My understanding is that walking or standing with your knees always bent overuses your quads, which can then lead to knee problems, which is one thing I'm assuming you don't want. Maybe you're confusing straightening the knees (okay) with hyperextending the knees (bad!). With the former, you still keep a slight micro-bend in the knee...it's barely noticeable but the joint has just a tiny bit more give to it. Whereas with hyperextension the joint is "locked" and a lot of strain is placed on the ligaments and other structures of the knee.
One way to tell whether you're overusing your quads - while standing, you should be able to lift and lower your knee caps at will by alternately contracting and relaxing your quads (if you get really good at it you can even do this in time to some music ). Also while standing, you should also be able to grab your quads with your hands and jiggle them back and forth. If you can't do either of these it means your quads are in a constant state of contraction, which is bad news for your knees and hips.
Now apparently it looks like I might have to order wides to keep that same fit but I am a bit nervous about it...I want to order a new pair of Dash's but am hesitant as being in Canada it can get pricey to ship back and forth.
Unfortunately I can't comment on the Dash's, but after wearing my new wide-width Merry Janes for a while now, they seem to fit exactly the same as my old regular-width Merry Janes. So, at least for styles that use that pattern, you're pretty safe. Maybe giving them a call would be the best bet.
And I totally understand about the shipping! I really love MEC's clothes (I actually have a 15-year-old set of long underwear from them that still look brand new) but only place an order about once a year because of the cost of shipping to the US.
VFFs are not exactly known for their consistent manufacturing, so no, you're not just imagining things. Even if the people in the store look at you like you're crazy, I'd say try on at least one more pair (if not more) of the same size if you're not happy with the way they fit! And that sounds like a BS excuse on the Vibram website. Soft Stars are also handmade but for the most part are made very precisely. I think it's just that Vibram uses cheap labor in China and doesn't have much in the way of quality control.
It is interesting, though, that your pinky toes are the ones being squished, as it seems more common for people to have too much space for this toe. Do you have extra long pinky toes? Are you sure you don't need one size up?
I love VFFs and other minimalist shoes for hiking. When I first started wearing them my feet would get a little sore on rocky trails but now I can wear them on any terrain for any length hike.
Sorry, can't attest to climbing though. It probably depends on the durability of the upper material (a lot of them are very thin fabric that would snag and rip pretty easily, at least on real rock...not sure about the gym holds). There's a style called the Trek that is now now discontinued, but would be a good option if you can find them on sale or used somewhere. Also, since the toes are separate, if you're standing on a really small hold I imagine most or all of your weight would be on your big toe, rather than distributed across the entire foot. Since you've been running barefoot for a long time maybe your feet are strong enough that this isn't an issue, but it sounds uncomfortable to me!
But yes, minimalist shoes in general are awesome and you should get a pair!
I know they changed, I'm just wondering why they made this decision. They don't say anything about width changes, either, which is annoying. The new regular-width Merry Janes that I ordered were nearly a 1/4" narrower than my old ones.
I have several pairs of their shoes, all in the same size and width, so when I ordered a new pair of Merry Janes recently I was shocked when they didn't fit. They were way too narrow and even a smidge shorter than my other pairs. They graciously exchanged them for a wide, which fit me, but when held sole-to-sole with my old regular-width pair they're still about a millimeter or two narrower!
Does anyone know why they're changing their sizing and fit, and is this the case with styles other than the Merry Jane? I can only assume that they're trying to cater to a larger market of people who don't like the look of a wide toe box, which is really disappointing! One of the things I like about this company is that in the past, at least, they have always put function first, so I'm sad to see that this philosophy might be changing.
Since softstar redid their sizing, I can't find a boot that would fit me (I wear their new size 14).
I know, I'm really disappointed by the change in sizing too! I just ordered a new pair of Merry Janes and had to exchange them for a wide. Even the wide pair is a millimeter or two narrower than my regular-width pair from a couple of years ago! They do fit, but I'm sad that they're going more mainstream and (presumably) trying to cater to people who expect shoes with a narrow, pointy toe box.
If you need something WARM I would check these out - http://www.mukluks.com/. They look awesome and I'd definitely get a pair if I didn't live in California (they'd be a bit overkill here). Though Razpberri, if you're upset by the price of the Lems boot you might not want to look at these.
I thought I'd go ahead and post an update - I finally went ahead and got a pair of the Sorel Cozy Pac boots now that the weather's starting to get a little bit cooler (the nights are downright "cold" in the 40's, ha ha). At 50% off, I think they're a great option for activities that could potentially ruin my more expensive Soft Star boots (eg, snow shoeing, walking through city slush or rain puddles, etc). While the sole does has pretty aggressive tread, they're really flexible and flat with the insole removed.
My main complaint is that they aren't quite wide or long enough (I tried the next size up and was swimming in them), and the sizing is weird. I usually wear a women's 9/EU40, and ended up with a women's 8, which is actually an EU40 for this style (the 9 was equivalent to EU41.5, according to the label). This may be due to the fact that I removed the RIDICULOUSLY thick insole - measuring about an inch high at the heel! - which probably altered the intended fit. To give some comparison, I comfortably wear Lems and regular width Soft Stars (though not much room to spare in either), and Merrells are way too narrow for me. The Sorels are definitely not as comfortable as my other shoes, but a reasonable option for times when I want a boot that I don't mind beating up.
Warmth-wise, I'm guessing they'll be good for my cold feet down into the 20s, which is about the lowest temps I'll be encountering. Due to the width issue, I can only wear thin wool socks with them. If you have narrower feet and can wear thick socks, you could probably use these in much lower temps.
Oh, and another, very expensive boot option that I found is these - http://www.mukluks.com/ They look awesome and if I lived in a truly cold climate I would make the investment without hesitation. Unfortunately, I think they're a bit excessive for NoCal.
I don't run all the much but I like to walk and hike on steep hills, and I've found that after a few minutes of silk reeling (a type of tai chi exercise) and jumping rope, I feel SO much better. If I drive to a hike and don't have a jump rope, I'll just skip up the trail for a minute or two (alternating facing to the front and to the sides), and afterward I feel like I have an entirely new, much looser body. I still love static stretching, but not as a warm up for aerobic exercise. That being said, the one exception is my calves - if I GENTLY stretch them beforehand it makes a big difference for some reason.
Because of the recession and the big markup profit possible on barefoot shoes I do wonder if there are some fakes or seconds for the Vivo barefoot shoes floating around now - just like the Vibrams, and in a few cases they may be making their way into shops? It is a worry.
Interesting idea...it seems entirely possible given the discrepancies seen here. Though I wonder, for the people who are happy with their shoes, what year did you purchase them? Maybe VBF has just gotten lazy or knows that people will pay a lot for them regardless of quality, so the figure why bother with quality control?
I'm completely unimpressed by the quality of the workmanship of their newer products...it seems to have gone downhill over the years. I got a pair of Kali's 3 years ago and have had to superglue a few places where the upper started to come away from the sole, but otherwise they're extremely comfortable, the leather is soft and durable, and I haven't had any other problems with them. On the other hand my husband got a pair of Dharma's about 8 months ago and they're kind of crap. I've had to glue at least as many areas on his as on mine despite the newer age, and the leather is stiff and rough and almost feels like a synthetic material. The one thing I have to say they got right is the sole - extremely thin and flexible, and apparently quite durable. Now if only they made the other parts of the shoe to the same standard, they might actually be worth the money. As it is, I don't feel right giving my money to them, and will stick with Soft Stars, Lunas and other companies that actually take pride in what they make.
Sorry, this isn't what you want to hear, but I would really go to some sort of medical professional, be it an MD, chiropractor, or whatever, if it doesn't start to improve soon. Even if the only treatment at the moment is rest and ice, I would want to know what's going on. At the very least, this knowledge might help prevent it from happening again in the future, and they might have other suggestions for things you can do at home (for instance, a chiropractor can do something as simple as taping to help with healing). Also, I'd question wearing the boot without explicitly being told that it's going to help. Did you have it before for the same type of injury? While you don't want to continually aggravate the area, some movement is needed to clear out the inflammatory junk and prevent excess scar tissue formation. And there's always the possibility that it IS something more serious.