Matthew Wallden is the Founder and Managing Director at Primal Lifestyle Ltd and the sole distributor of Vibram FiveFingers in the UK. Today he has joined us here on SupaChick to discuss the fantastic benefits of wearing Vibram Fivefingers during exercise…ENJOY!
Have you ever wondered what those shoes are that you often see at the gym which look like foot gloves are for? How is it that people can run in little more than a strip of rubber contoured to their sole? Surely there has to be a reason all the fitness professionals seem to be wearing them? Why the Special Forces are using them, and why many elite sports teams from Premiership football, rugby and cricket, to International sprinters and World Championship Ironmen using them?
The story behind the Vibram Fivefingers footwear is an unusual one; where the product was designed by a young lumberjack who simply enjoyed the sensation of walking the mountain trails barefoot, but found it a little treacherous and uncomfortable. He reasoned that if he could develop a shoe that just acted like a second skin, it would offer a little additional grip and make the sensation just perfect. Little did he (or Vibram, the eventual manufacturers) know that as soon as their product was launched to market, that it would be the consumer to tell them what the shoe was good for.
Within months of launch, Vibram were inundated with communications from runners and from fitness professionals explaining how great their product was for conditioning. The rationale? For many years runners at the elite level have used barefoot running as a staple component of their training to keep their feet strong, prevent injury and optimise technique. Unfortunately for most of us “not quite elite” runners, access to smooth debris free running tracks can be limited, so the option to run barefoot poses a series of other challenges. In the fitness world the notion of “functional training” has been the core focus of the last 15 years; finding ways to strengthen the entire kinetic chain from neck to toe… The issue being that, for some strange reason, we have been under the impression from sports shoe manufacturers that the only part of our body that is not able to support itself is the foot…
The foot, just like any other part of the body, only gets weaker if you support it. If you allow the foot to work (under sensible loading levels) then it will get strong – in exactly the same way that if you work your biceps under sensible loading levels they, too, will get stronger. However, if you pick weights that are too heavy or you do not allow yourself enough time to recover and repair, you can eventually damage or injure your biceps; as any training is essentially a form of intelligent and controlled damage and repair. The same is true of the foot. Ramp up the mileage too quickly in a pair of Vibram Fivefingers or barefoot, and you might find your foot or Achilles getting sore… but rest it and it will recover and get stronger. If you keep pushing through the pain, this is where injury can occur. Counterintuitively, though, research shows that running barefoot with good technique actually halves the loads going through the body compared to running in a cushioned shoe!
If you are going barefoot or using Vibram Fivefingers in the gym environment for more functional training the transition is typically quicker and smoother (as when you run you have multiples of bodyweight going through one foot at a time with every step), but you still need to take it easy in the first few weeks and allow up to a few months for full adaptation if your training is heavy and intensive. Power generation starts at the foot in almost all sports and activities of daily living, so you need to ensure that you don’t “stumble at the first block” by having a weak foot.
So, if you want to train like the elites, to ensure your are strong, stable and able to transfer power from the ground upward into your body, to run with optimal technique and minimise injury through strengthening the foot and minimising impact, there’s no better time to start barefoot or minimalist conditioning.
Why not CLICK HERE to purchase either the 4 week, 8 week or 12 week SupaChick Fitness Programmes available on the SupaChick shop, and try out these workouts wearing a pair of Vibram Fivefingers to feel the amazing benefits of barefoot training today!