Saturday, October 16, 2010

How a Fatty got Five Fingers on his feet

When I started running I grabbed the only pair of shoes I owned that could do the job, an old pair of New Balance cross country shoes. I had kicked around in those shoes for the better part of two years but it was those or my Chaco's, which I love but are better kicking around the supermarket or a day at the beach. I started slow and tried not to overdo my 350+ lb, 26 year old body but every day I was having major foot pain and leg aches. By day 5 I could hardly walk on my left foot, I wanted to run that night but the idea of running on that foot sounded torturous.

To rewind a little bit, I spent all last year living on a 30' sailboat in the Puget Sound and had run across some talk of a gorilla-like shoe that sailors had started wearing as boat shoes. I did some research and found the Vibram Five Fingers shoes online. They were originally made as a way for rock climbers to climb barefoot with minimal protection but since their release in 2006 they've been picked up and used by enthusiasts in running, sailing, hiking, kayaking, mountaineering and just for walking around town. I dashed over to the REI in Seattle but I became embarrassed after a few minutes because I couldn't get my toes in right. I dropped my head in shame and left thinking these awesome shoes just didn't fit my feet.

Back to this week, Day 5, torture, etc. I got on the trusty internet and I started googling barefoot running. In passing I had read a couple of articles and seen some information about the barefoot running craze that is sweeping the nation and the shoe industry has been doing us all wrong for quite some time. On the websites there were near unbelievable stories, people were getting healed left and right like a Benny Hinn show, barefoot running is going to save us all. So what the hell right? I drove to the REI in Phoenix and told myself I would not leave without a pair. This time around I walked in with confidence and determination and I was able to get my toes into the first pair without too much wrangling. The trick is to put your toes in and then use your fingers to line them up one at a time and then pull the heel on. I found my size and looked for toe socks as I had also heard that the Five Fingers can get pretty stinky pretty fast (thankfully they are machine washable!) REI didn't have them but I did find them at the local running store. Not to break from the story but the closest running store for us folks in the West Valley of Phoenix is seriously on 16th St in Phoenix, 36.7 miles from my house OR a little over an hour drive time. How is there not a runners store in the West Valley? There are over 3 million people living in this area! The last town I lived in had 7,000 people and they had a running store larger than the one downtown! Someone needs to get on the ball. Oh snap, I digressed....

I walked out of REI with the Sprints on my feet to be stopped at the door by a guy coming in with Five Fingers, "You won't be disappointed man! Best shoes I've ever had and the only shoes I wear now!" More miracles, these shoes probably let you walk on water too. "Thanks man! I'm excited to try them, do you run?" "Uh no. I'm not a runner but the shoes man, the shoes..."

I didn't get to run in them that night as my foot still hurt and there were a few concerts I wanted to see downtown but I kept the shoes on and hit the town. I stood and walked around venues and downtown Phoenix from 7pm till just after 1am and I swear to you that when I got in the car to drive home, my feet felt great. That morning I could hardly walk and after 6 hours in the Five Fingers they felt fantastic.

Day 6 - After more than 24 hours of ownership, I finally went wogging in them. It's a crazy new experience. I did a little less than I had done earlier in the week because running barefoot means learning how to walk again. Most people run by landing on their heels because that's how our shoes have been cushioned, the toes curled up to provide a nice rolling motion, this is all wrong though. Our feet are naturally springy and by landing on the ball of our foot and rolling down onto the heel, we can use the arch to take the pressure. I've read that a good barefoot runner is silent to the point of scaring people when running past them and after one night I have a long way to go to get from my earth shaking landings to being light as a feather but my feet feel good. I can feel the stretching from my toes moving more than they've moved in years and I can feel where there are some parts of my feet that need to toughen up from never being used. I can also feel my achilles starting to stretch back out to the length it should be after so many years of walking with shoes with heels higher than the toes.

I am not a total barefoot evangelist yet but I am certainly a convert.

Check out for more information and guides on the Vibram Five Fingers and barefoot running in general but if you're going to buy a pair support the Fatty by clicking on this link.


  1. Surprise AZ, my hubby had a friend that lived there. Like my area, lotsa nice flat areas to run on. You're younger than me, so good for you on finding the path earlier on. I love my vibrams but they do take some getting used to. Just take your time. I learned to run using the c25k program. Give it a looksie.

  2. I definitely will! Thanks for the support!