Saturday, June 12, 2010

My Dad's Transition To Barefoot Running, My "Counterfeit" Vibram Five Fingers, And Anything Else On My Mind

I started writing this as just a short blog post, but after twenty minutes of typing I realized it would be much more. If you read this, or even skim through it, thank you!

A Spark of Interest
My father called me as I was driving to a restaurant. He asked, "Does that store down the street have those Five Finger shoes?" This surprised me, as he always seemed to doubt my barefoot running. I said, "They do, but not the kind you want." I assumed he wanted KSOs since they are what everyone seems to be using. I cut the call short, not wanting to give a huge speech on barefoot running over the phone, and told him to wait until I got home.

I think to myself, "What could have caused this sudden change in thought?" Then I remembered, I let him borrow Born To Run, by Christopher McDougall. He must have hit one of the last chapters where it basically explains some of the benefits of barefoot and minimalist running.

I explained to him that he needed to be comfortable running barefoot before buying them so he could learn to run right. He said, "I am going to, I just want to wear them when I go to out to the store and stuff so I can work the muscles in my feet." Fair enough.

So the next day I was planning on running five kilometers run as fast as I could. We met at the park and I ran next to him, giving him tips. We went slow, so I could run and talk at the same time. He only wanted to do one mile. I actually suggested a quarter mile, but it sucks to drive somewhere to run and only run a quarter mile. That and he wears his fifteen year old Dockers a lot, which are quite minimalist, at least at this point. Maybe his muscles are a little more developed than the average beginner?

I tried to make him not run strictly on the balls of his feet and actually land mid-foot and gently land on the heel. He had a hard time doing this. I am going to read some articles tonight about barefoot running and figure out what he may be doing wrong. This left him with a tiny blister and discomfort the day-after-next day he ran shod.

Here's my five kilometer run by-the-way. It was in fact the fastest I have ran five kilometers at 24:20. This was almost two minutes faster than my last attempt at a fast five kilometer run, which was at my previous race.

The Hunt
Later that day we went out in search of the infamous Vibram Five Finger KSO model. It was like finding a needle in the hay stack. We went to one REI, they didn't have squat. The second REI we went to had only the classic and one other model, but did measure our feet for us. They did this without the Vibram measuring tool, just using a measuring tape. They told me I was probably a 40. REI did help us out by mentioning that they were even sending people to their competitors to find the shoes. They were kind of enough to list those competitors, Half Moon and Abbadabbas.

So, next stop, Half Moon! We arrive and start hunting for the shoe department. The store was kind of small, but had a second level. As soon as we found the shoe department and spotted the Vibrams I walked back and requested assistance. We told the salesman, Dusty, our sizes. He said that he didn't have anything in my dads size, but my size may be available.  He brought out the best he could find, which were a size 41 Mens KSO in grey/palm/clay. These fit comfortably, a little too comfortably.

The sizing chart said I was a 38 or 39, so these were probably too loose. I tried to run in them, they felt great but my feet slid a tiny bit. I know that if my feet are sliding when I am thinking about my form, they will most definitely after ten miles of do-or-die.

I asked him if he had anything smaller and he said he didn't. This was so frustrating, so close yet so far! He then perked up and remembered woman's sizes. He ran to the back, and came back with a womans 39 in the same color. I tried to put them on, but my foot was crushed. Darn! He saw my feet were scrunched, skipped the 40 and brought out a 41. He said that size 41 was kind of a middle ground, where 41 is about the same size in both mens and womens. Luckily, it was a tiny bit smaller. I slipped one on my left foot and it felt a tiny bit snug. I put the other one on my right and noticed it too felt a little bit snug, but something cool happened. I had spent so much time trying to put on the right shoe that I forgot the left shoe was even on! These shoes will work!

Meanwhile my dad was trying on other models. He found a 43/44 worked for him.

After some running around the limited space in the store we bought mine. I was doing work with my dad later that day and he paid for them, telling me that this was pay for the work I was doing. Sweet! Kind-of-free Vibram Five Fingers!

So what's next? My poor dad could not find his size in the KSO. Luckily there was still hope.  We called Abbadabbas, and had them put some on hold for two hours. I was really surprised they had them. We had to go do the job so we could hit it on the way back.

When we got to the job, the persons mother was there waiting for us. She was wearing running shorts and a shirt from some kind of running event(I forget). My dad mentioned that I run barefoot, and while she never tried to run barefoot, she was interested and brought up Born To Run. It is really neat meeting other runners and hearing about what they have to say. She actually did triathalons. She has all my respect. I can't swim for the life of me.

After spending thirty minutes battling Atlanta traffic we  walked in, informed her that they were holding them for us. She asked us our names, because "the people who called about the Vibram Five Fingers" was not enough. Apparently there were something like sixteen pairs on hold! Oh my god these shoes are selling like crack!

After spending five minutes putting them on, my dad said they felt right. We compared how they fit and agreed that it was the right size. He noted that they felt like his heels were going to slide out, but didn't. He had read this in reviews as well, so didn't put much thought into it since the rest of the shoe felt great.

The sales-man asked us what we were using them for. We both replied, "Running." He talked about how a lot of people that he has met swear by Vibram Five Fingers. My dad talked about how he was reading Born To Run and said, "I'm just trying to buy some time with my knees. They aren't bad now, but I want to keep them that way." This was great to hear. I sure hope this barefoot/minimalist running/lifestyle is for the best!

Counterfeit Vibram Five Fingers?
I started talking to the salesman, who was a really great guy! We discussed barefoot running and I informed him that it really doesn't take that long to get used to it. Somewhere in our conversation I mentioned that we had just bought my Vibram Five Fingers and the only difference I could see between the mens and the womens were that the mens had Vibram written on one foot, and the womens had Vibram written on both.

He immediately said, "Umm... Where did you get those from? We have been told that a lot of the fakes have Vibram written on both feet." I told him it was from an authorized dealer, but could some fakes somehow have gotten in the batch? At this point profanity was running through my head. He asked me to take off my shoe so he could compare them. Here are the differences that he spotted.

1.  The Vibram logo was on both feet:
 My dad's right shoe is on the left

2.  The Vibram logo was written slightly different on the side.
 Once again, my dad's shoe is on the left. Note how mine stand our more and have more glue around them

3.  The rubber looked a slightly different shade of grey.
 My Dad's are on the left. Although dirty, his are a bit darker

The greens looked slightly different.
Dad's are on the left. My greens are a bit more gold

The Vibram logo on the bottom looked a little less bright.
 The flash kind of screwed this picture up, but mine are a tiny less bright

At this point I was really mad and confused. I called Half Moon. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hey, I just bought some Vibram Five Fingers from you. I am at another retailer and the sales-guy is pointing out all these differences between the model you sold me and his. Some of these differences are signs of fakes. Is there any way I can verify that these are real?

Dusty: Yeah man all of our Vibrams are real. We get them straight from Vibram. I am 100% confident that they are real. If you want to bring them back it's fine, but I am positive they are legit.

Me: Okay, that's fine. I don't mean to be accusatory, but I was just checking. You guys seemed cool, I was just kind of looking out for you too.

Halfway through this conversation I was walking around the store, looking for and praying for evidence that my Vibram Five Fingers KSO model was real. Then, I spotted the new Vibram Five Finger Bikila. I showed it to the salesman and it was constructed similarly. A lot of the things that were "wrong" on my shoe was also "wrong" on them. At this point I was slightly relieved but stil pretty confused.

The sales-lady called Vibram and asked them about it. Apparently the first of the newer models that they manufactured were manufactured "incorrectly", the most noticeable "flaw" being the Vibram logo on both feet. This was also true for some other models, including the Bikila and KSO. I assume all the other "wrongs" were due to them just being newer models. The models were structurally sound, they just had some originality!

Thank God! This was the best news all day, besides the fact that they even stocked the shoes I wanted. We thanked the people at Abbadabbas. They were super happy to figure out what the problem was, even though I didn't buy the shoes at their store.

I did owe someone an apology though. I called Dusty from Half Moon back and notified him of what I just learned. I apologized for accusing him and the store of anything being fake. He said it was fine and seemed interested to learn the same information I did.

Finding Balance
That day and the next my dad and I tested out our Vibram Five Fingers KSOs. My dad said he walked around in them a lot. I didn't so much.

I figure that I am really happy with being barefoot. I want to be barefoot as much as possible. The places I can't go barefoot, like school, I will wear them. Until that occasion arises, I will just be Barefoot Tyler.

The next day my dad complained about different muscles hurting him. Keep in mind, this was only after running barefoot, not in Vibrams. This soreness was not in his feet, but elsewhere in his body. He ran that day, shod, and couldn't remember which muscles hurt. He also spoke of a blister on the bottom of his foot from running barefoot and how the skin on his heels hurt.  I assured him that I would be running the next day and we could run barefoot for another mile and work out the kinks.  I intend on looking up some barefoot running instructions so I have something to think about while watching him run.

All-in-all, my Vibram Five Fingers are cool. I wore them today since the weather was in the high eighties and the sun was shining bright. I have burnt my feet. It stinks. I just walked around a bit in them. It definitely is not barefoot and should not be called barefoot, but it is a step in the right direction. Woah, that was punny. I think my cushion-less Walmart aqua socks have more ground feel, but they are hotter and more restrictive. 

Like I said before, I don't actually intend on running with my Vibram Five Fingers. I like to feel the ground and get feedback from it to my body. I really enjoy it. The Vibram Five Fingers will be saved for events where I need to dress my feet all fancy and junk. 

Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. I like walking barefoot at the beach. I felt free. I love to feel the sand under my feet and then the feel of the sea running down on my legs as I lay down and watch the sunrise or sunset.