17 Miles in Vibram FiveFingers

September 22, 2009

I was aiming for 20. I wore the VFFs every day for a week and a half (including to work–only with pants); walked 2 miles on a Thursday, 5 mile hike on a Saturday, and on Sunday shot for 20 in prep for the 50 Mile MS Challenge Walk. Turns out my feet weren’t ready.

Our 20 mile walk was along the boardwalk between Newport & Huntington Beach. I had access to a few different terrains–concrete, black top, gravel, grass, sand. Walking on grass felt delightful–spongy and cool. Sand feels good too but is, of course, tiring. I noticed that it was difficult for me to comfortably keep up with my co-walkers, my mom & her friend Pam. When walking barefoot or in VFFs, you’re supposed to keep your feet under your body/center of gravity, and without the extra extension of the heel-striking you get in normal tennis shoes, my steps were shorter.  I also had to be more mindful of where I was stepping and make sure I didn’t put the ball of my foot onto any sharp rocks.  After 10 miles, the concrete started to hurt. My feet were just tired from walking in a way they weren’t used to, and by mile 15 the balls of my feet felt pretty beat up from the pounding and lack of padding. At mile 17 my mom made me call my boyfriend to come pick me up.

The soreness of my feet went away within a few hours. I think one’s feet would get accustomed to not being padded and would toughen up. The main pain I had the next day was in the side of my right calf–I’m guessing it’s some kind of stabilizing muscle–I’ve never had very good balance & I think it’s because my ankles are rather weak. Anyways I gave my feet a break on Monday (wore my squishy flip flops) and on Tuesday eve walked to the gym to get on the treadmill and do yoga. On the way to the gym I felt pain on the top of my right foot, kindof like a deep bruise. I figured this was from that tight calf throwing off the delicate system of leg & foot. After some googling I deduced that this was correct and that I had “extensor tendonitis.”

“In this region of the foot the tendons that lead to the toes can become inflamed.
A major cause of this condition is excessive tightness of the calf muscles. When the calf muscles are tight they place excessive stress on the tendons on the top of the foot that pull the foot upward and counteract the calf muscles.
Aggressive stretching of the calf muscle is also very helpful. Anti-inflammatory medications can help.”

So I’m agressively stretching my calves. I’d wanted to wear the Vibrams for the MS Walk but with a month left to train, I decided to wait til next year. I have a feeling that this will happen with a lot of new VFFs wearers–they’ll go overboard, like I did, and complain that the VFFs hurt their feet/legs & give up. I think gradually acclimating your feet & building up the atrophied muscles is key to long-term VFF happy feet!

A few weeks after this, I wore the VFFs for bouldering up at Lake Isabella. I felt like Spider-woman! I scrambled up practically vertical sides of granite slabs and never slipped once. Impressive! I also wore them in the lake, and they protected my feet from the slimy things the rest of my friends were screaming about.


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