Went for my first run the other day in Vibram Five Fingers KSOs.
Recently there has been a growth in popularity of barefoot running, combined with a rejection of over supportive shoes and the orthotics prescribed by many podiatrists. The idea is that over supporting the foot weakens all the muscles and connective tissues in the foot and leads to alignment problems and commonly sore knees. However if you go to many road running shops with sore knees you will be sold a more cushioned and supportive shoe. If you go to a podiatrist with sore knees you may well end up with shoe orthotics to correct the fact that your feet slump when not supported. Bare foot running is proposed as a long term solution to these problems. Bare foot running will stimulate all these weakened muscles and tissues to regrow and sort out your aligned problems and soreness. It’s not something you do every run just to be added in and gradually built up a bit.
There is much debate on the subject and of course one solution will not work for everybody. My podiatrist pointed out that if your alignment is genetically flawed to begin with then no amount of barefoot running will correct that. My experience is that I got some orthotics last year which really helped the sore knees which had developed from doing more super long fell races and BG training. But my knees are not as good as there were 2 years ago and so I am hoping that some barefoot running, stretching and use of orthotics (whether permanently or temporarily) will all combine to sort me out. I am not promoting either school of thought particularly at the moment just trying a number of solutions to improve my knees.
Barefoot running is a great goal but difficult to find a surface suitable enough to do it on, which is where the Vibram Five Fingers come in. They are basically rubber covers for your feet, very light and flexible which allow your toes to move independently. They look daft (obviously) but that’s hardly the point. VFF’s allow you to run anywhere you want without worrying about cutting your feet.
My first run was very educational indeed. It is very apparent which part of my foot strikes the ground first and how that changes over time and gradient. It turns out that I† am only just a mid foot striker (actually rear foot downhill) where as I would have said I was a definite mid foot runner. Shortening my stride length and upping cadence downhill lessened the obvious impact of downhill heel striking with no cushioning. The underfoot protection even over rough and stony ground seemed fine although the grip on wet grass and mud would be in the ‘scary’ category (there are models with better grip).
I did a 35min off road run in the wet, maybe a bit long for the first outing and my knees did feel funny towards the end, but no soreness after.
My plan is to run once a week in them and see what happens over time.