I decided to wear my Injinji socks (socks with individual toes) when wearing my VFF shoes. It just feels more comfortable to me. I sadly have to admit the socks make the whole get-up even more ridonkulous.
First run (surface: track)
I read you should ease into VFF running and am SO glad I listened! Our maiden voyage was just 0.3 mi (about one lap around the local track). The next day my ankles and calves hurt like I had run 16 miles. My ankles hurt almost as if I had sprained them -- lateral movements would cause them to feel sore. But, it was a good hurt vs. the bad hurt after a sprain.
Second run (surface: dirt/sand trail)
The next week we ran 0.4 mi and I woke up the next day feeling like I had run 20 miles! This second run I had adopted a really strange running form where I kicked out my toes way in front of me before my foot landed. Boyfriend said I looked like an ostrich. I guess that really didn't agree with any of my calf muscles because they were sore for days. Luckily since running with regular shoes uses totally different muscles, I was able to continue running. But, I hobbled around painfully while down in San Diego.
After this second run I almost swore off the VFF shoes. I worried that the muscle pain would interfere with my "normal" running. But I decided to give it one more go, especially since I had such a funky gait that second time.
Third run (surface: concrete)
So the third time we attempted another 0.4 mi run. I concentrated on a more natural stride. I am happy to report there was NO pain the next day! I was unsure if running in them just once a week would be sufficient to be able to develop and maintain muscles for no post-run pain.
So my first impression of these shoes are that they definitely force you to land on your forefoot. I get instant, bone-jarring feedback when I strike with my heel. I tend to run slower in the VFF's than regular shoes but I'm not sure if that is just my own tentativeness.
It is amazing to me how your feet/legs absorb the impact more effectively when you land on your forefeet. There is NO way I could run in my usual heel strike gait in these shoes.
Right now I view the VFF's as cross-training. They are a way to use muscles I have obviously not been using when wearing running shoes. I can also try to get a feel for a more forefoot strike stride. I do not foresee myself running in them much farther than a mile or so in the future. I don't see myself converting to minimalist shoe runner. But I do hope to try to run in them at least once a week for a quick spin.
My current running shoe set-up is stability shoes with custom orthotics. This past year I got a pair of neutral shoes to run in (which I also use my orthotics in) to see if I could step down the support a little bit. My hope would be to see if I can adopt a more forefoot strike while wearing running shoes and to see if that could translate into ditching the orthotics one day. My chronic shin splints have been fairly cooperative this year but obviously I can hope to improve them further.
Cliff, I do have a video clip of my ostrich-gait (very exaggerated forefoot landing which may have been caused by trying to step more lightly on the rocks of the trail) and I may post it once I get a shot of the more normal-gait I had the third run).