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  • Can’t argue with your experiences–you need to do whatever works for you. I know several people that have had issues with going from “regular” shoes to the VFFs. It’s too easy to overdo it since the VFFs don’t allow sufficient ground feel and feedback. It’s better to try pure barefoot running at first, then move toward minimalism. I guarantee you won’t heel strike while running barefoot! You won’t do too much, too soon either. You’ll likely learn proper technique and running form…which should carry over to shod running. I mix barefoot, VFF, and minimalist shoe running and it seems to work for me.
    We all need to listen to our bodies and do what works for us…if we are running injury free and happy…no need to change. Listen to our bodies, not the shoe companies, friends, or media.
    Hope you like the NB Minimus Trail. It’s one of my regular trail shoes for ultramarathons. Wish it was zero dropped, but the 4mm heel differential is OK for me. The extra heel helps when I walk the hills in ultras.
    -Chris

  • I will agree with the other Chris on the mix of shoes and barefoot. Although I do not own any VFF, I did see on their website when I was considering them that they recommend running barefoot on hard surfaces first – http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/faq/barefoot_running_faq.htm
    My journey to the mid-foot has included a mix of the NB MT101, the Minimus Road & Trail, and a lot of barefoot walking. In addition, I have found that wearing more minimal shoes all the time (work, etc.) has also helped me get away from the dreaded heel strike.
    BTW, I absolutely love my Minimus Trail. The “feel” for the trail combined with just enough support is awesome! Yesterday I ran a 7 mile very technical trail race in them and was extremely pleased.

  • I don’t run in my VFFs anymore, but they are my every day walk around shoes and that has helped a ton in and of itself. As you found, they offer too much protection without enough cushioning which lets you run with poor form and do too much too fast, I think. If I want to run barefoot (or nearly so), then I’ll just run barefoot or will wear my huaraches. Normally, I’ll wear my normal (minimal) shoes that I’d been using for years and that works well too.

  • I agree with you that there is a shoe out there for everyone and that minimalist running is not a good fit for every person.
    That said, I adore my Brooks Green Silence. My foot pain was completely eliminated when I started wearing them and I feel like a more efficient runner because I can feel that I am not heel striking as much.
    I can’t wait to read the PDF tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it.

  • Hey Matt, check out Merrel’s Trail Glove as well. I have been transitioning into it for all of my runs (mostly trail), and love it!

  • I am batteling Plantar Faciitus and read Born to Run, so of course I picked up VFF. I broke them in slowly (I did feel the same instep inseam pain so got some socks to eliminate that) but never did get relief from the pain. I also run with Spira and still suffer heal pain. Even after physical therapy, electric shock and injections.
    I guess now I will have to barefoot running.

  • I was never ready to toss out my cushioned Asics, but felt better after reading your thoughts on the subject. I want to remain as injury free as possible, and appreciate your honesty. I do use minimalist Nikes occasionally, 8 oz. Saucony trail shoes, and run barefoot on the beach. Overall, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

  • I was so excited for minimalist running when I heard McDougall speak – I was running into serious knee pains on long runs, and all my race photos showed some hard core heel stomping on every stride.
    I was able to adjust my running to not heel strike in my VFFs – but something about the way my toes fit in them is uncomfortable, and my left small toe and bone that runs down my foot ends up hurting after a while in them. It got so bad last summer that I essentially had to ditch them entirely.
    I switched to a mix of the Adizeros and the Saucony Progrid Kinvaras. I really really love the Kinvaras – I seem to naturally midfoot strike in them and they are so very comfortable.
    The only trail run I did in my Adizeros was that Phunt 50k; they didn’t work particularly well that day, but it was so muddy it is hard to tell. I picked up a pair of Saucony Peregrines which are supposedly based on the Kinvaras, but with a better tread and a slightly beefier body. I’ll be using them for future trail runs.

  • I am an older runner who has worn Superfeet inserts for years after a nasty case of plantar fasciatis. I, too was intrigued with the minimalist movement and bought the Green Silence. They felt sooo great to run in ( I had already corrected my stride with Chi running which made my last marathon easier). They felt so wonderful that I apparently threw caution to the wind, putting in too much mileage, and now have persistent pain in both feet even though I have not worn the Green Silence in a month. I hope to get back to them because I am craving that wonderful feeling they gave me on my runs. But now this weak-footed, older runner will have to start cautiously from scratch after my injuries heal.

  • Just a plug for New Balance. LOVE them! All of them. I have never gone wrong with a pair of NB shoes and as a bonus, many of their models are made in the USA!

  • As a physical therapist I agree that different strokes fir different folks. hasven’t seen any studies yet on the amount of stress fractures caused by a combo of barefoot/VFF shoes with overuse. I actually tried to put a pair of VFF’s on but couldn’t even get my toes in. I didn’t have the patience to fight with them. I ran the Vermont City Marathon 2 days ago in Asics DS Racers, albeit with an orthotic, which is still more minimal than my Asics 2160’s with the orthotic. As with Eileen earlier, the Chirunning has helped my form mre than any shoe.

  • Great post Matt. While I love my Vibrams (Classic, KSO, and Bikilia) I know that they are not for everyone, and I think that it is great advice to not stick with minimalist shoes if they are not working for you.
    I have thankfully not suffered from any serious injuries since transitioning to Vibrams (just some forefoot pain that I think was from overworking my feet and increasing my mileage too quickly). I am trying to work up to half and then a full marathon in them, but I know that I have to take the time to get my feet use to running un-shod. I think that the thing that sucks for most runners who try and find the right shoe that is that it costs so damn much to experiment and find what works. For me, I cannot know how a shoe feels until I have run in it for a while, and then, opps, you cannot give it back if it doesn’t work!
    Thanks again for giving a great post on the whole minimalist journey that many of us are undertaking as well.
    -Jonathan

  • Just finished reading Born to Run and was very curious about the Vibram shoes. But still on the fence about the whole thing. I had no idea there were other minimalist shoe options. Thanks for the reviews! 🙂

  • I am definitely with ya on doing what is right for your feet. I started running in my Vibrams after running Chicago in October. I had already tried to change my stride up a bit – shortening it and focusing on mid-foot strike, so I think it was a little more natural for me to run in the Vibrams. I had absolutely NO heel strike in them, but it definitely killed my calves for DAYS. But, I am a firm believer in doing what’s right for your feet. A question for you: Have you ever heard/tried Newton training shoes? They have a bar-type thing on the bottom of the shoes that force you to run mid-foot. I’ve tried on a pair of my friends and loved them, but would rather wear my Vibrams than those.

  • i really like this post, as i think people underestimate how different shoes are and that you really need to find one that works for your own foot. wish it was easier sometimes, but what can you do!

  • I’ve been curious about Vibrams for a while – I’ve never tried them (actually I’ve never run in anything besides Asix), but I’ve seen as least one person running in them on the track at my gym. I’ve heard several people give them mixed reviews though, and I’m quite paranoid about injuries, so I’m not in a big hurry to try them.
    The problem with me for buying shoes (which again is why I’ve been sticking to Asix) is that most of the other brands I know of use leather, which I don’t want to wear. I haven’t looked into those minimalist shoes though – if they’re synthetic that might be a good match for me.

      1. Good info, Malva; thanks. One of these days I’m going to write a post about vegan running shoes, and do some research to figure out which brands are animal-friendly.

  • Hey Matt,
    The timing of this post is excellent because it’s bringing me back to reality, regarding my choice of footwear.
    I jumped on the Vibram bandwagon several months ago, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll never be able to wear them on longer road runs, due to the constant pounding. I still love them for walking around, shorter trail runs, and the occasional track workout, but I’ve switched back to a neutral-cushioned trainer for my road running.
    On another note, I had the good fortune to attend a 90-minute lecture/Q&A session with Jeff Eggleston at a local running shoe store. Jeff just won the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2:16ish, and is gunning for the Olympics in 2012. Although he now trains in Flagstaff, AZ and is coaced by Dr. Jack Daniels, he grew up here in the Rochester area, so he returns to visit and race now and then.
    The entire session was fascinating. He is such a friendly, humble guy. But the two highlights for me were his discussion of diet and footwear.
    Jeff has been a vegan for about a year-and-a-half, and many of the benefits he described are exactly those that you’ve covered extensively here in your blog.
    Then, when somebody asked him whether he trained barefoot, as well as what he thought of the minimalist movement, he kind of chuckled and said that from the beginning, he never bought into it.
    His most memorable comment was about the fact that humans today are basically born with shoes on their feet, and they take their first steps in shoes. Plus, he also added that East Africa may be covered with sand, dirt, and other soft, forgiving surfaces, but the United States is covered with paved roads and concrete sidewalks.
    Also interesting, his shoe of choice for all racing and most roadwork is the Green Silence.
    Another great post, Matt!

  • I’ve been running in nothing but Vibrams for almost 2 years. At the beginning I suffered through sore achiles, top of the foot pain, and soreness on the balls of me feet. Then all those pains faded away. I think people really underestimate the amount of time and distance, that Too Much Too Soon means. Since I switched my knee pain has disappeared and now I can enjoy running again. When I started out I could feel every pebble under my feet when I landed and now that my feet are tougher, it takes a really sharp rock to make me cringe. I run on concrete, wooded paths, and gravel roads. All of which I can handle just fine. I’ve also tried to run again in regular shoes and immediately felt discomfort. I’ll stick to the minimalist design and just enjoy pain free running.

  • I have a pair of VFFs that I used to run in. I took it slow when I started, and never experienced any pain or foot problems. They were definitely successful in getting me to shorten my stride and stop heel striking. However, I just don’t like running in them. It sucks when you land on a rock, and I feel slow when I wear them. So I’ve been running in the saucony racing flat type shoes I had from before. I am very interested in trying the Green Silence or some other minimalist type shoe.
    However, I do like working out in my VFFs. They add a level difficulty to certain exercises (like lunges) and forece you to work on your balance.

  • I’m still trying to transition into FiveFingers and recently started noticing the blisters in the toes, just like you experienced. I really don’t want to go back to regular runners because one foot is slightly smaller than the other, making the arch support press into my foot in a weird way; I’m starting to like the FiveFingers more and more, but may have to try some other minimalist shoes after reading this.

  • KSOs and Classics had a seam that could cause a blister. Bikilas don’t have that seam. I never had a problem with VFFs but I’ve never worn cushy running shoes, either. (well, I tried it for a few months a couple years ago and didn’t like it. The cushy shoes felt like clunk clunk clunk. awkward) VFFs were a big step up from All Stars for me.
    Those New Balance there look nice.

    1. I actually got a blister on the inside/arch area of my right foot from a seam in the Bikilas. That spot has now hardened enough and the seam seems to have softened enough for it to not bother me at all, but there’s still that seam there in the arch in the Bikilas.

  • As a martial artist for many years as well as a runner, VFFs were like the best thing that happened to my feet. I train for hours every week, barefoot, and have done so for many years, which shrank down my transition period considerably, and I find that VFFs provide just enough cushioning to make running on hard surfaces and trails comfortable without taking away the feedback and lightness. They have helped my foot-strike, although I had to make a conscious effort, it was much easier in these shoes. (I really like them for training outside, too). As a person who never liked shoes much (and spends as little time in them as possible) I’m in love with them, and I’d recommend them to other people who like the sensation of letting your toes spread out without worrying about sharp stuff.
    On the other hand, I still keep my well-cushioned Asics for long road runs or extended periods on my feet, especially if my feet are sore, and I love those too.
    I think it’s really cool that there are so many options available to runners and athletes, and I think experimenting with different running styles and foot-wear can help “shake things up.”

  • Thanks Matt. I am just lookinginto the minimalist shoes and got a pair of Minimus to try, slowy. Your info is great.

  • Hi!
    I run on a treadie and do elliptical workouts as well as step. Too hot to go outside – Middle East.
    My ascics gels were great but now I get ball of the foot, in both feet, fatigue type pain with a slight numbness as if I am pounding too hard. (Which indeed may be the case!) however they were great to start with. I did break my right ankle YEARS ago and have pins and plates holding it together but no problem with it, got good physio and faithfully did my exercises in determination and got back running within 9 months. Any suggestions please, for a type of runner to wear? Put a metatarsal gel pad in, no diff. Would a wider shoe help? Thanks guys!!

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