Running Shoe Diaries: It’s a Toe Thing

What is more disturbing than toe socks? Toe shoes!!! Forget the standard mitten that most shoes embody. Instead, lets think outside the box and place a glove on the foot! Its difficult enough at times to put a foot into a regular shoe, now you are asking me to place my foot AND five toes, most of which I cant control, into five separate slots! I think Ill stick with my sandals.

All joking aside, lets discuss these amazing shoes.

The Vibram FiveFingers

These were created in 1999, but were not developed and introduced to the public until 2005. The idea was to create a shoe that would mimic the barefoot experience. They were originally targeted at yacht racers for better grip on the slippery deck, but an avid runner suggested there use as a minimalist running shoe. Vibram took these ideas and have since marketed the shoes for sporting activities, running, yoga, outdoor activities, etc. As intriguing as the shoe looks there are risks to the health of your feet.

Our culture is one of the shod foot. From the time we are babies till the time we leave this earth, we spend the majority of our day with shoes on our feet. As such, the mechanics of our body are accustomed to shoe gear. Shoes alter the stresses applied to the body and the musculotendonous actions, especially of the lower extremity. When you go from the shod foot to the barefoot you will naturally increase the stress/forces applied to the foot, ankle, knee, hip, and spine. Your muscles, tendons, and ligaments require a greater amount of strength when barefoot vs shod. Literature says, barefoot running produces a more natural and efficient gait. This may be true, but if you have not consistently prepared your body for these changes, you can and most likely, will hurt yourself.

Since the foot bone is connected to the ankle bone, to the knee bone, and on up, increasing the forces applied to the foot will also increase the forces to your spine. This increase in force affects the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints from the toes all the way up into the spine. Potential injuries include: muscle strain/tear, tendonitis or rupture, ligament sprain, and stress fractures. We have come a long way from the Greek Olympiad days and should take caution in what we wear on our feet.

I am not advocating the ban of such shoes. However, I strongly encourage and advise you to research the product and ease your transition into their usage. Vibram, as a company, even encourages gradual transition from your regular shoe gear to these.

Stay tuned for the next episode of The Running Shoe Diaries. Dr. Bowman, a foot doctor and a runner, can guide you trough the whole process of picking a shoe that is right for you. If you feet or ankles have pain, call him at 713-467-8886 or online appointments at

2013 Jeff Bowman., All Rights Reserved

Photo Credit: satit_srihin via

Category: Footwear

Tags: Achilles Tendonitis, ankle injuries, Ankle Sprains, Foot Injuries, Footwear, Minimalist Shoes, Running, Running Shoes, Sports Injuries, Stress Fractures, Vibram FiveFingers