Friday, October 14, 2011

Vibram Five Fingers Shoes

I used to love going barefoot.  As soon as it warmed up enough in the spring I would take my shoes off and go barefoot whenever possible. When forced to wear shoes, I would wear flip flops (which don't really count).  Somewhere along the way I moved to a place where I needed to wear slippers inside and heavy shoes outside most of the year. This was a little sad for me, but mostly I just thought it was part of the growing up process.

Then the other day I found a pair of Vibram Five Fingers on sale for $20 (they were just a little too worn to be resold at the regular $90+ price mark).  While I never, ever would have paid full price for a pair of shoes that I wasn't even sure I would like, $20 seemed like a much safer gamble.  I put them on in the car and wore them around the grocery store for one of our marathon, 1.5 hour shopping trips.  After I got home, I immediately went online to see what people were saying about them. 

Reactions are mixed, but people who like their Vibrams seem to REALLY like them.  I could see the appeal right off: I felt like dancing through the whole store.  After a few minutes of initial weirdness, I forgot I had them on. Shoes are almost always a little tight or loose or heavy or something which, while usually not painful, reminds you that they are there. Not so with these.  It really does simulate the barefoot experience, without triggering my sense of disgust at being barefoot in places like parking lots (which are filthy). 

Did you know that people who wear shoes all the time (like most of us) have different shaped feet than those who don't?  Our feet are shaped like our shoes. The picture on the left is of a foot shaped like the high heels she it always wearing (click the picture for more information).  Similarly, the pictures on the right show the shape of a man's shoes and his feet (creepy, huh?).  Compare them with this picture of a man who has never worn shoes (below).  The images were taken from a study published 1905 in the American Journal of Orthopedic Surgery which examined the feet of native populations in the Philippines and Central Africa who were habitually barefoot and the shod feet of Americans. 

There are all kinds of science supporting or disputing the value of these shoes to foot and overall health. Let me just add this: I was a dancer for over a decade.  I know what it feels like to have very strong feet, ankles, and calves.  After wearing these shoes for a few days I could feel those muscles starting to build back up. Having stronger feet gives you better balance, makes a variety of physical activities easier, and prevents some injury.  Do you have these shoes?  Do you like them?