Review: The Vibrams, an early look
“The typical human foot is an anatomical marvel of evolution with 26 bones, 33 joints, 20 muscles, and hundreds of sensory receptors, tendons and ligaments. Like the rest of the body, to keep our feet healthy, they need to be stimulated and exercised.
That’s why we recommend wearing FiveFingers for exercise, play, and for fun. Stimulating the muscles in your feet and lower legs will not only make you stronger and healthier, it improves your balance, agility and proprioception.”
So two weekends ago, me and my buddy went to CitySports on a mission. That mission… to better commune with nature through funky shoes. Ok, not so much with the communing, but yes with the shoes.
Although fitting them was a bit bizarre (I was 3 sizes larger than I should have been, whereas he dropped a size vs. normal shoes), I instantly took to the Vibrams. I wore them out of the store, into St. Patrick’s for a quick stop (and an inappropriate altar boy crack… and humble apology therefor) and all the way home. I got a few stares, but I can hardly blame anyone. I look a bit like a freaking hobbit in them.
The basic concept of the shoes is simple. Unless you’re a biblical literalist (or a moron) you know that the human foot has evolved over millions of years, with at least 4.4 million years of biped evolution. As such, it’s a pretty good bet that natural selection has provided us with a pretty solid footing on which to walk, jog and run. Humans threw all that out of the window by introducing the sole three and a half or four thousand years ago. Suddenly, our toes no longer held a grip. Our feet were turned into a connector to the slat that touched the ground for us.
With no disrespect to Phil Knight intended, nowhere is this alteration in physiology felt more than with the athletic shoe. No $250 Jordans will give you the same control that you have barefoot. That’s the theory behind Vibrams. Well, that and the new chic trend of barefoot marathoning (see, e.g., Born to Run).
Of course, we don’t know how to run barefoot anymore. Other than on the beach, we’ve never done it. Running without the comfort of our air cushion or gel soles takes some getting used to and you have to wear into your Vibrams.
Anyway, I got mine all set and they fit like a glove (quite literally, because as shoes:mittens, Vibrams:gloves). I have a thing about not being able to enjoy running on a treadmill and don’t work out outside (the DVD watching thing), so with the elliptical trainer I was able to do more on the Vibrams right away than a normal athlete could do.
I’m now five workouts deep with them (I still usually work out in my New Balance or Nike trainers) and I can say I like them. You definitely feel the control more. The treads on the trainer, the pavement, the grip on a weight lifting machine. It’s all more natural and vibrant. I’ve found some soreness in the arches (which is expected on initial use) and my pinkie toe sometimes barks (I theorize this is because it’s not used to be separated from the fourth). But all in all I like ‘em.
I’ll update as my use of them comes along, but as of now I really do like them and will keep them in my rotation a couple of times per week. At the very least, it’s an easy way to get some funny stares.