I have joined in on the minimalist kick and will be back in a few hours to tell your how my new Vibram Five Finger Bikilas perform during all sorts of cross training/yoga/running goodness.
OK... so that took longer than expected. Yoga was first on the list since I didn't arrive in time to squeeze in a mile run in the Vibrams. Yoga I took traditionally and just did it barefoot to not confuse or distract anyone from their practice. After about an hour of twisting and contorting and using muscles in ways that they don't normally get used the practice was over, I told the instructor that she would love my new shoes. Not letting down on my promise I produced my Vibrams from my bag, and I think she instantly fell in love. After getting quizzed a bit about them while making sure all of my toes wiggled into their respective spots, I stood up and immediately my calf muscles activated to the delight of all. I don't have much definition in much of my muscles yet but my calf muscles apparently look freakish.
Enough of the lead up though. You are all probably asking what they felt like or how they performed. Well, they felt like slippers. Seriously, these things feel like hugs for your feet. The odd feeling of having cloth between my toes was a first while running, but it wasn't long before other feelings were pushed to the forefront. If you wear these shoes, you will not heel strike. I had to try to get a midfoot strike because instinctively I started plodding along on the ball of my foot. I can hear all of the questions now, "If you strike on the ball of your foot doesn't that give your calves a huge work out?" The answer is yes. I have run many races and countless (or at least I didn't count) training runs since starting running more than a year ago, and, holy calves (get it), my calf muscles did not like me afterward. I ran ONLY a mile, and even then I only did intervals of 2:30 min. running: 1 min walking.
After the short run with them on I decided to do a little cross training in them. Now, I am lucky enough to have access to a trainer. He was full of questions, and he too is now thinking of picking up a pair to test this whole bare foot thing out. It was fairly simple to cross train in them. I was nice when using the Bosu or when planting to do any of the cable workouts that today had in store. Throughout the entire work out I felt very grounded and very in tune to exactly how my feet were planted. The balance work on the Bosu was strange however since I could feel the air shifting inside of the little half dome through the sole of the shoes.
All in all, I think I found a nice tool to add to the variety of training that I do. I think I will do my weight training and some short interval work with them so my form improves but my calves will not want to kill my constantly. I really should also mention that I got them at Gear Running Store in Edina. (just in case anyone in the Minneapolis area is thinking, but where would I find such a shoe?) The staff was friendly and knew their stuff. They also carry a lot of minimalist shoes as well if the one of the Vibram styles don't work out for you. Otherwise, your local REI or other sports stores may have them.