Oct 26 2015

What the hell was I thinking?

Adel Gabot

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6:38AM

I was going through my shoe closet (I call the space under my bed my shoe closet) last Friday when I came across this monstrosity.

What the hell was I thinking when I bought this?

I got these FiveFingers shoes several years ago, at a Vibram specialty kiosk in Trinoma. And they weren’t cheap either; I could’ve have bought some decent Nikes with the amount. But it was the height of the popularity of this near-barefoot shoes, and I guess I was caught up in the hype.

It’s a deceptively simple shoe.

No real sole to speak of (to get your feet as close to the ground as possible), and it had just a thin but tough rubber/leather padding. The rest of it was made of thin spandex-like material that hugs your entire foot with velcro strapping. The most notable feature is the separated-toe front part. There are individual “sleeves” or pockets for each toe of your foot, and the overall effect is you’re virtually running around barefoot. While it conforms to the shape and arch of the foot, it’s tough as well. It’s as if you just sprayed a sturdy coat of rubber on your bare feet and just ran with it. You can even “wiggle” your toes in them!

They’re kind of hard to put on; putting your toes in the separate sleeves is a chore, after years of just shoving them in regular one-size-fits-all-toes sneakers, and my middle toes often refused to cooperate—I had to force them in. After a few moments though you forget you’re wearing them, and they’re actually pretty comfortable—as if you’re actually barefoot.

Walking with them though takes a bit of getting used to, as the lack of a thick, protective sole is strange, and the freedom afforded your toes stranger still. Your foot hugs the pavement pretty closely, and you can (slightly) feel big pebbles and small stones underfoot. Walking on the rough street takes on a whole new meaning. (I haven’t taken them running though, and I wonder how they would feel on truly rough terrain.)

I remember wearing them on outside trips on several occasions, and no one—not one single person—noticed that I was wearing Vibrams! Not one person. Hmph. But it was nice wearing them in the mall—it’s as if you were walking around barefoot in your home.

After a couple of months of use, I quit on them and just kept them in their box. Some time later, a class action lawsuit popped up accusing Vibram of false advertising, that it didn’t actually strengthen foot muscles and decrease foot injuries. Vibram finally agreed to settle the suit, and now their original claims are mired in controversy and generally laughed at in runners’ circles.

I tried wearing them again around the house this weekend, and surprisingly, they were damned comfortable. So comfortable and natural-feeling that I could actually sleep in them if I wanted to.

I think I have my new household slippers now. It takes a bit of effort to put them on, but once I do I don’t have to take them off again until I need to take a shower or to sleep at night.

At least these shoes are going to be good for something.