Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Enough time has gone by for me to formulate an opinion on the barefoot running craze that seems to be taking over. Every day, I am seeing more and more Internet articles on the phenomenon, as well as facebook entries, since Vibrams is my "friend" on facebook. More and more events are popping up as well.

As a reminder, when I first started this type of training, it was truly barefoot, while on vacation in the Dominican Republic. The beach there offered the best possible chance to start this, but for me it didn't go quite as well as I would have liked initially. I pulled something on the top of one foot that led to some pain and discomfort running for a few weeks, to the point where I was afraid at first I had a stress fracture. But fortunately, that wasn't it.

My feet were decidedly weak in that I have been running with orthotics or custom made inserts for most of my running years of 22 years now, as well as shoes designed to correct anything that seemed to be a problem for me. Initially, I started out with just the basic running shoe, no frills, no arch support, no motion control, no stability, nothing. I pretty much didn't have any problems other than a stress fracture from running too much in the beginning, and that led to seeing an orthopedist who recommended orthotics for the first time.

Then and now, orthotics were horribly expensive, and at that time while I did buy orthotics, it was a huge stretch of my budget to do so. And the type recommended for me at that time were made out of a cork-like material. I assumed they would last forever, so was terribly surprised and disappointed when after only 6 months they no longer gave me the cushioning or responsiveness I needed or was expecting, and found out later that 6 months truly was the life of that type of orthotic. The end result with wearing those longer than they were designed to accommodate was severe hamstring strains. So while one injury healed, another formed.

Because I could not afford another pair of orthotics any time soon, I sought to correct my supposed biomechanical deficiencies with shoes designed to correct overpronation, which I was told I had, which I didn't. As you can imagine, that led to other aches and pains cropping up. Everything was blamed on just running itself, and while that was likely part of the whole injury equation, it wasn't the entire cause. Needless to say, I spent years trying to figure out what kind of shoe I needed, eventually settling on Brooks Adrenaline, along with custom made inserts. I thought I had the problems solved, but basically my body/feet just adapted to the shoes and inserts.

Anyway, fast forward to now and the attempt to run barefoot. While it didn't entirely work with me to go completely barefoot then, I did end up buying the Nike Free 5.0 shoes. These are the Nike brand of barefoot running type shoe.

So here's my take on these: I love them. Going back and forth with these and my old favorites, these have become the clear winner in shoe of choice. The uppers are as soft as a slipper, and wearing them they are the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn. The soles have flex grooves from toe to heel, so even with some slight overpronation problem, the shoe allows natural movement without restriction. I still have some instability issues in my ankles, but I'm positive that comes from babying my feet for so many years. All the info suggests with time the bones and ligaments will adjust to this type of running.

After years and years of searching, I thought I had found my perfect shoe, which until now I had. But clearly this barefoot concept has benefited me more than hurt me, and its going to be really difficult going back to my old shoes, if I ever do. Which leads me to say:

For sale. New, never taken out of the box, Brooks Adrenaline shoes, size 10.5.


Flo said...

Wow, my feet problems have pretty much mirrored yours. Mine came to head when I developed plantar so bad I cried when I just walked. After getting that fixed I've been very afraid to start running again. That was until I picked up a pair of Nike Free 7.0 on clearance at Sports Authority. I initially bought them because they were pink but they have turned out to be the greatest shoe ever. I am starting up running again as soon as school ends next week and I'm really looking forward to it....

Sunshine said...

Delighted to hear that you have discovered NIKE Free too.
And so good to hear from you.
Best wishes.

Just_because_today said...

same as Flo, I mirrow the same issues. Expensive orthotics, one injury heals another forms. Glad you have found the perfect shoe. I am still afraid to run with no support

Anne said...

I guess this is the perfect solution to barefoot running's biggest problem: downhill running. I've yet to see a true barefoot runner who can actually do it without feeling pain in the forefoot. I'm talking big downhills, not itty bitty hills. These must let you be truly free. Whoo-ey.

Lily on the Road said...

Interesting Vickie, let me know how your back and ankles feel after a couple of weeks.

I'm overdue for new shoes and have been wearing the same brand and style for 10 years....hmmmmmm