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I've never worn any of these. Is this a terrible gimmick, or does its purpose actually benefit the contours of the feet?
You have to relearn, and readjust your running style. If you are a heel striker, with a long and straight stride, and all of your weight falls on your heel, these are not for you. I had to readjust my stride so that all my weight falls in line with my center of mass, onto my midfoot, so that each recurring stride rolls with bent knees. I love mine because they got rid of my ongoing ankle pain caused by years of running with heavily padded shoes, which only aggravated my extreme overpronation. Also, the added flexibility aids in keeping balance on rugged and uneven terrain. Finally, the increased sensory feedback of being able to detect the terrain upon which you were running, provides a better overall experience on rough terrain. You do have to be mindful of not stepping on sharp stones, but that is something you should always do while running. I hope this helps.
Also, you may want to pick up a copy of the book Born To Run and look up exercises to strengthen the muscles in your feet. There are plenty of examples on YouTube.
I've been wearing minimalist shoes since 2008, and if not for needing boots for my motorcycle, I'd wear them 100% exclusively. I waited tables for years, and when I first got Five Fingers, even just wearing them on my days off relieved back, knee, and foot pain I had been getting from the long hours I was putting in. I started doing everything in them from around town jaunts to the rockiest of trails. If you ease yourself into them (read: wear them only for an hour or two a day so as not to over stress your feet and legs), you will learn to walk differently. When worn on trail, they give you a great sense of balance and grip, and you tend to walk more softly because your feet get more feedback from the terrain. At the end of the day, my legs and feet now just tend to feel tired, but not sore. Until the most recent pair of Five Fingers I bought, which I had to pick up at the last minute because I wore holes in my previous ones during three years of constant use, I have never gotten blisters, either.
My $.02 for you is that this shoe isn't for everyone... that said, let me explain why.
Not everyone, including my wife, likes the feeling of fabric between their toes. If you are used to wearing shoes that are too narrow and your toes are smashed together... this will take quite a bit of adjusting, depending on how long you have been harming your feet that way. If you have toes that don't match the profile of the toes in the shoe, there can be a bit of trouble with sizing and they will never be as comfortable as they are for those of us who have an exact fit. These should fit like a glove for your foot.
ALWAYS try them in a store before you buy, especially when there's no exchange policy that allows for trying several and seeing which works.
I'm very surprised by TheJackal3245's comment about stress fractures. Then I googled to see if he/she is alone... and of course, there's a ton of people making the same claim. Here's the reason, even if they won't admit it, they walk and run in a damaging way... you should be able to walk barefoot all the time. that should never hurt you. If walking barefoot leads to fractured bones... you are slamming the wrong parts of your foot to the ground when you run/walk.
As for the "break-in" period... I'll back up and tell you my story... I shattered my ankle a plate, 7 screws, tore ligaments and tendons... a little over a year ago and started trying to walk again 2 months after the incident. That's when I got these shoes.... well, not these ones, the ones with laces. My recovery suggestions I got from the surgeon was to walk barefoot to build strength and since barefoot at the office sounded horrible... I got these shoes to do it. I had soreness on the top of my foot from using muscles I rarely touched before. That lasted 3-5 days and only for 20 minutes or so after I took the shoes off. After that, no issues. My feet keep getting stronger and now that I am more than a year in I can tell you, other than winter boots, I wear these almost exclusively. I got 4 pairs, this drop will make 5. My office dress code is loose enough where I don't have to worry about suit/tie requirements and that's probably what helped too. I attribute the success of my recovery to these shoes and know that I couldn't have done my BWCA trip last fall if I hadn't used them. "Regular" shoes have bothered me since getting these because of the restriction to my toes and the lack of feel to the ground.
Heel striking is bad... using thickly padded shoes to cushion the trauma only builds bad habits.
An interesting video to watch if you find some time is this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_usxrvKvus
Cuylar you are quite right. As I mentioned in my comment following the initial mention of stress fractures, people are not easing into walking with them and are doing damage because they are not building up their muscles to properly walk for extended periods without aid (i.e. cushioning and heel in a regular shoe).
When I first stumbled upon barefoot shoes back in 2008, I read an extensive amount of literature on them in order to understand what I was getting myself into. A few years later, when they had really caught on and the lawsuit against Vibram happened was when I first started to hear any actual claims of stress fractures, although I never experienced them. Like you, I've experienced marked improvement in my feet, knees, and lower back, my posture has straightened significantly, my toes have straightened out, and other than my motorcycle boots, I wear minimalist shoes exclusively.
In the other post, it sounded as though the OP wanted to immediately wear the shoes for extended periods on a backpacking trip, which I feel would be a mistake without at least understanding what one is getting into and the potential risks of diving in all at once.
And again, all this being said, I wholeheartedly recommend the (considered and incremental) switch to minimalist shoes.
The muscle thing is the only part I don't seem to agree with you/
follow you on... Muscle soreness doesn't cause stress fractures. Muscle memory if you want to call it that would push a new user into old, bad habits... I wouldn't walk in them, but for crossing a stream, sure. slip them off and on, they have little weight and take us a tiny amount of space.
Maybe I'm just misreading both of your posts... but the damage is from stomping around barefoot on hard pavement and not from the weak muscled. I think we are saying the same thing, just different ways.
If anyone is interested about the posture and technique of running barefoot... this is also a cool video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uglIacSx164
Hah, we definitely are talking about the same thing :)
Really I was talking about the alignment of the entire musculoskeletal system in order to support GOOD walking habits and attempting to ease the OP of the other post into the shoes. If you have trained in one method and then you suddenly run a marathon utilizing a completely different technique, you can do serious damage, and the OP's backpacking trip seemed like the same sort of initial foray into minimalist shoes, so I wanted to make them think twice about it and fill in an information gap.
An interesting analogy to what you were saying about stomping your feet while walking I once read was that shoes are akin to boxing gloves, in that you have to pound harder on a surface in order to achieve the same feedback as you would bare knuckled. Of course, as you mentioned, this extra impact is what causes stress fractures in the feet. I'm not even sure of their prevalence due to minimalist shoes, to be honest, but I mentioned it to make sure people are aware of potential consequences of going too fast.
When I wear my VFF.... wifey calls me a ninja.... when I wear my boots... I'm an elephant.
Hah! I love it. My wife and I call our MC boots our "foot coffins," because our feet feel so stiff and dead when we pull them out after a long day. Speaking of ninja, have you seen Vibram Furoshiki?? I've been wondering how they feel...
I have a friend who is a very talented runner (usually finished top ten for women in Canada for her events through university) who told me I was a fucking idiot for buying an older version of these. Apparently there is/was a class action lawsuit because so many people fucked up their feet from these. That being said, that was awhile ago, and maybe they have made improvements to their design.
I still use mine for the gym, but I have noticed when I use them on the treadmill that my ankles seem to get quite sore - but take that with a grain of salt because I don't run very much anymore.
To clarify, that suit was brought because of unsubstantiated health claims by Vibram about the very discussion we are having on their benefits, not because of injury claims.
They still sell the original sole design on the Classic and KSO versions.