Wednesday, 3 June 2009


Having taken the plunge and bought a pair of outrageously priced Vibram 5Fingers last week, I can report that they are very comfortable and entirely functional. I have milled around in them for a few days and tried sprinting and jumping.

They are becoming the paleo-footwear of choice and I was initially sceptical of them as they are in danger of becoming a badge of lifestyle de rigeur. However, whilst I don't feel my athletic prowess has improved, it is surprising that a design so radical from traditional training shoes should NOT be detrimental to mobility.

There is an interesting article available here (apologies - I don't normally read the Daily Mail). I like the following question,

  • "[I]f running shoes don't make you go faster and don't stop you from getting hurt, then what, exactly, are you paying for? What are the benefits of all those microchips, thrust enhancers, air cushions, torsion devices and roll bars?"

This in turn is based upon the research of Dr Craig Richards whose blog can be found here. Its content certainly gives food for thought and is well worth reading. You have got to like a guy who stands up to the $20bn running shoe industry and asks:

  • "Is any shoe manufacturer prepared to claim that wearing their running shoes will improve your distance running performance?If you are prepared to make these claims, where is your peer reviewed data to back it up?Stay tuned...I have my legal team standing by!"
Another review comes courtesy of Runners World, here. What is interesting about the RW review is the comment that during a tempo run "[at] six miles, though, my toes begin to ache, my legs start tiring--time to call it a successful run."

Hmmmm, seems to me that maybe we are not designed to run steady state at a moderately fast pace for long distances. What do you think? At least he listened to his body.

In sport and nutrition it seems to me that technological advance does not equate to progress. I am ever more inclined to live 'closer to the ground' and follow my paleo-compass.

Just as a quick update - there is an alternative to the Vibram Five Fingers range in the shape of 'FeelMax' footwear.


AT22 said...

I'm having some toe pain from wearing mine. Pinky toes. Any trouble with getting your little toes to fit in their nice and comfy?

Asclepius said...

I was chatting to Methuselah about this very issue. I take size 43 shoes (so around UK 10). But with the 5Fingers I have gone for a 42 Classic.

Now my right foot is slighlty larger than my left and I found that my right pinky took a day or two to feel comfortable. I wouldn't say I endured 'pain' but it was uncomfortable!

All 10 toes now feel 'bedded in' so I guess the shoes have stretched - or the nerves in the pinky have died ;) - but I wonder if I should have persisted with 43s rather than dropping down to 42s?

Still, like I say, things feel ok now. I can sprint and jump and they stay on my feet. When I get another pair, I might well go for the larger size of Flows.

Methuselah said...

My brother said his pinky was a bit confined for a bit, but it seemed to sort itself out too.

Good post Asclepius and I've noted the link to the alternative shoes. I bet there is a real trend towards this in the future.

My only concern is around my length discprepancy, as per my comment on Sklyer Tanner's blog.

We didn't evolve to wear padded trainers - but then we didn't evolve in a world of flat concrete ground that context are the corrections my podiatrist has prescribed for my biomechanical imbalance a good idea or not? Would wearing the VFF on concrete for a lifetime cause hip problems in later life? Mmmmm.

Asclepius said...

"Would wearing the VFF on concrete for a lifetime cause hip problems in later life?"

This was something I was pondering - particularly for running/sprinting. I wonder if the hard baked ground of the Savannah is more forgiving or equally hard on the body as concrete and tarmac?

At least leaping from boulder to boulder (think MovNat), allows the full shock absorbing mechanics of the leg to absorb impact.

Methuselah said...

Indeed - and of course the savannah would be an uneven surface so overuse injuries would not be promoted due to no two foot strikes being identical...

Asclepius said...

"and of course the savannah would be an uneven surface so overuse injuries would not be promoted due to no two foot strikes being identical"

'Hmmm - very interesting Mr Bond.' With this comment, I wonder if you have just made the case for changing exercises at least as regularly as we change reps and sets? If not moreso.

It would be interesting to investigate whether plateaus are reached more/less readily if we change exercise more often. Maybe only subtle changes in the profile of an exercise are required to make optimal gains? Changing military press for a handstand for example.

This may allow us to train more frequently whilst still following the BBS philosophy of extended rest, to some degree.

Methuselah said...

I do like the idea of exercise variety but am not sure whether it can increase the allowable frequency of exercise to failure under BBS. Now that I have read the next couple of chapters I realise just how much muscle breakdown is required for a proper BBS session. That will be on Wednesday!

Asclepius said...

Agreed that if you go down the BBS route, variety of exercise doesn't really allow an increase in the frequency of exercise to failure, but I find fatigue for a particular exercise can be quiet specific to that exercise and so I do have gas in the tank for other stuff.

Thus, I might be knackered from a session of pull-ups or MU's in a 'formal' strength training workout, but that won't stop me heading off climbing a few days later and hitting overhanging stuff that will obviously engage the shoulders. (This is, in part, due to the fact that fingers and arms will give out long before the shoulders.)

What I am really trying to say is that I simply CANNOT rest for a week. Even though I hit all my body hard once a week with (mainly bodyweight), exercises very similar to the 'Big 5', I just need to do something else that is very demanding after a few days of rest.

Maybe it is, as Taubes suggests, my fat cells releasing fatty acids efficiently and driving me to do stuff. Paleo-dude must have endured the same drivers from his insluin sensitivity - and perhaps explains whey ritual dances can be so energetic.

Sure I am not scared of resting when tired, or taking a week off here and there, but by the same token, when my body says - 'lets do stuff', I do it!

What I like about your take on variety is that there is a reduced number of identical 'movements' in a workout and between workouts. From your body's perspective, this has to be a good thing.

No one ever chopped down a tree without focussing the axe strikes in the same place.

Methuselah said...

I am pretty much of the same view - I can't go a week without doing other stuff. That's where our variety will come in. I am looking forward to my first real session. To start off with I will try to keep the betwee-BBS sessions to a minimum, or at least keep the intensity down. I am thinking that even if it proves successful, I will only do it for 8 weeks or so, then get down to some serious Paleo action, regardless of whether it's the best way to amke gains. Just enjoy it too much!

Anonymous said...

In regards to the idea that long-distance running is not paleo or how we have evolved. An interesting book on this subject is 'Born to Run' by Christopher McDougall. It involves an account of the Tarahumara indians in Mexico, who it would be hard to argue aren't about as Paleo as they come.

Asclepius said...

'Born to Run' is on my 'To Read' list. I have heard a lot of good things about it.

W.r.t distance running, my objection to modern distance running is that it is fetishised in to an intense exercise of getting from A to B to the strike of a clock, rather than any instinctive inner brake. The associated diet used to fuel the exercise is also questionable. Lastly, certain forms of running such as on a treadmill or road running, offer little in the way of variation and can lead to acute wear and tear. Then there is the footwear...

I guess time will tell WHERE running distance fits in to the paleo model.

Anonymous said...

True, there is actually a very good case in that book against conventional footwear.