Saturday, 28 July 2012

It's a three-patch problem

The first year, I ran in my fivefingers, I did so without socks. This hurt, especially on 15k+ runs. It also caused all sorts of problems, from painful calluses to blisters that refused to heal before my next run. After about a year, I came to the conclusion that it wasn't that my feet needed toughening up. A layer of fabric will always help in reducing the friction between shoes and skin. After I had finally bought a pair of toe-socks - which helped a great deal - I still got calluses on the sides of my feet during longer runs. Yet another year later, I decided to try and find some Engo patches.

It's taken some time - and a long and rocky path, including a de-tour to Australia - but my Engo patches have arrived. Engo patches help to reduce friction between the inside of a shoe and the feet. What you do is you stick them into the inside of the shoe and the smooth upper layer takes away any friction between the foot and the fabric inside of the shoe.

I applied patches to the insides of both shoes (the outside of the ball of my foot) and on the outside of my left shoe (the wear to the shoe tends to cause blisters). Though I have done only three or four runs with the patches in my shoes, the difference is clear from the beginning. Anyone that has any sort of issues with blistering, hot-spots or calluses should give these a try:

In the words of Sherlock (the recent BBC incarnation), my blisters issue was a three-patch problem.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

I run

In a previous post, I mentioned to do a little piece on my reasons for running and some for running semi-barefoot. This post is inspired by one of the blogs The Missus reads daily. In one of her posts, the author of the blog sums up her reasons for running and I liked the idea enough to borrow it from her.

I run for my health
I run for fun
I run because it makes me feel like a tough cookie
I run because I never could
I run because it gives me energy
I run because it gives me peace of mind
I run because it makes my heart stronger
I run for my father's heart
I run to inspire the young Padawan
I run because -relatively- very few people can
I run because it gives me energy
I run because I need to use my energy
I run because I want to get home to my loved ones fast
I run to be aware
I run to feel my body
I run because it makes be feel good
I run at ridiculous times
I run ridiculous distances
I run because I hear SO MANY lame-ass excuses why others do not
I run because it is a very useful skill to have
I run because it may save my life one day
I run because I love stats
I run because I feel cool doing it
I run because it forces me to get out of the house
I run because I can
I run to take my mind off things
I run to explore
I run on the road
I run on gravel
I run abroad
I run to collect GPS tracks all over the world
I run to boldly go where (thousands of) others have gone before me

I run barefoot
I run barefoot to feel the earth
I run barefoot to be aware
I run barefoot because it feels good
I run barefoot because it gives me stability
I run barefoot because it makes my legs stronger
I run barefoot because it makes my feet stronger
I run barefoot because I have always been a mid-foot runner 
I run barefoot because -relatively- few people do so
I run barefoot for the sheer fun of it
I run barefoot to be independent
I run barefoot to always be able to run
I run barefoot because I like the Vibram Five Fingers slogan
I run barefoot to not need running shoes

I run in barefoot shoes because I am too big a pussy to run completely barefoot
I run in barefoot shoes because I am easily grossed out
I run in barefoot shoes because I am too geeky to deny their coolness
I run in barefoot shoes because too much padding makes my feet hurt
I run in barefoot shoes because I hate wobbly soles under my feet
I run in barefoot shoes because people don't understand

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Switching to barefoot

When I bought my first pair of Vibram FiveFingers, the Missus had to suspend her embarrassment somewhat to join me in the Run and Become shop in London. Because I could not wait to test them, I went for a couple of breakfast-runs to the Pret store close to our apartment at that time, wearing my black-and-orange KSO's. Those were my first steps in barefoot-type shoes. Before buying these shoes, I had been figuring out the dos and dont's of barefoot-style running and I knew that going cold-turkey would only result in serious and long-term injury.

Like many runners, I am serious about keeping track of my runs and I find much pleasure in keeping my records up-to-date (on my smart-phone for portable reference, in Garmin Training Center on my home PC for storage purposes, in Garmin Connect for reference on the go and sharing with running friends and in my paper calendar just for fun). Still, I will not bore you with the details of the switch from my heavily padded and seriously heavy Asics Kayano 15 to my FiveFingers. What I liked about the transition is that it more or less forced me to do strange stuff such as bring my clunky Kayano's in a bag and switch shoes after increasing distances. I loved to finally be able to leave my regular shoes at home and to slowly start re-building my distances wearing only my FiveFingers.

Switching to FiveFingers was a process of discovery and watching many, many YouTube movies on form, stride, landing, distance and protection while running barefoot. Long before I bought my first pair of FiveFingers, I had been reading up on the subject for two years. In this time, I also hoped to strengthen my own reason for taking the plunge by boring others to pieces with stories of how I would love to try it.
Among the most useful resources were the pointers given in the VibramFivefingers Training Schedule (click here: and the video on the three golden rules of minimalist (and any other type running for that matter) running by Lee Saxby (see below, source:

No purchase is done without at least six months of planning and research (or is that just insecure old me?). I read up on the various models of VFF's on many sites. Justin Owings maintains the Birthdayshoes blog and does very elaborate reviews of all types of minimalist footwear. His work proves to be a great help with each purchase of the type. Additionally, he posts a great number of stories by and about users and their experiences with the different types of shoes. Should you be playing with the idea of getting some minimalist footwear (or are just curious), go visit his blog.

Now, several years later, owning three pairs of Vibram FiveFingers and three pairs of other minimalist shoes, I am beginning to get the feeling that barefoot or minimalist running has become mainstream. Even the Missus has become the proud owner of a pair of Fresca's. Yet, this feeling might be because of the news-sites and twitter-feeds I follow.

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Bernard Baruch