Darin St. George: Running in those funny webbed shoes

Darin St. George

I'm running in the sun and feel like I'm running on it. My smile says hello but my feet are telling me goodbye. The last group of people I do pushups in the street for have no idea that I'm running up a hill called Heartbreak and there's a cemetery on it. Wait a minute, maybe they do know.

Well, whatever Boston Marathon stories you may have heard over the past week, this is where mine goes a wee bit sideways, as I'm prone to say - I just took off my sneakers and ran the rest in my socks.

It wasn't like this is completely unexpected behavior from me, but the finishing of a marathon in my mostly white (well, they used to be) socks is something that made perfect sense at the time and I'm going to tell you all why - I wear those funny webbed shoes you've been seeing in the news lately.

The science behind Vibram FiveFingers is that your feet and body provide all the natural cushioning that you need and that conventional shoes actually act as a "cast" of sorts, keeping your feet and legs from becoming all they can on their own, as it were. Let me help you better understand by using the example that I came up with on my own.

Stand up; now hold your hands out in front of you, lock your elbows and fall forward into push-up position. Seriously. You think that would hurt your hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders? Well, what makes you think that running like most humans do (heel striking first and then rolling onto your forefoot and toes) is any different?

It isn't, and by only running on your toes and not extending your knee fully when you heel strike, you protect all the joints that normally take the pounding during your runs. All the ankle, knee and hip problems stem from the striking of the heel, so the people at Vibram made these funky little shoes that you run as if you were sprinting.

Now, I can honestly say that I made the mistake of running 20 miles in shoes that weren't broken in enough. However, once I remembered all of what I just told you and ditched my shoes in order to run on my toes, I felt like a new man. Now it's FiveFingers for me from here on out. If you give them a fair chance I guarantee you'll be glad you did.

Darin St. George is a personal fitness coach at Gold's Gym in Natick, Mass. Visit his Web site at