Way back in 2011 I ordered my first pair of barefoot shoes. They were the Vibram (pronounced vee-brahm) FiveFingers Classic and during my first walk outside with them I knew they were a winner.
That first walk was like getting reacquainted with my senses. It enabled me to start seeing my surroundings as more of a navigator than a spectator. It offered a change in perception, and from that moment – I was hooked.
If I’m honest, my love for barefooted-ness started long before the purchase of these shoes though. Growing up in Lake County, Illinois in the late 90’s I had immediate access to a free beach no more than a quarter mile away and as such would often walk there barefoot. Many people walk on their lawns and stuff barefoot, but I would walk across town. Down streets- Over gravel, dirt, whatever… to the point where I would carry shoes just n case I had to go inside somewhere. I guess I just preferred being barefoot. I remember feeling more aware of the ground beneath my feet and more connected as well. In fact, I never had injuries to my feet. At all. No glass (though I definitely walked through it)… There were of course rocks and small stones but none of them sharp enough to trigger an injury.
Fast forward to 2011, I had moved to Austin, Tx almost exactly a year prior after spending my working years inside the restaurant industry, followed by a desk job in web design and the early days of social media. I don’t remember the exact events that led me to the discovery of Vibrams, but I know I can credit Daniel Vitalis with the inspiration to purchase. So I did.
I snapped this image immediately after my first walk in them. That first walk was like getting reacquainted with my senses. It enabled me to start seeing my surroundings as more of a navigator than a spectator. It offered a change in perception, and from that moment – I was hooked.
Around that same time I started powerlifting and due to the rigorous activity there, decided to purchase a second pair. This time I purchased the Vibram FiveFingers KSO. To be fair, this pair started to fall apart about 2 weeks in. Thanks to REI’s policy though, I was able to get an exchange asap.
That second (third) pair quickly became my primary shoe as I did everything in them. Lifting, running. Even swimming and paddle boarding. I wasn’t a huge fan of the KSO because they just didn’t fit how I liked. I had grown accustomed to the FiveFingers Classic and their minimalist feel and fit. Having both thick and wide feet definitely didn’t help. Still, I was a hooked.
Until I wasn’t.
Life has a funny way of changing itself. I found myself working as a cook and as one can assume, the Vibrams had to go. Kitchens just wouldn’t allow it because of “no slip” nonsense. I had more grip and stability in my beloved FiveFingers Classic than any kind of “shoes for crews” or the restaurant Crocs I wore. But thats water under the bridge. That moment in my life had a lasting impression and I just never got back to wearing them full time. Only when it suited my needs.
As of 2020 I still have that original pair of FiveFingers Classic.
Part of my process in reclaiming that life is to reconnect in that way that taught me to appreciate my surroundings by reconnecting with the ground. To build the prehensility I’ve lost through years of weight gain and inactivity. Today (09/25/20) the FiveFingers Classic I’ve had for nearly a decade have (almost) become unusable. The retaining cords are gone, the rubber sole nearly worn away, holes.. tears. Ive re-glued these 4 times but they have seen their time.
At this stage in my body (39, 5′ 11″ 320lb) I have developed sciatica, have pressure in my knees, hips, and back – but one thing remains. When I wear my FiveFingers I don’t feel as compressed. My feet stretch out and allow my foot bones to breathe. My legs stand and function in better alignment, and my hips rest easier in place. I feel like my blood flows better.
All this outside of the fact that when I wear this type of shoe, I simply feel more free and present. A practice we could all use a little more of.