Apr 17, 2009 | 25 comments »
The origins of "toe shoes" — the original "barefoot shoe"
Five Fingers were the brainchild of Italian designer Robert Fliri. Fliri first had the concept of a foot glove with articulated toes — what are now colloquially referred to as "barefoot shoes," "minimalist shoes," or "toe shoes" — back in 1999. Fliri had been spending a good deal of time outdoors in the mountains of Italy, periodically taking off his shoes. It was from these experiences that he conceptualized toe shoes, remarking that, "We have five toes: when they can move and grasp the ground independently, and when you can really sense the surface under your feet, your body is able to do what it is designed for by nature. That is a powerful feeling."
Fliri was making a simple case: if feet evolved to experience the world "naked," why are we strapping heavily cushioned, "high-heeled" marshmallow shoes like Nikes onto our feet in order to walk around "safely" or without hurting ourselves? Did [Mother Nature | God | Evolution | insert your higher power here] churn out a foot that was broken by design? Surely not!
Despite the almost obvious power of toe shoes — foot gloves that let feet function and feel similarly to how they would barefoot, Robert Fliri's toe shoe concept languished until a fortuitous meeting with Marco Bramani, the grandson of Vitale Bramani. Vitale Bramani is the founder of the Italian company Vibram (pronounced "Vee-brum"). As the legend goes, Bramani believed that "Five Fingers" (So named because the Italian word for "fingers" is the same as that for "toes") might make a novel choice of footwear for use on sailboats or in other activities that required greater ground-feel. Sometime in the early 2000s (perhaps 2004?), Bramani brought Fliri into his grandfather's company to develop the world's first toe shoes.