Running

How to start running in Vibram FiveFingers: Q&A Part 1

So…you want to run (almost) barefoot? Awesome! Here are some of the questions I’ve received about my experience running in Vibram FiveFingers.

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[I will be splitting this topic into two posts since I got so many questions. If you have your own experience running in Vibram FiveFingers, please chime in in the comments section and leave links to your blog posts.]

Does it make your feet hurt to walk on the ground in VFF? No, not at all.

But what if you step on something? Well, watch where you’re going! 😉 Every once in a while I’ll hit an acorn or a large rock but I’m pretty good at avoiding those, and little rocks don’t hurt.

Do you have to run differently? Yes. I’ve always been a major heel striker (see blurry, pixelated – sorry! – picture below) and now have to run up on the balls of my feet much more. I’m not running on my tippy toes, but more like a mid-foot strike. And consequently, I’m developing toned calves for the first time in my life! Score!

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Does it feel harder to run that way? Surprisingly, no. It’s much less jarring on my body and I feel like I look like the runners I’ve always envied…you know, the ones who look so light on their feet? I pretend I’m a Kenyan runner now instead of a clomper. Smile

What about injuries? Now, I’m no doctor, but I have a feeling my injury rate is going to go way down. Last year while training for a marathon in standard running shoes, I developed issues with my SI joint (located in the lower back/upper butt area). Even after months of physical therapy, I could still feel the ache in my SI joint after a couple miles. However, I haven’t felt ANY pain in my SI joint since I’ve been running in the Vibram Five Fingers. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I don’t strike with my heel anymore, which I think was really jarring and impactful to the SI joint area. I’ve also struggled with IT band problems for over 6 years, and haven’t had any issues since switching to the FiveFingers.

Do your Vibrams provide good arch support? I’ve recently discovered that my right foot has become very flat-footed over time. There is very minimal arch support as you can see below. The bottom is a sort of rubber, flexible sole. However, I have read multiple studies about people who had flat feet and wearing VFF drastically improved their arches. Their feet strengthened from wearing VFF and the arch of their foot developed; they claimed you can “build” arches if you have flat feet and that flat feet are a result of not properly utilizing your feet. Make sense? BUT, obviously check with your doctor since this is all hearsay and I have no personal experience with it.

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What if I have weak ankles? Same thing as arches…studies have been done that running barefoot helps strengthen ankles and also reduce foot injuries such a plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendon issues.

Do you still run in your normal running shoes? I did at first (alternating runs or switching to my Asics after 2 miles or so just so I could get in some distance), but I haven’t put them on in over a month.

If you want to run in Vibrams, my favorite style is the Bikila, which you can buy on Amazon. Also keep an eye on deal sites like Zulily and 6pm.com because I see them on crazy sale there a lot!

*Remember, I’m not a doctor or running coach, but am just sharing my experiences. Please check with your own health professional before making changes to your exercise routine and always consult a professional for injury diagnosis and treatment!

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  • Matt
    at

    Great Q & A! My calves are killing me today!

    We can be Vibrams buddies 🙂

    How long did it take you to build up your mileage?

  • Lisa (Im an Okie)
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    so interesting! maybe someday ill try it!

  • Ashley
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    Great Q+A so far!! About ankles – There are great ankle strengthening exercises you can do with a BOSU ball if you have week ankles. And, if you do have weak ankles, definitely start by walking a lot w/the VFF’s before running. The walking will start to do wonders for your foot + ankles strength. — I wonder if I have that SI joint thing…we’ll have to discuss in san fran, hehe. I think mine is muscle related though from having really tight hamstrings…

    • Megan (Running Foodie)
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      Ashley-
      I had major problems with my SI earlier this year and my doctor said that really tight hamstrings can pull on your SI and cause pain. She said the best way to fix my problem was to do lots of hamstring stretches! So, in short, your tight hammies CAN cause an SI sprain.

      • Teri
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        Amen! My SI joint problem was partially hamstring-related too.

  • Sarah-Mae @ Eat, Run, Knit
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    Just start out slow and short! I went from marathon training to 2 mile SLOOOOW training runs in my Vibrams, just focusing on my form and how good they felt!

    Running in Vibrams just feels so more… uninhibited! Like being 5 again!

    • Teri
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      Yes, that’s a perfect word! It does feel more uninhibited!

  • Chicago Cuisine Critique
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    This is very interesting. I never really thought about getting a pair of these but after reading your Q&A i’m intrigued. Thanks for sharing. Can’t wait to read more. 🙂

  • Melissa
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    Thanks Teri for the info! I have been wearing orthotics in my shoes for about 2 years now. It helped me injury rate (I have problems with my SI and IT Band that would restrict me from running), so I’m a little nervous about the other end of the spectrum. I might try them out now. Will you wear your Vibrams in the winter (ie snow??? 20 degree temps???)

    • Teri
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      I don’t get a lot of snow in NC, but I’ll probably wear Injiji socks when it’s gets chilly.

  • Megan (Running Foodie)
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    Like I mentioned on Twitter, I am pushing hard for a pair for Christmas! I can’t wait!!

  • Michele @ Healthy Cultivations
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    This was quite informative. I’m curious about these, though it’s not something I’d really ever explore.

  • christina
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    haha, i want to run like a Kenyan too! those f-ers are FAST

    • Teri
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      LOL. f-ers! LOL

  • April
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    You may have addressed this elsewhere, but what “model” do you have? I saw on their website that they have different ones (Flow, Treksport, Classic, etc.).

    • Teri
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      I have the Sprints.

  • Ashlee
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    Lew and I just made our first stop to drop the kids off with the Grandparents. We look forward to meeting you tomorrow at the FoodBuzz Festival.. Ashlee and Lew
    http://ashandlewplus2.com

  • Jessica
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    Ok, here’s a weird question for you. Let’s say you have webbed toes, can the VFFs accommodate webbing between the 2nd and 3rd toes? I’m not (quite) webbed like a duck, but I’ve never been able to wear toe socks, which creep me out anyway, so I just wonder if I’m completely precluded from experiencing VFFs.

    • becelisa
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      they actually address that question on their web site and say that people with webbed toes can’t wear them.

      • Jessica
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        What a bummer! These mutant toes of mine are becoming a hassle. At least I swim faster though =)

    • Teri
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      My 2nd & 3rd toes are *slightly* webbed. More like conjoined and I have been fine in my Vibrams. It pulls a little at first, but then I don’t notice it.

  • Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun
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    I don’t know if I would ever use Vibrams, since I’m not as serious in running, but the thought of them REALLY intrigues me.

  • Clare @ Fitting It All In
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    I heavily overpronate and have to wear shoes specifically designed with arch support. I know there are studies that say vibrams are good for correcting that, But I really worry that I will run on weak ankles too long before any progress is made. I use the shoes with support for a reason, right?

    • Teri
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      I think it’s something you should talk to your doc about, but some people have had success in strengthening their ankles running barefoot. i also overpronate and haven’t had problems running in the VFF.