If you’re shy about talking to strangers or self-conscious when people stare at your feet and whisper to their friends, the Vibram FiveFingers line of shoes will help you overcome your fears. You will find yourself in conversations in the supermarket checkout line or with random passersby on the street. Everyone wants to know, “Are those shoes?” (Answer: Sort of.) “Are they comfortable?” (Answer: yes.)
The deal with the Vibram FiveFingers KSO Trek is that it’s designed to trick your feet into thinking they’re naked. The proponents of barefoot running claim all sorts of benefits to going sans shoes. Enhanced leg and foot strength, reduced injuries, improved posture and balance, the list is fairly extensive. The hypothesis is that our bodies were designed to be barefoot and to run around on uneven surfaces. But shoes and the flat floors we walk on have weakened our muscles and connective tissues, dulling our reactions and agility. Think of barefooting like going organic for the shoe crowd.
I’m a regular runner and believer in compound, body-weight exercises, so I was intrigued by the idea of barefoot running. But I also have soft, baby-like feet completely devoid of calluses, and the thought of running around trails barefoot filled my imagination with nightmarish visions of imbedded twigs and infected cuts.
I promise you this: The KSO Treks are unlike any other shoes you’ve ever worn. Instead of supporting your foot, they simply protect it from sharp things and let your foot move naturally. Most noticeable, they have a small pocket for each toe, like gloves for your feet, to let your toes move individually. It’s as close to being barefoot as you can get without risking your skin to the ground. The thin rubber sole provides just a bit of cushion, enough to take the jarring edge off from walking on concrete, but doesn’t feel that different from wearing regular shoes.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the FiveFingers are a little harder to put on than normal shoes. With a little practice I was able to do it in about 1 minute, but getting each toe into its little slot took a little concentration. Sizing is very important, and if your second toe is a lot longer than your big toe you might be out of luck.