Friday, July 16, 2010

five finger love and caveats

I got the 5 fingers in the mail about two weeks ago, and I've almost exclusively been wearing the things for all of my runs, even though I promised myself I would "ease" into the transition, doing the shorter runs in the five fingers and the longer ones in the shoes. But I've only worn the shoes once, for a half marathon that we ran a couple of Sundays ago. I will say that I got a personal best there, 1:39:27, and had I been wearing the five fingers at that time I don't think I could have done it. I still feel funky on the cement in them and am perhaps overly focused on landing on the balls of my feet and not heel striking. When my mind wanders, and believe me it does, I catch myself heel striking. Also, when I'm tired, I slap the heels. So my stride is, naturally, doing what it has been doing in shoes for the last 10 years. No surprise there. But, I have felt the "right" stride. You know what I mean? It's like when you're learning something, like snowboarding, or even language for that matter, and you are struggling and tweaking and everything feels weird and difficult and unnatural, and all of a sudden you find that groove, that spot, that movement, that grammatical expression that ties everything together and you got it, even if just for a moment, you feel it. I've felt that feeling with the barefoot running. One second I'm slapping around like crazy and the next I hit this groove, where my stride shortens, I'm kicking out my heels, my upper body is poised stoic and upright with a slight lean forward, and I'm cruising. The motion reminds me of the pictures that I've seen of Scott Jurek and Arnulfo Quimare running in the Barranca del Cobre, where the top half of the body is all smiles and the bottom half is pure energy and fluid motion. Another image is the Roadrunner. It feels muy bueno.

Anyways, every time I get ready for a run, I look at my sneakers, then look at the five fingers, then back to the sneakers, then back at the five fingers, then I just kind of stare into space and forget what I was doing for a while, then I come back to the planet with the realization that those shoes look heavy (even though they really aren't), bulky, hot, cumbersome, and the five fingers are these sleek little, coy and flirty gloves that are winking and motioning my dumb and willpower-less feet over with one of their sexy "fingers". I don't stand a chance, and indubitably am hitting the trail in my oxymoronic barefoot shoes time and time again. So my plan to ease into them has failed.

But I am proceeding with caution. A friend of mine sent me a link to this site that I joined:
This is the same dude that worked with Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run, and helped his transformation from an injured clunker into a tried and true ultra runner. Anyways, on the site I check out the profile of a young lady whose last two posts were basically as follows:

June 1: Running exclusively in the five fingers and Nike Frees for my really long runs and it feels great!

July 7: In my fifth week of no running because of a stress fracture, thank God I have a bike.

There are no details about the stress fracture, and I've enquired as to what may have happened but as of yet heard nothing back. With little detail I'm left with the unsettling assumption that her feet are suffering from running barefoot. It's a fair warning I think, take it slow. Don't go full force into it. Remember, if my foot muscles have atrophied from the shoes I've been running in for the last 5 years, then they have to be built up slowly and steadily. Having said that, I'm supposed to clock 6 miles today and 13 tomorrow. I'm in Seoul, and I only brought the five fingers. I've never heeded warnings well.

Another blemish in the beautiful utopian dream of running free like the wind in my five fingers is that they have given me these awful blisters on the top of my feet. I understand that they are new and there are bound to be some hot spots in places, but man it is like they are cutting into my foot. My friend also had exactly the same blister, and it started to gush blood the other day on our 6 miler (ouch!). I've been wearing band-aids and cautiously and fearfully went on a 3 miler band aid free but lubed with a touch of vaseline the other day. Thankfully I came back OK, but I could feel that hot spot getting warmer and warmer as I ran. It's this place on the top of the beginning of my big toes, where the fabric meets the sole. Upon inspection, it feels like a rough stitch. Maybe it's something they'll improve on in the future. For the time being I think I'll just have to toughen up the area slowly.