You’ve heard of the barefoot running movement, right? The one in which people run marathons shod only in their own calluses. This to me in the pinnacle of insanity. Not because of the barefoot thing but because of the running thing. See, I don’t run. I haven’t since my mid20’s when my left knee blew out for the second time while I was taking a swing at a baseball. In fact, my whole left leg below the thigh, from the bum knee to the ankle with iffy cartilage to the bunions on both sides of my foot, basically sucks. This isn’t a problem until I want to do things like walk more than a mile, climb stairs, and oh, run. So when I read about how barefoot marathoning was supposed to cure what ails you in running, I was intrigued. Not that I want to run anywhere, but because walking up a flight of stairs without that sucky knee screaming at me would be nice.
While I was doing my intrigued reading—the best kind, by the way—I happened over a shoe designed for people who want to go barefoot but can’t. Again, I was intrigued (yes, I know I’m easy that way) and did lots of research on the Vibram Five Fingers shoes. Lots of people love them. Very few people think they suck, which elevates them above the typical As Seen on TV Product. So I bought a pair, the KSO style. KSO stands for Keep Stuff Out.
Trying on the shoes is an adventure. You put them on the floor and kind of inch your toes into the slots. The problem for me is the pinkie toe. My left one is basically a useless hunk of meat that does not respond to my commands, so it’s like wriggling something that’s shaped like a question mark into an exclamation mark. I’m hoping it will get easier with practice. Long term, I’m also hoping that the shoes themselves will do what everyone’s says they will do—change my gait so that it’s more natural, therefore reducing strain on my knees and hips.
After getting home and wiggling into the shoes, I took a quick walk around the block. The first impression: man, I hit the ground hard with my heel. In the minimalistic Five Fingers, the shock of that strike went straight up my leg and into my spine. Ouch. It took only a few steps before the shock inspired me to find a less uncomfortable stride. Soon, I found myself moving to a mid-sole step that popped my on my toes as I moved to the next step. There was no pain associated with the change, except for my lower abs, which weren’t used to being worked on a walk. It’s not quite like going barefoot, but it’s close enough that you feed rocks and sticks if you step on them.
So far today, I’ve worn the Five Fingers both with and without socks (Injinji sells socks perfect for the Vibrams) for a few hours. At the Locusts’ request, I switched to ASICS running shoes when we went out, and the ache in my knees and bunions came right back. So far, so good.
Now if only my pinkie toe would learn to cooperate.
Vibram Five Fingers, new out of the box.
On my feet. Quack. Quack.
What the Locusts, fashionistas that they are, think of the shoes.