Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stuff I Like: Vibram Five Fingers

Last week I ran over 56 miles in my Vibram Five Fingers, including interval training, hills, and a long run of 17.75 miles. I'm not completely ready to give up regular running shoes yet, but I sure do like running in these.

I first read of them in a Runner's World column last year. I saw a pair at Luke's Locker and laughed. Then I talked to a guy running in bare feet at the White Rock Marathon last year. Interesting, but not compelling. Then I read Christopher McDougall's Born to Run. I usually resist getting on any kind of popular bandwagon, but I readily admit to buying into the minimalist running philosophy that he describes in the book.

The idea is, basically, that running shoes tend to cause injury by encouraging improper running form. The cushioning encourages harder heel strike, leading to jarring in the knees. The extra support inhibits natural motion and strengthening in the foot. On this last point, my chiropractor made a good analogy. She said that a back brace is designed for added support, but her patients end up relying on it too much, leading to further injury. So might too much support in a running shoe lead to injury.

I'm no expert in biomechanics, engineering, anatomy, sports injuries, or anything else that matters. But the growing number of people who promote running in VFFs, minimalist shoes (like the Tarahumara huaraches McDougall describes), or barefoot make a lot of sense to me. I do still like having some protection for the soles of my feet, so I'm not sure I'll be running barefoot. I enjoy running in my VFFs, enough that I'm considering running the White Rock Marathon in them.

By the way, they're great for climbing, too!

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