The Barefoot Shoe Fad

In the last few years, I've started to see more and more people wearing gorilla shoes--you know, those foot glove things that have a slot for each toe.  First, there was a guy at the park jogging, and then I saw another person wearing them at the grocery store, of all places.  I wasn't the only one doing a double take.  Let's face it, they look pretty funny.  

Here's a photo of a popular variety of gorilla shoes, barefoot shoes, or whatever you want to call them: the Vibram Five Fingers.  

Gorilla Shoes

They Might Look Ridiculous, But They Sure Are Comfortable!
Since I was seeing these gorilla shoes all over town, I thought it would be fun to take a trip to the store and check them out for myself.  I found them in the running shoe department and learned all about the philosophy of barefoot running from the store attendant, along with all the benefits of barefoot running.  In a nutshell, the pitch went something like this: 

  • We were born with the equipment we need to walk and run, naturally.
  • Traditional shoes alter our natural running technique and promote a heel strike, which can be jarring to joints.
  • Wearing barefoot running shoes encourages a more natural running style.  
  • Our bodies can be trained to run completely barefoot, but it takes time for our sensitive foot soles to handle the terrain.  
  • "Barefoot shoes," or "gorilla shoes" as they are sometimes called, allows one to achieve the barefoot running style while still protecting the soles of the foot. 

So, I asked to try the goofy looking shoes on.  After seven or eight full minutes of struggling to get my toes into the individual slots,  I was walking around the store in the same pair of Vibram Five Fingers that you see above (Nike also has a variety of gorilla shoes).  I found myself wiggling my toes and jogging on the balls of my feet.  The salesman was right about the lack of heel striking.  After a few minutes, I was sold.  The difficulty of getting them on has (thankfully) subsided since that initial attempt.  

If you are thinking about running barefoot, I suggest reading How to Start Barefoot Running.  You might also enjoy learning more about the barefoot running benefits and the risks of barefoot running.  Finally, if you happen to use an iPhone when you run, be sure to read about my pick for the best iPhone running app.

Now that I am a member of the gorilla shoe crew, I can tell you first-hand that they are as comfortable to wear as they are strange to look at.