Sunday, October 30, 2011

Operation: Toe Socks (attempt #1)

About a year ago, I became intrigued by the information and philosophy behind "minimal" and barefoot running.  So I went out to the running store to try on a pair of Vibrams... and was surprised by the harsh reality which I had always known, yet never before fully acknowledged:

two of my toes on each of my feet are webbed together.  This had never mattered until now, and it didn't even hit me until I had already slipped a Vibram onto one foot and felt that it wouldn't go all way on.  This was disconcerting at first.  For a moment my desire to experiment with barefoot running seemed futile.  But at some point, I decided that I wasn't going to be set back, so I started to run completely barefoot.  I loved it.  For a while it was fun and exhilarating, and my feet and calves grew much stronger.  Also, going "all the way" better suits my philosophy anyway.  However, after a bit of training I became limited more by the toughness of the skin on my feet than my my strength or endurance.  I worked up to the point where I could run six miles barefoot, any more and my feet were thrashed with painful blisters (this is all on and around the hard Philly streets).  Well, I looked into it some more and found the Kinvara 2 shoes by Saucony.  These are a minimal style shoe, halfway between a traditional style shoe and Vibrams:

I like them a lot. I've been running in this particular pair for about 4 months (it's time to replace them pretty soon).  These allow me to train at the level and distances that I desire, but still allow a minimalist running style (i.e. strike with forefoot), and they're also fairly lightweight.  However, I still desire to move closer to barefoot.  As it turns out, a good friend recently purchased me these a couple weeks ago:

They're called Hattori by Saucony, and I like them.  Super light weight, super minimal.  However, there's one problem... I'm currently training for a 50k, which means some pretty long distances of running.  These shoes don't breathe well, and running without socks causes some discomfort and blisters after a while.  I looked into it, and learned that a lot of ultra runners wear toe socks in order to combat blisters.  And with that, I was back at the Vibram problem.  That is... until I was struck with inspiration.  I ordered these (obviously this is not my pic, notice the non-freak toes)

"injinji" liner toe socks and took them to a tailor.  I showed the woman the socks and asked if she could combine the toes in the socks to match my monster  feet.  She must have thought it was funny or something because she did it for free.  This is how it turned out:

Not perfect - the modified toe is actually a little short, so the socks don't go on completely snug, but its still a lot better than before:

I took them for a test ride in my Hattori's and I noticed a big improvement in comfort. I am hoping to have an even better modification made at some point in the future.  This pair should serve as a good example in order to ensure improvement...


  1. Very clever idea on the combined toe socks! I'm glad you managed to work your way around the webbed toes it's a shame you had to - not tried barefoot running yet but it's something I'm interested in.

  2. I love it. In addition to supermarathons, you might want to consider triathalons. That way you can use those fabulous webs to your advantage during the swimming portion!!!