Sunday, March 6, 2011

Back to our roots.... Vibram 5fingers

The concept of Less is more; is very fitting,no pun intended, for the lastest edition to the Vibram FiveFinger shoe family. For some reason the fivefingers massively appeals to me, and I think it is because I am pretty much a barefoot rebel. Even as a child I use to get the shoes of my feet as soon as I can after school and church. Working as a part time lifeguard also gave me the opportunity to work barefoot as much I like. Over the last year or two there has been a massive push from the barefoot community to promote barefoot/minimalist running and this has been getting a lot of attention from running magazines, running shoe companies and runners to discuss and figure out if barefoot running is really that good for you and if modern shoes are in fact doing more harm than good. I think I have found my answer to that question....

A couple of months back my mate in Australia send me a pair of the Vibram KSO Fivefingers and I loved it from the word go. First thing when you put them on is realize how happy your feet feels inside the Vibrams. It is very much like being barefoot, except for the thin layer of rubber protecting your feet from sharp objects. I did a few runs with the KSO and started increasing my running distance slowly to help my feet adjust to the new way of running. Yes, I did say new way of running!

With traditional running shoes we are told that the heel strike is the most efficient way of running as we land "softly" on our heel, and words like support and softer impact is used to sell the lastest technology in running shoes. I have been fooled in the past by this believing more support and softer cushioning is the answer to running better, while picking up injuries along the way and trying to find the next shoe to counter the new problem. From sore feet and cramps, shin splints and tender ankles, I have tried pretty much every running shoe brand out there, spending thousands of $ along the way to find the perfect pair. And dont get me wrong, I have had some shoes that I really liked, like the Brooks Ghosts to name one. I liked them so much, I even bought a second pair should Brooks discontinue the Ghost series. But looking back now I wish I discovered barefoot running earlier in my life and did not get sucked into cleaver marketing campaigns to help running shoe companies make millions out of runners who does not know any better. Then one day, on a whim, I went out for a 6k barefoot run.......................................................and like they say, the rest was history.

While we were in South Africa I managed to pick up a pair of Bikila Fivefingers and decided to take them out for a run the same day. I want to take them off road first, as you need to be careful when transitioning from traditional running shoes to Vibrams. I ran up the side of Table Mountian, the area overlooking Camps Bay, and as soon as I got onto the trail I realized just how special the Bikila's really are. You have minimum support and the shoe promotes forefoot striking, keeping you light on your feet while skipping over rocks along the trails. I'm a massive fan of the fivefingers now, I managed a 38 minute 8km time trail on Saturday and felt really good. This is not a shoe that I would run more than 20km at the moment, as my legs are still adjusting to the Bikilas. For the Comrades I will run with my Newtons, also a neutral shoe that promotes forefoot striking, but more about that later.

This is the new Bikila's and the Vibram description of the shoe:

Built on an entirely new platform, the Fivefingers Bikila encourages a more natural and efficient forefoot strike. This Vibram running shoe features a Dri-Lex covered 3mm polyurethane insole, which is thickest under the ball, to provide excellent plating protection. Below the Bikila, a 4mm anatomical pod outsole helps distribute impact without hindering ground feedback that’s essential to a proper running form. The single hook and loop closure secures your foot within the Bikila as you sprint down your favorite path. A more athletic padded collar and topline finish out the running shoe performance and style. With reflective material on the strap and heel, you stay more visible in low light situations. Hit the road in the Mens Vibram Fivefingers Bikila.

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