M y calves were absolutely killing me. A few days ago, after a month of using the snow as an excuse, I finally slipped some shoes up and went out for a run. The thing is, although in a lot of pain, I am felt absolutely great.

I just arrived in New Zealand 4 days ago, no snow here right now so no excuse. Plus I’m staying next to the beach, the sun is shining and I have a whole new country to see, hopefully much of it on foot.

I woke up around 6 in the morning, a little out of it from the 35 hour journey the previous day. I staggered out of bed and the first sensible thought of the day was “I have to go for a run”. Two things contributed to this insastionable itch. I had been listening to the book Born to Run for most of my journey and I picked up a pair of Vibram Five Fingers just before I left the USA.

Point Chev Beach Auckland

I slipped on the foot gloves, did a few light stretches and planned for a few laps of the short St Chevelalier beach, across the road from my friends apartment. I figured as it was my first “barefoot run”, first run in a month and first run in New Zealand, that I would take an easy one to one and a half miles just as a refresher.

Of course, as any runner knows, it never works out like that. I ran at least 3 miles (the GPS messed up a little but you can see it on my RunKeeper page here) with a new bare foot form (straight back, striking on forefoot) and a new lease of life. I really like this barefoot running malarky!

I have been desperate to try the crazy foot glove shoes since I first saw them over a year ago. A few months ago I asked Vibram for a free or discounted pair of Five Fingers to try out and write about on the site. They told me they didn’t do things like that so I was a little grumpy about having to spend to spend $100+ on something that could potentially be a dud for me. However when I saw EMS in Burlington, Vermont were having a 30% off sale the $70 price tag was a little easier to swallow, only a little though! I picked up the slightly thicker soled Trek variety as I am also hoping that I can get the ankle strength to wear them hiking too.

My awesome new Five Fingers Trek


For the last two weeks, cold weather, goodbyes to friends and hangovers all contributed to my shiny new foot gloves being something to show friends as opposed to a serious piece of work out equipment. However I knew that there was no better place to try out the shoes everyone was calling “Hobbit feet” than on New Zealand soil.

As soon as I ran out of the door I knew something was different. I was automatically perching up on my toes and my back seemed to want to stay straight rather than hunched. I could feel the gravel on the way to the beach under foot but it wasn’t painful. Once on the beach the sand was squishing between my toes. Of course I could have run down the beach barefoot but the gloves meant that when I hit the exposed oyster bed I could keep going over. After a few rounds of the short beach I ran up a short path and into a park where I purposely circled the edge clambering over tree roots. It was about then that I started to notice my calves were feeling pretty tired. So I took to the flat street for for the last mile or so. Towards the end I had to concentrate a little more on my form and I did feel a small bit of impact damage, later a small blister, forming on the balls of my feet. Considering these are brand new shoes the damage was considerably small. I always blister in new shoes.

The run wasn’t problem free, my little toe slipped out once, running over the tree roots hurt and I nearly rolled my toes downhill. I gather you can’t just expect to become a “barefoot runner” after years of flaccid feet flipping around in foot prosthetics. Foot strength needs to improve and it will over time. The feeling of freedom and the way it makes you naturally carry a straight back seems to open up the lungs (of course it could be the awesome New Zealand air) plus the fact that a run is now reaching more muscles makes it something I fully intend to carry on with. This is all despite the fact that I am hobbling around like I have a wooden poles for legs!

My foot in all it's glory!

A major part of making running work for me is keeping it interesting. I am sure the fact that Auckland is beautiful means that my running has just got a huge shot of adrenalin. I didn’t go far on this run but I saw a beautiful beach, a gazillion new plants and a lot of small entertaining birds that seem to prefer running over flying!

In my runs since I have seen kids feeding eels, a baptism in the sea and chickens roaming on the side of the road! In fact I can’t wait to finish this post so I can get out for a run right now!

Hopefully, i’ll be writing a ton more about my barefoot adventures and about my exercise in New Zealand in the coming months.

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When I can be I am a regular runner but I am also nothing special and certainly no elite, so in that respect I am regular too. However I do love talking about running and related things and I do have a lot of experience, over 15 years now.

2 Responses to “First Run in Five Fingers and In New Zealand, Ouch!” Subscribe

  1. Mike Wells (@mikew30) January 31, 2012 at 05:41 #

    Great Blog Forest, loved reading about your thoughts on Five Fingers and barefoot running generally. I’ve just listened to Born to Run too and the idea of trying barefoot / minimalist really appeals to me too.

    All the best,


    • Forest February 22, 2012 at 15:48 #

      Thanks Mike, I loved the five fingers but right now they have a hole in them and I can’t use them anymore…. I only ran 30km in them but it looks like a refund isn’t looking likely which really sucks!

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