Athlete’s Foot: the Vibram Fivefingers

As a kid, I always enjoyed going barefoot. I used to spend summer holidays walking around without shoes, and my feet used to toughen up over those six week breaks. But then when I went back to school and got back into smart shoes, my soles would soften up again and my barefoot pleasure was curtailed.

So when, on occasion, I’ve daydreamed about the perfect shoe, it hasn’t been about the latest Jimmy Choos, but something more like the Vibram Five Fingers, a shoe I’ve discovered on the web. What I’ve always wanted, but never seen before, is as minimal a pair of shoes as possible; something that’ll stop my feet being cut to ribbons, but let me feel like I’m not really wearing shoes.

So here’s the Five Fingers;

![Vibram Five Fingers](

What we’re looking at is a shoe which is basically enough tough rubber to save your feet from dogshit and broken glass on the streets, with just enough structure to strap it onto your feet.

So they’ve got a couple of interesting points; some in terms of health and fitness, and some social.

Healthwise, there’s evidence that training shoes might be pretty bad for your feet, and the fivefingers gets you back to something close to nature. There’s some folks who believe that [Homo Sapiens evolved to be joggers](; (Harvard Uni, pdf)

> However, although humans are comparatively poor sprinters,
they also engage in a different type of running, endurance running
(ER), defined as running many kilometres over extended time
periods using aerobic metabolism. Although not extensively studied
in non-humans, ER is unique to humans among primates, and
uncommon among quadrupedal mammals other than social carnivores
(such as dogs and hyenas) and migratory ungulates (such as
wildebeest and horses.

What’s interesting, from a health and fitness point of view, is that if humans are designed to jog, then the feet should be a bloody well-adapted instrument, and shoes might just be screwing with their optimal comfort. And in fact, a lot of joggers suffer foot and leg injuries. Some of that probably comes from hard asphalt, and some comes from poor footware.

From a social point of view, I have a restrained optimism. There are social situations that call for shoes; in fact, it’s pretty much unheard of to go without shoes. So in situations which require shoes, these may well serve well enough to get by; I’m wondering if I can away with them in the office.

Somewhere in between health and social norms is gym etiquette. My gym, at least, doesn’t allow people to wander around barefoot. So these might serve people who want to run barefoot on the treatmill or do kicking martial arts training on the heavy bag.

Now, [Wired]( described them as [“Ugly as a bucket of vomit”]( but they, like me, were intrigued and gave it a decent review. Personally, I really like the look.

I think I’m going to put this on my shopping list as my next toy.


One response to “Athlete’s Foot: the Vibram Fivefingers”

  1. Wotcha Steve,

    I am really unconvinced of these and more to the point, they don’t have sizes that fit normal human beings. A foot should be one foot long and they just don’t hack it.

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