Unboxing / “Barefoot” Running in Vibram Five Fingers

Vibram Five Fingers Bikila

Vibram Five Fingers Bikila

After reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (review coming soon), I became extremely curious about barefoot running.

The explanation in the book, I’m summarizing, is that human beings ran for millions of years barefoot without any problems.  Within the past 30 or so years companies like Nike and New Balance have “scientifically engineered” shoes to “prevent injury”.  Yet despite the millions spent on their research and development the injury rate of modern runners is 100%.  How can that be?

The theory is that modern running shoes “box in” your feet and cause many of the tiny muscles to weaken and atrophy.  Barefoot running, on the other hand, allows your feet to adapt and conform to the ground.  This keeps all those muscles happy and healthy.

So I did a little more research about running barefoot and it lead me to Ethiopian runner Abebe Bakila.  Abebe was the gold medal winner in the 1960 Olympic Marathon.  And guess what… he ran all 26.2 miles barefoot!

While Googling Bakila, I stumbled upon a company called Vibram Five Fingers.  Vibram calls their product a “barefooting alternative” and have a huge cult following.  Five Fingers have been used for years for outdoor sports, but to my surprise they just launched their first running specific shoe, the Bikila.

I went right out, bought a pair, and have been running in them for about a 6 weeks.  It is recommended to “work you way into” these shoes as your foot muscles need time to adjust.  So I have been using these only twice a week and on my shorter (3-5 mile) runs.

Here are my observations:

  • WOW are these fun to run in! :-P
  • They are extremely light.  My Nikes feel like lead boots in comparison.
  • My cadence (foot turn over) is much faster due to the lightness.
  • The minimal design of the shoe really does change your running form.  I immediately straightened my back and took smaller steps.

While this is a “work in progress” I am already seeing results.  When I started running with them I averaged around a 9:3o pace.  Tonight I finished my run with an 8:10 mile!  Note:  I am faster in my Nikes, but the gap is closing!

Anyway… enjoy the unboxing pictures below :-)

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14 Responses to Unboxing / “Barefoot” Running in Vibram Five Fingers

  1. Mike says:

    I like the idea of running barefoot but I also don’t like the idea of stepping on a nail or a piece of broken glass (or used condoms as I’ve seen a few times on the streets in Queens). How do the bottoms of these feel? Do you tend to feel more rocks when you run or do they offer enough protection?

  2. jsoldo says:

    Yikes, be sure not to slip on the condoms! :-( These shoes are great because they are like running barefoot, but still offer some protection. If you step on a pebble… yes you “feel it” but it doesnt “hurt”. There is a big difference :-)

  3. Mike says:

    Cool. When I first started running before I had actual shoes for it I used to run in converse. They offer about as much protection as a wet sock so even the tiniest pebble felt like a boulder.

    • jsoldo says:

      Some still might argue that converse are better than a “modern day” running shoe. The only problem with Converse is that the bottom is flat so a gap is created between your arch and the bottom of the shoe. Check the pictures on Vibrams above, they dont have that issue. The bottom conforms to you foot so it really is a “barefoot” experience :-P

  4. Raquel says:

    I’m intrigued. I have seen a couple of people racing in these in the past year or so, but I wonder if my toes would feel constrained because of my toe-wonkiness (almost all of my toes have been broken at some point and they tend to splay oddly). I’m glad that they are working so well for you and that you’ve picked up the pace!

    • jsoldo says:

      Hello Raquel, welcome to Running Dummy! Thanks for stopping by ;-)

      Sorry to hear about your toes, that sounds terrible. However, I’ve read that alot of people get into these shoes after an injury. The minimalist approach of Vibrams really does tend to reduce the risk of re-injury.

      Think of it this way… before the last 100 years what would you have dont to fix the problem? You wouldnt go out and buy Nikes :-) You would just keep running barefoot and your body would correct the problem. That’s what the general thought of Vibram fans is anyway… take it for what its worth!

  5. I think that book must have sucked us all in! I switched to the Nike Free’s as a sort of in between because I was in marathon training at the time I read it. I like them…but still want to trade down to the vibrams

    • jsoldo says:

      Its a great book ;-) I have yet to try the Nike Free’s. How do you like them? I’d be curious to see how they compare with the Vibrams…

  6. Rachel says:

    These are some interesting looking shoes, and the book sounds interesting as well. I would love to buy these if I had the money, maybe sometime in the future lol.

  7. jsoldo says:

    Just posted a review to the book:

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