“How do you like them?”
“They’re great,” I reply, as they continue staring toward the floor.
“Doesn’t it hurt your feet to run in them?”
“Nope. I actually have much less pain now.”
I get a lot of quizzical looks.
As I go on to explain the differences switching to Vibram FiveFingers from traditional running shoes has made for my ankles, knees and lower back, most people I talk to keep their eyes locked on my toes.
I talk about the biomechanics of running as well as the structural integrity and strength of the human body. I’ve answered the same questions many times.
In the end, most shrug and say, “That makes sense.”
I bought my first pair of KSOs more than a year ago and will wear them for the rest of my running life.
The raving I do only scratches the surface of how much better it feels. I’ve covered hundreds of miles with minimal soreness (if any) in what had been problem areas, particularly my knees. The thin sole brings a sense of connection to whatever surface I’m on — I feel faster and more fluid.
The sensation has led me to wear my Puma soccer shoes around more often than anything else. Sure, I have some Nikes I throw on from time to time, but the low-profile of my Ligas comes closest to replicating natural movement.
I would even wear them if somebody puked in them.
There are two basic reasons making the switch has been beneficial:
1. In-born architecture
The feet are a marvel of engineering. Fully one quarter of the bones and about twenty percent of the muscles in the human body are at the end of the legs! Designed to disperse the weight of all the appendages and organs above, the feet handle tons of force with each step.
Modern running shoes have shifted most runners away from the strength of the foot: the arch. Due to heavy padding, most people strike the ground with the heel first, which puts the brakes on with each step and jars the body as far up as the lumbar spine.
Barefoot running emphasizes making contact closer to the ball of the foot, which — after some practice and strengthening — improves running efficiency.
2. Muscle tone
The support built into the average pair of sneakers diminishes the amount of work necessary for the body to maintain balance. Dozens of muscles work in concert to keep us upright, but locking them up in bulky shoes relieves the pressure on those proprioceptive — position-sensing — tissues and leads to weakness of ligaments and tendons. Conditions like plantar fascitis or fallen arches might result.
I can attest to the fact there are few more powerful wake-up calls than the first morning after running without the crutch of molded EVA underfoot. I limped around with sore calves for days.
Muscles are supposed to ache when challenged in a new way.
With that in mind, I’d like to say barefoot running is for everyone.
The jury’s still out, though.
When something becomes a craze, it’s difficult to know what the long-term effects are. It takes years or decades to measure that effectively.
All I can say is it works for me.
All you can do is give it a try.