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27/03/2012 at 15:36
Anyone used these new-fangled barefoot running shoes i.e. Vibram 5 fingers or a minimalist shoe like the Merrell Trail Glove?

Am wondering if its worth taking a £70 punt on some.
27/03/2012 at 15:43
A colleague of mine from work suggests that they are the comfiest things hes ever run in, though I think he mentioned your running style alters slightly.

Can't comment myself because I'm not a runner, like things at a slower pace.

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27/03/2012 at 15:50
Cheers Dave, you wouldn't know if he said any thing about injuries i.e. getting more? or what surface he was running on?

Thats my main concern really.
27/03/2012 at 16:01

I've used 5 Fingers as lightweight hut-wear, and for fording rivers in Iceland. Quite honestly, I can't wear them at all on uneven ground, and stony ground is too painful for words. Fording rivers, they're better than going barefoot, though there is the bonus that feet are likely to get numb with cold part-way across!

(Technically, I shouldn't have used the same footwear for fording rivers AND going into huts. The Icelandic rule is that once footwear has been set onto the ground, it miraculously transforms from indoor to outdoor footwear, and is therefore banned from coming indoors! The 5 Fingers got washed in the rivers and dried before I reached each hut, so no-one was any wiser!)

27/03/2012 at 16:24
He says the following:

They have been a godsend, made him quicker and ended some trouble he was having with his knees. He uses them on roads and suggests theyd be pretty useless on trails.

When he first started using them his calves were painful due to a new running style and he got some pretty bad blisters, again, because youre using different parts of your feet. He thought maybe too much too soon could cause some injuries but once you've got used to them over a couple of weeks, they are very good.

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Check out the blog here......

27/03/2012 at 16:39
I've not used fivefingers, or the merrells, but I do run barefoot sometimes. You absolutely have to get your technique down, and in particular learn to land on your forefoot. Some good resources are barefootrunning, the inspirational barefootted and a good book is Ken Saxtons Barefoot Running Step by Step. Years past everyone ran in very thin soled shoes without any heel, shock absorbtion or motion control - they were called plimsolls. Or track spikes. One aspect of the barefoot running philosophy is to eschew not only shoes but the multi-billion-dollar hype merchants that market them, so think twice at least before giving Merrell your money. 'Barefoot running shoes' sounds a bit like 'diet food' - nonsense. You want to run barefoot? Run barefoot. You want to diet? Eat less. Costs nothing. Or maybe checkout diy huarache sandals - saw a guy running through Glasgow in some a wee while ago.
Edited: 27/03/2012 at 16:44
27/03/2012 at 23:39
I've had Five Fingers a couple of years now. I run in them too, only on grass round the local parks. You cannot heel strike... ever. To start with it's a case of swapping knee pain for calf pain but as long as you take the time to adapt, stretch well, then it's no problem.
I've got quicker but that's because they've forced me to clean up my style.
There's a big difference too between my basic model Five Fingers and something like the Merrells, due to the toes still being clamped together in the Merrells - for me, half of the appeal is having the toes do what they are supposed to do.
ALS does have a point - it's free to run barefoot. If you want to have dog crap squidged between your toes - run barefoot. Running in plimsoles is not the same as running in Five Fingers however, there's still no freedom for the toes but it will clean up your style and stop you heel striking.
I bought mine for the looks and also for the attention they get. I can be quite shallow. The fact they've helped my running is a bonus.
27/03/2012 at 23:43

I own both and used them regularly last year, mainly through summer. 

I do prefer the Fivefingers (which I own the sprints), but it took me a good while to get use to the design (regularly wearing them around the house helped), which was the main reason I purchased the Merrell's (impatiences).  The Fivefingers feel far more natural to me in terms of being lighter, better fitting, and as though you are actually barefoot, but with just enough protection from the ground.  The Merrel's on the other hand just feel like flat plimsolls too me.   

I don't struggle using them on any type of terrain really and haven't experienced any injuries, just sore calves initially, which I expected, and soon resides.

28/03/2012 at 00:41
I got a pair of the Vibram clones off DealExtreme, just to see how I got on with them before spending big dosh. The build quality is actually pretty good considering where they came from.

I've worn them round the house and once on a short day walk in a dry woodland, I don't think they're really my thing though, my toes aren't straight and perfect enough so it's a pain getting them on sometimes.

I've thought about sticking them in the pack for river crossings

These are the clones if anyone's interested ..
Edited: 28/03/2012 at 00:43
28/03/2012 at 08:49
"The plimsolls were smooth-soled, so we had to concentrate very hard on staying on our feet when running on slick or muddy ground. We became very strong as a result. The constant hill running, the mud and the smooth-soled shoes meant that we had to develop efficient technique! Cross country racing in England has always been a very tough game."

- Gordon Pirie, from "Running Fast and Injury Free, a great book if you are interested in minimalist running shoes and technique.
Edited: 28/03/2012 at 08:50
29/03/2012 at 09:42
I have been wearing minimalist shoes for about 3 years now. I was unable to run before, but can now run reasonable distances (up to half marathon) usually off road. I now find any built up supportive shoe too uncomfortable for words! I personally don't particularly like five fingers. None have enough grip to use confidently off road in all conditions, they have to fit just so and if you have odd shaped feet like me they probably won't be comfortable. At the moment Vivo barefoot seem to work best for me. I wear Ra's to work, evos as an everyday shoe, and neo trails for running and waalking. In the winter I size up and wear knee length sealskins which keep me toasty warm. Living in the SW snow and ice is not an issue, but if I did go somewhere it was a possibility, I would try Kahtoola running crampons, which seem to work for Anton Krupricka, who runs in them in some pretty wild conditions!
29/03/2012 at 17:17
Wow thanks everyone..... loads to read!

My gut feeling after reading this is that I'm still on the wall. My biggest fear is injury. Even just a few years ago an injury would heal fairly quickly. Nowadays injuries seem to turn into niggles that go on for months. Call me strange but running keeps me sane and not being able to run due to an injury is a a prison sentence to me.

The technique thing is interesting... is it something that comes naturally or do you have to be told to do X,Y,Z and then think about doing it as you run?

Not looking to do any hardcore off road but am currently enjoying running various bits of the New River path (mainly grass and compacted soil) which I think might be an ideal place to try them out.

There seems to be no consensus on the best 'shoe'... as such I'm guessing that its a case of doing a bit of shopping and seeing what fits best?

Kelvin, used to run barefoot on bournemouth beach till I felt a squelching between my toes.
30/03/2012 at 00:05

I've a pair of Merrell bare-foot shoes and though I like them I think the whole barefoot shoes thing is ridiculous. If you want lightweight shoes that feel like barefoot then just buy a pair of plimsoles, the sort that you once did PE in. The Merrell shoes provide no better grip or durability and cost £70 more. If I hadn't won them there's no way I'd own a pair!

If you're happy with normal road shoes for your running then I'd say to stick with them. Also, despite what the brands say, road shoes are absolutely fine for most off-road stuff. I ran the Yorkshire 3 Peaks at the weekend in normal road shoes and only on the soggy steep bog off Pen-y-Gent did I feel my Innov-8s would have been better.

Regarding barefoot technique, it is something that came fairly naturally to me when I used them. You shorten your stride and this reduces impact by changing where you land on your feet. You might experience tight calves because of the fore-foot landing but nothing some stretching won't sort out.

Here is my blog: Come have a look!

30/03/2012 at 00:38
I've been using New Balance Minimus shoes for about 6 months now and after getting used to them have found them more comfortable to wear than cushioned shoes.
Also recently got some Merrells, but not given them a proper go yet.
30/03/2012 at 07:54
I've been a secret barefoot hiker for years - not often, just occasionally when the mood has taken me. I've walked barefoot in Wales and Dartmoor not to mention a few other places.

I started using barefoot running technique for running two years ago and, being a heavy heel striker (the cause of one or two leg injuries) it took me quite a while to adapt to mid / forefoot running. I now run barefoot on a regular basis but will use plimsolls (daps) on the more harsh terrain / during the colder months and I've never looked back.

As to the expensive shoes I can't say that I've tried them - I certainly can't afford them! My daps cost me 4 quid and I've run 300-400 miles in the current pair (that includes all through this last winter) and they're still going strong. They're as minimalist as you get, cheap as chips, have any extremely thin sole (I even take out the innersole) and have no heel lift. They would be perfect expect the grip is very poor and oft times requires sterling concentration.

I'm not dissing the Vibrams, I love the look of them and would be more than happy to try a pair out but most of the minimalist running shoes only have an expected life of a few hundred miles - I'd be wearing them out twice a year!
30/03/2012 at 10:26

Vibram Fivefingers do provide a more natural experience IMO (if you can get use to the design), far more so than plimsolls and the Merell trail gloves I own.  As for the issue of grip, I find the Speeds I own (not Sprints!) great off road, which was the main reason I purchased them, as the grip on all the other designs at the time didn't look great to me, but I've no personal experience of using the other designs.

I'd certainly buy another pair of Fivefingers, if I could get another decent deal, but wouldn't buy the Merrell's again.  Whilst Plimsolls often fall to bits in no time, they provide the same experience as the Merrell's, and can be picked up for next to nowt.  Plus, as they seem to be fashionable at the moment, there seems to be some variation on the design and grip, rather than them all being smooth soled.      

30/03/2012 at 10:39
"Whilst Plimsolls often fall to bits in no time" - not mine, I got well over 600 miles in the last pair and 300+ miles in the current ones (and that's all off road terrain in all conditions).

Mine are from Primark BTW and have a fine tread on them which wears very thin on the main footstrike area after a couple of hundred miles making running on ice....interesting.

It'll be warm enough for barefoot running soon! Hurrah!
30/03/2012 at 13:31

Cool. Will have to try a Primark pair then, as I've never owned a pair that's lasted very long at all.  I basically gave up on em when my last pair fell to bits on the 2nd day of a 3 day hike!

I use to get my walking underwear and all my work t-shirts from Primark up until about 2 years ago when they suddenly stopped stocking the underwear (which were brill), and the t-shirts became ruined after just one wash (when they last ages before)! Will defo try the plimsoles out though. 

30/03/2012 at 13:53
Anyone care to define 'plimsolls' as its not a word I've really heard since primary school then again I seem to remember trainers being called "daps"..... a regional quirk?
30/03/2012 at 14:00
Google is your friend Bedders :
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