Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thus Far....

Its been a week since I bought the Vibram Five Fingers. Thus far I've only had one comment about my shoes. This evening while shopping at Whole Foods I had a lady come up to me and say, "Those are some gnarly shoes!" I went on to discuss with her why I bought them. She revealed that she had horrible hip problems that prevented her from even doing long distance walking.

Maybe a convert?


These shoes by themselves are not a miracle cure for all things. But they are a good entry into the world of barefoot walking. The shoes have made me much more aware of how big a difference going barefoot can be. For example, when walking upstairs to our apartment while wearing shoes, my left knee (the one that had runners knee) flares up. BUT, when I walk barefoot, I don't feel any pain at all. The Vibram Five Fingers are somewhere in between.

Also, I have to admit, I like the feel of the pavement and cracks below my feet. I can't walk at high speed like I used to. I did one heel to toe foot plant on concrete -- it was not pleasant.

I've also started running with shorter steps (in running shoes of course) in order to land in the middle of the foot instead on the heel. Its not faster, but there is a definite difference in how my body reacts. Its hell on the calves, but its much easier on the rest of the joints. Also, the calves seem to adapt better to the workout than the knees, hips, and quads.

For example, the other day I did 4 miles around Lake Merritt in Oakland. Lake Merritt is a pain in the ass -- literally. For reasons that neither I nor others who run around the lake can explain, running the trail around there is painful on the joints. I've been doing it for 4 years, up till this week my joints would always ache after running around it. But the other day when I ran around it, focusing on landing mid-foot instead of on the heels, and odd thing happened. My calves got trashed while running. But the next day -- no pain in my knees, quads, or hips. My calves weren't even sore. They had recovered within 24 hours.

The lesson therefore is that my entire way of walking and running for the past 30+ years has been a recipe for pain and discomfort. I had always taken for granted that stretching my legs out really far in front and landing on my heel (both when walking and running) was my natural gait. While I don't think I'll be using the Vibram Five Fingers to run on SF concrete, I think I will start focusing on shorter steps, higher cadence, and see where it takes me.

If I'm slower, so be it. At this stage of life, being able to keep running long distances for another decade or two will make me happy.

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