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.