Sunday, October 3, 2010


Back in January '10 an ex athlete of mine, down from Jo'burg, popped into the club for a run. I had seen him briefly the day before at the 30km race. Why am I telling you this? Well it was the first time I had really seen a pair of VIBRAM FIVE FINGERS, and as funny as they looked I wanted a pair. It wasn't till my old coach sent an email telling us that he had got a pair and was never going to take them off that I looked into how I could lay my hands (feet) on a pair. To cut a long story short my brother in the USA sent them to me.

The wait almost killed me, my wife had never seen me so excited, but she didn't see me on our wedding day till she walked down the aisle. They couldn't have come at a better time as I was only just starting to run again after an injury and a big race. So like a boy with a new toy I almost went for a second run that evening, but wearing them around the house would have to do. No I didn't go to work in them but once at the club I was transformed into a gorilla, and with my big black feet I was ready to take on the world. (Just a point here, I do run a bit of track bare foot.) So into the forest we went….. Okay I was running slowly and only did a short loop, but boy was it fun.
Now they aren't only a running shoe they are a way for us old farts to run around barefoot like we did as kids.
It was now a long weekend so we packed the car and headed off to Stanford and Hermanus for a few days. Friday saw us walking around the village and going beer, wine and cheese tasting. That evening, after spending the whole day in my new Five Fingers I could tell that they are good for your feet as my feet were tired from having worked all day, Five Fingers have no cushioning or heel raise to allow your feet to rest.
After a couple more runs from the club this last week I was ready to take on the mountain. Come Saturday morning I headed up through the Green Belts to Cecilia Forest and the Contour path. A right turn took me to Nursery Ravine so up I went taking the single track at the top across to the Overseers hut and the concrete road. I headed down turning off at the single track back to Cecilia Forest. 1h 58:03 I was home and I had even been running sub 4min/km at the end.

So what can I tell you about running with gorilla feet…..
If you haven't done any barefoot running TAKE IT SLOW (and short) or your calves won't take kindly to them.
On grass they're great, especially for us "softies" who can't run barefoot anymore.
Those first 2 points are a bit obvious, so let me go on to tell you that as funny as they look, they are really comfortable and not too many people look at you funny if you just wear them out casually.
Now onto the important stuff, you can run anywhere in them. I haven't run much on tar but I've done a couple of km.
On the flat I find I am running a little softer on my feet. I won't say I'm running any slower or faster, just a little different.
Then on the uphills things get easier and faster as normal shoes are a lot heavier.
Now since I had come down the bridle path from the dams on my long run I can tell you that I was slow. (But I think I will get faster as I get stronger and more used to the Five Fingers.)
Now let me leave the road and tell you about the trails. Every trail is different and I have found myself watching the ground ahead a little more carefully. Maybe this is a good thing
On the firm sand/clay they are amazing but if you are running fast and relaxed along a path and a single stone sticks its head up you are going to know about it (that is if you' stand on it) but no worries.
On tackling the long down hill from the block house the other day I felt the hard gravel road, maybe if I was fitter and running hard down there it would be better. You don't want to be using your heels to break as you go down. (I could feel the road under my feet)
Through the style and the rocky single track takes you down to the car park. Now on terrain like this I think the more you run it the better your gorilla feet will do. I had to take this quite slowly.
I found that those endless forest stairs were causing me a little problem on the downs. You see if you try and land your whole foot on the step you could end up catching your heel on the upper step, so I always like my toes striking just over the edge of the step. Now you can feel that through the thin rubber sole but its okay for a couple of steps but for 100+ its just not pleasant.

So where to from here? Do I race in them? Not at the moment but maybe in the months to come.

Lastly I want to say if you enjoyed being barefoot as a kid and thought that is when you ran best, what are you waiting for….. go and get a pair.


  1. Nice write up old man. Just a heads up, they are now selling fakes on ebay. I ended up paying R320 for mine including the free shipping and 30% duty and 14% vat. They aren't as good as the originals but aren't bad at all. I take a size 42 in the originals and ordered the same in the fakes but they are probably 1 size to big. This of course may vary depending on which sweat shop they come from.


  2. cool report. I find it interesting as I have started my bare footing last week. At the moment I'm only doing it on tar, I'm still a softy for running barefoot on the trails. VFF are expensive stuff, but will consider it, cause I'm rally excited about this barefooting thing and makes me feel like a kid just like you've said. And want to try it out desperately on the trails.

  3. I will give this a try next summer I think :)

    Running barefoot in - 20 degrees and 3 feet of snow is probably not a good idea.... hahaha