A running post I’m afraid. I don’t think I promised to move them all across.
Courtesy of the generous Maz the Merciless I have a pair of “footgloves” wot am all de rage, or at least they were all de rage a year ago or somesuch. Naturally, I’m late to the party. Today I gave them my first try-out, a 5 km run round the local “countryside reserve”. They are really called “five fingers” (of VFF’s, as the hip cats say); as they say: we recommend wearing Vibram FiveFingers for exercise, play, and for fun. Stimulating the muscles in your feet and lower legs will not only make you stronger and healthier, it improves your balance, agility and proprioception and I’m sure you can read the rest of their PR if you want to. I didn’t bother. In a token attempt at balance on the issue, I also point you to The Dangers of Foot Gloves like Vibram FiveFingers but! Please remember that I don’t really care.
Starting off, it did feel very much like running with bare feet, surprisingly so. The soles are very thin and the feel of feeling the surface comes through (incidentally James T says that one problem with them, for longer races over cold or wet ground, can be your feet getting too cold, because there is also little thermal protection). You have to run on your toes, this is the entire point, and a few steps trying heel-striking convinced me it was too jarring. Therefore, this puts a lot of strain on your calves. I cycle a lot, and run a bit, and row, but still after 1.5 km it was hurting, and I was happy to get onto the Reserve where I had the choice of running on the concrete track on my toes or switching to the slightly soggy grass verge on my heels to give my calves a rest. I gratefully did the latter. That gave me 2 km rest, and when I came back to the road and my calves still hurt I compromised between toe and heel a bit. So clearly, extending this out to even 5 km is going to take some practice, let alone 10 km or longer.
I was a minute below my 5 km best, but then I wasn’t racing anyone (though I did overtake that James E on the spine route, which was nice, though I suspect he was on the last leg of a longer run so I won’t count my chickens yet). I think they definitely slowed me down. I believe that the True Believers will tell you that ultimately they can speed you up – the theory being, as I understand it, that instead of losing energy as your heel strikes the ground the energy is retained elastically in the muscles/tendons/ligaments/whatever. But I’m clearly not there yet. After a little warm-down I came in, sat down on the sofa, and broswed the web for 5-10 mins in a fairly static position. I then tried to get up and nearly collapsed – my calves had set solid like rocks, or that was how it felt, briefly.
all in all an interesting experiment. I’ll try them again. But at least for now, if trying for my best pace, I’ll go back to the Mazuno’s (which also, by not-quite-coincidence, came from “Imelda”).
[Update: one week later (when my calves had nearly recovered), I went for a 1 km run instead. Felt like lots of stress in the calves, still, and probably as well not to go further.]
* My running injuries – how exciting.
* NEW BALANCE MINIMUS TRAIL REVIEW from the shouty Barefoot Running University (also a review of Merrell Trail Glove). This clearly answers one of my questions: when will people start doing knock-offs. Though those both look more like “real shoes” than the VFF’s.