Posted by on Dec 5, 2010

I told myself I would wait until the books arrived (see “Back to Nature…”) to embark on this study. I am determined to be methodical about preparing and training in order to give the barefoot running experiment a chance to succeed or fail on its own merits, and not due to sloppiness on my part. But then my dear friend and running partner Paula sent me a link to National Geographic’s Best Gear of 2010 and it included this picture:

Well, we had just run Austin’s annual 5 mile Turkey Trot and I had seen several people padding around in that type of shoe. I ran behind a fellow and watched him land lightly on the ball of the foot, then roll off the ground to initiate the next stride with a movement that articulated the entire foot. Intriguing!

I should clarify that I am a very average recreational runner. Here are the stats:

56 years old
Running since 1982
Average about 8 – 10 miles a week, about 45 weeks of the year
Pace: about a 9-10 min mile these days. A few years ago I could win, place or show in my age group in a 5k with around a 25-26 min time. But I am really not interested in speed now, which should give me the patience to start the barefoot running SLOWLY.

Back to the story. I could wait no longer. At the end of the work day, I went to the Vibram website where I used their sizing chart (that proved to be one size too small), found the nearest dealer, and went right over. When I first maneuvered my toes into all those little glove-like protuberances, I could not even get the right toes in the right holes. I pulled and tugged, my frustration mounting. The young sales clerk just watched, with an ill-hidden smirk on his face.
Finally I had all the toes where they were meant to be, managed to get the rest of the shoe over my unyielding heels, and stood up.
Where was the bliss that everyone was talking about? (I had spoken to a few converts, who sang the praises of the Vibram fivefingers with worshipful reverence). It felt CREEPY to have fabric stuffed between each toe and the stretchy material over my foot and the the plastic sole did not contribute at all to a barefoot-like experience. Well, I told myself, I took this on as a research project. Hence, the outcome does not need to be positive. Any good scientist should not make predictions before all the data is in. But I realized at that point that I did have an investment in gaining a positive experience- and so far that investment came with about an $85 price tag!
I walked around the store for about ten or fifteen minutes, trying to get my head and my feet into the groove. By the time I left the store I was still shod in the Vibrams, clutching the impulse purchases that leapt at me while I was busy getting my groove on.
After that I walked next door to the grocery store, where I documented my first wearing:


Troll feet! Lots of stares, too.

After going home and keeping them on for about 2 hours, I have to say I was underwhelmed and feeling a little silly. The kids thought they were really cool. Husband Smokey looked at them and then looked at me as though I had just grown a tail.

Stay tuned for the next installment…