Saturday, June 28, 2008

FiveFingers: Downside, Upside, and Objections Overruled

[Above: Me in my FiveFingers--about to do yoga and meditate in Sedona, Arizona. FiveFingers rock for outdoor athletics where you need flexibility.]

Still trying to decide whether to get a pair of FiveFingers and try the "barefooting" experience for your runs? You know you want to. Maybe this will help--a quickie breakdown.

  • Feels natural, like barefoot--only better. Running shoes reduce your power by 4%. Or put another way, running barefoot increases your power while reducing your chance of foot or ankle injuries.
  • A place for your toes and every toe in its place. Your toes will empower your running and agility.
  • Like running in moccasins, only with toe separation. Like the way you are supposed to run only can't in a uni-toe shoe. You will run or trek with a better sense of the terrain under you and will move more responsively.
  • You will get a feeling of foot euphoria. Can't explain this any other way except that your feet will like wearing FiveFingers.
  • You will be able to run in most terrain: through water, mud, slippery rocks, and back onto dry land again without missing a beat
  • Run without socks--no need to scramble for a matching pair before you hit the road or trail. One less thing to worry about.
  • Wash and go--your FiveFingers will always stay fresh (just remember to air dry them) with frequent washes.
  • You will use your calves and foot muscles more than in uni-toe running, so will build up other parts of your running strength--great for training even if you do not race in them
  • If you are a natural pronator or supinator, your badly striking feet will not be tolerated by your footwear. FiveFingers forces you to land with your foot correctly positioned.
  • If you are a heel-runner, the same goes for you--FiveFingers makes you run with a toe-down strike rather than a heel-strike.
  • You will be the envy of those who are attracted to strange footwear (sisters and brothers, there are lots of us who like weird shoes--trust me)

  • It is possible to hyper-extend a toe if you land wrong (this happened to me while I was walking my dog--not running--so be careful). Sprained toes take a long time to heal.
  • If you run with your feet too low to the ground, you run the risk of scraping a toe accidentally, so be sure to pick your feet up

As you can see, the Downside list is mighty small. Just try them is all I gotta say. You have to try it to really see for yourself.

Objections Overruled

  • You may be thinking you need the support, blah, blah, blah. Well what did Native American people wear when they ran hundreds of years ago? What do Kalahari Bushmen wear when they run? What do the Masai people wear? Do any of these native peoples have hammertoes, fallen arches, bunions or other foot maladies? Studies have shown, shod feet with foot supports make your feet lazy and more prone to injury.
  • You may be worried about debris on the trail or road and the potential of getting injured by it. If you can't barefoot, then FiveFingers it. FiveFingers will protect you while still providing the barefoot experience. The soles are thin but but thick enough to do the job. You probably won't want to wear them on rocky terrain if you are running, but then again, should you be running on rocky terrain? If you are walking on rocky terrain, FiveFingers is still your best bet.

See Barefoot Running, by Michael Warburton.

According to Warburton:

Running in shoes appears to increase the risk of ankle sprains, either by decreasing awareness of foot position or by increasing the twisting torque on the ankle during a stumble.

Running in shoes appears to increase the risk of plantar fasciitis and other chronic injuries of the lower limb by modifying the transfer of shock to muscles and supporting structures.

Running in bare feet reduces oxygen consumption by a few percent. Competitive running performance should therefore improve by a similar amount, but there has been no published research comparing the effect of barefoot and shod running on simulated or real competitive running performance.

Lastly, if you don't believe me, do some research of your own, searching by the term, "barefooting." You will find a retro trend emerging--a return to our unshod roots. Or, those of us who want barefoot but with protection, there is FiveFingers.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Moisturizer for People Who Hate Moisturizers, or How to Turn Your Skin Peachy Smooth Overnight

Magical. Miraculous. Unbelievable. That's the feeling I got when I read the extensive, dramatic literature published by SkinMD Natural to describe their skin lotion. Testimony after testimony. Medical evidence. Extensive documentation. Braggadocio. Snake oil.

Or not? Well, I'm a chick, and a 40-something, so have only slightly besmirched hopes for the discovery of the next fabulous skin cream that will smooth the crepey skin on my hands and arms, iron out the tiny wrinkles under my eyes, and soften the lines on my neck and collarbone. Please, I ask the demi-gods of beauty. Let there by such a magic potion and let me be privy to it. (And let it not cost too much.)

Well, I got a sample of a new type of lotion called a "shielding lotion." I had no idea what that was or why shielding should be necessary for skin, but I watched the video on the SkinMD Natural website in which a scientist rubs the lotion on his hands and arms and then proceeds to pour acid over his hands—an acid so strong that it gradually eats away at the rocks he holds in his hand while pouring. All the while, his hands are undamaged—shielded as they are by the amazing SkinMD Natural lotion. The video was a bit cheesy, but the message was clear. Shielding means protecting. And sealing in.

So I tried SkinMD—hardly daring to be optimistic, expecting to be underwhelmed. I opened the container and smoothed it on. First, I noticed no fragrance. Check. Then, I noticed how silky it felt and how it disappeared lightly and immediately on my skin. Check and double-check. Next, I noticed my forearms, where I had spread a few drops, felt peachy rather than dry. Just a lovely, soft peachiness. Yum. But the next part didn't become evident until some time had passed. The next day, my forearms had—I want to say, become younger—but without any drama, I admit, the crepey skin was gone and softer skin was all I saw and felt.

I was encouraged and excited about this new, smooth skin thing. But I wondered if it were a fluke. I kept applying and after a week or so, became convinced something magical was indeed going on. I started applying a light dab to each cheek (I have oily, problem skin with a tendency to break out, so I'm VERY reluctant to put any lotion on). No problems. Then, I wondered about the skin under my eyes. The label reads, for "Face, Hand, & Body," so why not? I'm already happy with my nighttime under-eye cream (I use Juliet's, available on eBay), but could a shielding lotion be layered over an effective cream to seal it in and intensify it? The answer was immediately clear the next morning. Yes, yes, yes.

For one month, I've been using SkinMD, and I'm delighted in every way. No breakouts. Smooth, peachy, crepe-free skin. Soft, touchable, more youthful skin. If I were extravagant, I'd use this lotion everywhere—I'm convinced it would work beautifully on legs and tummies, but want to conserve the rest of my lotion. The cost is around $25 for a four-ounce container—a reasonable amount, to be sure, but I'm not quite ready to lavish myself in utter luxury. But maybe I'll change my mind about this—who knows? I've been surprised before.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sad Day for the Running Sport: One Dead in Chicago Marathon, One Dead in Army Race

He died with his running shoes on, sweating and panting in the 88-plus-degree heat and intense humidity of a Chicago morning--unseasonably humid and hot for this time of year. But the worst of it was that he was only 35 years old! Chad Schieber, a veteran police officer, passed away yesterday while running the Chicago Marathon, and 300 other runners were hospitalized for heat-related ailments. Shortages of water and fitness drinks were reported along the marathon route, and the race was canceled midway through.

It was a sad day for the running sport. Another runner died yesterday of heat-exhaustion—in an Army 10-mile race, but the runner's name has not been released. He died just short of the finish line, near the Pentagon.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

How FiveFingers Turbo-charges My Running

I've been running with the FiveFingers Sprint for a couple of months now, and I keep asking myself how . . . how is it that I feel lighter on my feet? How is it that I run a little faster, a little farther, with a little less effort? How is it that I enjoy running so much more than with a uni-toe running shoe?

Finally, I think I'm getting an inkling about how it works. First of all, I'm a pronator. My feet hit the ground at an angle. But when I'm wearing FiveFingers, there's no stuff between the ground and my foot to absorb the pronation, and my feet are forced to hit the ground straight on. Secondly, I'm not just running on my own propulsion. With FiveFingers, I now have 10 little assistants helping out. Between those two improvements, I feel a considerable boost in my overall running performance. I run differently and I run better.

Another benefit, and this is just a preference, but I love to be able to walk out the door without fussing over which socks to wear running. If socks are too thick, they make your feet hot. If they are too thin, your feet flop around in your shoes. FiveFingers fit snugly like gloves, so naturally I wear them barefoot. It's easy. I don them and walk away. My socks are collecting dust and it's one less complication in life. And because the shoes are washable, I've always got a fresh pair. I think I'm in love with these turbo-charged, always fresh foot-gloves!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Primal Barefooting Experience in FiveFingers

I have to admit, FiveFingers taps into something primal--something closer to an innate foot intelligence--that probably all animals have. We humans seem to muffle this foot intelligence by distancing ourselves from the earth underfoot. We put padding and layers and stabilizers and contours and an endless array of stuff between us and the surfaces on which we move. Lots of reasons to do so--protection being the main one. But when you strap on a pair of FiveFingers, it's like throwing your hair in the wind, sending out a joyful "Whoop," and dashing through space just for the sheer joy of it. Like the way riders feel on their motorcycles, with disdainful looks at the cagers (folks in enclosed vehicles)--it's hard not to feel smug toward toe-squishers (folks who wear all-toes-in-one shoes) when you are wearing your toe-liberating FiveFingers.

Now back to running in the Sprint, I am surprised at how much of a difference my legs and feet experience in them. And how much the liberation of a few measly, humble toes can make such a difference. Most noticeably, my feet feel like they are enjoying the workout too. Every toe gets a little action in the whole symphony of the pace. When I tread on an uneven surface, my foot takes charge, and adjusts before I can even think about it. And unlike running in standard running shoes, I am surprised at how much more work my calves are doing--they talk to me at the end of each run and are responding quickly to the new demands.

There's a genius to the design of the FiveFingers and I don't understand all the ins and outs of it, but I like what I feel and I look forward to each run with a childlike exuberance.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Running in FiveFingers: Invigorate and Energize Your Feet

Got my tester pair of Vibram FiveFingers last week. I wore the Sprint style--a mary jane--a little each day, as directed in order to get used to them. Today I ran in them for the first time and didn't require any getting used to them at all--I felt fabulous! Remember how it felt to run as a kid? Dashing through the grass? Happy? That's how it felt and more. Like an epidural for barefoot running--I could sense the ground under my feet, but had no discomfort from it. No sharp edges, no sense of pounding. I'm a toe runner anyway, and I think the FiveFingers are excellent for toe-runners. The fit is snug, and each toe is treated as a little member of royalty. They are super-cool-looking too. Hope to run the Las Vegas Half-Marathon on December 2--that is, if I can get buy-in from my hubby. He often travels to Vegas on business--maybe we can work it in--bring the kid and head over there--it's only a six-hour drive or a short flight from L.A..

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me and Thanks, Mom!

Every July 17, I give my sweet mama a call. She lives a long way away--in the mountains of North Carolina. On this day, I give her my thanks. "Thanks, Mom, for my birthday." When I got home from the grocery store and from yoga just now, she'd left a message for me, singing "Happy Birthday to You" in her sweet soprano, only slightly smudged by age.

[Pausing to call Mom]

Shucks, she's busy. Probably out partying with my dad and brother, which would mean, basically, they'd all drive to a favorite local restaurant (the more low-brow, the better) and have a little lunch. Mom is 85, Dad is 86--and still drives.

I'm 45 today. Who-hoo. I am grateful to still have my parents.

I'll call Mom again later. I vote that everyone make a habit of calling their mom to thank her on their birthday. After all, it's the moms who went through all the pain and struggle of our birthdays, and who know it the most intimately. It ought to be about them, don't you think?