These are not my disgustingly dirty feet, these are my disgustingly dirty Vibrams, my new running shoes, after my first run with them. Here is how they look in the shop, before you run along the lake-shore for an hour or so:
The Vibrams are more gloves for your feet than proper shoes - all they do is protect your soles from glass and other pointy things. No cushioning, no air-soles, no support.
The idea behind that is simple: Our feet evolved over a million years for bare-foot running. It's what they do, and they do it well. Now we don't run around barefoot all day any more, so our soles are soft and can't deal with the ground and sharp stones like they should, but the rest of the mechanism works just fine. So just slap on an artificial sole, and everything should be peachy.
Does it work?
I am no stranger to hopping around barefoot, I train martial arts for a couple of hours a week. So I thought running in the Vibrams wouldn't be a problem for me, and in wasn't. At the start.
I am not a runner, but I am generally fit, and I know that running for 90 minutes or two hours is no big problem for me. Still, new shoes, and two hours of training coming up this evening, so I kept it down to about an hour. Here is the route I took, from the EPFL to the marina and back, about eight kilometres.
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First of all, running in the Vibrams is as much fun as barefoot running. Your feet adjust automatically so you land on the balls of your feet, your heels won't touch the ground at all. You can run on tarmac no problem, but the real fun is running over rough terrain, as you can feel the ground through the thin soles. Second of all, training for martial arts does not a runner make, and my calves are screaming at me right now because of this. Running on your toes puts much more strain on your calf-muscles, and mine were woefully unprepared, which is why I took an hour for eight measly k's. But my joints were fine, no worries at all. The feel of the Vibrams is also excellent - they are so light you don't notice them at all, apart from a vague feeling of having mud between your toes. But I happen to like mud between my toes, so no worries there. I am, as you may be able to tell, quite happy with them, and look forward to adding one or two midday runs to my weekly routine!