Vibram Five Fingers – The Review

I’ve had the Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) for a couple of weeks now and feel I can now cast some judgement from the standpoint of an inexperienced barefoot or minimal shoe runner.

Just as a quick aside, I believe that barefoot running applies to running sans shoes but also encompasses runners who choose to wear minimal shoes such as Vibram Five Fingers or inov8 EvoSkins or the VivoBarefoot Evo from Terraplana. There are also shoes most accurately termed Reduced Shoes such as the Nike Free but these aren’t akin to barefoot running as they have a heel pad, albeit a reduced one.

Having decided I was going to try a pair of Vibram Five Fingers I did a quick search of the available reviews and found myself overwhelmed with sizing advice. It seems that most people need to take a size down when switching to VFFs. I followed the rules and measured my feet by standing on a ruler and then ignored the advice as it was suggesting I order size 6 vs my usual size 8.

With a shoe that is designed to wrap neatly around each of your toes sizing is a bit critical. Too long and the little toe will probably float around in the body of the shoe and risk snagging, too short and the problems are obvious.

I ordered size 7 in the end and although my left foot fits pretty well my right foot feels overly snug. Not that it seems to be damaging me but I am very aware of the casing around my toes and that seems a shame when the overall effect of minimal shoe running is so freeing. I suppose the ideal would be to whip them off, throw caution to the wind and run barefoot proper. But that’s not going happen any time soon – I want a sole.

I had a number of fears when I first ran in the Vibrams, I was convinced that they would slip about on the downhills and the natural braking action would leave me without skin on my forefoot. I was really very pleasantly surprised. The shoes really did fit me like a second skin and the effect was natural and fun.

Fun is the key word, on the first run I was encouraged to run further and further than I originally intended because it felt so free and comfortable. That goes against all the advice related to beginning barefoot running but I think it says a lot for the comfort of the VFF.

Having run further than I was supposed to do, I did develop a few niggles. A forefoot blister was simply the effect of inexperienced feet on hard tarmac but I also had a few rubs on the side of my feet which I think relate to rough seams on the Vibrams.

I chose the Sprint model, which has a few straps to assist with fit. Although they fit very securely I think the additional bulk does detract a little from the simplicity of the basic model. Not that any of the range are particularly attractive. I’ve already alluded to the fact that my family thinks I’m a freak for wearing them but they aren’t anywhere near as ugly as the inov8 Evoskin shoes reviewed here by Adam at Fitness Footwear. If I’m tempted by beauty or at least the allure of a normal looking shoe I’d be tempted to go for the Vivo Barefoot Evo, reviewed here by Running and Rambling.

I’ve now had a few runs out with the Vibrams and I’m taking it easier with the distance. I’m enjoying the experience and now feel as though I am so much more aware of my running. More often than not I choose to run without the iPod, happy to listen to the gentle slapping of my rubberized toes while I tune in to how my body is feeling and what the ground is doing. It’s a very involved and yet peaceful way to run.

**There is a link to my other product reviews on sidebar. Please contact me at angela@warriorwomen.co.uk if you have a product you would like me to review.

A Running Conversion

I was offered some lovely Mizuno running shoes to try out last week but they were pink so I looked around to find an unsuspecting victim and spotted a non-runner beside me.

The non-runner has been known to run on occasion but the occasions are brief and of the sprint and die variety. She was a bit reluctant to try the proper thing especially when I mentioned treadmills and 30 minutes but you can’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

I didn’t quite grasp the degree of reluctance but there was a heavy thread of edginess present as we gathered our gear and prepared for the gym. I thought I was being rather helpful but I got my head bitten off when I asked if she’d ever been on a treadmill before.

Stroppy with a capital S doesn’t even come close.

We arrived at the gym and I could sense we only had one breathing person left in the car. Recognizing a severe case of gym related anxiety I offered up a reassuring slap on the back and got myself growled at again. We almost cleared the car when we spotted our neighbour entering the parking area. You don’t want to bump into your neighbour on your first day at the gym, wearing spanking brand new, bright pink trainers, so we made a dash for it and arrived at our treadmills sweating but safe.

It’s quite difficult explaining the use of a treadmill to someone who clearly wants to get the whole thing over and done with. In the end we switched it on and decided to learn on the fly, with the suggestion that she followed my pace until she got the hang of things and wanted to up the pace. A few minutes in I noticed a funny side to side action from the treadmill beside me so thought it prudent to point out the emergency red button which she immediately pounded and we got to start all over again.

I few more minutes later, amongst much huffing and puffing I suggested she take on some water but the bottle was sitting just out of reach on the floor. Apparently my non-runner had been expecting a non-running break for refreshments. I passed my bottle over and watched the next incident unfold. Lynn dropped the bottle top and started to bend down to pick it up before sensing the relentless drag of the track beneath her. She managed to right herself and pick up the pace barely millimeters before tippling over the edge.

I have to say it was one of my more enjoyable running experiences, positively entertaining. Of course this wasn’t just about the conversion of a non-runner, it was also about the shoes. I shouted above her grumbles about stitches and being tired and wanting to stop and asked her about the shoes – “How are the Mizuno wave shoes?”

It was quite amazing, her face brightened, the beetroot tinge seemed to leave her face and she actually smiled. “They’re very comfortable….no they really are”.

I wasn’t doubting her, they did look comfortable. They are very light and still seem to have a heavily cushioned sole. Even the pink bits weren’t so noticeable when they were worn with jogging trousers. I’ll go for a pair of these when my Asics have worn out, they are cheaper than the Kayanos I wear but seem to offer a similar fit.

The satisfaction must have lingered because she’s already suggested she join me for my training run tomorrow.

FitFlops

My general lack of running has been noted and rather strangely rewarded by the nice people at fitnessfootwear, who kindly offered me an alternative route to fitness in the form of a pair of fitflop sandals.

If you check out the fitflop website you’ll find it littered with comments, from happy feet owners, claiming that the fit flop has “changed my life” amongst other such accolades.

My pair sat on the shoe rack for a few weeks, trying to shoulder up to all the unused running shoes, and left my life resolutely unaltered. I took them out this weekend though, and then sat back to wait for the epiphany.

They have micro wobble boards.
I like the sound of that, it sounds so sporty, at least until I sit down again to ponder their purpose.

If you place the flop on a flat surface it wobbles too and fro but as soon as I apply my bulk they flatten out quick smart. Of course that may not be the bulk at work, perhaps my myriad core muscles have kicked in and stabilized the whole show. Maybe, just by standing on their bed of lovely cushioned wobble boards I am saving myself the bother of attending my pilates classes.

Let’s hope so because I can’t really do much more than stand in them. Walking proved to be a rather peculiar battle. I felt like someone had switched the pavement on and I had to run along on my tip toes just to keep up.

I suppose that could be their design, or perhaps they are just too big for me.
I’ll wait a little longer for this epiphany.

**There is a link to my other product reviews on sidebar. Please contact me at angela@warriorwomen.co.uk if you have a product you would like me to review.

White Rabbits and Grey Shoes

I think I may have suggested a little while back, in a pub somewhere no doubt, that I would put happiness to one side and actually start running again in March. The arrival of the month also coincided quite nicely with the delivery of a damn fine pair of running shoes, so the pressure was building.

Salomon XA Pro Ultra GTX

These are the Salomon XA Pro GTXs and are a very desirable pair of trail running/adventure madness style shoes. They require rather beefy terrain so yesterday I bundled the non-runner and the mountain bike into the car and headed off to my favourite off road haunt – Swinley Forest in Bracknell.

Annihilation

The non-runner vowed to stick with me on the bike as I led the way on foot through the undergrowth. With an evil glint in my eye I hit an immediate right turn out of the car park and headed up and across the bracken to the forest proper. It was steep, strewn with stump hazards and ruts and altogether pretty tough going. My lungs were burning and I wanted to quit but the expletives exiting my loved one’s mouth made it all the worthwhile and I kept heading up until I thought she was going to quit on me and head back to the cafe.

Respite from laughter was required so we took a short flat section for a breather before heading off in search of shoe testing swamps and hills.

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The shoes are very impressive. They’re extraordinarily light, in fact I suspected the box may have been empty when I picked it off my doorstep, but I still felt very supported by them. They have a good cushioned sole a very simple and effective lace system. I really like them a lot actually and as I’ve they’ve got a gore tex lining, my feet stayed dry even after a bit of light puddle action.

They are fortunately very grippy as well.

I took the lead on one particularly exciting stretch of singletrack before realising that I didn’t really stand much chance of staying ahead of a carreering lunatic on a bike. I upped the pace and started squealing like an out of control rhino on a snowboard. Legs were ticking over at a rare ole pace but my body was still in the lead. I expected my chin to reach the forest floor just moments before the chasing bike nipped at my heels and left me with broad tread marks along my flattened body.

At the first sign of an escape route, I threw myself off to the side, to roll gently in a bank of soft mud, only to spot the non-runner, half way back up the slope, hands clenched tightly over both brakes, bouncing ever so tentatively and non-threateningly downwards on locked wheels.

I muddied my shoes for nothing…..

SF

**There is a link to my other product reviews on sidebar. Please contact me at angela@warriorwomen.co.uk if you have a product you would like me to review.

New Shoe MoJo

I cut last weeks long run short to attend pressing matters at the allotment so this week I thought I’d reverse my priorities – head to the plot first and then leave the afternoon free for running. After a few hours of digging in the wind I couldn’t decide if I was more in need of back stretching run or a luxurious hot muscle soak waiting at home.

Asics Gel Kayano 14

A mere 2k into the run and the muscle soak proposition was a clear winner, I was seriously considering a sharp left manoeuvre even though it might have been hard to try and pass off the short 5k loop as the weeks long run. Fortunately by 2.5k my spirits were soaring, I seemed to have discovered my new shoes. The run started to feel like a gentle jaunt across a sea of fluffy clouds and I was beginning to wonder if I could extend the run.

Don’t you just love new shoe days?

I’ve always run in Asics, I started with 2120’s but after a spate of problems with my ITB, a visit to the physio and a trip to the local specialty shoe shop to have my gait assessed, I moved up to the shockingly expensive Asics Kayano 13 model. I love everything about this shoe, except for the price, so when the Runnersworld Spring Shoe guide came out last week I poured over it in search of an equally comfy shoe at half the price of course it still nedded to be ideal for the overweight over-pronator. I found the ideal shoe but it wasn’t half the price, in fact I think it was a touch more expensive – Asics have brought a new Kayano model, the Asics Gel Kayano 14 and if possible it seems to be an improvement on my existing shoe.

So if I’m not prepared to settle for a cheaper shoe, I need to find a cheaper source for my fancy running shoes. I’ve just ordered from a new online retailer, Distance.co.uk, who were offering the Kayano 14’s at £88.99 with free delivery. Mine arrived the next day, so I’ll definitely be using them again.

Back to the run, I was springing along the track, realising that my mojo had returned. Full of the joys of running, I was back to sweating, puffing and grinning as the usual Richmond Park breeze did it’s best to flatten me.

Richmond Park

I was still smiling at 9k so when I noticed the offroad track that has tempted me for the last couple of months, I cut across the road and headed for the hills.

I love it when running feels like this – when pace seems irrelevant and the spirit of adventure grabs you, I wasn’t even worried to dirty my new shoes.

I think I’ll be saving these for the Wilmslow half so I can look forward to a morning of running on clouds.

Distance: 12.36 km
Time: 1:43:19