I initially found out about the UBC minimalist footwear study on my twitter friend @becomingajock's blog. At the time I was shopping around for Nike Frees to wear to work and I've always been interested in running in Vibrams. So, the study seemed perfect. I did a phone interview with Maha and was scheduled in for my baseline session.
I arrived at Lady Sport in Kits and Maha explained the study to me. It will try to figure out if new minimalist running shoes actually strengthen feet or cause injury. The study requires runners to train in the shoes for 14 weeks, following a training schedule laid out for them by the study: 3 runs a week by yourself and one run as a group on Saturday mornings. The runners will slowly work up from a couple of hours at home in the shoes to eventually all of their runs in the assigned shoe.
I was given a lengthy questionaire about my history as a runner. It included questions about my running frequency, duration and any injuries I might have had. We also discussed personal best finishing times, I got to boast about my recent personal success in the half and full marathon. Then Maha randomly assigned me to Vibram FiveFingers. I'm really excited that this shoe was chosen for me, its the shoe I would have chosen myself.
I then had measurements taken of my feet, legs, my Q angle, which apparently can be an indicator of how likely someone is to get injured but they didn't tell me what my angle was. I've never had a lot of knee/shin/leg/hip injuries so I guess it must be close to normal. The ladies drew on my legs and feet. Then I signed some release forms and learned that Nike was sponsoring the study.
It was finally time to get fitted for my new shoes. Putting on the first shoe was tricky, it was hard to tell my little toes where to go. The girl helping me fit them said that a guy she helped the previous day took like 15 minutes to get each one on. Thankfully I did not have any big problems and the second shoe slipped right on. I tried on a size 38 and it felt big. However, I am used to huge running shoes, as I am sure every runner is as well. I then tried on a 37 and they felt snug, like a glove. They were more comfortable than I thought they would be and they felt really supportive despite being so much less shoe than my current pair. Because we were unsure of the size I took them out onto the side walk for a little jog. Walking in the store I felt like I had mud between my toes. Taking my first few strides I felt two things almost simultaneously: I felt short, I felt free. I have not gone outside and ran barefoot since I was a child, being able to run free but have protection from gravel, glass etc felt unbelievably freeing and really cool. I felt short because I am, and I felt even shorter not having the extra 2 inches of cushioning. I returned the shoes to the girls in Lady Sport and Maha told me that they would order my shoes and that they would arrive mid August and that the study would begin shortly after.
I am really excited to run on a schedule that someone else has created for me. I'm really looking forward to seeing how my feet and the rest of my body do in minimalist shoes. I think this is going to be really fun!