How FiveFingers Got Me Back on My Feet

I’ll never forget the exhilaration I felt the first time I ran in my Vibram FiveFinger shoes. My feet felt almost as light and cool as if I were barefoot. Yet I could tread on concrete without pain.

Because my heel wasn’t protected by a thick sponge of plastic, I struck the ground with my forefoot. This reduced the jarring on my knee, so I was finally able to overcome runner’s knee (patellofemoral syndrome), the nagging pain under my left knee cap that had dogged me since college days.

I soon learned the downside of this kind of running. My calves were weak from a lifetime of heel strikes, and they cramped up when I ran up hill. For months this new pain stopped me from running. When my calves recovered, I’d try again, get carried away by the exhilaration, and hurt my calves again. It was more than a full year before I could comfortably and consistently run in FiveFingers the same distances I had run in traditional shoes.

Many people don’t find that struggle worthwhile. In fact, some got so frustrated they successfully sued Vibram.

Research on barefoot and minimal shoe running has been mixed.

Some small studies, including one of runners on the Harvard University cross country team support the practice.

But a new Army study suggests that lots of people — or at least the average soldier — won’t prevent injuries by avoiding heel strikes.

They found that 15% of the non-heel strikers and 18% of the heel strikers had reported injuries, but the difference was not statistically significant.

Making the Switch

I wonder if some of the minimal-shoe runners in the Army had an experience like mine, getting pain in their calves or Achilles’ tendons when they first try it. If so, this would be reported as an injury for the purposes of the study, which would explain why there were similar numbers of injuries in both groups.

Also some shoes marketed as minimal aren’t really, and runners may get worse injuries by continuing to strike with their heels while wearing them.

Irene Davis, director of the Spaulding National Running Center at Harvard recommends this list of true minimal shoes.

For those who do want to cast off their big-heeled shoes, Davis recommends a careful program of strengthening exercises.

And it turns out that Maj. Bradley Warr, the lead investigator for the Army thinks minimal shoes could be right for some people. He just doesn’t think the Army should impose a new foot-strike pattern on its soldiers.

“There are a large number of people with injuries who have corrected by changing their running style,” he told me. “It’s just got to be slow and easy, a little bit at a time.”

If you are running without injury now, you probably shouldn’t make a change. But as Davis pointed out, you might learn something about your own body by walking around (and maybe running just a tiny bit) barefoot, touching the world with your skin.

Maybe one day I’ll cast off my Vibrams and learn to run with naked soles.

A certified personal trainer in Oakland, California, Laird Harrison writes about sports performance and injury prevention at SportsWithoutInjury.com.

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Laird Harrison (Photo by Paul Miller, all rights reserved.)
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Transformation Thursday: Jessica Clemmons Story

Hello all!
I have had the GREAT pleasure of knowing Jessica Clemmons for a decade now. She was introduced to me when I first began my story in fitness and even knew me when I was a massage therapist!
She has struggled not only with weight, but with the feeling of being all alone in the fight. I am the lucky nutritionist who got her started on my program almost a year ago. Here is her story:

My journey:
At the age of 9 my mother put me on my first diet. Seeing the way kids were treating me and that I had terrible self esteem for a 9 year old, she knew this was the best way to help. From that point on I had been on a steady stream of fad diets as well as weight watchers and everything else to try and overcome this battle. In my late teens, early 20s I was the largest I had ever been. I was in a US size 22 (UK 24) and felt like a prisoner in my own body. That’s a feeling I had become very familiar with. Even as a child I always felt like I was in the wrong body, I wasn’t supposed to be overweight but no matter how hard I tried, genetics were always going to be against me. At times I gave up and continued to get bigger. At the age of 19 I started working out with a personal trainer and trying to make better choices but the smallest I could ever get was a size 18 (UK 20). Years later I felt it was time for drastic measures, I did the only thing I thought I could do and got a gastric band, also known as a Lapband. This was the start of a new journey for me that eventually ended in another painful surgery and heartache. I struggled for 3 years to still lose the weight. The band forced me to never eat and when I could eat it wasn’t remotely healthy. I struggled to keep any food down. I ended up getting to a US size 14/16 (UK 16/18) but only out of forced starvation due to the Lapband. In 2009 I had it removed and the struggle began again. I finally learned that I had Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), a hormone disorder that hinders weight loss.

When things started to change:
Through the diets, surgeries and medical discoveries I continued my 5 day a week workout routine as well beginning a new journey with my nutritionist, Michelle Carlson. One of the biggest changes in my life is how I view food. Since working with Michelle I’ve learned that I’ve spent my entire life putting far to much pressure and stress on myself when it came to eating. I became terrified to eat and if I ate something “bad” I beat myself up about it for days. I learned the effects that was having on my body. I now no longer stress out about food. I know what’s good for me and I work every day to make healthy choices. Do I always do it? Nope, but I move on and make a healthier choice for my next meal. I’ve had so many different nutritionists who just gave me a meal plan and told me to eat it. There wasn’t education behind it and usually it was a one size fits all approach. Michelle knows that we are all individuals so what worked for some of her clients may not work for me. She takes the time to get to know you and learn what your body needs to become healthy in the most effective way. It’s not all about counting calories. There is a science behind it. Weight loss is 90% mental if you ask me. If you can get educated on the reasons why we do things or should do things, the success rate will increase. That is why I’m so thankful that Michelle is a part of my journey. She is unlike anyone I’ve ever worked with. There is an honesty and sincerity to the way Michelle works and I believe it’s because she’s one of the few who have actually walked in my shoes. Now at a size 12 I know I still have a long way to go but in conjunction with my workout routine and supplements, I’ll be able to reach my goal thanks to the tools and knowledge that Michelle has provided me with!

The first photo (red shirt) was when I started Boot Camp with Michelle in January 2013. Second photo is when I started nutrition counseling I believe in April 2013. Both “after” photos are current.

jess 1Jess 2

Isn’t she GORGEOUS! And she has a Texas sized heart too.

I am beyond honored to be helping Jess through her story. I truly LOVE what I am able to see everyday :)

Think her story can never happen to you? Think again! I have helped others overcome emotional eating, ditch diets for good and attain results that really last. Find out more HERE.

Follow JESS!

Twitter: @Jessicaclemmons

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