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Eric “Five Fingers” Schneider

vibram5fingers

Every so often you come across a product that exceeds all your expectations and makes you want to tell everyone how awesome it is. To qualify for such a prestigious honor, the product must be perfect (for you) in both form and function. It must meet every single advertised claim plus add some unforeseen value to either your life or the lives of others. The item cannot be something you received as a gift even if you specifically asked for it, because part of the ownership experience is the sense of pride you feel to have had the wherewithal, savvy, and foresight to have purchased the item in the first place. I might even go as far as to say you should also have paid full retail price for it, because buying it on sale reduces the risk of disappointment should it turn out to be less than you hoped it would be. You need to be 100% committed to this product from the get-go in order to feel the full force of the joy it gives back. This is such a rare occurrence, I can’t think of any other product I currently own that lives up to such high accolades. In fact, the last time I felt like this was when they came out with extra small condoms!

So what is it that has me all a hootin’ and a hollerin’? Well, I’m assuming you’re not a complete moron and that you’ve read the title already, and know what it is. For the less observant, it’s my new, super-fantastic Vibram Five Fingers barefoot shoes!!! Here they are in all their footy glory.

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Wait! Don’t go anywhere! Lemme splain! These shoes are, hands down, the best things I ever put on my feet! But enough hype… let’s get down to the meat and potatoes! Or should I say feet and my-ten-toes?!?! HA! I crack myself up.

I discovered Vibram Five Fingers while searching the Internet for shoes to wear when I do my yoga video. I’d find myself sliding all over the carpet if I tried to do it barefoot. I could get better traction with my running shoes, but they just felt too bulky for yoga. So, I did an image search for “yoga shoes” and there they were. Like many of you, I said, “What the fuck are those things?!?!”

A few clicks later, I ended up at the Vibram Five Fingers website where I learned about the potential benefits of barefoot living. They claim that being barefoot stimulates the muscles in your feet and lower legs, and will not only make you stronger and healthier, but also improve your balance, agility and proprioception. (I have no clue what that last word means, and I’m not even going to bother looking it up.) They also suggest that being barefoot helps align the spine and improve posture. I have lower back pain, and If I didn’t know any better, I’d say I have at least one distant relative who used to live in a bell tower, so they had my attention.

Vibram makes a few different Five Finger styles for all types of activities from Yoga to running to hiking. Aside from a very thin rubber sole to protect your feets from abrasions and road debris, they are as close as you can get to being barefoot. There’s no arch support, no cushioning, and no stabilizing ankle support. All the features you would expect to find in any athletic shoe are nowhere to be found. So how then can they possibly be comfy? How can you run long distances in them? And how do you not cut your feet on pointy or sharp things? I don’t know how, but they are, you can, and if you don’t walk on glass or nails, you don’t.

I didn’t purchase a pair right away. In my mind, I was still skeptical and saw them as more of a novelty than a viable option. At best, they’d be limited to yoga duty and would never see the light of day. With a price point between $80 and $100 bucks, I wasn’t in any hurry to snag a pair either. After a few more frustrating yoga sessions, however, I found myself back on the Internet trying to justify the purchase.

I read some independent reviews and almost all of them mentioned reduced joint and knee pain when running. This was a huge selling point since I have one bad knee, and one worse knee. It was also the additional motivation I needed to go try on a pair.

I headed over to my local REI and tried on the three models they had in stock starting with the cheapest. The first two, the Classic and the Sprint, did not really impress. The Classic, which has no straps, felt like they would fall off during any type of exercise, and the strap on the Sprint cut into my foot. Other than the uncomfortable strap, however, I really liked how the shoe felt. Then, I tried on the KSO’s and it was like my feet finally found their sole-mates. I wore them out of the store that day and haven’t taken them off since (other than to go to sleep and to wash them). Yes you have to wash them, because you don’t wear socks with them, and they can start to smell after a week or two of heavy exercise and all-day wear.

After a little over three weeks of use, I have greatly improved my yoga skills, and I can honestly say that my knees and back feel noticeably better during high impact exercise. I’m not going to pretend these shoes have healed me (praise Jesus), but when you live in pain all the time, any improvement is huge. I really believe they’re helping me build up the supporting muscles that surround my problem areas and alleviate the pressure in those places. But who knows… that can be complete bullshit and just the incremental improvements from my exercise program. All I know is physically, I feel better than I have in a really long time, and my new podiatric pals seem to be part of the reason.

I already bought a second pair.

Feel free to share your personal experience with a super spectacular life changing product.

3 Comments

  1. Interesting as I didn’t know they helped with high-contact exercise. I might look into them but I’m sure the “kev looks like a douche in them” would be rather high. Mind you, this is coming from someone who has no problem going out in public in Crocs.

  2. Eric Schneider

    Yeah I was a late Croc adopter. Wore them for several years as my primary shoes, but I pitched them for these. Here’s the catch… you have to have perfect feet to fit in them (which I have). The length of your toes have to descend from big toe to pinkie toe. You can’t have a mutant longer second toe or overlapping toes. As far as feeling douchey for wearing them: I’m very anti-peacocking, and before I actually put them on, I dreaded all the attention I might attract just wearing them out of the house. All that went away the second I put them on my feet. I think if you avoid other douche accessories like bandannas, sunglasses mounted on the back of your head, popped collars, skull themed small t-shirts, decorative belt buckles, and spray-on tans, you can get away with it.

    Other than co-workers, I’ve only had two comments from strangers: the homeless guy in front of Circle K (but he was actually sitting on the floor), and some dude at Subway. The shoes are well worth those two awkward conversations. 😛

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