Category Archives: Shoes

Gradually, back to running

Last weekend, I reached a milestone in the weight loss, my weight dropped below 200 pounds. (That’s about 9 pounds in a month and a half — this low-carb thing continues to work nicely.) It was particularly significant, because I had told myself that I would allow myself to start running again when I got down to that weight.

Due to slightly flatter than average feet, I’ve tended to have more overuse injuries from running in the past. Regular weight lifting helped prevent it, but when you’re overweight, high-impact activity like running is that much more troublesome. Additionally, I’ve gradually grown skeptical of the wisdom of treating these symptoms with ever-more-restrictive “motion control” shoes. I definitely had found that in my experience, some less restrictive trail running shoes caused me less trouble than my earlier pair of (road) running shoes — however, that could have been merely due to the more uneven and somewhat softer surfaces I was running on — the former develops strength in the lower leg that perfectly flat pavement does not.

So, this past Tuesday, I went for a short run, a hilly 2 mile trail loop in the Presidio. But, I took things one step further. I did something I’d been itching to do for months — I ran it in the Vibram Fivefingers KSO shoes which I’ve so enjoyed walking in.

The experience was challenging, but worth repeating. My first observation was “You cannot hit your heel hard on hard surfaces.” My second observation was that trails that consist of hard-packed clay with a few stones scattered on the surface are more harsh to the nearly-bare foot than clean asphalt. Overall though, I think that it was a good choice. Making it something I had to do gently prevented me from running too hard on the first run in many months.

I had stiff, sore calves for over two days afterwards, but it was just a feeling of muscle soreness, not injury. Aside from that, I didn’t experience any unpleasant side effects in my feet and lower legs. I’ll probably go for a run in the Fivefingers again, though I probably will only do it once a week.

New Shoes: Vibram FiveFingers KSO

When I first heard of the relatively-new Vibram FiveFingers shoes in a MetaFilter comment thread, I knew I had to have a pair. I’d always liked being barefoot, I always walking around barefoot at home since sometime in my teenage years when I discovered that walking around in socks on a splintery wood floor increased the chance of getting splinters in my foot (due to my feet slipping around more easily, driving the splinter in suddenly). Unfortunately, in the typical suburban or urban environment, walking barefoot isn’t that practical, in my opinion. While broken glass presents relatively less hazard than everyone thinks, the surfaces are pretty harsh, and additionally, where I live now (San Francisco), the months without rain means it gets really grungy.

I bought a pair of the FiveFingers KSO in black, because they’re the most subdued and look like shoes from a distance, while still being well-ventilated. I was sure to carefully follow the sizing info on their web site.

They arrived on Wednesday, and they seemed to fit fine. I had a couple little concerns at first, but after wearing them all day Thursday and Friday (admittedly for my rather sedentary job), I had only two remaining concerns. The first was, these are great, but how long before I wreck the soles? Compared to a normal shoe, the sole has to endure a lot of flex, including around the toes and ball of the foot. The other concern is that the big toes aren’t quite as large as my toes. While my toes feel comfortable, I’m concerned that the sole underneath not being as wide is going to gradually lead to the fabric on the side of the big toe coming in contact with the ground and wearing through.

I wore them again today. I went to the beach and walked a couple of miles. I got them wet. One thing I learned, which does not surprise me, is that these are not sand-proof. If that was a concern, I’d consider the FiveFingers Flow, which has neoprene sides and top, instead of mesh. The KSOs dry fast though. Aside from the sand trapped inside feeling a bit abrasive, they were quite comfortable.

These things feel great even when you’re walking over sharp gravel. And, it’s nice to have that uneven feeling of the ground you’re walking on to be carried through to your feet. I find myself even walking on different surfaces than I normally would, merely to find out how it will feel in these shoes.

When I got home today, after shaking out the loose sand, I decided to put these in the washing machine, since there was some bits of fine sand that just weren’t going to shake out. The instructions are warm wash, air dry. It’s great. This is a pair of shoes you can machine wash on occasion — especially good when you’re not wearing them with socks.

So, the real test is going to be whether these last a reasonably long time before wearing out, but aside from that, I’m very happy with them.