Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Vibrams, Five Fingers, and Barefoot Running…

I am sure at least a handful of you have seen people out running or in the gym with these peculiar looking alien shoes! Why? Are these a statement of fashion? Are Vibrams a new way for a shoe company to make some extra $$? Or do they truly have a purpose?

I first came across the idea of barefoot running in a book, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. This book details the effects supportive shoes have had on natural human biomechanics. Think about it….we once functioned without shoes and without many strange leg and hip injuries. This book follows a tribe in Mexico that wears simple flat leather sandals and can efficiently run mile after mile injury free. The author of this book details his own barefoot running transformation and the positive effects it has on his running. Def a great book to pick up!

Our foot is composed of 26 bones, 33 joints, 20 muscles, and hundreds of tendons, ligaments, and sensory receptors. These muscles, tendons, and ligaments need just as much conditioning as all the muscles we focus on at the gym. Our feet are so small in size compared to the rest of the body, and are responsible for so much!

How do we condition our feet? This is a simple exercise: sitting upright on the floor legs straight in front of you point and flex your feet, as shown below. Repeat this 15 times each foot 3 complete sets. Make sure to roll thru the entire foot.

To further your foot strength, running barefoot (such as on the beach or grass) are great! To really protect those feet from stepping on any dangerous sharp objects I suggest Vibrams! I have a pair and love them. And I do feel the difference not only in my legs and feet, but also in my posture.

Walking/running barefoot helps to strengthen the feet and lower legs. Going barefoot increases the range of motion in the ankles, feet and toes (because they feet are no longer constricted by a shoe). Furthermore, barefoot techniques allow the foot to move naturally and feel the surface below improving balance and agility. Finally, leaving the shoes at home and throwing on some Vibrams lowers your heel to the same level as the rest of your foot evenly distributing your weight, helping spine alignment and posture.

Barefoot training is a great addition to your training regime. Now with everything slow is the way to go! Our feet have become dependent on the structural support of our oh-so comfy shoes. Go slow starting with half a mile and progress as your feet allow. Jumping right into this type of training leads to muscle and tendon strains and tears; trust me on this one, I’ve done it, not fun.

If you like the idea of barefoot training grab some Vibrams either online or at your nearest sporting goods store. I recommend hitting up the store so you can really get the feel and get the proper fitting. Warning if you haven’t worn toe socks (most guys) they do feel strange.

Even if running isn’t for you, still remember to take care of and strengthen your feet! Go with the exercise given above.

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