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Five-toed Love Affair

by Emily Gindle » on Sep 17, 2010 9

My relationship with Vibram Fivefingers plays out like those romantic comedies where the girl is forced by a job or a group of friends to spend time with some guy she finds totally insufferable: at first they ignore each other, then they annoy each other, then they fight (and here my analogy breaks down, because I didn’t in fact find myself in a store screaming at a pair of shoes on the shelf) and throughout the process of driving each other crazy they discover that they are actually quite alike and maybe even meant for each other.I saw those crazy shoes and I thought they were just trying to get attention. They talked too loud.

One day my boyfriend forgot to bring his shoes up a multi-pitch climb and found himself hiking the rugged climber’s trail off the pinnacle in his climbing shoes, and then barefoot when those got too uncomfortable, and he started thinking the Fivefingers might be perfect for this. They were lightweight and compact, making them convenient for carrying on a harness, and it felt so good to spread your toes after they’ve been crunched for five hours in climbing shoes. He decided to give them a try, and after a week he was ready to give all his previous shoes to charity.

I got envious. I wanted my feet to be free, too! I wanted to burn my shoes too, and feel the earth all the time. I hated carrying my sneakers on my harness; they got stuck in all the chimneys and were always in the way of my chalk bag when I needed to nervously chalk my hands. Logan would pick up a light running shoe and complain about how heavy it felt anymore, and I desperately wanted that sense of lightness.

Finally they came back in stock at the gear shop where I work and I got a pair and I loved, loved feeling the different surfaces in the world: even just the concrete floor in the shop, the gravel parking lot outside, the sidewalk, wrapping my feet around the curbs, walking out of work and just down the street was a new fun experience. Now I wear Fivefingers every single day. I like them best for hiking, where you can really feel the way the world is shaped. Here on the desert Arizona trails, every conventional shoe feels clumsy. The platform that shoes provide teeter-totters over all the rocks everywhere; I used to stumble and trip all the time.

In Fivefingers, my feet conform to the stones. Rock slabs that seemed slick in shoes became easy when I could grab on with my toes. At work, I play constantly. The concrete floor is too hard to pound around on one’s heels all day, so I jog a little, I arch my feet, I lift up onto my tippy-toes, I walk softly as though stalking an animal. My feet are noticeably stronger. My short chubby toes had a sort of perma-curl and now they lay flat and I can spread them wide. I can pull the arches of my feet up; I never knew what muscles did that before. I pay attention more, and I have a lot more fun. At the shop people ask me what those weird shoes are for, what are you supposed to do in them, and I tell them, everything. Everything, I suppose, except knock out a wall with a sledge hammer. For that you might still want some steel toes.

I plan to contribute something that’s half diary, half scientific journal on everything being nearly-barefoot is good for. After feeling my own personal improvement, I’ve started to look around for research on what our feet are really supposed to do. Twenty-five percent of all the bones in our body belong to our feet. There’s some really intricate architecture going on down there. It now seems odd to me to take all the movements that our feet naturally want to make and reduce them to what they can do on the flat (or even fully supported) footbed of an enclosed shoe. I’d rather have my feet free. Burn my shoes, and feel the earth all the time.


9 Comments

  1. MCM MAMA

    September 17th, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    I just started running in Vibrams, so I can’t wait to read about your experiences.

    Reply

    • Emily

      September 23rd, 2010 at 11:51 am

      Thanks! It’s great to hear from more VFF runners!

      Reply

  2. Allison

    September 22nd, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Hi Emily,
    Great post! It was fun to read about your transition. I’m jealous that you get to wear yours every day at your job. I am a high school teacher, and have only gotten up the courage to wear them once to school, but the students LOVED seeing them. Nice to think I’m spreading the message to the younger generation to kick off those thick soled shoes. I run in FiveFingers, and chronicle my experiences training in them on my blog, AllisonsBigToe.com. Check it out if you want to read about how I’ve grown accustomed to them.
    Look forward to hearing from you,
    Allison

    Reply

    • Emily

      September 23rd, 2010 at 11:49 am

      Hi Allison!
      Thanks for the shout out. I checked out your blog, it’s so great to read about your process. I was training for a half marathon myself and was laid up with really severe allergies the week of the race…so disappointing. But your blog is inspiring and has me thinking about doing it again. I’ve been trail running a lot recently in my fivefingers and will be blogging about that here very soon. So great to make a connection!
      Emily

      Reply

      • Allison

        March 02nd, 2011 at 2:45 pm

        Hi Emily,
        How is the training going? DId you ever sign up to do a race in the fivefingers? Do you have a blog where you write about your training? Thanks for the nice words about my blog. I have written less since the half marathon on October 8, but try to keep it semi up-to-date.

        Take care,
        Allison

        Reply

        • Emily

          March 12th, 2011 at 6:44 pm

          Hi Allison!
          Running training has been stalled a bit–lately I’ve been bouncing around as a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none, doing a lot of climbing, backpacking and mountain biking, so I haven’t been doing running specific training. I still have the goal of running a half-marathon’s worth of trail, to the top of a local peak and back down, and I’ll have to get to it before it heats back up around here! So I’ll have more posts here about running again soon. Keep in touch–it’s so great to have support!

          Emily

          Reply

  3. Lis

    October 02nd, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    I am waiting impatiently for my first pair. I lady came in with a pair on, where I work, she told me all about them …. I was sold !! I hope mine will be here Wed. I hate shoes…. when I come home from work that is the first thing that comes off, my shoes. I wear flip flops when I can… which is not at work…. but I will beable to wear them at work… I hope they are as good as all the readings I have read about them… really have not read anything bad…. well I hope to write you after I get them…. I know there is an adjustment period …. your toes getting used to being spread apart…. and possible muscle soreness… but that is ok….. waiting for that UPS truck to come!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply

  4. Dan

    October 03rd, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Lis, you’ll love them. Especially if you’re a runner. Be patient but trust that these will be extensions of your feet soon enough.

    What kind and color did you get?

    Reply

  5. fingers shoes

    March 01st, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    Reply

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