What do barefoot running and snowshoeing have in common? At first thought, probably not much, but guess again.
More and more people, including coaches and athletes backed with scientific research, are realizing the benefits of barefoot running and conditioning. The idea is that many of the major shoe companies are making shoes that restrict your foot’s natural movement. Barefoot running is therefore thought to help to strengthen the muscles and tendons of your feet and lower legs. In theory, this will allow you to be a more efficient runner and less prone to injury.
I have always been a believer in the benefits of barefoot running, and for the past few years have tried to do approximately ten percent of my weekly mileage barefoot. The results have been very good; however I have found that during the winter months I lose much of the strength that I have gained because of not being able to run barefoot in the snow. It is unfortunate because I would benefit from this added strength during the winter, as my feet tend to get sore from the flexing and pounding they take while running in snowshoes. I have considered trying to do some barefoot running during the winter on a treadmill, but I want to be outside. Happily, my winter barefoot running prayers have been answered by Vibram Five Fingers.
Vibram Five Fingers has come out with a line of footwear that gives you all the benefit of barefoot running, while eliminating the potential risks from the elements and obstacles that can cause sudden, traumatic injury to your feet. When I first got my Five Fingers ‘Sprint’, they felt a little foreign to me until I got used to them. They basically fit my foot like a glove…literally. Each individual toe is in a separate compartment that mimics the movement and feel of going barefoot. The upper is made of a very comfortable abrasion-resistant stretch polyamide fabric. The sole is a Vibram TC-1 performance rubber for durability and traction. There is also a minimal antimicrobial footbed for comfort next to your foot. One word of caution when you first start training with them is that, just like barefoot running, you need to gradually increase the amount of running you do. Eventually your body will thank you with the added strength gained in your lower extremities.
A useful feature of the Sprint model is a Velcro midfoot strap which gives you a nice secure and even slightly supportive feel. They also come with an adjustable Velcro strap around the heel which helped to reduce any potential slipping. I have used the Five Fingers Sprint a number of times now, in a variety of conditions, and love how they have performed.
When the temperature isn’t too cold, I go barefoot in them, however on colder days some sort of sock is necessary to keep your feet warm. Of course, finding the right sock is difficult due to the fact that the sock needs to wrap around each individual digit. A great option for this is the Injinji Tetrasok.
The Injinji Tetrasok is based on the same concept as Five Fingers, which is to reduce any restrictions in your foot by allowing your toes to work independently. For running with my Five Fingers in the winter, I wore the Injinji Outdoor Series quarter sock. This beautifully fitting sock is constructed with 70% Nuwool for comfort and warmth. The 3 ply arch support construction offers a snug and supportive fit in the midfoot, while the Vector heel is precision stitched to prevent slippage. On colder days, or if you are planning to extend your runs in the winter, this sock is a must.
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