The shoes in question are Vibram Five Fingers (VFFs). They are designed to allow feet to be as free as possible. Conventional shoe design binds the foot, supports it, and restricts its movement. In these shoes, your heel is low to the ground. Their unique design includes individual toe pockets. They are like gloves for your feet.
I have always loved walking barefoot. A joke in my family is that when I was younger, family trips were always delayed by me trying to remember where I'd left my shoes.
I started to research VFFs about six months ago. I had been doing some reading on marksdailyapple.com and the Primal Blueprint. The advice was to exercise barefoot or as close to barefoot as possible. I discovered that some people had started to run barefoot. I was intrigued but also a little concerned. I like to research everything before I take the plunge and commit. I read a lot of reviews online and watched youtube videos of reviewers. My main concern was that I have fallen arches and in gym classes had worn supportive shoes with a wide base and a strong sole. I contacted two friends who I knew wore them and asked for their advice.
I visited a store in our nearest city and tried on a pair. I liked it. I went home and online and ordered the style I wanted. I chose the black KSO (keep stuff out) design. I liked that they were all in black and looked the most like conventional shoes. I don't like to draw attention to something new.
When my KSOs arrived I wore them at home for a day or two. It was raining outside (I lived in Ireland) and not a VFF day. I then wore them on my morning walks. I was very conscious of being seen in them. I did some short sprints in them. I explored walking and I learned quite a lot about the way my body works.
I went to see The Human Body Exhibition last week in Dublin. All considerations about the nature of the show aside, I was strongly reminded of how amazing the human body is. Our legs and our feet are complicated. Our bodies work very well without shoes. Barefoot is best.
Barefoot is not always possible. Urban environments are not always clean or safe. Road surfaces and footpaths/sidewalks are hard. I have other shoes. I wear shoes to go out in. I have walking boots. I have wellington boots for the mud and the farm work. For me, VFFs give the best of both worlds. I can walk as my body prefers, and still be protected from the unpleasantries of city living.
I am at the beginning of a 3 month holiday travelling around Britain with my partner. I bought these shoes expressly with the intention of wearing them while travelling. My journey with my funny toe shoes has just begun. I will be wearing them every chance I get during our travels.
I have learned a few things wearing them these past two months:
- As long as you walk with confidence, no one is really looking at your feet. And if they are, they're unlikely to comment.
- Reactions from people range from "wow" to "weird". Both are fine.
- Take it very slowly. I walk quickly with long strides in ordinary shoes. In my KSOs I have learned to walk with shorter steps.
- Your whole foot is involved in walking. In the beginning it will be uncomfortable. Your feet will tire from walking. Your calves will be sore the next day. I have been told that within a few months this will all pass.
- They're okay in the rain as long as you don't mind having wet feet.
- The toe-pockets make a difference. Your feet are wider on the ground. Your toes are engaged while walking.
- It feels great! I can feel the ground. I am aware of all of my feet.
- Your feet get wider and more comfortable. Ordinary shoes begin to feel restrictive and uncomfortable.
If you are curious about them, go to their website http://www.vibramfivefingers.it and look for your nearest stockist. Try a pair on in-store, for yourself. There are many different styles and some will suit you better than others. I chose the black KSOs because they're they least visible. You might be less shy than I.
Even if you never intend on wearing 'funny shoes', do something wondeful for your body and soul. Find an area of grass or sand and take your shoes and socks off.
Enjoy your feet and enjoy walking barefoot.
This post was written by Paul Corcoran, whose blog is appropriately titled Thinking Barefoot. The photos of Paul and his feet are owned by him. The photo of the stone feet was created by Iain Blake and used with his permission. Please see more of his wonderful photos here.