Dawn of the Vibram Five Fingered Cro-Magnon

by / Monday, 06 August 2012 / Published in Adventure, Fitness, Gadgets, Health

 Dawn of the Vibram Five Fingered Cro-Magnon

Have you ever stopped for a moment and realized that when you get home, or when you get up in the morning on a weekend when you have nothing planned, or even when you’re just sitting around the house and aren’t going anywhere that you most likely don’t have shoes on? The reason I bring this up is that man was not born to slip on a pair of shoes and head on out, he just headed out!! As a matter of fact, the earliest known shoe was found in Mesopotamia circa 1600-1200 B.C and was a thin leather wrap worn by the mountain people who lived on the border of Iran. Sandals were the most common footwear of early civilization, and shoes as we know them today have really only been around since the early 1800′s.

If you know me, or you frequent this blog, you know that I like exercise, adventure and gadgets. I embrace all of the above as often as possible, and try to bring them together to see what comes of it. That usually means that if I am exercising or doing some other adventurous activity I am wired up and data connected.  It’s this desire to track my progress that lead to my most recent epiphany.

Ooh the Pain!!
I love hiking, I love cycling, and I really love pushing myself doing P90X or X2 or Tony Horton One on One. You name, I like to do it!! Ooh wait I didn’t say running, hmmm, I wonder why? Well that would be because as much as my head loves a good outside cardio workout, my shins and knees don’t!  There’s something about running that just causes me pain, lots of pain. Usually after a few days of running, the knee braces come out of the drawer, and I begin to walk like I am 90 years old. The shins are the first to go, followed by my knees. My pre-running fuel routine is 32oz. of water, a fruit bar and 4 Advil. I seem to be able to run on dirt and/or grass with little to no issues, but asphalt requires great cushioned and yet supportive running shoes just to minimize the pain, but certainly not elevate it by any means.

Vibram Five Fingers

This Little Piggy Went to the Market
Vibram Komodo SportSo one day while at my local REI, I saw the Vibram Five Fingers. They looked super cool and I figured they would make a great camping shoe for river crossing and boulder crawling. I have Vibram soles on my hiking boots and my Chaco Sandals and know that Vibram is great at making soles, so after talking to a few folks who had the Five Fingers, I opted for the Komodo Sport.  The Salesperson told me a story of a Runner that had recently bought a pair and immediately went for his usual run and broke is feet. Apparently you should ease into wearing these and not just jump in feet first! I wasn’t intending on running, but heeded her advised and wore my Komodo Sports a few hours a day until they became as natural as no shoes at all.

I really enjoy these shoes! On a recent camping trip I came across a rock out cropping that was completely out of place and looked like the perfect place to scramble around with my Vibrams. I spent what seemed like an hour up over and around this rock formation like I had four hands, it was quit exhilarating!

If you have followed this blog, or read any of the other posts you might recall that I ran the Gladiator Rock N Run in Arizona. This summer, I will again participate in the Gladiator and the Tough Mudder. Knowing that I needed to start putting some miles on my feet, I began running during my lunch hour. In Arizona I have Saucony’s running shoes that are great for asphalt running and the daily Boot Camp beat downs at Rock Star Boot Camp. I did not have the Saucony’s in Washington, so I ran in my FILA gym shoes which had never been out of the gym. Big mistake!! Within 800 or so yards, my left shin and right knee hurt. I couldn’t just quit, what kind of Tough Mudder would I be? I ran until the adrenaline kicked in and I could deal with the pain, but my performance was less the admirable and almost sad considering my fitness level. The first run was a total of 4.01 miles in 43m 6s. More runs were sure to follow, so I began prepping with Advil before each run and was working to change my foot fall and stride in hopes of reducing the impact on my legs. I did a gym workout the next day in order to recover before the next pavement smashing. The second run was the same or slightly worse 4.02 miles in 43m 57s, as I was running with a blister gifted to me by the first outing. The third run was pretty much the same as the others except I now had moleskin to reduce the friction and I went a different direction but still achieved the same times 4.15 mile in 42m 24s. On average my SportsTrack Live application would let me know just how slowly I was running keeping an average 5 to 6mph pace

On Your Marks, Get Set, Toes!!!
After the three runs I realized I was not improving, my legs hurt and I needed to change how I ran before thing got worse, and trust me I had been there before, 2 years ago when I tried and quit running all in a short few month period. I had not slid on the knee brace yet, so I knew there was still time. That’s when I remembered hearing about people who really enjoyed running in their Vibrams. Remembering the story that the Salesperson at REI told me I knew that if I were going to run in my Komodo Sports, I was going to have to be very cautious, and take things slow at first. The Vibram website recommends running 10% of your usual distance and work up. On August 3rd, I slipped on my Komodo Sports and headed to work planning for a beautiful summer’s day run during lunch. What happened next can only be described as some sort of miracle. I started out on my run and instantly noticed is the lack of pain in my shin and knees. My stride seemed longer, and I felt faster! This would all be validated the more I ran, as my SportsTrack Live application indicated that I was running at 9.5 mph? 9.5 mph! What, how? I could not believe what I was hearing, and what I wasn’t feeling, PAIN!!! I was pain free and cruising down the path. I figured that at some point I would need to turn back as this was going to start to hurt and I did not want to walk back to work. Remember, the Vibram website says to only run 10% of your usual distance. Well at my current pace, I was at the half way point before I knew it! I felt great so I just kept running. When I was back to work, I took a look at the SportsTrack Live report and was surprised to see that I had run 5.52mile in 35m 23s with an average pace of 9.37mph!!!

The next day I had none of the usual pains or aches. That is not to say that I did not hurt, my calves were tight, and still are 3 days later. I attribute this to the change in form, as I seemed to be running on the forefoot and ball of my foot with little heel contact with the ground. This meant that my calves were engaged and propelling me the entire time. I recall feeling very spring loaded and light! I began to research this to see if anyone else had every experienced a similar reaction to running in the Vibram Five Fingers, and came across this article about a Runner named Harry Summers of Australia that has aspirations for the 2012 London games.

Saucony Shay XC2_02I will continue to run in the Vibrams, but have purchased a minimalist Suacony Shay XC running show for use in the Tough Mudder. Since it is specifically designed for Cross Country terrain I am hoping that it will give me the traction to climb the Everest wall, and be thin enough to not become weighted by the water obstacles as did my running shoes when I did the Polar Bear plunge during the Gladiator. To top it off, they came in Tough Mudder Orange that will go awesome when I get my Tough Mudder headband…

So if you’re thinking about getting some Five Fingers, I hope I have given you a little more incentive as they have truly made a believer out of me! If you were to take even one piece of advice away from this article, I would advise you to please take it easy, and if you want to do some further research, read the below post about others who have opted to run in the Vibram Five Fingers.




Had I read these posts, I might have run a little slow and shorter in distance until my legs had become accustom to the change in muscle engagement and stride.

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