Commentary: I'll never, ever go back to traditional running shoes

Vanessa Pearson/Staff Staff Writer Vanessa Pearson runs and works out in the Fila Skeletoes, a minimalist-style toe sneaker.

BY VANESSA PEARSON

 

I like those funny-looking toe shoes. And I can't imagine a time where I'd ever go back to traditional running shoes.

For me, it's about pain.

It's almost as though the padding inside traditional running shoes pushes against places my foot dips, especially on the outside edges of my foot.

I listened to the traditional advice of finding the right traditional shoes for you. I spent hours reading reviews and trying them on at stores. I even bought a few pairs.

At first, the new sneakers felt fine, but within a week or two, my feet ached and my calves were unhappy. I thought maybe my weight was making me go through shoes faster. (When I started this weight-loss journey, I weighed about 288 pounds. That was 113 pounds ago.)

The last straw came when I tried a brand that everyone I know swears by. I took them to the gym and wore the around the track exactly once.

I was in so much pain. Like full-on wincing, I-want-to-cry-if-I-go-one-more-step pain.

I took them off and finished my mile in Birkenstock sandals so broken in that the footbed is the exact shape of my foot.

It was a revelation.

So I did a little reading about barefoot running shoes. Of course, the Vibram FiveFingers were mentioned heavily, being the leader in the type.

But I couldn't afford them and figured the Fila Skeletoes for less than half the price would be a good place to start with barefoot shoes.

It was the best thing I ever did. I have no pain aside from what comes from working hard and running long.

Now I wear the Skeletoes for everything I do at the gym and on the trail. Jumping, running, Zumba, kickboxing, step class — all of it.

My foot strike feels more natural and less jarring and I never end a run because my feet hurt. I feel so connected to the pavement.

Since I bought that pair a year ago, I've never looked back. I've run almost 10 5Ks and two 10Ks in them.

The soles are peeling and I have holes between some of the toes. I have a newer pair, yet I stick with my purple and black ones. I deal with questions and looks about my funny shoes and have serious shoe envy over my friends' colorful sneakers, but I'd never go back.

I seriously doubt I would have ever achieved the running endurance I have wearing regular shoes. I was in so much pain every time I wore them, I rarely made it beyond 1 mile.

I'd really love to go whole hog and take off down the trail minus the thin shoes I wear. At local races, there's a man who goes sans, and I always want to ask him about it.

I'm a little worried about what I could step on or that I'd find a hole and turn my ankle, but those are small worries already. (Stepping on a big rock in the fifth mile is never fun.)

But I think I'm ready to take that risk and take my toes for a spin sans protection.

Barefoot running and toe shoes aren't for everyone, but it's the only way for me.

But a word to the wise: If you decide to try toe shoes, buy the pricey toe socks to go inside. You'll never get the stench out if you don't.

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