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Posts Tagged ‘Vibram Bikila’

[tweetmeme source=”luau” only_single=false http://www.URL.com]

…when it comes to speed. What is fast for some is slow for others and visa-versa. Still, the one standard you can compare yourself to is, well, yourself. Part of the reason many of us enter footraces is to see just how fast we are. Once we have finished one, we use each subsequent race to measure how our speed has waxed or waned.  Much of our change in speed can be attributed to diet, hydration, training, weather and quality of sleep & recovery.

But what about Mars Blackmon’s eternal question, “Is it the shoes?”

Can what you wear on your feet make a significant impact on how you perform on the streets?  Nike, along with Blackmon (Spike Lee) and Michael Jordan, tried to sell us on that idea way back in the early 1990’s.  “It’s gotta be the shoes” was everywhere.

Runners today have a myriad of shoes to choose from when they enter a running store.  Every shoe has it’s selling point, whether it’s support or cushioning, firmness or flexibility.  And of course, we all have different feet, so the range of choice is a good thing, right?  But what if you are simply looking to increase your speed.  You feel you are close to whatever goal it is you have set for yourself, but you have fallen just a little bit short.  Is there a shoe for that?

People are constantly asking me, “Can you run fast in those, uh, things?” They point at my Vibram Bikilas or Treks, not sure what to make of them.

Commercial hype and celebrity endorsements aside (Joe Montana – it is so sad to see you pitching those Skechers Shape Ups), let’s do a simple thought experiment.  Let’s pit twin brothers against each other in a long distance race.  Each has had the exact same training, eaten the exact same foods, and received the exact same amount of sleep.  They are wearing the exact same outfits and weigh exactly the same.  They also both incorporate the same running style.  Which one would you bet on to win this race?  You can’t, because any bet you make would be a complete guess.

Now, let’s take one of the twins out of his traditional shoes and put him in a pair that weigh half as much (12oz to 6oz each).  This is now the only difference between the twins.  One is literally carrying 3/4 of a pound less than the other.  Now you may wonder, what difference can 3/4lb make in a footrace?  Well, based on certain calculators out there on the internet, for a 175lb man like me, it can mean 9 seconds in a 10K, 22 seconds in a half-marathon and as much as 45 seconds in a full marathon.  For a 150lb runner, the time difference is even greater.  What’s 9 seconds?  Well, it can mean the difference between placing in your age group  or not (I’ve missed placing in my age group twice 5 seconds or less).  It can also mean the difference between qualifying for Boston or not.  I still have over 9 minutes to make up, but if I ran in traditional shoes and clocked a 3:21:40, I’d be pretty ticked off!

So what am I getting at?  Vibram Fivefingers are my racing shoe.  They literally are half the weight of my old Brooks trainers and I am convinced that they have helped me reached times that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.  Between the  forcing me to run in a more efficient manner and allowing me to carry less weight, my speed has picked up.  At the age 40 and with only a little over a year of consistent running under my belt, I was able to record a sub-40 in just my second 10K.  I was not a runner before November 2008.  Was it solely because of the shoes?  No way!  But I don’t doubt that they had a huge part in my race that day (of course, I still missed the podium by a few seconds).

If you are a dyed-in-the-wool heel striker with no desire to change your stride, then the minimalist shoe is probably not for you.  But if you are naturally a mid- to fore-foot striker, or are like me, a partially reformed heel-striker, and you are looking for ways to cut down your times, the Vibrams, and more specifically the Bikilas or Treks, may be the shoe for you.  I’ve heard people say that as heel-strikers they cannot possibly run in the Vibrams.   I would have to disagree.  I have always been a heel-striker and although I’ve  tried to alter my mechanics, using a cross between chi-running and barefoot techniques, I will still land just ever so slightly on my heel.

Providence Marathon

Boston 13.1

Boston Run To Remember

That said, my heels have been fine.  I am a faster, stronger and more efficient runner than I ever was.

Taken to extremes, you may ask, well why not toss out the shoes altogether? Go barefoot!  That’s another 45 seconds right there!  The problem with that for me is I don’t have natural tread on the bottom of my feet.  Both the Treks and the Bikilas have enough tread so you can run hard and still maintain traction with the ground.  If I tried that barefoot, I think I’d rip the skin right off the bottoms of my feet.

I’ve put well over 1000 miles in VFF’s over the last 12 month, with close to 400 in either Treks or Bikilas, interspersed with some runs in my traditional Brooks.  I know my comfortable pace in my VFF’s is about 20 seconds faster than my Brooks.

Based on my personal experience therefore, I have to agree with Mars. “It’s gotta be the shoes!”

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[tweetmeme source=”luau” only_single=false http://www.URL.com]

Yesterday I picked up a pair of the new Vibram Bikila. They weren’t supposed to be in the stores until this morning, but when I called to find out what time they thought they would be coming in, I was told they had just received a small shipment. They had received one pair in my size. I asked the salesperson to hold on to them and that I’d be there in 10 minutes.

I was there in 5.

The moment I slipped them onto my feet, I knew this was going to be my new favorite shoe. I have run in Vibram Sprints, KSO’s and Treks. All were great for running in, but these Bikilas fit nice and snug. They feel fast. I jogged lightly from one end of the store to the other, “testing” them out. I really didn’t need to…I just wanted to show them off. Now that they were on my feet, I didn’t care if someone else with my foot size showed up. I mentioned to the salesperson that I was happy that I had called because I knew had I waited until this morning, I would have been told that they had just sold the one pair they had in my size. These shoes are selling like hotcakes. On Thursday, CitySports put about 150 pair up online. They were gone in 20 minutes.

I brought them home and showed them to my family. They were unimpressed, and quite honestly, I guess I could understand. I never was into the Air Jordan craze. I never understood the hysteria. Now I do. I’ve been itching for a pair of Bikila since I first heard about them. The fact that I could play with but not purchase them at the Boston Marathon Expo killed me.

Anyway, after dinner I went for my first run in them.

Over the course of my 3 mile run, I took them over a variety of terrain, including road, sidewalk, grass and brush. The Bikila performed perfectly in all conditions. The only place I might hesitate taking them is on truly off road terrain, but quite honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised it they handled that decently as well. During my run I was able to feel the ground beneath as well as I could in my Sprints, but still get some traction like I do in my Treks. One of the reasons why I had switched to Treks in my long runs had been the fact that after 5 – 6 miles in my Sprints I would often feel the bottoms of my feet heating up a bit. That doesn’t happen in my Treks (at least not in runs 26.2 miles or shorter) and based on the feel of the Bikila, I don’t anticipate that happening with them either.

As I mentioned earlier, these Vibrams feel fast when you put them on. These truly feel like a second skin to me, unlike my previous Vibrams that in comparison, feel like loose fitting gloves. The tread on the Bikila is like a cross between the KSO’s/Sprints and the Treks. Thick enough to feel like you’ve got some traction and protection, but light enough to feel the road completely. As I went out for my run, I told myself to go slow. My legs are still recovering from my 2 Marathons in 2 Weeks Adventure and I had originally planned on waiting until Monday to start running again. Of course, with the Bikila in hand, I wasn’t about to NOT run. So I went out with the intention of running a slow 3 miler.

These shoes don’t want to go slowly. Your feet just want to go in them and mine did. After starting off with an 8+ minute mile, I covered the last 2 miles in 15 minutes, without any realization that I was running that fast. Had you asked me to guess my pacing, I would have told you I ran 8 minute miles the whole way. For those of you who are not runners, but have made it this far in my review, a 30 second difference per mile is NOT insignificant. It is huge.

When I arrived home, I didn’t do my usual routine of ripping off my shoes immediately after the run. I had to leave them on. HAD to. That’s because not only do they feel fast, and not only do they have the perfect balance of tread on the soles, they are comfortable. I mean cozy! The feet feel great in them. If I wasn’t moderately self-conscious, I would wear then 24/7 – from dropping off the kids at school, to going to the grocery store, taking the kids to their various activities – I would wear them everywhere – and then I’d run in them. Unfortunately, I am a little shy when it comes to wearing them for anything but running, but that’s a Luau problem, not a Bikila problem.

I feel bad for my other Vibrams. I haven’t worn the Sprints since last fall, and the KSO have only been pulled out a couple times over the last few month. I thought I had found my perfect Vibram in my Treks. They are a great running shoe, especially during the cold winter months up here in the Northeast, but they too are about to be relegated to being a back-up player. The Bikila’s have taken the best from each of the previous models and improved upon them. These shoes were obviously made with the runner in me in mind. The Bikila are truly the runner’s Vibram Five Finger shoe. I am sure you will feel the same.

My new favorite running shoe – The Vibram Bikila!

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I need YOUR contributions to a project that I’m working on. Interested?

All you need to do is send me a paragraph or two telling me why you run and/ or why you think others should run. E-mail it to me at “runluaurun at gmail dot com” (written out so the bots don’t start sending me spam).

If you can, please include a picture of your favorite running shoes and tell me what kind of shoes they are. Also, please let me know how you would like to be referenced (real name, nickname, pseudonym, etc) just in case this project actually ever sees the light of day.

The more responses I get, the sooner I can put it all together, so please don’t be shy about forwarding this to your running friends and spreading the word.

Thanks!

Luau

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