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!

Spring Sprung-ing

May 15, 2010

I love taking walks around my new neighborhood.

My new ‘hood is Beverly Hills, and it’s gorgeous. When I lived in Italy, I realized how much my surroundings affected my happiness. It’s important to my happiness to live in an area that’s aesthetically pleasing.

Roses the size of your head!

And when I house-sat for a rich friend who lived off Montana Ave in Santa Monica a few years ago, I figured out why I liked rich areas – because the front yards had beautiful gardens & the streets were lined with massive trees. These people had the resources to invest into making their surroundings beautiful.

When I moved into my new ‘hood in January, my street had huge, bare oak trees arching overhead. January turned into February, and I wondered when the leaves would start to come in. Finally, in mid-March, I saw the first tiny green leaves appearing. By the first week of April, the leaves were bigger, and there were tons more of them. It’s amazing to see the leaves appear, suddenly, all together, out of nowhere. It’s amazing how they all know to sprout together. First there were none, and then every tree had about 40 baby leaves.

My street.


I can’t wait for June, when the leaves will form a thick, lush tunnel over the street. The sun will shine dapples through the green, the air will seem cleaner.

Echoing what I realized years ago, recent studies are showing that greenery makes people happier and healthier. Just five minutes of wandering through some green per day will improve your overall quality of life.

Another natural thing that, weirdly, makes us healthier – birdsong. People who listen to birdsong in an open-floor-plan-office are 33% more productive. Why? Back in the day, our limbic systems evolved to know that if we could hear the birds singing, we were safe from predators. And, like being somewhere with a lot of greenery, it signaled that we were in a place with lots of resources to support us.

I love how we’re wired for nature.

Here’s the TED talk where I heard about the birdsong thing; if you’ve never watched TED, I HIGHLY recommend it. They are fascinating!

Today I saw a rattlesnake. I also saw Ghandi.

I got the day off of work since we didn’t get home from San Francisco until 2am…

(five hours each way…not bad).

So, per my usual, I took full advantage of the day off.

First up was a hike in Pacific Palisades. When you turn off of Sunset, if you go aaaall the way up, there’s a little parking lot & an entrance to the Temescal Hike.

I think Topanga joins around there too…anyways, the trail takes you to these rocks that I love called Skull Rock. Perfect for a bit of rock climbing/bouldering. Me on top of the rock (you can’t tell but there’s a 40 ft drop to my right):

Skull Rock has a little cave in it. After meditating on top of the rock for about 20 minutes, I climbed into the cave and found a notebook.

It contained about two months of people’s notes – one couple got engaged up there. Another girl had recently seen her soul mate die and had moved to LA. Another had missed his flight back to Hong Kong so had gone for a hike with his cousin. I liked this one, written by some hiker on my birthday.

Most people commented on how beautiful and peaceful it was up there – which it was. I saw only one person for the first hour and a half, and they didn’t see me since I was on top of the rock. If I was a mountain lion I totally could’ve pounced on their head and eaten them.

One thing I can assure you of is that we’re not having that missing-bee problem in the Palisades. Part of the hike takes you through a narrow path with tons of bushes and wildflowers on either side. And swarms of buzzing bees. It was a bit disconcerting, and I had to focus on staying calm, cuz I didn’t want the bees to smell my fear or pick up on my vibrations or…whatever it is that bees can do. So that part wasn’t very relaxing. The second thing that wasn’t very relaxing was that I almost stepped on a rattlesnake. I was walking around the backside of Skull Rock, intent on climbing another rock formation, when a fatty lizard, doing push-ups on a rock to my left almost at eye level, made a quick movement that caught my eye. I stopped and looked at him for a second. As I was stepping forward to continue on my way I looked down at the trail ahead of me just as a rattlesnake started buzzing his tail. Luckily he was a foot or two ahead and facing away from me; I froze immediately as he was already slithering away. No more rock climbing for me!!! Back through the bees and to the car!!!

On the way back I found this cool high-tech lookin’ dandelion; each seed had what looked like an airplane propeller on top.

So after the rattlesnake incident, I decided to stop at the Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine to calm down a bit. And to say hi to Gandhi.  Apparently he was buddies with Paramahansa Yogananda and a portion of his ashes are interred there.

“Life is an aspiration. Its mission is to strive after perfection, which is self-realization. The ideal must not be lowered because of our weaknesses or imperfections.”  – G-dhawg

I love the Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine. It’s like Disneyland for meditation. Or spirituality, or whatever. It’s just gorgeous and lush and peaceful. There are deities and shrines for five world religions (Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and Islam). So it doesn’t matter what religion you are, or if you’re any religion at all (which I’m not).

Here’s the Christian rep (Joseph? St. Frances? I dunno who this is):

And Buddha, of course:

Me and some dancing, jazz-flute-playing god (Hindu?):

Some of the biggest mofoin’ koi fish I have ever seen in my life (and swan):

And the Windmill (which doubles as a temple):

After enjoying some more peace and greenery, I went to Ritual Adornments and bought beads for some of the Tibetan Prayer Wheel necklaces I’m making. Then I went to write for the iPhone app project; then grocery shopping at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s before coming home to cook some veggies for dinner. I’m on day 5 of no alcohol, and day 3 of no caffeine or processed foods or refined sugars. Been a bit tired without the caffeine or sugar (and now I’m up late writing this post, so I’ll probably be a bit tired tomorrow), but so far so good!

17 Miles in Vibram FiveFingers

September 22, 2009

I was aiming for 20. I wore the VFFs every day for a week and a half (including to work–only with pants); walked 2 miles on a Thursday, 5 mile hike on a Saturday, and on Sunday shot for 20 in prep for the 50 Mile MS Challenge Walk. Turns out my feet weren’t ready.

Our 20 mile walk was along the boardwalk between Newport & Huntington Beach. I had access to a few different terrains–concrete, black top, gravel, grass, sand. Walking on grass felt delightful–spongy and cool. Sand feels good too but is, of course, tiring. I noticed that it was difficult for me to comfortably keep up with my co-walkers, my mom & her friend Pam. When walking barefoot or in VFFs, you’re supposed to keep your feet under your body/center of gravity, and without the extra extension of the heel-striking you get in normal tennis shoes, my steps were shorter.  I also had to be more mindful of where I was stepping and make sure I didn’t put the ball of my foot onto any sharp rocks.  After 10 miles, the concrete started to hurt. My feet were just tired from walking in a way they weren’t used to, and by mile 15 the balls of my feet felt pretty beat up from the pounding and lack of padding. At mile 17 my mom made me call my boyfriend to come pick me up.

The soreness of my feet went away within a few hours. I think one’s feet would get accustomed to not being padded and would toughen up. The main pain I had the next day was in the side of my right calf–I’m guessing it’s some kind of stabilizing muscle–I’ve never had very good balance & I think it’s because my ankles are rather weak. Anyways I gave my feet a break on Monday (wore my squishy flip flops) and on Tuesday eve walked to the gym to get on the treadmill and do yoga. On the way to the gym I felt pain on the top of my right foot, kindof like a deep bruise. I figured this was from that tight calf throwing off the delicate system of leg & foot. After some googling I deduced that this was correct and that I had “extensor tendonitis.”

“In this region of the foot the tendons that lead to the toes can become inflamed.
A major cause of this condition is excessive tightness of the calf muscles. When the calf muscles are tight they place excessive stress on the tendons on the top of the foot that pull the foot upward and counteract the calf muscles.
Aggressive stretching of the calf muscle is also very helpful. Anti-inflammatory medications can help.”

So I’m agressively stretching my calves. I’d wanted to wear the Vibrams for the MS Walk but with a month left to train, I decided to wait til next year. I have a feeling that this will happen with a lot of new VFFs wearers–they’ll go overboard, like I did, and complain that the VFFs hurt their feet/legs & give up. I think gradually acclimating your feet & building up the atrophied muscles is key to long-term VFF happy feet!

A few weeks after this, I wore the VFFs for bouldering up at Lake Isabella. I felt like Spider-woman! I scrambled up practically vertical sides of granite slabs and never slipped once. Impressive! I also wore them in the lake, and they protected my feet from the slimy things the rest of my friends were screaming about.

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.