I’ve waited a while to write this as I’ve spent the last 8 months transitioning to vibrams and recovering from a couple foot injuries.
I spent much of last year desperately trying to find a shoe that worked for me after a few models I liked were discontinued or redone in a way I no longer liked. I had always been a chronic heel striker and the thought of wearing vibrams terrified me with rocks glass nails potholes etc.. I thought how could those shoes possibly work.
I finally just started to get mad. I was hobbling around with pain in my hips still running 50+ miles a week. Various pains in my feet and ankles that just weren’t getting better no matter what shoe i wore. I started to wonder why we even needed shoes but how would I go barefoot?
I decided to change my form to a forefoot strike landing on the ball of my foot. I ordered a pair of vibram bikilas. I started the first week in a pair of newton gravity’s I had. They were a low drop and promoted a forefoot strike. When the vibrams came I started to work them in. Immediately my hip pain went away. Things got better.
Now long story short due to a pair of vibrams being too tight I suffered really bad tendonitis in my left foot and this stalled my transition.
I now only run in vibram 5 fingers. I’ve run in quite a few different models now and like them all they all have their ups and downs. The biggest issue I have with some models is heel to toe they are great but height wise some are too snug and that can cause some top of the foot / tendonitis pain. I have had to re-lace a few pairs to ease this and I may try the next size up in a couple models.
What’s so great about them? Its lower impact. Once you get transitioned over and your feet strengthen and your calves and Achilles tendon adapt to the zero drop of the vibram things get better. It is a lot like starting over especially if you’re a habitual heel striker like I was. Though I’ve managed to keep my mileage up pretty good while transitioning I did have many weeks where I had to back off and rethink how I was landing etc..
The shoes seem to last longer than regular shoes as well. With the exception of the bikilas and the v-run model. For some reason my right foot slips around a bit more in them and I end up wearing out the sole more this is a problem with me I believe and not the shoe in time I hope to figure it out.
I’ve also noticed in the last month or so I’m recovering from runs even quicker which is nicer I’m having less and less pains and so on from all the miles.
Flat this is hands down the best benefit of the vibrams. They are FLAT low to the ground so I can get a really good feel of the terrain under me. It’s not that I care but as one runs the body will move and compensate for all the nooks and crannies of the uneven terrain. Shoes with thick soles really give one a false idea of what’s under them. Shoes with thick soles also allow you to get sloppy on form as well since you can’t really feel what is really going on.
I like how the shoes are consistent. From mile 1 to mile 200 they feel the same flat and firm under my feet. A regular pair of shoes just does not offer that at all. I would end up with feet that were tweaked and various sore spots in my feet from running. I might be moving poorly due to excessive wear in a sole and this might cause pain somewhere else in the body. This just does not happen in vibrams. They are very consistent no issues at all with this.
These shoes are controversial. I know many speculate about stress fractures and various injuries people get from running in them. I even read a story about a guy who stomped a nail and it went through his foot ::shudder::. Some of this has merit. Sure the fact of the matter is you can get hurt and get stress fractures in regular shoes too. That is the reality. I’m not sure if it’s really any worse in these shoes. I will say some of the horror stories I’ve read where folks that were heel striking in them. I’m not sure how you would heel strike in them to me it was instinctive to forefoot strike in them right off the bat. But I guess some folks it does not work that way. Knock on wood I’ve had no scary issues like this yet. I do see nails in the road and glass all the time and i dodge them. But yes it only takes one time not paying attention for this to become a problem. The upside? I’m more aware and I pay more attention to where I step. But I’m not perfect I still stomp a rock now and then and it’s a wake up call to watch where I’m going. I also tend to go a little slower on the roads as I pay attention. I think if i was going to go all out and not pay attention I might wear a zero drop pair of newton’s I own instead.
Can you run lots of miles in them? Sure. I run 40-50 a week currently in them without issue. I read a story of an older couple running a marathon a day around Australia in them. Another about a lady running across the US in them so yes you can run high miles in them no issue. If anything its better.
Moving forward I hope to always run in a very minimal shoe. Maybe one day no shoes at all but with all the nails and glass and rough roads in my area I’m not sure how soon that will happen. There is a lot of research out there on why going barefoot or minimal is best. And why a forefoot strike is best over a heel strike.
Some things that helped me transition along the way where youtube videos on chi running. And a channel on youtube called Kalclash fitness. If it was not for Steve Kalclash’s videos I might have given up on the transition he had great tips and advice. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkbDPw5SLknmgfoeiLL_flg
It is very different running and walking in a 0 drop shoe (height of the heel is the same as the height of the toe) it does take time to get used to it.
My advice to anyone would be not to be afraid of them like i was. And at the very least try and work a pair into your usual training if anything to help you get a good form keep your feet strong and get your cadence up and who knows you might just not wanna run in anything else after that.