Barefoot Guinea Pig

A month ago I came across a study calling out for runners to take part in the largest, first of a kind research program on the benefits of different running shoes, being conducted by my local university – the University of Newcastle. Science plus running?, I thought, sign me up! Plus I like the idea of myself as a ‘runner’. I met their criteria as a runner based on the kms I log which was a bit of a boost.

Part of the study includes random allocation of participants to a running shoe, provided to participants at a large discount (large part of the appeal of taking part in the study I’ll admit). Participants then monitor injuries and pain experienced as a result of running through journal entries. Apparently there are no peer reviewed studies which actually show the benefits of any specific type of running shoe and anyone who says otherwise is just investing in the marketing hype rather than real data.

Just call me guinea pig – Running in the name of science…

Today I was allocated one of the 10 different shoe types which include both ends of the cushioning spectrum from basically barefoot to running on a cushion. I was very excited, there are so many cool looking shoes on the list and great discounts on shoes not even available in Australia. I thought there was very little chance of being allocated the extreme ‘glove’ shoe which I have seen before and thought were ridiculous.

But of course, that is what I have been allocated. The glove. Also known as the ‘Vibram Fiverfingers Seeya’.

The Vibram Fiverfingers Seeya. Yep, they look like toe socks.

Another wordpress blogger has reviewed it relatively recently here, however they appear to be a committed barefoot runner, not a novice like me.

I know I signed up for it, but I really didn’t want to test that ‘shoe’. I am apprehensive about how it will effect my running and know they will be painful to break in as I build the different muscles in my legs, but most of all they LOOK SO STUPID. It looks like I will have to be one of those try-hards who run around thinking they are too cool for proper shoes. I may need to have a t-shirt made up that says:

‘Experiment in progress – I realise these look stupid.’

I could pull out now with no consequence but to be honest I am actually really interested to see how they feel and I would never have normally given them a go, but for the sake of science…. Should make for some interesting blog posts in any case. Barefoot running is the way humans were supposed to run, landing on the ball of the foot is MUCH better for your feet and legs (so they say. Maybe my data will contribute to changing the common thinking…). I just worry what people will think and how they will judge me. I’m already quite self-concious when I run and wearing these ridiculous sock-shoes would be adding another level of insecurity. Admitting that makes me perversely want to do it – why should I care what anyone thinks? Where is my sense of self-worth and accomplishment? In how I look? In what strangers think about me? Nope, not this little fat duck.

I’m in.

Shit.

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10 thoughts on “Barefoot Guinea Pig

  1. I’ve always wondered whether those shoes are all they’re cracked up to be, so I await your reports eagerly… And just in case of chafing, I saw merino toe-socks in Adventure 195 yesterday so they’re an emergency option too!

    From what I hear there are people transporting themselves around mayfield on far weirder human-powered devices than toe shoes. You should go pretty unnoticed in comparison 😉

  2. Seriously who’s gonna judge you for your shoes? It could be far worse! Have you seen those guys running around shirtless in the middle of winter (obviously it’s far too hot to wear actual clothes?) Good luck, i’m also interested to see how they go.

    Was thinking of you last Sunday morning Jess on my slightly-hungover 7am run through Nelson Bay. Had no idea where I was going and a nasty headache. Apparently your sister forgot to bring her running shoes. Was the most beautiful day and the most horrific hill I have ever tried to run up. Plus I got lost 3 times. Enjoyed every minute and felt so much better afterwards. I’m glad someone else understands I’m not completely crazy! xo

    • Ew, yeah nothing worse than shirtless runners lol.Yeah there is a whole community of blogging runners that I have found and being able to indulge my need to talk about running without boring anybody (I hope) is pretty awesome 🙂 Hope you guys are well and hope you had a nice birthday weekend x

  3. Just ease in slowly and if you have any pains take it back a notch. My transition was almost 3 years ago now and it took a while including twice in the early weeks when I had to start over (and I was only doing a third of a mile a few times a week). The only place I refuse to wear those shoes is at the gym – I don’t want to be that person.

    • Thanks for the tips and for commenting. Your posts are very interesting to me and I look forward to reading more about barefoot running. I plan on easing in very slowly, I also have a pair of Merrells which I use for walking which I might rotate in for the transition. Yeah, I don’t think I could wear them at the gym, even once I’m used to them…

  4. Ba ha ha ha ha that’s fantastic, I bet it’s not random they have already offered those “shoes” to 50 people and they have all said no!
    On a more helpful note it might be worth running on grass (softer ground) for a while to reduce impact on joints…
    Plus as long as they are not a fluro colour no one will notice as you run past with your feather light feet 😉

    • I think you may be right! I’m the only one foolish enough to accept lol 🙂 Yeah, not a bad idea. I’ll probably ease into them by starting on the oval and do a few laps, see how it goes…

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