After I finished reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, I bought a pair of Vibram FiveFingers shoes. I have been running in them now for five weeks. I am loving them. The only negative is that I am continuously having to explain them to curious strangers. In fact, three people stopped me today in the space of three miles.
As a result, I thought it would be helpful to share my responses to the nine most common questions I get. If you’re thinking about buying a pair, maybe this will help you.
- Why do you run in those things? Because I like running barefoot. However, I can’t always run on safe terrain. Running in the Vibram FiveFingers is as close as you can get to running barefoot and still have some protection. They provide a thin layer of rubber than keeps you from getting cut or bruised on sharp rocks or glass.
- Why would you want to run barefoot? Twenty-five percent of all your bones are in your feet. Your feet are a marvel of biological engineering. They are designed to adjust your stride, distribute your weight, and minimize the impact on your joints—on the fly. Unfortunately, when you encase them in modern running shoes, your feet lose contact with the ground. They don’t adjust. They aren’t free to do what they were made to do.
- But aren’t running shoes designed to provide cushion and prevent injuries? Yes, but according to McDougall, despite supposedly huge improvement in shoe technology, 70 percent of all runners get injured every year. This number has not decreased in decades. Interestingly, running injuries were very rare until the invention of the modern running shoe in 1972. McDougall claims, there is a direct correlation between running shoes and running injuries. In fact, the more expensive the shoe, the more likely you are to be injured and the more severe your injury will be.
- But all the running magazines advocate the super expensive, super advanced shoes. Why? Follow the money. Running shoes are a $15 billion industry. The companies that make these shoes are not going to admit that their product is the problem rather than the solution. These same companies advertise in the running magazines. The magazines can rate the various shoes and write reviews, but they can’t challenge the whole premise behind the shoes without flushing the bulk of their revenue stream.
- But they look so bizarre. Aren’t you embarrassed to wear them? Yes, they look weird. My kids say they look like “gorilla feet.” I was initially embarrassed, but I got over it. When people make fun of me now, I tell them, “ridicule is the last stage you go through before you order a pair!” I have several friends now running in them who initially laughed.
- Can you run as far in your FiveFingers as you can with traditional running shoes? Not yet. So far, the longest I have run in them is 3.5 miles. Regardless, even if you are a seasoned runner, you must start slowly. Your feet have essentially been encased in casts for years. You will be using muscles you never knew you had. Some of your muscles have atrophied. I recommend that you run no more than half a mile at first and gradually increase. However, I am on-track to run a full half marathon in them in November.
- Which model of the FiveFingers do you like best? I initially bought the Classic. They are the easiest to get on and off. However, after my son-in-law bought the KSOs, I decided to go with those. “KSO” stands for “keep stuff out.” They just feel better to me. This is totally subjective and “your mileage may vary.”
- Do you really think you will stick with them? Only time will tell. I am admittedly an early adopter. I love new stuff. I try things for a while, and then I discard them. That’s just my personality. That’s why I haven’t blogged about the Vibrams until now. I wanted to give them a month and see if I still liked them. I do, but that could change. Caveat emptor.
- Where did you buy your Vibrams? I bought mine on the Vibram FiveFingers web site. It was totally self-service. I got them in about three days. However, they do distribute them through some retail outlets. For example, Cumberland Transit in Nashville carries them. You can check their store locator for a local retailer in your area.
If you are a runner, I think the FiveFingers merit serious consideration, particularly if you have been prone to injuries and tried everything else. If you are still not convinced, I would urge to read Born to Run. Even if you don’t buy into running barefoot, it is still one of the best running books I have read.