The following post was put up on this site in late March after a long day of fielding questions about my shoes (Vibram Five Fingers) and my choice to not wear conventional shoes. If you have not read this already I recommend you do as I think it’s a pretty good read. That is of course my own humble opinion. At the end of the post I have put some updated info and follow up thoughts that I have after the four plus months since I wrote it.
I spend a lot of my day fielding questions about my feet and my shoes. For the better part of my day I enjoy it. I love educating people and sharing what I know with others. Being barefoot however is something that takes extreme patience when it comes to teaching people. The shoe companies have done an amazing job of making us think a certain way. I work part time in a pediatric urgent care clinic and we have there what is called a post-op shoe. This is essentially a cloth shoe with a one-inch thick stiff sole and some laces. It is used to brace someone’s foot and keep it from moving while it heals from injuries. I marvel at just how much these post op shoes are like a lot of running shoes on the market. There are so many shoes with extra padding in the sole for cushion and denser padding for stability. You would think that a person’s foot is not supposed to move at all given some of the criteria for a running shoe. I am no all knowing expert and I held on to a couple of pairs of “normal” shoes for those times where I might injure my foot and need some extra protection or stability but they are basically collecting dust because I don’t have injuries or joint pains any more. There are countless stories like mine on the web where someone had knee, ankle, foot, hip, or lower back pain every time they ran, took a step, or even sat still too long. Then they questioned the norm and took their shoes off only to find that things did not hurt anymore. I had my knee practically rebuilt and struggled with pain every day. I tried all the latest shoes as soon as they were released and nothing really ever made it go away. I used multiple weight training plans from my years as a trainer and none of them helped. I then decided to listen to what I told everyone else out there. Get a simple, flexible, neutral shoe, and set things right. “Make your foot work the way you make the rest of your body work” is what I told countless clients over the years and yet I had fallen prey to all the backwards crazy logic and let the fact that I had pain and I knew what I was doing get in the way of what I knew was right. I started with a pair of Nike Frees and they were great as I felt a lot of my leg and foot control start coming back. I also felt a lot of my pain start to go away. Then about three years ago a fellow trainer, with my functional beliefs, spotted the Vibram Five Finger Sprint and I was hooked. They looked crazy but they were exactly what I was looking for. I drove over an hour to the only store in the area that sold them at the time and went home with a pair that was almost two sizes too small. I did not care because I had to have them and they worked! My pain is all but gone these days. My knee doesn’t hurt and I can do all the things I did before I ripped my knee in half. I have since upgraded my collection to include the Classic, the KSO, and very soon the Bikila. I have also decided to go barefoot full time in the mold of Barefoot Ted (barefootted.com) who I admire for really holding true to his beliefs in the faces of some great runners and knowledgeable people. I too will stick to my guns because slowly but surely the world is seeing what we see and realizing that maybe we aren’t crazy. I am not saying everyone has to go out do what I am doing and it is certainly not the only way but there are muscles in those feet of yours and they need to be trained like any other muscle in your body. If you’re already barefoot, stick with it and if you aren’t yet, give it a try as you just might like it.
This post was written early in this site’s life and after a day where I was a little frustrated at all the questioning of my lifestyle and training choice. I have been running since I was eleven or twelve and I have been coaching people for about fourteen years now so I tend to think I know what I’m doing. Still people that day just thought I was crazy and had no idea how things worked. I still go back to this post sometimes just to sort of remind myself how I got where I am today.
I have the Bikila’s now and have completed a half marathon in them. They are a great minimalist running shoe.
I have also added the ZEM shoe to my arsenal and love it! It’s a great choice in the minimalist footwear line.
I do not go completely barefoot anymore. It’s too hard on the feet in this crazy Texas heat, too many places here do not allow it, and to be honest I kind of like wearing shoes; even if they are only a few millimeters thick.
I’ve also started toying with racing flats in my training regimen with some fairly interesting results that I will chronicle later on in what I think is turning out to be a pretty interesting article.
So I hope you don’t mind the recycling, but I was toying with some formatting today and after reading it I had some thoughts I wanted to share.