I run so I can eat like a truck driver. A couple of years ago, as part of my campaign to get my lung cilia back after quitting smoking, I decided to increase my running speed by getting the famed Vibram "toe-shoes." My local City Sports had a sale going on, so I got some green-and-grey ones. (Pictured above are Boyfriend's ninja black ones.) The shoes fit my feet--and toes!--like gloves. I zipped through three miles in about 25 minutes, which is absolutely ridiculous. I was delighted. I ran through the winter, and drew admiring stares from passerby. I basked in their respect for my amazing athleticism. "They look so comfortable," said a woman reclining on a bench. "Hohoho," I replied, in my best Japanese noblewoman laugh.
Then, sometime in the spring of '10, I woke up and could not walk without pain. I limped to my chiropractor, a crusty New Yorker who, in between tales of how dangerous the NY subway was back in the seventies and eighties, informed me that I had tendinitis, and had no business running with my special shoes. I weakly protested that the best Kenyan and Nigerian athletes trained barefoot, and she pointed out that they run on clay, while I ran on pavement.
Little Brother was visiting at the time and very kindly bought me a bucket so I could dunk my calves in ice water every night until I could walk normally again. After that, I only used my Vibrams for hiking, which apparently was what they were designed for in the first place. Well, excuse me for innovating. Anyway, I sprained my ankle last time I hiked, so obviously Vibram wasn't the product for that activity either.
And then, a couple of weeks before my company charity basketball tournament, Boyfriend and I slipped into our Vibrams so he could teach me to run properly. Apparently, running full speed with your arms out like an airplane with each foot stamping firmly on the ground was not correct. What can I say, I learned to run by watching Sailor Moon. Boyfriend went into his terrifying Teacher Mode and explained the biomechanics of impact transmission in excruciating detail. I eventually figured out that he was talking about how the muscles in my calves will absorb the shock when I spring forward on my tippy-toes, and barely stopped him from scratching out a force reduction equation on the ground with a twig.
And then we ran a couple miles and sure enough, I was limping for a week afterward. See, Vibrams will force you to run correctly, because there's no cushion for heel impact. Also, you are encouraged to jut out your chest and run faster because people are staring at your shoes and assuming you are super awesome. Running faster in Vibram means running on tiptoes and not letting your heel strike the ground at all. My calf muscles, furious at my inability to learn from past mistakes, went on strike and refused to talk to me until I promised to only run in real shoes.
And that is why my Vibram shoes will henceforth be Sheba's playthings. As you may have noticed from the photo above and the one in my last post, she loves shoe-related activities, like sitting, cuddling, rubbing, and rolling around. Cats have it figured out.
Happy Memorial Day weekend!
Edit, 05/31/2012: BBC has an article describing Vibram's valiant efforts to shut down counterfeiters.