Free your feet, and your mind will follow. That’s a marketing slogan for the Vibram FiveFingers shoes, but it also happens to be the truth.
I first heard about these minimalist shoes when Tim Ferriss wrote about them. I always get ticked when I learn that a product has been designed to screw me over, whether it be the QWERTY keyboard, chairs, or in this case, shoes. But I still wasn’t motivated enough to go out and get them.
Later, when I developed shin splints that made it painful to even walk, I figured it was time to try them out. I got the KSOs, one of three styles available at the time, though today there are many more. They cured me pretty much instantly, and I’ve been wearing them on and off for a year and a half since.
The idea behind them is to offer some protection while coming as close as possible to the barefoot experience, letting the foot work the way it was meant to. Normal shoes have a raised heel that throws off your posture, arch support that prevents your arches from working as springs, and thick padding that deprives your nerves of all sensory input.
I love these shoes, and I wish I never had to burden my feet with the traditional clodhoppers we’re expected to wear. They just make walking fun, particularly on soft surfaces or uneven terrain.
There are some downsides though.
One, they’re not exactly office-appropriate. See the Vivo Barefoot Dharma for a compromise you can actually wear to work. They’re very comfortable compared to normal shoes, but no match for the FiveFingers, and I don’t know why they’re so expensive.
Two, you’ll be about a half inch shorter without the raised heel. But then you’ll feel like a giant in normal shoes.
Three, big rocks hurt, so you have to watch your step. They’re certainly not great in the snow, since the freezing water soaks right through.
Four, there’s definitely a risk of injury. Your feet have a lot of joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons that have become very weak over the years, and you can’t expect them to return to full function without a break-in period (which will take a lot longer than you think). Just take it as easy as you possibly can, and stop if you feel the slightest pain.
Finally, some people think that wearing gloves on your foot is not all that fashionable, perhaps calling them “frog feet.” Mine are black/grey so they can escape the peripheral vision of most passersby, but whenever someone noticed them, I used to get prepared to give a long explanation. Today, it seems that most people already know what they are, so they just say they like them or ask if they’re comfortable.
I wish Vibram had an affiliate program, because they’ve certainly gotten enough free advertising from me. Do any of you have them, and how do you like them?