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.

No comments: