I’ve been wearing Vibram Five Finger Shoes (VFFs) for three years. They’re my favorite shoes, the ones I don most often. In fact, I already wore out one pair after two and a half years. They’re may casual shoes and my dress shoes. You think I’m kidding? My black Classic Vibrams go with almost everything, even a dressy black knit top and skirt. I wore them to a fundraiser event this past spring, to the surprise of a couple of my girl friends (in high heels) and their husbands (in men’s heeled dress shoes). The grins and teasing eye rolls didn’t faze me. I wouldn’t have worn any other shoes. Well, I did wear a pair of cheap sandals in the car, for about 10 minutes, then kicked them off at a stop light (they were cutting into my heels). I put on my VFFs on arrival and my feet were happy all night.
In the beginning
I took the instructions seriously. I wore them for only one or two hour invervals for the first few weeks, until my feet got used to them, gradually increasing my wear as my body adapted to minimalist footwear. It didn’t take long for my feet to take a liking to these foot in glove shoes.
VFFS were designed with your human feet in mind. Human feet are naturally as wide at the toe as they are mid-foot. Yet, most modern shoes become increasingly narrow from mid foot to toe, pinching the very arches and toes designed to hold up and balance our upright structures.
For proper movement and balance, your toes must be able to spread, move, bend, and flex. Feeling the ground under your feet sends important messages to your brain that are lost when you wear heavily cushioned, thick soled, high heeled, or narrow shoes. Your feet are densely populated with nerve endings that send vital messages to your brain about your environment, messages blocked by most modern shoes, messages your body needs to move efficiently. When this relay system is blocked, our movements become unstable and inefficient.
Did you know that half of the bodies 656 muscles and 206 bones and most of its joints and ligaments are required for standing and walking. Most shoes inactivate these muscles and restrict the bones in the feet that are required for graceful movement. An estimated 90% of men’s and women’s shoes are too narrow for the feet they house.
VFFs mimic the feel and activate the function of muscles that are or would be used if you went barefoot. Unlike most shoes, their shape reflects the shape of real feet. The allow natural movement to take place––they even encourage it!
Many people in the paleo and primal diet and fitness community are embracing minimalist footwear as a way to bring us back in synch with our genetic blueprint, to allow our bodies to function as they were designed to. When I go to Mark Sisson’s annual PrimalCon, a three-day, three-night, primal diet and fitness conference in Southern California, I’m among the majority with more than 50% of attendees and roughly 70% of staffers wearing VFFs or other minimalist footwear.
What’s in it for you?
Besides better balance, smoother more efficient movement, greater comfort and ease, many people find the switch to VFFS (and other minimalist footwear) brings relief from corns, bunions, blisters, bone spurs, plantar fasciitis, fallen arches, as well as foot, knee, hip, and back pain. VFFS are popular for yoga, tai chi, weight training, walking, running, work, water sports, dancing, and everyday activities.
Try ‘em, you might like ‘em
If you haven’t tried on a pair of VFFs, I encourage you to give them a try. You can go to the Vibram web site to find a retailer in your area. If you live in the Phoenix Metro area, go to Fitness Road located at 209 East Broadway in Tempe, AZ. They specialize in Five Finger Shoes and have the largest selection (more styles and colors than I’ve seen at REI) in the Phoenix area and they know how to fit these shoes. They sometimes run specials too. If you go there, tell them Chef Rachel Albert sent you. They have a rewards/referral program.
Can you wear them?
Some people who have extra long second toes find VFFs hard to fit and uncomfortable. Feet and experiences vary. If you can’t get the right fit, check out other minimalist footwear options and reviews on Birthdayshoes.com, Toesalad.com, and LivingBarefoot.info I plan to write about some of the other minimilaist shoe options, including those with more foot coverage that are more suitable for some occupations, weather conditions, and seasons.
Wear n wash
Although VFF care instructions say that you can put the shoes in the washing machine (never put them in the dryer!), I found that this reduces the life of the shoes if done on a weekly or bi weekly basis. For best results and a longer life (for the shoes), wash them by hand in a sink, bucket, or basin with warm soapy water (I use a biodegradable, non toxic, natural dish soap) and a brush (an old toothbrush or other brush will do).
Add some antibacterial oils
If you have essential oils of thyme, melaleuca, rosemary, cinnamon, lime, peppermint, clove, or a protective blend, add a two to three drops of this to the washing water for natural antibacterial action. Scrub the shoes, soak briefly (30 minutes or an 1 hour or so), rinse well, pat dry, then allow to air dry. I make sure to use CPTG (Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade) essential oils. These are the purest varieties I have found. If you’re new to using essential oils and would like to learn more, please contact me by email. I’d be happy to share with you about the brand I use topically, internally, and around the house for natural non-toxic cleaning and disinfecting.
I’d love to hear from you
Do you wear Vibram Five Finger Shoes? What do you like best about them? How many pairs do you own? How long have you worn them? Have they improved your life and health? Did you find this post helpful?