Kristan Pash was spotted wearing Vibram FiveFingers shoes at this year’s 4-hour twilight event. Kristan explains why he’s an avid enthusiast of these odd-looking but interesting and fun footwear:
When a friend started wearing Vibram Fivefingers (VFFs) I thought they looked ridiculous. And sometimes, when I’m walking down the street getting odd glances and often exclamations from strangers, I know they still look ridiculous. I also know they are the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn, and when I run I feel like a kid again, running barefoot in the back yard. Without feeling the prickles.
I was hooked as soon as I tried on my first pair. Once I had the shoes I had to re-learn how to run. No padding or support means a different running style, similar to that of the Kenyan Olympic runners.
The mechanics behind the movements makes sense to me; you run on your toes, landing on the forefoot, rather than striking with the heel, as a result you use your foot arch and gait as a natural shock absorber. The result is a significant decrease in the impact transferred through the knees to the hips and spine.
The initial adjustment phase can be difficult; retuning your muscles, especially the calves, and toughening the souls of your feet takes time. The first time I ran in them I had to walk home with viciously cramping calves. Having talked to other new users and reading the blogs, it’s a common story. After a few months of adjustment everything settles down and then it becomes a matter of slowly lengthening the training sessions.
I have had a history of foot problems associated with pronation (resulting in flat feet) and a knee reconstruction from a soccer accident. With a new running style, I can run again, better than before and I reap the benefits every day.
The March four hour twilight rogaine was my first competitive event in these shoes, and sadly it did not go as well as we had hoped. My propensity for cramping made itself known two and a half hours in, from then we had to ride out the rest of the race at a very light jog. Even so, Jo and I were still able to finish 16th overall and 3rd in mixed. After the event the soles of my feet were the sorest part of me – no blisters or cuts to speak of, just sore from the extended period of heavy movement.
My prep for the upcoming 12 hour event has been lax, so I’ll be taking it easy this time around. I’ll definitely have a pair of VFFs with me but I’ll probably be carrying a pair of something else just in case my soles can’t handle the abuse.
I’ve been wearing these shoes daily for a year, but much of that has been indoors and urban. I hope in the future, as I cover more rough terrain, the soles of my feet will toughen.
The only other drawbacks from these shoes have been the smell and the funny looks. The smell can be overcome with regular washing, if you have enough pairs or are willing to go a day without them while they dry. The funny looks you just have to accept, but take solace in the fact that your feet are almost as comfortable as they can be.
Editor’s note: Kristan and his team-mates (Kynan & Nathan Lang) came 6th overall (and 3rd OpenMens) in the Roving 12-hour, and I know he set out wearing his VFFs but have yet to hear how his Vibrams performed. I did a lot of training wearing VFFs leading up to the 24-hour State Champs. They’re around 200 grams lighter (per foot!) than my usual competition shoes (my reliable Vasques), and I’m correspondingly faster wearing them. I’m much older than Kristan (…) and heavier (… …) , but managed to acclimatise to them without any significant problems. Suspecting that Melrose would be plagued with stones (it was) I didn’t wear them for the 24-hour, but I’ll definitely be wearing them in the City-to-Bay this year. Whilst they look weird, they are fun and comfortable – and they are fast.