"Those Weird Toe-Shoes"
About two years ago, I read about CrossFit and the whole gamut of things that go with it- Paleo, weightlifting, and barefoot running. I also read about these weird minimalist shoes that people were buying that had the toes separated. The shoes were supposedly better for your feet, allowing you to feel the ground and eliminate "heel striking", or putting more pressure on your heel than necessary. I've always been a sucker for good running shoes and thought about buying a pair, but they were so expensive and I wasn't sure I would like them.
Last year- a whole year after hearing about it- I asked Hubs for a pair for my birthday. We went to a couple different shoe stores and I tried some on, making note of my favorite best-fitting type. After we got home, I price shopped and bought the least expensive pair (of the model that I liked) on Amazon. With shipping, the shoes cost $89.
Wearing FiveFingers takes a little getting used to. They sell socks that you can wear with the shoes, but many people wear them without socks. When I first tried a pair on, it felt like wearing pants with no underwear. Weird. Immediately I could tell the difference between my left and right feet. Because of the way my toes are shaped, my "middle" toe and big toe fit snug, and the other toes were loose in the shoes. My right foot especially seemed a little too long and the arch too tall for the shoe, but my left foot fit perfectly. Wearing these shoes will clue you in on how symmetrical (or asymmetrical) your feet really are.
I tried wearing some toe socks I already owned with my new shoes. Unfortunately, the toe socks had embroidered monkeys on them, and the monkeys didn't fit well between my feet and the shoes. :( In addition, the socks made my shoes feel tight and very warm, and I seemed to get blisters more easily. Because of this, I haven't worn socks with the shoes since.
The Good News
My new shoes were an excellent fit for our three-week trip to Guatemala. Besides my FiveFingers, the only shoes I took were a pair of flip flops (that ended up breaking about half way through). The shoes were lightweight and good for the warm Central American weather, but they were sturdy enough to do a lot of walking, even through jungles and mountains and dirty cobblestone streets. And they really stood out when we walked/swam our way through a candle-lit cave tour. Yep, we were swimming with candles through dark, rocky caves. While Hubs was battling with a broken flip flop, I was easily able to feel and grip the rocks, never worried about losing a shoe.
So the FiveFingers are lightweight for traveling and also double as water shoes. In addition, they are easy to wash and quick to dry. When we were staying at a hostel, I just took them in the shower with me and set them on the floor to catch some of the soap and water. Primitive, but it was a $6/night hostel. The shoes were mostly dry after a day.
The Bad News
The bad news is that I live in Michigan. This means that we have snow 6-7 months out of the year, and two or three months are full of mud. This makes wearing toe shoes impractical and/or uncomfortable. So when I'm not traveling in Central America, I only get to wear my shoes half the year.
Toe shoes are also not good for bike riding (bicycle OR motorcycle), so those activities are out. Nor do I wear them in the house, while gardening or doing barn chores. So that eliminates most of my daily activities.
Apart from my climate and lifestyle, there is only one other downside to these shoes, and that is the STINK. People talk about stinky feet and stinky shoes, but I'd never really experienced it. Until now, that is. Because I wear my toe shoes without socks and they aren't waterproof, the dirt and sweat collect and produce the worst stick ever, especially if you are wearing them all day. It helps if you keep your feet clean before putting them on, but still, the shoes need to be washed much more often than regular running or walking shoes.
Are these shoes worth it? That depends. The main draw for me was 1) improving health/posture, 2) comfort, and 3) looks. Have they improved my health or the way I walk? I'm not sure. Unfortunately I don't wear them enough to know. I'm happy with the level of comfort and also the novelty factor and all of the strange looks and interesting comments I get. I've had random people stop me at the gas station and car shows to gawk at my shoes. One man I was talking to said, "I'm sorry, I can't concentrate. Those shoes are so distracting!"
The FiveFingers work very well for traveling in warm climates, which is something Hubs and I plan on doing at least once a year. This is something I didn't take into account when buying the shoes, but it's a big bonus for me, personally.
I'll be honest... for me this was a not-very-practical luxury purchase. I can't recommend them to someone who lives in a colder climate and spends their free time biking, and I DEFINITELY wouldn't recommend them to someone who is trying to save money or whose utmost priority is to be frugal. It can be tempting to buy health stuff because it promises to fix all of your problems, but if you are trying to get healthier I would recommend going for daily bike rides and making your own healthy food for pennies on the dollar before buying a pair of crazy-expensive shoes.
But to financially stable and attention-seeking globe trotters... buy yourself a pair of these awesome shoes!