5 Tips For Surviving Your First Run In Vibrams

By Barefoot Dawsy

There’s something about running in Vibrams that makes you want to run farther. Unfortunately, for most new Vibram wearers, this feeling can often lead to the dreaded sore calves that are the trademark of doing Too Much Too Soon (TMTS). The problem is that it just feels so good to run with light feet that can feel the ground beneath them!

The disadvantage to taking your first ‘barefoot’ steps in shoes versus actually barefoot is that Vibram makes excellent soles. What this means for you as a new runner is that you can run and run and your own soles won’t hurt at all. Try this barefooted, and your foot pads will be screaming.

At this point, the best advice is of course to go slowly, spend a good few weeks building up your strength and improving your form. This is great, and highly recommended, but the reality is that you’re probably going to get caught up in the moment and ignore the whole tranistion thing (shame, shame 😉 ).

With this in mind, I’ve put together a few tips to surviving your first Vibrams run. If you do nothing else but these things, you still stand a good chance of making it home with your Achilles tendons intact.

1. Stretch those calves!

Normally I don’t advocate stretching before a run, however if you are used to wearing conventional shoes, you’re  going to need a bit of rehab before hitting (caressing, really) the pavement. So, while you’re shopping for your first pair of Vibrams, making your mind up, etc, spend some time getting your calves ready. Every day, and especially before that fateful first run, do some simple calf exercises. 3 sets of 10 calf raises should be enough. This will let your Achilles tendon lengthen a bit and your calves develop a bit more strength. The longer you can do this before your first run, the better, so start now!

2. Take Small Steps

You’re making a big transition by moving from regular shoes to minimals, so you’re going to have to start catering for this. I can’t go through everything about proper form (see the rest of this site for details), but if you’re going to do just 1 thing to start working on this, it’s to take small steps. The smaller your steps, the more likely you will be to keep your feet under your centre of gravity. Doing this will reduce your tendency to heel strike and overstride, and will reduce the impact forces on your feet and joints as you run.

3. Take It Slow

You will be tempted to ramp up the speed on your first run. By all means, do a couple little sprints, but try to keep the speed down at first. The slower you go, the easier it is to tread lightly, make corrections, and to react to changes in terrain, etc.

4. Walk It Off

Waling is an excellent way to let your body recover from a run, and should especially not be excluded from your first minimal run. As a rule of thumb, once your run is done, walk for 30 seconds for every minute that you ran. This will help your muscles stretch out and cool down gradually, which will make all the difference to your recovery.

5. Take A Break

A lot of time with running, the day after is nowhere near as painful as the day-after-the-day-after. This is especially true when you’re wearing minimal shoes as there is very little protecting you from your own mistakes. When easing into running ‘barefoot’, make sure that you give yourself at least 2 days off after your first run.

There are thousands of tips that I gan give you to take with you on your first run, but if you stick to these 5, you will greatly improve your chances of making it home in one piece. Running in Vibrams (or better yet, barefoot) is a joy that has turned many a couch-potato into a distance runner (myself included), so get out there, and enjoy yourself!

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A Simple Way To Ease Sore Calves And Achilles’ Pain

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

When I was first learning to run in Vibrams, I, like nearly every other minimalist runner I’ve met, was plagued with sore calves and mild Achilles tendonitis. I knew I should have started slowly and not tried to do too much too soon, but I just couldn’t resist.  Though it was a painful endeavour, I did manage to learn about a great exercise at that time that really helped.

So, if you’ve found yourself in this situation or want to avoid going through the pain, I’ve got the workout for you, and it’s as simple as anything!

To start off, remove your shoes (of course) and find a step of some sort. You’ll want something a good few inches off the ground and sturdy enough to hold your weight. Stairs are ideal.

Place your feet on the step so that your forefeet are resting at the edge of the step and your heels are hanging off.

Now, keeping your knees locked and your body nice and straight, slowly dip your heels as low as they can go. You should feel a nice stretch in your Achilles tendons. Try not to bounce, and ensure that your descent is nice and controlled. It should take about 3 seconds for your heels to reach their lowest point.

Pause at the bottom for a couple of seconds, then lift your heels slowly up again, and keep lifting until your heels are as high as they’ll go. You should now feel your calves starting to kick in. Again, this should take about 3 seconds.

Pause again at the top and lower your heels back down. Repeat this 10 times for a pre-run stretch (this is the only stretch I recommend before a run).And another 10 times when you get back.

You can also use this exercise as a great lower leg strengthener, as it uses muscles from your toes up to your knees. Before you do your first barefoot run, I’d recommend doing 4-5 sets of 10 reps of these daily for a week or two. By doing this, you’ll have much stronger feet when you start running than you would if you didn’t do it, which could save you a lot of discomfort.

Remember, this exercise is no substitute for slow transition or learning proper form, but it will give you a little bit of an edge in preventing some serious discomfort.

Have you tried this before? How did you like it? Did it make any difference for you? Leave a comment!