My cool shoes: wearing Vibram barefoot shoes

Photo by joshunter.

I originally got interested in barefoot shoes when I read an article about the health benefits of going barefoot. (I thought it was a New York Times article, but it wasn’t this recent one about running barefoot.)  I also read a study that said that the more expensive your running shoes, the more likely you were to have suffered a knee injury. I decided I liked the idea being barefoot and I wanted to try to find a pair of shoes that would let me be barefoot in public in a socially acceptable way. I wasn’t crazy about the toes in Vibram FiveFingers shoes but since the other barefoot type brands didn’t have my size, I ended up with Vibrams. I love them.

Vibram shoes attempt to give you the experience of being barefoot while still protecting your foot. So you won’t get cut, but you’ll feel like you are walking barefoot. (Note that the classic pair does not protect against cold. I thought I was going to lose my toes to frostbite one night when I got to my car parked at the airport at 2am and had to scrape ice and snow off my windshield.)

Why do I like my Vibram Five Finger shoes ?

  1. Barefoot. The new theory is that it’s healthier to walk and run barefoot. Cushioned shoes have changed our gait. They offer our feet too much support which makes them weaker and often encourages bad behaviors like heel striking. By going barefoot, you’ll adopt good running and walking gaits and your feet and legs will be strong. (And believe me, if you continue to heel strike when running without a cushion, it will hurt!) During the day I spend most of my time barefoot, so walking wasn’t much of a transition. Running barefoot took a bit more practice – I have a terrible habit of heel striking that I’m working on correcting. Also, you use a whole new set of muscles when running barefoot. When I started I could only run a mile before I switched back to my tennis shoes for the next two miles. I’m still not sure I am convinced that traditional shoes are bad for you, but I think going barefoot is good for you. If you want to try running barefoot without buying a new pair of shoes, just try running barefoot on a treadmill.
  2. Comfortable. These shoes are about as close to wearing no shoes (or wearing socks like I do at home) as you can get. They are light, flexible and generally feel like they are not there.
  3. Travel. They are comfortable for walking in, pack up small (much smaller than carrying running shoes) and most airports will let you wear them through the security scanners. I had been on a search for a pair of running shoes that packs up small. (I wear large shoes and carry a small suitcase!) The Vibrams work great. On long flights, I still take them off and put on a pair of socks. It’s the material between the toes that bothers me when I’m trying to sleep. (I know, I know, it sounds strange.) I also wouldn’t take them as the only shoes for long days of sight-seeing on concrete.

Note that I bought the black shoes because I thought they would be more discreet. They are not discreet enough for formal work situations - everyone comments on them – and they are too hot to wear in the hot sun. Literally my toes feel like they are on fire if I stand outside in them on a hot sunny day. So if you buy some, buy the color you like the most.

I’d still like a pair of barefoot type shoes that I could wear with a suit but the Vibrams work great for more casual wear and for running.

I get asked a lot where I bought my Vibrams … you can buy them online from places like Amazon . You can also try them on in stores like REI and Jax in the US.

What’s been your experience with Vibram’s? Have you tried any of the other barefoot like shoes like Terra Plana’s?