It’s been about 9 months since I was mentioned in Tim Ferriss’ post about Vibram Five Fingers Shoes, and I finally got a chance to try them on last week. That is a great post by the way, featuring some pictures that changed the way I think about shoes.
The vibram shoes are basically a sole that allows each of your toes to move independently. I have been looking forward to getting my hands on these for a long time. In most situations I would rather go barefoot, but I have stepped on my fair share of glass, thorns, and other sharp stuff. Actually, your feet toughen up after a while so that sharp stuff is not really the issue anymore, it’s the other stuff that ends up on the ground. I don’t plan on walking barefoot into a gas station bathroom any time soon.
So, here we have shoes that claim to allow a barefoot feel while adding a layer of protection between you and the ground. I tried on the classic at City Sports in Providence, RI. They were a little tough to get on at first, with my toes going into the wrong holes, but the second shoe was easier to get on. My first impression was that the heel felt a little too rounded, but maybe that’s because I’m used to wearing skateboarding shoes which have perfectly flat bottoms. The other thing I noticed is that there wasn’t as much toe movement as I had hoped for. It took quite a bit of effort to spread or wiggle my toes, especially the pinky toe which is still pretty solidly attached to the rest of the sole. There were other models such as the mocassins that seemed more mobile, but part of my hopes for the five fingers shoes were to be able to wear them while doing sports, including watersports. The leather mocassins just wouldn’t be cut out for that job.
I didn’t get a chance to run in them, which is their main application, but I’m not a big runner so I don’t think that would have impacted my decision. In the end, I just couldn’t envision myself wearing them in the immediate future. I will be in China and it will be winter, so I decided to not buy them now. They are certainly not a cold-weather shoe (think thin glove instead of thick mitten). I would consider buying them in the future when my circumstances change, and maybe by then they will have more models to choose from. Until then, if I want to go barefoot, I’ll just be careful about where I’m stepping.