For my birthday about a month ago my other half said I could finally get those shoes I had been going on about for the last year or two. Ever since I first read about them on the internet I really wanted a pair but they were out of our budget.
I normally spend around £20-30 on a pair of shoes that I expect to last me 9-12 months ish. The shoes I had my eye on were around the £80 mark and I didn’t have much idea how long they would last me.
The reason I wanted to get such a pricey pair of shoes wasn’t because they looked cool or they would go with anything I wear or any stereotypical girly reason to buy an expensive pair of shoes. I wanted these because they’re good for you.
Vibram 5 Fingers are barefoot shoes. They are designed to protect your feet from the ground with a thin but durable Vibram sole whilst allowing your feet to move freely and more naturally than they can in traditional shoes, thus mimicking the feeling and benefits of walking barefoot.
Standard shoes with their hard sole, cushioning and support prevent you from being able to move your foot very much and cause you to strike the ground with your heel, which forces the impact of your step to be absorbed by your heel, knee and hip. Walking barefoot or in minimal shoes allows you to strike the ground with your forefoot, letting your foot absorb the shock of the impact. Your foot is flexible, springy and well adapted for absorbing the impact of your steps so it makes sense to walk this way. Furthermore, walking with a forefoot strike is said to improve strength and flexibility of the foot and ankle, which leads to better balance and posture.
I used to wear heels all the time, the higher and clompier, the better. I also used to suffer from lower back ache a lot. When I started reading about the benefits of barefoot walking I switched to flat shoes with a more flexible sole and tried to walk with a forefoot strike. This certainly made a difference to my back ache. It took effort and concentration to maintain this style of walking though. That’s where I hoped that the Vibram 5 Fingers would make a difference.
I still wasn’t happy about paying that much for a shoe, I had read varying reports of how long lasting and durable they were and I didn’t want to spend a fortune only to have to replace them in a few month’s time. I did really want a pair though, so I checked the Vibram website for the list of approved suppliers and found a few of them had a sale. I had considered ebay but apparently there are a lot of inferior fakes around and I wanted to be sure I got genuine Vibrams. I found a pair I liked, the classics, for £55 which was a bit better. I ordered them.
The shoes arrived along with instructions for how to put them on. It’s not as easy as you’d think trying to line your toes up into the toe pockets the first few times you try. It took me a while to get them on, and they felt very strange on my feet. I’ve worn toe socks before, but this was not like toe socks. Not uncomfortable, just a bit odd.
The first few times I walked in them were the school run, a 3.2 mile round trip. I didn’t feel like I was walking strangely, a forefoot strike felt more natural in these shoes. I liked the way I could feel the ground through the sole and wiggle my toes while I waited for traffic lights to change. When I got home though my legs ached, particularly my calves. This is expected with barefoot shoes, there’s a breaking in period while your body gets used to walking a whole new way.
After a month, I can walk the school run without any aches although I sometimes still feel a little stiff afterwards. The backs of my ankles start to ache a bit if I wear them all day, I think I’m still settling into them. The soles still look as good as new. I have thrown them in the washing machine a couple of times. Without socks they get dirty pretty quickly, but they wash well and dry fast.
I really like my Vibrams. I hope they last me a long time. I can’t imagine wearing regular shoes again. I have put my old shoes on to pop out into the garden quickly without lining up my toes (which I’ve got the hang of, although it still takes a bit longer than putting on a normal shoe) and they feel odd. Plus, despite a few funny looks from passers by, I really like how they look. I’m so glad I got them.