Five fingers damage five toes (and more)

feet-shoes-2Like many a long-time running aficionado, I was positively smitten by the Christopher McDougall book, ‘Born to Run.’

In short, it’s a tale of an isolated group of Mexican Indians who, wearing little more than sandals, routinely run 50 to 100 miles a day with little or no pain. To test these accomplishments, the author arranged for a group of world-class marathoners to compete with the Indian runners in a 100-mile desert competition. The Indians won, and the fad of shoeless running began.

A company called Vibram jumped on the marketing opportunity, created the world’s ugliest footgear ever, and called them Five-Fingers. As someone who had read the book and wanted to believe, I snatched up a pair, slipped my toes into the duck-like, rubbery, flat soled thingamajigs and took off on my regular, five-mile course.

Ouch. It was brutal. My feet felt every pebble, shard of glass and bump. Worse, within a mile or so, I felt definite pain in both calf muscles. Being a typical male, I suffered through the five mile run. But, I took off my Vibrams and never, ever wore them again.

Apparently, I’m not alone. Vibram’s is in the midst of multiple, class action law suits initiated by runners who say the company’s marketing claims about safer, longer running experiences are completely bogus. Many claim permanent injuries as a direct result of running in the shoes.

Having no evidence to prove the injured runners wrong, Vibram settled to the tune of $3.95 million. That’ll soothe a lot of aching feet, but won’t do much for the permanent injuries. Oh, and by the way, it’s one more example of a business promising one thing in its messaging while audiences experience something quite different when they try the product.

There’s an old saying that warns, “If something is too good to be true, it usually is.’ There’s another one which states, ‘Caveat emptor.’ And, then, of course, there’s the old bromide, ‘Don’t believe everything you read.’

I guess Vibram is the perfect storm of negative aphorisms.

So, tell me. Have any of you tried Vibram Five-Fingers? Are you still able to walk? Wax poetic, especially since you won’t need to use your battered toes to type.

Tip o’ Rep’s cap to Chris and Cat Cody for suggesting this post.

7 thoughts on “Five fingers damage five toes (and more)

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  2. The big thing no one tells you about running barefooot is that one needs to start doing so in childhood. To suddenly start in middle-age is suicidal. That’s what Vibram never warned people about.

    • Vibram makes good traditional shoe soles. This should be a lesson for them to stick (ahem) to that. I’d wear these for walking in the slippery muck when canoeing or kayaking, particularly somewhere like the Pine Barrens. Otherwise, sheer (pun 2) craziness.

  3. A boy at my gym wears them- but only inside in the gym, he wears normal sneakers when he works out outside. He says he likes to wear them indoors b/c they help him with his grip when he’s deadlifting but he tried running outside with them and had to stop.

  4. I tried to run just barefoot after reading that book years ago. Hurt like hell and gave it up, plus gave up the running. Did love the book though and was sorry to hear that the infamous “white ghost” perished b/c he never told anyone when or where he was running and died in a fall I think out in that Mexican area.

  5. Agreed. They’not bad at poolside. And, one still sees someone at the gym sporting a pair, but I have to believe the Vibram will be remebered as the Hula-Hoop of the running shoe industry.

  6. My feet went toe-to-toe with these things… and lost. They now serve as decent devices to wear while swimming near rocky and jagged shores.