My neighbor Ian had a birthday last week and decided to treat himself to some rock climbing. There’s an indoor wall within (long) walking distance of our place but neither of us had ever gone. He enjoyed the experience, but unfortunately, he’s a tall guy with large feet and even the largest shoes they rented were too small. That gave Ian the perfect excuse to get a pair of Five Fingers shoes.
Ian tells me that according to the shoe salesman, normal shoes are terrible for your feet. They force you to bend the way they bend rather than letting your foot work the way nature intended. I don’t know how true that is, but from talking to people who have gone from walking barefoot lots to wearing shoes lots, there might be something to it. In any case, these things are a pretty cool new way of approaching the “I don’t want to step on rocks” problem.
The Five Fingers shoes have separate areas for each of your toes and a rigid plastic bottom that’s cut every centimeter or so. That makes it really flexible and lets you flex each of your toes individually. There’s a mesh across the top to keep it on but allow for some air circulation (the “winter” ones are neoprene on top, so Ian found them swelteringly hot even just trying them on).
Ian hasn’t tried climbing in them yet, but we walked a couple of miles out to a stream and a couple miles back and the only trouble he had was with little pieces of grit that got stuck in them when he went wading. They’re totally waterproof, which makes them the only shoe I know about that’s comfortable to walk in but that let you wade around as if you were wearing sandals or flip-flops. They’re also totally vegan (the drawback, of course, is that they’re also totally plastic).
I haven’t tried them out myself, but I’m pretty impressed with them. At $80, they’re about the same cost as a pair of running shoes so they’re not too expensive. More importantly, they seem designed from the ground up to work with our bodies rather than against them. I’m tired of technology that’s made based on what’s cheapest or easiest for the designers rather than what’s best for me.
Hopefully, Five Fingers is an indicator that other people feel like I do and we’ll start seeing more “barefoot” products in the future!