photo courtesy of vibramfivefingers.com
My experience with VibramsI started wearing Vibram Bikilas in Fall 2011 because my boyfriend at the time had been wearing them for a year and was really happy with the way they were affecting his strength training.I was hesitant (hence me waiting a year to try them!) but I had been having some chronic knee pain while running, so I thought I'd give them a try. I have also had some issues with shin splints in the past, so I wasn't sure if it would be a great fit for me. I took my time and read a lot about transitioning into them, and so I went really slow.
The first week I only wore them in the house and to walk my dog on short walks. The first time I tried running in them I felt like some sort of baby antelope trying to run for the first time. The pattern of running is so different then the heel-strike I was used to from all the built-up heels of my past running shoes. My first "run" was only about 1/10 of a mile. And I was still sore! Immediately I felt the tightness in my achilles, and then after pushing for a little it moved up into my mid-calves. It feels like you are running in sand and ripping your calves apart. Especially if you are like me and had the horrible heel strike pattern in the past, when you start using a mid-foot strike it's like a whole new game.
Just as a disclaimer, I am NOT a runner in any sense of the word. I run at the most a 5k at a time. It took about 6 months to be comfortable running my normal amount outside,and a little less time for the treadmill to feel good. Even after I had re-trained my muscles and re-shaped my long bones in their socket (which by the way is why you must go REALLY slow or risk fractures), I still had issues with my calluses not building up high enough to avoid blisters on the bottom of my feet every run.
After working in my vibrams for about 18 months I decided to move on to minimus shoes, so I could see if adding socks back into my life would help my distressed feet-skin. I started with New Balance's 730 model because I read good reviews, and it was on the cheaper side(around $65) so if I hated it I wouldn't feel too much buyer's remorse. I transitioned from Vibrams to the 730's with no issues, my normal runs were immediately doable. One thing about Vibrams is that, depending on where you live and workout, you're pretty much going to get barraded with questions and looks every time you enter the gym. It's actually pretty bothersome. In addition, I really wasn't using my individual toes per se, and the only beneficial part to the toe divisions is that it allows your foot to splay naturally. I found with the 730's that the toe box is wide enough that it allows the same separation and so I don't miss anything from the Vibrams.
Whether you decide to try out Vibrams or some other type of minimus shoe, I definitely recommend ditching the larger heel and padding of classic running shoes-- especially if you've experienced pain running or lifting. I have found that lifting weights- especially squatting and deadlifts- has gotten SO much easier for me since switching. I never feel like I'm off-balance or wobbly like I used to when I wore my old running shoes (which I know you're not supposed to wear while lifting, but who's going to bring two pairs of shoes to the gym? Not me!). Here are my current New Balance 730's:
|photo courtesy of shopping.yahoo.com|