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'Barefoot' Shoes Come with Warnings

The Vibrams FiveFingers Sprint shoes are great, but break them in first—and avoid loose sand.

A few months ago, my interest was piqued when I discovered Vibram FiveFingers shoes. You may have seen these funny-looking shoes on runners or even on someone in line at the supermarket.

I saw someone wearing them in the snow at Mammoth Mountain, although I can't imagine doing that. You just can't convince me that his feet were not freezing and he wanted to look cool.

I have always loved the idea of running barefoot, so I had to find out what this new trend in shoes was all about. I went to a local recreation store to check them out.

When I tried on the Vibram FiveFingers shoes, the sales lady gave me a warning. You must gradually adjust to using these shoes, she said, and if you don’t, you will be sore for days.

She couldn't stress this to me enough as she went on to tell me horror stories. Never have I purchased a pair of shoes with a warning, but I bought them anyway. Crazy folk tales.

I'm a bit superstitious, so I heeded the stern warning and began to slowly break them in by walking in my neighborhood, gradually increasing the distance of my walks. Then I began to run in them.

I could tell I was using different muscles in my body. My calves felt different—tight and even sore. But I welcomed the feeling. My calves are a muscle I find difficult to work out.

Once I made it through the break-in period, I headed for the Strand. My plan was to walk along the Strand then cut across the sand to the shoreline and run in the sand.

As I started walking, I noticed people glancing at my feet. I suppose that is what I did the first time I saw someone wearing Vibrams.

Not far into my walk, the glances stopped. No one was looking at my feet because all of the attention was diverted to two young women wearing contraptions on their feet. Contraptions!

I could hear the sound that a pogo stick makes coming up from behind me. Then I saw the two young women bouncing around on what looked like athletic boots strapped to an eye-shaped spring.

They jumped, ran, bounced and giggled for the onlookers. They even stopped to answer questions about the contraptions—or rebound exercise shoes called Kangaroo Jumps.

They looked like a broken ankle waiting to happen, but the girls didn't fall and never missed a beat. Pros.

Soon they were out of my line of sight and I cut over to the sand. As soon as my feet hit the sand, I learned something new about my funky shoes.

Because I bought Vibrams FiveFingers Sprint (think Mary Jane straps), sand immediately entered and became trapped inside my shoes.

Now that I think about it, that nice sales lady who gave warnings and told horror stories may have mentioned something about this style being bad for sand running. But who remembers these things?

When I came to the shoreline, I sat down, took off my funky shoes and poured out the sand. I put them back on my feet and began to run.

I felt great—the shoes were comfortable and flexible, and I didn't get a microdermabrasion treatment on my feet from the rough sand.

Now I love the idea of going "barefoot" even more. But next time, I think I will just carry my shoes to the shoreline.

Chris Thpmas May 04, 2011 at 04:34 AM
Been running/living in Vibrams for over a year. My legs had to get stronger, my feet more supple...love 'em. I can run, bike, swim, shower and make love wearing my five fingers...and can do them all longer and better....the way Mother Nature intended......
Matt May 06, 2011 at 03:17 PM
I love my VFF. I have only run in them a few times, but I actually wear them around everywhere. I actually really like doing yard work in them because I feel more connected to the earth, but don't have to worry about stepping on sticks or rough mulch. I found this article on the top benefits of barefoot running shoes, http://www.barefootrunningshoes.co/top-benefits-of-barefoot-running-shoes and found it really helpful in my decision to get a pair. Anyone who thought crocs were comfortable should really pick up a pair of barefoot shoes.
Kate May 06, 2011 at 08:37 PM
I tried to buy the VFF awhile ago but couldn't because my toes are too long. Any other recommendations?
Tori MacLennan May 11, 2011 at 04:03 PM
Chris and Matt, It sounds like you like your VFF as much as I do! I'm even considering another pair! :) Kate, Did you try to go a size up? That may help, but you don't want them to be loose and sloppy on your foot. Merrell also makes a barefoot running shoe (Vibram soles) that doesn't have the toe slots. You may want to give those a try. REI carries them. Good luck finding something that works for you. :) Thank you all for commenting. T
Duke Noor May 13, 2011 at 03:51 AM
I just heard that REI has a used sale once a month on a Saturday and you can get rarely used VFF for $20-$30 a pair!

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