Pros and cons of training shoes/five fingers Barefoot transition shoe

When you first take your shoe off to try a bit of barefooting you need to appreciate that your foot is probably operating at something under 10% of it’s full function. It’s dumbed down and numbed down. It just won’t work if you think just taking off your shoe is it. Do what you usually do in your trainers and it’ll be so uncomfortable and painful you’ll give up. You are going to need to ease-up, lighten up, loosen up and generally think up as you as you creatively discover hidden and often forsaken areas of your foot and get ‘em working in new ways.

You are, having to tune into your whole body, your feet in particular. It’s going to mean being really thoughtful about how your foot goes down and how it comes up off the ground. Pain is the gift nobody wants but it’ll be a good guide. Keep the “How much do I really need question” in mind. And as you get a bit more creative and confident the interesting question as to just how much shoe you need around your foot, will open up.

Really it’s just an eye-blink of evolutionary time that we’ve been wearing shoes. Never in the few thousand years of shoe wearing has there ever been such an opportunity to create shoes that go with the foot and not against it. The basic problem is that we start with a crippled foot that can’t fully function as we would want it to , and we want to transition to something that encourages or even enhances natural foot function. If we create a demand for it, then modern materials and a bit of design flair could combine to create a barefoot transition shoe. Ideally this involves a design that allows you to take off and put back-on key bits of the shoe. As you get deeper into the “How much shoe do I really need” question such a barefoot transition shoe would make allowances for the fact that, until things strengthen up and rehabilitate you might need a bit of arch support, extra cushioning etc. Adding and taking bits off, also allows you to easily match the shoe to different terrains.

There are various ancient problems with shoes. The most basic one is: how do you get it to stick on your foot. The Austrian Ice-man revealed that the “rope ‘em on” solution (that you still have in your shoe-laces) is a very ancient solution. A modern design like the 5 Fingers improves massively on an ancient problem: By snugly fitting each individual toe in a web of light elastine material you do away with the obvious restriction of the rope-it-on solution and it fits like the glove on your hand –no ropes. They’re not easy to put-on but even that is a useful learning curve. A major part of the problem is the crippling effect of shoe wearing on the toes, which get bunched and scrunched. As the toes learn to straighten out then getting into the 5 Fingers is breeze! They have a great big plus in helping the toes and the key knuckle joint in your foot to open out and spread.

An ultra-light version of the 5 Fingers- a kind of first cross between the 5 finger sock and the 5 finger shoe would make a great base layer, the innermost “second skin’ that other parts of the barefoot transition shoe could fit onto. Any engineers and designers out there who’d like to have a go at this challenge?

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