My first exposure to Vibrams, lets call them “toe shoes” from this point on, was in Israel with one of my close friends at the time. I will not say his name because as far as I know he is still an active member of the black ops community. Though he was younger than me to this day I still say he is one of the most forward thinking people when it comes to physical fitness and health that I have ever met. He used to complain that the trainers in his unit didn’t even know what they were talking about. Chances are that he was right, but he would still do what he was told and grumble under his breath.
One day he showed up wearing a pair of toe shoes. I had heard about them previously and was very curious. He had decided to try them after reading the book, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. Long story short the book talks about a particular native American tribe that are some of the best long distance runners in the world and they run bare foot. I don’t know about you but running distance can be brutal on the feet, knees and well let’s face it the rest of your body. After looking into it further the idea came up that modern shoes do not allow our body to function the way they were designed too.
With modern shoes that have thick soles on them it allows a person to comfortable land on their heels every time they take a stride. This negates the entire joint system that is the ankle. It takes the force of impact and sends it right up to the knee which absorbs the full force of the impact. This technique is called heel striking and was promoted for many years. I am sure many of you remember being told to run heel toe heel toe.
Lets just think for a second, why would we have developed a flexible ankle and large foot if we were meant to land heavily on our heels? Part of the idea of the foot is to act like a snowshoe and disperse both weight and impact so as to reduce the force we exert on the ground.
Toe shoes are a minimalist approach to let the body function as it was meant to. The ankle and foot should act as a like a spring or shock absorber to take some of the impact off of the knee and the rest of the body.
For you Krav Maga practitioners out there, which SHOULD be most of you reading this think of how we throw our punches. When we throw a one two punch we start rotating our feet and ankles and then knees and then hips. This is exactly the same principle. I martial artists have figured this out why has it taken so long for the shoe manufacturers to pick up on this as well. Why did I chose to write about toe shoes? Its simple several months ago I finally got my own pair and decided to try them out. I promised to some people I would write a review and let them know what I thought. Let me just say,
Once you go toe shoe you don’t go back.
These are by far the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn in my life. I love them so much so I wish they also made dress shoe versions to spare me from the awkward looks I get from people when I wear them with nice pants. But then again, I never much cared what people thought of me so, I do it anyways. Though you can get toe socks I personally have chosen to wear them without socks. I just like the closeness that I get without socks as it feels like I have armored feet.
An example of how comfortable they are:
While I was putting in the many hours into building our new gym and office I spent some days in work boots and some days in toe shoes. After 10 hours in work boots of moving, lifting painting etc and basically being on my feet all day in work boots, my feet and back were killing me. On another day doing basically doing the same thing, this time wearing toe shoes I was fine.
This is by no means a scientific approach and is nothing more than anecdotal but I highly suspect if someone were to do something similar in a study they would have similar findings.
On another note, I noticed that since wearing these shoes my ability to control people using my feet in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has improved. I suspect it is because I am now forced to use my toes when walking and they have become stronger. Again, not science but I am highly suspect that this is true.
The only real disadvantage I have seen so far is that by choosing to not wear socks there is the obvious smell issues. It took about 2-3 weeks for the new show smell to be over powered by my odorous feet it still did not stop me from wearing them. My solution is to simple wash them more frequently (They are machine washable) and to put the magic that is Gold Bond powder on a daily basis into the shoes.
Yes they look silly and yes they are not totally accepted yet but I say why the hell not. I think this is what people should be wearing, bare foot worked for us for thousands of years and now that we can make such shoes I say we let us walk the way nature intended us to, but with a little protections.
I highly recommend that all of you at least try a pair of toe shoes. At the very least they are excellent for practicing martial arts. The more of you that give them a try the more likely I am to get my dream of having a pair made for dress purposes.
” So I say get over yourself and give them a try. “
Written By: Jonathan F