Tuesday, March 01, 2011


I have had some spirited discussions with friends who are into barefootin'. Or minimal foot cover, ala neoprene slippers or Vibram Five Fingers, like that. The notion is that we were designed to run around bare-tootsied, and so it is more natural to do so. Also, all that spongy padding in running shoes causes more grief than it cures, especially if you learn the natural way of running sans shoes, which is not the heel-strike method, but more flat-footed.

They have a case; I grudgingly allow that they make some points, and it does work for them, so I can't argue too much against the idea as a general thesis.

There is sometimes a gap between the general and the specific, however, and what works for them might not work for me, and vice-versa.

(I'm also completely unconvinced that using the word "natural" with regard to anything humans do has squat to do with current reality. Were we living "natural" lives, we'd be naked in the tropics, climbing trees, scratching fleas, and living short, brutish lives, cut down a hair past puberty by a plethora of diseases, injuries, or eaten by lions and tigers and bears, O my ... No clothes, no iPads, no Haagen Dazs. 

Hey–I got your natural right here. And if you are reading this, you can't wave that word around too hard, now can you, hmm?)

Plus, I must allow, them skinny guys running down elands on the plains notwithstanding, I don't see uneven concrete, broken glass, and chewing gum as natural impediments to bare feet back in the jungle. Anybody who has ever stubbed a toe on the concrete knows that a shoe is a wonderful idea for that alone. The skinny guys run faster and step lighter than the bigger ones, so the stress on arches and heels and knees is waywhat less for your beanpole than for us mesomorphs.

But, be all that as it may be, the specifics I enjoy are these: I walk around barefoot probably 85-90% of the time–I don't wear shoes in the house, and if my feet get cold, I will put on a pair of socks, but that's it. I grew up running barefoot as a kid, and a nice park lawn in the summer is still most attractive under my nekkid feet. I'll truck out to the mailbox in my naturals if it isn't freezing cold. Anybody who says I should run on the concrete sidewalk in the winter that way is, not to put too fine a point on it, out of his fucking mind.

I am moderately active. I walk a couple miles a day, I dance my martial dances, and now and then, I go to a place where I can pick up heavy iron things and put them back down. And here is my anecdotal and personal experience:

When my shoes get stretched out and the padding flattened and the soles worn off so that I am down to minimal support, my feet start to hurt. When I get a new pair of tennies–I like the cheapo Costco court shoes and and gel inserts–then my feet stop hurting until those wear out. (The Costco shoes run fifteen bucks a pair, and inserts that much, so I can go through three sets of those for what a pair of the monkey-toe rubber socks cost, and I guarantee you that thin Vibram won't last as long as three pairs of shoes under my weight on concrete.)

Back when I did kung fu, I wore jazz shoes, which had a thin leather sole and half-inch rubber heel, and they were great for sliding around on a polished wooden floor. If I tried to walk any distance in them, my feet started to hurt. 

That might just be me, but since it is me, that's how I roll ...


Anonymous said...

After reading Born to Run I got into a "This Time I'm Going to Finish A Running Program" kick. I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers and started up a "couch to 5k" program. After three weeks of blisters, sore feet, aching knees, neck-pain, etc. I gave up. I just don't have the fitness or running know-how to stick with a running program for long when I was getting those types of injuries.

Still, I love to wear the shoes when I don't have lots of walking to do...make for a great conversation starter.

They also may have potential for kayacking or other watersports.

Scott said...

I wear VFFs all the time, lift heavy barefoot, no problems. Running might hurt.

I also ride a motorcycle; pretty girls roll down their windows at red lights to ask about my VFFs. I have never ever (EVER) been ahead of the fashion curve before, it's fun.

Maria@yourbrainmedia said...

Wow these are cool ones. I hope it's gonna be available here in our country.

Nataraj Hauser said...

I expressed to the missus yesterday (now that she works part time in a sporting goods store) that I'm mighty tempted to acquire a pair of those VFF's. I don't run, and I crave being barefoot much of the time (Wisconsin...winter...not so much right now while I'm out protesting). Perhaps I'll get a pair, since I have a 30% discount available to me, but for now I remain on the fence.