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Barefoot Running and Shoe Companies
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Brian Strong
(bmstrong) - F
Barefoot Running and Shoe Companies on 04/22/2009 12:42:09 MDT Print View

I'm fascinated by the whole barefoot movement. Technically this isn't a G Spot topic but it concerns one of our most important pieces of gear I thought I'd post it. Thoughts?

Christopher Yi
(TRAUMAhead) - F

Locale: Cen Cal
Re: Barefoot Running and Shoe Companies on 04/22/2009 15:10:49 MDT Print View

Reminds me of Vibram Five Fingers.

Edited by TRAUMAhead on 04/22/2009 15:11:25 MDT.

Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
Barefoot Running and Shoe Companies on 04/22/2009 17:47:45 MDT Print View

More of a repost from a similar thread earlier this week but here's my 2 cents:

First off, I've actually tried this since I received a pair of Vibram 5 Finger shoes to review for work. I wore them at least 3/4 of the time for 2 months. For those unfamiliar with 5 finger shoes, image a pair of toe socks with a stabile fit and a 1mm thin sticky rubber sole that is highly flexible. They are in essence the closest you can get to barefoot but still have some protection.

Having used them on day hikes, walking on concrete streets and even biking with them I can say the following: It ain't all it's cracked up to be. Don't get me wrong, for the right use, they are excellent.

As the CEO of a balance / exercise equipment company, I spend a lot of time barefoot or in thin sandles. My profession actually relies on my barefoot agility and sensing subtle feedback. For the sports of surfing, slacklining, tight rope walking and general watersport use, they rate a strong highly recommended from me. However, they aren't a well rounded shoe to say the least and I quickly found some of the supposed benfites to be a little fluffed up.

For my tests I did the following:
The first week I started slow, gently working up to day hiking but my feet were killing me. After 3 weeks, the initial fatigue went away but I found my feet tired MUCH faster with zero support and found it impossible to handle more than 5-7 mile days and standing on rocks and cement was dreadful.

After two months, my testing was fairly complete and I tried to use it for an overnight trip for my write up. I had to bail due to foot pains. It took 3 weeks of being excessively easy on my feet to not have pain standing barefoot on a hard floor.

My feet always felt initially more comfortable due to the increased breathability, but simply put, it fatigued my feet too quick. I also ended up with sunburned feet, which was a new problem to worry about.

Comparitivly, my Salomon trail runners with superfeet, my feet can several handle 30 mile days in a row without being the weak link.

That said, I still use them. They are quite comfortable for short bursts and are best at any activity that requires a high degree of agility in the foot. Backpacking wise, they make excellent water crossing and camp shoes. I just don't buy into the barefoot hiking. Perhaps short runs where foot fatigue isn't as much of an issue, but certainly not for backpacking use.

Edited by slacklinejoe on 04/22/2009 17:52:37 MDT.

Paul Gibson
(pgibson) - F

Locale: SW Idaho
Barefoot Running and Shoe Companies on 04/22/2009 18:41:36 MDT Print View

To through in my two cents. I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers "KSO" a couple months ago. Like the vibram product info suggests I tried to wear them only a few hours a day for the first couple weeks, but I found my self wearing them more and more every day no mater how much I tried not to. I found them extremely comfortable after just a few days. Initially I did feel some mild muscle fatigue, which the product literature says is normal. It was not any worse than an a good day at the gym doing leg work. within the first two weeks I had been out for a few short day hikes in them. The more I wear my five fingers the more I prefer them to any other foot wear. So far in just a few months of use with them I have been able to get probably 30-40 trail miles on them. Even with a full pack I felt they preformed better than other shoes.

They are defiantly not for everybody and they defiantly do take quite a bit of getting used too. The only issue that I have had with them is that they are very warm.

Please Keep in mind that vibram dose not specifically recommend Five Fingers for backpacking, they are intended as a shoe that "trains"- ie. strengthens- the muscles of the feet and legs to improve the stamina and strength of those muscles for any use.

Huzefa Siamwala
(huzefa) - M
Re: Barefoot Running and Shoe Companies on 04/22/2009 18:51:55 MDT Print View

Hi Joe,

>I wore them at least 3/4 of the time for 2 months.

I think you need to give them more time. My doctor says that it can take as long as couple of years to build adequate foot muscles. 2 months is simply not enough of testing time.

Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
Barefoot Running and Shoe Companies on 04/22/2009 18:57:55 MDT Print View

> I think you need to give them more time.

Keep in mind, I'm performing for hours each day barefoot already and have been for 6 years. From everything I've read, I worked into as recommended. It's trying to use them for hiking that simply didn't work for me. I've had my five fingers since 05 I think and they've seen plenty of use since my review, but I've decided that they simply aren't for the trails for me.

If using them for nearly 4 years hasn't prepped me for it, I doubt it's gonna happen. Again, this is just my experience.

Edited by slacklinejoe on 04/22/2009 18:59:21 MDT.

Jeremy Greene
(tippymcstagger) - F

Locale: North Texas
Barefoot on 04/22/2009 19:32:20 MDT Print View

5 fingers seem perhaps over-designed and narrowly tailored to a very specific foot. Can you share any experience backpacking barefoot or with very minimal soles (other than the 5 fingers)?

Damien Tougas
(dtougas) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Gaspé Peninsula
How you walk can make a difference on 04/22/2009 20:39:56 MDT Print View

I am a proponent of minimal footwear. Although I haven't backpacked in FiveFingers yet, I think it should be possible to do quite comfortably. I think the biggest two factors are: How you walk, and how you train.

The first thing that you need to do is make sure that you are walking correctly. This means landing on the forefoot as opposed to the heel. Hiking in shoes with cushioning and a heel promotes heel striking. When you heel strike, most of the wight and shock is absorbed my the skeletal structure. When landing on the forefoot, most of the weight and shock is absorbed by the muscles.

Just because a person spends all day in thin shoes does not mean that they can hike all day with a pack on. Our feet are muscles just like any other, and will need to be developed to be able to handle the additional load. Just like it takes a time to build up muscle in your arms by weight training, it will take time build the muscles in your feet for backpacking.

Incidentally, I am in the process of writing a series of articles on the benefits of wearing minimal footwear. The introductory post can be found here:

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
5 fingers on 04/22/2009 20:46:56 MDT Print View

I tried the 5 fingers but my toes don't fit. I don't see why you need toes. There are some Finnish Feelmax shoes that Barefoot Ted likes that I would love to try should they ever sell to the US. I don't think I could backpack in them though.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Barefoot Running and Shoe Companies on 04/22/2009 21:32:19 MDT Print View

I've been following the barefoot vs. shoes debate for a bit now...This is my favorite article, certainly a good middle path; I think Anton has a healthy skepticism (born from experience) about "overbuilt" footwear without ruling out the need for some sort of footwear in most situations.

I've done up to 28 mile trail runs and I'm continuing to steadily increase my distance...I just can't see myself ditching a stability shoe with toe protection any time soon (My last two pairs of trail shoes have been the Adidas Supernova Riot). But I'm also completely aware of the pitfalls of a thick heel- I've had ITB issues in the past that I suspect were largely due to too much heel strike. When I corrected this and began making a conscious effort to run more on the mid/forefoot, my issues went away. I didn't switch shoe style, I switched my form...

I am becoming more interested in incorporating some barefoot/minimal footwear training and seeing how I feel- It is probably a good training reinforcement to keep you off of your heels and lighten your foot strike a bit.

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
Re: Barefoot Running and Shoe Companies on 04/22/2009 22:09:09 MDT Print View

I joined the barefoot movement about a year ago. I bought a pair of Vibrams and started doing my daily runs with them and wearing them everywhere I go. I think they are great. However, since then I have started running barefoot and after the initial callusing of my feet, it feels great to run barefoot. I feel that my strides are a lot more natural. It kind of sucks when your feet aren't callused yet though, you'll have to go through some pain. Vibrams are now the only "shoes" I wear (which isn't often as I'm usually always barefoot now). I was going to start hiking with my Vibrams but at 80 bucks a pop, I can't afford to go through a lot of them (which I would have to as these are too fragile for hiking).
Ever since I stopped wearing shoes, I feel like any time I talk to people they keep glancing down at my feet. Also your feet will permanently look dirty no matter how hard you try and clean them because of the discoloration caused by the calluses... but it's worth it :)


Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
Barefoot Running and Shoe Companies on 04/22/2009 23:29:16 MDT Print View

>Can you share any experience backpacking barefoot or with very minimal soles (other than the 5 fingers)?

Yes. I've used extremely thin sandals (no idea what brand) for a long time before five fingers came around. Even adding a 5mm sole adds significant cushioning for the terrain I go on and I dont' feel limited by them. The biggest limitation with those are the fact that the footbeds are plastic / rubber and when wet are slippery, that the footbeds cannot breath at all and they cause calluses like crazy. For day to day comfort though, they are much more comfortable than the ~1-2mm thick soles on the vibrams.

Don't get me wrong, I think that in a perfectly flat, softer terrain I could adjust with the vibrams, but I don't hike on anything that even approaches that. Adding a pack to that, even a 10 lb one, makes things more tricky. I suppose it could be what makes barefoot running possible though, usually you aren't running when on uneven, rocky terrain.

When I switched to vibrams, I switched my gait to the forefoot first subconsiously, which has been mentioned many times in that article. Yes, your body starts absorbing the shock differently and starting to cushion your steps more than the heel first. My muscles thought it was weird at first, but didn't seem to have a hard time adapting. Instead, I think my weakest point was that my arches and heel were easily too easily injured from uneven terrain and repetitive poundings directly in the arch of the foot when flat footing wasn't possible. River rock was especially dreadful. From the backpacking trip I attempted I actually had visible bruising in the arches from rocks. Given the terrain, it wasn't a matter of trying to step more carefully, scree is scree and it's full of sharp angles and loose rocks. I found that when standing flat footed I often had discomfort on hard surfaces on my heel, but not the forefoot. On soft, flat dirt however, it wasn't a problem and my foot seemed to cope well, but my trails never stayed that way long enough for it to matter.

For now, I'll personally stick to using the vibrams for shorter distances or activites which require more tactile feedback on the feet.

By the way, anyone else had in between the toe blisters from vibrams? I have and I've never - ever - had blisters there before in any other shoe, sandal, sock, toe sock or barefoot combination. Having the individual toes lets the shoe have more grip around uneven surfaces, which is exactly why I got them in the first place. I'm busy trying to grip a 1" wide strap with my feet and walk on it so every bit helps, but it does have it's downsides.

Edited by slacklinejoe on 04/22/2009 23:36:19 MDT.

Damien Tougas
(dtougas) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Gaspé Peninsula
Injinji Socks on 04/23/2009 05:19:53 MDT Print View

I recommend wearing Injinji socks when hiking in FiveFingers. They make a pair for trekking out of wool which is what I prefer. The benefits are: Much reduced chance of getting blisters (I don't get any), better thermal regulation, sun protection, and the wool helps control bacteria/smell.

Robert Devereux
(robdev) - F

Locale: Pittsburgh, PA
Re: Barefoot Running and Shoe Companies on 04/23/2009 06:33:18 MDT Print View

It amazes me that horsemen from several hundred years ago still have such an impact on our feet today. Elevated heels were developed to help with stirrups. They became fashion and everyone wears them now. The elevated heel changed the way people walked, encouraging heel strike. Now since everyone walks this way, shoes are designed to cushion the heel. We need more people like Herr who try to rethink things based on how barefoot running works.

While I find FiveFingers interesting, some cushioning is necessary in urban settings. The problem is most shoes are at one extreme or another. Something with a little cushioning but that still mimics barefoot movement is the ideal, but very few things like this exit. I like minimal shoes like Inov-8, but the heel is still elevated a bit.

Damien Tougas
(dtougas) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Gaspé Peninsula
Re: Re: Barefoot Running and Shoe Companies on 04/23/2009 06:45:21 MDT Print View

Who is Herr?

Huzefa Siamwala
(huzefa) - M
Re: Barefoot Running and Shoe Companies on 04/23/2009 07:01:01 MDT Print View

Hi Joe,

Today I got a big friction blister under the balls of both feet. Taught me a lesson about running on hot surface.

My KSO are on the way and I should be getting them in a week. So I am investigating friction/blister prevention options. Right now Hydropel looks like great option. The main ingredient is dimethicone, another name for Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). PDMS belong to a group of polymeric organosilicon compounds which are commonly referred to as silicones.

Hydropel, a greasy, gooey salve made by Genesis Pharmaceutical Inc., has become my foot lube of choice. It goes on thick and stays that way for hours on end. For a 24-hour adventure race, I usually apply the solution only once or twice.

It does a good job eliminating friction—both between your foot and the sock as well as the skin-on-skin rub between toes. It also repels water, an important trait for people who may tromp through mud puddles or thigh-deep rivers during an average hike.

For my first three or four adventure races, my feet would invariably get wet within the first hour of the race, and I’d have to run, bike, climb and paddle all day long in wet socks. Without lube, my feet would get saturated with water, promoting big, painful blisters.

With Hydropel, I can run through the woods all day and night with wet feet. The water actually beads up on my skin where the lubricant has been applied.

Hydropel is very expensive. Search online for silicone lubricants or see this link for cheaper alternatives:

Edited by huzefa on 04/23/2009 07:36:14 MDT.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Flats Re: Barefoot Running and Shoe Companies on 04/23/2009 07:04:25 MDT Print View

I've been looking online for shoes with cushioned yet somewhat flexible and completely flat soles. It appears some of the cross-country racing flats and the Nike Free 3.0 eliminate the raised heel mostly or completely.

Currently though I'm addicted to buying shoes at 2/3 off list and I haven't found any cheap flats yet.

Brian Strong
(bmstrong) - F
I'm amazed at the good publicity Vibram gets... on 04/23/2009 07:24:27 MDT Print View

I've tried 3 of the 4 models and can't get a single one of their shoes to fit. Either they are so tight that they cause indentations in my skin and red marks or so loose the toes don't fit right. I gave up on them awhile back.

I'd love to pair them with my wool Injinji's.

Robert Devereux
(robdev) - F

Locale: Pittsburgh, PA
Re: Barefoot Running and Shoe Companies on 04/23/2009 08:11:17 MDT Print View

Damien, Herr is the guy that's talked about in the second page of the Popular Mechanics article. He's designed a very odd looking shoe that tries to balance proper pronation with running on hard surfaces. I'm not sure I'd want to use it, but I'm happy that he's at least trying something different.

Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
Barefoot Running and Shoe Companies on 04/23/2009 10:03:17 MDT Print View

Hydropel seemed to slick up the footbeds of my vibrams a lot. No mesh or fabric to absorb excess.