Innovators, and those funny toe shoes

What are those people called who buy the new-fangled products right when they come out?  Innovators?  Pioneers?  Obviously, I’m putting my graduate business degree to good use…

The Boyfriend, he’s a great guy.  Let’s face it, he’s got great taste (hint hint), he puts up with me when I’m crazy grumpy, and loves to work out with me.  But there is definitely one thing we don’t see eye to eye on, and that’s the purchase of necessities.

I’m here to be honest, so I’ll come straight out and let you all know, I’m a skeptic.  I was a skeptic about organic foods, yoga, the value of girls nights, and plenty of other things.  One thing I was sure of though, was that those funny toe shoes were just no good for you!

Like I said, I’m here to be honest.  I was wrong.  That’s right – I said it.  After lots of research, long debates, and additional perspectives, I’m here to rave about the new minimalist running fad.  If you know me, you know that I don’t like people to tell me about things (music, clothes, fitness equipment), I like to “discover” it on my own.  It was hard to believe in those funky shoes, when The Boyfriend just kept raving about them.  You know earlier, when I talked about him being an innovator.  Yes, I’m not kidding.  He bought the iPad the week it came out.  He is a marketer’s dream come true.  Marketers rely on the fact that people like him exist, as extensions of their hard work.

So it’s not hard to understand that I was a pain in the ass stubborn about looking into these shoes.  Here are some anti-VFF reasons that I came up with:

  • While us humans might have been developed to run barefoot back in the middle ages, we have evolved.  They didn’t have the option to run on concrete.  It’s impossible that running [virtually] barefoot on sidewalks/streets can be anything but completely detrimental to your foot.
  • They’re funny looking.  They’re just this new shoe trend.
  • How come there isn’t more support on this topic from, you know, doctors??
  • They’ve gotta be dirty.  If you run in the city, dirt will creep in and then it’s just stuck to your feet.  They’re going to smell.  bad.

Those are just a couple of my skepticisms.  One of the things that really pushed me the other way was a conversation with my totally pro-VFF roommate.  She talked about the core stability, and connection with the ground that they provided (yeah, this sounds all space-cadet).  But she said she could also feel it in her core, her whole body was engaged, on things like riding the T.  This resonated with me as a more natural approach.

The second real push toward my first purchase was some research I read about foot muscle development.  Regular shoes act as casts to our foot in terms of development.  Those little phalanges on the ends of our feet are connected to all kinds of muscles that run from our toes to our heels, through the arch of our foot, from our heel to the knee (the achilles), and more.  Hereditarily, I am destined for a mis-shaped foot.  At my mere 20s age, I can already see the deformity shaping (and I’m sure the countless nights spent in those oh-so-gorgeous and oh-so-painful 5″ heels in college didn’t slow down the process).  My theory (disclaimer: I am not a doctor.  This is a guess.  Don’t take my advice) is that by developing all of the muscles in my foot, they will pull at each other and develop more strongly in a way that will resist bunions (ew, I said it).

Let’s face it, those shoes are so funny looking!  I get all kinds of stares when I’m wearing them.  When I wanted to choose my first pair, I didn’t want something that was very loud, henceforth attracting more attention.  I wanted something discreet, yet somewhat stylish (yeah, an attempt tried in vain with Vibrams).  I concluded that I loved the cross-lacing on the top of the brand new Bikila LS:



I love these shoes!  I cannot rave about them enough.  They’re super comfortable, and running in them is like a dream!  I hate running.  I run, but I am not a runner.  I hate it.  I hate life with every step, every landing, every breath.  The whole time, I can’t wait to stop.  And sprinting?!  UGH – that’s like tortue!  But not with these.  I swear, I was in complete awe the first time I was running in them and decided to “pick it up” a bit.

Here are some reasons I love my Vibram FiveFingers shoes

  • Comfort
  • Weight – these things are so light and easy to get off the ground!
  • Improve your Gait – I encourage you to check out comparisons on youtube.  No wonder we have ankle/knee/hip/back/neck problems!  It’s the way we walk!
  • Shorten your Stride – make you work harder when you run = more calorie burnage
  • Conversation – I’ve had interesting conversations with people every time I wear them
  • Complete muscle development – trust me, I’ve grown more calve/foot muscles than a cheetah (not really, but hey who’s asking?)

When people ask me about them, what’s the most important thing to know about them?  I love them, but they’re not for everyone.  They’re not for people with plantar’s fasciitis, people who over pronate, people without patience, people with previous injuries who require ankle/foot stability, [insert your reason here].  They also take a lot of time to break in.

Let’s say you’re used to running 20 miles a week.  Monday, you usually do a nice 3 mile run.  In your Vibrams, day one, do no more than .25 mile.  Day two: in regular shoes you’d crank up a 5 miler, but in Vibrams, take a day off.  That’s right.  And do .25 on/one day rest for the first 2 weeks.  Personally, I walked in my shoes less than .5 miles twice a week for a month before I ever ran in them.

Why is it important to go so painfully slow when breaking your feet in?  Remember that analogy from earlier, about shoes being casts on our feet?  It’s true.  You’re waking up muscles that haven’t been used since you ran naked in your own backyard through the sprinklers at age 2.  You didn’t do that?  Well, you get the point.  People have gotten seriously injured by going out too fast in their Vibrams, including damage to their Achilles, and even stress fractures in worst case scenarios.  Do your homework if you’re switching to minimalist footwear!!

After a couple months, you’ll be ready to take on 6.5 mile forest hikes with your favorite hiking partner and VFF afficionado:

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