Army Says No to Toe Shoes

The U.S. Army has officially, unequivocally banned the use of toe shoes. Read the relevant part of the ALARACT and weep: “Only those shoes that accomodate all five toes in one compartment are authorized for wear. Those shoes that feature five separate,…

The U.S. Army has officially, unequivocally banned the use of toe shoes. Read the relevant part of the ALARACT and weep: “Only those shoes that accomodate all five toes in one compartment are authorized for wear. Those shoes that feature five separate, individual compartments for the toes, detract from a professional military image and are prohibited for wear with the IPFU [Improved Physical Fitness Uniform] or when conducting physical training in military formation.”

We had posted before about the Army banning Vibram FiveFingers but there was some debate (nearly 100 comments on that post) about the veracity of our report. Hard to argue with this release as it makes the Army’s thoughts on minimalist running shoes pretty clear — there can be only one compartment to rule them all*.

This is unfortunate for so many reasons. I can’t help but remember this recent photo from a Special Forces exercise where we see a soldier jumping from a plane in KSO FiveFingers:

A U.S. Army soldier with the 10th Special Forces Group and his military working dog jump off the ramp of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment during water training over the Gulf of Mexico. Tech Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez/

What do you make of the Army’s ban of toe shoes Right? Wrong? Let’s hear it in the comments below!

Here’s the official (all caps, sorry) All Army Activities (ALARACT) release:

ALARACT 239/2011
DTG: R 231424Z JUN 11

  3. HQDA POC FOR UNIFORM WEAR POLICY IS SGM JAMES A. MCGRUDER, [email protected] , DSN 664-0620, (703) 604-0620.

Hat tip to Running Jackalope (read his thoughts on the ALARACT here) and Bobby for the notes on this issue!

* That’s my Lord of the Rings meets the Highlander summary of the issue, anyway.

By Justin

Justin Owings is a deadlifting dad of three, working from Atlanta. When he's not chasing his three kids around, you'll find him trying to understand systems, risk, and human behavior.

74 replies on “Army Says No to Toe Shoes”

Yet another reason I’m glad I retired. Body types aren’t uniform. Sneakers aren’t uniform. Have you ever seen a chunky senior NCO or officer poured into the IPFU? Who cares what their shoes look like… just sayin’

When I was in, the Army also did not allow some of the newer combat boots that wore more like tennis shoes comfort-wise but were as durable as regular combat boots. Special Forces got to were them though. I can guarantee that SF will still be wearing their FiveFingers. The is the regular military and then there is SOCOM. They kind of do their own thing. They used to be really opposed to anything deemed “faddish” and I am betting some crusty, old leaders that are out of touch with reality felt that is what the FFs were.

What is the point of an improved fitness uniform if one does not improve anything. Yes the fabric may change a little, but the ability to allow a runner to wear what makes them feel comfortable is an improvement. Secondly military image during PT sessions, really, as long as one is doing the required work and is completing it. What does it matter? There is no civilian on base going, “Wow what a horrible image for the Army. A fit guy wearing 5 toed shoes while he runs..”. Not the overweight SGT or SSGT walking around the track.

Looking professional in many places means looking like everyone else. Finger shoes definitely make you stand out. Uniformity is very important in the military for reasons of discipline and group cohesiveness. I think they made the right call banning them. Maybe in the future when finger shoes are more popular and don’t make you look so individualistic, they’ll lift the ban.

To be honest, when I first read the headline I thought they banned it for safety and operational reasons. I don’t think anyone can argue that finger shoes are lighter and more fragile than regular military boots. It’s far easier breaking a toe with finger shoes than with regular shoes. Also finger shoes are not made for crawling and other combat scenarios.

This is really too bad. I’d think that you’d want your soldiers to do whatever keeps them healthy and fit, but it sounds like whoever made this decision is more interested in form than function. At least it seems that other minimalist shoes are still Ok.

I think Dallas found the fundamental difference between what we refer to as “Big Army” and the SOF (Special Operations Forces) soldier you see doing the helocast in the picture. Big Army IS concerned with how they look during PT. It’s not necessarily effective all the time, but it does keep soldiers in line who might otherwise where pink basketball shoes to 5 mile runs. That being said, they always have a difficult time separating the wheat from the chaffe on this particular issue. In the absence of knowing what to do, you default to what you know; some of these older Sergeants Major know only about uniformity. That being said, the SOF soldier is likely to ALWAYS blow off the rules if it doesn’t make the mission go boom because honestly, if all we worried about was uniformity, we would miss out on many a great tool.

Ludicrous. They aren’t allowing them because of the “image” they project? Oh, come on! If they cited safety reasons (risk of injury, for example, even though I’m in disagreement) I’d be more understanding but this is just stupid.

They’ve been banned in Navy Command Fitness since September of 2011, but only in the form of a little PRP E-Gram….guess we’ll be seeing that NAVADMIN shortly….but reading the Army’s instruction, if you have less than five toes you are good to go…or heaven forbid, those awful Filas only have 4 not 5 pockets making them authorized as well. Boo.

Being in the Navy I have to point out that numerous uniformed members are transitioning to five fingers far too fast and injuring themselves. I can’t even count the times I’ve seen sailors heel striking in five fingers. I’m sure this is in response to an increase in injuries. I know my command has seen a few stress fractures which are costly to deal with.

I was in the Army. This does not really appear to be directed at the concept of minimalist running, rather the appearance of the VFFs. It’s about what the “powers that be” perceive as “professional” looking. There is no list of approved running shoes, rather you are to wear running shoes to training, ie you couldn’t wear sandals or boots. The VFFs draw attention and that’s the driver behind this. I think you’d be completely fine wearing any of the minimalist shoes with a toe-box. I doubt anyone would even notice unless they happen to be current on running trends and interested in minimalist running. There’s not sneaker inspection.

I’m a Sergeant Major with over 31 years of service stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The ban is while in physical training uniform. I agree it is a short-sighted policy, but it only stops you from wearing them during organized PT. There’s nothing stopping the serious runner from using them during their own training sessions in their own (more comfortable) running gear. One thing I find really amusing is the ban on racing flats, etc. How many commanders even know the difference between a flat or other shoe with minimalist features and a “regular” running shoe. Are they going to quiz me on the amount of heel-to-toe drop on my pair of Brooks Green Silence? If they did, it wouldn’t matter anyways, as they didn’t publish a minimal acceptable drop as part of their criteria.

All I can say is: ignorance, ignorance. Had they taken the time to find out the purpose behind those shoes and opened their minds a little bit, soldiers would still train in VFF’s.

@Ryan: the injury argument would hold more water if they were banning all minimalist shoes. Since this is only directed at “toe shoes,” it’s pretty clear that it’s about appearance, not health.

Don’t really think it matters anymore. There are more and more single toe pocket minimalist shoes out there how. If it were me, I’d grab a pair of Merrell Trail Gloves.

As someone sitting in an Army office, I’m getting a kick out of these replies.

Luckily, I’m a contractor and can wear my Trek Sports every Friday!

I received this email at work, today. It’s very sad. I was active duty for a couple years and currently work full time for the KY National Guard.

I became a FiveFingers convert on my last deployment to Afghanistan. I ran the Army ten miler shadow run at Bagram. I went from out of shape to in shape within a few months. My feet and knees became pain-free for the first time since basic training.

When I had my wife ship a pair, there was only one civilian that had a pair. By the time I left, over half my company worked out in them. Gyms were full of free feet. Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Marines, and contractors were wearing them all over the place.

I had lieutenant colonel stop me and ask about them. At first, I was a bit worried, but then he wanted to know where he could get a pair. He wanted every detail, down to the brand and pricing of my Injinjis.

I threw my last pair of tennis shoes away in Uzbekistan on my way home last June. This regulation update will force me to add some more traditional-looking shoes to my closet. I’m gonna try some Trailgloves, I believe.

Stagnation. Not changing for the purpose of not changing. It is antithetical to the idea of defense in a rapidly changing world. But that’s the U.S. military for you. Pathetic.

Its sad that “image” is still what matters most in the military & that their are still “warriors” (I use that term very loosely) who support what is obviously a severe expression of insecurity on the part of certain careerist in the various branches. Maybe, those said leaders should focus on building real WARRIORS who have the intellectual ability to put pride & ego aside in assessing their own physical abilities in transitioning to their chosen footwear. I am glad I got out & this is yet another negative mark towards enlisting. It is truly sad that we have leaders who put ego over reading academic journals & expect them to win a war…

It’s easy to claim “ignorance, ignorance,” but REALLY?

The Army isn’t banning minimalist shoes, or saying minimalism is bad. This is progress for them, honestly. They are embracing the possibilities of minimalist shoes, but don’t want the more unconventional look of Vibrams. All they’re doing here is going for more uniformity and a professional look by mandating more conventional, singular toe compartment. This is not entirely shocking.

There are many minimalist options between new Merrells, racing flats, water shoes, Somnio NADA, etc. Other branches, including my own (Air Force) currently allow Vibrams, and I hope that remains the case. But I am perfectly happy running in a pair of ultralight racing flats, and I’m sure that while it’s an inconvenience to those currently in the Army and wearing VFFs, that they will find other alternatives for minimalism.

Bottom line: we’re in the MILITARY. We follow the rules that we are given, and live by an entirely different set of regulations than the civilian population. It’s sometimes hard for outsiders to understand, but it’s just life. It’s what we signed up to do. Improvise, adapt, overcome.

Soldiers will still train in VFFs. They just have to do it outside of organized, uniformed PT, that’s all. Again: inconvenience. Life changer? Hardly.

Typical Army, they must know the rules. They just call it “uniformity” and “discipline”. These people are not allowed to make any decisions on their own when at work, period. That is just the way it is for them. I live in an army town and all my relatives are army or work for the army, so I am not saying this in a bad way, it’s just the way they are forced to operate. If you were on fire they could not put you out without an order….really. So this development is not surprising at all, it was inevitable. The smart ones will just go to single toe box barefoot functioning shoes and no one will know the difference.

I am a First Sergeant with 20 Years in the Army. I have been wearing VFF for over a year and a half now. I’ve done two marathons and one ultra wearing them. I racked up over 600 miles last year in VFF, to include unit PT. Am I sad about this? Yes. Do I think It’s short sighted? Yes. But VFFs are not the only minimalist shoes on the market. To come to the conclusion that the ban on VFF is an attempt to ban minimalist shoes is also short sighted. So I got a new pair of Merrell True Gloves, and now I’m wearing minimalist shoes that are in accordance with regulation. Will I continue to wear VFF off Duty? Yes! Will I continue to spread the word of the benifit of minimalist shoes? Every chance I get!

Well AF and CavPathfinder sort of stole my thunder. I guess this doesn’t bother me as much since I got the Merrel Trail Glove and New Balance Minimus Trail for organized PT specifically since I didn’t believe VFFs were allowed in the first place because of their fadishness and how you don’t wear socks with them. I remember back when I was in the Marine Corps, one of the guys in my platoon got chewed out for not wearing socks with regular shoes and was told that socks were a part of the uniform. I love my Merrels though and I wear them even when I can wear VFFs at times. They are great for the area I run in which has lots of rocks, uneven terrain, grass, and weeds. Besides, organized PT is only an hour, and if you include warm-up and cool down it is even shorter. So I end up PTing a lot on my own and running in the evenings just to get some really good distance, which if you are all about running and doing it in VFFs, you probably do it a lot on your own. Besides, it is the same reason you can’t do “boots and uts runs” like I did in the Marines or walk around the motor pool with your blouse off (the uniformity and profesisonal appearance). Just another thing, it is very consistent with the Army.

Plus, the Army has in a way acknowledged the benefits of minimal shoes and it looks like it may fully authorize them in the future. If you look at MMD1 and MMD2 in the new PRT program, the goal of them is to improve running form and it includes much more forefoot striking than normal running.

As for the SF guy in the picture, he is a SF combat diver. When they dive, they usally don’t wear boots, they usually wear running shoes from my understanding, so it isn’t all that different. He isn’t wearing them to combat to be all sneaking, they are just better for the water (just my running in the rain and puddles has shown me that). Just my two cents.

Sorry, one other thing came to mind. I’m sure that there are some barefoot purists that actually run barefoot, which aren’t allowed to do that either. If someone started pushing for pure barefoot running, I’m sure that there would be fewer objections to the ban, so it is all the same.

I finished reading that article on the Army website and I love it. I think it is a great article. Makes a lot of sense and some of the guys I work with need to read it. They say I’m hurting my body and doing damage to my knees by running so much. I tried explaining how the impact on the knees is much less, but I’m sure they would take it better from a doctor. Funny enough we are at Fort Sill, so we could actually meet with the people.

I’ve gotten away with wearing my VFFs for nearly two years and, honestly, that’s a lot longer than I thought I would.

I always wear mine with Injinji socks, so I had the shoes and socks parts covered.

The Army has come a long way with recognizing that there are better ways to operate and conduct business. I remember when I had to hide my Camelbak under my uniform because it was unauthorized and good eye protection was unauthorized because they had logos. Now, they are standard issue.

On my last deployment I was issued Danner Combat Hiking Boots. The Army recognized that soldiers wearing standard issue boots were prone to foot and ankle injuries so they turned to the civilian world for a solution.

It sucks that I have to go buy some new shoes, but my latest pair of KSOs are about worn out, anyway…

I think Josh brings up some salient points here, some of which I tried to capture in my post on the issue.

The ban is simply in PT uniform (which admittedly extends beyond that, such as soft shoe profiles, etc) and there is at least an admission that there are alternatives, which means that someone did at least SOME research.

I also agree that as much as I love my VFF’s, most PT instructors (normally the nearest SSG) aren’t equipped to help a soldier transition downward and as many of us have discovered, transitioning can be painful if not done correctly.

So while I don’t like overarching BANS and prefer unit commander discretion, I think there are some positives and this isn’t something borne out of complete stupidity.

Education –
Proper running form is key to injury free longevity. The General in charge of the Division I am in understands the minimalist trend and the importance of proper form. He also understands that the average Soldier does not. Many Soldiers will want to wear the VFF for the sole purpose of “to be different”. Not to improve their form. He has mandated that in order to wear minimalist shoes, you must attend specific training taught by the physical therapy clinic. I had already transitioned from heel strike to mid/forefoot strike a year earlier (an unexpectedly long and painful transition), but I attended the training anyway. The class had nothing to do with what you put on your feet, but everything to do with good form. I endorse this wholeheartedly. You can easily image a heel striker throwing on a pair of VFF and trying to do three – five miles. That Soldier would sustain serious injury in a matter of minutes. Not good for combat readiness.
In fact I wish they not only taught but enforced good running form in basic training. As a former Drill Sergeant I taught kids how to do push-ups, sit-ups, and every other exercise they did. But I never taught them how to run. I wish I knew then what I know now.
Now, as my unit’s “certified” running form evaluator; I teach classes on good form. I’m kind of like the hallway monitor for minimalist shoes. You can’t wear them unless you’ve had my class. And even though I really, really like VFF, I never act like a sells rep. All I concern myself with is good, injury free form.
Change –
Believe it or not; there was a time when you couldn’t wear ankle socks, now they’re common. There was a time when wearing a camelbak was not authorized, now they’re often mandatory. Wearing a pair of Oakley M frames (M stands for military by the way) was against regulation, now they’re issued and you’re expected to wear them whenever outdoors while deployed.
The military is constantly evolving, but change takes time in the military. 10 years from now, someone else will be in charge and this will be no big deal. At least the seed has been planted with the acceptance of the minimalist shoes. In the mean time I will set a good example for my Soldiers, and wear minimalist shoes within regulation while on duty. And wear my VFF while off duty.

Something for Army Nick:

The Air Force JUST actually hosted a barefoot running clinic out at one of the bases. A USAF Reserves Lt Col and medical consultant for the AF Marathon conducted the clinic. He’s a huge proponent of barefoot running, training, and minimalism. There are rumors of that clinic being filtered down through the rest of the AF, so we’ll see. Hopefully it’ll happen, and hopefully the other services might take note.

I am one of those barefoot purists. I really only run in shoes now for PT tests and the occasional organized PT session. So about 90% of my running is done completely barefoot and I love it. Do I expect to be able to run barefoot in PT gear? Nope. But at least having it recognized as a viable training tool feels great and validates what I do.

Were you out at the 25th Infantry Division? If so, I spoke with the gentleman that runs that minimalist running clinic. He was incredibly helpful when I inquired about establishing a similar program at my base. Huge wealth of information and it’s really great to see that sort of class being offered.

I love my VFFs, but I kinda get how some people may view them as unprofessional. Also in training I kinda see scenarios where VFFs could be a hindrance, VFFs doesn’t always offer the best protection and take getting used to but you cna use them anywhere without issue. Its easier for the Army just to ban them outright. They are plenty of other minimal shoes that offer the same feel, and benefits.

Was ready for this. Agree totally with the other posts about some Joes wearing them purely for the “look”. I still wear them for running and the gym while in civilian PTs, and Green Silences or Mizuno Waves in Army PTs. The VFFs have gotten me into the minimalistic running shoes, running sub 14 minute APFT as a 45 yr old all thanks to VFFs.

This is dumb.

Who can run longer?
A soldier with healthy feet or one with damaged toes and ruined arches?

I have read the article about the retired soldier, whose feet were ruined by army boots and who can now run happily in vibrams after years.

So something must be wrong.
and there must be a popularity among soldiers to wear vffs.

so instead of banning them the Army should do everything to keep the feet of their soldiers healthy.
but apparently they did not get it?

[quote]Those shoes that feature five separate, individual compartments for the toes, detract from a professional military image [/quote]

no they don’t.
as the military uses the LATEST technolgy there is nothing wrong with it.

With VFFs I can run pain free for hours.
Could be usefull in some situations.

oh well
during my internship I was very happy to kick off my work boots.
so vivbrams are ideal for the feet after wearing combat boots.

who cares?
I’d rather see healty soldiers tht can run, than soldiers with ruined knees and feed that are foreced to retire.


Until the Army bans dipping in uniform, I don’t take anything it says about “professionalism” seriously.

Its a pretty stupid policy to ban the use of gear for training because it looks funny.

If a piece of equipment can give our military personnel better protection or an advantage in training they should be allowed to use it; end of story. In particular I weigh the comments from one of the military personnel who uses the shoes for training and states that it reduces the risk of various forms of injury. Having our military men and women be fit for duty is of greater importance (and should be given greater weight) than whether the shoes they wear look ‘weird.’

Goes to show: that ‘Good Ole Boy’ mentality still runs the military. They are so old in their opinion that they cannot think past 1965.

They are missing out of some of the most beneficial shoes I have every had on my feet.

Too bad for our Soldiers.

The army cares more about how their soldiers look than the health of their soldiers. Is anyone really surprised?

I have a good friend whose primary goal in life is to be different, no matter how inane that looks. So it goes without saying that he loves his VFF’s– so much so, he bought me a pair for my birthday. However, he has also had two temporarily-debilitating foot injuries in the last 7 months while wearing them (around town/in the park). I think the army made the right decision.

I’m not as fond of them as he is.

If you want strength, you have it in numbers. Correct?! If you want uniformity make 5 fingers, UNIFORM standard issue. -They certainly could intimidate the enemy when faced with 25 soldiers charging them in Toe Shoes!

I had a 1SG (granted, it was an SF Group) tell us “I don’t give a f*&k what you wear on your feet as long as you can do the work.” He was actually referencing our sock length i.e. not over the ankle, but it applies here. Who does an in-ranks inspection at PT?

I just got a pair of Five Fingers and love them. Yes, they do look a bit funny, but they feel great and get the job done. I could understand if the shoes were a safety issue, but for the issue of looks? That is just dumb. I understand that conformity has its place in the military, but I thought utility and improved performance would override looks.

Just curious, do they allow crocs? flip flops? open toes sandals?…. it doesn’t sound discriminatory – just issuing a statement regarding uniforms. If you wear them on your own time, then they don’t care. You know when you sign up that you don’t get to make your own decisions. This is just another one of those decisions you don’t get to make.

Im glad they finally banned them. Now all we need is the other branches to follow suit. They look stupid and it isn’t the shoe that makes the runner. So all those out there that swear by them, grow up and start to run outside of PT like everyone else.

What’s next?

The Army should ban gloves because of their appearance too. I only want to see mittens and single toe compartments from now on because it’s unprofessional.

CavPathfinder and I have served together in the past. He is right on all counts. There are some here (Comment from hiii) that are short sighted. Hiii’s statement “it isn’t the shoe that makes the runner” shows he has no clue what the shoes are supposed to do. That’s just it, there are no gimmicks or excess in running with VFFs. Your argument just doesn’t pass the litmus test. Traditional running shoes are the gimmick. See- air, gel, abzorb, adiprene… to name just a few of the big ones. Where is the solid science that backs their gimmicks up? Oh wait, there is none. It’s truly a multi-billion dollar industry that has made our soft feet come to rely on them. Now we suffer from all types of poor form rooted injuries.

Anyway, the first thing that I said to my peers is “So… this makes you look un-professional but being fat doesn’t? What about all these Joes rocking basketball shoes in formation? The regulation says running shoes. Also, the ipod at the gym looks un-professional and doesn’t help a runner in any way (other than motivation) and they are allowed.”

Bottom line, CavPathfinder and I probably won’t see this change till we are both already or about to retire. We need runner’s education on form on our side. Sergeant Major of the Army Chandler seems like a common sense guy. He got rid of that stupid beret! I just don’t think he knows yet that the minimalist movement isn’t a fad. We came full circle from all the crap that big companies market in their shoes and now we have something to compare it to. Less is more in this circumstance.

Why doesn’t Vibram make a shoe that has the five digits inside but has a non-functional “cover” that looks like a sneaker? Like Sanuk makes shoes that are sandals inside, but look like leather dress shoes so people can wear them to work? Seems like there is a market for people who want to wear FiveFingers all the time, but they need to look “normal” for their jobs/careers.

My knees have been in horible shape for years. I’ve been on a walking profile for four years now because of it. I had done some research on the new Sketchers hoping it would help me walk. Poditrists and orthopedics have written the truth and ripped to shreds the advertisements after research. Then I read about the VFF’s. I bought a pair to try out walking. Honestly walking hasn’t improved much, but then I started to run in them.
WOW, what a ifference. Almost instantly I was running on my toes instead of my heels. I ran two miles with no pain for the first time in years.
Although the Air Force makes us wear socks, I’ll wear them as long as I can. I’m back to running instead of walking, and almost enjoying it.
I have people in my unit that wear Bright-Loud shoes that no one says anything about. If I wear my black VFF’s you have to be up close to even notice they have toes. I just don’t understand this ban. As long as it improves the members health and ability to perform, it should be allowed. Just my opinion.

I’m a CFL (command fitness leader) for my reserve unit. I WISH I could use my VFFs during the PFA, and hope we too can eventually evolve. My Merrell’s are doing just fine (for the time being).

I know it will involve a revamp in training – I myself am recovering from TOPF after going cold-turkey from regular footwear 4 weeks ago. Discouraged? Heck no. It just proves that we must be smart about how the usage is implemented. If we allow usage during PT, then we need to begin training very early on to new recruits to prevent injury. I don’t think we’re quite ready yet, so for now it’s on your own time/dime. NAVADMINS will catch up…. eventually…

Well I think it’s ill moral, just as the above comments state, but it’s all about the American image? You cannot be serious because about 65% of america is out of shape and some of that “army” training are just sometimes insane. I see it from both sides. The VVFs aren’t mean for combat, minus personal sparring, kata, etc., but this shows that ingnorance is truly a bliss.


Umm…”immoral?” Okay.

The Army believes VFFs don’t look professional. That’s the Army’s call to make, the Soldier’s job to follow. We can all sit here and moan how unfair it is, or we can all move on. Bottom line, the Army is NOT banning minimalist footwear. There IS life outside of VFFs, people. Other perfectly good options exist.




Get ahold of yourselves people. This is not the end of the world. The ban is not on all that you hold sacred, unless your shoes are sacred to you.

The Army is so small, this won’t even show up as a loss on Vibram’s financial report.

Besides, the MINIMALIST shoes I bought to wear in uniform, yeah the soles of those shoes are made by Vibram too.

I love my VFF’s and have worn them for ~2 years now.

I agree with the Army’s stance, however. I’m a believer in that you train in the same way you work, compete or for live combat. Details are important, even down to the boots.

I’m unclear on their organized training sessions, I advocate all organized training should be in uniform, using the same equipment for all individuals. Perhaps the rub for some, is that this is not enforced and anyone can wear whatever shoe they prefer; save VFF’s.

Personally, I would not combat train in them, even for obstacle course work. Risk of toe injury is too high.

Individual workouts, different story. I don’t believe those are restricted.

For clarification, though I’m not Army, the reg states that VFFs can’t be used during organized PT. A few folks have posted about field (combat) training in them….that’s not what the Army’s talking about. This is just relating to organzied, group workout sessions at the gym, track, etc. The services all have a physical training (PT) uniform to wear during group PT sessions. The Army is banning VFFs while in PT gear. Personal use outside of group PT is obviously fine when not in PT uniform.

So the Army banned the VFF in formation and with IPFU. So? I just left a large gym on an Army installation and there were no less than 5 Soldiers in there working out on their time, still wearing them. Which is what I be is happening at every Army base. The issue is not appearance, or image. The issue is lack of information and resistance to change. The database for traditional running shoes is huge. 30 years of evidence and trial. Remember it took the army forever to ban running in the old leather leg boot. Wonder how many careers those ended? If the VFF continues to be popular and the body of evidence proves the less injury, better performance claim, eventually the Army will change.

Sometimes I just hate the Army…currently I’m deployed in Afghanistan and I got cursed out fot my Five Finger shoes. I showed him the memo from my commandor. I was in regs, I had socks on. Then he tells me that the memo is no longer any good cause they changed the rules. So I googled it and they sure did. The issue that I have with it is I was in a motorcycle accident and was on profile for a while. When I got off of the profile it I was told by a Doctor that these shoes would help when I run. Just to tell you off jump I’m not a runner, but these shoes I would recommend to anyone I even told my mom to get a pair of them. After taking an APFT and training in these shoes my run time is better then before I was injuried. But after being in the military for as long as I have, 8 yrs, I know those with power will do what they want when they want.

Right now I’m attacted to SOCOM unit, and they pretty much do what they want uniform wise. But to those out there there are other shoes that have the same effect: new balance and merrell.

As for the 1SG that posted; is it correct to make a rule because you are uninformed. That’s like saying you don’t know what the effect of Gatorade or other sports drinks does so you can’t drink it. I am just upset because I feel like an O-5 doc in physical therapy should know what he’s talking about. Just another $100 or so I have to spend on a new pair of shoes…I just wish I hadn’t bought my second pair last month, cause I have to be able to keep up with they guys in Special Ops lol.

I’m an Army officer temporarily away from my unit for school, where everyone has been sure to share the new message with me since they know I love my VFFs.

While the appearance-based ban was no surprise, I think it would make a little more sense to limit wearing all minimalist shoes during organized physical training sessions. Sure, we publish a training schedule, and yes, the new Physical Readiness Training (PRT) program lays out each workout down to the specific exercises and number of repetitions. But how many times have we arrived at that early morning formation and found the workout has been changed?

That might not be a problem for some of the experienced (and senior) folks on this thread – but the minimalist newbie who isn’t ready for a long run, or for repeated jumping around and lateral movements (Conditioning Drill 3, for you PRT-converts), could end up really getting hurt. I have seen this happen to fellow Soldiers, and I’m ashamed to admit I’ve been a victim of it, myself. In general, formation workouts are probably not the place for minimalist shoes, at least not without some extensive education for leaders who determine both workouts and uniform modifications.

I will be interested to see what further guidance comes out. Just reading this thread suggests there’s more research to be done. With the new PRT’s emphasis on form in calisthenics, I can only hope the Army’s already ahead of us on studying footwear and running form, as well.

Major Victoria Campbell
Staff Group 33D
U.S. Army Command and General Staff College
Redstone Arsenal Satellite Campus

Quit whining and get off your lazy 4th point of contact and perform / train.

I never saw such a sorry bunch of whiners crying about gear and making excuses rather than doing.

I know for a Fact the Air Force hasn’t banned them yet.. i think the rule is you have to wear the toe socks when you take your annual PT test though.. anyways.. to me, its not the banning of the shoes.. i love my VFFs.. i think the PT tests need to be changed across the board.. big deal, fit to fight.. if im getting shot at the last thing on my mind is how many pushups i can do or how fast i can run 2 miles… just sayin….

Just funny that the organization with the “Army of One” ad campaign a couple of years ago (how’d that work out for ya?) is now all het up about conformity. Just sayin’ …..

I knew this was comming, but I wasn’t sure when. The Army says “it doesn’t look professional” and that “your toes must be in one compartment”. When will this ridiculousness end?

First and foremost, I’ve been wearing the Army Combat Uniform which took over the Battle Dress Uniform in 2005 and I can tell you that there is absolutely NOTHING professional looking about it. For some reason the U.S. Army see’s fit to have you wear it anywhere and everywhere because they think it’s a marketing strategy. Retards. The last time I checked, you aren’t supposed to look “pretty” and “professional” when you are destroying yourself on the pavement. Whatever. Some fat, lazy, loser who never does any type of physical fitness training due to his heavy rank probably made this decision. I think I’ll just take the a$$ chewing and continue to wear my VFF Bikilas. F@cK um.

Eh, typical for the army. Sooner or later VFFs will become more mainstream and acceptable. Just takes time. Was the same thing for Oakley’s when I was in.

I enlisted in the Army in March of 2009 and was discharged less than 4 months later for stress fractures in both of my knees and ankles.

I’ve never been much of a runner but I was on the track team in high school (I graduated in 2006)and not exactly out of shape. I went to twice weekly PT with my recruiter and was in decent shape before I left.

The first full day of processing included getting our running shoes and boots. For those of you that aren’t aware of how they fit you now, you basically go stand on a Dr. Scholl’s machine that you’d find in Wal-Mart. After reading your feet the machine prints out your foot profile and the shoe/boot suggestions.

My company would only allow alternate running shoes if they were accompanied by a doctor’s note allowing them. Since my training was OSUT, many of my buddies weren’t allowed to buy newer, more stylish shoes until near the end of our training.

I understand why the Army would ban VFF’s, I mean there are plenty of minimalist shoes that work just as well with out the toe pockets. However, I think that if they want to ban VFF’s for not looking professional then they should also ban the brightly colored running shoes/sneakers/basketball shoes that so many of my battle buddies “upgraded” to from the uniform running shoes we were issued.

I tried on my first pair of VFF’s yesterday and I could feel a huge difference between the Chuck Taylor’s I had been wearing and the VFF’s. I didn’t have to run in them or wear them for very long before coming to the conclusion that I needed a pair.

It’s hard to say whether or not my Army issued running shoes caused my stress fractures or if it was my running form. In high school we were taught to run as heel strikers. I’m hoping that by transitioning to VFF’s and other minimalist footwear I can strengthen my legs and improve my run time so I can re-enlist. I also hope that in due time VFF’s become widely accepted not only in the military, but in other workplaces as well.

Its good to see the Army continuing its long saga of ignorance and poor knee-jerk decision making. Having just got out last June after 12 years, I can honestly tell everyone that it feels as if a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I no longer get out of bed in the morning worrying what stupid officer decision is going to guide my life that day.
Anyways, on to the topic at hand. Too bad the policy making old codgers in the Army (most GO’s are what, 45-50-ish?) ignored the reports by actual DOCTORS about the health benefits of minimalist or barefoot running, not to mention the tidal wave movement among the civilian running demographic.
Instead, for no other reason than to quash soldier’s free will, they make up some B.S. about “detracting from a professional Army image”.
How about all them lard-ass NCO’s who wear XL IFPU’s that still look like spandex? How is that not detracting from a professional Army image? I know, lets all give them a free 12 months after violating AR 600-9 to float on the Overweight Program before anyone bothers to take any action?
How about all them druggies and alchies who, according to new army policy, must be mandated a “second chance” via the ADAPC program before the Army bothers considering administrative seperation of this human trash?
I have been an avid VFF runner only for the last 6 months, and yeah, there was a little stiffness and achilles pain to begin with, while I was “re-training” my body to be stronger and carry the load it was designed to by God and nature. I run in Komodo Sports at least every other day, and wear the Trek LS in normal clothes the rest of the time.
My calves are bigger and more shapely (yeah I am a guy but stick-thin legs are a nasty weight-lifter stereotype), my ankles and feet are stronger, and believe it or not my feet sweat ALOT less now (think gloves vs. mittens for you northern folk), which I know is something anyone who has worn army boots for a rotation or two can appreciate.
This kind of mindless “make up a policy against something simply because a desk-jockey GO doesnt personally like it” as on my list of 365 reasons to GTFO of the military, and I feel sorry for all the men and women still in uniform who’s otherwise more enriched lives are stunted because of this.

I don’t agree with the policy, but I’m fine with it. There are plenty of alternatives that still give the same benefits and are in regs. I like to use Merrell Barefoot Trails or New Balance Minimus Trails for PT. I already took it as a given that Five Fingers weren’t authorized in uniform. Since there are plenty of alternatives, I don’t think of it as that big of an issue. Five Fingers are just one type of minimal shoes. Besides, there is nothing that prevents you from running in them on your own. I run in my Five Fingers all the time on my own. There is nothing that prevents them for personal use on post or for personal workouts, just not in the Army uniform.

Ever since I got my first transition shoe (a Nike Free Run+) a year ago, I haven’t had any issues and I’ve been without injury. I’ve got in much better shape and have lost weight. Prior to it I was getting shin splints regularly and was slow, but before I gained the weight, I had no issues in regular shoes. I might occasionally get a shin splint or something like that, but now it is fine. I think that if you run in regular shoes and don’t have issues, it is perfectly fine and it is just the individual.

I agree that there are many people in the Army that ruin the image far more than Five Fingers, but that is changing now with the downsize. I think those that are over weight will be pushed out much quicker and easier now.

So let me ask all of you guys a question. I am 34 years old civilian considering enlisting. I have been running for 15 years. I have extremely flat feet. I switched to minimal footwear over 6 years ago due to shin splints etc. Ever since I switched I haven’t had one injury what so ever. So my question is this. I enlist and go to boot camp and they tell me what kind of shoe I have to buy by looking at my non existent arches which will be a motion control shoe then I have no choice but to wear those to run in? I will Totaly be injured with shin splints immediately. Can I bring something like my brooks pure flow, nike free or even new balance minimus to wear instead? Due to my foot type I am supposed to be in a motion control shoe but all they do is cause me injury. This really bothers me about going to basic. Can someone help me out here? Thanks in advance

I am on this mailing list and the Vivo Barefoot mailing list. They just pointed out the newly released article by Dr. Lieberman of Harvard on his scientific study comparing injury rates for rear-foot strikers and fore-foot strikers. Great article. Hopefully we can get the Army to change its “mind” on this issue.

I am fed up with NCOs who have nothing better to do than find something to nitpick. I really could care less about this regulation changing, seeing how it wasn’t in effect when I deployed (and went into effect while I was).

I went 8+ months with no hassle wearing my VFFs (a lot of it was after the release) and I get griped out by some Active Duty 1SG during the middle of my powerlifting (5×5 routine). I decide to go at a different time instead of complying with his “complaint” (wasn’t an order) or the reg. Later I ran into one of his soldiers who he apparently griped to about it. He got semi-heated on the subject, but I let it slide (rock, paper, rank).

In all technicality, a TAN t-shirt is not part of the IPFU and it is only authorized in my RC when “the turnaround for laundry exceeds 3days”. We have 24hour laundry, have had it for months, and less than a day turnaround. 4/5 of the guys in the gym were in tan T-shirts and untucked (along with mine).


If anything he should have brought up the lack of proper uniform, but he’d be a hypocrite and have a hayday telling 15 other guys the same spiel. The shoes weren’t out of reg. for the uniform, because I lacked the proper uniform! I have tendon damage and pain in my big toe from a 240B crate smashing it. VFF has been the only reason I continue performing PT on my own (OKNG aviation *discourages PT)

Time to get a profile and join the fatbodies. Thanks a lot, ARMY.

[email protected] is the contact for this policy apparently, I hope more people send him a lovely (yet professional) letter.

Yes, they are looking for uniformity. But if you allow the structural barefoot running shoes that have no toe pockets, you arent get5ting the full benefit. Toe shoes were made to make your entire body correct itself. Running with a heel strike sends shocks into your entire body that (overtime) will damage every bone that is involved. Whereas, toe shoes allow your feet to align properly, and force you to run on the balls of your feet. Running on the balls of your feet absorb the impact of your body weight. All in all, toe shoes are the ultimate fitness trainer. They train your muscles the natural way and increase both versatilty and balance. my point is, why would you take away something that would train our boys even further, and allow them to do things they wouldn’t be able to otherwise?

I’m not sure if anyone addressed this or not (I read the first half of the comments, then skipped down to the comment box), but this may just be a growing pain toward adoption at a later date.

While going through AF tech school in 2001/2002, I saw many regulations written and later modified. I knew plenty of guys that wore Stealth Camelbacks under their BDUs… and then I was issued one once I got to my permanent duty station. I saw cellphone policy first dictate which cargo pocket it was acceptable to carry one in eventually turn into a ban. There were even debates over backpack straps; as sling-style single-strap bags were becoming more popular (sidenote: I picked up a sling-style one-strap bag from Goodwill not too long ago and found the lining was patterned with the official Army logo).

I am a bit of a devil’s advocate here. I can see both sides of the argument. I am more than willing to bet that somebody (not necessarily the DoD themselves) somewhere is testing VFFs for a military setting. Idk about other services and current issue, but all my issued boots utilized Vibram technology. The company has proven themselves time and again. Is it really all that far-fetched to imagine solid black or grey VFFs with minimal branding on a shelf of the uniform section at AAFES?

On another note, we all know how policy can take a 180 in the military. Who’d have ever thought that the marines would be denied the option of rolling up their sleeves? All it takes is one advocate with a high position to make a change.

That’s just my $.02

Marketing… whether pro or con “toe-shoes” is not logical thinking… what is right for seals, army, etc on a per mission basis varies. Human’s evolved to run barefooted… A man ran, and won, an Olympic marathon barefoot. Yet, he wasn’t in combat… Foot protection is paramount. Without functioning feet, you are”out-of-luck”-as is the army.

Like crocs on an escalator, toe shoes, comfortable or not, do have a down-side.

The comfort is absolutely unreal, its almost like walking bare footed, honestly if looks matter so much then maybe they should just buy them all camo pairs so that they will blend in!

I’m in the Army and in my off time I run barefoot or in VFFs. I recently purchased my first pair of New Balance Minimus Zero Trail shoes so that I could run minimalist while participating in Army PT. I have to say that I love these shoes, even more so than VFF’s, and over the past couple of weeks my VFF’s have sat in the closet neglected. If any Soldiers out there are looking for a great alternative to VFF’s until the big Army pulls their head out of their 4th point of contact I highly recommend taking a look at these.

I deal in running injuries and footwear. There are far more injuries from Vibram five fingers than there are runners who benefit from them.

The runner who runs injury free in a Vibram five finger will most likely run injury free in a quality running shoe with some sort of medial post. Maybe some will attribute a running injury to the shoe.

The runner who is constantly injured in a Vibram is basically combat ineffective. There are far more runners with metatarsal stress fractures from training in Vibrams than there are runners who have found benefits.

The Virbram five finger will help maybe 10% of the running community who try it. It will injure over 30% of the runners who try it to the point of being combat ineffective.

If you are a soldier, and you are not combat effective, then your are not really a soldier.

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