30 June 2012

Minimal Shoes ... VFFs

WARNING, WARNING ... old, worn, thoroughly used shoe photos ahead.  These are not nice, neat, nor brand new shoes in the following photographs.  For the sensitive, avert your eyes ...

I can guarantee you one thing with a transition to "minimal shoes" ... you will learn proper exercise form, or else.  :)

I transitioned to approximately half my time in minimal shoes in late 2011.

I had seen Vibram Five Fingers (VFFs) for several years, and thought they looked a bit silly.  However, everything I read on them was intriguing and, since I happened upon a sale anyway, I decided to try a pair out.

FYI - For me personally, I don't have any trouble putting VFFs on, I find it easy to figure out where my toes go, and they slip on practically like slippers after all this time. 

Here are my first and favorite VFFs, the KSO Trek in kangaroo leather.  They fit my foot beautifully, and this is the only shoe I would wear if they were a touch more "acceptable."  I ordered them in a size 40 as per fitting recommendations.  This is my European shoe size.  In "American" shoes, I generally wear a women's 9.5B dress shoe or a 10B in athletic shoes.

My only problem?  I wish they reversed the velcro.  I cannot wear longer pants with these as the fabrics catch in the exposed hook side due to my high instep.

I will say, this is not your father's kangaroo leather, it is not stinky or thick, but supple and easy to deal with.  So far, I have not experienced the VFF funk I have read about on other forums.

I enjoyed the KSO Treks so much, that I ordered a second pair (also on sale), Jaya LRs in Almond/Copper color: size 41 (as per fitting recommendation).  These are like slippers, and they are my *only* house shoe for spring and fall.

I had two problems with these.  First off, they are a bit tighter in the pinky toe than the KSO Treks, and I fell asleep in them my second wearing.  When I woke up my pinky toes really hurt!  Ouch.  Moral of this story, don't fall asleep in new VFFs!  :)  They have since stretched out with wear, and I have fallen asleep in them several additional times without pain upon waking.

Second issue, since these have stretched out quite a bit, I cannot workout in them.  Hence the reason they are house shoes only.

My third pair of VFFs were the Performa Jane, size 41, which I absolutely love.  I wish they had a less wear-away base, because these would not last long on concrete.  They are great weight lifting, house, and relaxing shoe.  I don't expect them to have the longevity I would prefer.  I wish they came in a wider range of colors ... psst, Vibram FiveFingers, Give us warmer colored girls something to wear, wouldja?

My fourth pair of VFFs were the Sprint, size 41.  I strongly dislike this shoe.  If I had started with these, I would not have a good impression of VFFs and may never have purchased another pair.  I got these for aerobics because the tread on the Treks are too aggressive for slipping and side to side motion ... a basic requirement of kickboxing.  These are the shoes that taught me the lesson at the beginning of this post.  I get more numb toe issues with these VFFs than any other pair of shoes I've ever worn.  I also had to do major surgery to these to make them halfway wearable by slicing the elastic at the heel.  Surgery did not improve them enough to make them wearable.

I usually wear my shoes into the ground before I replace them.  These are not going to make it that far.  I have considered, more than once, turning them into: dog toys or trash dwellers.

Moral of this portion?  If you have tried VFFs and had a bad experience but like the idea of the shoes, you might consider another style.  Because the style you picked may have been bad for you, not necessarily the entire line.

But I still had issues with my KSO Treks, I have hot spots develop when doing cross training movements.  TaDa ... SmartWool Toe Socks ...

Yeah, KSO Treks dye my socks pretty badly.  I've never had the KSO Treks dye my feet when worn without socks ... but I suspect leather and wool dye have many similarities in property, and I'm just glad the dye issue stops with my socks.

Something I figured out pretty early on, when putting on the socks, pinch a quarter of an inch or so beyond your toe.  If the socks are pulled on really tight, exercise could tighten them more and dig into the soft tissue between your toes.

And here we are ...


No more hot spots, no more blisters, regardless of how much horizontal stress movement I place on my feet.  Good thing too, since I haven't found anything that works as well as my VFF KSO Treks.  I hope VFF brings back the kangaroo leather soon.

Exercise and Running clothes ... the top side

I started out wearing my cotton exercise clothing for working out ... cotton shorts, cotton yoga pants, cotton yoga tops.  I like cotton, most of the time, and it had worked out well for all of my previous forays into exercise.

But ...

I started developing "issues."  Let us just say a little "chafing of the cheeks" and leave it at that.

So I began looking for alternatives that wick sweat and dry quickly.  I pulled out my simple Ibex bra, and ran in that.  Wow, what a change from sticky, heavy cotton (regardless of the fact that cotton starts out lightweight, it quickly droops with sweat).

Since my Ibex bra did so well, I bought two more.

Ibex's Balance Light Bra

This is not recommended for high impact activities, and it was originally purchased as a travel bra since I would not have to wash it much (it performed very well on vacation).

For me, it also performs well as a running, walking, aerobics, and weight lifting top.  Being that my body type does not store much body fat above the waist, I am not overly endowed in the chesticles department.  As such I have no fear of falling out, nor of pain, as a result of enthusiastic movement within the confines of this article of clothing.

I highly recommend it for B cups and smaller for anything you desire to do within it.

Granted, in aerobics, I do hear what little arm fat I have cheering me on as it flaps against my rib cage, but that it NOT the fault of the bra!


Ibex's Balance Sport Top

Since I enjoyed my bra so much, I decided to try the Sport Top.  I'm not likely to go out in company with my belly exposed - it does not get sun, it is a bit flabby, and I just would not be comfortable saying "Hey world, can you guess how much body fat I carry by looking at my abs?"

I did find the low side cut a bit disconcerting the first two or so times I wore it, but I've quickly gotten used to it and would not want it any other way.  I currently have two.  They can get a little warm in extreme heat, but I'm quite comfortable in anything at or under 80 degrees F.

I do have a variety of tank tops from Smartwool and Icebreaker, but prefer to use them in "nice" outfits rather than as exercise clothes. 

Exercise and Running clothing ... the bottom side

I started out wearing my cotton exercise clothing for working out ... cotton shorts, cotton yoga pants, cotton yoga tops.  I like cotton, most of the time, and it had worked out well for all of my previous forays into exercise.

But ...

I started developing "issues."  Let us just say a little "chafing of the cheeks" and leave it at that.

So I began looking for alternatives that wick sweat and dry quickly.  So I pulled out my old "old, old" pair of running shorts in nylon.  They worked, but they were too big, shifted everywhere, and just felt strange.  I am not a fan of most synthetic fabrics, they feel off to me.  They make my skin rebel.

Right about this time of my discomfort, winter sales are occurring, and I check out my favorite wool companies: Ibex, Icebreaker, and Smartwool.  Gak!  Wallet attack!

Into my exercise world crept:

Stoic Merino Boy Boxer - Hands down the most comfortable boxer I've ever worn.  It stays in place, does not creep much, and can handle a couple of miles of sweat.  I started out with a large, which has become a bit too large for exercise (as it now creeps where it once did not) so I've also ordered a medium.  The larges are now sleep and goof around shorts while the mediums are my exercise short.

I would gladly have an entire wardrobe of these shorts.  They fit the pear shaped saddle bags well.  I would not recommend these for straight up and down types, as they do have quite a bit of shaping to them.  Thank goodness Stoic came up with these, the only boy shorts made for curvy women!

Icebreaker's Swift Short

These are last year's model, and my favorite.  They are a bit tighter in the waist, so I do not have to bother with a drawstring.  A good compromise between too loose and too tight, they dry quickly and are the shorts I reach for most often.

Icebreaker's Dart Short

I got these because of a spring sale, and since I loved the Swift short so much, expected to like these as much.  These are looser in the waist, which means the drawstring is much more important.  They aren't going to slide off, but when I'm doing abdominal work they do gape abominably on my abdominablies!

They do work well for running and walking.  Another good mix of loose, but not too loose.

 Icebreaker's Boyshort

These seemed like such a good pair of shorts when I first got them, but their fit gets worse and worse as time passes.  I would not do aerobics in these now since they creep.  I infinitely prefer the Stoic Boy Short for my curvy body.


Icebreaker's Run Skort

Honestly, I got these for a lark.  Running shorts aren't the most attractive, and I thought these would do well when in company (I usually exercise alone and at home, so it doesn't matter what I wear).  They were a "girly" compromise.

I would not wear these for cross training or weight lifting, as the split irritates me.  However, for simple running or walking they work quite well.

I find the short liner inside quite comfortable, and it does not ride up badly.  I purchased these rather than the Ibex run skort due to the price difference, and am quite happy with them.

They do not get much use because: 1) I'm not outside much during the summer, and 2) I'll reach for the Swift's or Stoic's first.

29 June 2012

Beginning to Run ... at 30-some ... 'ting

At some point in my early 30s, I decided to take up a running program.  Although, I'm not sure you can call it a program, per say.  It has been intermittent, and I change things up all the time.  So I'm not settling into any set schedule, but run as I wish.

I think I can blame it all on the treadmill.  My hubby decided to buy one after a discussion with his doctor.  It went something along the lines of, "You need regular exercise, or else."  I think he was one of those guys that could have been teetering along the lines of a fat skinny person.  Healthy on the outside, and nothing but potato chips on the inside.

So into our world comes a PaceMaster foldup treadmill.  It fit our requirements: maneuverable, no foot tripping handles/gripping bars attached at or near the belt surface, and simple electronics to reduce possible service issues.

                               Thanks to http://www.fitnessrepairplus.com for the jpg.

Our PaceMaster has been running consistently for well over a year now.  I'd say it gets used five days out of seven, sometimes twice a day.

Along with weight lifting and aerobics, running has become a regular part of my routine.  This has led to a remarkable numbers of shoe and wardrobe changes for comfort.  Not to mention the wardrobe updates required for size change.  

And, as always, a rather large number of books have "run" through my reading list.  These include Christopher McDougall's "Born to Run" (of course ... and recommended), Dean Karnazes' "Ultramarathon Man" (pretty amazing story, and a fun read, recommended), Runner's World Complete Book of Women's Running (not recommended, what a waste of paper), Scott Rigsby's "Unthinkable" (not to discount his fight against adversity, but a repetitive, tiring read, not recommended), Runner's World The Runner's Body (by far the best book, highly recommended), and Jason Robillard's "The Barefoot Running Book" (recommended).

Book of Women's Running addressed none of the problems I've puzzled over, nor did it cover women's specific issues unless you count pregnancy as the only issue women runners have in comparison to men.  I was looking more for hip and knee issues due to our angled femurs, and how to identify and correct any problems arising from this physiology.  Nope, simply another "women's power" type books with no substance.  It is not worth the paper on which it is printed.


The Runner's Body is a recent library borrow, and I'm not even finished yet.  But, it has addressed many of the problems and issues I've encountered or puzzled about.  I wonder what I will learn from the second half of the book?  I think this should be required reading for anyone getting into the running sport or interested in the physiology of the runner's body.


Born to Run was, of course, my introduction to running, barefoot running, and ultramarathons, in particular.  It fired my imagination, and got me thinking about how easy running could be versus how hard I'd experienced it in the past.  I started a lot of shoe change up after reading this, and have finally settled on what works for me.