On Monday I used my REI dividend, 20% off coupon and an overly kind and unnecessary gift card from a friend (thanks Katie! and Aimee for letting me use it!) and picked up a pair of the Vibram FiveFingers for no money out of pocket. While trying them on I was one of 3 people in the shoe department and all of us were checking them out so I suppose the popularity is really starting to ramp up! It helps that REI just started carrying them; though they were already low on inventory when I grabbed mine...
Anyway, my initial impressions were good. Getting them on is a little weird as my toes kind of scrunch together a little bit and spreading them out to fit the toe holes was a bit of a chore. Once they were on though they felt comfortable and my little jaunt down the aisle of REI felt pretty easy and natural in them. It probably helps that I've been working over the last year plus on my running mechanics to use a midfoot strike (as opposed to heel).
Monday evening I put them on for a while just hanging around the house and then grabbed Cass and went for an easy 2 mile run around the neighborhood sidewalks. They felt great! Even more, I was cruising, and not on purpose either! I'd forgotten to wear my garmin so I was going by feel on pace, planning on a slower, easy run. Turns out I was down in the low 7's to mid/upper 6's for almost the entire way... Whoops!
Gave them a go at lunch on Thursday again for 2 miles, this time with the garmin and again had the same result! Though I didn't try to reel myself in when I noted a sub-6:30 pace, I felt surprisingly smooth and at ease with the high cadence running. Better yet, the running was down right, put a goofy grin on my face and laugh out loud fun!
Yeah, I got a few weird looks in general on this run...
My only issue so far has been a sore left calf muscle from the slightly different running form, but that has been very minor in general. Otherwise, I can feel some additional muscles getting a workout but nothing hurts. Even running on the pebbles of the "trails" along the Mall was much easier then I expected. While large stones were felt, there was nothing that was outright painful. I can see the benefits of toughening up my feet but otherwise I think I'm in pretty good shape for using these "shoes".
For now I'll slowly build up my mileage to where I can do my usual entire 4 to 6 mile lunch run and see how things go. If nothing else the increased cadence work will benefit my speed and hopefully the focused form work will settle in permanently whether wearing shoes or not. Ideally I'll dial in my mechanics well enough that come fall I'll be able to start running in a MUCH more minimalistic trail shoe such as the New Balance 100's. Lightweight shoes that drain like a bathtub would be nice!
The New Balance 100's - Hopefully the new model out this fall will address the heel rub issue I've been hearing about so far.