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Avoiding runner injuries with Vibram Five Finger shoes

In the last few years, barefoot, or minimalist running has gained significant traction in the running world. This is down to once again embracing life before ‘modern’ shoes, but also to reduce injury and impact that running has on the body. In walks Vibram Five Finger shoes.

I was a late bloomer, not only to the world of running but also Five Finger shoes. I’ve run a marathon and participated in my fair share of 13.1 mile events, but it’s only the past year I’ve been consistently running.

It wasn’t until I had a hefty dose of shin splints that I realised the impact of running in bad shoes. So I got myself a pair of shoes and soles fitted specifically for my foot impression and things improved. My back didn’t get sore but after nine miles however, my knees still felt as though they were on fire. I accepted this as a necessary evil to keep fit and the belly under control. I continued like this until I read the iconic runners book ‘Born to Run,’ which changed my whole outlook to running and modern day footwear. That’s when I invested in a pair of Vibram Five Finger shoes.

What is the concept of Vibram Five Finger Shoes?
Compared to traditional trainers, Vibrams allow toes to move naturally. Whether playing sports, running or surfing, Vibram Five Fingers give you the feel of going barefoot, yet allow basic protection without losing your fundamental sense of touch. By taking your feet out of traditional cushioned shoes such as Nike and Reebok and wearing a foot glove, it allows your foot to build up the muscles and use the arch for the purpose that evolution intended. After all, we are the only animal on planet Earth with an arch in our foot which flexes to varying ground surfaces. This ultimately takes impact off our knees, shins and legs.

Now, Vibram has never actually claimed that this is what their shoes do, in the same way that Nike and other shoe companies have never promised that their padded, cushioned and spring soled shoes actually reduce injury. In fact, after centuries of wearing cutting-edge modern shoes; leg, knee, foot and plantar fasciitis injuries have never been so high! Don’t tell me that the marketing money-making machine has lied to me! Go figure.

Iain’s got mail
I was pretty excited when they arrived. After opening the box, they looked far too small for my foot without all the unnecessary padding found on most shoes. It took some squirming and wriggling to squeeze my toes into their individual gloves. I started with a few short runs which is absolutely recommended whilst my feet adapted. However, after my first run of 12 miles, I noticed that it wasn’t my knees which were sore as normal, it was the back of my calves and the outside toes from straining. This told me that I was using muscles which hadn’t been used before, but also that I was on the right path.

Now I’ve been running in my Vibrams for about two months but I truly notice the difference. My back is straight when I run now instead of my classic hunched over posture. My feet are adapting to uneven surfaces and I can feel the muscles building up in my toes and feet, plus I no longer have back pain when I run. In fact my bodies posture is totally different when I run in Five Finger’s compared with bulky running shoes. For the first month, the bottom of my feet were sore but I expected this as my feet gained strength. I’m allowing roughly 3-6 months for my feet to adapt properly.

Are there any cons?
Of course, Vibrams aren’t without imperfections. They can smell, they sweat, they aren’t always the easiest to put on (this does get easier), and your foot sole hurts as it gathers strength. Plus, if you’re running through mud or puddles, you can feel it squelching through your toes. I fully expected to feel every stone in the path but in truth, I really haven’t had issues with this.

Moving forward, less is more. I have no doubt that my cushioned, comfortable, impact reducing shoes weren’t actually reducing the impact at all. They were simply channelling it into other places in my body.

I don’t claim to have all the answers for runners, but I can tell you what is working for me how running in Vibram Five Finger shoes has been a breath of fresh air.

I went for the Vibram FiveFingers Men’s V. Trail Running Shoes for GBP 90.00. I bought these because I want to be injury free, and reduce the long term damage which running is known to do in conventional running shoes.

Sometimes it feels like the further we advance with technology and clever marketing campaigns, we add more distance between what is good for the human body. Let’s put the purpose back into our feet and step back into minimalist shoes.

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