Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Featherweight Flock Meetup

Minimalist feet of The Featherweight Flock

It was the inaugural meetup for The Featherweight Flock (TFF), a group of minimalist running enthusiasts at the MacRitchie Reservoir Park. It was a nice comfy gathering of minimalist runners who came in their FiveFingers, Minimus Trails, Merrells and Newtons. As we were planning on covering some heavy trails interspersed with real rocky terrain, we were not really expecting any 'completely barefoot' runners nor even the hurache crazies :D

About 13 of us showed up on time, all mostly in our barely broken-in, but real colorful and chio minimalist babes (incidentally, there was only a lady runner in the midst - we want more of them at the next minimalist weekender). A greeting among the runners were followed by quick chatter on the shoes and how they would perform in the trails. A few group photos of the minimalist shoes and people later, we headed up the Northern Route.

I had my green NB MT00 (Zero-Drop) on for this trails test run. I had has a few runs with the MT00 on road up to 12km with good responses and sensory feedback. The MT00 performed well on the more sandy Northern Route this morning. The other runners wearing the MT10 and VFF gave good feedback too. As we ventured on to Terantang Trail, it got more rocky, and a heightened sensation similar to walking on those 'pebbled massage paths' was felt. We slowed down a little and watched our feet and landing more cautiously. If anything, it made most of us land even more on our mid-foot with very little heel-dropping (because of the painful feedback).

As if that was not sufficient, the Rifle Range Link took the cake for the most rocky passage of them all - we had to resort to walking at certain stretches just to be sure no accidents occur to our runners. The VFF guys seemed to be enjoying their foot-massages, while the Minimus runners were getting a bit more support from their thickened Vibram soles. The Merrell and Newton runners too were enjoying the 'rocky' experience. We had lots of good chats at the edge of the Rifle Range Trail, saying 'hi' to many familiar runners who were on the trails training for their upcoming NorthFace 100 race in mid October.

The return trip was back via the rocky path, and it was not till the Lornie Trails where we could try to run on smoother gravel and sandy dirt tracks. The grip and holding of the MT00 worked like a charm over here, and I could pick up speed to run through that 2.4km stretch. I met up with a couple more from the Featherweight Flock and ran back towards the MR Amenities Centre for a good 13km workout.

Joe and an earlier group who did 10km were already back. Winston, Roy and other FatBirds who ran a longer route for NorthFace training also got back around the same time. It was great to meet BTing, JacQ, Irene and the JieMeis out training in their new trail shoes too. Alvin, Johnny and a few who wanted to join TFFs were slightly late and did their own runs.

There was a good round of sharing and exchanging of experiences of running in the trails with the various minimalist shoes. The interest in Minimus was quite high, especially with the new colours of the MT10 just arriving to the stores. Just like the MT00, the VFF were found to be not too suitable to be used in such rocky trails. Most of the minimalist shoes, including the MT00 experienced slightly slippery conditions and loss of good grip on the rocky slopes along the Rifle Range Trails. Overall, it was a good experience for the minimalist runners.

I personally find that the MT00 runs better on road, tarmac and flatter sandy trails rather than the rocky and slippery conditions in many stretches of the MacRitchie terrain. I would not venture in there with the VFF for now, but will probably try the MT10 in other parts of the MR trails at the next TFF Run. Thanks to all who came and share in this inaugural minimalist weekender, and I hope to be able to do more of such minimalist group weekenders in future.

Facebook photos from Steven Tan, Joe Goh

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

First Adventures With 5Fingers

With the growing interest of all things minimalist running and 5Fingers, I had to give it a go to understand better the attraction of these ‘used to be monkey-feet looking’ running shoes. When I was first broached about trying these trainers more than a year ago, my initial thought was that they looked too unconventional and ‘ugly’ for anyone who might want to wear them, other than for technical reasons.

One year later, Vibram FiveFingers (VFF) had come out with much more attractive, colorful designs and options, the latest models with shoelaces to boot. The ladies were going gaga about their uniqueness and even the guys were drawing a lot of endearing attention from non-runners and runners alike. A growing number of my friends and fellow runners were trying out the minimalist options to better their running form in a bid to not only run smoother, but more to reduce running-related injuries with mid-forefoot striking gaits (which will eventually lead to better running form overall).

When I was informed that Vibram FiveFingers (VFF) was coming out with a step-step instruction guide on the proper use of the shoes, I felt it was time to bring them through the manufacturer’s proposed protocol and see if all these minimalist running are just hype and loads of smoke. Even though I am already a forefoot runner, I went with the advice to walk in the VFF KomodoSport (KS) for 2 weeks to get my feet conditioned and strengthened.

After many years of wearing shoes, my almost fused toes had to be pried open for me to fit into the glove-like KS. I would bring them for walks on different surfaces….grass, track, concrete, tarmac, (not yet the trails as mine is not a trails version). There were strengthening exercises prescribed to enhance the flexibility and strength of the toes and feet overall. Beverly followed them religiously and found that they worked well for her injury rehab.

After 2 weeks, I brought them out for short runs, once to twice a week, starting from 2km, and progressing to 4km. My toes and metatarsal region were less numb as I got used to the gloves and more importantly, usage of my lower 3 toe region. The sensory feedback from the KS was good, such that I could feel well the points of landing on my feet, which was more on the outer mid sole, and then rolling inwards to complete the pronation cycle. I was sore in my hamstrings (instead of calves as many did) in my first run, but there was not much soreness (DOMS) thereafter. The mileage are still low at this stage, and I will have to monitor as I progress into longer distances, according to the prescribed schedule.

With just 5 very short runs using the VFF, I can feel the strengthening of my feet and ankle joints, which Beverly (who is also testing to see if it helps with her injury) has also began to experience. When I switched back to my normal cushion shoes and lightweight racers, I could feel that I can run with a much better sense of form and foot-landing.

The good news is that with every VFF shipped, there is an instruction guide in there telling new users how to approach the shoes and minimalist running with progression and care. New Balance Minimus, Merrell Barefoot along with other Barefoot/Minimalist shoe manufacturers are also strong proponents of good form running and taking a measured approach to this whole adaption to minimalist running.

Although it is still too early to say, and I need to do more trials with these minimalist shoes, I feel that they would be very good ‘training’ tools to help us amateur and social runners develop and improve our running form, with the longer term objective of attaining smoother and injury-free running that will keep our healthy hobby going for many years to come.

My VFF Komodo is a staid black/gold colorway which had not attracted the kind of attention that some of my fellow testers shared…haha. But still, a few short runs on the track and roads with the KS did get a fair share of admirers looking at my feet (yes definitely just my feet) and possibly wondering if they too should get one to try :D

I hope to report more of my experiences with the VFF in the coming months as I progress gingerly with its use. Meanwhile, for you VFF users out there, enjoy your FiveFingers but do not covert them to your everyday running shoes in a hurry.

For the enthusiasts, here are comprehensive reviews of the VFF KomodoSport at and Runblogger.

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Thursday, September 08, 2011

Minimus Goes ZERO heel-to-toe drop, that is. Had a chanced meeting with New Balance's newest model of the Minimus range, the Minimus Zero Trail, MT00.

As I was on the way for my weekly group run, I decided to trial it straightaway, what with the opportunity to test this sleek 4.4oz beauty on 5km of concrete. The key feature of the MT00 is the 0mm heel-to-toe drop, a much desired requirement for barefoot-running and minimalist purists...hence the model name, Minimus Zero!

The first km felt so light with the shoes, yet with ample mid-foot cushioning and surprisingly, good responsiveness too. The upper was near 'paper thin', giving a better cooling-off than its predecessor, the MT10. The horizontal strap was also very much diminished, reducing the 'too snug' feel, and allowing me to get a good fit on my usual 9.5 size.

Traction was reasonably good on that concrete surface, although I think it will offer even better grip on trails. The 0mm drop felt comfortable enough for a mid-foot striker like myself, and I could not feel that much difference from the 4mm drop offered by the current MT10.

There aren't that many reviews of this version yet, although you can get some initial perspectives from LoseTheShoes & leaks from BirthdayShoes. My personal hunch from this maiden run with the MT00 is that this might turn out to be a nice surprise for many of the minimalist purists and barefoot-running aficionados.

Below is a sneak preview of more from the NB Minimus Zero Range

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Monday, September 05, 2011

MEDIA: Sharing overseas marathon experiences

Anthony, Azhar & Winston from Team FatBird - MyPaper, 31Aug11

CLICK to read the online version of this page in

A nice article from Zhanting of MyPaper about the growing popularity of running marathons in overseas countries. I was asked about Team FatBird's recent trip with a large contingent of Singaporean runners to the Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2011. Winston, Azhar and myself had a fun, but challenging time taking those action photos around a world map, as well as lots of speed on the track under the afternoon sun...good exposure indeed :D

CLICK for additional COVERAGE and REPORT Of Our Gold Coast Airport Marathon experience

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