Shoes to replace shoes: the barefoot running movement

My feet in the not shoes.

We have traveled an interesting technological circle in my adult life. When I started running in junior high school, we wore plain canvas shoes.  Like the Converse shoes that are now retro-hip.  By the mid to late 1970’s, a technology features race was underway and feet were no longer just flat or arched and terms like pronation and stability entered our vocabulary along with padding and cushioning and support.

Then someone remembered that our feet evolved without padding or cushioning or even covers.  That something as simple as a moccasin is a relatively recent invention.  So now we are seeing running shoes designed to simulate running barefoot.   If you are interested, search on barefoot running.  There is a lot of information about it on the web.  The major sneaker companies all have products.

Anyway, the point I wanted to make is that the industry became more and more technical, with a deeper understanding of anatomy to some up with something seemingly simple.  A piece of form fitting plastic to strap onto your feet.  Basically replacing calluses.

I had been thinking about getting some for years.  More recently I had been whining about how large and heavy my running shoes are to travel with (out of town or to a gym that I don’t usually use in the city.)  Then it struck me this morning that these shoes would be perfect for carrying around.  Less than a pound total and very small and compressible.

Picked up a pair of vibram fivefingers today and just got back from the gym.  Calves are sore from the change in how I run and walk with them.  Hadn’t realized how much my regular shoes were cushioning my walking or how much landing on my heals I had been doing.  Certainly going to take an adjustment period.

Left foot feels great.  But the little toe on the right foot is a little cramped. Like most people who wear shoes a lot, my toes have a tendency towards to come together into a single point instead of spanning out on five separate lines.  I think the little toe is too used to being close to the next toe and the shoe is creating too much separation.  There is more separate on the other side. Guess we will see over time.

I think I might end up being more comfortable with a pair of reef runners.

Anyway, an interesting example of how culture and technology (and marketing) affects our physical being.

Update 8 February 2012

I am on my second pair of the fivefingers shoes.  I wore them around the house for months before taking them outside.  Mainly because as I wore them inside, I notices that different muscles were sore, so I gave my body some time to adapt.  I don’t run with them all the time.  I do use them when I travel and know that I won’t be running outside.

Running is a personal thing, so I cant recommend that you try it.  I see so many joggers in the parks jogging flat footed or heel striking and these are definitely not the shoes for runners with that style.  Unless you consciously want to become a toe runner.

Here is a Runner’s World article about running barefoot.

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