timberland careers Barefoot Running Shoes
Frog feet are not my idea of a fashion statement. It’s on par with wearing Crocs in public (not just for gardening anymore!) or knee high nylons with a skirt.
But if you’ve been reading about the latest trends in active footwear, you have undoubtedly heard that “barefoot” running shoes are the belle du jour, attracting the attention of movie stars and real athletes alike. And if movies stars are wearing them, you KNOW you need them.
Basically, the theory goes that we have evolved to run without shoes, and therefore the super high tech, ultra supportive soles of our running shoes today change the way we run, often leading to repetitive stress injuries. What?? You mean running a daisy chain of marathons in expensive running shoes doesn’t guarantee an eternally youthful body?
Numerous articles and books have emerged touting the benefits of barefoot running, which may “protect the feet and lower limbs from some of the impact related injuries now experienced by a high percentage of runners”, including an article published in the journal Nature by Daniel Lieberman.
The science sounds compelling, rather than just trendy, which justifies tossing fashion sense to the wind and getting a pair of Vibrams for a test drive They are available at REI, but sell out so quicklyapparently they can’t manufacture them fast enough to meet Seattle demand right now, so timing was key. Luckily, I called on the day after a shipment, so there was a wide selection of sizes, colors and styles.
I bought a pair of the Vibram Five Fingers Sprint on a Friday, the day before leaving on a 5 day rock climbing trip down to Bishop, CA. Initially, they felt very strange, as the shoes look like gloves for feet, so instead of a normal toe box, they have 5 individual toes. Obviously, this is the exact opposite effect of most women’s shoes, which mold the feet to match Barbie’s, the perfect, sexy shape that God certainly intended.
But after a couple hours, I stopped noticing the toes, stopped noticing the hard ground, and realized my entire style of walking was adjusting to the shoes. My stride was shorter, and instead of a hard heel strike, I was landing lightly on the balls of my feet, then gently springing with my foot. Imagine running over hot coals, and you get the picture.
By the time we were heading up the trails to the boulders, the adjustment period was over and I couldn’t believe how comfortable they were, even hiking up rocky, gravelly, and often steep surfaces. Rather than balancing precariously on rocks as I would in stiff soled hiking boots, my feet molded to the rocks, taking the strain off my ankles, which are usually somewhat sore and strained after a hike.
At the end of the day, they performed perfectly on this trip, though I would probably recommend getting a lighter color than black, which shows every speck of dustnot ideal on a dusty hike. I’d also probably opt for the Five Fingers KSO model, which stands for “Keep Stuff Out”, appropriately named because the open top on the Sprint model allowed tiny rocks and sand to maneuver into the shoes, forcing me to stop and shake them out regularly. Other than that slight glitch, they were amazing as hiking shoes. Surprising.
But to give the shoes a full spectrum test, I felt I also needed to experience them in water and sand. I had no choice but to fly to Hawaii to scientifically test the merits of the shoes in salt water, pool water, and both white and black sand. It’s a tough job, but someone needed to do it.
I arrived in Kona ready for a grueling day of swimming, snorkeling and lounging to test the shoes. The sun greeted this pale Seattleite with an instant sunburn and an overdose of Vitamin D. Despite these small set backs, I had the opportunity to wear the Vibrams in the airport (airport security had a field day inspecting themand yes, they pass the wand test), walking along the razor sharp lava coastline, jogging in the sand, and wading in the shallow surf and pool. All passed with flying colors! The best part of all is that the shoes are also machine washable, so regardless of how filthy they get, you can rinse them off then throw them in the washing machine. How’s that for convenience?
So, if they feel terrific, are easy to wash, and are good for my body, why don’t I wear them all the time? I have to admit, it goes back to the frog feet. Yep, the shoes are not only fashion backward, but they are also stranger magnets, placing me in the cross hairs of every inquisitive shoe hound within a 20 foot radius. Being me, I can’t resist being sucked into long shoe discussions, throwing my tightly synchronized schedule into a tailspin.
Perhaps, I need to investigate the Terra Plana shoes, the Vivo Barefoots. These look like normal shoes, but have the super thin, non supportive soles. All the goodness of the barefoot shoe, without the freakiness of the splayed toes. If I’m going to make a bold statement with shoes, I want to be dressed to the nines in a pair of sexy high heels, not dressed in yoga pants and frog feet picking my dogs up from the groomers. Call me shallow.
No, I definitely give the Vibrams the thumbs up for functionality in the great outdoors, but for me, they are staying in the closet for day to day wear.
Nature, International Weekly Journal of Science, 463, 531 535 (28 January 2010) doi:10.1038/nature08723; Received 27 July 2009; Accepted 26 November 2009