I haven't had a really good chance to break them in so I don't have reliable impressions on this shoe yet. I purchased them mainly because I have mild but chronic feet issues. Minor things that seem to come and go. Pain in the big toe knuckle and ball of the foot. Callouses here and there. And I already know why I get them. I have both wide feed and feet that are shaped more like an inverted triangle (narrow heel, wide toe knuckles). Which is exactly what shoes ARE NOT shaped like.
It's clear to me looking at Vibram Fiver Finger (VFF) shoes that they look a lot more like my feet than anything else I wear. And so I did a little research on them.
A lot of the bare-foot proponents point to this study (PDF format). It was published in 1905 and compared the feet of those people who had worn shoes their whole life and those who had never worn shoes. It's a poorly written and barely scientific study but it has some GREAT pictures which I'll show below. But the basic premise is that our shoes deform our feet and cause them to operate incorrectly and this leads to modern foot ailments. Seems reasonable.
The first one is a classic shot of someone who has NEVER worn binding footwear. Sandals don't bind so people who just wear those have feet like this too. The most striking trait is the gap between the big toe and second toe. Every shoeless person has this configuration. You can also see it on ancient statues that have feet. My big toe has no gap there. Second I noticed the pinkie toe isn't curled under and inward like mine. The other four toes just look well proportioned and aligned properly. But this is such an uncommon looking foot shape that it, like the VFF shoes, looks freaky. But that's just it. The Vibram's look like these feet. They are naturally shaped.
Here's another shot of someone that has not worn shoes. I'm sure all these people would be awesome at the lumberjack olympic game where you balance on a log in water. These people must be like Weebles.
And now for a shot of the modern foot. This is obviously an extreme case but I have all these traits in my foot. The crooked big toe and the rolling of the other toes under and inward. After seeing the other photos these look even more freaky to me now. But it's clear why this occurs. It occurs for the same reason that foot binding produces foot binded feet. Your feet conform to the shape of the footwear.
So my hope is that the Vibrams will help rectify or alleviate some of these problems. Time will tell. I probably won't be wearing these in public because I don't enjoy disturbed stares. But I will work out in them and probably keep them on in the house since they actively separate your toes.
As I said I've only worn them today but I have a few observations.
- They are incredibly difficult to put on. Precisely because my feet are "deformed". It doesn't take hours but it does take some real effort to guide your toes into the "fingers" of the shoe. Particularly my curled up sorry ass excuse of a pinkie toe. There are videos of people showing you how to get around some of the big problems in putting the shoe on. And most people say you get used to it and learn a technique that alleviates the time spent on this.
- They were a little uncomfortable initially when I tried them on. Your toes are not used to being surrounded by a fabric and I felt like it would irritate my skin after a while. Particularly down at the base of toes in between them. I'm sure I'll go through some teething pains.
- There's no cushion. This is part of the no shoes ethos. In particular there is no padding on the heel and no elevation as a result. Many people complain they have to learn how to run and walk in these types of shoes because them come down hard on their heels. You'll put yourself out of commission if you do that with these shoes. Luckily I run on the balls and toes of my feet so that hasn't been an issue.
- After wearing them in the house for 2 hours they felt fine. Good even. They do feel a little weird but that seems to pass with time.
- Finally, you get used to the shape. Even my daughter now wants a pair.
I'll update this post if I get any sort of drastic results over the course of the year.