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The Vibram FiveFingers® Drop-in Run Clinic Experience

TriBlogsby TriBlogsAug 13th 2012
We've had a great response to our competition to Win a pair of Vibram FiveFingers (you can still enter this competition up until the 14th August BTW!) and I must admit I'd noticed quite a buzz around minimalist running both in the triathlon/running print media and also within my own training circles. So I thought that I should attend one of the Vibram run clinics in London during the Olympics to learn a bit more.

I'm a forefoot runner, I always have been, but, I've always gone for a well cushioned shoe. For a small person I run a bit like an elephant (no exaggeration) so this was always what was recommended to me. I'm kind of excited that there could be something different to this because I always felt a bit clumpy in the cushioned shoe, but assumed that it was just me.
The Vibram FiveFingers« Drop-in Run Clinic Experience
As you can see from the photos Vibrams are quite different to my usual shoe. They are very thin and flexible and most notably all the toes are separate. Looks are important and so I chatted to some of the other runners (some of who already ran in the Vibram) to ask what they thought.

It was funny to listen to some of the responses because let┬'s face it they do look different, but they do look kinda cool as well. Two of the runners said that they wore their shoes all the time, for work, for walking, for running and wouldn┬'t wear anything else, very comfortable they said and also a talking point for their work colleagues! I didn┬'t get to try a pair which I was a bit disappointed about but maybe another time.

Part of the clinic involved a chat with Corrado and Giuseppe from Vibram and you can view these guys in action on YouTube if you want to find out more. We were also offered a short run session element with Sol Fernandez an ultra runner who gave us more tips on run technique.
The Vibram FiveFingers« Drop-in Run Clinic Experience
I've summarised some of the key points that I took away from the clinic and through chatting to the other runners.

This isn't a new idea:

Wearing thin soled shoes is not a new idea and it has only been in the last 20-30 years that manufactures have started making soles more 'cushioned' or have more 'stability'. Roger Bannister ran his famous sub 4min mile wearing thin leather soles with his spikes carefully sewn in.

The importance of feel:

Having thinner soles (and the individual toe bits) means that you can ┬'feel┬' more of the ground and therefore feedback about your foot strike is improved. Apparently this is good for balance and foot strength.

Building up foot strength:

Going straight into a normal training session in these shoes is a BIG no no. It┬'s recommended that you walk around in them, try them out on different surfaces and do some feet strengthening exercises like heel raises, toes taps etc.. to build up the strength. I┬'ve also attended a runners Pilates workshop which also covered some of these points and I do think we tend to forget our feet and just expect them to do as we command!

Re-educate yourself to land lightly:

I think I remembered this one because of my elephantness. But the suggestion is to run in bare feet sometimes and that your brain and body will adapt your run style. I┬'m going to try this and I┬'ll let you know how I get on. Again a little at a time.

If you experience pain then stop:

Yep agreed!

Vibram specialise in soles:

The key element to Vibram's shoes is the sole, the materials they use and the shape. A few of the runners at the clinic had tried other minimalist type shoes and said that the feel you get with the ground didn't compare.

They last for a looooong time:

Because the shoe has a very thin sole which does not claim to cushion your foot strike or stop pronation etc.. it lasts a long time. You don't need to replace them in the same way that other brand run shoes say you should.
So overall I like the look of the shoes and I got the impression from the runners who had tried them that they liked them too. It was pointed out that they could be difficult to put on initially, but Nicky (one of the other runners) suggested putting your hand into the shoe when you first bought it and then demonstrated just how easy they were to put on. She also gave another 'top tip' for washing them by putting them into a pillow case in the washing machine and washing them at 30, they honestly looked like new!
The Vibram FiveFingers« Drop-in Run Clinic Experience
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