Text by Christian Camerota
There's a budding idea that running shoes may be tricking our feet, and that sometimes training barefoot is a better option.
Since 2001, a growing amount of research suggests that the various airs and bars and gels found in running shoes may actually be overinsulating our feet from the rigors of our strides, leading us into injuries. Thick soles, especially, teach us to strike heel first, a movement that can put exceptional strain and pressure on knees and joints.
In response to this movement, Vibram has developed the FiveFingers, a shoe that is part aquasock, part minimalist, toe-holed foot tire, and all about the barefoot running craze. The Italian company has been around a long time, since 1935 in fact, when its founder and namesake Vitale Bramani developed the world's first set of rubber soles for mountaineering boots, but the FiveFingers marks their first complete underfoot foray.
With a quick-drying, machine-washable fabric upper and a performance rubber compound that yields great grip and feel, the FiveFingers is meant to protect your peds while preserving the benefits of barefooted bliss: landing on the balls of your feet (which are natural shock absorbers and lessen injury) and allowing the soles of your feet to conform to the ground beneath (meaning better footing and a better sense of the terrain).
At anywhere from 5.3 to 6.6 ounces in a men's size 42 (about a size 10.5 in the U.S.), the footwear is light, malleable, and, frankly, makes you look like a hip frog with brightly camouflaged feet. Incidentally, because of the distinct toe slots, people who are web-footed can't join the FiveFingers fun. But treehuggers will be pleased to know that all the materials used in the footwear are vegan-friendly, and parkour participants may find these kicks quite handy while wall-climbing. It just depends on whether or not you're willing to pay $75-85 for the feeling of wearing nothing at all.
Wired magazine has a great analysis on the mechanics of running in the FiveFingers here.
And RunnersWorld has a great look into barefoot running in general here.
And Random House just published Christopher McDougall's book, Born to Run, a study of the history and intricacies of long-distance galloping.