In the heat of summer I wear sandals outside, although I walk around indoors barefoot or in socks. Recently I needed a new pair of sandals, but on finding Vibram FiveFingers were actually available in New Zealand I went to take a look.
Truth be told, I didn’t know much about FiveFingers, but a couple of Internet buddies had mentioned how excellent they were, so I was interested.
Bare feet protected
The FiveFingers are really just a thin sole, with separate pockets for each toe, and enough covering to hold the thing on the foot. They can go in water — in fact, you’re encouraged to wash them regularly.
I bought the Sprint model:
Adjustable Velcro closures cross over the instep and surround the heel for a personalised, secure fit and arch support. A thin abrasion-resistant stretch polyamide fabric follows the contour of the foot for comfort. A flexible, non-marking TC1 performance rubber sole is razor siped to enhance grip over a variety of terrain from road to rock and everything in between.
Sigh, the shoes are black
As seems to always be the case when I go shopping, my choices were limited. I didn’t really want black shoes, preferring the blue, but the alternative was to wait several weeks until new stock arrived. I didn’t want to wait.
The staff in the store did a good job of making sure I chose an appropriate pair that fit well.
In fact I suspect I chose a pair that’s slightly too large, but they’re extremely comfortable. I also discovered that one of my feet is a whole size larger than the other.
FiveFingers are different — in a good way
The shoes were so comfortable as I tried them on in the store I was sold after a few moments of wearing them. Since then I’ve followed the instructions for wearing them in and have worn them at every opportunity. We had a spell of fabulous hot weather, so they’ve been able to prove their worth.
I love being able to feel the ground beneath my feet. I walk the dogs a lot on rough earth tracks and grass. I could never walk barefoot as the ground with its pebbles and tree roots would surely hurt my feet. In summer, even the deck is too scorching hot for bare feet. With the thin, flexible sole I can enjoy the benefit of being barefoot, but without the problems. I feel protected, yet connected to the earth.
I can feel my feet flexing and responding to the ground. I actually feel more surefooted on the paths and tracks because I can feel the ground.
When I’ve worn my dog-walking boots on cooler or wet days I feel as though I’m walking on blocks of wood because they are like a plank. They don’t conform to the uneven ground, instead they ride on top of it.
It’s good to know, too, that my legs and ankles are working more, and my posture’s being improved because my feet actually have to work to balance me. As they say on the site:
After years of being underused in shoes, your feet and lower legs will be working hard. The Plantar fascia, calf and achilles are the main areas getting the extra workout while wearing your new FiveFingers.
The double effects of a lower heal position and increased loading through the calf mean that your body will need to adjust.
My feet now feel constrained and compressed in shoes and boots. The design of the FiveFingers ensures that the toes are separated and slightly spread out, making the foot broader rather than narrower.
In fact, that’s the odd and disconcerting thing about the FiveFingers: I feel like a Hobbit with giant, broad feet.
I love how snug the FiveFingers are. Not tight, but snug, and comfortable. They’re soft and fit close and feel great.
I’ve worn the FiveFingers now on grass, gravelled paths, the bare earth tracks of the Town Belt and on footpaths, and love them for each surface. I can feel the texture of the ground, and feel more secure on the steeper and looser surfaces.
I did strike a problem though a couple of weeks ago.
It was a very hot day when I took the dogs for a walk along the carefully swept and maintained footpath on Oriental Parade. We started at Freyberg Pool and strolled down to Carlton Gore Road and back. Google Maps tells me that’s about 2Km.
It’s little Oshi’s least favourite walk, so we don’t do it too often.
My feet started getting sore about half way through the walk. By the time we were back at the car I had some pretty good blisters between the balls of my feet and my toes, and slightly sore heels.
In shoes, that part of my foot never touches the ground, or the inside of the shoe. It really brought home to me how differently we walk in shoes and barefoot.
I think because the footpath was dead flat, and hot, the same part of my foot was contacting the ground at each step, and the heat didn’t help.
I wore shoes for the next day or so and have been wearing the FiveFingers again for shorter walks while my feet get used to the change.
Try the FiveFingers on
If you’re interested in being kind to your feet, I recommend trying the FiveFingers on. One word of warning: take your wallet with you. After a few minutes wearing them in the store to see how they feel you won’t want to take them off.