Vibram Five Fingers are probably the closest thing you can get to running barefoot due to the unique way the toes are separated which allow for freedom of the toes to move independently. They are more like a second skin, just giving the foot some extra protection but not interfering with the natural mechanics of your foot. This is in contrast to the class of footwear we call ‘minimal footwear’, which have a thin flexible sole and wide toe box but still have the toes enclosed like a normal shoe.
At Inspired Physio we are big fans of minimal footwear, as long as they are worn by the right person and transitioned to in the correct way. But what about taking it that next step towards a barefoot shoe like the Vibram Five Fingers?
There are a few key points that need to be carefully considered before trying a barefoot running shoe and so we have devised a simple list below to help you work out if they are a good option for you and your circumstances:
- You are first very familiar and have been using a minimal shoe for at least a year. Examples of some minimal running shoes are Vivo’s/Altras/Topo Athletic/Xero shoes.
- You have not had any increase in injuries or worsening of current injuries since using minimal shoes.
- You regularly work on foot intrinsic muscle control and have exercises in your routine which are targeted towards foot, arch and ankle strength and stability.
- You regularly work on your glute and hip strength either in a gym setting or at home and understand how your glute and hip can dramatically affect the foot and its relationship with the ground.
- You have access to a physio or healthcare provider who is knowledgeable about barefoot running as well as the mechanics of running and why injuries may occur if transitioned incorrectly or if the participant is not ready.
Barefoot running shoes such as the Vibram Five Fingers can be a great option for those seasoned people who have experience with a minimal shoe firstly and their feet are accustomed to having minimal protection and support. These people say they are extremely comfortable and can work perfectly as casual, walking, hiking and running shoes. There are a lot of claims that they can actually help alleviate pain or injuries by altering run techniques and thus changing loads placed onto the body. This definitely has merit and does make sense to us here at Inspired Physio, however the key point is knowing who is ready for a shoe like this and when. Making changes to someone’s footwear too quickly and without proper preparation can have disastrous consequences.
So if the barefoot life appeals to you – save our checklist and make sure you can honestly answer a yes to all these questions. If not, simply take some time to understand these things and put in some extra homework before making the transition over.