Sunday, May 30, 2010

Update on My Experience with Vibram Fivefingers

It has been a little more than six weeks since my last blog post about the Vibram Fivefingers--I had better remedy that!  The first thing is that I have not had any trouble with blisters since the blister I got on the back of each foot the first time I wore them.  Once those healed up my skin was toughened up enough not to get any more.  I do not wear the Injinji socks that can be purchased to help with blisters, although I have heard they can be very helpful.  My personal preference has been to keep this experience as simple as possible.  Special socks did not fit my criteria!  However, if I ever progress to become a runner instead of a walker, the socks will be a real possibility for me.

I have also been careful to go slow in my transition to bare-footing.  I wear the Vibrams twice a week, usually on weekends.  First I mastered covering distance on flat, paved surfaces.  Then I started on some simple mountain trails.  The big challenge with mountain trails where I am living right now is the rocks:  I definitely feel them!  The trick is learning how to manage those small, sharp rocks that really hurt, even with the Vibrams.  This is where building up the ability to wear these shoes is really important for me.  I am taking it slowly because I don't want to get injured, yet I like the experience of the rocky trail in these shoes.

For some walks I skipped the shoes altogether and really walked barefoot on the smooth driveway that surrounds the complex where I live.  That has been a valuable exercise, since what I am trying to do is toughen up the bottom of my feet.

I was not one of those people who grew up going barefoot all summer.  The only time I did not have shoes on my feet was when I was on a beach.  So this transition to a more barefoot life is something new for me!  My favorite hike so far in the Vibrams was a steep mountain climb.  The trail was short, maybe half a mile.  But it was like climbing a flight of stairs going up and down!  In fact, there are some places where both hands and feet are needed to make the climb.  The climb was a real pleasure in the Vibrams.  I felt like I had much more control over my feet than when I have hiked this trail in sneakers.  I had less trouble with slipping on smooth rocks.  However, there were still some slippery moments.  As an aside, I got stung by a bee on the top of the trail, and made my way down pretty quickly after that.  The Vibrams did not hinder my progress at all.  The picture here is from that hike, taken at the top of the trail.

My only trouble was at the end I had a small bruise on the bottom of my left foot.  It was a little tender, but did not cause a problem.  However, on a more recent hike I must have stepped on a rock in that same spot again.  This time I got a pretty serious bruise, which means taking some time off rocky trails in the Vibrams and letting it heal.  One thing I find very helpful after every hike on a rocky trail is to soak in Epsom salts in the evening: to maximize the benefits and relax any muscles that are not used so much ordinarily.  In summary, I really enjoy these shoes.  They are providing a wonderful way to strengthen my feet, ankles and calves.  I am glad I have continued to transition into them slowly.  I think my careful work is going to pay off.  

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