If you believe the hype, there are many benefits to be gained from minimal (true barefoot to minimalist shoes) footwear. Some people have gone so far as to run this way, my husband is one. I’m reluctant to run in them, but willing to experiment a bit. After all, I do seem to be the poster child for injury.
I bought a pair of Vibram Five Finger Sprints a few years ago specifically for water sports, kayaking in particular, and for that purpose I love them. I have also worn them for yard work, walking the dogs, running errands, etc, and while I like them on dry land, I don’t necessarily LOVE them.
First, it is truly very much like being barefoot in that you can feel every little rock on the ground, and I live on a gravel road. I realize that if I had a pair of Vibram Trek Sports, for example, this first issue might not be a problem for me because the soles would be different, but with the Sprints this is problematic for me.
Second, I find that I’ve never been able to wear them for extended periods of time comfortably because they start to really bother the pinky toe on my left foot. This poor toe seems to want to be tucked slightly under its neighbor. Presumably due to wearing ill fitting shoes all my life, but after 40 something years, this is how my foot is. Oddly, I find them to be quite a bit more comfortable in the water than on dry land. Not sure why. Perhaps there is more ‘give’ when they are wet.
I do like the more natural feel of the barefoot posture, plus my husband swears by minimalist running. Those two things led me to try the Merrell Barefoot Pace Glove (the men’s version is called the Trail Glove). Taking my first few steps in them, the “feel” immediately reminded me of the Vibrams, only replacing the individual toe pockets that cause discomfort to my little toe with a nice wide toe box. Ahhhh. Much better.
These Merrells also have a thicker/more treaded Vibram sole than my Sprints. I believe this sole is similar to the Treks that I don’t own. This seems to have solved my problem about feeling every little rock on the trail. An added plus is they don’t give you the funky frog feet look and they have many colors to choose from. I'm having a hard time narrowing it down to only one for a second pair.
Bought them Sunday afternoon and I’ve been wearing them almost non-stop ever since as they quickly became my shoe of choice for walking the dogs, doing errands, even for work since I am often able to dress casually in the office. I have noticed some tightness in my right calf. This doesn’t surprise me because the barefoot stance changes your posture and walk/run form and I pretty much jumped right in. I imagine folks are right when they say to start off slow if you choose to run in these, if walking is already causing noticeable calf tightness I can only imagine what running would do. Eek. I should add that at this point I’ve chosen to wear socks with the Merrells, whereas I go sockless in the Vibrams.
So that’s where I’m at. I’ll share more after I’ve had more time in the Merrells. The hope is that the change in stride/posture/etc will improve the situation with my left knee as well as with my back. Time will tell. And neither shoe (Vibrams or Pace Gloves) seem like they would be good choices when the weather turns cold. I may be looking at other styles when the seasons change.
Who else is experimenting with minimalist shoes? How have you used them? Has your experience been positive, negative, or mixed?
[Edited to reiterate, I am *not* running in these. I run in Kinvaras. I am experimenting with minimalist shoes for walking, etc.]