Wednesday, August 19, 2009

FiveFingers in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness

I recently bought a pair of Vibram FiveFingers Sprint (pictured). They're minimal, lightweight shoes with "toes". They're designed to mimic barefoot walking as closely as possible, while protecting the feet from punctures and abrasion. The soles are thin, flexible and offer no padding whatsoever.

I've always been a barefoot walker, because I enjoy it and our feet evolved to be nude (or close to it). Besides feeling amazing, walking barefoot may allow the body to express better biomechanics. My feet have become tougher over time, but I still can't handle a rough trail barefoot.

When I first put the FiveFingers on, my initial thought was "these don't feel as much like being barefoot as I wish they did". Simply having something between your skin and the ground makes your feet much less sensitive. But I got used to them quickly, eventually using them for my parkour training.

I had a few converstions with my parkour instructor Rafe Kelley, during which I realized I had to re-teach myself how to walk and run correctly. Rafe is well-versed in natural human movement due to his background in MovNat, gymnastics, martial arts, strength training, parkour and anthropology. Modern shoes allow us to walk and run in a way that our bodies did not evolve to tolerate. The padding in shoes allows us to take large steps, in which we overshoot our center of gravity and contact the ground in a jarring manner. It also allows us to strike with our heels when we run, which is not comfortable when you're barefoot.

I took the FiveFingers on a 13-mile hike in the Alpine Lakes wilderness with a few friends last weekend. The Pacific Northwest has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. I was expecting to use the shoes for a few miles and then swap them for my lightweight hiking shoes (Inov8 Flyroc trail runners). The beginning of the trail was really rocky and I thought I was going to have to take them off in the first few hundred yards. Surprisingly, my feet adapted, and although the trail stayed rocky, it became fairly comfortable by the time we had walked a mile.

I found myself thinking about Rafe's advice, and taking smaller steps that strike closer to my center of gravity. Although my strides were shorter, I had no trouble keeping up, and in fact going up the hills was remarkably easy. We gained 3,000 feet of elevation but I never got winded. I had to pay close attention to foot placement, which kept me from looking around much but was actually kind of fun.

After a few miles, I switched to my hiking shoes, with the idea that I should switch before my feet really started to hurt, rather than after. I immediately noticed that going up hills was harder, especially on my calves. My feet felt more cumbersome as well.

Here's me foraging for mushrooms on the trail. This is Laetiporus sulphureus, also known as "chicken of the woods". It's widely eaten in this area. However, my mushroom guide All That the Rain Primises, and More, had this to say about it:

"If you eat and enjoy this moushroom, always cook it thoroughly and do not serve it to lawyers, landlords, employers, policemen, pit bull owners, or others whose good will you cherish!"

I didn't take my chances. If you're going to pick wild mushrooms, make sure you know what you're doing and carry a regional identification guide. "I recognize them from China/Russia/Europe" kills several people a year in the Pacific Northwest. If you're experienced, this area is a mushroom bonanza. I can't set foot outside without stepping on a king bolete (porcini, cep) in the fall.

I ended up switching back to the FiveFingers for the majority of the hike, about 9 miles of it. The soles of my feet were a bit sore by the end (due to stepping on sharp rocks for miles), but my joints and muscles felt remarkably good! I had no joint pain or muscle tightness. I also felt pretty energetic. This was a big surprise, since I haven't done much hiking this year. The next day, my calves were sore, but that was it.

All in all, I really like the FiveFingers. I can wear them in places that require shoes, yet remain nearly barefoot. One potential drawback is the price-to-durability ratio. They cost me $80 and I don't expect them to last a year [Update 2013-- they are surprisingly durable]. That being said, I'm putting a beating on them. Parkour training destroys shoes. The rubber seems to be excellent quality (which you'd expect from Vibram), but it's thin and it has cuts in it for flexibility and grip, which will lower its lifespan. The upper is simply a piece of stretchy fabric that tears easily. I'm willing to deal with the durability issues because the advantages outweigh them [update- several FiveFingers wearers have commented that they actually last a surprisingly long time. See comments].

63 comments:

Gwennie said...

Thanks for the review of Vibram FiveFingers. I appreciate that you presented the pros and cons. I've been waffling over whether or not I want a pair. Now I know I do.

My family and I have done a few Northwest hikes but I have never been to the Alpine Lakes. From the looks of it, the trip would be more than worthwhile. Beautiful!

Billy Oblivion said...

I think you're going to be a bit surprised as their durability. One side effect of having to walk a little softer is that you don't hit the shoes quite as hard.

I have a pair of the KSOs, and have been wearing them off and on for over a year.

Now, I don't wear them every day (I was wearing them every other day here in Iraq for a couple months though) but mine really don't look much worn at all.

strongerfasterfarther said...

I'm with Billy on the durability issues. I wear my KSOs for all my workouts (sprints outside or in the gym) as well as on weekends and the weekly trail run. I'm surprised that the sole is at most 20% worn after 11 months - better than most conventional shoes. That said, I can't speak to the beating they're sure to take during parkour.

MissRancher said...

My husband and I each have a pair, and we love them. I did notice sometimes it chafes a little at the back of my ankle, but nothing terrible. They've held up really well for 2 years, although I would say commuting in them in DC is less wear than hiking...

Joseph said...

I wish I had someplace that sold them. They would have saved my feet on my last hike. A river trail with 43 river crossings. My water shoes torn up my feet. Guess I should have worn socks. It would have been a great test for the 5 fingers. Though I did slip in the river (it was the highest we've seen it) and tear my hamstring.

Question, were you hiking with a pack? I normally have a pack from 40 - 50 lbs. Do you think that would make a difference?

Brock Cusick said...

I love my VFF's (Joseph - I bought them online). However, if anyone has any tips for keeping them from stinking up the place, I'm all ears. I can't even wear them a day before they're noticeable to people in a closed room.

And yes, I do wash them weekly and have tried soaking them in vinegar overnight. No dice.

Jack Rusher said...

I'll add a third vote for the surprising durability of the FiveFingers. I've been playing parkour, hiking and bouldering in my Sprints for ~3 years now. They're worn, but still serviceable.

pelotkin said...

"Chicken of the woods" is a perfectly fine and yummy mushroom, when cooked, of course. I usually saute them for a while. The trick is to find young yellow specimens, the old ones are chewy!

Eric said...

I agree that the Pacific Northwest has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world! I admit I might be a bit biased though, as it looks so similar to my homeland, Canada :-)

I use the FiveFingers for everything, including plyometrics, strength training (except olympic lifts) and sprinting! Just as what people notice in walking and long distance running, the use of the FiveFingers for these activities really allows one to express proper biomechanics. When I get back to my basketball shoes on the hardwood floor, I feel lighter on my feet, just from having done my training in them (unfortunately, until everyone plays ball in FiveFingers, I'll have to accept the fact that b-ball shoes remain essential for the game itself...).

As you mention Stephan, one becomes a better walker when being as close as possible to barefoot, and the same is true for any movement, be it running, sprinting or jumping. One doesn't pound the surface as hard and therefore, the movement is made more efficient and at the same time, spares the joints. A good combo if you ask me!

As most people who adopt proper running and walking form will notice, the only drawback might be initial calf soreness, which usually subsides after a few days. This is simply due to the fact that the proper structures (namely the ankle and calf) end up absorbing much of the impact, as such sparing the knees and back of all the extra stress (you may refer to this artice for further details: http://www.posetech.com/library/dr-02-04-004.html). This is also why it is important to stress the progressive increase of mileage or foot touches when implementing the drastic change in form that accompanies the use of FiveFingers...

Thanks for this post :-)

Mamatha said...

I love my VFF Sprints too. But the only downside is my achilles tendon hurts as soon as I start walking in them but it goes away after a few minutes. I have had them for about a month now, so I might just have to wait to break into them.

Mamatha

Aaron Blaisdell said...

I've had my FiveFingers for about two months now and swear by them. I've always been a soft, careful stepper with a relatively short stride for my height, so maybe that's why it was such a breeze to transition into them. I had no foot, ankle, or calf soreness caused by switching to them. I think the sensational experience I get while wearing them is so awesome I try to use them every day. I get a lot of interesting comments at the supermarket for sure!

Jenny Light said...

I have been contemplating buying a pair of these, as I have always been a barefoot girl! I never (in my 49 years) have worn shoes around the house, and have always hated having to wear them at all.

I can imagine the ease with which you walk on an incline, as I have always been amazed at the work required to walk up a flight of stairs in shoes vs barefeet!

I will definately be placing an order for these!

Kennedy said...

The shoes I wear have next to no sole anyway, otherwise I would probably buy a pair. I still might, but it's not pressing for me. Damn they look cool.

You know I've noticed girls who wear thin soled sandal-shoes are more attractive to me. Better posture and legs probably...

Great blog!

homertobias said...

Stephan
Thanks so much for this post. It has opened my eyes to several things that I know nothing about.We are going to Vail hiking in a month and I think I may order a five fingers for my pussy feet. I'm sure mine are alot softer than yours though since my primary sport is bicycle riding. (Colnago) Rafe Kelly must be a wonderful resource. His June 5 blogpost entitled Fear is awe inspiring and demonstrates what must be a Parkour philosophy applicable to athletes and nonathletes alike.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Billy, strongerfasterfarther, MissRancher, Jack,

Good to know. Maybe they'll last longer than I thought.

Joseph,

I had a small day pack on that weighed about 10 lbs. I have no idea how they would perform on a real backpacking trip. Although my packs are usually 20 lbs or less, so it probably wouldn't be an issue. Sorry to hear about your hamstring.

Pelotkin,

Yeah the ones I picked were getting on the big side. That was one of the reasons I didn't end up eating them. Maybe I'll try them someday.

Kennedy,

I'm with you 100%. The gait of a woman in high heels is unattractive to me.

Homertobias,

They're great shoes, but make sure to allow your feet to adapt to them before taking them hiking. Have a nice trip.

Diana Hsieh said...

I love my VFFs too! My switch to barefoot hiking and running last summer was the solution to months of chronic foot pain that made even short runs cause two weeks of horrible foot pain.

I posted some details on my foot problems in this post on some barefoot & fasted hiking we did in Maine: Some Notes on Maine.

Julie said...

From personal experience, definitely do not eat any wild mushrooms unless you are with someone who really knows what they are doing and are 100% sure of your identification. I went out with 4 friends, 5 of us in all, 2 proclaimed mushrooming intermediates, with 2 different local CA field guides (we were in CA). We STILL misidentified our mushrooms and ended up in the hospital. I know you're thinking we're totally idiots for taking the chance. Yes, for the most part. But, in my weak defense, we did know what we could mistake the mushroom for and none had serious consequences. Worst case scenario: puking in the hospital with IVs... you can guess what happened. Hopefully my stupidity will help others be more careful. For me, my brief mushrooming career is officially over.

John said...

No one has mentioned any fitting issues with VFF. One person even said they purchased online. Are feet simply far more tolerant of minor size/shape discrepancies with this style of footwear?

Aaron Blaisdell said...

John,

I'm glad I tried mine on at a store. They had a variety of sizes to choose from. It took about 4 or 5 pairs before I found ones I was comfortable with. In fact, according to the Vibrams Five Finger fitting shoe plate (to measure the appropriate size), my feet should be in a Vibrams shoe about 4 sizes smaller than what I ultimately went with. I think the issue for me is that I have narrow feet with long toes, and the critical part was finding a shoe with toes long enough to fit mine. Actually, the heel of the shoe sticks out almost two inches beyond where my heel ends. So I guess the shoe doesn't fit me as it ideally should, but as I said, it was way too uncomfortable to wear a shoe with the proper foot length but with the toes being too short to accommodate mine.

John said...

Thanks, Aaron.

I also found this, although it is long and I haven't time to read it now.

http://www.begin2dig.com/2008/11/fitting-vibram-five-fingers-and-injinji.html

Justin said...

@Brock,

You might want to check out this thread on the subject of stanky VFFs and various solutions folks have applied in dealing or eliminating fivefingers smell:

http://birthdayshoes.com/forum/index.php?topic=20.0

@Stephen,

Great write-up, and though I haven't personally put this many miles on my VFFs, there are reports of runners putting upwards of 2,000 miles on a pair. A more common problem is seams coming apart before the soles wear through.

I'll see about linking to this post in the latest reviews for this week -- and maybe I could convince you to do a featured interview on birthdayshoes.com (something like this: http://birthdayshoes.com/index.php/interviews/ )

- Justin (At birthdayshoes.com and justinowings.com)

Anna said...

I love my Vibram Five Fingers. I have the *most* tender feet and I can walk over gravel and hot pavement with them on. I've done several like hikes over rocky paths with them without issue. I think they are great exercise for my feet and they wash up well in the machine (air dry).

After decades of wearing sensible & supportive shoes that busted my wallet, the barefoot shoe revolution is yet another paradigm shift for me, this time literally under my feet. I wish I could wear them all the time. They won't reverse the bunion on my left foot, but I do think they are good for my feet and posture.

willismorse said...

I've been wearing my KSO's daily for almost a year now. I don't think the sole will ever wear out, but I did trip once while running, stubbed my big toe and scraped a hole in the top fabric. Since then the tear is getting larger, so that's what will probably kill them.

I also got a pair of Flows (the wetsuit version) last winter and wore them around in the snow and ice, shoveling the driveway, etc. Surprisingly I had no frostbite, in fact my feet were generally pretty hot. But slush does wick through and I started wondering what the road salt was doing to my skin. No sign of damage, though, so I'll wear them again next winter. They get a little hot in the summer, but washing seems to remove the stink more effectively on the Flows than the KSO's.

So far the only thing I can't do in them is cycling (not for lack of trying. Catching my big toe in the chain once was enough for me, though)

shel said...

Brock~

same problem here. i sprinkle foot powder in them now and everything's good. your feet get a bit white, but you'd probably wash them when you got home anyway. also, i don't wash them in the machine. it doesn't seem to work. i use a scrub pad under running water inside the vffs in the tub.

and yes, these things last. i treat these things brutally in the Alberta Rockies. my feet just get tougher, and my toes are beginning to splay. good stuff.

Mike Sawley said...

Timely post Stephan. I've shied away from wearing my Five Fingers Sprint for running on pavement, but just got back from wearing them while hiking/climbing on domes in Yosemite. They worked great, but I also had to look down and mind my steps more than I'd like to avoid the marble-sized rocks that I as threats. Glad I have them and will use them next time.

BTW Joseph, you can just buy online from their website. I had to exchange mine for a smaller pair, which they did for no charge/hassle.

Half Navajo said...

i have been wearing mine everyday for three months, and they are in supreme condition still!!! I ran 15 miles in them the other day, on sidewalk and pavement... it looks like these things may last awhile. Its either barefooted or these babies!! They even let me wear them at the healthfood store i work at! My whole body as a whole has gotten much stronger from going barefooted running and walking all the time. I really love these shoes though!!!

Everyone needs to go barefooted or wear vibrams!!!

troy

charlesdowney said...

That’s a common reaction I get to my Vibram Five Fingers. Others include, “Hey can you run in those?” (Yes). Or, “Do they feel weird? Is it hard to adjust to them?” (Not really and No — its like being barefoot!). And of course, “What are those? And where can I get them?”

_______________
Blue Cross

Brock Cusick said...

Justin & Shel, thanks for the tips. I've been washing them in the machine almost weekly and (1) it doesn't really solve the problem and (2) the seams are already starting to wear after three months. I'll have to check out your solutions.

Thanks!

youngblood.carl said...

I've worn a solid dime sized hole in my KSOs in less than 5 months of daily use. I'm less than thrilled.

Ryan Koch said...

I had a brief stint with VFFs a few years ago and found that they didn't fit well. I have fairly wide feet and long toes that are kind of funky shaped thanks to wearing soccer shoes for much of my life -- this didn't seem to work with VFFs unfortunately. Maybe I just need to try on several pairs like Aaron did.

For now, I hike and backpack (weights up to 60 lbs) with my homemade tire sandals, which are absolutely awesome. They're made from go-cart tires, so the tread is pretty thin yet very durable, and I still feel the changing terrain below me as I walk. Also, my legs get incredibly strong very quick from the proper biomechanics this footwear encourages.

I posted a picture on my blog a while back. The straps are from old bicycle innertubes and work great.

John said...

shel, what are you using as foot powder?

I have now read this long commentary,

http://www.begin2dig.com/2008/11/fitting-vibram-five-fingers-and-injinji.html

and found it, and things it links to, to have much useful information with good face validity.

StephenB said...

How can people run in these? I like mine, will have to try the smaller steps, but I'd have no clue how to run miles in them.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Justin,

If you send me an e-mail, we can discuss the idea of an interview.

Ryan,

That is just awesome. Have you ever posted a tutorial for making those?

squatjump said...

I recommend walking barefoot around the house for a few months before getting serious about barefoot trekking.

Ryan Koch said...

Stephan,

I haven't posted a tire sandals tutorial yet. Maybe I'll do that in the near future ...

Lynn M. said...

If your legs and feet ache after walking barefoot for 10 minutes, would that mean you're not a good candidate for VFF?

My feet have a high arch with very wide front foot and narrow heel. I supinate and have a pronounced heel strike. My nickname in college was The Penguin because of my gait.

Orthotics give me the ability to stand up all day. Without them I crash after 10 minutes.

I'm wondering if wearing VFF would eventually lead me to correct my gait. Or, on the other hand, perhaps wearing them would mean a return to the constant leg pains I experienced before orthotics.

Miki said...

Also in possession of KSO's.
Great, only don't ever climb a sandy hill with them, which is what I did this morning. Lot's of small stones in between the soles. Very hard to remove. Great blog. Already translated one of your post in my Israeli blog

John said...

I did a ton of reading about VFFs yesterday. I didn't find a mention anywhere of people having difficulty putting them on. The Vibram FAQ says, "FiveFingers use a stretch fabric upper that accommodates most medium and wide widths (up to EEE) comfortably..."

I found a local store that sells VFFs and was waited on by an apparently knowledgeable salesperson who used the VFF sizing gadget. I have no toe-length issues. But I had a simply terrible time trying to put on some KSOs, both the indicated size and the next size up (which was indeed clearly too big). Once I got the shoe on it felt OK, as far as I could tell. I managed to get the other shoe on over one of the compatible socks with a comparable struggle. It felt different, but OK too.

All in all, the struggle was too much. I did not buy.

My feet are wider than average, but nothing like EEE. I'm puzzled. Anyone have any light to shed?

Ryan Koch said...

Lynn,

When I was a child, my mom encouraged me to wear arch supports because I had high arches. If you saw my feet from a side profile view from ground level, you could actually see under and beyond the arches to objects behind them -- that's how high they were!

After a while, I decided I was tired of having to rely on arch supports in my shoes, and I started wearing flat-soled sandals and walking barefoot. For a few months, I had shin splints and very sore feet. All my foot muscles felt like they were stretching and getting stronger day by day after until the soreness went away. My arches slowly came down to the earth and my toes slowly became straighter (they were quite crooked from soccer shoes).

It took some time, but eventually my feet felt stronger than ever. Now they can easily support my full weight and, when wearing my flat tire sandals, I can carry a very heavy backpack. I've had no ankle injuries or other such foot-induced injuries since improving my foot strength.

Just wanted to let you know that there's hope for high-arched, orthotic-dependant folks!

AngloAmerikan said...

After reading this post I’ve done a bit of research on Parkour. This is quite an exciting form of exercise and something I have been developing in my own exercise routines for the past few months. I was quite impressed with the concept of “free running” but not willing to take the risk of breaking my older bones so I was doing a mild form of free running. I didn’t realize that Parkour had already been invented. Just jogging now seems so mild and inane – when you can be walking, running, walking on all fours, jumping, balancing and climbing. I’m lucky in that I live close to a 300 acre park filled with trees, rock walls and an extinct volcano. Coming back from a 40 minute Parkour session I am now drenched in sweat and feel that the whole body has had a good and practical workout.

Georges Herbert’s definition of Parkour:

Methodical, progressive and continuous action, from childhood to adulthood, that has as its objective: assuring integrated physical development; increasing organic resistances; emphasizing aptitudes across all genres of natural exercise and indispensable utilities (walking, running, jumping, quadrupedal movement, climbing, equilibrium (balancing), throwing, lifting, defending and swimming); developing one's energy and all other facets of action or virility such that all assets, both physical and virile, are mastered; one dominant moral idea: altruism.

Anna said...

I don't wear my VVFs all that often, but it did take longer to get them on at first. Two toes would often be reluctant avoid heading for one toe space at first. My left foot - the one deformed by a bunion, was the worst foot.

Within two weeks of wearing the VFFs several times, it became much faster and easier to put them on. All I have to do now is hook my finger to separate my little toe and all the toes go into the correct place the first time. It might be just practice that made it easier, but I think my toes are a bit more separated and agile now.

I have the style with the strap across the foot top.

Lauren said...

love mine, walking six miles in them is no problem. I sprint a bit too. With regard to smell, baking soda overnight helps. And I throw them in the washing machine, cold water only and then dry in the dryer with no heat. Pretty sure heat would destroy them.

Steel Phoenix said...

I keep two pairs, and when one comes out of the laundry, I put the others in. I wash them on hot which is much more effective at getting rid of any stink and hasn't hurt them a bit. I've never put them in the dryer, they don't really hold enough water to need it.

Mine have shown very little wear after many washings and miles. I think the soles hold up much better than knobby shoes. You have more surface area on the ground with less weight and they flex better over the terrain.

For those who have had Achilles pain, don't tighten the strap around the ankle (if you have one) quite so tight. I hadn't even realized I had been at first, and it solved the problem immediately.

I've also tripped and torn a hole in the top of one of mine (my own clumsiness). I figured it would expand, so I put some flexible glue on the tear immediately and it hasn't reopened.

I've got my review of them up here.

Lynn M. said...

Ryan,

Thanks for telling your success story. I didn't know a person could change his foot structure.

I know my my feet and legs were miserable when I wore Earth Shoes and also when I went barefoot or wore flip-flops in my pre-orthotic days (prior to age 38).

Your story reverberates in my mind, though.

Dr. B G said...

Nice bulging... B-I-C-E-P-S Paleo-man... (of course empirically and clinically speaking)

Hey, have btw tried raw goat milk or yogurt in your skin-experimentation?

Daniel said...

I've a pair of KSOs. My hallux is unfortunately to wide for them, so I guess the seems will tear up in that section.

I've been trekking in Ladakh this summer with 100+ Lbs package, no problems regarding the KSOs. (Though, I did use a pair of Lundhags Syncro Mid boots with a pair of SuperFeet insoles most of the time)

I hope you one day can order custom made models of the FiveFingers; 3D scan of your feet at authorized FFs dealer -> Dealer sends the resulting 3D object file to FF -> FF printing resin lasts -> Creating mold and casting the rubber sole.
Maybe adding some layers of kevlar between the rubber sole and the "insole". I've not tried to jump on an erected 3" nail yet, but I guess the rubber sole wont afford enough protection.

JM said...

For those asking about jogging in these, magnificent videos:

Video with slow mo's:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eD8Y3Uff6A

Slow and fast barefoot running using POSE with slow mo's:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CERyUWwWkOc

Look into POSE method:
http://www.posetech.com

Another video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9itkEkcQ8WM

Image:
http://img34.imageshack.us/img34/458/4a222cf8231a49179b8873d.jpg

JM said...

Excellent reviews and links:

http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2009/05/07/vibram-five-fingers-shoes

http://www.crunchgear.com/2009/08/10/review-vibram-five-fingers-classic

http://www.begin2dig.com/2008/11/fitting-vibram-five-fingers-and-injinji.html

http://www.begin2dig.com/2009/03/vibram-fivefingers-review-5-months-on.html

Video of CEO:
http://birthdayshoes.com/index.php/bikila

Pics of upcoming models:
http://birthdayshoes.com/index.php/kso-trek

Blog:
http://birthdayshoes.com

shel said...

John~

foot powder brand:

dr scholl's odour destroyers shoe shot.

Lynn M. said...

While researching VFF, I was lead to this article:
http://tinyurl.com/d8tq25

It's an article in Men's Health by Christopher McDougall called "The Men Who Live Forever". Also more detail in his book "Born To run".

In the hills of Mexico, a tribe of Indians, the Tarahumara, carries an ancient secret: a diet and fitness regimen that has allowed them to outrun death and disease.

Their long-distance running ability is phenomenal and their health supposedly excellent. But you wouldn't expect that from their diet and lifestyle. 80% carb diet, mostly corn, beans, and squash. Wheat and processed foods seem to be missing, probably minimal fruits and vegetables. Lots of sitting around all night boozing and gambling. A relaxed lifestyle, other than their geography compelling them to run.

But they didn't do well on whatever these researchers consider to be an affluent diet: http://tinyurl.com/ngay8p

Stephen, there have been references to the Tarahumara in comments here in the past. Perhaps this is a population you can highlight and categorize along with the Kitavans as doing well on high-carbs and low-fat.

Ryan Koch said...

The Tarahumara -- very cool that you brought this up, Lynn! I visited the Tarahumara in Copper Canyon, Mexico when I was 19. It's true that their diet is mainly carbohydrate as you said. I had a breakfast with a family that was comprised of homemade, homegrown, bluecorn tortillas and soaked, slow-cooked beans with a huge dollop of homegrown lard. Each village seemed to keep a few pigs around for lard and some meat, although it wasn't hard to see what their staple food was -- there were fields and fields of corn everywhere.

One aside about their diet, these people believe Coca-Cola is a very energy-giving drink, especially for running. They don't consume a whole lot because they can't afford much, but they certainly enjoy it.

Oh, and one more thing, these folks wear tire sandals for their footwear and run miles and miles in them!

Stephan Guyenet said...

G,

Goat milk dairy doesn't seem to affect my skin either way-- it doesn't give me acne like cow's milk protein (not butter), but I haven't noticed any positive effects either. Then again, my skin is really smooth these days, so I don't know that I'd notice the difference.

Lynn M. said...

Ryan,

I'm impressed you were able to visit and have a meal with the Tarahumara. Were the narcotraffickers in the area such a problem then? Is that where you got your inspiration for the tire sandals?

Did you see many elderly when you visited them?

I find their athletic prowess on a high corn diet to be mind-blowing. And consumption of Coca-Cola too. Is their corn all blue corn? It appears they ferment their corn - perhaps that's the secret.

I've read to avoid even whole grains, especially wheat and corn. But I've wondered if we really need to avoid properly prepared grains, prepared using Nourishing Traditions type of techniques.

The Tarahumara make me think there's a lot we don't understand about what is a healthful diet and lifestyle.

grubinski said...

There were some of those bright orange fungi near our camp at Raser State Park last weekend. I had no idea they'd be edible.

Not that I'd risk it, anyway, I know zero about it except that you have to know what you're eating, and I don't.

toddhargrove said...

Timely post!

I just got back from my first hiking with Vibram KSOs. It was a very steep and rocky hike with lots of scrambling. The vibrams were far better than hiking shoes in every respect except one - you can't really step down hard on the edge of a sharp rock. You can do it with good balance though, which is a fun challenge.

Most notable was that I felt no need whatsoever for any kind of foot massage at the end, like I would if I had worn hiking boots. In fact, I felt like I just had a three hour massage - a rough one though.

Lucy of Coire Alpacas said...

Um, what a lot of comments!

I am in Scotland. I wear VFF sprints which I got this year. They are great for just walking around. I got them for mountain biking really as I hate having my feet in pointy shoes. They suit me very well. I've also worn them swimming in the sea but they did get sandy, so I bought a pair of water ones which go to above the ankle. They seem to be lasting quite well. I have soaked them and dried them on the line a few times.

Koury said...

Stephan

I have had my five fingers for several years, and have hiked in them, over craggy terrain with a light pack, as well as used them for everyday wear.I use them when I swing the kettlebells, and have run in them in the past. I would have recommended the newer KSOs as some of the fellows I work with, wear them. My sprints are starting to tear at the toes, where the rubber meets the neoprene, and stuff gets inside them through the top, which I guess is where the KSOs might win out. The flows have neoprene all the way around and might work well for colder weather.

Primitivo said...

Two very recent articles about barefooting / Vibram, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/30/business/30shoe.html and this funny joke http://dailyviews.runnersworld.com/2009/08/running-barefoot-an-opposing-viewpoint.html

Ryan Koch said...

Lynn,

Sorry it took so long for me to reply! I work in the wilderness -- no internet -- for 8-day shifts at a time. Anyway, to answer your questions ...

When I was visiting the Tarahumara in Mexico, the narcotraffickers were definitely a problem. "Cargo" trucks, law enforcement with automatic weapons, and the chance of coming upon a field of poppy plants was always a reality.

As for the inspiration for my tire sandals, I initially got the idea from some folks at a primitive skills gathering in Arizona called Wintercount. These folks got their inspiration from the Tarahumara.

I don't recall seeing very many elderly among the Tarahumara. Many of them were grandparents around age 40. I'm pretty sure a saw a few grey haired men, and these guys can outrun a young buck like me, no problem!

The Tarahumara do process their corn -- both blue and white and probably other varieties -- by soaking in lime water (the mineral, not the citrus fruit). And I agree that this enhances the grain's utilization within the body, so it may not have to be avoided. That being said, I avoid wheat (gluten) because sourdough is hard to come by, and I seem to react poorly to sourdough bread regardless of the traditional preparation anyway. Maybe if I was raised on the stuff it wouldn't be a problem. I eat white rice (low phytates), potatoes, and corn tortillas (which are processed with lime) for my starches.

I also agree that traditional peoples like the Tarahumara have much to teach us moderns about health and diet!

Dream said...

I've worn Vibrams for well over a year now, totally love em. Good post, and hope you enjoy em. And while they are more durable than they appear, I can't imagine they will last more than a year putting them through parkour, hiking, and so on. But hey who knows?

Btw I recently wrote an article on Vibrams as well, check it out @

http://www.thedreamlounge.net/2009/08/20/the-ultimate-post-on-and-holy-trinity-of-proper-footwear-vibram-five-fingers-included/

Neonomide said...

Hi,

Had Vibram Flow model a week now and can't even look back! :-)

I live in Finland at 63 degrees north and its already snowing here. It'll be interesting how these feel in a snow - I'll report here if you are interested!

I had a finnish version of barefoot called Feelmax a year:

http://www.feelmax.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=45&Itemid=107&lang=en



Feelmax sole is very thin, like 1,5 mm at most. The sole is made from some kind of kevlar reinforced fabric, so it feels more like a cloth than Vibram do. No asphalt use recommended at all, yet they work well elsewhere. They are also more slippery than Vibrams.

I woe Feelmax when hiking 2 weeks in turkey and it was both painful and great. Yet I managed to make a little hole to both shoes right into middle of the ball of th foot. Probably this has something to do with my prior taekwondo training and the shape of my feet. It's exactly the same thing with my socks, every one of them. And I still do kick a lot.

I hope my new lovely Vibrams last longer. :-)

Senta said...

I was inspired by this discussion to look into toe separator shoes. I can't find Vibrams locally and didn't want to hassle with the mail-order fitting problems, but I did find something else. Yoga sandals. They are like flip-flops (thongs) but with four thongs on each foot. I got a pair and after a couple of days getting used to them, I wear them constantly. I'd wear them to bed if I could, they feel so good.

The Gaiam website has them with a lot of reviews but the exact same sandals, made by Beech, are also on yogasandals.com for less. Yogasandals.com also has a bigger selection, including sandals for men. Youtube has some videos on the sandals with some really whacked out feet, yuck!

Thanks for all the info on the Vibrams. Now that I know how good straight, separated toes feel, I plan on getting a pair of the Vibrams if they become available locally.

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