Saturday, 16 June 2012

Vibram Five Fingers Komodo Sport LS Review

Komodo Sport LS
I've mentioned in this blog previously that when I began training BJJ, I stopped lifting weights.  Over time, I realized that in order to be more effective, I would have to work on my strength and conditioning so I bought a membership at GoodLife Fitness.  My strength program is outlined in my Strength and Conditioning post; I don't do that split exclusively but I definitely do squats, dead lifts, bench press and military press regularly.  I see the other exercises as accessories and they vary.

Since I'm used to training barefoot for BJJ, MMA and muay thai, when I started lifting again, I found wearing sneakers to be uncomfortable.  They had too much cushioning and when I lifted I felt unstable.  Years ago, when I lifted regularly, I had lower back issues when I did squats and dead lifts so now I'm very paranoid about moving the wrong way, just in case I get hurt again. Also, when I stretched after my workout the soles of my sneakers felt fat and cumbersome so I decided to get a pair of Vibram FiveFingers.

Eric Cressey is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who has a Masters in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Science.  He is also the President of Cressey Performance.  If you sign up for his newsletter, you will receive a link and password to his "comprehensive overview of technique on the conventional, sumo and trap bar deadlift".  In the video he is barefoot and explains that the reason for that is most athletic footwear gives significant heel lift and when deadlifting, we want to keep our weight back on our heels so we can activate our posterior chain.  If we're forced forward by the heel cushioning, our centre of gravity isn't optimal.  For footwear at a commercial gym, he suggests flat sneakers like Chuck Taylors, Nike Frees or Vibrams.

The Vibram model I purchased is the Komodo Sport LS; I chose them because they were the prettiest and I liked the lacing system. I considered other barefoot shoes without the toes and in hindsight they may have been a better idea, just because the Vibrams are so difficult to put on, as you will see in my video below. On the other hand, all of your toes are able to do what they would do if you were training barefoot so maybe it's worth the hassle to have optimal foot movement.

It only takes a minute or two to put them on so it's not that bad and really, besides feeling a little sweaty without having socks for absorption, that's the only thing I don't like about these shoes.  As you can see, the polyester fabric and nylon mesh upper has a sharp design and color scheme.  They feature a speed lacing system rather than the typical loose laces and the velcro attachment keeps the end in place at the top of the shoe.  There is a loop at the back to help pull the shoe on but I'm afraid that's going to rip one of these days because I have to yank it so hard over my heel. I might pick up a little shoe horn at the Dollarama to help get them on easier.  I'm almost 40 so it's about time I start getting used to using a shoe horn anyway.  Vibrams FiveFingers don't follow the same sizing system as regular sneakers so if you order them online, be sure to check out their fitting tool.

The Sole of Vibram

I used to run a lot but eventually my knee started giving me issues and so I stopped. My physiotherapist told me I have the tightest IT bands she's ever seen so I'm going to have to get around to stretching those out one of these days.  I do still run to warm up and I found running in these, even on the treadmill, a little hard on the soles of my feet because there isn't any cushioning.  The foot bed consists of 2mm polyurethane and microfibre and the sole is TC-1 rubber.  Apparently, runners are supposed to gradually work up to wearing these on longer runs but I haven't done that so I can't comment on the shoes' effectiveness in that regard. A discussion of barefoot or minimal footwear running is discussed in depth on Harvard's Barefoot Running website.  Another good read on the topic is Born to Run by Christopher MacDougall.
Komodo LS Sole

Five Reasons to wear Vibram FiveFingers, according to Vibram FiveFingers.  My findings are in blue:
  1. Strengthens Muscles in the Feet and Lower Legs—Wearing Vibram FiveFingers will stimulate and strengthen muscles in the feet and lower legs, improving general foot health and reducing the risk of injury.   I have no idea
  2. Improves Range of Motion in Ankles, Feet and Toes—No longer 'cast' in a shoe, the foot and toes move more naturally.  True
  3. Stimulates Neural Function Important to Balance and Agility—When wearing Vibram FiveFingers, thousands of neurological receptors in the feet send valuable information to the brain, improving balance and agility. - I have no idea
  4. Eliminate Heel Lift to Align the Spine and Improve Posture—By lowering the heel, your bodyweight becomes evenly distributed across the footbed, promoting proper posture and spinal alignment. - True
  5. Allow the Foot and Body to Move Naturally—Which just FEELS GOOD. True
Regardless of the validity of the claims of barefoot running enthusiasts and the makers of minimal running footwear, these shoes are ideal for weight training and stretching; I'll never go back to cushioned sneakers. I think people who do box jumps and other plyometric work would find Vibram FiveFingers very comfortable and stable as well.  I recommend them highly.  

Thanks for checking out my review; I hope it was helpful and be sure to follow me on Twitter,  @sallyarsenault, for more reviews in the future!

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