Vibram Five Fingers / winter running snowI was about 20 kilometers into a 25 km orienteering race called “Raid the Hammer” with my team of 3. This was my second year competing in the race and a I had just come back from an 86 km run of the grueling La Cloche Silhouette Trail in Killarney, (read more) . The race was going well for our team, and we were sitting around third place within striking distance of the top teams in our category. This race is an annual slugfest between the top adventure racing teams and the elite orienteering people as there are very few races where they all share the same ground. The end of the race was near and there were only a few minor glitches with navigation, but there was a major problem as my knee was was screaming for me to stop, and there was not enough vitamin Ibuprofen to keep me going, the pain was excruciating and I wasn’t able to focus on the map or my team. It felt as though I was slowly grinding to a halt, and about 15 minutes later we pulled out of the race and DNF’d which is never fun. It was at that point that I came to the conclusion that my running would have to change, or I just would not do it anymore as it was slowly crippling me. I took a few weeks off, and while I was resting my bones I started to look more into the Pose Technique of running and trying to find efficiency in human movement.

Through CrossFit I had been introduced to the “Pose” technique and  and After reading the book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall I decided that running shoe technology was probably the vector for my poor running stride which led to my injuries. Over the next year I was going to try to teach myself the POSE technique or evolution running, heck maybe even Chi running. Basically I was going to get away from heel striking and try to run with a mid foot strike.
I watched my daughter run and this is what I found out.

I decided that I needed shoes that would enable me to run as close to barefoot as possible, and that is where I found the Vibram Five Finger Shoes . I purchased them while on vacation in Florida and I couldn’t wait to try them out. There was only one problem, and that was that it was freezing up home in the Toronto area and I would have to contend with the snow and ice and these flimsy little foot coverings weren’t exactly gore-tex or insulated either. The “VFF’s” as they are known in the running community are super light and have mesh toe pockets for all your little piggys, and are sort of like an anti-shoe without any real structure or technology. The shoes for the lack of a better term allow your feet to work the way that they are designed to without the stability control chasis or microchip technology that is floating around in new shoes. In the new Vff’s water goes in and out of these crazy looking kicks, and they look like you dipped your feet in a vat of tar.

Christmas came and went, and I needed to burn off the turkey and I just couldn’t wait any more, I was going to try them out in the snow and ice while running some crushed gravel trails in Oakville’s 16 mile creek area where Trek or Treat is run.


  • You certainly can’t heel strike in these shoes, period.
  • The grip is pretty good considering the flat rubbery sole, I have the KSO type with the flat sole, there is one that is new that has a lugged sole, but I think I’ll try that after I wear these ones out.
  • Surprisingly my feet weren’t really that cold, even though they were submerged in water and running over hard packed ice and snow. It felt like I was running with wet moccasins.
  • I could feel the ground much more and felt some nice rocks as well, especially in some of the large gravel covered washout sections by the river.
  • The running felt natural and smooth, and I didn’t feel like it was a challenge to adopt some new style of running technique. The reality is that I was returning to a running style that I once used as a kid.

After a 5 km loop, we returned to the house, and my one calf muscle felt a little tight but other than that I was feeling pretty good and glad that my experiment didn’t backfire. The only problem is that I had some rubbing on the inside of my arch and on the outside of my toe, as I was running without socks. I’m not sure if people use those injinji socks with the shoes, but perhaps next trip I take, I might try them out.

2 days after the run I felt as though my calves had been shot and still feel a little tight, and I’m sure this is due to them being deconditioned. I plan to keep on running in them throughout the winter, so I will keep you updated.

Winter Running Update

More running in the month of February. I did a 1o km trail run with “real” runners. The trail was super technical with lots of rocks, roots and hills. I attached my polar footpod to the VFF’s and I have done this a few times and it has worked well. There has been no problem with the pod moving around or feeling cumbersome on the top of my foot. I have been using the Injinji socks over the winter and they seem to be working well. I’m not really sure what else I would do. There were a couple cold mornings that my feet felt hot for hours after the runs which were in about minus 12 degree Celsius weather for about 35 minutes or 8 km. The hot sensation was either a friction burn from the run or a mild case of frostbite. The old feet are holding up well and I don’t have the calf pain anymore, this muscle conditioning issue seemed to go away after 4 or 5 runs. I supplemented some skipping into my warm ups too to get the calf muscles ready for some play.  When I was out running yesterday on the icy trails I did notice one thing when I was running with this pack of Ironman / Marathoner  runners. When I hit a hill I adjusted my stride to become very short and my cadence increased to propel me up the hill. The other runners took their longer strides and I was able to climb more efficiently. On the downhills it was a different story as the runners with Yaktraks attached to their feet were able to take large bounding strikes down the icy snowy slopes as I had to pick my way keeping my feet directly under my body. My toes felt a little tender as I think they were getting a lot of work clawing up those slopes trying to gain traction.

Did my feet get Cold?

I have found that my feet are about as cold as my hands when I am wearing gloves. I haven’t had a day that has been too cold for them yet, and like any muscle they warm up as you use them.

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