Back in January I decided that it was time to get new running shoes. From what I’ve heard, you should replace shoes every 6 to 8 months. What kind of shoes to get? I loved my Nikes. But Sam and I had been discussing barefoot running and FiveFingers shoes for awhile.
So I started doing some research. I read articles and I turned to one of my favorite running/cooking blogs, (Never home)maker. I remembered how, as a kid, I’d sprint around the house barefoot, loving the feeling of the grass and earth under my feet. And so I went for it. I decided to free my feet and get some minimalist running shoes.
Before I jump into my experience transitioning to minimalist shoes, here’s some brief background for you. I know barefoot and minimalist running are kind of a fad right now and I want you to know there are more reasons to considering this kind of running than just jumping on a bandwagon.
Running shoes, padded and all, encourage you to strike (where or how your foot lands on the ground) heel to toe. When running barefoot, you tend to strike with the middle or front of your foot. Striking with your heel first causes more impact, or stress, on your joints. Therefore, you need more padding in the heels of your shoes to relieve the impact. From what I’ve read, running heel to toe and in padded shoes isn’t necessarily wrong, but can be one of the causes of running injuries. So basically, running and striking on the front or middle of your foot relieves stress and impact on your joints.
Then there’s the whole history of how humans used to run factor. Our ancestors didn’t have shoes. They walked and ran everywhere barefoot. That’s how they’re feet and legs and bodies were built. So our feet are kind of built to run barefoot.
Lastly, barefoot or minimalist running strengthens your feet, especially the arches, and your calves. You’ll use muscles you didn’t use as much when running in regular shoes.
So there are the facts. Here’s how it went for me.
I first bought some Saucony Kinvaras. These look like regular running shoes, but they’ve got muuuch less padding and whatnot in the soles. I figured these would be a good transition shoe into minimalist running.
The guy at the running store advised me to wear them around for about a week before I started running to allow my feet and legs to get used to them. My first few runs in these shoes were…different. I could feel different parts of my legs working, specifically my hips. But after those first few runs, my times were faster, my stride became more efficient, and my body hurt less.
Enter Michael (that’s the chocolate chip cookie-obsessed boy of my last post). He wanted to buy some Vibram FiveFingers. We talked about them a lot. We tried them on a few times at an outdoor store in town. Finally I decided that with the success of the Kinvaras, I’d take the next step.
I bought these Vibram Bikala LS’s, the FiveFinger running-specific shoes. These have pretty much nothing between your feet and the ground but a thin layer of rubber and polyurethane. Plus the whole toe thing looks pretty rad! The first day I wore the Bikalas, I walked 5 miles in them. My feet ached a bit after, as is to be expected. They were working differently! After a week of wearing them around in my daily life, I went for a run. I started with the intention of stopping when things stopped feeling good. I’d read that if you push yourself when transitioning to Vibrams, you could injure yourself. I think I ended up running 3 miles that day. And it felt so good. Fast. Light. Natural. I won’t lie, my calves, they hurt like crazy for a good four days after. Tight balls of ouch. I stretched a lot. Just proof that I’m using new muscles!
Just a quick comparison for you. On the far left are my old Nikes. For regular running shoes, they don’t have a whole lot of padding in the heel. Next are the Kinvaras. The Bikalas are on the right.
Now I alternate between the Kinvaras and the Bikalas. The Kinvaras have been nothing short of wonderful. Me and my calves are getting more and more used to the Bikalas every run.
Have any of you tried minimalist running shoes? What has your experience been like?