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Christopher McDougall talks about his Vibram Five Fingers

Be sure and check out my interview with Christopher McDougall!

In it, Chris talks about denying your nature, the sports shoe industry, getting to barefoot, cross-pollinating ideas, and more!

Christopher McDougall, author of the recently released Born to Run, talked to Ron Hogan about how he had regressed in his running form after switching back to wearing running shoes. The solution? Keeping his form honest by wearing Vibram Five Fingers. Here's the video, and I've transcribed much of what McDougall says below:


And if you prefer to read it, here's my transcription.

Christopher McDougall:

"I thought that once I learned how to run like those [ultra long distance runners] do, my problems are gone forever except that while I was writing [Born to Run] the problem came back. I started getting this heel pain and I couldn't shake it. I spent nine months trying to shake this stupid heel pain.

"And I thought well it can't be the way I run because now I run perfectly. I've learned perfect biomechanics, it can't be that. I went through the same cycle of seeing sports medicine doctors and nothing helped. I went to see a guy who is a barefoot running coach. He took 30 seconds of video and he's like "Okay. You're cured. Problem solved." He showed me the video and I had regressed because I had gone back to wearing running shoes and I had just lost that sense of contact with the ground and I wasn't aware of where my body was in space. I regressed back to that old running form and that was what was causing the heel pain.

"So now I wear these [Vibram Five Fingers] because they keep you honest. You can't be sloppy in these things because there's basically nothing to them. It's basically like dipping your foot in paint . . . it's just a chunk of rubber and a velcro strap.

"A lot of barefoot runners have taken to these things like wildfire. They really love them. The cool thing is that once they are on your feet you forget you're wearing them. It's like you're barefoot all the time.

"Even when you're in the house. Ordinarily you're in the house you kick your shoes off - you forget you're wearing these. You just leave them on all the time."

Justin here. I don't know about you, but my copy of BtR is presently in the mail from Amazon (Update: read and reviewed Born to Run — read the review here). I thought this was a great video from McDougall and it really illustrates how even knowing the correct way to run is impaired by the "noise" caused by running in your typical running shoes. Knowing you run wrong, and knowing how to run right just isn't enough. The best solution is to minimize the interference between your feet and the ground. This means running completely barefoot (Ideal) or wearing only a minimal amount of footwear (As in with fivefingers or huaraches, for example), if anything.

In the video, McDougall is wearing KSO Five Fingers (I've reviewed the KSO FiveFingers here. You can get find KSO VFFs at a authorized Vibram Five Fingers retailer).

Finally, I'll echo Christopher's comment about VFFs in the house. I frequently throw them on for some reason (say to run outside to take out the trash) only to come back in and forget to take them off. A few hours later I'll think, "Why am I still wearing these things?"

See also:

Morton's Toe (Second toe longer than the first) and Five Fingers

See the update to the original post below!

Mike writes in with this question:

I'd like to give VFF a try, but my first toe is fully one-quarter inch longer than my big toe. Can VFF be ordered to accommodate such a thing, also known as Morton's toe/syndrome?

Wikipedia describes Morton's toe as:

[T]he common term for the second toe (second from innermost) extending farther than the Hallux (big toe). Morton's Toe is typically due to a lengthened second metatarsal. This promotes an anterior position of the second metatarsal-phalangeal (MTP) joint in relation to the Hallux.

"Long toe," another name for Morton's Toe, apparently affects some 10% of the general population, enough to warrant it to be considered just a normal foot variant and not a foot disorder.

At present, Vibram does not offer a Morton's Toe variant for those with this foot variant. Depending on the difference in toe lengths, a larger size pair of Five Fingers may be enough to accomodate the discrepancy; however, your mileage may vary. This makes ordering your Five Fingers online a fairly risky gamble.

At least one person has requested that Vibram make a Morton's Toe VFF (See @robbycochran's tweet about it). Furthermore, as some anecdotal proof that Morton's Toe can still work with VFFs, Gerry, a runner/forum member at runnersworld.com who says his second toe is a full half inch longer than his big toe, notes that he runs some 12 miles a week in his Vibrams.

All of this is anecdotal and inconclusive, unfortunately. Does anyone out there know more about Morton's Toe and VFFs? If so, please comment below and tell us what you know!

Robby Cochran got back to me on Vibram's response to his request. Apparently, Vibram's CEO has Morton's Toe, and their recommendation is to measure foot length by going to the longest toe, which would be the second toe in the case of someone with Morton's. Thanks Robby!

Finally, if you're brave, you can mod your Vibram Five Fingers to accommodate Morton's Toe by lengthening the second toe.

Sandy Sommer Talks Kettlebells and Five Fingers

Sandy Sommers, Russian Kettlebell Certified Instructor and owner of Charm City Kettlebells in his red Vibram Five Finger Sprints
Sandy Sommers, Russian Kettlebell Certified Instructor and owner of Charm City Kettlebells in his red Vibram Five Finger Sprints
Name:Sandy Sommer
Birthday:August 24, 1961
Regular shoe size:11
VFF shoe size:43
Feet are:power

What prompted you to get Vibram Fivefingers?

Delaine Ross, RKC in Atlanta GA was the first person I know who owned a pair and she raved on and on about them.

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

Bright Red Sprints and Gray KSO. I’ve had the Sprint pair for over a year and the KSO for about 3 months.

What do you do most while wearing your fivefingers?


As an RKC instructor you do a great deal of kettlebell training. What differences do you see in using VFFs in your kettlebell training and do you think fivefingers work well with kettlebells?

One of the tenets of the RKC school of strength is “Compress the Ground.” We want to maximize our stability and take full advantage of the reactive ground force. No other footwear always me to get rooted to the deck as the Vibram Five Fingers.

Ever worried you might drop a kettlebell on your pseudo-bare feet?

No, not really. To tell you the truth unless I was wearing steel toed boots I’d be in trouble!

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

I’m me. I’ve never been afraid to try new things to enhance my athletic ability. For example, I was one fo the testers for this type of shoe back in 1984 or so. So Vibram Five Fingers addresses a real need for me.

Anything else you'd like to share about your Five Fingers?

They are really cool and very useful for me and my training. I wouldn’t trade them for anything now that I’ve used them. Oh and one more thing, when I wear them to the grocery I do get a lot of looks and also a chuckle every now and then. It makes me smile :)

Kettlebells and VFFs: Get rooted and "Compress the Ground!"

Sandy demonstrates part of a Turkish Get up in his VFF Sprints
Sandy demonstrates part of a Turkish Get up in his VFF Sprints

The above two photos show Sandy demonstrating two stages of a Turkish Get Up, a great full-body workout you can do with kettlebells (For more info, check Sandy's YouTube video on "TGUs").

Thank you, Sandy!

In addition to his Charm City Kettlebells site, Sandy blogs and has a number of other helpful videos on kettlebell training up on YouTube (He's on Twitter, too, if you have any questions for him).

If you've ever held a "pood" (16 kg / 35 lbs) or "two pood" (twice that) kettlebell overhead with one arm, you'll appreciate the importance of your feet feeling "rooted" like Sandy describes above. And his point is well taken: even steel-toed boots would probably do little to stop a crashing "beast" (The 106 lb. kettlebell!), making foot agility all the more important when training with kettlebells. Nimble feet are "happy feet" in the event that a snatched/swung/juggled or pressed kettlebell comes loose!

Something's Missing on these Vibram Five Finger Classics ...

Something's Missing on these Vibram Five Finger Classics ...

Can you spot it?

Yep, the elastic tightener on these Vibram Five Finger Classics has been removed!

Tina had posted on the forum about how she finds her five finger Classics much more comfortable now that she's removed the elastic bands. I asked "Toe Girl" Tina to send me a picture of her five fingers mod, and she kindly obliged. Her's what she had to say:

I found that [the elastic] would dig into the top of my foot if I wore [my Classics] for a long time and I never had to tighten the elastic to keep them on so I cut them out. I think it makes the Classics MUCH more comfortable. They stay on naturally because of the pattern of rubber in the back. I don't know if it would work for everybody, but it definitely works for me.

I only wear my Classics at the most loose setting these days as I typically reserve more strenuous activity for my Vibram KSOs. I'd wager that doing such a modification almost requires that you have two pairs of fivefingers (One for heavy activity and another for light use). Of course, if you don't run, sprint, or do other activities in your Classics that involve a lot of leg pumping, this mod might be for you!

Anyone else cut the elastic out of their VFF Classics?

Has anyone tried replacing the elastic with something like a shoestring (This was another idea I had to eliminate the binding effect of the elastic while still providing a secure fit)?

Thanks for sharing, Tina!

Kevin's KSO Vibram Five Fingers and a Pregnant Lori gets Comfy in Classics

Kevin's KSO Vibram Five Fingers and a Pregnant Lori gets Comfy in Classics
Kevin's KSO Vibram Five Fingers and a Pregnant Lori gets Comfy in Classics
Kevin's KSO Vibram Five Fingers and a Pregnant Lori gets Comfy in Classics
Kevin's KSO Vibram Five Fingers and a Pregnant Lori gets Comfy in Classics
Kevin's KSO Vibram Five Fingers and a Pregnant Lori gets Comfy in Classics

In the mailbag from Kevin (KoffeeKev in the birthday shoes / five fingers forum) comes a few photos of black KSO Vibram five fingers, grey KSOs and Injinji socks, as well as a couple shots of Kevin's pregnant sister-in-law Lori, who is wearing the lilac five finger Classics. Here's what Kevin had to say about the shots:

[My sister-in-law] Lori loves her shoes and wanted a pair from the first time she saw mine ... so I finally bought her a pair. Bob is my wife's brother and Lori is his wife ... She really does love them.

The wearing out of my black kso's is all over. The straps are deteriorating near the loops on the sides. The velcro is starting to fall apart. The soles behind my outer toes (pinky and ring) are worn smooth. This is all good because the shoes get thinner and more comfortable with each passing day. I will be disappointed when they finally blow through. The new kso's seem much more rigid and thick. I don't know if it's my imagination or someting to do with the gray rubber compound. We'll see as they break in.

I think I bought the first pair about this time last year and the kso's a couple of months later. I wore them all through the winter, not to work but just about everywhere else. The only weather I didn't take them out in was wet snow and puddles and long outdoor outings. I'm not a winter sportsman so it wasn't a problem. I did get caught a couple of times with soaked, frozen feet. Not fun.

Kevin also posted in the forum that both of his black KSOs weigh a full ounce less than when he bought them due to the lost rubber from wear-and-tear.

My wife is about 32 weeks pregnant and has had a bit of foot swelling, so I've been trying to figure out if VFFs would be a good way to make her feet more comfortable (And thus be the tipping point to get her to finally get some!). Thus, I asked Kevin if Lori had experienced any of the same, but she hadn't (You're lucky, Lori!). My worry on the Classics and swollen feet would be that the elastic would feel tight and uncomfortable.

Any other pregnant VFFers out there care to opine on swelling feet and Vibrams?

"Improv'ing" your health with Kilts, and Five Comedians in Vibram Five Fingers

"Improv'ing" your health with Kilts, and Five Comedians in Vibram Five Fingers

In the mailbag (I have two more photo updates lined up, by the way!) comes this note from Rocco Privetera:

Click the image of a Kilted Rocco Privetera to see the full version! Will open in a new tab or window.

Hi – my name is Rocco Privetera, and I’m a comic/improviser/tech from NYC. I originally bought a pair of vibrams (standard black) due to some bad foot and lower back pain – a doctor suggested ‘spending some time barefoot’ each week – in Manhattan?? Thus the Vibrams. Now, between my three pair (bought two additional kso’s – black and brown) and some Soft Star sorta-moccasins [*](check them out as well – awesome barefoot shoes), I’m pretty much barefoot all the time. Results? No foot pain, no back pain, callus gone, etc. The place where I work is very hip and has no problem with me wearing them, although I get a lot questions on the subway and ‘gorilla feet’ comments). I find the KSO’s in a matching pant color works fine for business wear.

One pic is me before going out to an improv show in my kilt plus black KSO’s – I wear toe socks as they match the kilt better then just the shoes – and then my improv group, who all decided to wear their Vibrams for one show. By coincidence, we had 5 different shoes!


Thanks Rocco**! It's great to hear not only about eliminating your foot and back pain problems, but also that your doctor made such a sensible suggestion to go barefoot more often.

These photos make for a couple of five fingers firsts. For one, this is the first time I've seen the combination of fivefingers and a kilt. Black KSOs with black socks matched to a black kilt works quite well!

Two, I think this is the first time I've seen five sets of five fingers in one place. Thanks for sending the improv group shot!

A great shot of brown kso five fingers, black kso five fingers, grey sprints, black classics, and blue kso fivefingers

* If you're curious about the Soft Star "sorta-moccasins" (as I was), you can check them out here.

** Rocco's blog, which features some of his improv videos, is at privetera.com.