So I finally gave in to the Vibram FiveFingers craze and bought myself a pair of funny looking toe shoes, also referred to as monkey feet. They were sent brand new to my door, along with my very attractive mother on her last visit, (thanks, Mom!)
I spent a long time looking at the shoes. Nervous to try them out as I’ve read so many reviews where people warn you that your body needs time to adjust to the feel of the shoe, that your muscles might ache in new ways after a run, that your feet or toes may bleed as you break them in. That’s enough to almost make me never want to try them on!
But I started slow. I first put them on in the house, (the first few times really takes a while as you try to figure out which toe goes where and to make sure they are all in the right place!) I’d walk around from the living room to the kitchen, and doing mild cleaning, etc. I then worked my way up to a quick outing to the grocery store – just to see how they felt on real ground. And then this weekend I spent an entire afternoon in my shoes (while purchasing plants!)
By the time I got home from the long afternoon my feet were a bit sore and I was grateful to have a break, but at least I was confident I could walk comfortably in the shoes without any strange pains or sensations. Then I decided I was ready for the first real challenge!
So yesterday afternoon I strapped on my Vibrams and headed to the street. Feeling as awkwardas all the stares I was getting running past, I started a jog at what felt like the slowest pace on Earth! I was anxious, but moving confidently. In general, it felt like a very natural run, however I definitely noticed the lack of spring in my movements. There must be something in running sneakers that gives you an extra lift off the ground. For everything these shoes do not have that a typical Nike or Adidas running sneaker do, you make up for in pure muscle power and strength.
I made my way down Danziger Strasse, heading towards Volkspark Friedrichshain. My movements felt slow, but strong, and my breathing was stable. Normally by the 10 minute mark, after I haven’t (admittedly) run in 2 weeks, I am struggling for air, but this run felt different. My breathing felt controlled, and I was concentrating on the movement of my feet and leg muscles.
I made it to the park in 15 minutes, and did a loop around the inner track before heading back to the street. Throughout the run I managed to encounter 4 different surface types: paved road, cobble stone, grass, and dirt path – the last of which was the most complicated. I think dirt or sand is hard enough while in regular sneakers, but I could really feel the movement of the sand beneath my feet. I was still moving forward, but had the sensation that my foot didn’t have a very good grip, so I switched to the grass and avoided all the sticks and pebbles I could.
I can’t explain exactly how it felt while running, I could tell that I was using muscles in the back of my legs differently than I normally do in typical sneakers. Everything felt slightly more challenging, like it was only up to me to propel my body forward and nothing was stopping me from slowing down for a short break. But I kept moving, even though I felt a bit like a snail.
I finished up at 3.8 miles (about 38 minutes), which is my exact average run (10 minute miler, over here!) and felt great knowing that the shoes had not slowed me down one bit! It was merely a different use of my muscles that felt foreign to me and made it seem like the world was slower, but actually, considering my easy breathing throughout the run, the shoes might have even made the exercise easier than sneakers.
I gave myself a good stretch after the run – don’t want to risk injury or muscle cramps – and only noticed that my calf muscles felt tighter than usual. My feet felt a bit tired, I was grateful to take the shoes off, but there was no pain or blisters, (this is a huge plus since I switched from the sneakers in the first place due to the amount of blisters I was getting with every run!) I even did a bit more stretching before bed, just in case, but overall feel fine today. I still have the tightness in the backs of my lower legs, but I think this will be the case until my muscles adjust to the new running method.
But so far I can definitely say running with the FiveFinger shoes has been a great decision. I’m excited to see where else these things can take me!