Monday, July 25, 2011

You look ridiculous

I know that is what everyone is thinking when I run by in my toe shoes. Either that, or they are wincing in sympathetic pain thinking of how horrible it must be to not be able to afford "real" running shoes.

The offspring of a drunken fling between crocs and toe-socks
I don't blame them; I had the same thought when my friend introduced me to them.

And we all know the military is a huge fan of this new craze. Well, maybe not so much considering they banned any shoes that cannot "accomodate all five toes in one compartment."

But, scientifically, are they actually better to run in? No one knows!

Let's not focus on how dirty these are
I've found some really interesting articles supporting running barefoot in a sort of science-ey way. Daniel Lieberman's research has some graphs and force charts about barefoot running, and is the most scientific study I've seen on the issue. But his research seems to focus on the fact that running while striking one's heel on the ground is bad, while striking mid-foot or on the ball of your feet is much better. This can be done with either the toe shoes or normal running shoes.

I transitioned from normal running shoes to my Vibram Five Fingers about a year ago. I'm not going to get all analytical on ya'll, but I will give you some anecdotes from my own exercise. Take from it what you will.
  • I don't have knee pain anymore when I run. I used to get knee pain after about 5 miles with normal running shoes.
  • They are machine washable (nevermind that I can't seem to ever do that)
  • Very multi-purpose; I use them to hike, bike, for waterparks, scuba diving and as water shoes. 
  • They force me to run with better form.
  • The soles are completely safe to walk through rocks, forest, glass, anything short of hot lava or a bed of nails. However, they are porous, so if you step in a puddle, your feet will be wet.
  • I feel like I run faster in them. Whether or not I actually do is another thing. But psychologically, I like the feeling of bending forward into the wind and gripping the pavement with my toes. It reminds me of running barefoot as a child, flying across the grass, my hair whipping behind me. 

To anyone thinking of looking ridiculous with me, you should check out some of the literature surrounding barefoot running and try on a pair at your local sporting goods store. They might take a bit to finagle them on, but a snug fit is important. Take it slow when you first start running in them; your calves take a lot of the impact previously doled out to your knees so you'll probably be a little sore the first few times.  

To each his own with the running shoes, but for me, I'll never go back.


  1. My husband has a pair of these. I have a pathological fear of my toes being separated, so they wouldn't work for me. I HAVE gone to minimal running shoes ala "Born to Run".

  2. I just can not get past how untraditional they look! I will just have to try them.

  3. Great pictures!

  4. @BLASTULA wait, there are minimalist running shoes that are not toe shoes? I might have to check that out!