Five semi-judgmental but personally valid reasons to avoid Vibram Fivefingers.
So I’ve been talking a little bit about my recent dabbling with minimalism – how my barefoot miles on the track infield cause my hamstring pain to evaporate and how I’d consequently like to incorporate more mileage with less shoe.
Along these lines, several different people have suggested I invest in Vibram Fivefingers.
My first encounter with a VFF proponent was at my gym back in Atlanta, where a guy told me that he had recently changed his religious views on Facebook to Vibram Fivefingers because he loved them that much. I’d normally take this opportunity to poke a bit of fun at him for that, but I think my religious views section currently says something equally asinine like “hill repeats.”
Wait, let me check.
I’ve listened and nodded along to the gushing reviews of the close-to-barefoot experience that VFFs allegedly facilitate (and have noticed that most VFF proponents seem to be either strength-training gym types or lower mileage runners who claim that my non-dainty rhinoceros-like frame would be A-OK churning out my customary 50-60ish MPW in Vibrams), but my gut response flies directly in the face of the “don’t knock it ‘til you try it” adage:
For activities other than running? Sure, I can definitely see that. But for actual long-distance running?
Heck to the no!
I have a few reasons I’ll be staying far away from Vibram Fivefingers for running, and some of them may be more valid/less vapid than others:
1. I do not want to look like I just crawled out of a swamp on the outskirts of a Woodstock revival festival while I am running. This footwear simply does not appeal to my vain side. I see the occasional Vibram Fivefingers wearer slapping down the street and I gasp at the biological anomaly presented, which appears to be the half-baked nautical spawn of a SCUBA diver and a commune-raised hippie. Not that I have anything against SCUBA divers or hippies. It’s just that I’m 23, too worried about what others think, and too concerned about the genuine likelihood of alarming nearby small children to be caught running down the road in Vibram Fivefingers under circumstances that don’t involve being dressed up as Swamp Thing on October 31st.
2. Toe separation makes me queasy. There was a period back in middle school where toe socks randomly became all the rage. I received a few pairs for my birthday or Christmas gifts or something. I desperately wanted to wear and enjoy my toe socks like my friends did, but I secretly hated them. Today, I do not secretly hate toe socks. I openly hate toe socks! My toes don’t want to be in separate rooms. They like to hang out with one another, shoot the breeze, and make bets on who will be next to lose a toenail (…the second toe always wins).
Which is another mystifying feature of the Vibram Fivefingers: If VFFs are so much closer to earth and in tune with the body and “natural!,” then why do they insist on jailing all ten of my toes in smothered isolation units? They obviously aren’t separated when I’m barefoot…
3. Speaking of toes, what do you do in the winter? I’m trying to imagine a situation where even the most hardcore VFF running devotee would actually opt for his Vibrams when the temperature is 13 degrees Fahrenheit and there’s snow slicking the trails. The aforementioned isolated toes would freeze to death within a few kilometers. Apparently VFFs are only for climates where thick woolen socks are never necessary in order to enjoy the outdoors for more than 10 minutes at a time. Lame.
4. Speaking of toes (again), Vibram Fivefingers might not… work… with mine. Because I have Morton’s toes. Yes, those weird, spindly long second toes. Control your gag reflex, because Wikipedia says that the Statue of Liberty has them too, and that back in the day they were associated with royalty. I’ve always hoped I was secretly a princess.
Do you have Morton’s toes? Or the more common second-toe-is-shorter-than-the-big-toe situation?
The point is, VFFs do not appear to accommodate for my goofy Morton’s toes. And come on, kids, my second toenails are already perpetually black or falling off. I don’t need a toe-separating shoe that makes my long second toes feel even more self-conscious about themselves next to their cutesy normal-length peers.
5. $100.00 to run semi-barefoot. While wearing the minimalist running brethren of equally controversial Crocs and Uggs. With my toes separated. And freezing. And, in the case of the Morton’s toe, locked into too small of a space. Unless someone wants to give me a complimentary pair of VFFs to test out, sticker shock alone means I’ll settle for laps around a grassy field to get my true barefoot fix. If I become overwhelmed by a desire to run in something originally created to be a deck shoe, I’ll check out the water slippers at Wal-mart.
Anyway, I ended up getting Nike Frees with a less drastic heel-toe drop and more flexibility than my standard Air Pegasus, but still enough padding and protection that I know I’ve got a shoe on and don’t have to worry too much about my royally delicate high arches getting pummeled by rocks and roots, as I would if I were actually barefoot.
Say what you will about the controversial Nike Frees (‘cause lord knows I spent this whole post hatin’ on Vibram Fivefingers and I’ve never even given them a chance), but I’ve been enjoying alternating them in for some of my mileage so far. The hamstring pain dissolves with them (while the muscular nagging returns when I re-don my Pegasus), so the Frees are giving me what I wanted. The challenge now will be to resist the temptation to run too much in them too soon.
Vibram Fivefingers: what’s your take? Legitimate minimalist running footwear, or weird fad with little long-term value for the medium-to-high-mileage runner? As with anything worth debating, I’m guessing it’s a bit of both.