Vibram Five Fingers are still relatively new in the running community, but they are starting to creep in and get a “toe hold” on some people.
So, what exactly are Vibram Five Fingers? Well, to start with they are a new form of running shoe that promotes “minimalist” running. There are a select group of people who run barefoot, meaning foot on straight ground but Vibrams provide for a thin layer between the asphalt and your foot, for the faint of heart.
Vibrams have a thin (3.5mm to be exact) sole that provides minimal control of your gait. The main purpose of Vibrams is for a runner to begin running with their natural biomechanics. Meaning, when that local running store salesperson told you that you had to buy a $150 pair of motion control running shoes because you had “poor biomechanics” they were kind of lying to you. Every person has the ability to run with good biomechanics but the modern day shoes have promoted poor and even lazy foot falls.
Now many would say that they had to go and purchase stabilizing or motion control shoe because they had knee pain or another type of pain or injury. There would be no way that they could go to a non-supportive shoe. Well that is actually not true, what happens when you start running in Vibrams is that your gait becomes more natural and creates a natural forefoot strike therefore eliminating that need for a motion control shoe. A motion control shoe allows for a heavy heel strike, which is not good for your ankles, knees and hips. When a runner strikes on their heel they take a large portion of the weight into their heel and then distributes it upward, creating ankle, knee and hip pain. When you become a forefoot striker with Vibram Five Fingers your foot distributes the strike amongst the foot then upward, thus creating a lesser chance of having ankle knee and hip problems.
Now, there are instances where people can get minor to major injuries when working their way into minimalist running. A simple Google search will warn over and over again that you are not to get into minimalist running too quickly. The motto “Too Much, Too Soon” rings very true for those getting into minimalist running. If you start out trying to run a 3 miler on your first bout of minimalist running you could end up with some nasty calf cramps or even the extreme of fracturing the small bones in your foot. These are the extreme cases but it is possible, when you start running in Vibrams a runners instinct is to just go out there and run, well the problem with that is, the runner is going to strike like they used to until they realize that it hurts, which could be immediately or until after the run. If you happen to be the recipient of a “Too Much, Too Soon” injury not only are you out of the minimalist running game for awhile, you are out of any running game for awhile.
So, how would a runner ease into a minimalist training program? Well, naturally start slowly! Anyone can use their basic training plan and incorporate running in Vibrams slowly. Start out with a quarter of a mile in Vibrams and then switch to typical running shoes. After a week or so of quarter mile runs switch those to half mile and work your way up. The most important thing to remember with Vibrams and minimalist running is that you must be patient. This is typically most runners’ downfalls but sometimes, waiting makes you a stronger person.
There are several styles that are recommended for running. The newest style is the Bikila LS which is an improvement on Vibrams first running shoe; the Bikila. Bikila LS has laces instead of the standard hook and loop Velcro closure. The KSO is also recommended for running, KSO’s are designed slightly different than then Bikilas so that you can incorporate them more into your workout routine. The only downside to the KSO’s is that they do not have the “tread” like the Bikilas.
Also, no one said that you needed to run in Vibram Five Fingers! There are several styles of Vibrams that are for yoga and walking. The Classic and Sprint shoes are the most recommended for walking and non-impact sports.
So if you want to become a minimalist runner to cure that nagging runners knee or to prevent any future injuries please remember that you must be patient. Minimalist running is meant to be a fun experience. You will start to feel a little more connected with the surface you are running on because you can feel everything. Every footfall is a new experience. And you might just get a few sideways glances from those who haven’t seen “monster shoes” before.
In order to get your first pair you can go to your local authorized retailer, or Vibrams website.