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Sue’s shoes

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I have been wearing these shoes since 2013. Everywhere I go, people ask questions - here are some answers.

What are they?

Vibram Five Fingers (VFFs), also called

- barefoot runners
- minimalist running shoes

Read more: http://barefootinc.com.au/vibram/


Can you walk in them?

Yes. I have done the following hikes in my VFFs:

- Camino Primitivo - Ovieto to Finisterre, 400 km in Spain
- Camino Frances – Leon to Finisterre, 450 km
- Via Podiensis - Camino in France from Le Puy to St Jean Pied de Port, 900 km
- Coast to Coast hike in England, St Bee to Robin Hood’s Bay, 190 miles, 300 km
- The GHT (Great Himalayan Trail) in Nepal, Dolpo section, 3 times, about 400-500 km each

Read more about our Himalayan treks including free track notes http://www.fedup.com.au/information/nepal/nepal-information-2


Why do you wear them?

I have no choice. I can no longer wear hiking boots because the first time I walked the Camino in Spain in 2013 (from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela, 800 kms), I developed major tendon problems (anterior tibialis), despite wearing very lightweight Keen hiking boots.  

A wonderful Spanish physiotherapist told me not to wear hiking boots because they were too heavy, and I should rest because I had serious problems, and that I should have paid more attention to him. I rested for a few days and wore Crocs for about 500 km, but wore my boots when I needed them and didn’t rest enough so now I have permanent damage.

My physiotherapist in Australia recommended VFFs. I tried other minimalist footwear but VFFs are the only ones I can actually use when I have tendon pain – and the pain goes away.

I was also diagnosed with Moreton’s neuroma ten years previously and had to wear inserts and metatarsal pads all the time. This condition disappeared completely a few weeks after I started wearing VFFs.

I now think my tendon problems were due to taking Ciprofloxacin antibiotics for typhoid and other travellers’ diarrhoea in Nepal. The FDA has issued several warnings about these drugs - first that they can cause tendon rupture although victims say it is more like tendon disintegration that can occur months or years later. In 2016, they issued an even stronger warning that these commonly used antibiotics may cause potentially permanent damage to muscles, tendons, joints, nerves and the central nervous system.

Read more:

FDA Says Risks May Outweigh Benefits for Antibiotics Levaquin, Cipro
https://www.drugwatch.com/2016/05/16/fda-black-box-warning-for-levaquin-cipro-antibiotic-risk/
Melanie’s story
https://floxiehope.com/melanies-story-tendon-tears-and-surgery-for-recovery/
Surviving Cipro – a guide to treating fluoroquinolone toxicity syndrome
http://www.survivingcipro.com/

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Why are VFFs so good?

The manufacturers say:

FiveFingers not only encourage a more natural forefoot strike during running, but also allow the foot to move and work in a completely natural way, while providing grip and protection over a variety of surfaces.”

I say:

VFFs are incredibly light and comfortable. They make me walk and run in a completely different way. I am now much more comfortable and faster both up and down hill than I have ever been in my life. I NEVER get blisters. I love my VFFs. I recently climbed Mt Warning in NSW. On the really steep part, I started rock climbing because there was a queue on the chain. The guy behind me was following very closely in my foot and hand holds - watching my VFFs in action. When we reached the top, he said:

 

"I am a physiotherapist … your foot and leg muscles are so strong!"


Are there any disadvantages?

  • First, you have to get used to them because it is a whole new way of using your muscles. I wore mine around the house for the first month or so. The manufacturers warn that it is essential to wear them in slowly, and one person won a lawsuit. I am appalled when I see people setting out for the first time ever in their brand new VFFs intending to walk or run all day. That is NOT the way to get used to them.
  • Second, all the commercial photos show them with no socks but I found they are terrible to wear in wet sand or gritty mud (on the Camino Primitivo) unless you wear socks so I wear Injinji special toe socks. (I love these socks).
  • Third, too cold in heavy snow. I wear VFFs all the time – to the gym, bushwalking in Australia, on daily dog walks (2 hours a day) and long distance hikes.  I wore them for the entire hike in 2015 in Nepal (45 days, including numerous 5,000 metre plus pass crossings) and 900 kms through France, including over the Pyrenees in 2016. They are great for rockclimbing and have fantastic grip in snow, fantastic grip, but they are not waterproof. I wear special Injinji wool toe socks but the cold can be a problem. I've tried lightweigh minamalist running shoes with special waterproof goretex socks (Sealskinz from the UK, not cheap!) but it is the same problem - too cold. So in Nepal, I have to carry boots just in case there is a blizzard - when we were caught in the “killer” snow storm of 2014, I needed my boots.

Does anyone else wear VFFs?

Yes, heaps of people, mostly runners. The couple aged 64 and 68 who ran a marathon every day for 365 days around Australia in 2013 both wore them. Howard tried them but they didn’t work for him because he has pain under the heel of his foot – possibly also caused by Cipro.

Read more about the marathoning couple, including a photo of their feet http://www.smh.com.au/national/couple-run-365-marathons-in-a-year-20131230-302sf.html


Conclusion

I love my VFFs. They have made my feet and legs far stronger and more effective than I could have ever thought. But they are not easy to get used to and they are not for everyone. Do not try these shoes unless you are prepared to put some work into it.

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