Of Vibrams and Fossil Records

“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.”

~ Ovid


From Crikit (Lori G's) Photostream

I’m sure many of you have already seen this story, which appeared back in late February:

ScienceDaily (Feb. 27, 2009) — Ancient footprints found at Rutgers’ Koobi Fora Field School show that some of the earliest humans walked like us and did so on anatomically modern feet 1.5 million years ago.

Tim Jones, of the blog, remote central, does a fine commentary on the findings here; if you haven’t already found your way to Tim’s work, it’s well worth the trip.

But why do I bring this particular subject up now?  Ahh, because I’ve just recently purchased my first pair of Vibram five fingers footwear — the KSO model, to be exact.  With help form TTP readers Mark Lepper and Ryon Day, I was able to hone right in on the model I wanted, and was able to predict how to account for accurate sizing (which is European, and you’ll tend to have to get a size smaller than you normally would in a European fit).  My recommendation about sizing is this: you’ll want to go to a local supplier, if at all possible, and test out a few sizes.  Take your time, walk around a bit.  I bought mine at a Great Outdoor Provision Co., in Greenville, NC; the folks there were fantastic, indulging (encouraging, even) my want to try various sizes and models to pinpoint the perfect fit.

Putting the Vibrams on is a bit of a chore the first couple of times, at least until you get the hang of  sliding into them, while at the same time spreading and working your toes into the individual “finger” wells.  Now, though (after about a week of ownership), I can get into my Vibrams just as quick as any other pair of shoes.  I have to say that initially I was pretty sceptical about the whole fit and performance issues of the product.  I just couldn’t imagine that the fit would be snug enough to prevent blisters and chafing, especially when utilized in hard sprinting efforts.  And if the snug fit was there, surely the comfort factor wouldn’t be.  Both of those concerns have been roundly eliminated, though, as I’ve put my Vibrams through the paces — both in the gym and on the track — and they have performed well above my expectations.  And talk about a conversation starter.  If there’s been any drawback to wearing them, it’s that I’ve sacrificed quite a bit of valuable workout time in talking about them to the curious.

All in all, I have to give the Vibrams a big thumbs-up thus far.  They seem to be of good, solid construction as well, so I expect to get plenty of wear out of them.  There’s just no substitute for lifting and sprinting “barefooted”.

In Health,


21 responses to “Of Vibrams and Fossil Records

  1. I’ve had my KSOs for about 6 months. My physical therapist literally laughed at me, before admonishing me. But I love ’em. They take a bit of getting used to, but after you do, regular shoes feel weird.

  2. @Keith

    A bit off-topic question for you. What are your thoughts on CrossFit its potential for over-training? I have been doing CF for a few months now and love it — but I am unconvinced that the typical frequency of CF workouts is optimal.

    I have gotten a lot stronger and lost some weight — but feel that my body is too taxed at times — I feel I could become stronger and experience more hypertrophy with less effort.

    I am considering going something along the lines of:

    Sunday – Off
    Monday – CF
    Tuesday – 5 mins sprints
    Wednesday – CF
    Thursday – Rest
    Friday – 5 mins sprints
    Saturday – CF

    whereas before I did:

    Sunday – Off
    Monday – CF
    Tuesday – CF
    Wednesday – CF
    Thursday – CF
    Friday – Rest
    Saturday – CF

    I’d love any and all thoughts you might have. Thanks in advance.

    • Patrik,
      I think that if the CrossFit WODs are followed in the typical 3-on, 1-off split, then overtraining should not be an issue. The problem people run into with CrossFit is in attempting to do additional work on top off the prescribed WODs. This usually stems from the notion that not enough “work” was accomplished during the CrossFit WOD. We shouldn’t be concerned with total “work” so much as we should try to increase our “power production” – or work/time – in our desired time bracket. One other thing I will mention is that the ability to overcome stress is highly individualized. One trainee can be overtrained with a routine that doesn’t come close to pushing another. This is one reason why I like to track my performances with drop-offs and occasional vertical jump tests (for example).

  3. I used my Vibrams for the first time yesterday – home workout (which included jumping jacks and squat jumps). It took forever for me to get my gnarly toes into the wells, but once they were on, I forgot they were there which is what you are looking for. I absolutely can’t wait to sprint on the beach in these, though I hope to hit the local softball field when it warms up a bit to break them in.

  4. I track my heart rate as well — I noticed that if I overdo cardio + CF, my heart stays mildly elevated (80s v. 50s) when I’m overdoing it. CF is great but I find I must continue with cardio 2-4 hrs per week for optimal insulin control (for me — mild intensity — not excessive).

    Keith — my best sprint at CF 400m in 1:67 was BAREFOOT *haa* I forgot my shoes and shirt — no choice that day. I was as fast as the fastest BOY.

    Great posts!!!!


    • BC,
      Yup, they’ll be superb for swingin’ the ‘bell.

      Yeah, I haven’t worked up to “wearing them in public yet” either, though I am pretty much a non-conformist and do about what I feel like doing. A co-worker suggested that I wear them to work to test the “open-toed shoe policy”. I’m not sure I want to stir up that kind of a ruckus, though being barefoot all day, I think, would eliminate plenty of “work stress”.

      Animal Pharm,
      Another overtraining (or overstress) monitoring technique is tracking morning pulse and body temperature. A rise in pulse rate and/or a drop in body temperature is a pretty good sign that the body is stressed. This “stress” could be anything from work to relationship issues to classic exercise overtraining. The body doesn’t differentiate, though. I used to track both many years ago and learned, via bio-feedback, to know what overtraining/overstress “felt like”. Now I can just tell when I’m getting close to red-lining.

      I’m wondering if running shirtless had more of an effect on your sprint time?? 😉

  5. Good purchase! Once you use your Vibram’s on the trail you will never want to go back. The only problem is really sharp rocky areas. We don’t have that so much in OH, but there are some big gravel rocks that they used in certain sections of the trail that are sharp and for a little stretch. I sort of get in the grass and go around because it’s a pain (literally). You will feel so stealthy and catlike running, particularly up and down hills. It is totally different running ball-of-foot and toes rather than heel striking. And for hiking and playing in the woods there is nothing better.

    At first I was literally sweating trying them on and it took so long to get into one that I was like maybe these aren’t for me. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll love them. It doesn’t take forever to get them on. Your traction on wet parts and how you feel the ground is addictive. Oooh, and mud feels so, well decadent or something. You can tell mud and water are cooler and of different texture. Your calves take a total beating so don’t do too much time at once, even though you are frolicking. Down by your ankle and up the calf you will be very sore, but after a few days and more use it goes away.

    I have the KSO’s too and I appreciate that extra wrap-around bit of ankle support. I took them to Canada with me and absolutely loved them on the island. I’d like the pair that is for colder weather eventually. I call them my Monkey Shoes. Too bad they are too weird to wear in public.

    I packed mine in my workout bag in the event the weather gets nice enough for some spontaneous activity.


  6. You beat me to buying them, but I’m going to. I’m glad to hear about testing out the right pair first. I think they are going to be great for swinging my bell. 🙂

  7. Thanks for the TTP tip !! Occ I do have alt cold-and-night sweats and AM faster heart rates… Hhhhhhmmm… *damn* Can’t seem get off my high-octane Peet’s coffee. I’m gonna try the Vibram’s and keep my shirt off… *haah* (was my time 1:47? can’t count either…)

    • G,
      I got hooked on Peet’s thanks to my sister, who was out that way completing her doctorate work at Berkeley. Best coffee I’ve ever had, bar none.

      Something I’ve done in the past (when I had access to an XFit-friendly gym) was to throw in a random WOD every 10 days or so as a “gut check” of sorts. On the other days, I’d continue on with my normal workouts, which are similar to XFit, but more oriented toward the explosive power modality.

  8. >>>>>I think that if the CrossFit WODs are followed in the typical 3-on, 1-off split, then overtraining should not be an issue.<<<<<

    That is what I commonly hear — but speaking privately with some fellow and very avid CrossFitters, they too feel that even with 3-on, 1-off, it is very easy to slip into over-training — meaning, not they a person won’t progress, but as optimally as they might.

    Which dovetails into whether or not you should pick your WODs. A whole other hornets’ nest.

    I am going to experiment with a more rest and see how I do — as you pointed out, much of recovery is individual.

  9. Patrik,

    I did about 7-8 months of pure Crossfit (as pure as i could make it w/ my equipment). This was before I found, on this site, someone who has an even bigger power hard-on than Greg Glassman [impossible I know :-)]. I subsequently became hooked on the more short-term-power dominant workouts Keith uses, but I still also like to ‘gut-check’ myself occasionally with a benchmark, and I’m pleased to say my performance hasn’t really suffered in that area.

    One big thing I like about this change is the inclusion of sprints, not only in the form of occasional interval training, but also in the form of sprints for max speed, w/ plenty of rest in between. I feel this area of speed work and power output is an important area that isn’t really touched on in Crossfit.

    As to over-training on Crossift I know how you feel. For the most part, the periodicity (5 on, 2 off or 3 on, 1 off) feels ok, but there’s a looming feeling that you might be overtaining and slowly wearing yourself out. I’m wondering if this isn’t due to the consistently higher turnover of glycogen that results from this kind of training? I certainly don’t know what the answer is for pin-pointing one’s ideal training frequency, but I do know that doing the hardcore metcon’s less frequently has helped.

    Another that has helped, and this is simply an adjustment I’ve made based on Keith’s training, is to focus on power until I feel that I’m reaching a drop-off point (over the course of a month or so), and then to switch to a strength hypertrophy cylce until I feel I’m ready to go back. This method of changing gears also helps me avoid that feeling that I might be pushing too hard.

    I don’t think Crossfit’s design is flawed, but I do know I feel consistently better training as I do now. I’d be derelict if I didn’t thank Crossfit for where I am, because before it, I’d never deadlifted, touched rings, Oly-lifted, done hand-balancing, etc, etc.
    Good luck figuring out what’s right for you, because no one can tell you that but yourself (unless you’re paying someone to, heh).

  10. Oh and I really want some Vibram’s too, but I think I’ll wait till I can spend most of my time stateside vice on a ship.

    Keith, by all means keep the updates coming on how the vibram’s feel, how your body adapts to going barefoot, and anything else. I’m looking for all the help I can get to sell myself on a pair of these babies.

    As always, many thanks,


  11. @Bryce

    >>>For the most part, the periodicity (5 on, 2 off or 3 on, 1 off) feels ok, but there’s a looming feeling that you might be overtaining and slowly wearing yourself out.<<<

    Exactly. Very well-put. “Looming feeling” is precisely it.

    Regarding strength-and-power output — I know that a new ‘strain’ of CF is emerging – “CrossFit Strength Bias”.


    BTW what do you do for your hypertrophy cycle generally?

  12. Patrik,

    It definitely is cool to see ‘Hybrid Heavy’ and ‘Strength Bias’ movements sprouting up amidst the crossfit crowd. The ‘Performance Menu’ which is a great monthly journal put out by one of the bigger affiliates in Cal. had an article on Power Bias that initially got me thinking about focusing on power. It mentioned, for example, breaking wods up into chunks, doing each chunk for absolute max power output (i.e. all the thrusters in the first round of ‘Fran’), then resting before the next portion. That, along w/ oly lifting and sprinting for power. I’d also heard of the WSBB club’s use of certain PR percentages to achieve power dominant workouts, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to apply all that.

    Anyway, when stumbled upon Keith’s Theory to Practice, I thought “so this is what everyone’s talking about . . . true power bias training.” As for hypertrophy, I’m still new at this method of cycling, but I like Keith’s applications of the ’25 for a bigger engine concept’ so that’s what I’ll be going when my knee fully heals up and I can start going heavy again. Similar movements, but with a different speed/load/rep focus.


  13. @Bryce or Keith

    >>>>As for hypertrophy, I’m still new at this method of cycling, but I like Keith’s applications of the ‘25 for a bigger engine concept’ so that’s what I’ll be going when my knee fully heals up and I can start going heavy again.<<<<

    Do you have a link to that?


  14. Patrik,

    Keith has aninformative post on the concept, which comes from a T-Nation article. Check it out by searching for ‘T-nation articles’ on Keith’s main page. it will come up.


  15. Ah. I found it here:


    What is really interesting is Chad’s assertion of:

    “Just remember, it’s not how many reps you do, or how heavy the load is that matters. What matters is how long the sets last. Keep it short. Quit when you’re ahead and you’ll get bigger and stronger — fast.”

    This seems to largely match with De Vany’s admonishments of not training to failure and training quickly with heavy weights.

  16. For the “25 for bigger engince”, would you suggest I work that into my weekly routine?


    Take a week off from CrossFit once in a while and do it then?

    It is such a fine line between overtraining and training optimally (or close to).

    • Patrik,
      I usually “phase in” 2 or 3 weeks worth of hypertrophy work every three months or so. I don’t draw any distinct lines, though, between speed-strength, strength-speed, or hypertrophy. It’s more of an emphasis thing. For example, right now I’m in the middle of a hypertrophy (25 for a bigger engine) emphasis phase, though I will still perform a few power movements, just to keep in the groove. Check out my workouts from last week and the forthcoming post of this week’s workouts as an example. I’ll get this week’s workouts posted on Sunday (hopefully 🙂

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