Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bantom Bigfoot - Barefoot Running and Foot Changes

I recently bought a couple of test pair of the new Merrell Barefoot line of shoes (Barefoot Trail Glove and Barefoot True Glove) so that I would have something more appropriate to wear on my trail runs than my Mizuno Wave Universe 3 racing flats or my Vibram Five Finger KSO shoes.
I was really hoping the Merrells would fit my feet since almost all of my other shoes had become too tight in the forefoot area over the past year and a half of barefoot and minimalist running. There's a great review of the new Merrell shoes on Jason Robillard's site, which was my main reason for buying the Merrells.

The shoes looked great and since I'm a long time Merrell fan (I've worn Merrell hikers as my daily wear for  the past 5 years), I was really excited when they arrived at my house from Gazelle Sports. I opened the Barefoot True Glove first and squeezed my foot in. A little snug, I thought, but they are supposed to be since you want the shoe locked to your foot during trail running. With that bit of rationalization in mind, I started my super scientific shoe test, which consisted of walking and jogging around inside my house. 15 minutes later, I was very happy to get my feet out of the shoes. It seems that my feet have become too wide, even for shoes designed intentionally with a large forefoot and toe box. Both the forefoot and midfoot of the shoe were putting some serious pressure on my now boat paddle shaped feet.

I was fairly depressed about the whole shoe situation, so I boxed up both pair (the Trail Glove model had the same issue for my feet) so I could return them, and tried to forget about the whole issue. However, I couldn't stop thinking about it. I'm an engineer by nature and by trade, and solving problems is like breathing for me. I must solve problems!

What was it about my feet that was causing all my shoe issues? I thought my feet had changed a bit since I started barefoot and minimalist running, but I didn't think they had changed that much. So, I did something that I had never done before in my entire life. I found a ruler and measured across the widest part of my foot.

4.3 inches! That doesn't sound like much until you realize that I normally wear a size 8.5 shoe (my foot is right at 10" in length). Good grief, I'm a bantom bigfoot! A young yeti! A shrimpy sasquatch!

That bulge behind the ball of my foot is the main problem of fitting my feet into shoes these days. That isn't just extra sock, and it isn't just squeezed skin. It's thick, muscular tissue and bone baby! That's nearly a year and a half of foot adaptation. I truly wish I had taken some pictures of my feet before beginning my barefoot and minimalist journey, but I just didn't know what was in store for me at the time.

The width of my feet under load is pretty amazing, however even unloaded my feet appear to have grown wider, thicker and more muscular.

I like my strong new feet, but it still sucks not be able to wear my old shoes, or almost any shoes for that matter. The search continues for a shoe that doesn't hurt my foot. Maybe I can just grow more foot hair and become a 5 foot 9 inch tall Hobbit. I do love beer after all...