Monday, December 28, 2009

There's GOT to be a Better Way-- Part II


If you haven't read Part I of this, you might want to go back one post.  Here, I'll even save you the trouble of having to click around too much to get there.  Just click here:  Part I 

I left off on my last post explaining what I had been learning about running barefoot as opposed to running with shoes.  I tried to leave you guessing regarding what I was going to do with the information... but I'm sure you've figured it out.  And if we're Facebook friends, you probably already know.

Making Contact
The more I read about barefoot running, the more I just wanted to get out there and try it.  I have always enjoyed being barefoot and I love to feel the ground under my feet (unless I'm in my boys' bathroom... then I pretty much have to put on some of those biohazard footies prior to entry).

So the other day, I was a good cross-trainer and went on a bike ride.  After that, I decided to go on very short, one-mile run.  I headed out with the intention of taking my shoes off for the last couple blocks of the run... just to try it.  The shoe part of the run was OK... there was some heel pain but that is "normal" for me.  When I took my shoes off (looking around first to see if anyone was watching the crazy lady remove a perfectly good pair of shoes to go native) and kept going.  It was weird at first.  Then it was fun!  Here's the amazing part:  My heel wasn't hurting!

I definitely felt my muscles in my feet waking up and starting to gripe a bit.  But it was that good kind of pain you get after you've lifted weights.  I had read that barefoot running needs to be eased into slowly... and that is why.  Muscles our feet haven't used much since childhood need to be built up again.

My first barefoot experience, though short, was really enjoyable!  I know what you're thinking... "Wait a minute, this is the same person who enjoyed getting a needle shoved into the bottom of her foot."  Let's just say that I would choose running on pavement, dirt, and seed pods over a cortisone shot any day of the week!

What about Broken Glass, Sharp Rocks, and Grounded Bumble Bees?
I'm not entirely fearless, so I started researching the various so-called barefoot running shoes.  The shoe name that kept coming up was the Vibram Five Fingers.  The name alone was enough to make me wonder if they were serious.  Their appearance is even more awkward.  The name kept coming up, however, in the online barefoot community as a decent foot protection option.

The Search
There are a few barefoot running shoes out there but I decided to give the Vibram Five Fingers a try.  Fortunately, I had received some unexpected cash for Christmas so shopping I went.  First, I tried shopping online but quickly learned that many places were cleaned out of the more popular sizes & colors because of  Christmas and weren't expecting to get more in stock until mid-January at the earliest.

I knew the model I wanted to get (KSO).  And I knew the color I didn't want to get (black).  The black look way too much like gorilla feet for my taste.  All the online retailers that had my size, only had it in black.  So, I tried my luck at the local retailers listed on the Vibram website, not expecting good news.  I called every store in a 30 mile radius (there were eight) and finally struck gold at the Birkenstock store in Encinitas, which is about 15 miles away from my house.

Not only did they have my size, they had it in a color other than black.  Score!  I asked the salesgirl on the phone to hold them for me, convinced my clean-cut, conservative husband that going to a Birkenstock store to buy shoes does not make you a hippie, and off we went.

Here they are, in all their crazy-looking glory:

Side note: Those who live in San Diego County might recognize this Encinitas hill... this is the killer hill right next to Moonlight Beach.  We are going down.  In our van.  But not too long ago this was mile 17 of my running group's 22-mile long run before the marathon.  And we had to go up.  It was fun.

I also wore them geo-caching... one of my husband's favorite hobbies:

They are suitable for street running, trail running, hiking, rock climbing, walking, kayaking, boating, and geo-caching.  I like how they feel, how I can feel the ground through them, and that my feet don't get dirty in them.

I haven't tried running in them yet... the instructions are very clear that you need to gradually build up feet strength before going too far in them.  I hope to give them a short run around the neighborhood after I get some laundry done... in other words, sometime much later this afternoon.

Being Balanced
So, am I giving up on running shoes?  Am I going to become one of those runners who believe there is only one way to run?  Will I start eating only fruits and berries and refuse to wear deodorant?  The answer to all of the above is NO.

Like everything else in life, there needs to be balance when it comes to running.  To jump from one extreme to another in anything is not my style.  I like shoes.  And I LOVE socks.  Wouldn't it be ideal to be able to run properly no matter what is on- or under- you feet?

Will running barefoot/gorilla-footed solve my injury issues?  I don't know.  I hope so.  If I continue getting injured doing what I have grown to love, I'm going to have to try something else.  If that involves spending $400 for podiatrist-prescribed custom orthotics, I'll be willing to try that too.

For now, I'm trying this whole barefoot/almost-barefoot thing.  Because it makes sense.  For now, I'm going to try out alternative running techniques (like Chi Running).  Because I am still a rookie.

You can bet I'll let you know how it goes!!

I'm on a Winning Streak!
By the way... I'm a WINNER!!  I won some Barney Butter from the beautiful, fun, kindergarten-teaching blogger Kelly at She Wears a Red Sox Cap. I can't wait to try it! YUM!


Kelly said...

Wow, very interesting. I've been seriously wondering about how people run "barefoot", now I get it! Now I think I may go try to run with no shoes and see how my knee feels haha. Sometimes I feel like being injured is like a wild goose chase to figure out what is causing it/what will help!

onebadrunner said...

Just found you.

I understand the frustration of "why don't you do another sport?" or "just stop running" - people obviously don't understand.

Crazy shoes - I'm going to keep up with you to see how it goes.
Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

I would like to see these on your feet at church on Sunday ;) Marjie

Sarah said... have to check one of the other blogs I read...she is BIG into barefoot running. Here is the link:

shellyrm said...

Those shoes are awesome. I can not wait to hear if it stops your heel pain.

It is so great that we all have so many options!

Jill said...

My MT wears those shoes a lot and loves them...but he's not a runner. Did you read "Born to Run" by chance? Talks a lot about feet problems and these shoes. I can't wait to read up on how they work for you...very curious.

Ok, I'm going to and add you on FB right now :).

Bob Redding said...

Welcome to the world of barefoot/minimalist shoe running!

I'm about 6 months into it. Loving every minute. It's been like a running epiphany, after 30 some years of running in shoes.

I was born and raised in San Diego but now I live in the burbs of NYC. I work in NYC and run during lunch time. I'm starting a blog about running barefoot in NYC (

Anyway, I'll be reading about your experiences. Good luck and God bless!

joyRuN said...

I have to keep breaking my KSO's in, plus order the socks for them - I got blisters the first time out.

It was also that book "Born to Run" that got me thinking about buying the KSO's in the first place.

Looks like we'll see where this takes us :)

TMB said...

Those are the coolest looking thing ever! I really hope this is the solution to all of your injuries. I can't wait to hear how it goes! Good luck!

Stephanie said...

Ha!!!! I just ordered my Vibrams and can't wait for their arrival. Since my milage is low right now I'm ready for giving them a try.

Denise said...

So interesting!! I just can't imagine what they must feel like. Maybe I need to give them a try.

You know, we started off running barefoot as children...who decided we needed shoes?

Morgan said...

These two post have been so informative and I can't wait to see how it works for you! I've heard so many mixed reviews about "barefoot" running and/or Vibram's but mostly good so I anxiously await your report! Good luck girl!

Patrick said...

What a great post!

I have always wondered what it would be like to run barefoot-- those foot gloves look really cool!

I was thinking---maybe thats the answer to my recent injury. Sometimes sneakers get in the way-- and hurt you more than they do help.

I can't believe your marathon is 39 days away!!!

Bethany + Ryan said...

Hi Sara, i have tried barefoot running before and liked it too! We run so much lighter on our feet when we don't have shoes on! I know people who run in the Vibrams and they really seem to like them! i was thinking about getting a pair to strengthen my feet but since i'm so cheap i'll prob just run barefoot at the track this spring/summer. too cold for barefoot running now!
i hope it solves your injury problems! do you keep a journal/log of your exercising? are you sure you are getting enough cross-training, rest, stretching and weight training? what about your running base? how long did you run for before you ran the marathon? maybe you made the jump to long distance too fast?
that's got to be frustrating when ppl tell you to stop running! i'm glad you're not listening to them!!!!!

RunToTheFinish said...

I have been looking in to this a lot lately, but can't go barefoot around here...grosses me out. So I am still jsut trying to convice myself to buy the vibrams..I'll keep reading your updates to decie

Aka Alice said...

Oh Sara...I can't believe I missed these last two posts...I hope the Vibrams work for you, your foot issues and mine sound so similar. I wonder if they'd work for me...I don't know; most days I can barely go barefoot around the house my heels hurt, so maybe the pain is just a strength issue. My PT certainly thought that weak hips and glutes were part of the problem, and doing the strength training certainly seemed to help. Anyway, can't wait to hear more.