So I’m going to start a mini series of reviews about the gear I use. As with so many other runners, I obsess over data, but again, as a runner, I obsess over running shoes even more, so I am going to start with my running shoes.
I have been through many shoes in my time as a runner, I used to be a huge fan of Saucony shoes, primarily because they are just so damn comfortable, starting with Saucony guides then moving on to Saucony Freedoms, replacing my shoes roughly every 5 months or so. Last year though, I tried Vibram V-runs, a minimalist pair of running shoes after reading Chris McDougall’s ‘Born to Run’ and being inspired to try something new with the hope that it would improve my running performance. I had bought a pair of Vibrams, some years ago, on a bit of a whim while in the USA on holiday, they never came home with me, there was so much about minimalist running that I didn’t know and I just thought they were bloody painful to wear!
Last year, when I finally had read a lot, learned a lot and taken the decision to buy a pair, I finally got the Vibram 5 Fingers V-Running shoes:-
I needed about a month to adapt to running in minimalist shoes.
I have done an earlier post on the adaptation process I experienced, might be useful for you if you are considering it! But suffice to say, do not rush this, it is not worth it.
So, what do I think about these shoes, that I have been running in 3-5 times a week for around 13 months now? Well, let’s explore!
Lets first think about value for money (I can be a bit flinty!). When I purchased these they cost £120, not an unusual price for a good pair of running shoes, a pair of Saucony Freedom 3 shoes could set you back £140, so not a lot in it. I also needed to buy a couple of pairs of Injinji toe socks so that more than made up the difference. The big difference I am going to shout about is that with my Saucony shoes, I would have to replace them frequently because they wear out and manufacturers recommend replacement (my cynic is shouting “well of course they do you idiot!!”), oh, and this is not just Saucony, this is every running show I have ever worn. I have historically replaced my running shoes around 3-400 miles, mostly because they look more knackered than me, but with my Vibrams, I am currently at 736 miles and they are going strong, just starting to show a little wear on the soles but not of concern. The reason for this of course is that in (lets call them) ‘normal’ running shoes, you have a layer of foam or gel or whatever to cushion your heel strike, obviously this wears out and you can end up causing more harm than good to your body and your running technique. With Vibrams there is ZERO cushion from the start, so it can’t wear out and you adapt to running in a way your were ‘Born to Run’, ie without a heel strike.
From a styling perspective, lets just say that these are fairly unique! I usually get comments from other runners (or at least used to when running together was ok at places like ParkRun) asking how they are and do they make me faster (I’ll come back to that) also sometimes a little banter about looking like I have gorilla feet lol. But to me they are functional and work perfectly.
The quality of the shoe is undeniable, well stitched, machine washable and they dry quickly, I have absolutely no issues with their quality.
The effects of using these shoes for over a year now is interesting. The first thing I notice is more flexibility in my feet, particularly my toes, (not so much one of my big toes because I recently broke that, not running!) I can flex my toes much more than before and have far greater individual control of each toe. I had heard this before starting using minimalist shoes but disregarded it thinking it was hokum, but its true! I also notice far greater muscle definition of my calves, which makes sense seeing that you end up using your tendons and muscles as springs when running in shoes like this. But I guess the burning question from many runners is, do they make you faster, and I have to say, no, if anything, I am slower. I don’t know if that is down to the shoes, my training plan, age, beer etc, maybe a combination of all of these but I am slower than I used to be, but I’m ok with that. So, don’t expect to put these on and get magically faster, they simply make you run the way your body is meant to, without any carbon aids or springy foamy gel stuff. If you stick with the shoes, you will become a forefoot striker, widely recognised as the best way for a distance runner, other than that and the incidentals I noted above there is no other benefits to minimalist running that I can see. That said, these are great benefits, from just a shoe!
In a nutshell, I love these shoes and run in nothing else except a pair of Vibram V-Trails which I use if I know I am going trail running. I did, one day, try running in my Saucony’s (which I now use around the house) but they felt awful, unnatural, heavy and cumbersome. I had to stop and get my Vibrams, so I guess that proves it for me!
So, next up for my reviews will be clothes, giving you my views of the tops, shorts and underwear I use 🙂