Adrienne So's "Barefoot Nation"
Adrienne So over at Willamette Week Online has published a new article titled Barefoot Nation. It's primarily about the barefoot running movement, but also talks about Chris McDougall's upcoming book and lobs out a couple of solid critiques of Nike (As well as Nike's "barefoot" tennis shoe, the Nike Free).
Though the article is primarily about running, it also gives a shout-out to FiveFingers. Here's Adrienne talking about her VFFs:
I can?t stop laughing.
The salesman at REI looks at me skeptically, as if he and everyone he knows already own shoes that make them look like they have Muppet feet. But come on. These are ridiculous. These Vibram Five Fingers ?barefoot? running shoes look like dorky rubber toe socks. It takes 10 minutes to sort my digits into each toe pocket.
Why am I puttering around in these crazy things? ...
Which brings me back to my peculiar footwear. I requested a pair of Five Fingers to try out a few weeks ago, and started wearing them to run errands in the afternoons. I can already feel the difference (and I?ve been getting a lot of thumbs-up in the street, too). I strike the ground with my fleshy forefoot as I instinctively try to lessen the impact on my bony heels. Even when carrying groceries, my steps are lighter and more delicate.
After a week of barefooting in the afternoons, I took my show into the backyard. The dog looked at me curiously as I ran through a few drills?grapevines, ladders and three sets of two-legged and one-legged hops. After five minutes, I kicked off the shoes and wriggled my liberated tootsies in the grass. The afternoon sun felt good on my shoulders, and the breeze smelled like honeysuckle.
Isn't that a common experience? It is with me. Workouts in my "birthday shoes" become more like play when my feet have the freedom to do as they please.
Once Adrienne gets some more VFF time in, I've no doubt she'll become a pro at putting them on quickly. These days, I'm able to put my Classics on without using my hands! The KSOs have become much easier to put on as well (Yay for velcro!).
Here's a nice quote from Chris McDougall making a fairly salient critique of the Nike Free:
?The problem with the Free is that it allows a kind of running that?s not like barefoot running,? McDougall says. ?It has a heel, arch support, padding. If you try to run in a Free, you?re going to run like you?re in running shoes. With bare feet, you can?t overstride ... and you can?t overtrain. Your feet will be tender.? ...
I couldn't agree more. Thanks for the great article! It's always encouraging to see more and more barefoot (and effectively barefoot) awareness, whether it's running specific or otherwise.
Finally, I'll include my comment about the article, which should show up over at wweek.com soon (I hope!):
Nice write-up. The barefooting movement isn't limited to just running. Whether it's traditional weight lifting (even Olympic lifting), kettlebells, CrossFit, hiking, kayaking, ultimate frisbee, grocery shopping, or just going for a walk, you'll find barefooting enthusiasts.
It seems the greatest deterrent to going barefoot is not only that the world has become concrete, hard, trashed, and dangerous to our exposed skin, but that it's also culturally unacceptable to not wear shoes, despite it being completely legal to be barefoot in public places in all 50 states (and even driving).
This is why fivefingers are a great product: they provide just enough protection from the sharp and dangerous concrete jungle while still being shoe-like enough to pass as weird-looking, but socially acceptable -- even cool.
Fivefingers are so enthusiastically endorsed by wearers (I have two pairs) that I founded a fivefingers fan site for people to talk about sizing, fit, uses, etc. (You can find the site at birthday shoes dot com - just google birthday shoes -- forgive the plug, but the site is a budding and fun community!).
One gripe I have with the authorities is their skepticism about going barefoot (or effectively so as with five fingers):
"Mainstream docs are not convinced of the benefits of bare feet, either. 'There?s been increasing interest in the past five years, but not a lot of conclusive studies [on barefoot training],' stresses Colin Hoobler"
What a funny statement. Why do we need conclusive studies to tell us that being barefoot is acceptable? Human feet were engineered by blind evolutionary trial and error to be unshod! We need more trials and studies to tell us something that nature provides instinctively? I'd recommend Colin observe a toddler walking barefoot -- it's midfoot first.
Having said that, since most of us have lived the majority of our lives engaging in any sort of activity in more conventional footwear, foot atrophy is to be expected, which is to say that some level of rehabilitation is to be expected. So take it easy, and ease into dumping your arch support (The most powerful arch support, of course, is that which comes from the arches in your feet!).
Anyway, great article!