Saturday, February 23, 2013

Stepping out (by staying in)....


So, the old comfort zone has been getting tested recently.  I'm making a very honest effort to rekindle my friendship with Duh'Mill, making myself spend time with "it" at least once a week (so far so good).  I am  giving myself a much deserved "mini sabbatical" from running to allow my piriformis muscle to calm down (and, hopefully, completely heal).  And, today, I added another comfort-zone violation....I purchased Vibrams 5-Finger Trek Sport shoes.

I have heard these are great for people with back problems or other issues (not necessarily just running-related problems or injuries). A new trend (for lack of a better word) is the less-is-more movement regarding support in running shoes.  I think the theory behind this notion is that most of us are better off running with minimal support. If we try to "correct" our alignment with adding extra support, we sometimes risk "over-correcting" the problem...creating even more problems.  This is not my field of study,  I'm just repeating some information I have seen.

Obviously, we are all created differently.  Some are fortunate to have everything perfectly aligned and never have problems running, walking or existing.  There are others who do need extra support for various reasons (under-developed bones, misaligned spinal column, injuries sustained from an accident, etc.).  Most of us fall somewhere in between these two extremes, though, and that presents us with the challenge of finding the "perfect" support that will enable us to perform our desired task...for example, running.

I have had my feet analyzed at a running store, and have been happy with the shoes recommended for me.  Since I am embarking on my first-ever running sabbatical, though, I thought I'd give these Vibrams a whirl (and the fact that a local store had them on sale for a too-good-to-miss price was a great incentive).

It was a bit of a challenge putting them on for the first time.  I discovered my toes have minds of their own, and all 10 of thems required some assistance finding their respective place in these shoes. The big toe (on each foot) kept wanting to slide into the 1st toe "slot," which propelled the other toes in the wrong direction as well.  Once I was able to get the big toe to find its home within the big toe slot, all the others lined up pretty easily...except for the pinky toe (on each foot as well), which did not want to uncurl or cooperate.  Eventually all toes were snug in their respective slots.

I was told these shoes are to fit snug, like socks, so there should not be any extra room. And I actually like the closer fit of these shoes.  When I buy my regular running shoes, I am usually encouraged to go up a size, to allow for extra toe room.  I have mixed feelings on this.  My feet are narrow, and adding the extra toe room really gets kind of massive in there. I think my toes move around too much, and feel like they "overlap" on the long runs, creating blisters and some post-race discomfort.  To actually have all my toes separated was a different experience, and one that will take some to getting used to.

Eager to test out these new shoes, I decided to do some walking on the treadmill.  I set the incline on 4, programmed the speed to 4.5 (my usual walking pace).  After the first quarter mile or so, I could tell this was going to be another journey to savor.  I could feel myself stepping hard on the treadmill belt, so I tried to concentrate on stepping "lightly" instead.  I also lowered the speed to 4.0 since this was a different kind of walking than I was used to, it would not be wise to go too fast too soon.  And, unlike my usual mid-foot strike, my feet kept wanting to do a heel-to-toe strike.

I completed 2  miles. I  felt like I maintained a good pace at a challenging incline.  I also noticed that my muscle stiffness seemed to feel better after the first mile or so....usually it takes 2-3 miles when I'm running.

So, what have I learned thus far?   I am not completely in love with these shoes yet, but I do think I will grow to appreciate what they will do for my feet and piriformis discomfort.  It's way too soon to determine if these shoes will eliminate all problems for me, or if I will even be a converted 5-Finger Runner, but I plan to use them for walking on the treadmill while on my running sabbatical.  With the form-fitting design, I will need to be disciplined to keep my toe nails trimmed (very short).  And, as a long-time owner of long, narrow feet....I have a small taste of what it feels like to look down and see a wide-expanse of shoe (completely NOT sold on that feature!). 

Stepping out of the comfort zone...always worth the effort.  Even if it means staying inside, with Duh'Mill.

Have any of you used this kind of shoes for running, or have converted to using them exclusively?

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