Thursday, March 18, 2010

Vibram Five Fingers Update

I’ve now been wearing the Vibram Five Fingers for a couple weeks.  I’ve learned a few things.

They say you are supposed to start with small amount of running, some say as little at 1/4 mile per day!, and slowly build up no more than 10% of your mileage per week.  At that rate, I would be dead and/or fat by the time I got to an amount that was enough to burn the calories I need to burn and enjoy the running experience.

Perhaps this is just for complete beginners, or people who don’t have much of a history of running.  I have been running for 25 years, I have a few mountainous 50K races under my belt, and have been at a somewhat competitive level at times.  So I am following my own training plan, listening to my body, and will work the transition at my own pace.

My first day, I ran on city streets in Baltimore.  I didn’t do much more than a mile, and my feet hurt.  I put the shoes away for a few weeks, as I thought I might have just wasted a bunch of money.

Then, pain from running in my conventional thick heeled shoes made me reconsider.  I decided to run on the trails at Patapsco State Park, which is on my way home from work, in between Baltimore and DC.  I can run much farther (or is it further?)  on trails.

I ran 3 miles one day last week at Patapsco, then 5 miles 2 days later.  I then attempted to run on pavement earlier this week, did about 2.74 miles at a 7:10 pace.  I felt pretty good, but I could tell that my form was lagging at the end, and my feet were taking a beating.  They hurt quite a bit the next day, and I was worried that I screwed myself up again.

The next day, I decided to take a chance, and see what I could do at Patterson Park near my neighborhood.  I ran carefully on the grass, and no pain!

Today, I ran at Patapsco, did my normal 1 hour loop in 1 hour.  This is good, since I’m actually way out of shape, I had to walk all the hills, but I had so much control on the downhills, and improved speed on the flats, that I still pulled out a decent time.  Once I get my cardio capacity back, I should be able to kill it.  My calves seem to be improving, and I’m developing Cro-Magnon foot pads, from stepping on so many rocks.  Perhaps after I get good at trail running in VFFs, I will be able to run decent amounts on roads.

I have noticed one issue so far with the info in Born to Run.  Some people suggest that stretching is not needed; stretching and yoga will just get you injured.  That may work for some people, but not for me.  When I tried not stretching, or minimal stretching, I got excruciating pain in my upper gluteous region.  So bad, I had to stop, and try again on grass.  I was able to tough through the pain, and eventually it didn’t hurt anymore.  Today, I stretched normally before the run, and I had absolutely no issues.  I will definitely be stretching fully before and after every run.

I have been noticing now that I have made the transition to running with no cushioned heel, that wearing normal shoes at work tends to hurt.  Anything that has a formed arch, including my sandals, hurts my feet.  My flat flipflops feel great, though.  So I am now looking for minimalist shoes to wear to work and casually.  (I can’t wear flipflops to work)  Some people on the minimalist shoe forums and blogs suggest just wearing their VFFs to work.  Since they are enclosed toes, technically, they meet most workplace requirements, unless you work in construction or a machine shop.  Mine get so muddy from trail running, there is no way I could wear them to work.  I would have to get another pair for non-running activities.

For now, I will just pull out the inserts of my boots or casual shoes, and hope that’s enough. 

1 comment:

  1. I think the advice to start slow is due to the fact that many people either 1) have learned improper form from a lifetime of running in high-heeled sneakers (and doing heavy heel striking) or 2) simply have such atrophied feet from lack of use that VFFs make for a massive shock to the system.

    Regardless, most runners (but not all -- this guy was running 30Ks in Vibram Five Fingers within weeks of starting) tend to find it takes quite awhile to build up their VFF'ed milage.

    If you find you're training often in your VFFs and blogging about it, let me know if you'd be interested in joining the barefoot-powered VFF community so others can find you and learn vicariously through your training!