiracy to make us think our eyes are fundamentally damaged.

02/24/10 @ 15:35
Comment from: admin [Member]  

@Ann,

Your experience is interesting, and I have to say, different than what I usually see. For example, I've seen people with flat feet develop arches after getting into Vibrams.

I do think there is a vicious cycle at play with regard to overly supportive shoes and/or heavily cushioned shoes forcing bad form and causing injuries and weakening feet, ankles, and knees, resulting in needing more cushioning and more support and on and on. But you are correct: we are not perfectly built and the process by which we were designed is necessarily one that is never at any "final product."

Thanks for sharing --

02/24/10 @ 15:39
Comment from: Mackenzie [Visitor]
Mackenzie

Right on, Justin!

I think you're absolutely right in your hypothesis: there are so many would-be runners out there who aren't part of this debate because they simply aren't running. I too was one of them. I first became interested in the VFFs because I love being barefoot -- I'm one of those people who would thrive in cultures where shoes are always left at the door when entering a building :D -- and didn't have any particular thought in mind of running with them. I gave up on running a long, long time ago, as the older I got, the more painful it was. I had at one point gotten a great deal on a pair of expensive trail runners and had tried to get back into exercising again, but couldn't even make it around the block at a brisk walk without my shins and knees starting to hurt.

When I got my VFFs, I just started doing everything in them: walking the dog, kayaking, working, running errands... I just plain don't wear shoes anymore (okay, except muck boots when I'm out with the horses ;)), because it is profoundly more comfortable to just use what nature gave me. And I only started running in them because I couldn't *help* but run in them. I defy anyone to take an excited and energetic dog for a walk in VFFs (no, YOU in VFFs, not the dog! :D) without doing at least a few stretches at a nice steady trot.

I have a friend who became a real addicted runner some years ago, and who runs marathons and whatnot, and I wanted very badly to get into that with her, but all I heard (and experienced) every time I tried running was how running would leave you with ruined knees and a host of injuries, and that it was just the price you paid. It amazes me that so many people would sooner just accept the common wisdom -- that they WILL suffer serious, crippling, lifelong injury -- than try something different, something that logic and science tell us may eliminate all the downsides of running.

I love my VFFs. In fact, I dropped by today to see what the latest buzz is on best places to buy Treks, because I think the extra tread will help me in my wintertime muddy treks through the local redwood forests, and in fact the more I run in these shoes, the more fun I have the more I'm seeking out tougher, longer and more complex challenges. My only problem with running now is finding places to run where the trail just keeps on going!

I do get a lot of "wtf are you wearing on your feet?!" comments, but I've also met a ton of people who are REALLY interested in the VFFs and who seem to be looking for something more (or less, I suppose, if you want to be literal ;)) than their conventional shoes are giving them. And I'm seeing a lot more VFFs around town, and hearing about them too (people spot my shoes and I invariably hear, "Oh, I saw a guy at [the supermarket/the pier/the marathon/wherever] in a pair of those; what are they?" Change may be slow, and there may be people and industries who fight it all the way, but I do think it's coming on regardless.

03/03/10 @ 14:48