Since actually running barefoot seems like a great way to step on glass or rip apart your feet in the city, I decided to try out Vibram Fivefingers, which a bunch of people in the running community have been trying out.
I had already acquired a pair of the Bikila LS version of the shoe 3+ years ago primarily because I was intrigued by the concept of shoes with individual toes (completely unaware of any biometric benefits). I wore them to work and walking around here and there, but never really tried to run in them. Part of the issue was that I did run to the bus stop once in them, but as a heel striker at the time hurt my right leg a bit heel striking almost directly on pavement (no padding in these shoes). In hindsight, I think I developed a minor stress fracture, but at the time I had no idea my form was the reason. At some point, the fad wore off and they became a closet item.
Fortunately I kept them during the move to NYC, and now had them ready to go. Joyce ended up getting her pair for Christmas, and we slowly started in January (in between the snowfalls around where we live that don’t get cleaned up until they melt on their own).
We started out with very short runs, less than half a mile, and very slowly started moving up. One of the frustrating pieces to me was (and still remains) the fact that I’m running much lower mileage and speeds than I know I’m capable of in an effort to strengthen my legs, and as such my upper body doesn’t get the cardio workout I’d like yet.
On the plus side, I’m finding it interesting to see how changes in my form fix ailments I feel. As I mentioned, with heel striking and heel raised running shoes, my calves didn’t get all that much of a workout. When I started out, I was extremely afraid of heel striking, so I overcompensated by essentially never letting my heels touch the ground. Needless to say, running a mile only letting the balls of your feet hit the ground was a bit of a shock to my calves. Slowly I’ve gotten better about midfoot striking and letting my heels gently touch the ground, but I’m still not at a point where my form is perfect.
Another example the other day was while running 5 miles (our longest distance yet), where I lamented to Joyce that my calves kept getting sore after only a mile. She noticed that my feet were dragging a bit when running lately, and that my calves were doing all the work. After I started making an effort to leverage my quads more while striding, my calves quickly loosened up.
Presumably these same changes are also noticeable running with solid form in normal running shoes, but it has taken me wearing minimalist shoes to really open my eyes. I still get frustrated about the restrictions I place on myself at this point, but I’m still really hopeful that I’ll be able to keep adjusting and finish that half marathon in Vibram Fivefingers.