five_finger_shoes_in_actionWell, I got some. I recall blogging about seeing these some time back, and am impressed with them now that I’ve been trying them out for a week. Let me say however a couple of things. I’m not going to spout all the stuff being said about how this is all so much more “natural” than shoes, and so on and so forth. There’s a lot of that being said and I find myself generally deeply suspicious of the way the word “natural” is used to sell products, especially to a certain type of crowd who falls for this stuff. What does “natural” even mean, anyway?

I like these because they are like being barefoot without the pain and discomfort that often comes with it (stubbing toes, icky or sharp things underfoot, etc). I do not think these “five-finger” shoes (as they are called) will replace shoes for me in most circumstances. Apparently people are running in them, hiking, even mountain climbing. Good for them. I want much more support on my feet when I’m doing those things and that is why shoes were invented. Marvellous invention, shoes. Not clear to me shoes are any less “natural” than these are. They’re just different. Like cycling is not “natural”, but is a rather splendid thing humans came up with that I see nothing wrong with on the “natural” vs “non-natural” front.

See also shirts, pants, skirts, etc. Same thing.

But, in short – these are great. I was told by the fellow in the shop that they are becoming hugely popular now, although I am not sure I believe that since I’ve only ever seen one person out there wearing them, and that was a while back. (It is in shoe-sellers’ interest to make these claims.) I got them because I’ve a bit of a heel pain (from a bit of running I did on concrete – bad idea for me) that is mostly manifest when walking barefoot at home, and (since in this society it is important for a single guy to be well-heeled*) I want to it have a chance to heal. I’d been wearing thick socks with gel implants stuck in, with some (fiddly) success, and then I thought I’d go out and get some new house slippers. I remembered these while out there and so came back with a pair. Fancy house slippers, sure, but also great for the beach, and around the house and garden generally. (Their smooth bases wipe clean on returning indoors, which is just great.) Also excellent for climbing trees, as I discovered yesterday while doing fig tree maintenance. I have found myself out at the shops in them a couple of times, but I think in the main they will remain a home shoe. And an excellent home shoe at that.


* 🙂 I could not resist this pun. Sorry.

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10 Responses to Ten

  1. Jude says:

    My friend has had some for almost a year. They made a big splash when he wore them at work (high school). I’m currently reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall which I’m finding difficult to get through, but mildly entertaining. http://www.amazon.com/Born-Run-Hidden-Superathletes-Greatest/dp/0307266303 The book makes the point that it *is* all about the shoes. He brings up a statistic about running injuries going up even with/because of our over-designed running shoes. I find myself, ever the librarian, wanting citations to statistics and research studies.

  2. kim says:

    Firstly ‘natural’ is important for our health and the environment. It (should) mean that the ingredients and manufacturing methods are simple and not processed with chemicals, man made machines and so forth. Eg. unprocessed leather can be seen as natural whereas plastic isn’t. Regarding cycling, what kind of manufacturing processes are used to make a bicycle? I would argue it causes pollution and may not be natural. I recently saw on tv that cycling can increase heat in the groin and cause impotence (for men) not to mention the mechanical strain it can cause. So in that sense it’s not conducive to health. That’s what I meant when I mentioned health. As for shirts and pants, let’s assume they are made of cotton. One of the reasons I buy organic cotton clothing and products is that no toxic chemicals are used. This affects our health and the environment. Or at least that is what the proponents of organic cotton say.

    Lastly can I ask how you feel about wearing these kinds of things like the shoes you mention in this post, in terms of appearance? Are you concerned about wearing things which are deemed fashionable at the time or not?

  3. Clifford says:

    Hi Jude: Yeah, and I wonder how long before the running injuries from using these start to be talked about!


  4. Samantha says:

    Did you hear these shoes mentioned on NPR the other day? I wish I could remember the name of the scientist they were profiling – he was an evolutionary biologist who theorises that part of our “superiority” as a species has come from our ability to run long distances (increased stamina). He is, not surprisingly, an avid runner and, I think, runs in shoes like this. According to the piece, they force you to land on the ball of your foot, rather than your heel, which is better somehow jointwise. Of course I also await the statistics and studies with interest.

  5. Clifford says:


    No, I entirely missed that. Huh… Well, I hope he did not overuse the word “natural”…


  6. I completely share your frustration with the use of “natural”…Foods that contain no chemicals? Wherever are people finding those? (I know, I know, jargon uses, my inner linguist tells me. But still.)

    Also share your love of supportive shoes. Hiking boots or Doc Marten boots are daily wear for me, and I’d never dream of hiking without proper boots (oh Vibram soles, how do I love thee?). These look like fun though.


  7. Clifford says:

    You’ll be thrilled to know these are made by Vibram then!

    A note on supportivenessp… I think that the idea people who advocate for these is pushing is that we’ve become too reliant on shoes that support to the extent that we do not develop the musculature needed in our feet to do the supporting that we normally would do. Further, it has moved us toward a gait that has much more of a heel-first footfall than you have when barefoot. This can (I stress can , not must) bring on problems…

    It is certainly interesting. (And yes… When I am bouncing from rock to rock up there on the slopes, I want the protection and ankle support that boots give me…)


  8. Anonymous_Snowboarder says:

    C – can you comment on the Vibram soles? I’ve been thinking about getting a pair of these (not yet been in store to try any tho) but I do find that boots with thick Vibram soles end up giving me back pain. However, I’m assuming these are relatively thin? Thanks for the foot up!

  9. Clifford says:


    Like I said, it is like being barefoot, so the soles are strong but thin.



  10. Anon says:

    I developed plantar fasciitis by running on hard surfaces for a bit without stretching as well. Had the exact same pain as you — mainly when barefoot at home. Had to go on a long hiking trip and found out that hard soled shoes help the plantar tissue relax. Soft sole or barefoot is the worst since it allows for most flexing of the foot while walking. I know I could do the hike only because of a really stiff soled boot.

    Anyway, plantar is more an annoyance than a serious worry.