Posts Tagged ‘marathon running’

the joys, and slight discomfort, of learning to run barefoot

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The first moment I got my Bikilas, all I wanted to do was head for the door and run. I had read enough books ie “Barefoot Running” and “Chi Running”, and websites ie, to know better. Most people recommend walking around in your VFF’s for the first week or so to become acclimated to no cushioning. I noticed that just walking around in them that first week made my calves hurt.

The 2nd week the run started. I only ran 1/4 mile the first time and got up to 1/2 mile by the end of my first week. The real challenge was not pushing myself too hard or too fast. I’m a marathon runner, so a 1/4 mile run for me is a walk in the park. I did notice some slight cramping in my calves and arches, so I listened to my body and took it easy. I think this is the best advice I could give someone learning to run barefoot, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. If you sore during the run, stop and take a walk break, if the pain continues, head home. Too many people go out too fast and too soon, and end up with injuries.

The 3rd week and for the rest of the month, I was up to a mile, in my Bikilas. I have continued to progress this past month up to 2 miles. I have also added a pair of Treksports to my collection, which I plan to wear during the Warrior Dash in August. I would ideally like to be up to 4 miles by then. I still have days where I’m too sore to run my allotted time.

You have to think while your running and consciously change your running pattern. If you land on your heel, in VFF’s, you can cause some serious damage. If you feel like you are not running in proper form, the best thing to do is to take off your VFFs and run completely barefoot for a minute or too. Your body will automatically run in proper form barefoot, so this is a way of reminding your body what to do. Once you feel you have it down, you can then put your VFFs back on and run properly.

Anyone interested in barefoot running, this is a great link to try:


The moment…

I had to wait.. patiently for the sale I knew was coming to Raleigh Running Outfitters… at the Cary location. So not only did I have to wait a month but had to drive a good bit out of my way to get them, Cary is almost an hour away. It was well worth the wait.. by that I mean the time it took to get to the store, and the time it took to get them on, which brings me to my next topic… new things all newbie VFF wearer should know:

1. They are difficult to get on…. at first. For about the first week I would be cursing by the time I got my VFFs on, but after figuring out that you have to get the toe pods just right and then slip the back of the shoe on, I was golden.

2. get used to having your feet looked at ALOT! you have not just bought a pair of running shoes, you have now become an ambassador for the brand. Many people will come up to you and ask you about your shoes, why you’re wearing them, and at times tell you how ugly they are. It takes some getting used to, but I have met quite a few interesting people because of my shoes.

3. You cannot take VFFs out of the box and go running 10 miles in them,,, without seriously hurting yourself. If you are planning on running almost barefoot, it will take time. Many websites such are suggests that you start out running completely barefoot and “let your skin be your guide”, when the soles of your feet become sore, that’s how far you can go at this time. Other site suggest starting  at 1/4 mile – 1/2 mile and slowly build your mileage by only 10% everyone other week. I used a combination of these 2 strategies the first week.

Getting a new pair of Vibrams is exciting. Rest assured once you have one pair, you WILL want more and more.

Finding the right VFF shoe

My search began on the internet, there are many good websites out there to help research your first VFF and find the one that’s right for you! I  first tried Vibrams main site at They give great descriptions of each shoe and what activities correspond with each shoe. I’m a runner, so I was looking for a shoe that was built for what I love to do most, RUN!

My next search lead me to the website It’s a wonderful site for connecting to all that is Vibram Five Fingers.  They have reviews on each model of shoe, info on how to transition to barefoot running, different forums to connect to other barefoot and VFF runners and wearers, all the info you could need about this product on one site.

After surveying all the info, I decided on the Bikila model, named for the famous barefoot marathoner Abebe Bikila, the two-time olympic marathon champion who finished marathons barefoot.  A fitting name for this shoe, I think.

Since the shoes were a little pricey, 100 dollars pricey, I decided to try them on first to make sure this was what I wanted. The people at The Great Outdoors let me have a go at them. Let me say that I was sweating and out of breath by the time I got them on. The sales person said that him and his colleagues get a kick out of watching first timers try to get the shoes on. After walking around in them, and some jogging around the store, I was hooked! They were super comfy, light, airy. It was like I was a kid again running barefoot around my mom’s house. But I had to wait on my precious shoes it wasnt the right time…. so I walked away.

IT all started with a book…

I have to admit, I was  already intrigued with the idea of the Vibram Five Fingers shoes. I had seen several runners at my races sporting the barefoot minimalist shoes. I had already moved down from Asics 2150s,  a pretty bulky stabililty shoe, to Saucony Kinvaras, a very light trainer that helps you transition to a forefoot strike. I had read in my favorite running magazines that these minimalist shoes could help prevent injuries.  I had been cursed with shin splints for most of my training, along with various other aches and pains. After switching to the Kinvaras, I was feeling less sore after my runs and recovering faster.  So my brain started thinking, if going down to a more minimalist shoe helped with my aches and pains,, what would happen if I took the jump to even more minimalist shoes, say the funky looking Vibram Five Fingers.

Im a firm believer in doing my research, so I started reading the book that I had been told was the “bible of barefoot running”, Christopher Mcdougal’s book ” Born to Run”.  It totally changed my way of thinking! Barefoot “Ted”, my favorite character in the book, could not run at all, until he began running barefoot and in Vibram Five Fingers. It makes the arguement, effectively, that most of today’s running injuries began with the running shoes of the 1970’s. Before Nikes, people ran in very thin shoes. Those shoes allowed you to feel the ground under your feet and adjust your running style accordingly to limit injuries. Cushioning shoes hide the real damage that is being done to our legs, hips and back, by buffering the pain signals that tells us we are running the wrong way.

After reading the book, the next question was which Vibram Five Finger shoes to buy???