Just recently, the Vibram FiveFingers got a shout out on NBC's Parks & Recreation with Rob Lowe exclaiming that "the human foot is the ultimate technology." So try and imagine a much-earlier Seinfeld episode based around “barefoot running.” We’re 15 years past the infamous “Jimmy” episode in which Kramer thought he needed additional help in his basketball sneakers so his leg muscles could get stronger, and as a result, enable him to jump higher and even dunk! Just like the shorter Jimmy!
Opening scene: Kramer bursts into Jerry’s apartment. He’s wearing a tank top, running shorts, and he’s barefoot.
Jerry: Kramer, put some shoes on or leave.
Kramer: I will shortly. I am about to go for a run.
Jerry (pointing to Kramer’s feet): Then haven’t you forgotten something.
Kramer: Like what?
Jerry: Your shoes.
Kramer: Shoes? Very outdated.
Jerry: Outdated for whom? The homeless? Kids in India or Africa?
Kramer: No, they are outdated for runners. Barefoot running is happening, Jerry. It’s here. it’s there, it’s everywhere.
Jerry: What are you talking about?
Kramer: With barefoot running, you never get injured.
Jerry: Does stepping on a piece of broken glass or a rusty nail count as never getting injured?
Kramer: You just learn to be careful. You have to watch where you put your feet.
Jerry: You bet you do, especially in this neighborhood with all these dogs and their careless owners who fail to tidy up after them. READ ON
Many fans of Vibram FiveFingers bellyache about how long it takes to slip on the barefoot shoes. But leave it to professional sword-swallower and ultrarunner Roderick Russell to tell you how to get VFFs on your eager feet in under 10 seconds. Hey, that's about one second per toe.
Compression Socks & Sleeves– Are They Worth the Investment? Or How About Cryotherapy Which is Cheaper and Probably More Effective?
Calf-high compression socks have long been used by the elderly and those suffering from poor blood circulation or edema in their legs. These socks use stronger elastics to create anti-gravitational pressure on the legs, ankles and feet. By compressing the surface veins, arteries and muscles, the blood is squeezed through narrower pathways. Several years ago, runners and triathletes began using these socks (and compression tights) in races in the hope of obtaining increased blood flow as well as a reduction of fatigue by limiting certain muscle fibers from moving unnecessarily. And least that’s what the sock companies maintained should be happening when wearing the athletic hosiery. Still, many sock-it-to-me endurance athletes swore by them, claiming that they experienced fewer leg cramps. They also witnessed quicker recovery.
But a recent study conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine found that there is no real measurable differences in maximal oxygen consumption and blood flow between treadmill runners who wore compression socks and those who did not.
So why are runners shelling out $40 or $50 for high-end versions of these high socks? But with barefoot running and Vibram Five Fingers now in the picture, will this mean the early end of compression socks? Yes and no. One compression sock company, Miami-based Zensah, has recently come up with compression sleeves for legs. According to its website. “Early adopters of Vibram Five Fingers have made Zensah leg sleeves a standard part of their running routine.”
And one thought that running should be simple and unencumbered. What’s being compressed, it might seem, is our wallets and eagerness to try anything that will improve performance.
I asked my friend and long-time multisport coach and author, Dr. Phil Maffetone about the socks and sleeves. He replied, “Fashionable but dysfunctional.The real way to reduce post-race or post-workout fatigue is through cryotherapy which is the therapeutic use of cold.”
Shortage of Vibrams in San Francisco Has Runners on Edge; “I’m a Drug Dealer for Shoes,” says Store Owner
San Francisco might have a reputation as a laid-back kinda place, but its baseball team's recent World Series triumph has successfully demo'd to outsiders that the city is as tightly-wound, competitive and out-to-win as say, New York and Boston. Nor are Bay Area runners mellow and prone to wearing tie-dyed singlets. While the Bay to Breakers currently attracts 60,000 costumed, wacky, and even sauced-to-the-gills runners each May, some of whom show up bare-bottomed, but not barefoot (yet that’s soon about to change with total nudity), the city is home to legions of serious runners. The San Francisco Marathon has come back from the dead. The Nike all-women’s marathon just saw 20,000 runners hit the streets.
So it’s only to be expected that the Vibram FiveFingers (VFF) running shoe craze is also happening here. The SF Weekly, an alternative paper ran the following story last week, “Vibram FiveFingers Shoes and the Annoying People Who Buy Them.” It’s the kind of gotcha journalism designed to provoke and stir the passions.
The article begins, predictably, with a terse summary of the VFF and BF (barefoot) running phenomenon: “Inspired in large part by Born to Run… growing hordes of runners are casting off their sneakers. But there's a dark side to the barefooting craze: It's driving some athletic retailers nuts.” It then goes fishing for some juicy quotes:
Nancy Block, owner of Nomadic Outfitters in Presidio Heights, says that while the FiveFingers has created a steady stream of cash for her business, it has also attracted a particularly demanding clientele. Many who buy the shoes, she says, are nothing like the laid-back ultramarathoners and preternaturally gifted Third World athletes profiled in McDougall's book. Instead, they're affluent and driven San Franciscans bent on collecting the latest totem of fitness fashion. ‘It attracts an upper-echelon sort of clientele,’ Block says. ‘There's an intensity. I'm not seeing too many Zenlike people.’
“These customers demand a lot of attention, she says, complaining when new iterations of the FiveFingers aren't in stock or when their orders haven't arrived on time. ‘I'm a drug dealer for shoes. That's how I look at it,’ she says. ‘It's an addiction, like any other addiction.’ (Disclosure: This reporter is a barefoot runner, and purchased shoes at Block's store.)”
Balanced or unbalanced journalism also demands the inclusion of additional quotes. So the reporter snares one:
“Sasha McGowan, online customer service manager for See Jane Run, another San Francisco–based retailer, agrees that customers looking for the Five Fingers are ‘very demanding.’ But some of the blame, she and Block say, can be laid with Vibram, which has had trouble meeting overwhelming demand for the shoes over the past two years. It's not uncommon for specific orders to take longer than expected to process, leading to dissatisfaction, she says: ‘The customer gets upset because they've been told three different stories, three different times.’"
And true to his calling as a scent-hungry newshound, the reporter went right to the source of the perceived problem. He called Vibram. But he came up empty, writing, “Officials at Vibram did not respond to calls and an e-mail seeking comment.”
Yet for him to have abruptly ended the news story there would have been a downer. The journo needed a more uplifting and positive quote to seal the deal. He delivered. “All this comes as a surprise to Terry Orsi, president of the San Francisco Area chapter of the Barefoot Runners Society. ‘Most of the people I've talked to and read about are pretty laid-back,’ Orsi says. ‘They're just out there to have a good time.’”
Many decades before going barefoot and Vibram's FiveFingers burst onto the running scene, believe it or not, a slimmer, healthier America, in the early part of the 20th century, was into physical fitness in a big way. Bike races, boxing, and multi-day running races were popular. (The marathon dance craze happened later during the Great Depression.) In this historical photo, notice the fellow's style of locomotion. Better yet, he's not even wearing gloves or shoes! He's barehanded and barefoot! Definitely, an individual way ahead of his time.