A Marriage Made In Heaven: When Flip Flops Meet Aqua Socks
As far back as I can remember, I have always been the queen of barefoot. Shoes have remained optional in my life, resorting to them only when they are absolutely necessary and required. That was until I saw these foot protecting oddities at my local shoe store. Undeniably, it was love at first sight. It was as if flip flops had met aqua socks, fell in love and had a shoe baby named Vibram Five Fingers. Finally, the gods had descended upon me and presented me with the golden shoes (albeit mine were pink) I had searched for all of my life and placed them on my feet. Not only did they look different, but surprisingly, they provided a great benefit to my feet while continuing to allow me to remain the queen of barefoot.
I am proud to say I have been the owner of these shoes for a few years now. I bought them because unlike the traditional rounded toe of an ordinary shoe, they actually had toes that you stick your own little piggy’s in (they referred to them as “five fingers”) and they looked like feet. Outside of the secretly curious looks, occasional grins and giggles, and incredulous glares I have noticed from onlookers when I am wearing them, these shoes have definitely proven to be quite the conversation starter. Some of the comments I have received in regards to these shoes are:
“What the hell are those things?”
“Are those gorilla shoes?”
“How do they feel?”
But my favorite comment has been: “You look like you traded shoes with a homeless man.”
Most people who have spotted them on my feet have either fallen firmly into the “love” or “hate” camp, while the jury remains out for others. While I get that people are disturbed by the look of these five finger foot protecting oddities, much like when people first laid eyes on the 1975 AMC Pacer, hammer pants, and Z-coils, aesthetics are clearly not the only reason I wear them. Understanding that this is as close as possible (in lieu of going barefoot) to letting the human body do its thing while walking, running, or climbing is the only understanding necessary to use them. Besides, there are far more disturbing things (spandex, sagging pants, and the man bun come to mind) to worry about than seeing the delicate outline of people’s toes. Initially I bought these shoes because they were different and no one else I knew had them. Yet they have proven to be so much more than even I could have imagined. What made these shoes so unique (outside of their looks) compared to other modern running shoes, both traditional and minimalist, is that your toes were free to move naturally. You not only have a slender, responsive sole that lets you feel the ground beneath you, but you also have the use of your toes. What a novel concept, right? Compared to my Nike Free TR’s and New Balance Minimus, the Vibram’s allowed my foot to move as it is naturally designed to, and not the way it has done inside these shoes. Where most running shoes squeeze your toes together, narrow your foot’s contact with the ground, and reduce surface contact, Vibram Five Fingers allow you to spread your toes and increase surface contact, translating into better balance, agility, and body control. The sole is incredibly responsive and provides an unbelievable sure footedness whether I am on hikes through Cameron Park with my dog, tubing in New Braunfels, or just taking a casual walk in Indian Springs Park. The control and flexibility that you experience is amazing and unparalleled to any minimalist running shoe.
Vibram Five Fingers provide the best of both worlds: the physiological benefits of going barefoot with the advantage of having a shield of protection against the elements. Not only do I not have to worry about stubbing my toe, or bruising my foot on sharp objects, or burning the bottoms of my feet on the hot pavement, but I no longer have to fret over the damage that wearing my traditional running shoes could invariably do to my feet, ankles,