We’ve covered the benefits of barefoot before (June 23), but I thought today we would further examine a shoe-alternative for being barefoot: the Vibram Five-Finger. Running around barefoot isn’t very practical. Roads or walking paths could be laden with glass or sharp objects, plus shoes are pretty much mandatory in any public building. The foot is usually overlooked and we don’t really think about what we are doing to them by cramming them in shoes (especially heels- which are the worst). The foot is actually comprised of 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles and tendons! You can’t strengthen the muscles and tendons of your feet wearing shoes. Shoes (and lifting gloves actually) bypass the muscles of your feet and put more strain on the larger muscles and joints of the legs and the back. Posture suffers as well from shoe usage because have to posturally compensate for the elevated heel. Chronic heel usage can lead to kyphosis or lordosis (conditions were the spine curves more convexly or concavely; think hump back) and can cause pain). Running shoes replace the arches in your feet, but not in a durable or effective way. While wearing Vibrams you absorb shock by landing softly on your forefeet instead of on your heels (which is often where you strike while wearing conventional shoes) so that your leg lands beneath your torso, with the leg slightly bent to absorb the impact. This is proper running technique. You may think that they look a little running as well. Not only do they leave your natural arch but they support your toes. Why do you have individual toes slots? If you look at a natural foot that has not worn shoes (below) you can see that the little spreads out naturally. This provides the foot with a wide base that is more stable for walking or standing. Compare the sodden foot. The little toe is crowded to a point, providing a narrow and unstable base for walking and standing.
Here are the benefits of Vibrams as they have listed:
- Strengthen muscles of the feet and lower legs.
- Improve range motion in ankles, feet, and toes
- Stimulates neural function important to balance and agility.
- Improves proprioception and body awareness.
- Eliminates heel lift to align the spine and improve posture.
- Allows foot and body to move naturally.
A warning though with these shoes: take it slowly. We’re used to years of cramming our feet in shoes, it’s going to take some time to build up the muscles in your feet and ankles. People ask me if they’re comfortable. No they’re not comfortable (like running on concrete barefoot feels good, plus the toe separation is a little off-putting at first (warning they do take longer to put on as well). Ease into it, start just by walking in them. Then gradually start running, but start on softer surfaces like the beach or grass like a golf course. Then you can begin to ease onto harder surfaces like track. I am very serious about taking it slowly, because I tried to do to much in the beginning and ended up paying for it, so don’t make my mistake. I love the shoes though, I fully support barefoot training and theses shoes are a great way to train and get the simulation of being barefoot. They make them in all different kinds of styles for whatever your lifestyle. They make just sprint ones, but I have the KSO, which can be used for running and light trekking (I’m going to start hiking with them once I get back from Colorado). They come in all different colors as well, plus they’re a vacation starter because people will want to know what’s up with the funky shoes. It’s funny, when my family went to Florida this summer, the first restaurant we went to our host had on a pair of Vibrams. It was cool because we were able to talk to him about them (he said that his wife just rolled her eyes at them). People might raze you about them (my family does, especially my son-in-law Todd), but they are a much better alternative to the traditional running shoe.