I have some runner friends, or friends who run, who have tried to convince me over the past few years to buy those silly looking toe-shoes. They have gone on and on about the benefits of "running barefoot" the way God, or Vibram who make the fancy footwear, believe we should. The folks at Vibram tell us that their rubbery cobbling will "reduce foot injuries and strengthen foot muscles." That may be, but I never wear flip-flops because I don't like the feeling of something stuck between my toes. If I'm going barefoot, I want to go bare foot.
Walking around without shoes is kind of a summertime ritual for me. I like the idea that I can wander around my house and out into the yard to see if the mail has come without having to put shoes on. This feels quite natural to me, but I won't be mistaken for a Hobbit anytime soon. I also haven't taken to insisting to others that I am reducing foot injuries and strengthening muscles of any sort. Unless I'm exercising my freak flag muscle.
As a matter of anecdotal fact, all those five-finger-foot acolytes who were trying to get me to try on a pair of my own have also shared stories of the injuries they have experienced "getting used to" their own foot condoms. Calf and ankle strains, mostly, but they insisted that these were brought on only because they didn't understand the science of what they were doing. Someone had to correct them.
What I didn't ask them was this: What part of the science of Evolution are you missing out on? I no longer have to chase my prey about the rocky hills and grassy fields in my bare tootsies. I can take the time to cover them in overpriced space age foam and polymers designed by out-of-work NASA rocket scientists so that all those little sticks and stones won't hurt me. As much as I hate to admit that Nike, Saucony or Asis may have a point, they have some years of research and experience to back up their product. Vibram came to the show a little late, and according to the lawsuit they are trying to settle, they may have rushed their science just a little. Early studies suggested that barefoot running may take the strain off heels and knees, but later reports show that strain just moves somewhere else on our tired bodies. If you really want to avoid the stress and strain of running, stay on the couch. In a really comfy pair of warm slippers.