By Derrick Price MS, CPT, PES, CES
They’re ugly, funky and a bit pricey. And yet they’re ever increasing in popularity, especially in the health and fitness community. Personal trainers, doctors, massage therapists, chiropractors, and now, even your kids may be sporting them. So the obvious question for all of us: Should I trade in my traditional sneaks for a pair of these hideous contraptions?
To answer this question, we must first pose another: What is the purpose of wearing a shoe? We all have different reasons – style, support, protection, and comfort. Those are just a few reasons that come to mind. I’m no expert in fashion, so let’s explore support, protection, and comfort.
FiveFingers fall under a new category of shoe type called the Minimalist shoe – with the idea that they are as close to walking around barefoot without actually being barefoot. In other words, they provide as minimal support for your foot compared to your traditional athletic shoe. This can be good and/or bad.
Consider this – the foot has 33 joints, a plethora of muscles and connective tissue, and not to mention enough sensitive receptors that it rivals the tongue in its ability to feel the most minute details. What this means is our feet are designed to move dynamically over ever-changing surfaces. This unique structure is designed to create, slow down, and transfer the high-impact forces of walking, running, jumping, climbing, stepping, and squatting in all different directions. Now imagine what happens to our feet when we wear shoes and socks that squish our toes together and minimize foot movement? Not only do we lose the ability to create, slow down and transfer multi-directional forces through all 33 joints in the foot, we also lose the ability to feel the earth underneath us. This can have a huge impact on, both, our static posture and locomotion; which may lead to acute and chronic pain in other areas of the body such as ankle sprains, knee pain, low back stiffness and even shoulder/neck discomfort. Wearing a minimalist shoe like the Fivefingers may allow your body to re-capture the mobility that the feet are designed to have – resulting in improved posture and movement.
No support for a foot that has lost the ability to move dynamically or never had the ability to begin with (e.g., structural abnormality) may have its fair share of negative consequences. It’s like asking a person who has driven an automatic their entire life to switch to manual. It may feel like you’re learning how to walk all over again .That’s where the “itis” may come out from hiding, e.g., plantarfascitis, tendonitis, bursitis. It’s a lot to ask the body to move without the support it has been accustomed to for decades; which is why, if you decide to give the Fivefingers a test run, understand it’s slow learning curve for, both, the mind and body.
In Part 2, we’ll explore how the Fivefingers differ in both protection and comfort. In Part 3, I’ll give you my recommendations on trying out a minimalist shoe. Until then, feel free to continue mocking those weirdos who think these finger shoes are cool.
Derrick Price MS, CPT, PES, CES has been active on many levels in the fitness industry for over 8 years. He holds a MS in Exercise Science and Health Promotion with an emphasis on injury prevention and performance enhancement from the California University of Pennsylvania where he has also spent time as an Adjunct Faculty member teaching courses in Exercise Program Design. Aside from personal training 20 hours a week, Derrick also is a Master Trainer for ViPR and PowerPlate. He began his educational career as a Master Instructor for the National Academy of Sports Medicine and has since moved on to become a Faculty Member for the Personal Training Academy Global.