Saturday, September 04, 2010

The FiveFingers Question

Fie Upon this Quiet Life was kind enough to ask about the FiveFingers thingies and running.

Believe it or not, the FiveFingers are intended for running (and other outdoorsy pursuits, but mostly running). The soles are moderately soft, so it's like wearing good gloves. You can feel what is underfoot, but little glass or whatever won't cut your foot. I have pretty whussy feet, so if I run on sharp rocks in them, I know it. But over little twigs and pine needles and smaller gravel, I just know that it feels fun.

The idea behind the FiveFingers (it seems wrong to call them shoes) is that people evolved running barefoot, and when you look at the way people run barefooted, they tend to land on the balls of their feet (rather than their heels) and use their feet muscles a LOT. Their toes are really active, especially running on non-paved surfaces. The FiveFingers give your feet most of that activity and stride mechanics while protecting them from sharp stuff that might hurt.

So, they have no support. The idea is that running in these is supposed to give your feet lots of exercise, which helps the bones and muscles do what they evolved to do. That's the idea. I've never had foot problems, so I don't know how they'd feel to someone who has foot problems.

Supposedly, real runners, that is, folks who run regularly, should start slowly switching to running with the FiveFingers because the change in stride means you use muscles differently and will get sore.

I've never been much of a runner, so I don't think I'm going to get sore from a big change in stride. But the bottoms of my feet have felt very mildly sore/tired after running or spending time in them. I've had very mild soreness of some leg muscles, but I'm not sure if that's from the new FiveFingers or from trying to do some running. (Take my mild soreness with a grain of salt; I'm the whussiest person on earth, so a normal person might not even notice what I find mildly sore.)

Remember what I said about the running on the balls of your feet? Supposedly, the thick shoes with lots of padding style of running lets people hit the ground with their heels when they run, but the heels don't have much padding or flex. In contrast, the balls of your feet have a fair bit of padding, and there's lots of flex in the ankle and toes. That's supposed to help people avoid some of the stress injuries that runners often get. Does it work? I don't know. I've never been much of a runner, and have never gotten the sorts of injuries runners get.

Here's the thing: I got the FiveFingers as a way to encourage myself to get some different sorts of exercise, because as wonderful as biking is, it's not the only exercise out there. And running is GREAT exercise. And I live in a community with lots of good park trails to play on, and I'm hoping that running a bit will make my legs better for snowshoing and skiing, and also give me another alternative for rainy-ish days when I don't want to bike for an hour, but might be happy to go play outside for 15 or 20 minutes.

And so far, they are fun. It's really neat to feel the ground underfoot, to feel when it's soft because there's a deep layer of pine needles, or when it's grassy and semi-solid. But until I can run, say, 3 miles without stopping to walk, I won't think I'm in the habit enough to tell if they're working.


  1. Anonymous5:52 PM

    Thanks for the review, Bardiac. I DO have foot troubles so I may not be trying them soon (they may not make a version that fit my bizarrely shaped feet), but please do tell me how they feel after 3 miles!

  2. Anonymous5:53 PM

    Thanks for the review, Bardiac. I DO have foot troubles so I may not be trying them soon (they may not make a version that fit my bizarrely shaped feet), but please do tell me how they feel after 3 miles!

  3. That's really interesting. I often feel that we don't get enough foot-to-ground exposure. It's so nice to have something natural under your foot - like pine needles or grass or earth. Not concrete, for once. I think I'd like that.

    My baby is barefoot almost all the time, and I get looks because he's not wearing socks. Frankly, he just pulls them off and then chews on them, so why bother? He's very happy barefoot, and I'm happy not to have to look after tiny socks in the laundry. Recently, I've been going barefoot a lot more in the house, and it's really a delight. Sounds like the five fingers would be great for keeping close to nature outside while still protecting yourself. Cool!

  4. Anonymous8:20 AM

    Diane Rehm had an interesting show this summer with 1) a barefoot convert/zealot, 2) a podiatrist, and 3) a bigtime runner/editor of Runner's World. Some differences of opinion there, but also some agreement. Here is the link, where you can hear the show: