Barefoot running has become all the rage. You’ve probably seen a few dedicated barefoot runners at different races and events. You’ve also probably seen a fair amount of people wearing Vibram Five Fingers.
Not to be left out, and to inform my readers, I purchased a pair of the KSO model.
Now I’m not one that just blindly follows fads. I had some really good discussions with people whose training philosophy is solid and respectable. First and foremost, I believe that running shoes are a good thing. They protect your feet and provide support. I realize that there are some who feel that the shoe industry has overly orthoticated America – but I disagree.
Vibram Five Fingers are intended to be used for any activity you would really like to do barefoot, but don’t because you might get cut up or otherwise injure your feet. This footwear provides a thick layer of rubber protection – basically a condom for your foot. These shoes do not provide any cushioning or lateral support. They also look pretty silly when you are caught running in them and people do stare.
I see the real value of Vibram Five Fingers in that they can strengthen the tendons and muscles of your feet. In addition, they encourage the “proper” and more natural running form. Because you have no support you are forced to land on the balls of your feet, and thus end up running from ball to toe. This can help correct people who have a tendency to strike with their heel first.
When you first get your Five Fingers don’t just go out and run your normal distances. You need to ease your way into them. Starting with no more than a quarter of a mile run is more than enough. Trust me. You will feel the burning in your calf muscles from this first short run.
These shoes are also great for river rafting or other sports where being part amphibian is an advantage.
The Bottom Line ~
I believe Vibram Five Fingers are a great training tool to be used sparingly for strengthening the muscles, tendons, and arches of your feet. They can help correct your overall running technique and improve your efficiency. This footwear, however, is by no means a necessity. You can get the same benefits by running barefoot in the grass on the inside of your local track or soccer field. You can also run barefoot on the asphalt – if you’re feeling bold enough. One important note, these shoes look ridiculous and will draw a lot of attention. If you want to keep a low profile, consider an alternative.