Whether you like it or not, your foot is a thing of beauty. Consisting of 26 bones, 20 muscles, 33 joints and hundreds of tendons, ligaments and sensory receptors, it truly is anatomically brilliant.
Over the last few years, however, there has been a growing trend that has sparked great interest in how we fashion our feet. And the numbers are undoubtedly growing. What used to be rarely seen at the gym has now spilled out onto the streets and even workplaces.
I’m talking about the ultra-geeky, alien-inspired, individually-toed shoes you thought would never catch on.
They’re called the Vibram FiveFingers and they’re not going anywhere.
For those of you who have been living under a large rock for the past few years, let me give you a little update.
The Vibram FiveFingers first made their geeky appearance a few years ago after Industrial Designer Robert Fliri first proposed the idea to the company. These funky shoes are said to bring you closer to the environment because of their ‘barefoot’ nature. The shoe has five individual toe slots that allow your toes to gently separate. This results in increased stabilization and vastly improved balance due to the increased muscle stimulation to the feet, ankles, and lower legs.
Our body benefits from exercise, yet we rarely take our feet into consideration. No matter what type of activity we are doing, the body, in one way or another, relies on flexible and stable support from our feet and legs. Our feet need to be consistently stimulated for this to happen.
These multi-toe-shoes help your body engage from the ground up and, with an improved sense of control, you’ll be able to perform at a much higher level.
The claims are great, but what about the validity?
There is a lot of history here. There is also a vast amount of scientific research supporting the benefits of ditching our shoes.
Your feet are an evolved network of nerves, muscles and connective tissues that were designed to instantly (and accurately) react at the instant your foot strikes the ground in order to absorb the shock and minimize injury. However, millions of years of biomechanical evolution have been impacted by a simple, yet somewhat carelessly thought-out invention – the (running) shoe.
Way before the Nike swoosh, shoes have been an instrumental part of our lives. They have effectively taken us from point A to point B. They have kept our feet clean and scrape-free.
But don’t think they’ve done us much good.
The shoe and its excess padding take the foot out of its natural environment. It takes away its natural ability to sense what’s happening. This, ironically, causes more injuries than it prevents.
Further, as you may have experienced, running shoes encourage a very stiff heel-to-toe running stride that is unhealthy for your joints and connective tissues.
Take a look at your feet for a moment. Is it possible that they are better off without shoes?
There is a growing community of barefoot runners out there that believe so…and they might just be onto something.
The human foot has relatively little padding on the heel area so this causes barefoot runners to tread more lightly. They land on the outer part of the midfoot, avoiding the dangerous heel-to-toe landing you get with shoes.
Research done by the American Academy of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation found that running in shoes actually exerts more stress on the ankle, knee and hip than does running barefoot.
“We evolved to run barefoot, and when we put shoes on, we’re taking away the function of the foot,” says Irene Davis, director of the University of Delaware Running Injury Clinic.
So where do the geeky-toed shoes fit into this picture?
I see them as the bridge because they fill a very obvious gap.
The Vibram FiveFingers are the transition phase from running or walking in shoes to doing just that, only barefoot.
But are they safe?
Well, that’s really the million dollar question. As ironic as it sounds, there is very little research done on the long-term effects of walking or running barefoot. That is why many podiatrists recommend you use caution before you make a complete switch to barefoot-ism.
And that is exactly where I think the Vibram’s fit in.
They give you the natural, minimalist barefoot feel (and benefits) while keeping your feet free of scrapes and bruises brought on by the rough surfaces we consistently encounter.
So is it really a surprise that these geeky-looking shoes are so quickly gaining in popularity? My guess is no.
And, to be quite honest, their look is kind of growing on me. I’m currently looking into getting a pair myself even though I’m 100% sure that my girlfriend will kill me once she finds out.
Do you own a pair of Vibram’s? Do you WANT to own a pair of Vibram’s? Whatever the case may be, share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below so we can all make an informational decision for the sake of our beautiful feet.