Anyone who knows me personally knows that I love being barefoot. You will never catch me wearing slippers or shoes in the house and I often will go out on my deck and on my lawn barefoot. Ah the pleasures of walking barefoot on the grass! Naturally, when I came across the minimalist shoe, I simply had to give it a try! It was a few weeks ago that I went out and purchased myself a nice pair of Five Fingers Minimalist Shoes. Like their name says, these shoes actually have five fingers: a small pocket for each toe, making them much like toe socks.
After a few weeks of getting used to walking in them around the house, it was time to take them out for a real walk. I eagerly slipped them on and stepped out onto my front porch. Wow! I could feel everything under my feet. I have to admit that I was very surprised at how much I could feel through the thin sole. I got in the car and made my way to the trail where I usually walk. It's a gravel trail through a small natural park. Again it was amazing to me that I could feel each little rock under my feet without risking an injury from those same rocks. My feet were literally able to adapt to every little bump in the terrain as I walked along the path. However, my first few power walk steps were a rough reminder that I was not wearing my regular shoes and that I cannot be striking my heel into the ground the same way as I do with my regular sports shoes. It did not take long to adjust my stride and complete my 40 minute walk. I am not a runner and I don't think I will ever take up running as a passion, but I absolutely loved walking with my Five Fingers and look forward to using them again.
Pros of Five Finger Shoes
When your feet are able to feel the terrain as you move, your body is better able to adapt its movements and keep you in proper balance and alignment. Essentially, your body is working the way nature intended it to and your joints are aligning and moving the way they were always meant to.
Your toes are able to move individually as opposed to being confined into one space. The fact that your toes are able to spread as you walk allows you to have a stronger, more stable and aligned push off as you take each step. This is true whether you are walking or running.
Cons of Five Fingers
There is an adaptation period required for you to be able to walk and run in your Five Fingers without running a high risk of injury. The fact that you simply cannot slip these shoes on and go running like you would with your regular running shoes, can be enough to deter you from the whole idea of the minimalist shoe.
If you have had your feet in a certain type of shoe (running shoes, heels, flip flops, etc.) for most of your waking hours, minimalist shoes may take you a very long time to adapt to. Over time, your body adapts to the imbalances that are imposed on it. For instance, a woman who walks on her three inch heels all day, every day will not be able to quickly transition to a flat shoe without running the risk of altering her body mechanics. Chances are some aches and pains will arise as you transition into your Five Fingers.
Overall, my experience with the Five Fingers shoes was very positive and I greatly enjoy wearing them for my fitness activities. I have taken the necessary time to ease into them by wearing them around the house a few hours at a time while I do my house work and still wear them only for short periods of time while I am exercising and when I am engaging in particular activities that call for their use.
At the end of the day, the Five Fingers Minimalist Shoes truly do serve their purpose. The allow the wearer to keep their feet protected from the harsh terrain while still being able to feel the terrain and adapt their stride the way it was always intended by nature: as if they were barefoot. Once the gradual adaptation period has been passed, these minimalist shoes offer both comfort and stability while performing various activities. Although they have not been around for as long as your traditional running shoe, they will probably increase in popularity as athletes and sports enthusiasts begin to see the benefits these shoes can offer.