For breakfast, I had a big fat cucumber, a handful of almonds, and Egyptian Licorice tea. Yesterday I had no caffeine/alcohol/refined sugar/processed food/red meat, and not planning on having any today. Feeling good!

I also went for a jog in my new Vibram Five Fingers:


I suppose I’m just trying to live a natural life. Natural food, natural feet. I wrote a post on Vibrams a year ago when I got my first pair. I’ve always hated shoes, and would go barefoot all the time if it was allowed in the workplace and in restaurants. Wearing Vibrams is a compromise, one foot in the shod world, one foot in the barefoot world.

Speaking of foot shodding, I was sitting in my car yesterday, stopped at a stop light, watching a woman at a bus stop dance. She was doing a little side-to-side shuffle step in front of a high school. It was pretty cute and funny, until I realized she was wearing two different shoes. Not just different shoes, but completely different HEIGHTS – one was a black flat:

Shoe one.

and the other was a brown Espadril:

Shoe two.

So it became less cute and funny, and more like a visit to crazytown. Though considering the sizeable differences in height, she was a pretty good dancer.

I’ve been wearing Vibram FiveFingers (ie, Barefoot Shoes) for about a year now. And I love them. Ever since I can remember, I’ve hated shoes and socks. HATED. One of my earliest memories is a feeling of frustration and rage welling up within me at having to put on some extremely uncomfortable shoes, around the age of 4. I hated feeling like my feet were bound up and restricted. Maybe it’s because my feet grew so fast (I’m a size 10 at 5’7, ugh) and my shoes were just always too small for me. Anyways I pretty much only wore Birkenstocks and flip flops growing up, year-round (you can get away with that in Southern California). I also have genetic issues with my feet, and in high school had to have bunion and arch surgery. Not cool. Anyways, I used to love Birkenstocks, but they got really stinky. And now I love Vibrams, and unfortunately, they get stinky too. Not cool. So I did some research, along with some personal experimentation, and I’m gonna tell you what has stopped the stank for me.

First off, the stank is from bacteria. It’s like B.O. The bacteria feeds on dirt and the dead skin cells that build up inside the bottom of the shoes, since you’re not wearing socks. If your Vibrams are stankin’, I’ll bet the inside of your shoe is brown or black. And I bet you can scrape off some of the dirt/gunk with your fingernail.

That stuff has gotta go, or the funk will remain firmly in your FiveFingers. One guy online suggested you just shower with your Vibrams on, scrub your toes around inside with a tiny amount of soap, and let the running water rinse them out. His recommendation is to do this about once/twice a week, and let them air dry.

This is a great tip. It’ll save the wear’n’tear that occurs when you throw VFF’s in the washing machine, and it’s probably more effective since your feet are doing some scrubbing. But you should really use a brush to scrub the inside of the soles and get all of that gunk out. So I’d recommend wearing them in the shower once a week, squirting some soap in there and squishing it around, and then taking them off and scrubbing the insides. This might sound time-consuming, but I wear my Vibrams every day (to work, to concerts, to bars, running, hiking, etc) and it’s worth it not to have a horrendous stank.

I also have a natural salt spray deodorant from Whole Foods that I’ll spray in there, and/or on my feet. I believe it’s just water and salt, and that the salt interrupts the bacterial growth. I don’t think this would be effective without washing the shoes out first, but hopefully it’ll slow down the return of the stank.

So that’s my advice.

Other suggestions on various Vibram discussion boards include:

• Distilled white vinegar. This was the most popular solution. Clean the shoes, soak them in vinegar anywhere from one hour to overnight (can use 25% vinegar to 75% water ratio, but the more vinegar the better), let them dry, and then wash them again. The second wash is to get rid of the vinegar smell. This kills the bacteria and keeps the smell from coming back quickly. People who tried this said after rinsing the vinegar smell was negligible unless you actually put your nose to them, and even so, it’s a much more tolerable smell than “The Vibram Funk.”

• “Trader Joe’s Cedarwood and Sage All-Purpose Cleaner” and “Earth Day Products’ Everyday Stain & Odor Remover” (the recommendation was to use one spray, let it sit, then rinse and repeat with the second spray.

• Antimicrobial Febreeze
• Menthol-based foot powder
• Gold bond powder
• Bleach (Colorsafe??)
• Borax
• Chlorine (throw them in a swimming pool overnight; smell is gone in the morning)

• Odoban
• Win Laundry Detergent
• Out Multi-cat Urine Odor Destroyer

Of course, your other option is socks. If you want to wear Injiji socks (which I’ve been using for about 4 years and wear any time I’m forced to wear “normal” shoes), you can do that too. I’ve heard from an inside source that Smartwool will soon be making toe socks also. But even wearing socks inside my VFF’s makes my toes feel squeezed, so I don’t like to wear them anymore.

Good luck with the funk, and happy bare-ishfooting!

I’m adding my voice to the chorus of support for Vibram’s FiveFinger shoes.

My Vibram FiveFinger Sprints

I was first introduced to VFFs by a friend who reps sporting products like Keen shoes and Smartwool. She’d just picked up the VFF line and was eager to have some “ambassadors.” I’ve always disliked shoes in general—I’ve spent the majority of my life barefoot, in Birkenstocks, or in flip flops. I’d given up on the Birks for the past few years due to the stank factor. So mostly I tooled around in Teva flip flops. But I still had to find shoes to wear to the gym and to hike in, which was always a pain in the foot, as I’d undergone a number of surgeries on said painful feet in high school. To correct ankle problems and bunions, my doctor broke some bones and rearranged them with wires and screws. This seemed to fix most of my problems, until I broke an ankle snowboarding. After that my ankle would occasionally click or give out.

In 2008 I did a 50-mile walk for Multiple Sclerosis with my mother. Thankfully she discovered Injinji socks, which helped keep my toes from squishing each other and rubbing together and making blisters. By the end of the walk, however, I was having problems with my iliotibial band, which was pulling my left hip and left kneecap out of place, making it feel like my hip was going to dislocate or my knee might explode at any moment.

In general though, I go to the gym a few times a week and hike a few times a month and, aside from my toes always disliking being inside shoes, I don’t have many problems.

After seeing VFFs I started researching them online and for the most part read miracle stories about how they cured various foot/knee/joint/back pain in serious runners. People who like going barefoot also loved them. Harvard will soon release a three-year study on barefoot and VFF running, concluding that the two are healthier for your feet.

I believe that nature is essentially perfect, as it forms itself and co-evolved with millions of minute connections that we can’t comprehend. Over and over I’ve seen this to be true—every time humans take a short cut or invent something to help them, it has an equal and negative side effect. The idea that feet are best used as nature evolved them makes a lot of sense to me. One qualm I have is that human feet didn’t necessarily evolve to walk or run on asphalt—grass, dirt or leaves would be more logical, so I do wonder if VFFs shouldn’t be a tiny bit padded to compensate for this human meddling with what’s under our feet.

At this point I’ve been wearing the VFFs for a few days. So far I’ve had no ankle or foot pain (occasionally in certain flip flops I’ll get a pain on the top of my foot between the 2nd and 3rd toes, like they want to split apart—none of that). I walked two miles in them yesterday and was fine, though my feet did feel a bit tired out by the end of it. I’m still trying to figure out how I should land my foot strike—they say to do mid to fore-foot stepping rather than heel-striking, as that’ll bruise your heel and is actually the wrong way to strike since, even in padded running shoes, landing on the heel sends the impact straight up your leg bones to your knees and hips.

On Saturday my mom and I are doing a 20-mile training walk along the beach and I plan to try the VFFs and see how they do. If I can do the 20 ok I should be able to wear them for the 50-mile MS Walk coming up next month.

I love being able to spread my toes apart in the Vibram FiveFingers. I have some flexibility and scar tissue issues with my feet and specifically my toes—I think I probably should’ve had some kind of physical therapy after my surgeries, but I didn’t, so the inflexibility bugs me occasionally. I feel like the VFFs are stretching them out and will keep them from smooshing each other.

I’ve also noticed in the past that my feet and legs seem to twist in an odd way when I walk with a “normal” gait, or heel-striking. I’m wondering if walking in the new “normal” way will correct that.

On a side note, if you wonder why they’re called FiveFingers instead of FiveToes: Vibram is an Italian company, and in Italian the word for toe is “dito del piede,” or finger of the foot. I don’t know why they couldn’t come up with a word for toe instead of calling it a foot finger, but whatever. I’m a total Italophile, so I think I’m going to start using that as a selling point—these are ITALIAN shoes, and Italians know what they’re doing when it comes to shoes!

Two of my favorite moments so far wearing VFFs:

The first day I was wearing them, I went into a RiteAid to pick up some photographs. As I stood in line to pay, I could feel the hard coldness of the linoleum seeping up through the two millimeters of rubber under my feet.

Today I was walking to get my morning cuppa coffee and I had to cross  a wet patch of sidewalk. After getting back on dry asphalt I turned and looked behind me and yes, there were barefoot-lookin’ wet footprints, each toe defined.