Monday, October 17, 2011

Minimalist Review: A VFF Interview With Beverly

Beverly has been injured since the Sundown Marathon in May 2011, mainly due to a muscle tear aggravated by the stress subjected during the final 8km walk back to the finish line. Many trips to the sports doctor, physiotherapist and podiatrist revealed that Beverly’s injury was due more to the stresses in the way she runs, exaggerated by the poor running form her not-too-straight spine had been subjecting her to.

Beverly has recently taken to trying out minimalist running footwear like the Vibram FiveFongers (VFF) and New Balance (NB) Minimus during her rehabilitation, in a bid to go easier on her legs, as well as take the opportunity to encourage a more mid-foot running stance.

Dream: Why did you lay off running?
Beverly: On doctor’s advice, as I suffered a terrible muscle injury. It was painful to even walk, not to mention run.

Dream: How long have you laid off from running after the injury?
Beverly: 2.5months

Dream: When did you start wearing VFF?
Beverly: early Sep 2011, using a pair of Komodo Sport

Dream: How did you begin with the VFF?
Beverly: There was a step-step guide that came with the shoes, and I followed the instruction manual closely. I did feet strengthening exercises daily for the first 2 weeks as prescribed. I also wore the VFF for short walks around the neighbourhood. After 2 weeks, I started running at the stadium track with VFF once a week for about 1.5km.

After another 2 weeks, I was running for about 2km on the road (but avoiding hard concrete surfaces when I can). It has been more than a month since I have started with the VFF, and found that I could bring my mileage in normal shoes up to 15km in a recent FatBird training run.

Dream: Your feeling about the shoes?
Beverly: They feel soft, snug, light, comfortable and offered me enough protection from the hard ground.

Dream: Did you find any change in running form?
Beverly: Yes, it sort of altered the way I run. Initially, I walked in it and after 10mins felt sore on my soles. I then realized that I have been walking very hard, especially whenever I wore heels.

Dream: Do you find yourself adapting to mid-foot striking?
Beverly: I cannot tell for sure, but I feel the angle of heel strike have reduced significantly for me

Dream: Do you find an increase in cadence (feet turnover)?
Beverly: Yes, I did increase my cadence according to the VFF booklet. With the increased cadence, I found that my feet pounded less and there was less pain. The breathing was initially a bit difficult to regulate (could be due to the harder workout from the increased turnover). After a while, the breathing became more regulated even with the increased cadence.

Dream: Will you wear the VFF for the year end marathon?
Beverly: No, I will take my time to adapt to the shoes and new running form gradually, and not rush out to run long distances with them. I have been advised to use them as training tools to help correct my rather poor running form to avoid injuries. After the recent injury, I have learnt to be more patient and careful with putting on new gear, especially shoes until I have tried and tested with them sufficiently.

Dream: What shoes are you using for marathon training?
Beverly: I wear mainly my New Balance cushion shoes for long distances and light cushion racers for running shorter distances. I intend to use the VFF and Minimus for 1-2 times a week on short distances of 3km-8km to build up my leg strength and to improve my running gait.

Dream: These shoes look funny with the 5 fingers - have you received any stares or comments?
Beverly: I have received many positive comments from colleagues and friends so far, who find the shoes very nice. They have told me they would like to get some for gymwork and their brisk-walks and jogs in the parks. Some have asked if they could wear it around for walkabouts, hiking, travelling etc.

Dream: How would you rate the shoes after just 1 month of use?
Beverly: I am happy with VFF in terms of looks, comfort, flexibility, especially when they are working for me. I would give it a high 4 out of 5 stars for now. I hope to be able to share more when I have used it for a couple more months.

Beverly has since gone on to race the NBRR 10km (using cushion shoes) with a respectable timing. Given a few more months to rehab, Beverly hopes to be able to be back to where she was or even better. We wish her all the best in her comeback to distance running.

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