Well, they finally broke me. I bought a pair of Five Fingers. Bikilas, more specifically:
On my feet.
With all the talk about barefoot running, I wanted to experience these monkey feet for myself. I never intended to run in them, for reasons that I’ll explain shortly. I wanted to wear them for walking, especially at work; they do, after all, nicely distill the comfort of being barefoot (and who, given the choice, wouldn’t go to work barefoot?).
As for running in them… don’t believe the hype. Moon-eyed runners come into our store all the time looking for Five Fingers and Nike Frees, aggrandizing them as a panacea for every kind of injury and physical shortcoming. Five Fingers represent a fundamental shift in the running paradigm, and people mistake this alternative running style for an inherently better one.
If we peel back the layers of optimism, however, we see two major arguments that are put forth by the barefoot community. They are that
1. Humans evolved to walk on the balls of their feet and
2. Shoe technology is actually injuring people
The first argument has some merit. If you ever sprint barefoot, you’ll probably find yourself lifting up onto the balls of your feet. Running “on your toes” like this means a faster turnover and, well, feels natural. So if humans evolved to do this, shouldn’t our technology accommodate it? Perhaps, but this a flawed argument. This implies that evolution is meaningful and therefore “right” when, from a scientific point of view, evolution is largely random and the human body is imperfect. Technology is meant to pick up where nature left off. While the human foot may indeed be a magnificent feat (haha) of engineering, it won’t offer the shock absorption, rebound, or balance of modern running shoe technology.
The second argument is an excellent example of why you can’t trust statistical studies from people who are trying to sell you something. As a precursor to their Nike Free line, Nike released studies done on running injuries. The idea was to prove that high-tech running shoes actually caused injuries. The evidence, however, was highly anecdotal and the experiment lacked controls. One study confirmed that runners in the most expensive shoes were more likely to be injured; but then, aren’t people with poor biomechanics more likely to buy expensive shoes? Are the more expensive technologies the unreliable ones? The bottom line is that none of these experiments established a causal relationship between running tech and injuries.
I don’t mean to disparage minimalist running shoes. After all, you can see them on my feet above. I just want to help others understand what these things are and are not. They are extremely comfortable, and a viable alternative. They are not a miracle cure.