Review of Thoughts on 'bare-foot' running

O.k. so not an exact review of a specific model of footwear but having seen so many different reports and articles, especially in the main-stream papers and magazines regarding the new Vibram FiveFingers, I thought it was worth putting together my own experiences from using a pair of Nike's (the Free range) equivalent model for the past few years, here's my own thoughts.

Honestly, in my completely unscientific view of them, there may actually be something to this. I actually fell into the trap myself of buying some of the top-of-the-range models over the years thinking that the best-of padding would be of benefit my body with multiple miles of running. studies are showing (there's one linked off the Wired Magazine one above), the cheaper versions are actually better. There seems to be a change of running style that comes with running and padded running shoes, something that we never had to deal with before the early 70's. It's mad, that means we've been running in padded shoes for 40-odd years, and about xxx,00000 years before that without isulation. Hell, the first 4-minute mile was run prior to this...

My own experience? I've been wearing pairs of Nike Frees (2nd pair now) since mid-2004 when the local Nike outlet store started stocking them for a the ridiculously silly price of €20 (they're currently only €20-30 for anyone interested in Ireland and get themselves to Kildare....). My own method, after mixing and matching, was that if I run four times a week, two of them will be in each type. As confirmed by my recent attendance at a foot specialist, I have very little fat content in general so padding in my feet is non-existent which leads to a lot of loading on my knees (and pain for years) so I don't think I'd ever go almost-barefoot-running regularly. But I still always remember from when I was a kid of going around bare-footed while living in Israel and finding the freedom that went with it. So a balance of twice a week seems to work for me. I definitely agree with some of the reviewers though, that there is a definite feeling of lightness/spped after you've run in them for a while - no idea why though, but having come back from a run this evening in them after being in my normal trainers last night, there is a definite difference (although make sure to read my last paragraph if you do decide to get these).

At the end of the day, there is no exact solution for everyone. But if you're looking for something a little different and think the idea of running more, eh, free sounds more appealing, it might be worth checking them out.

Note: To anyone who does consider getting a pair of the Nike's or the Vibrams, I cannot emphasise enough to start off slowly. Even now, when I start wearing the Free's again, I start off with short 1/2 mile runs and build up over a few weeks, and ideally on a dirt track instead of tarmac, to begin with. Seriously, it's a major shock to going with padding, to as good as none. And from the photos I've seen of the Vibrams, there's even less rubber on the soles of these! Also, yes, it is normal for your calves, etc. to feel tighter at the beginning!

Photo credit: My Nike Free's folded up in front of my 'normal' running shoes. Basically, the rubber sole is super thin, and cut across and length-ways to make it as light and flexible as possible...

Rated 4/5 on Sep 15 2009
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