My FiveFingers

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My Two Cents on FiveFingers – Mishka Shubaly

by Dan Hinckley » on Feb 29, 2012 5

While reading The Long Run by Mishka Shubaly, I saw his reference to running in FiveFingers and other minimalist shoes but noticed that he didn’t describe his thoughts or experience with them.  Last week we reached out to Mishka and invited him to share his thoughts about Vibram FiveFingers.  Mishka was kind enough to put together a guest post for us, and you’ll find his thoughts below. 

Enter Mishka…

My Two Cents On FiveFingers

If you run, you have an opinion on Vibram FiveFingers. Has there been anything more divisive in the running community in recent Memory? The message board of my local runners’ group, North Brooklyn Runners, is regularly taken over by pissing contests between heel/ forefoot strikers, all convinced that their way is the only way. Vibrams are a godsend/ they’re an abomination/ they will cure all your running problems and injuries/ they are so hideously dorky that they may cause the human race to stop breeding and go extinct. I can’t promise to deliver some elusive truth on the subject as we all run for different reasons with different goals—indeed, one of the reasons we love running is that it’s as specific and intimate and personal as love itself—but here’s my take.

Like many newbies, I was introduced to ultrarunning and minimalist footwear by Christopher McDougall’s excellent Born To Run. We value good running books for their power to inspire us to run. Born To Run is powerful and exciting enough that I wanted to throw the book down when I finished it and go run 50 miles in my boxer shorts in January in the middle of the night. Obviously, that would have been a horrible mistake. While it’s not as obvious, snagging a pair of FiveFingers after a lifetime of running in ‘traditional’ running shoes and banging out an eighteen miler would be an equally horrible mistake.

Vibrams are clearly a radical departure from what we understand as a running shoe. As such, they’re an invaluable tool but I don’t think they are the end-all, be-all Greatest Of All Time. I grew up a barefoot kid, was a drunk for nearly twenty years and comfort has always been my guide—my shoes come off the minute I walk in the door and my pants immediately after—so I didn’t have to transition from a lifetime of running in huge-heeled running shoes. I know my experience is atypical, though, so if you are just starting to run barefoot (or “barefoot”) GO SLOW. The more time you take to transition to the barefoot style of running, the less likely you are to injure yourself and the more likely you are to stick with it.

Use your FiveFingers wisely. Twice, I’ve started trail races in Vibrams and switched to more traditional shoes halfway through. The first race started on beautiful, dusty single-track… and transitioned quickly to jeep trails strewn with golf-ball sized rocks that had me hopping and cursing for miles. The trail on the second race was riddled with roots and kicking a couple of those in a row just about ruined my day. Hell, I was following a guy in FiveFingers at Virgil Crest and every time I heard the soft ‘thunk’ of him kicking a root, I winced on his behalf. Though I love the unfettered feeling of running through the woods in Vibrams, ironically, I use them more for roadrunning. Though most people think of them as a trail shoe, I find them to be a better road shoe. On trails I don’t know or trails I know to be rocky, I default to New Balance MT-101s or, my old standby, Montrail’s Mountain Masochist, which is a far cry from a barefoot or even a minimalist shoe.

Still, my Vibrams and real, nothing-on-my-feet, actual barefoot running very much inform how I run and why I run. I run to feel free. And running in Mexico, down dusty streets, narrow jungle paths, on and off the beach, in and out of the surf, wearing only a pair of flyweight shorts, I feel gloriously animal, almost completely naked, free of all human concerns. So I wholeheartedly recommend investing time, effort and maybe even a little money in barefoot or ‘barefoot’ running. It’s good for you, like patting a smelly old dog is good for you, and it’s also good for your running. Now, even when running in my heavier trail shoes, I occasionally accidentally sneak up on people. I used to sound like an elephant falling down the stairs. Just match them to your purpose and to the terrain you’re running. And for God’s sake, do not wear them when you are not running—you make us all look bad.

What do you think about Vibram FiveFingers?

Submitted Comments

  1. Jim says:

    Well said. Live and let live. Too many people trying to inform everyone of the ‘right’ way. We’re all different and we don’t change no matter how people try. I used to run for results, now I enjoy running instead.

  2. Rick says:

    Good writeup, my only quibble is that, at the end, you narrow-cast FiveFingers to be only for running. This whole site is a testament to all of the different things people do in FiveFingers, and not caring what other people think about them when you wear them to the grocery store.

  3. Netjackal says:

    I have to admit I sort of agree with Rick. I find the irrational hatred of the VFFs to be entirely .. well .. irrational. If we don’t criticize people for wearing open toe sandals, why are we giving VFFs so much grief. Admittedly when people wear them to black tie dinners .. well probably not a good idea but when the attire is casual, I don’t see where the repulsion comes from? After all they look like our own feet, so why would you find your own feet disgusting?

  4. Nathaniel says:

    Well scripted take on the VFF. However, the last line made me want to take my VFF and slap him up side the head. I did not buy them to run in. I bought them because they were different and no one that I knew were wearing them. There are now more than a handful of people in the church that I pastor wearing them. Everywhere I go, it’s a conversation starter and I continue to have people tell me that I have convinced them to buy a pair. My convincing is that I tell them when I finish the day, each and every day, and I remove them, my feet feel like they have been massaged. My feet hurt when I put on “regular shoes.” I now have a wonderful solution. I do occasionally run in them, but they are my everyday shoe and they just flat out feel good. Not everyone will like them, just like everyone doesn’t like eating at Five Guys Burgers, or listening to jazz, or sitting on the deck at night staring up at the starts. That’s what makes this planet a beautiful place, and VFF’s are the perfect compliment to thinking outside the box – something I live to do each day.

  5. Spoone says:

    I have to agree with Rick and the Pastor.
    That last line made me want to whack the author upside the head, each their own.

    I wear my VFF’s because my ankles, knees, hips and lower back no longer cause me agony each and every day. It is precisely BECAUSE of them that I CAN run again…and I do.

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