I want to spend a little moment talking about my new shoes:
Vibram 5 Fingers, Bikila
I mentioned in a previous post, that I first heard of Vibrams about a year ago, when some odd-ball, way-out-there, extreme runner types, began donning these funny-looking slipper things and proclaiming their glory. I read all the reports: these 5-fingered shoe gloves brought about the cessation of aches and pains, the elimination of chronic injuries, faster running times, a renewed passion for running, and even the motivation to live a life more connected to nature. ”These must be some sort of wonder shoes!” thought I.
But running in flimsy, unprotected slippers seemed scary to me. My tender tooties! My on-again-off-again plantar fasciitis (which is totally debilitating when it’s ON)! My ache-y knees! What if I step on a big rock? What if I look like a freak?
Then, last year I read Born to Run and was introduced to the concept, that it is likely our Running SHOES that are causing our injuries not the actual running itself! The human foot and leg are perfectly designed to walk and run without any shoes at all. Well of course they are! Our ansectors didn’t have shoes for a long time and they ran and hunted and survived just fine. Then when they learned to make things, they made flat sandals that probably protected them from that hot, hot sand. They walked MILES in just flat sandals or barefoot!
When we pad our modern-day feet into stabilizing, cushioned pods of bouncy “comfort”, our own foot structure cannot do what it was made to do. For me, 20 years of running in increasingly specialized running shoes had not stemmed my aches and pains or strengthened my ever-falling arches. Lightbulb moment.
Suddenly it made sense. Just as I believe my body knows exactly what I need to eat to stay healthy and that man-made, factory produced frankenfoods and pharmaceuticals only complicate and confuse my “animal” body, so with these factory-made, heavily engineered running shoes and my smart old paws.
I did my homework and for a full year before I got my Vibrams and I worked on strengthening my feet… by just allowing them to be feet, au naturale! I walked barefoot at home. I took my running shoes off when I reached the part of my run that goes through the park, and I jogged softly barefoot through the grass. I gripped things with my toes and did lots of calf raises. I did lots of yoga and focused on spreading my toes out nice and wide and straight.
Then came the day when I felt ready to get my first Vibrams. I had read that one must start slowly as the legs and feet need to learn an entire new gait and foot strike. Running shoes make you lean back, stride wide, and strike with the heel. Injury City. Barefooting makes you lean forward, take smaller steps and land mid-to-forefoot.
I have now taken 2 short runs in my Vibrams, just 2 -1/2 miles each, and I have to tell you it was hard to stop each run. I wake up in the morning wanting to put them on and run! The experience is far better than I could have imagined! I feel like a panther! I feel like all these years, my feet have just been along for the ride in their shoe pods, not participating at all in the sport of my legs. Now my feet feel the earth, my toes grip it and push off, I feel light and freeeeeeee!
I was thinking that I would just use the Vibrams to strengthen my feet, but still run long runs and the marathon in my regular shoes, because I am still a bit afraid. Lurking fear and doubt. But on one run last week, I switched shoes mid run and I couldn’t even run in my regular running shoes! I felt off balance and disoriented. WOW.
So it’s a bit too early to say how I will use my Vibrams in training, but I can tell you that I am in love, love, love.
And if you’re wondering about the paradox of Barefoot Running SHOES, yes, it is a bit strange. But the Vibrams really just give you a rubber base that protects you from things like glass, and nails that could seriously harm or even end a running career. And from bees and too hot sand or asphalt!
If you decide you might want to give them a try, do some reading online. Visit the Vibrams website to learn about the different models. If you are in Israel, there is a list of stores HERE. I know they have them at Wertheimer Triathalon in Herzilya, and I’m pretty sure you can find them at Al Derech Burma in Beit Shemesh and at various branches of Maslool, but check that full list and call ahead.
(Of course they are cheaper if you are going to the US or have someone bringing them back for you. I got mine from RoadRunnerSports, which is where I buy all my shoes and gear).
Happy Barefootin’ Me!