Sunday, March 20, 2011

Funny Feet

When I was in Kindergarten, we learned the alphabet with the help of little inflatable figures called the "letter people." Mr. M had a Munching Mouth. S was Super Socks, and F was Funny Feet.

These days, it seems that it's me, rather than "Mr. F," who has "Funny Feet."

I love my Vibram Five Fingers. I've had them for over a year now and I try to wear them as much as I can, though whenever I wear them in public I am guaranteed some strange looks and sideways glances. Braver souls actually stop me and ask lots of questions about my funky footwear.

Today was no exception. It was a great family day. My husband and I took our girls to the park for a Maple Syrup Festival. We saw a demonstration of maple trees being tapped and the sap being boiled down to syrup. Then we enjoyed pancakes with pure Maryland Maple Syrup and live music, before hitting the trails for a long hike to a waterfall.

A typical family fun day, with one exception: every ten minutes or so someone stopped me to ask about my shoes. The number one question . . . "Are they comfortable?" The answer; yes! The most comfortable pair of "shoes" I own. Other common questions:"Do you like them?" and "Where did you get them?" Less open-minded individuals often comment that they look "weird" or "funny." Women often admit they wouldn't wear them out of the house while the guys, especially the athletic types, mention that they've been thinking about trying a pair.

"Barefoot-style" running verses shod running is a hot topic in running circles these days. There are arguments for and against on both sides of the debate and I did a lot of research before choosing to buy a pair. So, for the purpose of this post, I will give my point of view on the topic.

The popularity of super-padded running shoes has weakened our feet, thereby requiring super-padded shoes.

While training for a metric marathon in late 2008, I developed a nasty case of plantar fasciitis in both feet. Rest and two months of physical therapy did not improve the condition. In desperation, I did two things: 1) sought acupuncture for treatment, and 2) bought a pair of VFF's to strengthen my feet and ankles, and to adjust my running style. More recently, I've added another item to this list: 3) read Chi Running.

I will save the details of each of these actions for another time but, in short:

1) Acupuncture is what finally healed my feet and allowed me to get back to running. (Another alternative form of healing I endorse!)

2) When I returned to running, I did it slowly and used the VFFs to perfect my form. As the character Guillermo said in season six of Weeds while wearing VFF's; "I wear them to connect with the earth and avoid heel strike." If you heel strike when you run, you are bound to end up with PF or knee problems; it's just a matter of time.
3) I read Chi Running to better understand how to run with the proper form and alignment. It's a little "woo woo" at times, but worth the read. Even the gals at RLAM stand behind its concepts.

So, if you want to do something good for your body and great for your feet, get yourself a pair of VFFs and start wearing them around town. I guarantee you will attract more attention than when you wear your favorite strappy heels.

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