Barefoot Running and the Cigar Community
As we often try to showcase the community effect of cigar smoking one of those interesting crossroads of discussion is fitness and the cigar community. As contrarian as it would seem to some, many cigar smokers enjoy living active lifestyles. One of the trends that we have started to see around our local B&M Casa Fuma, and at our Crossfit training center (Crossfit Southwest) is the phenomenon known as FiveFingers.
FiveFingers by Vibram are some of the most bizarre looking shoes you will see on an individual, but I will say this about them, they are also some of the most functional! Having seen these shoes around the shop the first thing one notices is that they look like a pair of water moccasins with individual toe covers, hence the FiveFinger moniker. Upon close inspection you will notice that the bottom actually has light treading, and that the sole is contoured to your foot. To be precise, as is stated on the Vibram website FiveFingers are designed to “…bring you closer to your environment, FiveFingers deliver a number of positive health benefits—by leveraging all of the body’s natural biomechanics, so you can move as nature intended.”
To be honest I was skeptical at first and thought it was a ridiculous concept, but then I read a study published by a group of Harvard professors that talked about the possible benefits of running barefoot. One of the points they made was that many runners develop a heel strike when wearing running shoes. As is quoted from the study by Liberman et al. in an article of Nature they state that “Most runners who wear standard running shoes usually heel strike, but our research suggests that most barefoot or minimally shod endurance runners forefoot strike and sometimes midfoot strike.” Perhaps one of the greatest barriers of me being able to run any great distance is the fact that I develop bad shin splints due to heavy heel strikes. I have been working on a pose running form to help, but I thought if the shoes could really change my running pattern then why not give them a try as well.
The first time I slipped them on I thought how awkward they felt. Having your toes securely in their own individualized pockets is quite a new experience, but the more you wear them, the more they start to feel like a second skin. My first impression was about how you really felt connected to the ground. One could feel every bump and rock of the ground, as if one were barefoot, but protected. The nice part about the shoes was that even if one walk on rocks or somewhat uneven terrain, one feels it, but does not have the discomfiture of being actually barefoot and stepping on a rock. Immediately I noticed that my tendency to walk on the heel was being supplanted to walk on a less tender part of my foot. It truly began to shape the way I wanted to walk and interact with my environment.
It had the added benefits as well in the jumping rope and weightlifting departments. Jumping rope and performing double-unders has been a challenge for me, but with the FiveFingers on I was able to quickly start getting consecutive skips and better height. I chalk this up to being unencumbered by weightier shoes, and also being able to balance better in general by jumping from the front of my foot. As for the weightlifting, I have always struggled with different snatch movements, because in a large part the force needed to propel the weight upward requires one to push or jump from their heel specifically. In normal shoes I could jump, but I was tending to push from the front instead of loading up the heel. Wearing FiveFingers allowed me to sense what part of my foot I was leading from, and make the proper adjustments. In one session, and in multiple ones since, I have seen up to a 40lb gain in some of my snatches and high pulls!
To be sure the FiveFingers are a modern marvel and oddity. While their looks are definitely unique, their function is unparalleled and a truly marvelous experience for those looking to improve their running form, balance, or weightlifting technique. A gentle caveat is to take it easy in your initial runs while your feet and legs adjust to a new running style. My legs and feet were sore in places I have never engaged before, and took me a few days to recover them. Enjoy them and break them in at a moderate pace, but you will definitely not be sorry that you purchased a pair. If you want more information you can check them out on VibramFiveFingers.com, and be sure to check them out periodically, because they have some cool new models coming out for the avid hiker and runner!
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