User Stories

Senior Year: Through the Feet of a FiveFingers Wearer

Today’s user submitted story was an entire year in the making. It comes to us from Daniel Vu (or DVu for short as his friends call him) out of the Seattle Washington area. Daniel was a senior at Mercer Island High School and is an avid cross country…

Today’s user submitted story was an entire year in the making. It comes to us from Daniel Vu (or DVu for short as his friends call him) out of the Seattle Washington area. Daniel was a senior at Mercer Island High School and is an avid cross country runner. He spent his senior year of high school sporting FiveFingers. Daniel took the time to tell us the story of how he got into this whole “Vibram/Barefoot hype”.

If you want to find out why Daniel developed a passion for VFF and how his senior year turned out keep reading after the jump!

My name is Daniel Vu (or DVu short as my friends call me). I am currently a senior that’s about to graduate from Mercer Island High School. As requested by some friends, I just wanted to tell a quick story of how I got into this whole Vibram/Barefoot hype. I got to say, I have many people to thank, and for Vibram for making the best shoes (or footgloves) out there! And here’s some pictures I got from an entire year of barefoot running.

I’ve never really considered barefoot running before as a runner. Due to this, I ran in horrible form, was often hurt, and ran with a heel strike. This all changed near the end of my junior year. In an unintentionally non running related way.

May- June 2010:

Almost everyday at school in the spring, I saw this senior who always had on a poncho and wore a pair of Classics (in fact he was not even a runner himself, he just happened to be wearing these as part of his personal fashion). I didn’t know what they were called at the time, but I thought they was coolest things in the world so I typed up “footgloves” on Google one day. That would lead me to Vibram’s official site for the FiveFingers where I discovered to my surprise, they actually made models for runners! Even more, they had some health articles on how barefoot running was great, and how shoes were the cause of injuries (I had plenty of injuries before). I was a little surprised about the why they would say running shoes are the cause of usual running injuries so I checked out that article. What I saw in there radically converted me to barefoot running.

The article happened to be an excerpt from Chris McDougall’s Born To Run, where it was ranting about how Nike was bad and how it tricked runners with its marketing junk that people somehow believe in (just putting this all in a nutshell hahaha). My mindset was so changed that I wanted to literally take my shoes off and run barefoot which I did. Bad idea. I ignored the fact that even if you take your shoes off and run barefoot immediately, you still run in a form that you’re so used to in the past. So after making that fiasco by going on a 3 mile run without shoes, I quickly sought out a way to transition into barefoot running using this program

Mid June – July 2010

While training in the summer with an old pair of Brooks (which I never threw away and because the soles were already thinning), I incorporated these barefoot workouts into my running schedule. At the same time, I ordered a pair of Bikilas while getting more advice from my two other cross country teammates who already had a pair of VFF’s(they both have the Black KSO models) on how to transition into them. I must say it was a little challenging from the start because of a couple of things happened:

1. Strain: I had to relearn how to run on the balls of my feet again. And it hurt. REAL bad at first. I thought I would never get used to running in this form because the kind of strain novice barefoot runners get.

2. Friends/Family: From day one of barefoot running, 96% of my friends (with the exception of a couple who were already barefooting themselves/open minded), thought I was a complete klutz/lunatic/idiot/neanderthal/caveman/ whatever a barefoot runner is called. Although I was completely new this whole thing, I defended barefoot running to a point where I was literally the boys teams unofficial guinea pig. They wanted to see if I was going to be injured or not (never happened) if I continued to run barefoot. My family thought I should become a hippie because they thought this was an extreme thing that I embraced. In fact, I’m still the only guy in my family to run barefoot/ wear FiveFingers.

That’s just to name two of those challenges. But overtime during the summer, I managed to overcome these challenges. I finally got used to using all the muscles in my legs running on the forefoot form, and some friends moderated their own position on barefoot running. Also, I read Born To Run, which solidified my belief of why I should run this way (not to sound like some guru). Eventually my first pair of Vibrams arrived.

Running Cross Country in my Bikilas

Late July 2010-August 2010:

The Bikila’s that I ordered back in June finally arrived after two months of waiting (July 28th was the date they arrived). I was SO excited that I decided to go on a three mile test run that night. They felt SOOOOO awesome to the point where I decided to go an extra three miles and incorporate a hill into the run (I guess this counts as a runners high). When I got to the hill, instead of struggling like I did in the past, I felt like I was cruising up that hill with speed I thought I never had before. In fact to celebrate this, I stopped at the top of the hill and screamed loudly (unfortunately, the end of the hill happened to lead to a neighborhood so the people residing there were about to call the police).

Celebration aside, I went home really happy about the experience I got. Sadly this was put to a temporary stop when I had wisdom teeth surgery so for about a week, I was at home sitting around wishing I was out there again to capture that feeling. Luckily I managed to recover fast enough to join my XC team on its first day of practice.

August – October 2010:

Just to put my whole Cross Country season in a short context (if I did tell about my entire season, I would have to write a book which I don’t have the time for hahahahaha), I had an absolute blast. As part of a trio that ran in VFF’s, me and my friends (the two guys that had KSO’s) took note that we were no longer hurt, putting more miles out there on runs, and had a great time. Although a lot of our teammates thought we were weirdo’s at the beginning, my teammate (who brought barefoot workouts into the team for his Senior Project), gave this presentation during a team meeting that got a large portion of the team to change their minds. Racing wise, I noticed my times drastically dropping which never really happened before. During races, my two friends and I were often asked what those were on our feet (or receiving that “those are badass shoes” comment). Can’t help but say that we were literally the only guys on the field wearing these while everybody else wore spikes. But anyways, despite people thinking we would slip (okay on some courses this was a problem), we actually had an easier time running because we found balance and good form running in VFFs. Although I never made it to the state level in running, I’m proud to say that my official PR for the 5K is 17:43 (down from 18:46).

November 2010 – February 2011:

I trained for track around this time to concentrate on the Mile (1600M) and Half Mile (800M). As usual, I was putting in more miles than before, not injured, and having a good time. Around the same time, I was working on a science project I had to present in May on how barefoot running was beneficial. It was a little tiring working on the project, but I must say it was worth it because I was learning more about what I didn’t know about barefoot running AND Barefoot Ted was my mentor!!!!!! That was a big highlight of this project I was working on.

Running Cross Country in my Bikilas & KSO

February 2011 – Early May 2011:

I ran track for a final season again (you will probably notice ironically, I will purposely write in a very short context because I’m not a huge fan of track). Didn’t PR that much, from 5:20 to 5:06 for the mile, dropped the 800 in favor of the 2 Mile (actually won one race). This was also when after 8 months running in the Bikila’s, I decided to switch them in for a pair of Black Camo KSO’s which I think gave me more ground feedback and allowed me to wiggle my toes more. Had fun though :).

Late May 2011 & Prom:

This marks the anniversary of when I got into the whole barefooting hype. I’ve never thought I would have gotten here without throwing out my shoes in favor of Vibrams and my own feet. Here’s some stuff that just recently happened.

1. Science Exposition: I presented my Barefoot Running project at the NWABR 2011 BioExposition in Bellevue, Washington. From the minute I put my project on display I was literally swamped with people checking out my project! Wish I had some pictures for this event. I got an Honorable Mention Award for this project and the possibility of dinner with Nobel Peace Prize Winners!!!!!!! That’s pretty cool!!!!!

2. Thinking of registering for the Survivor Mud Run: Knowing that Vibrams work in any kind of environment and to test my manhood, I’m planning to sign up for this event despite the costly price for registration ($65 for just a run?!?!?! Subsidize me please??).

3. Prom: I had an awesome one of a kind time that will probably stick to my mind for the rest of my life. My date (who jumped in the barefoot wagon eventually around the Spring of 2011 and also a fellow XC/long distance runner) and I went to the event in our VFFs (we were the only ones too!) and got the most attention for that (by now we’re the topic of discussion in post Prom conversations from what I hear from some fellow Seniors).

Off to Prom

Reasons being why we wore these to Prom:

Me: I was just tired of the usual ache that every guy gets when they where dress shoes. My heel just hurts real bad after wearing them for a good two hours. Plus they were the cause of why I have a minor case of Morton’s Toe.

Date: She didn’t like the feeling of high heels either. In addition to this if anybody notices, girls tend to take their high heels off eventually during a dance and their precious shoes get lost afterwards. She wouldn’t have to worry about that happening. Plus who can deny the fact that they were really comfortable to wear?

NOTE: The only con about wearing VFF’s during a formal event is that your clothes or dress can drag on the ground (this counts for both boys and girls who are contemplating about wearing them to a wedding or dance whatsoever). From personal experience, I had to wear my pants a little higher than usual while my date at some point had to lift her dress up a bit to avoid it being soaked (it was raining during Prom XP)

So in a win-win situation, we both mutually agreed on the day I asked her (In case you were wondering how I asked her out, I hijacked the intercom system during a track meet to ask her to Prom XD), that we would wear FiveFingers to the event. Everybody thought it was cool though, so we were not embarrassed in any way for the entire event (they proved to be a shocker too for some who never saw it before at a formal event).

June – October 2011:

Transitioned to trail running, ran my first 8K Trail race on July 21st and got 2nd overall! This summer I Traveled to Europe and wore my KSO’s there. Attracted A LOT of attention there. In September I Ran 2 10Ks and got 2nd overall again. Youngest finisher in both races and wearing KSO’s as usual.

First 8K Trail Race Soaring Eagle Park

I was sent the rankings of short distance trail runners in Washington (5K-Marathon) a couple weeks ago and was shocked to discover that I was 9th out of the top 100!

Final Thoughts:

Overall I am having an awesome time running with FiveFingers. Without them I would still be hurt and not enjoying my runs as I now have. So the following lessons I got from this year from the Bikilas and the KSO’s:

1. Very enjoyable to wear (I think I like the KSO’s better).
2. Eliminates injuries.
3. Can run in every terrain thought of.
4. Gets people curious.
5. Awesome overall.

And at my school, the number of Vibram users are starting to increase. At first it was only that poncho wearing kid that got me into this whole thing that wore them. Now there’s at least six and counting that either wear them for runs, or as their casual shoes. I’m really happy that this is happening.

HUGE thank you to Eric Becker (the poncho/vibram classics wearing senior from 2010) for leading me into this whole thing unintentionally, Coach Erica Hill (my XC/Long Distance Coach for encouraging me to run barefoot AND allowing barefoot workouts on the team unlike other XC coaches out there), Ethan Wright (the Grand Master of bringing barefoot workouts to Mercer Island Cross Country), Barefoot Ted for being my mentor for my Science Project, and Vibram for designing the best shoes possible out there! Without them, I would have never rediscovered the joys and happiness that comes with running in Fivefingers. Hang Loose!!!

I want to personally thank DVu for sharing the experience of his senior year with us. I think he provided lots of good insights that should help fellow VFF adopters with their first few months. His advice about not pushing yourself to much to soon is something we should all try and follow.

Part of the mission here at BirthdayShoes has been to document these fan experiences in the words and photos of the wearers — if you’ve got some great photos of you doing what you do in your Vibram Five Fingers, consider sending them in (learn more) and sharing with the community!

By Robert

Robert Barr resides in Woodinville Washington. He is an avid FiveFingers enthusiast who enjoys writing about his experiences in minimalist footwear. After graduating from the University of Washington with a BFA in Photography he started [url=]Washington Home Tours LLC[/url] a local real estate photography company. He also enjoys being a [url=]Scentsy[/url] consultant. At the moment his favorite pair of FiveFingers are his Bormio boots. Get to know Robert better via [url=]his interview here[/url].

6 replies on “Senior Year: Through the Feet of a FiveFingers Wearer”

Woooooooow. This was stunningly inspirational, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m a senior in high school too, and I’m going to buy my first pair of VFFs tomorrow. Reading this has just solidified my confidence in my decision.

I know this kid! Really nice to hang out and run with. I remember going to Europe and he wore his VFFs. Attracted quite a lot of attention. Nevertheless, nice story DVu!

Great story! I think your improvement was more a product of better form and increased running experience (strengthening) than to simply attribute it to a pair of shoes. Like has often been said in the past “It’s not the shoes!”. Granted these shoes probably helped promote a more natural (your old brick shoes didn’t allow you to run naturally) and efficient form and stride which first led to decrease in injuries and thus increased strength. Never the less, it’s awesome to hear about how folks have improved their running by simply changing how they run. As a new runner you do have to learn how to run; not as simple as it seems and we all tend to do it horribly at first (myself included). I suspect you’d done equally well just getting out of the clunker shoes and into some more low profile trainers/racing flats (which is all a VFF really is if you think about it, just with toe pockets).

It wasn’t the shoes, it was you! 🙂

Great job, man! Nice write up and 5K time. I like the KSO’s better than Bikilas for running too, because I started out with KSO’s and I like no extra’s on the bottom. Keep up the running! I am a runner too, mostly long distance, wear the KSO’s every time.

Aaaaagggghh I’m so jealous. My coach doesn’t allow any barefoot training whatsoever (even though we all signed a waiver!) and we don’t even do long miles. This season has sucked for me. D:

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