The internet can be irresistibly informing as well as delightfully distracting. For example, a simple internet search at work for "chauffeur", lead me to TechCrunch to learn about Google’s Chauffeur project. However, what really grabbed my attention were not the clever Toyota Prius cars mentioned nor the new Google ChromeBooks but something altogether down to earth; Sergey’s choice of footwear.
As soon as I saw the Vibram FiveFingers a virtual lightbulb sparked above my head. My first Tai Chi teacher, would often sing in praise of peasants’ feet. No, she does not have a unhealthy foot fetish, far from it. But she explained to us how ironically the super-poor are often blessed with truly perfect feet. Unconstrained by poorly fitting shoes, thick soles or gasp, high heels; the peasants’ bare feet help promote great posture and balance; two of the key foundations of Tai Chi Chuan.
The Google CEO’s Vibram FiveFingers also explained how my wife and I could have possibly seen barefoot prints on the gravel tracks in and around the New Forest. This helped calm our initial panic of imagining feral, insane asylum escapees running naked around our beloved National Park.
It also ignited new searches where I learnt about the joys of barefoot running, and the benefits that minimal footwear bring to the running party. Anyone that has walked on a pebble beach will know that it is none too pleasant, for soft westerners anyway, to walk without flip flops.
I have completed several runs now wearing my new Vibram FiveFingers Bikila running shoes. I still am not convinced that the Bikila model was the right choice for where I run. I suspect I should have bought the KSO or TrekSport model as Vibram suggest that these are better suited for light trekking and are also suitable for running. Maybe all Vibram FiveFingers runners can expect to get the odd bruised foot from a stone or two? The Bikila are very comfortable on tarmac and seem perfect for the average runner. There is a bit of a knack on slipping them on, but once on they feel very soft and strangely comforting. These will change your running technique instantly, unless of course you have already been running barefoot.
I may be in a sort of honeymoon period with the Vibrams, but when combined with Danny Dreyer’s amazing audiobook ChiRunning, running is no longer a bout of suffering in the name of keeping fit. I had chosen cycling to running, because it seemed a lot kinder on the body than pounding up and down while jogging. However, running mindfully wearing Vibram FiveFingers and using Mr Dreyers techniques is a whole different ball game, more like a spiritual practice than a work out.
Running can now be truly enjoyed as it once was by all of us; before we got tired of falling over. Running practically barefoot in FiveFingers makes you think about each step. Rather than relying on the super thick running sole of a typical running shoe and landing on the heel. Running ‘barefoot’ will help make you run just like you used to, by landing on the middle of the foot.
Technology can be both a blessing and a bugbear, and sometimes we have to come full circle to find the right way. I still use the Nike + GPS iPhone App to track my runs, but my new ride of choice are the FiveFingers. Personally, running ‘barefoot’ in FiveFingers is a huge step forward.