Yesterday literally as I was lacing up my running shoes, my husband walked in holding the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen: the package with my new (hopefully correctly sized) Vibram FF’s. If I may say so myself, they are bad-ass. They’re the coolest blue, with just enough lime green accent to be sassy.
Oh wait, do you care how well they work?
Are you going to shake your head and tell me:
1) that you could never wear something so ugly or
2) that having something between your toes would drive you insane or
3) that I’m going to be sorry one day when I destroy my knees and ankles
Well. I’ll just let google help you with that last one. Google “running hurts knees” and “new york times magazine”.
Go ahead, I’ll wait right here.
Ok. Now, my lifelong hate for all things toe separating is well documented. Besides the fact that Vibrams are god-awful ugly, they were never even on my radar because just the sight of them made me want to shield my toes, maybe even tape my toes together with duct tape.
I don’t know what turned me. Maybe it was that perceived authority that the personal trainer at the gym lords over a person. I was at one of my three free sessions with the 12 year old trainer and she was wearing hers.
“omg your shoes!” I said.
“May I take a photo of those? I didn’t think I’d ever see anyone in real life wearing them. My friend Neil posts a link to them every time I complain about my hiking shoes”
She showed admirable restraint, did not throw me on the floor and whip my ass, and suggested that I try them on at the local outfitter.
“I can’t stand stuff between my toes”, I said. “Really. I panic when something is between my toes. I can’t even get a pedicure because of those little foam torture devices they use to keep polish from rubbing off”
She said “me too. these are different. go try some on”
And I did, and the rest is history, sort of.
Remind me to tell you about my experience with the local outdoor store whose owner, when I questioned the fit, suggested that I was “overthinking the fit” and that she’d never been trained by Vibram to instruct people to seat their heels in the shoe first, and that there is no difference between women’s and men’s styles. (for the record, mens vs womens are different in width, and sizing is different- for instance men’s 40 is 10 inches long while women’s 40 is 9.5 inches.) Suffice to say that my 15 year old daughter, who wears a women’s size 10.5 and is 6 inches taller than me, is the proud owner of a pair of men’s size 40 Vibram Sprints that were refused return. She loves them. Oh wait, should I tell you that I wear a women’s size 8, or 38 Eu?
Note: here’s a very comprehensive fit guide to each model Vibram FF shoe.
Whatever, I was telling you about the performance. I’m trying to find a fun sport that has very little equipment, something I can just step out the door and just DO. I thought it was hiking, but then I came home to Florida. You see where this is going? At 37, I decided to try my hand at running, even though I’ve got “trick knees” and “chronic knee pain” and Rheumatoid Arthritis. That last one isn’t in quotes because it’s true.
I bought new running shoes because my hand me down New Balance must have been too old without enough support. My knees were KILLING me after just a couple 60 second runs. I was vindicated. It’s true- I’m just too beat up to do all that high impact cardio. But I was determined. I read up on form and decided to train through the pain, to condition my body to do the new sport.
Somewhere along the way I stumbled on barefoot running. What? My knees? Hurt because my shoes have too much cushion? The world is round?
I got the Vibrams. I gave it a shot.
I’m not looking back.
I’m on week 5 of the couch to 5K program. 2 weeks ago I was instructed to take a break after a run left me incapacitated and sporting huge lumps of inflammation under my kneecaps that were so tender to the touch that I screamed when touching them. Yesterday I ran almost the whole 5K. I might have been about 1/4 mile short. I did it in my Vibram Sprints (right out of the box, by the way, first time wear. what? no break in period? the world is round?), did a quick gym circuit, came home and did some yoga in my Vibrams.
I keep looking down at my knees for the lumps. I keep jabbing the spot, trying to dig into the tenderness. It just isn’t there.
Believe the hype. Take off your shoes.