For the last 4 weeks, I have chucked away my Asics running shoe and got myself a pair of Vibram Five Fingers KSO.
If you cannot tell from the image above, it looks like someone decided to stick a thin layer of rubber on a toe sock and in fact, the actual product isn’t far from the truth.
“What? You chucked away a S$130 Asics cushioned shoe for a pair of rubber gloves for your feet and YOU RUN IN THEM?“
You have to understand the benefits of barefoot running and what modern shoes are offering to understand why I made the change but I shall not go too deep into that (Read this awesome article to change your perception about regular running shoes). I actually wanted to test the Vibram Five Fingers for another few more months before writing a post about it but I have to share with you how awesome it has been so far.
First, some personal history and the hard facts.
I have been suffering from plantar fasciitis in my left sole since 2003 and weak ankles in both my legs since 2002 from one too many sprains. I decided to quit soccer to keep my ankles (Yes I need em…). I picked up long distance running in May last year after failing my IPPT for the 1st time in 7 years.
Between May and October last year, I ran a total of 66 runs, clocking 218.35km and the longest run was 21km in 2hr 43mins.
I stopped running from October last year due to a cough that persisted for months and only started running again in January this year.
In my Vibram Five Fingers KSO for the last 4 weeks, I ran a total of 16 runs so far, clocking 78.59km and the longest run was 8.8km in 52mins 29secs.
Now, for the experience of running in Vibrams VS regular shoes.
Way before and also throughout the 220km I ran last year, I suffered sharp pains in my left sole due to plantar fasciitis and it happens so randomly but frequently that I come to regard it as being normal. After all, running so much has got to hurt right? I am running in thick, cushioned Asics shoes that is backed by decades of research and specifically chosen for me after an expert studied my feet and pronation and still it hurts. Running has got to hurt. Running is not natural. Injuries are common.
Or so they say…
After 3 months of not running, and doing research on barefoot running, I came across Vibram Five Fingers and they are arguably the next best thing to barefoot running. I am always up for radical solutions and I went ahead and got myself a pair of KSOs and went for runs…
1st run of 2.19km. The familiar pain in my left sole shot up my leg at the end of the run and I stopped.
2nd run of 3.3km. The pain occurred at the 2km mark but I kept at it and felt better from the 3km mark onwards.
3rd run of 4.5km. Pain started at the 3km mark and occurred frequently throughout the rest of the run.
4th run of 5km. No pain at all till the last 10metres from the finish.
Since then, I have not felt the same sharp pain from my sole till this date. That is 63.6km of running without my plantar fascia flaring up. And considering that I am running at a pace between 30-40seconds faster per km and twice as much mileage per month this year, I cannot describe this experience without mentioning the word ‘miracle’ and you can probably only share my joy if you suffer the same conditions as me.
Any idiot can tell that the odd looking Vibram Five Fingers that I have been wearing for the last 4 weeks are not miracle shoes. They did not cure me of my plantar facsiitis as I still feel some distant strain on my plantar fascia during my runs but the sharp pain never came. But they did however, allowed me to reap the benefits of barefoot running while I keep my feet away from elements such as the rough asphalt, gravel, occasional small stones and frogs (yes I think I stepped on one the other day. Sorry dude).
I strengthened my calves and ankles that have been so shielded by those thick running shoes. I naturally changed my style of running to a mid/forefoot landing strike and I feel a much stronger runner in me when I take off running. I tried running in my clunky Asics the other day after 4 weeks of running in Vibrams and hated my whole run. My feet were heavy and I had no feedback from the ground at all through those huge pads of rubber in between my sensitive sole and the ground.
I know it all sounds too good to be true and so I am letting you on a reality check.
The top of right foot, right above the ball of my foot is now hurt and I think I have been too overwhelmed with running with the Vibrams that I have neglected the fact that I have been walking/running for at least 2 decades in thick soled shoes. My nearly naked feet are not conditioned to the kind of pounding I do on the asphalt roads and cement and I ignored the fact that I actually had to do a more gradual transition.
While I listen to my body this time and take a good break to let my foot recover, I am almost certain that barefoot running or in minimalistic shoes like the Vibram Five Fingers is extremely good for me. I probably need a whole year of running and even more to be sure of the benefits that has graced me so far and of course to make sure that I don’t solve a few problems and uncover a whole nest of bigger injury troubles.
But as far as I can tell right now. This is AMAZING SHIT.
If you are still skeptical, you can always incorporate some barefoot running on softer grounds like grass or track on top of your normal running or go purchase minimalistic shoes like the Nike Free so that you can run in things you still regard as shoes.
Do go read Christopher McDougall’s book titled “Born to Run” and be blowned away. (Still in stock at Kinokuniya I think…)
Or if you are already convinced by this post of mine, Vibram Five Fingers are sold in Singapore in quite a number of stores and the locations can be found here.
I’ll definitely keep running in them with the aim of completing my 1st marathon at the end of the year and I will update you guys with my progress in this blog!
Update (6 June 2011): 1,000km in Vibram Five Fingers