Monday, March 1, 2010

Barefoot is Better

Last week was pretty good considering the other activities that had to be tended to. The most time consuming being our local gymnastics meet which required volunteer time on Thursday evening and all day Saturday and Sunday. I ended the week with 80 miles on the bike and 24 miles by foot.

You can tell spring is on the horizon as two of my evening runs this week were in shorts!

This is the second week of getting all my miles in wearing the Vibram Five Fingers. These shoes are designed to mimic running barefoot but allow you to have the protection of a shoe.

When I first returned to running, I promptly began to have many of the common joint aches and pains associated with running. Following a sprained ankle I developed a chronic knee problem that nagged me for several years. These pains prompted me to do what I always do when faced with something I don’t know much about…head to the internet to research.

Unfortunately if you head to the doctor or most shoe stores, they will most likely tell you that your pain is associated with inadequate footwear. They will say you need shoes to control your foot (which the store happens to sell). You need inserts to support your arch (which the doctor happens to sell). However, it didn’t take me long to find there is a growing number of people who feel that all of these aids may be what is actually causing a lot of the pains.

Our feet were not designed to have their motion controlled by an expensive shoe with an even more expensive after market arch support. Just one of our feet has 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 muscles and tendons. They were designed to be used for support and shock absorption! Of course you can’t just strip off your shoes and go. They have been softened and weakened by years of shielding them from impact with shoes. Once you have trained them properly, our feet are more than adequate to run on without any man made support. In fact, many studies are showing bare feet are superior to shoes: Harvard Study - Barefoot is Better.

Amazingly, since using the Vibrams, my knee pains have subsided and I can do my longest runs without a hint of weakness in either knee. My plan at this stage is to do all my training in the Five Fingers and ultimately run the race in them. We’ll see if this still seems like a good idea when I’m 80 miles in.


  1. Hi Jim!

    Funny thing, when I made a recent visit to my podiatrist regarding some toe nail issues, I mentioned to him my change in footwear. I've been wearing my Vibram Five Fingers, as well as some Terra Plana Vivo Barefoot's for work. My podiatrist had not heard of either of them!

    Pretty shocking to me, that a person who specializes in feet, would be clueless about the biggest potential change to their profession, ever.

  2. Hey David, Thanks for stopping in!

    That is surprising. I have a tormented relationship with doctors. I can't deny they help a lot people in amazing ways, but they are often slow to change and many times proven outright wrong in their opinions.

    Unfortunately I'm guessing it will be long time, if ever, before doctors suggest getting rid of shoes.