May 31, 2009

Completely Barefoot Attempt #3

Yesterday's completely barefoot sidewalk excursion went better than the last one...feeling wise anyway.

I started out in my VFF Classics, but after 20 minutes, decided to take them off. I think because I started out in VFFs and switched to barefoot, I realized that I do step differently between the two. I noticed that my step starts with my heel in the VFFs and rolls forward, whereas while completely barefoot, I step more on the middle of my foot with barely any heel involvement at all. I always thought that I walk with a very barefoot gait in the VFFs, apparently not.

Either I didn't notice little rocks sticking to the bottom of my feet this time, or it didn't bother me. I only stopped one or twice to wipe the bottom of my feet on my pant legs.

I felt less conspicuous this time than last time, even though I was carrying my VFFs in my hand.

Two things I look forward to with the coming summer with regards to going barefoot:
  1. The end of poplar-sticky season (they are not fun stuck on the bottom of one's feet).
  2. The end of lawn fertilizer season (I don't even want to know what chemicals were absorbed through the bottom of my feet from stepping on little fertilizer bits).
I'm definitely going to keep trying going completely barefoot, especially now that I realized my gait really is different between barefoot and barefoot alternative.

May 29, 2009

Review - Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall is, without a doubt, the best non-fiction book I have ever read. It's an exciting, educational, humourous, heart-warming tale about the human condition and human evolution.

I enjoyed every minute of reading about the Tarahumara tribe in northern Mexico (the Running People) and the entire cast of characters including Caballo Blanco, Barefoot Ted, Scott Jurek, and especially Christopher McDougall's story of overcoming injurious adversity to become an ultramarathoner.

The book is the journey and culmination of the author's quest to answer one question:
How come my foot hurts?
It includes eye-opening revelations about running shoe marketing and the current state of running injuries.

It includes anthropological evidence supporting the Running Man theory of human evolution as well as the story about the origins of the theory itself. As a scientist myself, I found these chapters particularly captivating.

The book is filled with facts and statistics on the past and present history of running and why it is a fundamental necessity for humans to run not only for health but for happiness. Throughout its pages, one can find personal as well as general inspirational quotes including:
Ask nothing from your running...and you'll get more than you ever imagined. (byJoe Vigil)
If there's a magic bullet to make human beings healthy, it's to run. (by Dr. Daniel Lieberman from Harvard University)
You don't stop running because you get old. You get old because you stop running. (by Jack Kirk, the "Dipsea Demon" who ran the Dipsea Race at the age of 96)
I've shared my joy of reading this book with many people already, including runners and non-runners. It is a truly inspirational read and I highly recommend it to anyone. Thank you, Christopher McDougall for compiling an impressive and inspirational array of running facts and stories, and sharing your own story of personal triumph and victory.

May 26, 2009

Video for BORN TO RUN

I've been reading Christopher McDougall's new book, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, for a little over a week now (I'm a slow reader). It's absolutely phenomenal! I'll be posting my favourite quotes from the book soon (only 30 pages to go before I finish the book).

In the meantime, I thought that I'd post this video of Christopher McDougall telling his story. Enjoy.

Christopher McDougall on why he was BORN TO RUN

May 25, 2009

Completely Barefoot Attempt #2

This weekend it was over 20C again so I thought I'd try going completely barefoot again. This time, on sidewalk, not grass. It went...better.

I stepped out my front door and discovered how cold concrete can be in 20C in the shade. It was cool. I actually felt the coolness of the concrete, which I've never felt before.

Then I stepped onto concrete that was in the sun. It was totally different. Warm. It's amazing the temperature changes of the ground we never feel while wearing shoes.

Off I went down my driveway. I thought I'd have trouble with the hard concrete and asphalt of the road at the end of the driveway but my feet had no problems with the hard surface. It was easy to walk on the flat surfaces.

I didn't feel like I had as bad of pansy feet, either. It didn't hurt at all to walk completely barefoot down the road or down the sidewalk. I found that my stride was very similar to when I walk in VFFs. I might have stepped a little lighter on my feet (in unconscious concern of my pansy feet).

I do remember feeling very conspicuous not wearing any shoes. How odd that I feel more conspicuous in public wearing nothing on my feet compared to wearing VFFs.

Another thing I remember is having to stop every few metres to wipe my feet on my pant leg to remove the small pebbles that had lodged themselves in my flesh. It didn't hurt, it was just annoying. I wonder how you keep that from happening? Tougher feet?

Completely barefoot attempt #2 was far more successful and enjoyable than #1. Now, to solve the rocks-stuck-on-bottom-of-foot problem...

May 21, 2009

Review - Vibram FiveFingers Classic

I don't have much to write about the VFF Classic that has not been included in two already posted reviews of these barefoot alternative shoes by Living Barefoot and They are both thorough and enjoyable reviews.

I have two pairs of Classics: the mauve/sand upper, grey bottom and the black on black.

I find them to be my favourite VFFs for walking around town if I want a shoe for warmer weather, like sandals. They are incredibly easy to slip on, have never fallen off my feet, and I love the look of them. I love the look of them so much that I have been known to wear the all black pair while wearing a cocktail dress to a New Year's Eve party as well as a beach party in the middle of winter (in a heated tent).

These were the shoes that I competed my second sprint triathlon in and found them to be a wonderful transition as well as running shoe (although I recommend Vaseline on your toes if you're going to run a reasonable distance).

I find the Classics slightly less comfortable than my KSOs for longer durations of wear because the toes are a little tighter, which helps them stay on, but makes them less comfortable at the same time.

I have recently discovered a modification that makes the upper more comfortable for me too: I removed the elastic cord. I found that I didn't need to tighten it at all for the shoe to stay on my foot, and it could dig on the top of my foot when worn for a long time, so I cut it out. I've worm both of my pairs of Classics like this and enjoy them even more than before.

I don't find that the high back on the achilles tendon is irritating in any way, which is what I thought I'd find when first seeing them.

They are comfortable enough that I have forgotten that I'm wearing them, until someone sees them and stares or asks a question about them, which happens about every second time I wear them in public. Now that it is finally getting warmer here, I'll be wearing the Classics a lot more often.

May 17, 2009

Pansy Feet :(

In celebration of the over 20C weather today, I decided to go for a walk completely barefoot. I had high hopes for this walk. I was not expecting the degree of pansy feet that I experienced...

I left my house with my spouse and two dogs with a pair of KSOs on my feet. It was warm and humid this morning, a rare combination for this area. We walked to the nearby soccer fields that have a large expanse of grass surrounding them.

Just before reaching the soccer fields, I decided to take my shoes off. I thought that the grass was growing enough by now to be soft and thought that it would still be cool from the night before.

The first thing I noticed was that my feet were bending more. I don't know how else to explain it but they would bend to the contours in the ground much more than when wearing VFFs. I liked it, I felt like my feet were getting an excellent workout.

The second thing I noticed was that the grass was not soft. It was prickly. I guess there was not enough new grass yet to cover up the rough dead grass underneath (spring starts late here in southern Alberta). I chose a path next to the soccer fields that is trampled down from soccer players running around the field, which ended up being softer than the grass further from the fields. It started feeling less prickly on my feet.

I enjoyed the feeling of stretching my feet, completely free of any shoe. I enjoyed the way my feet bent around the contours of the ground. I enjoyed the feeling of the warm new grass (when there was patches of mostly new and not old grass).

As we left the soccer fields, the new grass was more sparse and the old grass was prickly again so I decided to put my shoes back on. I was grateful when we reached a part of the park that had recently been aerated and had hard chunks of dirt which would have probably hurt my tender feet to step on without the protection of the KSOs.

When we got home, I laid on the couch for a little while and noticed something odd. The bottoms of my feet were burning. When I looked at them, they were covered in blotchy red spots. Apparently, I'm allergic to something that I stepped on whilst experiencing complete barefootedness :(

I'm not overly surprised as my skin often gets hives from laying on dry grass. I soaked my feet in cool water and washed them thoroughly with soap. They started to feel better.

So until the new grass grows a little thicker, I'll stick to my VFFs on grass. I really want to try going completely barefoot more. Next time, I'll try shoelessness on the sidewalk.

May 15, 2009

Barefoot Triathlon

I felt particular inspired by my triathlon buddies today (thanks Richelle, Susi, and Julie), so I thought that I'd write today about barefoot triathlon.

I had the extreme pleasure of participating in the Strathmore Women's Triathlon this passed August . It was my second sprint triathlon that season, and ever. It was my first (and so far only) triathlon running in VFFs. I ran the 5 km in my Classics and it was brilliant (sorry, no pictures, apparently my feet were camera shy that day).

I arrived at the venue in a pair of VFF KSOs. I received a lot of stares from other participants and spectators. I was asked several times if I was doing the triathlon in these shoes. I said I was running the race in a pair of barefoot shoes similar to the ones I had on. Many people asked me if I was swimming and biking in these barefoot shoes, to which I replied that I was not. I think that any shoes, barefoot shoes or not, would cause drag in the pool and I prefer to wear clip-in bike shoes on the bike. But for the run, they're awesome.

The swim and bike went very well for me for this race but this is a post about running triathlon in barefoot shoes. Coming off the bike, I was feeling a little winded (I had pushed pretty hard on the last half of the bike going uphill most of the way) so was a little worried about how I might feel starting off on the run. I got off my bike and while putting my bike gloves on, I slipped on both my VFF Classics. I bent over to adjust my pinky toes slightly and off I was on the run. No socks, no laces, no other adjustments. I don't know what my time was in T2, but it felt super fast and was definitely WAY faster than my T2 time from my last sprint tri (when I opted for socks and shoes with laces).

During my first sprint tri, I had had a bad experience on the run: my legs felt extremely heavy the whole time, my leg joints and arches ached, and I had a stitch in my side for over half of it. I decided to try this tri in the VFFs and see if it would be different. Everything about this tri run was different and more enjoyable than my first.

The run on a sprint triathlon is 5 km. Not once during the run did my legs feel heavy, it really felt like there was nothing on my feet, the VFFs are that light. I was a little worried about running on pavement because I tend not to do that in training runs but there were no problems for me on the hard surface. I felt no pain in my legs or arches during the entire run. I had no stich in my side and my run time ended up being slightly faster than my first tri run (there could have been a lot of reasons for that, but I'm saying it was because my shoes made me feel so good). Amazingly, I found another gear at the 3 km mark (meaning I found some more speed in me), which NEVER happens to me during a race. And most amazing of all, was that there was even one more gear at the 4 km mark. I am not a fast runner, but for me to find additional speed that I can sustain (even for a short distance) was incredible for me. I'm going to say that "it's gotta be the shoes" (see video in the sidebar for clarification :) ).

I was extremely impressed with the feel of the VFFs during this triathlon. When I participate in more, I will always run them in barefoot alternative shoes (or maybe really barefoot someday). One of my goals for every race I did last year was to complete it pain-free. During my first triathlon, I was not successful; for my second, I was. I credit the VFFs on the run for most of that.

The only thing I'm changing on the run for my next triathlon, is to try to quickly apply some vaseline to my feet before slipping them into my Classics. Because my Classics fit a little loose in some toes, they were a little chafed in some places (as many body parts get chafed during triathlon). I think it was because I wasn't used to running as fast in the VFFs as I ran that day. All skin discomfort was gone the next day but I thought I'd try it anyway (even though it'll slow my T2 time a little bit).

To summarize, I think the VFFs Classics are a brilliant barefoot alternative triathlon shoe and I can't wait to try them out again.

May 13, 2009

No Shoes, No Service?!

I had to go to a mall today. (As a rule, I try to avoid such places but it couldn't be helped today.) Of course, I wore a pair of VFFs. If I have to go to crowded places, I like to at least have happy feet.

Anyway, as I walked in the front door, I noticed a lot of little symbols at the bottom of the door on the glass. What caught my attention today was the following symbol at the end of a long row of other symbols:

I was completely taken aback upon seeing that little symbol! My first thought was: What's wrong with barefeet?! Additional thoughts included: Are barefeet too dirty for this mall? Are barefeet too unsanitary for this mall? Are barefeet not fashionable enough for this mall? Are barefeet not allowed because of some liability issue? What if I step in something wet and leave barefoot foot prints behind me? Is mall security going to follow those foot prints in order to throw out the customer without shoes?

I can understand some of the other symbols in that row, including:

I can understand not allowing smoking, dogs (much to my dismay, I'd love to take my furry family into the mall with me), and bikes into a mall. All of the above can harm other people. I don't think barefeet has ever harmed any person but the person without shoes (except maybe transmissible plantar's warts but one would think that such an afflicted individual would wear socks).

I think that I was insulted by that symbol on the door. Going barefoot is a perfectly healthy way to walk, run, shop, etc. Maybe I'll send the mall management company an email asking why barefeet are not allowed in their establishment...

I guess until the rest of the world sees barefeet as beautiful, we'll have to deal with barefoot alternative shoes...while shopping at least.

May 12, 2009

Reasons people have said they could never barefoot

Number 7 of my last post (Memorable Comments while Barefooting) reminds me of many of the reasons people have said they could never barefoot or never wear VFFs. I thought I'd share some of them and what my response was (or wish had been):

1) My plantar fasciitis is so bad - I had plantar fasciitis for 4 years before I switched to barefoot shoes, and now it's completely healed. My arches are stronger than they ever were because I wear barefoot shoes.
2) I have so many foot problems that I need my orthotics and supportive shoes - I know that my feet have gotten much stronger since switching to barefoot shoes. Without supportive shoes, your own muscles and ligaments support your foot and gain strength and flexibility.
3) I'd be afraid of stepping on something sharp and cutting the bottom of my foot - I've found that my neuromuscular pathways and biomechanics have improved; if I walk on something sharp, my foot automatically removes pressure from the object, without thinking about it. I also wear the VFFs to keep from getting cut, the thin rubber sole allows for significant sensory perception while still being protective enough to not get cut.
4) I wouldn't want to step on something gross with my bare foot - Me neither, that's why I wear barefoot shoes.
5) There's stuff between your toes! - Only in the VFFS. If you were truly barefoot there would be nothing between your toes. There are also barefoot alternatives that don't have anything between your toes (eg, Vivo Barefoot and Feelmax).
6) I could never sacrifice my fashionable shoes - You got me there. I'm one to choose function over fashion, but I know that's not for everyone.

That's all the reasons people have said they could never barefoot or wear barefoot shoes that I can think of for now. When more come to me (or people tell me new ones), I'll write more.

May 9, 2009

Memorable Comments while Barefooting

I get a lot of strange questions/comments and strange looks from people when I'm outside in my VFFs. I thought I'd share a few (and my usual response):

1) Are those things comfortable? (Of course, why would I wear them otherwise?)
2) Does it hurt when you step on rocks? (Not usually, although sharp gravel isn't that much fun)
3) Are those socks or shoes? (Shoes. I wear toe socks inside of them)
4) Why are you wearing those instead of regular shoes? (Regular shoes hurt my feet, legs, and back)
5) Are those good for your feet? (They're awesome for your feet, they're like walking barefoot, the way we were built to walk)
6) Do you run in those? (Of course)
7) I could never wear those because of.... (insert any one of numerous excuses here without being prompted for any explanation) (I generally raise my eyebrows and say nothing to this because I prefer to talk to the open-minded when approached by strangers)
8) What's supporting your arch? (My foot)
9) (While walking at university campus through puddles) OMG! LOOK, someone's footprints are bare!!! (My personal favourite)
10) Where do you buy 'em? (My second favourite :) )

May 6, 2009

An Awesome Review of VFFs

In case you've ever wanted to read a thorough and enjoyable review of Vibram FiveFingers, go to the following link from Living Barefoot:

Review - Vibram FiveFingers: Classic, Sprint & KSO

Enjoy the read.

May 5, 2009

The Living Barefoot Forums

I recently discovered an online barefoot community at the Living Barefoot Forums. It was that discovery, in part, which lead to this blog.

I've read amazing stories about favourite barefoot moments, memorable comments while barefooting, and others' general experiences barefooting. There are topics for general discussions, barefoot running, barefoot hiking, foot care, legal issues & myths, and even a contest to win free Vivo Barefoot shoes!

I recommend the site and the forum for long-time barefooters, those just starting out, or those thinking about switching to the barefoot alternative.

May 3, 2009

VFF KSO - Race Report

Last July (I did mention this blog is catching up from last May), I ran a trail race for the first time ever in VFFs. (It was actually my first season back racing after a 4-year hiatus due to a back injury.) I ran the Sprint distance at the Sundre, Alberta 5 Peaks Trail Running Series.

I remember being incredibly apprehensive about running in the VFFs. Would the trail be too rocky for my pansy feet? Would I have any grip in the mud? Would I have any grip going uphill on slippery terrain? Would my arches start hurting because I haven't strengthened them enough to run this distance on trail?

Turns out that most of my fears did not come to pass as reality. It was a beautiful day for a trail race: perfect temperature, sunshine, and a much drier trail than the year before (even though I didn't race the 5 Peaks before, I have volunteered at their races for 5 years now). The trail was mostly grass for the 6 km race course as it's a popular cross-country ski trail in the winter. There was one big mud puddle near the beginning of the race that I had a little trouble getting through but not too difficult. I just went slow and tried not to fall in the mud (I'm a bit of a klutz). The hills were no problem and my arches didn't have a single twinge in them the whole race.

The things I remember most about wearing the VFFs for that race are the weightlessness of my feet and FEELING the terrain. I find that trail runners feel heavy after a short time, whether it's from lack of leg strength or water/mud weight, I don't know. There was no such heaviness to my feet that day. I also discovered that trail races are much more fun when you can feel the roots, pine needles, leaves, mud, grass, puddles, dirt, and pebbles (although gravel isn't that much fun for me). If you've run barefoot, you know what I mean; if you haven't run barefoot, you probably don't. It is a completely different experience.

I finished the 6 km race with no pain in my feet, legs or back, which was my goal going in. I'm not about the time that it takes to finish a race but more about how I feel while I'm running it. I was proud of myself for attempting the run in my VFFs and happy that I accomplished my goals for the day.

I also finished the race with soaking wet, extremely muddy KSOs. I was relieved when they came out of the washing machine the next day looking brand new again.

My wet and muddy KSOs after the race on the right and another runner in clean, black KSOs on the left (note the muddy legs above the sock line :) )

I also remember that there were two other runners in VFFs after the race, neither had run the race in them as they are both extremely competitive trail runners, but they both chose VFFs as their after-race footwear. I was practically giddy to see other people enjoying VFFs as much as I do.

May 2, 2009

Review: Vibram FiveFingers KSOs

I'm not a professional writer nor am I a professional photographer. This is my first shoe review. I wanted to share my thoughts on the VFF KSO after a year of owning them.

My first pair of KSOs when I first bought them

My first pair of KSOs are W38 grey/palm upper, grey bottom . When I first put them on, they were tight around my foot and hard to get on. They've stretched/conformed to the size of my foot and are easy to slide on and off. It took some getting used to placing my toes in each of the toe pockets properly but now my toes slide into the right place every time.

I still find the KSOs weightless on my feet and still occasionally forget that they're on my feet (usually until someone mentions them, which still happens almost every day). They are the most comfortable pair of shoes I own.

The strap shows almost no wear. There are some bits of material in the Velcro after a year but it still works perfectly with or without toe socks on. There is plenty of room for toe socks in them and they don't affect the fit much other than the strap has to be a little looser than normal.

These particular shoes have been soaked through with mud and yet they will still come perfectly clean in the washing machine. I think they still look new even after a year.

My first pair of KSOs after a year

After wearing them everyday for a week without socks (when they were my only pair of VFFs), they did hold in the smell. I sprayed some Oxy cleaner (has hydrogen peroxide in it) on them, let them sit for half an hour, washed them in the washing machine and found that they didn't smell after that.

When I first bought them I was concerned about how long the sole would last as it is so thin. The only part of the sole that shows wear on my KSOs are on the toes, the ridges have been ground down. There are no bare/ground down areas anywhere else on the shoes that I can tell.

Bottom of original KSOs after a year

Toe bottoms on original KSOs after a year

The KSO is my favourite style of VFFs. I bought a pair of black KSOs to be a little less conspicuous and people seem to comment about them less.

Black KSOs

Between the Classics, Flows, and Surges, I find the KSOs are the most comfortable on my toes and most versatile for moderate weather (Canadian spring, summer, and fall weather that is). My next pair will be the blue/grey upper, camo bottom and I can't wait to get them.

For a more in-depth review of the KSOs, go to:
Keith-In-Training: The Vibram FiveFinger KSO's - Part I
RunningSoules: Vibram FiveFinger Review