After two weeks of flu and recovery I returned to back to regular working-out again a week ago – or so I thought…. During the two weeks of flu and recovery I ordered and had delivered a pair of Vibram FiveFinger Classics and I was eager to go running in them. If this sounds crazy read the first part of Barefoot running (pt1) – Run as you were designed to.
The FiveFingers sure look funny and I have received a lot of looks and comments wearing them for walks in the neighbourhood. “Hey, have you taken up ballet dancing?” is one of many more or less funny remarks.
They are fantastically comfortable to walk in, like walking barefoot without worrying what to step on. You feel the surface you walk on, the Vibram sole protects you from any sharp objects and you have fantastic grip, also when wet. After the first few hours of walking in the FiveFingers it was somewhat strange to wear sneakers again – so heavy, clumsy and no feel at all. From a comfort only perspective I could wear FiveFingers only. Not sure if Vibram has an office design of them on their product development roadmap.
Running in FiveFingers
If you’re familiar with the concept of barefoot running you will know that the barefoot running technique is different from the running technique wearing modern running shoes . In essence: No heel strikes, light landing on the ball of your foot and your calves act as springs to absorb the impact of the landing and pushing you forward into the next step. Check the videos and articles in the first part of Barefoot running in this blog for more info.
I set out along the river Vltava running south on the east bank on the asphalt walking and biking path. Maybe not the optimal surface for a test run but anyway. I felt really light running, no problems adjusting the technique to stretch out the foot to land properly, found that it came more naturally with longer strides, with shorter strides the heel tended to drop and it was more of a flat foot landing.
After only 2 km or so my calves started to protest! They are definitely not used to taking the impact full 87 kg in each step. On the 3km I started to get blisters in exactly the same spot on both feet – in the middle of the ball of the foot where I land in each step. The run went very quickly from enjoyable and refreshing to painful and awkward. I turned back and walked home.
Back home my calves were so contracted that it was very hard to stretch and with the blisters on the ball of the feet the normal calf stretching exercises with the foot firmly on the ground was quite painful. Did my best and prayed I it would not be too bad in the coming days.
One week of agony
The first couple of days after my first run in the FiveFingers were ok. My calves were hard as stone and every step was a bit stiff but not too bad. On the 4th day I did some light squats but didn’t stretch the calves afterwards. The day after my calves locked up completely – could hardly walk and getting up or down a staircase was a major undertaking. Now, on the 7th day after running I have carefully stretched the calf muscles and I am slowly getting back the flexibility in the calves.
Word of advice
I am still convinced that barefoot running is healthier and that it reduces the risk of injury but the transition period from modern running shoes to barefoot will be longer than I first thought.
- Start slowly. If you are new to barefoot running technique keep your first couple of runs to under the kilometer to slowly accustom your body, calves in particular.
- Tape your feet. I recommend a layer of textile type of tape on the ball of your feet to prevent blisters.
- Stretch. I know, rule number one after running but be extra diligent when you are learning new techniques and stressing your muscles differently than normal.
Let me know how it goes!
barefoot running, crossfit, fivefingers, natural running, POSE, VFF
Hi, I have just started bare foot running for 2 weeks. I try bare foot on trademill .
I also have five fingers. I had lot of knee pain and shin splints in past but barefoot running I do not feel pain in those areas.
Although I agree I have blisters in middle of ball of the foot on both feet. My calves were so sore.My foot muscles are even sore.It is slow process. I feel though when i run barefoot or in five fingers it feels so much less effort than running in shoes
So I will keep trying. First I thought I was the only one with these issues but glad to know that it is normal in beginning.
Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for you comment Nika and keep it up, pay close attention to technique as it it a completely different game than conventional running. Check back here in the next few days for a part 3 of my Barefoot running efforts.
I love running and finally got back into it the last two months. I have shin splints so bad it felt like my legs are broken. A friend of mine is an ultra runner and he suggested barefoot or wearing vibram’s for running. The more I researched it the more it made sense about injuries and running shoes just compensating for improper running techniques etc.. Since i am a major heel striking runner this was a big change for me. I got a pair of vibram’s and did a run in them the other day. Went 1.5 miles on concrete sidewalk and paved roads. Felt really good, the easiest 1.5 miles I have ever ran, calves felt tight and that is ultimately why I stopped at that distance. The next morning…BAMMM…my calves hurt so bad I could hardly walk. No change the next day either. This is the third day and the pain has subsided a bit but I am still hurting big time. I know I have probably never used these muscles in my life so I guess it makes sense. I hope I am able to at least get a little jog in tomorrow. My shins felt good on the run so I am excited about that. I can’t wait until my new muscle use is built up enough to go three or four miles pain free!
Thanks for sharing Farley! Check out the video clips I recommend for more inspiration! It’s well worth the effort to learn to run properly. Keep it up!
I did 2.7 miles on my first-ever barefoot run. Felt pretty good until the last half mile or so, then realized the pain I was feeling were the blisters on the sole of my right foot. I enlisted my less-than-enthusiastic wife to help drain the blisters later that night, and woke up the next morning with my calfs screaming! Now three days later and I’m feeling better- my left foot really did well compared to the right- but won’t be able to go out barefoot for a few more days. My Assics will have to do for awhile.
I am fairly new and experiences when it comes to running in general, not just in barefoot running. In the past, I’ve run 2-3 miles on a whim, and then not done it again for a few months. (I’ve kept in shape through other sports.)
Somehow, I knew I always hated running in heavy shoes, and I happened upon an article about barefoot running and the Vibram five-fingers, a shoe that mimics running barefoot while providing protection from small objects. I recently went and bought them and took them on a 3-mile run. Running never felt so light and effortless for me, and I was noticeable faster. Within a few hours after finishing, though, my calves and my right foot completely revolted. It’s now 2 days later, and I don’t know when I’ll be ready to get back on the road running. I hope I heal quickly. I can’t wait, because it felt so good at the time, and I’m exited I might actually WANT to go running on a regular basis, rather than see it as a chore to keep me healthy and in shape.
So, I really emphasize, it’s a great experience, but take it slow. If I did it over, I would have taken the shoes on an hour-long walk first, and then, done a couple of slow, 1-mile runs a few days apart. (FYI – you won’t get blisters with the Vibrams.)
I’m a physiotherapist and will be starting my path to barefoot running. Sounds like some of you cats have pushed the demands on your calves a little to quickly.
Skipping is a super simple and cheap way to toughen up your calves to get used to the shocking demands of barefoot running. The upside to skipping is that it’ll kick you butt so quickly you won’t tempted to over train. I.e. now that you’re older than 10, try and skip for over 5 minutes straight.
About the blisters…be patient your feet will toughen up if you don’t over train. Runners tend to get a little keen so the wounds are a nice objective measure of over training.
I did my first barefoot run yesterday, my calves are a bit sore, but not nearly as bad as some of you have described. I did 2 miles running then I biked for 5 miles, and then I did another mile running… I am planning to do another short run today…just to get my calves warm so I can stretch them out.
Cheers! And happy barefooting.
Longtime barefooter here. Calves take some work, but blisters are more an indication of bad form than soft feet. Many barefooters have baby soft feet. It’s about being light and not running faster than you should until you’ve developed the sensitivity to tread carefully in your own skin. Runningbarefoot.com is an invaluable resource.
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