Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Questionable Footwear

The real title of this post should be Questionable Questions About Footwear. I got a pair of Vibram Five-Finger shoes for Christmas and I've been astounded at the questions people ask about them and the notions they have. So, here's a little Q/A primer for my new shoes.

By far the most frequently asked question has been, What if you step on a nail (or a hypodermic needle)?

The sole (see photo) is a hard(ish) rubber that serves to protect the bottom of my feet to a large extent. However, I will acknowledge that such an action could land you in the emergency room for a tetanus shot (or give you hepatitis C). The preventive action I take is to avoid wearing them when I cruise a junkyard (or a crackhouse).

Another question I've been asked multiple times is Do you wear them to the gym? What if you drop a weight on your foot?"

My answers to these questions have so far been questions themselves -- Have you EVER done that? Do the shoes you currently work out in provide protection against a 50-pound dumbbell landing on your foot? I do, in fact, wear them to the gym. I love them on the elliptical machine. And to answer the second question quasi-seriously, one of the first things I was told when I worked out with a trainer more than ten years ago was, If you can't put it down, you can't pick it up. I've never forgotten that.

I was also asked (only once, but I loved it so I'm including it), What if someone drops a knife on your foot?

This question was posed by my boss when I inquired about wearing them at work. I honestly have no answer for this question -- except to encourage him to do a better job pre-screening potential employees if he is routinely having knives hurled at him.

One person asked, Can you wear them outside?

I found this question particularly disturbing because I wasn't in my house when I was asked this. So, umm, yes. And again, they have a hard rubber sole. They are not slippers. (I've since been asked this question again, but it was when I was in my house so I gave him a pass.)

Do They Get Wet?

Well, they don't magically repel water. This inquiry might have just been a poorly worded way of asking if they are waterproof. No, they are not. But neither are any of the other shoes I own, so that wasn't something I gave any consideration to when I chose them.

Another one that gets asked quite often is, Doesn't having something between your toes feel weird?

This is probably the least odd question anyone has asked, but still. If you've ever worn flip flops you know what if feels like to have something between your toes. It strikes me as odd only because I've never heard people endorsing mittens over gloves because it feels weird to have something between their fingers. The improved balance and sure-footedness exponentially make up for the 2.5 minutes it took for me to get accustomed to the different feel.

Ironically (and I think this is actual irony), the one question no one has asked me is, Don't you stub your toe a lot?

Yes, in fact I do now stub my toe more often -- three times since I got the shoes the day after Christmas. Fortunately, the vibram sole extends to the front of each toe so it is much less painful when it happens; and, thus far at least, no damage has been done to either the shoe or my toe.

Finally, I love these shoes. They are actually more comfortable to me than walking barefoot. And they have helped reduce the pain in my foot from an 8 out of 10 to about a 3 out of 10. You can mock them all you want. They're beautiful to me.


  1. Well, you know how I love shoes...and while I refuse to succumb to UGGS, I have found these intriguing. So, I feel officially educated!
    (Still undecided on buying them, but still...)

  2. It could be worse, you could be wearing Crocs. Now, my question is - what is the point of the separated toes? How does it improve balance?

  3. Interesting. I've seen people wear them, but never gave much thought to balance; even though I should know better. I do question the part about you stubbing your toe more often. I believe it's that you notice it more.