Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Feet Don't Fail Me Now ...

Earlier this month, I did a post on barefoot/minimal shoes, the most recent of a few. My experience has been that when my shoes, usually cross-trainers, get worn down, my feet start to hurt, and the logic of that for me was, less padding = sore feet, and since more padding in the replacements stopped that, you can see how I might make the leap to causality there.

But since everybody and her kid sister has been writing pieces on the glory of minimal footwear, ranging from totally bare to those that are essentially rubber socks, to slightly heavier versions, I thought maybe I should–to be fair–revisit the notion.

As it happened, I have a pair of wrestling shoes in the bottom of my closet. These were from a time when we were doing a lot of mat-work in silat class in a cold garage. Summers, I go barefoot in the sand pit, but that cold concrete is more than I can manage bare-tootsied, so I got the wrestling shoes for that. 

I think the rubber socks, ala Vibram Five Fingers, and the like, aren't feasible for dog walking on muddy concrete–I wear out the soles on a pair of heavier shoes in three or four months, which is also what I used to get out of leather moccasins, and I can't imagine that the thin rubber things would last any longer, and they are really spendy. And let's be honest here, I think these things–with apologies to my friends who wear them–look like they been beat on with an ugly stick Sorry. 

The wrestling shoes, as you can see from the pictures, are pretty minimal. There are two patches of rubber on the sole, heel and ball of the foot, the rest of the sole is leather, and they aren't designed for the street, especially on wet, muddy, slippery sidewalks. I expect they'll wear out pretty fast outside. But they are thin enough so I can feel a rock or even a fir cone through the sole, and I already have them, so I am going to try wearing them instead of the cross-trainers for a while and see what that does. Empirical research.

I don't walk so fast that I can't alter my stride for a mid-sole instead of a heel strike, and they are thin enough that my foot flattens out when I put my weight on it.

So, never let it be said that I am completely closed-minded about such things. I'll try these for a while and see what's what. (What is "a while?" I dunno. If my feet start screaming after a block, that'll probably be a bad sign. One wouldn't think that one would need to break in one's feet, but perhaps mine are weak after all the time in padded shoes with arch supports, so I'll allow for that.

My main criterion for such experiments is simple: The new way feels much better than the old? I'm there. If it is less comfortable after a trial period? I'm not there. If it's the same? I'm not there, either. 

Some years ago, I decided to give up red meat, to see if it made me feel better. It didn't, so I went back to it. Later, I did cut way down on it, but for other reasons. 

Unless thin shoes that wear out in a hurry and cost more are an improvement in how my feet feel, then switching to them doesn't make sense. If there is a big improvement? I can justify that. 

Stay tuned.


steve-vh said...

My son, an accomplished HS wrestler of recent, requested five fingers for Christmas and absolutly LOVES them. He has worked in the past with Mushtaq on his stride and has a pretty good rolling gait. No striking with any part of the foot, they roll when he walks.
His five's look pretty much brand new on the bottom and snow or shine he's worn them pretty consistently since he got them.
He says they are just incredibly comfortable.
Knowing he wears wrestling shoes alot, I asked his opinion. He stated that wrestling shoes could be an improvement over regular shoes but that FF's are a bigger step better. His main factor was comfort for his toes too since his feet tend to be wide.

Dan Gambiera said...

The nice thing about the minimal shoes and even more about the FF is the way they let your toes spread when you roll forward on your foot.

I have very wide feet with a tall instep Think bricks with toenails. Most regular shoes keep the toes bunched together and the foot compressed which gets painful after a while. Wrestling shoes weren't much better. The sole was more flexible, but they still constricted.