“I am going to write a review about you today, probably over happy hour,” I say to my Vibram Fivefinger KSO Treks that sat in the dirty sunlight of my apartment floor.
I wiggle my slightly hairy toes into its supple kangaroo leather and plated rubber tread.
“Are you going to say nice things?”
The vanguard of minimalist footwear, the Fivefingers feel unlike anything I am used to wearing.
“Well, I am going to tell the truth, with no small degree of silliness I imagine.”
The day before I left for Argentina, I walked into an REI and bought a pair of Fivefingers; shoes that hug your foot like a driving glove; shoes that are not exactly shoes.
Upon seeing my Fivefingers, people usually ask one question: Are they comfortable?
Yes and no.
It feels great, like being barefoot…which is why after several hours, especially tromping on concrete, your feet hurt like a son-of-a-bitch.
The cushion that is enjoyed in sneakers is shed in the Fivefingers, leaving a thin tread of rubber between your soles and the cement. I love the separation of the toes, the feeling of being right on the ground and not elevated and cushioned from it. I know hardcore barefoot runners dig these shoes and I see why.
But you really must be careful not to stub your toes. I accidentally smashed my exposed digits into curbs and rocks dozens of times, whimpering and moaning, cursing my inattentive ways. I noticed increased tension and pressure on my knees, which are not the best to begin with, and my lower back.
Also, although the Fivefingers are prime for trails, you must be hyper aware of where your foot is falling; a jutting root or kiwi-sized rock in the ball of your foot is painful and enough to bruise the bottom of your foot.
Ultimately, it was the sideways glances, the not-so-discreet pointing at my feet, and the timid questions which the Fivefingers prompted that I enjoyed the most.
In the US, the Fivefingers were regarded with mild interest, but in Argentina, my non-shoes were given the attention of a visiting dignitary. And that was my Fivefingers most valuable contribution to my journey, not as shoes, but as conversation starters.
Everywhere I went people stopped me and took pictures of my shoes. Out of the corner of my eye I would see woman elbowing each other and giggling, pointing at my toes.
My Fivefingers got more attention than a Sarah Palin book signing in the bible belt.
A couple from Italy approached me in Esquel and said that they didn’t recognize me, but they recognized my shoes from the bus station in El Bolson where I waited with my feet propped up on my backpack.
My Fivefingers got more attention than a vestigial tail in an Indian slum.
The shoes served me best while river walking up a box canyon with David Miller in the Patagonian Andes. They were light even when sodden, and gripped the slick river rock far better than any tennis shoes could.
I recommend Fivefingers, but they are not for everybody. That is evident by the amount of pairs returned to REI barely worn. They take some serious getting used to, and unless you are already an avid barefoot runner, your feet will initially be sore.
The best thing about the Fivefingers is the feeling of being barefoot, but that is also the most difficult.
The freedom of barefootedness sounds good in theory, but when did you really want to walk 25 city blocks barefoot anyway?
If you’re interested in barefoot running, check out this piece by Adam Roy – Could Barefoot Running Be Good For You?