Discover The Barefoot Alternative: Vibram Five Fingers
“What are those?”
“Aww, those are cute”
“What happened to your feet?”
“Do you plan on going swimming today?”
The first time I saw these weird “foot gloves” was roughly around 2 years ago in my bathroom. No, I wasn’t suffering any Doc Brown flux capacitor discovery moments, I was reading an article on the effects and benefits of barefoot running in Men’s Health.
The article discussed how running with the heel off the ground (also known as “forefoot running“) is actually a more natural method of injury-prevention. I myself not being a “runner” (at least not one of those crazy folks that logs 30+ miles a week. Even the “true” runners would say that 30 miles is only a warm up) thought that I had nothing to lose, and would try this “new” method of running.
For the next few weeks following this article in early spring of 2007, I made my best attempts at forefoot running. However, the basic design of my good ol’ New Balance 1022’s made this very difficult. Nothing against New Balance, I loved those old shoes and miss them dearly. In fact, most running shoes of today offer outstanding heel and arch support. But what if you’re trying to strengthen your arches?
Enter Vibram Five Fingers (pronounced “Veebrum”)
The second time I saw these shoes was in reading a blog post from author Tim Ferriss. In his post he shares an excellent look at the medical reasons and science behind why going “heel-less” is very beneficial. I wont get into the details here, as Tim has done his research and done a much better job than I could. However, after reading this article I was convinced, and my wife and I both bought a pair.
She opted for the Women’s grey/orange/black Classics, while I went for the Men’s blue/grey camo KSO‘s (which stands for “Keep Stuff Out”). So far, it’s been so good. We’ve both had them for about 2 months now, and I’ve been all the more serious of the two in wearing mine. Make SURE to read and follow the company’s instructions on sizing. We both were blessed enough to have selected the correct sizes for our feet, but after 2 months now I can easily see how having the wrong size could cause pain, blistering, or both.
For the first time use, please follow the instructions both on Tim’s blog, and in the little pamphlet that comes with the shoes. I personally would not recommend walking in them more than a mile and a half at a time the first few days of getting them, and also alternating them off and on with a good flat pair of footwear (because it’s summer, my Air Jordan sandals work just fine for this). Gradually increase the amount over time but please, pay attention to your body! If your feet start to hurt after wearing them, you’ve probably worn them too much. It is cool however just to have them on and to wiggle your toes in them :).
The ultimate test of the Vibes’ (or VFF’s as they’re called by the die-hards) came for me a few weeks ago on a trip to Washington, DC where they were worn for roughly 12 hours straight with 8+ miles on them on mostly concrete and asphalt. My dogs were hurting just a little, but I think they recovered quick, and for the most part, there was no major discomfort the next day.
Benefits – Wearing these shoes is a workout, hence the need to take it easy at first. Most peoples’ feet have been under the “protection” of arch support and heel cushioning for so long, that the metatarsal muscles may react very negatively if over-worked at first. However, after 2 months of close monitored use, there have been a few positives that have come out of it for me:
- Increased balance (try doing a few standing 1-leg calf raises with these bad boys on! You’ll thank me later…).
- Quicker foot speed (I play basketball 3 days a week, the first step is always important, especially on the defensive end).
- 1″-2″ increase in vertical leep.
- More conversations with random strangers that do a double take once they’ve seen my feet.
WHY YOU SHOULD TRY VIBRAM FIVE FINGERS SHOES – Love ’em or hate ’em (which you really can’t do either until you’ve put on a pair and tried them out for yourself), the positive benefits to the muscles and tendons in your feet WHEN USED PROPERLY is tough to argue. You don’t have to go with goofy gecko colors like I did, but perhaps go with some more somber tones. Whatever you pick, your feet, lower legs, and lower back will thank you for it later.
ACTION STEPS FROM HERE – For you, it’s pretty simple, get yourself a pair and learn up on the benefits of going barefoot, or at least the barefoot alternative 🙂
Happy running/walking/climbing/kayaking/hiking/surfing/yoga/toe wiggling!
DISCLAIMER – I am in no way an expert on the above subject, just a simple user of a product that so far has worked very well for me. If there are ANY issues you may have with your feet, please consult your physician/podiatrist first before deciding on purchasing a pair of these shoes.