Most people disregard them as just another trendy 'must have' item, which nobody thinks they need. There was some recent controversy causing the maker of 'Vibrams - Five Finger' toe shoes to fork out some money for embellishing some health benefits of wearing the shoes. This story affirmed in all the skeptics minds that they were right.. Their loss..
It was a hot summer morning in Vancouver. Marie and I were on a week long trip exploring the city, by foot, as we gave up trying to figure out the bus routes.
Passing by a store with a few pairs of Five Fingers sitting in the window, I was eager to find out how much $ they were soaking out of people for these crazy looking foot-gloves, and what exactly they were for.
The guy in the shop was really informative and explained the idea was born out of the need for non-slip, yet natural feeling footwear for sailing and other water sports. He explained the design allows your foot to flex as it would with bare feet, but the thick rubber sole will prevent uneven surfaces from hurting your foot.
They have a variety of different sole thicknesses, you basically have a choice to sacrifice a bit of flexibility for support. We chose the pair with the second thickest sole. They also come in an insane array of sizes, each size up is only like 1/16 of an inch, so you can really find the perfect fit. (and to my surprise they were only $100)
Wearing these shoes feels amazing, just like you are barefooted with a very slight amount of support. When you walk barefooted (or with these shoes) you take shorter steps, and you don't slam your heel down the same way as with shoes on, or it would hurt. The separate toe holes may look uncomfortable, but rather than traditional shoes which cram your toes together, they actually stretch your toes out wider, which feels great, and makes your foot work the way it's supposed to. (humans didn't evolve to jam their feet in Nike Airs) So it's a much healthier way of walking for your joints and feet. Vibram made claims about these shoes 'correcting' bad form, which I think they probably do to a certain degree, if you wear them enough. However courts decided they didn't have the facts to back up these claims.
The guy at the shop told us to just walk a little bit at a time over a few days to get used to using the muscles differently. So naturally we wore them AAALL DAY totaling around 20km.. Marie walked immediately out the door and into some dog poo.
The down side? Picture yourself walking down the sidewalk in bare feet.. your soles get pretty sore pretty quickly. Needless to say we wore our boring shoes the next day, and our hammies and calves were a little worse for wear..
Since then we often wear them as water shoes, or when we want something a little more supportive than sandals. I've wore them on hikes up to the Bugaboos and up to the summit of a 'mountain' in Czech Republic, I was basically in tears by the end of both, hardly able to take another step. So they definitely have their specific uses. If you are a jogger, these would be perfect..