Barefoot is it for you?
Barefoot is it for you?
The real answer. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Vibrams or Vibram Five fingers were the brain child of Robert Fliri entrepreneur and part time lumber jack. He used to like to walk through the forest barefoot but could only manage it so long because his skin was not accustomed to the terrain. This got him thinking in terms of a solution and the original concept foot glove was designed and produced as a prototype. As most inventors it is usually the simplest ideas that bear fruit. As the only animal other than some horses I guess to a point that wear shoes it is unfathomable to conceive that something mirroring the foot and allowing natural foot function had not been developed sooner. They were introduced to Marco Bramani at a chance meeting (grandson of Vitale Bramani – Founder of Vibram pronounced Vee bram). He was a keen sailor and had ideas to manufacture it for sailing and so the story began.
Vibram never intended the shoe to be anything other than a quirky fun shoe to wear. The book ‘born to run’ by Christopher McDougall posed a very serious question. Why does it hurt when I run? Upon his quest to find the panacea of running footwear the names Vibram Fivefingers and Barefoot Ted featured heavily and soon began to foster a curiosity within the running community. People started to question the validity of what we call conventional running footwear and whether it was just an elaborate lie that they somehow prevented us from injury. More research was needed but in truth the minimalist or barefoot movement grew organically. If we were meant to wear shoes we would have been born with them on’ ‘Yes?’. It’s hard to disagree with that sort of logic. In fact in countries where shoes are seldom worn, such conditions as planta fasciitis are seldom seen. The toes are evenly spread apart, the soles become tough and accustomed to the terrain. The saying if you don’t use it lose it is applicable here. Shoes in effect as well as protecting our soles act as a support for our foot. As with any support over use will cause muscles to become redundant and start to atrophy. With little muscle working in unison there is a belief that this is why foot conditions start to occur and develop. Using orthotics or arch supports will initially provide relief when needed but overuse it is believed can be to the detriment of long term rehabilitation and improved strength. One analogy often used is ‘its the equivalent of breaking your arm and leaving the cast on once the fracture has repaired.’
Nature designed our foot to be used in all its glory. Yes? It is then safe to assume that with training (after all we have wrapped our feet in a cocoon most of our lives), listening to the synaptic response from the ground and a little leap of faith using minimalist foot wear can only be good for foot health long term.
By Dan Hume,
Vibram Fivefingers Specialist and Wearer.