By Roger, Pure Matters

My father, Judge Roger Brown Sr., would always tell me as a young child (and well into my adult life) that when you feel unbalanced -- or when life feels unbalanced to you -- always “go back to the basics.” Well, it seems that the running and fitness worlds may have been unbalanced for years, because they have truly gone way back in terms of footwear. I’m talking specifically about the new craze that is “toe shoes.”

Back to Basics. In this case, I guess it’s something like barefoot throwback mode. Each individual toe fits in its own compartment, so the overall shape and fit of the shoe matches the natural contours of your feet. I got a pair this Father’s Day; a bright Carolina Blue with yellow piping, care of my 7-year-old athletic phenom (and trendsetter) of a son. He was so excited to give me this particular gift, he couldn’t keep the secret for very long!

On first impression, I was sold and ready to get on board. I was so excited to step in to my new way of life, I started wearing my new shoes the second I got them. Walking from the Justice Department, headed for Deep Creek Lake for a fun weekend away with my family, new gloves on my feet … yeah, maybe it felt a little bit strange, but I’d been eager for something new and cutting-edge and this definitely fit the bill.

Vibram FiveFingers shoes promote a number of health-related benefits, and as a trainer, one of those benefits in particular stands out for me: “when wearing Vibram Five Fingers, thousands of neurological receptors in the feet send valuable information to the brain, improving balance and agility.” It makes sense, right? Everything starts from the ground up, so why wouldn’t our brain function be affected at least in part by what we put on our feet?

Balance is crucial for any athlete, and especially so at higher levels of competition. Today’s training regimens are all geared toward core strength, balance, and stability. Vibram FiveFingers are designed specifically for this purpose, something regular running shoes are not. Over the years we have seen ample gimmicks thrown at us, including extra cushion, shox, gels, pumps, rocker bottoms … all have their upside, but do they really promote what aspiring athletes need for training on any level? In my opinion, they’ve only given us heartache and bad posture, troubled knees and ailing joints.

So here’s my final analysis, having worn the shoes, trained with them, and spent some time thinking about how they have affected my body and performance:

  • Being on my feet all day training clients and wearing regular running shoes, I often wake up the next day a little achy in my feet and lower leg area. After a few days of wearing Vibram FiveFingers at work, I feel great in the morning.
  • By running barefoot (or rather, pretty close to barefoot) and thereby lowering the heel, our body weight becomes evenly distributed across the footbed, promoting proper posture and spine alignment.
  • Strengthening muscles in the feet and lower legs will undoubtedly improve general foot health and reduce the risk of injury. This is covered by FiveFingers.
  • They look a little weird, but given the benefits, that's probably alright. 

What I’ll tell you is that if you do end up buying a pair, start your training slow; wear them for a couple of hours first (not doing any real physical activity) then do a light exercise with them on. This will help aid in the transition toward becoming balanced from your feet all the way up -- and anything else will surely result in injury. And remember: In the end they’re only shoes, and the real hard work and dedication will still have to come from you!

Source: Pure Matters