The Vibram FiveFinger Bikila LS are the first barefoot shoes I have tried. It seemed like a gamble, testing my feet with them only 3 months away from my first full marathon. Changing things this soon before a race is always risky. Even with a shorter distance race, it could spell catastrophe.
I know that I should stick to what I’ve been doing and wait until the time is right (after training and the race) before doing anything drastic that may endanger the health of my feet, but something told me that it was time to jump into the world of barefoot. So many other runners (especially ultra-runners) seemed to be raking in the benefits of these “soleless” wonders. I wanted my piece of the pie, so I went for it.
Upon buying these shoes, I knew very little about them. I knew that with other shoes I could ease into them, a little at a time, and typically be good to go for long distance runs within a few weeks. Not so with the Vibrams. These bad boys can be taxing when you take the approach I did. After a couple of weeks, I had easily logged 50 miles in them.
At the end of each run I would hobble home to nurse my sore, tender feet. What was different about these shoes? Each step down I’ve taken, from minimalist to here, I’ve done so with ease. I went from low-sole, to minimalist, to my Merrells (which have a Vibram sole), and my foot naturally seemed to evolve with each switch. Why the pain now?
After doing some serious research, I have found the answer to my problems. Apparently Vibram is aware of people like me. You know… the people who think they can just do things their way… throw on a new pair of shoes and go all out with them, as if they’re feet were indestructible. So they made a very clearly written barefoot brochure to advise a safe way of transitioning into your new shoes.
I wish I would have read it beforehand. I have now started back at square one, and am seeing much improvement in the way I run. There are also more links here to further educate you on the science of barefoot running. Just like anything else, if you wish to be successful, then you need study the material. The problem was simple. The problem was me. I hadn’t taken the appropriate steps to work my way into the shoes..
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So, what is so different about the Vibrams? With the Fivefingers you aren’t simply transitioning to lesser sole, you are going to no sole. The only thing between you and the road (or gravel) is a Dri-Lex covered 3mm polyurethane insole (thickest under the ball) and a 4mm anatomical pod outsole. This is simply for abrasion resistance. It is not meant to catch any impact from the concrete below your sensitive little toes. The point is to feel the ground, allowing your body to interpret the feedback and adjust your running technique (or lack of).
As I wrote in this article, barefoot running is allowing your body to fine-tune itself. We need to get back to using our legs and feet the way they were intended to be used. If you have read the Getting Started guide, along with the brochure, you should already be perfecting your technique and on your way to injury-free running.
More on the Shoe
When I first met my local Vibram dealer, he told me that the Bikila LS was built with running in mind. He mentioned that I could use other VFFs with no problem, but he strongly encouraged the Bikila for my long-distance running needs. The upper of the shoe is constructed with Stretch Polyaminde with TPU toe caps for protection. Like I said, the footbed is 3mm polyurethane with a Dri-Lex Sockliner. Go through any puddle or creek and expect to be dry within minutes.
Each shoe (at size 42 or lower) weighs a measly 6 ounces. You literally will not realize that you have shoes on. And that is precisely the point. The LS simply means that this shoe has a “lace system.” The previous Bikila had a velcro strap with no laces. The improved version allows for those with larger feet to fit comfortably.
I have read some reviews of how the lace system has failed or even broken. Not once, have I had any problems with the lacing. The upper is constructed of Coconut Active Carbon for natural breathability. This will keep your feet nice and cool on even the hottest of Summer days.
While I didn’t injure myself from the improper use of my footwear, I strongly advise people to read up on Fivefingers before you venture in too far. I imagine that you could do some serious damage if you were to do too much, too quick. I am now using my old shoes as alternates and using my Fivefingers for my shorter distances, working my way up a little each week. I also do some toe stretching exercises.
Get to know and understand your feet. I believe most people take for granted the workload we put on our lower extremities. At this point, I am uncertain as to whether I’ll be running my first full marathon with these shoes. It’s still a possibility as long as I follow the suggestions. I know one thing, I won’t kill myself trying.
I have now put over 200+ miles on my original Bikila LSs! That’s right, I said original. I am now on my second pair, and I’m very excited about getting them broken in and ready for the New River Marathon. I can now say, with great confidence, that you can run long distances in Vibram Five Fingers. My longest run in them so far is 25 miles! It took some time to build up the muscles (and calluses) in my feet and toes. Give yourself some time and you will adjust.
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