Barefooting

Almost every evening my wife and I go for a hike of anywhere between five and six kilometers in the rocky-terrained mountains behind our house. About six months ago, having read about about barefoot walking, I began doing these hikes in a pair of Vibram Five Fingers shoes.

Following are some observations:

  • After the first two days, I was convinced I’d never be able to hike in these things. Although the bottoms do provide some protection, it does feel nearly like you’re walking barefoot—an it’s initially very uncomfortable! Also, I noticed some initial stiffness in the tendon that runs the length of the foot. However, after about a week, I became accustomed to the shoes, and now I can walk for hours in them.

  • It’s interesting how my walking style has adapted perfectly to the theory of how our barefoot ancestors walked. One characteristic is walking on your forefoot, rather than your heels. I unconsciously adapted this style, as one quickly discovers that the heel is very sensitive to stepping on small rocks, and somehow the forefoot is much less sensitive.

  • Another characteristic of “natural” walking is a spreading of the toes, and this I’ve noticed too. As a consequence of walking on one’s forefoot, it seems the toes naturally begin to spread as the foot attempts to “grab” features of the ground for stability (as if were a hand).

  • Walking in this way results in a body posture that reminds me of those walking machines in one of the Star Wars movies, but in both my hiking, as well as jogging in a similar philosophy shoe, the Newtons, I’ve noticed less knee, ankle and lower back issues (that I used to experience.)

Agree? Disagree? What do you think?